How to justify belief in God? to move from agnosticism to knowledge or conviction?

I came across a news story of someone who spent 30 years in prison even though innocent, after reading about other atrocities that have happened (black man killed in the South, a child being burned alive by a neighborhood bully and dying from consequent cancer 12 years later), and it’s compelled me to ask here a question that’s been bothering me recently, since I found myself speaking with Japanese people: How can I persuade people that they should become Christian? Atheism seems equally plausible, and during suffering and in light of evil, more plausible than Christianity. I have to be Christian in spite of my experience, not because of it.

Looking at my arguments for why I am Christian, they seem weak (“God of the gaps” theories: God is the best explanation, therefore God is the explanation). It seems more accurate to say that I am a Christian because “my parents made me one”, I’ve sought reasons to affirm it, and the continuance of my faith seems to be the consequence of hazing, i.e. going through painful experiences and then convincing myself internally that they’re worth it because their end is good. Like, I pray for faith, and pray to God, and attend Mass and sing my best every Sunday, and then I continue as if God exists because to admit otherwise would be to admit to a waste of my time and no hope for anything better than my current life, and admitting these things is psychologically abhorrent. (I do still have some hope that the Church is correct, though, so this is another reason why I am unwilling to admit those things.)

Going back to Japanese evangelism, I found my conversation astonishingly weak, and at that time had to phrase things generally to avoid sounding foolish, and was unable to progress the conversation, which soon turned to other matters. What I had said was something like, ‘If you study philosophy and history, there are good reasons to justify Christian belief,’ but what I thought was, “Something happened 2,000 years ago; we’re not really sure what, but the rumor is that this guy rose from the dead – therefore you should become Christian.” In other words, “Read these books that make these claims about history,” or “If you read a ton of books all arguing towards the same thing, you can persuade yourself to believe it.” It’s simply not convincing. I have been living as an agnostic Christian for years, and cannot persuade anyone to become Christian because I myself don’t see any compelling or convicting evidence. Perhaps my behavior is reassuring and instills faith in those who observe me, but I don’t see this as a useful means of bringing people to faith, because it seems to me secularists interpret my behavior through the lens of “that’s just what works for him” (relativism).

That is perhaps at the heart of my problem. I have been searching after God for a long time, even to the point of praying for the intercession of venerable and blessed Christians hoping for God to keep His promises regarding prayer. The Eucharist continues to resemble only bread and wine, God continues leaving me in the dark – though I have recently committed what I feel to be serious sin, after lapsing briefly into despair, so I cannot blame God for this absence (i.e. I’m not worthy to be in God’s presence, having done that which offends Him; hopefully I can go to Confession soon) – and I continue spending large amounts of time writing posts like these, trying to get help, when perhaps it would be better for me to “stop wasting time” and forget about God and focus on work (like the Japanese do).

What are your thoughts on these matters? How can I move from agnosticism to conviction? What is God waiting for? How do we persuade people to be Christian? Why hasn’t God given me more faith, despite so frequently praying for it? Why does God continue letting us suffer? Why hasn’t He returned yet?

I contend my friend that while u might not be able to see it , I see ur faith extremely strong right now and growing . Faith can at many times grow exponentially by leaps and bounds during times that it is being tested the most.

It is also our response to those times that determine the strength of our faith . Many people in ur position might have simply abandoned God and faith altogether , but instead you held on even during times of darkness . I’m sure God is looking down at you and he is very proud of your actions .

You are also in the company of people like saint therese and mother Teresa who both went through this type of dark night of the soul situation. Contrary to what your saying ,I see ur faith is extremely strong because of the fact that u held on during these dark , dry times .:thumbsup:

I don’t know why you feel that you have to justify your belief in God. Do atheists have to justify their non-belief? Be that as it may, here is a good justification:
New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy by Robert Spitzer, a Jesuit.

I justify my belief in God through this simple expedient. “God is Love (Agape)” (1 John 4:7-8).

I believe in Agape and, because God is Agape, I must believe in God.

All that is good, creative, builds up, is helpful, patient, kind etc. - - yet also just - - is rolled up in that term “Agape”.

Yes there can be many arguments about this or that description of God…and this or that understanding of creation and / or suffering, punishment, or whatever… Yet in the end, the only thing that matters, and the NT bears this out is that we Love.
It’s the only then that will endure.

Just some thoughts.

