Need help with teen's questioning of Church

I have a very intelligent, logic-minded 17yr old son. He is at a point where he is questioning how we know the Catholic Church is the “right” religion. Why it instead of another religion? How do we KNOW it is true?

Personally, I was a cradle Catholic who left, gained a ton of life experience, and after much searching/growing and a personal revelation, returned the Church. Obviously, my personal experience with “why” the Catholic Church is the true one isn’t going to help him much since it basically boils down to God (thru the Spirit) “telling” me so. :smiley:

I’m sure this has been discussed before but I’m rather a failure when it comes to getting useful results from the search feature.

So I’d appreciate any help in finding some links to pertinent articles, discussions, or some book suggestions for him to read.

His personal search so far has convinced him there is a God - or at least a higher being. To him that makes logical sense. But to say we simply have to have faith - well, that doesn’t work for his logic orientated brain. He’s a good kid, not rebellious/defiant/angry, simply seeking to make the leap from doing something because that’s what our family is to actual personal understanding and belief.

I will, of course, also be having him speak with our youth director but I’m afraid the personalities are so different that it may not help a great deal.

Thank you in advance for your kind replies.

I would encourage you to encourage HIM to talk to the priest. Maybe the Chaplain of one of the colleges who deal with young folks with these identical questions all the time. Typically, they are great at conversing in a non-threatening or know-it-all way. Conversation at this age is way more compelling than handing him a book, although many great articles can be found on the CAF apologists sections.
Invite a priest to dinner and let him ask away. Provide a quiet place for the 2 of them to chat after dinner. Our parish has a very approachable priest and all the teens LOVE to get him alone to talk or in small groups.

I would recommend he read Pope Benedict XVI’s two-part book set Jesus of Nazareth. Emeritus Pope Benedict is an incredibly intelligent, insightful and clear theologian and scholar. The logic presented in this set of books may surprise him. As someone who considered himself well-versed in the Catholic understanding of NT theology, practically every page of these books blew my mind away with its consistency, its insight, and new ways of seeing everything I’d been taught growing up.

Unfortunately, I feel our parish priest (while wonderful in many regards) would not be the best solution at this time. I will check around, but finding a college chaplin may be a bit of a challenge in our location. There’s also the insanely complex time schedule our family operates under - that’s why I felt a written resource would be most helpful. (He’s not a “talker” and abhors social interaction in general - part of the disconnect with our youth ministry I’m afraid).

Can you possibly give me directions on how to find some of the articles you mentioned? Everything I search for comes up with specific issues (which I’m much better at addressing - aka why the Church teaches this, I can handle) as opposed to why the Church at all. Thanks!

Thank you - I will work on getting a copy. I’m sure it’d be beneficial for me as well :slight_smile:

How about Scott Hahn on you tube? Why a Protestant Pastor became Catholic. He is such a good speaker. How about the book the “Four Witnesses” about the people who knew the apostles or knew someone who did. The New Testament?

The stories of converts from atheism and other beliefs might be helpful since they’ve been there and back.

Treat your teen with the utmost respect at this time…respect for his human search for God but don’t empower the lies he might be swayed by. Study your catechism and read a good book on apologetics. Learn through this…let it strengthen your own faith.

…and, pray much for your son, and do not lose heart.

It took forty years for my husband to finally go to confession of his own volition. He died a few months after that. Many prayers were said for him, and others helped me with their prayers as well. God is awesome!

Don’t try to convince him at all. What he is doing is perfectly natural for a 17 year old to do and a healthy exercise in making his faith his own. Questioning your parents beliefs (on all things) is also a normal part of the transition to adulthood.

Too many people, and particularly those from liturgical traditions, never truly learn about their faith through their own searching. They just accept it as a compartmentalized aspect of their life because it is easy. Their faith journey has no cost and therefore little value, so when tested it is set aside.

If you want to walk with him through this, ask what he has found in his research and help guide him to a deeper personal education about faith and beliefs as a whole. The best thing (imo) one can do for their child is to encourage research on all belief systems, particularly Buddhism and Islam because they are so prevalent in our society. He will find Buddhism is “cool” because it is atheistic and so people can make their own right and wrong, and Islam is a much greater threat than most care to believe and he will eventually be confronted with it.

Keep in mind that there is no fear of doing this because as he researches deeply the only rational conclusion to come to is that Christianity is the highest form of religious belief and that when looking at Non-Apostolic traditions there is always something left out of their teaching. If he has learned well, and from what you imply he’s pretty smart, even if he leaves, he will eventually come back to the faith.