Peace
James

Quite simply, I can believe in God despite those hardships because they are all the results of other humans. Sure there are natural disasters, brought about by a world in a constant state of flux, but the worst atrocities are those committed by man, against man. Why should I hold God accountable for the evils that we wrought on ourselves? It is not His job to fix the problems we create.

I -must- believe in God despite those hardships because, despite all the efforts and arguments to the contrary that I’ve heard, I cannot arrive at a logical explanation for existence without Him, and I cannot account for the consistency of the Church without Christ as he is portrayed in the NT. It took less than five hundred years for the Protestant Churches to completely abandon tenants they one held as absolute. Islam devolves into war wherever it is prominent. Buddhism and Hinduism seem to regard creation and our physical selves as evil (a state I cannot agree with given all that is good that comes from them). No other religion has withstood the passage of time like Catholicism, and so I find that I -must- accept Catholicism as the most likely of explanations for the God that I Know must exist.

You persist in the Faith which is more than a lot of people could even accomplish.

The best way to convince them is through the goodness of your actions and the goodness of your being. It is a tall order for most people but through your piety and good actions, they might know God.

I believe in God despite the bad things that happen in the world because with light, there must be darkness somewhere. Only in heaven will there be no evil, no darkness.

Catholic apologetics is a complicated subject, and one can always be studying and expanding their knowledge of the faith.

I am reading this book by Fr Most called Catholic Apologetics Today.

I do not know if some of what’s in there will help you, and I think what could possibly help would be little bits and pieces scattered throughout the book, so There it is, fwiw :slight_smile:

You are in no way required to *justify *your Faith to the point that others are convinced. All we are callled to do is to be able to give a *reason *for our faith, to show we are not crackpots following something that feels good to us or whatever.

I’d write more but must rush awY!

I don’t know if thsi will help, but after considering the entirety of the Magnificat for a feww weeks off and on, I heard this sermon on Audio Sancto, and thought the combination might help you.

Actually, unstoppable, that’s a terrible book, and I wanted a refund after reading it. See this review for more information.

To answer your question, yes, if an atheist claims “there are no gods”, he must justify this assertion. Any time a fact-claim is made a burden of proof is generated. See Trent Horn’s discussions with atheists in “Catholic Answers Live”.

This yin/yang philosophy is not Church teaching. There does not need to be darkness; we do not need pain in order to appreciate pleasure, or evil to know good. Adam and Eve did not have to fall.

I’ve added the book to my reading list, although I’m sick of reading books. Again, that’s evidence that God doesn’t exist, if we must bury ourselves in books to convince ourselves that He exists. (We don’t need to argue strenuously to convince ourselves that any other of life’s necessities exists.) I’ll try to listen to the sermon on the bus to my part-time job tonight. Thanks for the resources.

Thanks for the clarification regarding 1 Peter 3:15, but it doesn’t help me personally: I want to be convinced, no longer an agnostic. You’ve answered my question “What are your thoughts on these matters?” but these questions remain:
[LIST=1]
*]How can I persuade people that they should become Christian?
*]How can I move from agnosticism to conviction?
*]What is God waiting for?
*]How do we persuade people to be Christian?
*]Why hasn’t God given me more faith, despite so frequently praying for it?
*]Why does God continue letting us suffer?
*]Why hasn’t He returned yet?
[/LIST]
I can posit answers for some of these, but not satisfactory ones.

I think that the book might answer some questions more specifically, and give info for when you talk to people more than be a book which you yourself ought to read.

Thanks for the clarification regarding 1 Peter 3:15, but it doesn’t help me personally: I want to be convinced, no longer an agnostic. You’ve answered my question “What are your thoughts on these matters?” but these questions remain:
[LIST=1]
*]How can I persuade people that they should become Christian?

I don’t think we ourselves persuade people to become Christian. I think we invite, we plant seeds, we inform when that seems like a good idea, but mostly I think we pray, because God is going to do the heavy work…

*]How can I move from agnosticism to conviction?

Why are you sitting on the fence? What holds you back from throwing yourself into God’s arms and saying, “I’m all Yours”? (questions to ask yourself, not necessarily to answer here)

*]What is God waiting for?

I think God is waiting for you.

*]How do we persuade people to be Christian?

It helps if we do not feel half-agnostic :slight_smile:

*]Why hasn’t God given me more faith, despite so frequently praying for it?

You should ask God this question.

*]Why does God continue letting us suffer?

Because we still live in a fallen world.

*]Why hasn’t He returned yet?

It’s not yet time for that.

I can posit answers for some of these, but not satisfactory ones.