Sorry about the length of the post, it just started rolling…

Good luck with your situation.

The Holy Spirit does the convincing. And the Holy Spirit can use others to explain the whole truth that our Lord Jesus Christ gives us in His Church.

OK, that’s huge. Some people think logic precludes God, which is silly. So you son is actually being logical, not just thinking he’s being logical (a common mistake).

So, once we accept that God exists (by whatever name we call this “higher power”) then what does logic tell us he is like?

We can logically construct either/or questions about God. The first is: Does god interact with his creation? That is a yes/no question (we’re not talking about how yet). Deism is the idea that God created the universe and then stepped back and let it run its course. It’s sometimes called the wind-up mouse religion (or clockwork mouse, in British parlance) - he wound it up and just let it go.

Deism is popular among physicists who believe that God caused the Big Bang because there’s no logical alternative (either the universe created itself - which is logically impossible, or something outside of space/time created it, and there is no other possible alternative). But scientists are often reluctant to concede God’s interaction with his creation, so they become deists.

Deism solves their problem of creation, and they’re content to leave it there. But it does nothing to answer the question of “why” God created the universe. Assuming God possesses intelligence then intelligent beings don’t normally do something without a reason or motive (especially really big things, like creating universes).

Was God just curious what would happen? Well, if he is outside of time, he already knows. So it would be pointless.

If we reject deism then that leaves only one choice - a God which interacts with his creation. There are two (really, three) ways he could accomplish this - overtly or covertly (or both). Christianity teaches that God does both. He interacts covertly most of the time (we don’t directly perceive his presence) but interacted overtly through Jesus Christ (let’s not get into Eucharist yet).

So here are some questions for your son, once we’ve covered the preliminary stuff:
[LIST]
*]If God does exist, what form of interaction seems most logical? Why?
*]If Christianity is true, is there a Christian religion that even CLAIMS to be the One True Church Established by Jesus Christ? And, if so, upon what basis does this Church make this claim? Is this a reasonable and logical basis? Can it be factually (historically) or logically (philosophically) demonstrated?
[/LIST]

There are many religions…but only one claims that its founder was raised from the dead. Therefore, the evidence that Jesus was crucified and rose again is really important in distinguishing Christianity from Hinduism or Islam, etc.

Here is an outline of a talk given by Dr. William Lane Craig, a Protestant, who is one of the strongest philosophers actively engaged in apologetics work today. Print out the outline and let your son watch the video.

The Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection
By William Lane Craig
youtube.com/watch?v=4iyxR8uE9GQ

Fact 1:
After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in his personal tomb. This is significant because it would have been difficult for the disciples to make up the story of an empty tomb when everyone knew where the tomb was located.

  1. Jesus’ burial is attested in the very old tradition quoted by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians.
    “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.” (1 Co 15:3-5)
    Paul “received” this account from Peter within the first five years of Jesus’ crucifixion making the possibility of legend or myth very unlikely.
  2. The account of the burial is part of very old source material used by Mark in writing his gospel. The passion narrative, in particular, is thought to be from an even earlier account that was used by all of the gospel writers.
  3. As a member of the Jewish court that condemned Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to be a Christian invention.
  4. No competing burial story exists.

Fact 2:
On the Sunday following the crucifixion, the tomb of Jesus was found empty by a group of his female followers.

  1. The empty tomb story is part of the very old source material used by Mark.
  2. The old tradition cited by Paul in 1 Corinthians implies the fact of the empty tomb.
  3. Mark’s story is simple and lacks signs of legendary embellishment.
  4. The fact that women’s testimony was worthless in first century Palestine strengthens the case that women were the first to discover the empty tomb. Why would any account use the suspect testimony of women if it were not an accurate recounting of what really happened?
  5. The earliest Jewish allegations that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body presupposes that the tomb was empty.

Fact 3:
On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups experienced appearances of Jesus alive after his death.

  1. The list of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances (which is quoted by Paul and vouchsafed by his personal acquaintance with many of the people involved), guarantees that such appearances occurred. These included appearances to Peter, to the Apostles, to 500 people at one time, and to James.
  2. The appearance traditions in the gospels provide multiple, independent attestation to these appearances.
  3. Researchers have noticed signs of historical credibility in the specific appearances; for example, the unexpected activity of the disciples’ fishing prior to Jesus’ appearance by the Lake of Tiberius or the otherwise inexplicable conversion of James.

Fact 4:
The disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite having every reason not to believe it.