I like your sincerity. May I suggest you look up Peter Kreeft (42 min). And look up Dr. John Lennox: (7 min). see below:

This is in my opinion is a very good justification on how to justify belief in God and hows and whys: Dr. Peter Kreeft on the Existence of God
youtube.com/watch?v=LW7t0fsO8Gk

And look up Dr. John Lennox: (7 min)

John Lennox gives the best explanation of Christianity I’ve ever heard
youtube.com/watch?v=zo49UhEV5rI

Kreeft’s video doesn’t present any new arguments for me. He does a great job making me want God to exist, but does nothing to actually show that He exists. All of his arguments rest on assumptions, like “Every desire has a matching fulfillment, and we have the desire for God.” It’s not clear that we actually have a desire for God, rather than for more of what we’ve already experienced.

Lennox’s video is better, but again, it’s just an explanation of the purpose that Christianity serves, not any evidence that God is real.

I’ve already answered your questions in my posts on this site, and the suggestion that God is waiting on me implies that God is incompetent (not omnipotent), either not communicating with me or not helping me.

Your other answers are not helpful.

I had posted just briefly earlier in the thread, but only just now had the chance to look more closely at the conversation and to open and read your essay. Nice job - well thought out, simple and to the point.
However - I noticed something that was missing in your essay. Something that we are told in the NT is critical - and I might add, IMHO serves as a tremendous “proof” for the existence of God. I very briefly expressed this in my earlier reply…

We can have all of the best historical and philosophical arguments in the world and, as Paul says, speak with the tongue of angels, but if we do not have Love, we are like a clanging cymbal. Just so much noise.
Aquinas, who you quote in your essay and indeed who many quote, called all of his writing “so much straw” once he had caught a glimpse of God’s great Love.
Creation itself is a great act of Love from a creator who is Himself, Love.
All the law and prophets are based on Love (Mt 22:36-40)
Jesus coming was an act of Love (John3:16)
Jesus teaching, His suffering, His death and resurrection - all acts of Love.
Jesus left us with a single commandment to guide us - to Love one another. (John 13:34-35)
The very existence of the Church and the Sacraments are the result of this great Love.

Now the national, rational, scientific creature, might rebel against this idea. They will either dismiss the argument outright as a load of emotional rubbish, or make all sorts of arguments to demonstrate how this assertion cannot be true - generally pointing to various forms of suffering.
Yet, if pressed, they themselves will agree that they believe in and agree with the concept agape - of the “golden rule” and that the world would be much better (even ideal) if everyone were to live by this rule. Thus they undercut many of their own arguments.

Scripture tells us - and does so near the end of the bible in 1 John, that God IS Love.
So my answer to the questions at the end of your OP is this…look to God as Love - as Agape. History is good, but without love it is nothing. Philosophy is good, but without love it is so much straw. Evanelization is wonderful, but without love, it is just so much noise.

As I said in my earlier post…If one believes in Love - Agape - the Golden rule - then one already believes in God. They may not recognize it as such…but it is there.

Peace
James

The norm for humanity is belief in divinities or divine powers, and the awareness of human powerlessness before them. Only people insulated from the vast experience of pain and suffering think that the reality of pain, suffering and injustice are arguments against God. The pie who think that God has to explain Himself are sitting on top of piles of wealth and technology thinking that somehow they have a better view than saints who embraced lepers and ri d themselves of all human comforts to follow Christ.

The problem is that I don’t see it. Love requires pain and suffering (which we refer to as self-sacrifice), suggesting a sadistic God, one who requires suffering to obtain good. You say to look to God as One Who Loves, but my experience of God is one of neglect and indifference, if not malice (making me suffer, taking pleasure in my suffering). Human beings have done good things for me. I don’t know what good things God has done for me, and God won’t tell me. I sometimes wonder if this life is hell.

“He took the punishment you deserved for your sins,” you may reply as an example of an act of love. This doesn’t make sense to me for two reasons:

  1. Every time I sin it’s because I think it’s a good thing to do, not because I recognize it as a bad thing, so how can I be held responsible for trying to do or obtain a good?
  2. The punishment is something God requires for a system that He created, so it appears also as the “Thank you for saving me from yourself” objection.

This looks to me like both ethnocentrism and baseless extrapolation from your personal experience. You seem to be boldly assuming that people suffering in “third world” countries don’t also object to Christianity or find atheism a good explanation for their suffering. Moreover, that U.S. dollars and technology are good things that enable an easy life are also assumptions which are not clearly true.

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