  1. Their leader was dead, and Jews had no belief in a dying (and rising) Messiah.
  2. According to Jewish law, Jesus’ execution as a criminal showed him to be a heretic and a man literally under the curse of God.
  3. Jewish beliefs about the afterlife precluded anyone’s rising from the dead before the general resurrection at the end of the world.

The historical resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation of these facts.

So I’d appreciate any help in finding some links to pertinent articles, discussions, or some book suggestions for him to read.

At that age, talking to the youth director might not be helpful. Just my $.02.

Instead print out the following article which Catholic Answers produced in booklet form a number of years ago for distribution at one of John Paul II’s World Youth Days:

catholic.com/documents/pillar-of-fire-pillar-of-truth

Finally, if your son has specific questions, he can always ask them here; have him post in the Apologetics forum, and we’ll see it. :thumbsup:

Thank you all for your excellent replies so far :thumbsup:

And thank you especially to the poster(s) who reaffirmed what I knew - that this is a perfectly normal thing to question - and in fact, I’m glad he is in a way because it shows he’s thinking about/searching for something more - and I’m absolutely convinced he will, with the help of the Holy Spirit, find his way to true faith in time.

I feel my role as a parent now is to just keep providing the right resources and questions to help him find that way - and so I really appreciate your help! (Guiding, encouraging and providing boundaries rather than beating him over the head with a catechism. :wink: )

His older sisters never had this same type of questioning - for them it was about Church teachings, which is how I learned the field of apologetic s even existed, lol!

I wish I didn’t have to journey down this road, but I know God is with me on the journey - and that as I have in the past, I’ll find that it’s a learning/growing experience for my faith as well.

God bless!

Here’s a link to many topics, he can browse /search hrough these.
catholic.com/browse/Apologetics/all/all/all

Also, what Randy Carson listed is excellent.
Good luck!

Jesus established the Catholic Church and here’s a quick history (using primary documents) going back to the 1st century **#[FONT=Arial]34 [/FONT]**Be sure he opens up all the internal links

due to time, I can’t respond properly to the rest of your post

Thank you for posting that valuable site. I bookmarked it. A quick history…very appropriate!

How does he handle history? Because it is pretty easy, I think to pull out some Church Fathers and show how the Church has roots as early as the first century (if you don’t consider the bible as a source). There are even sources that clearly show that the Church was founded by Christ or something similar that are older than some of the books of the Bible.

Does he believe in the true presence of Christ?

What does he think about confession?

Try to find things that the Church only has and see if he believes them. If he believes in the Eucharist why would he want to leave the Catholic Church? If he believes he must go to confession than why would he want to leave.

But I would suggest a book like this.

amazon.com/Fathers-Know-Best-Jimmy-Akin/dp/1933919345

I know there is a lot of spam on the forums this morning, and I’m pushing a book. But I don’t think they will mind me pushing a Jimmy Akin book.

But this is easy to read, it shows how the Church’s understanding and it’s doctrine has roots as early as the first century.

John Martignoni has a a number of mp3’s that he can listen to on his iPOD or smart phone explaining the Catholic Faith. Here is the website: biblechristiansociety.com/home.php

There is another site by Dr. David Anders Called To Communion mp3 audio files: ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=6582

And the website calvin2catholic.com/?page_id=7

I found the Amy Wellborn books the **Prove It **series quite helpful.

Here is an Amazon link to her entire series:

amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_3_11?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=amy+welborn+prove+it&sprefix=Amy+Welborn%2Caps%2C304

She taught theology to high school kids for a number of years.

My understanding is that he’s accepts the factual history of the Church and it’s founding, going on back thru the Jewish religion to Abraham. It’s more a case of - “how do we know Abraham (and all subsequent people) were right in their beliefs and teachings about God?”

My normal response would be “Well, don’t you think an omnipotent God would do something to correct any errors sometime during the last 4,000 years - and did thru Jesus Christ?”

His response - but then why would God allow for other non-Christian religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, etc? Why only appear to one group of people? If these other belief systems are false, why would He allow them to have developed in the first place?

And at about that point I have to step away from giving the “mom” answer grin - “Because He’s God, you’re not, and He gets to do what He wants”. LOL!

Note: This was not an actual word-for-word conversation, a summary rather of the various brief discussions we’ve had. Being a true teen, long discussions are not his thing, it’s an ongoing thing here and there as we drive to places, work on laundry, etc.

Again, thanks to all for the links and resources, I’m researching them and lining them up so to speak, to bring to his attention as conversations permit.

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