Question on ignorance?

Hello,

Recently, I got into an argument with my friend about why I believe that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. However, I am not good at explaining things and kind of fumbled up the explanation. My friend told me that if I could not explain something, I obviously don’t understand it and criticized me for not understanding, yet being so faithful to the Catholic Church. While being called ignorant rather hurt my ego, it got me thinking as well. As a cradle born Catholic, I do not think I question my faith as much as I should. Could this be classified as a sin of ignorance? Is a sense of contentment in the simple things we learn while attending Mass, the occasional retreat, religious article, or catechism lookup a false contentment?

Is our only assurance of avoiding the sin of ignorance a constant struggle to question every aspect of our faith? I personally feel as though this would take a very negative toll on some people and void any simplicity the Catholic Church holds. And of course, some things simply can not be understood, right?

Thanks!

You can understand something you can’t explain, I suppose. We understand what the Trinity is, but we do not know everything about it, and there are some things that we simply cannot answer right now. Also, you should use the Trinity example because, chances are, it applies to your friend.

Be careful here. While thinking about faith can be good and get you deeper into it, it can also be dangerous: you may feel less confident about your faith, or even lose it entirely (hopefully neither would happen).

I don’t really know about willful ignorance and its theology, but I can redirect you to something that might help if you can find it online: St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, I-II, q. 76, a. 1, a. 3, Whether ignorance can be the cause of sin?

To your last point, yes, some things cannot be fully understood such as the nature of God or the Trinity. We know these things exist, but we cannot understand it entirely in this life.
God bless and I hope someone has a more complete answer for you. :thumbsup:

We are not meant to understand everything, God has intended it to be this way. When we die it is only then all will become clear and we’ll have a perfect understanding of everything. When the priest consecrates bread and wine, so that they become Christ’s body and Christ’s blood, it is beyond our human understanding as is the Holy Trinity but we know enough to believe and have faith because Jesus taught us at the last supper, that alone is enough for me without question.

Another thing, isn’t the mystery of our faith what makes it so so beautiful!?

Recently, I got into an argument with my friend about why I believe that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. However, I am not good at explaining things and kind of fumbled up the explanation. My friend told me that if I could not explain something, I obviously don’t understand it and criticized me for not understanding, yet being so faithful to the Catholic Church. While being called ignorant rather hurt my ego

Don’t let your friends intellectual laziness bruise your ego. The ‘nones’ are nones because they don’t want to put their effort into any kind of principled stance. God forbid they may be humiliated (which they seem to be terrified of) by holding to an unpopular belief that they have to explain.

It got me thinking as well. As a cradle born Catholic, I do not think I question my faith as much as I should. Could this be classified as a sin of ignorance? Is a sense of contentment in the simple things we learn while attending Mass, the occasional retreat, religious article, or catechism lookup a false contentment?

Questioning your faith is expected. The answers are there, but they are, as you know, not easy to get. Many things such as: ancient Jewish passover tradition, OT theology on bread and wine, Jesus’ words on bread and wine, the wedding at Cana among others need to be studied if a person wants to intellectually understand the real presence. Even then there is still room for faith.

It’s no sin to question your faith and seek answers. A false contentment is a judgement you make on yourself.

Is our only assurance of avoiding the sin of ignorance a constant struggle to question every aspect of our faith? I personally feel as though this would take a very negative toll on some people and void any simplicity the Catholic Church holds. And of course, some things simply can not be understood, right?

Everyone’s capacities are different. No one is held to any intellectual standards beyond their capability. Don’t hold others to your capability and no one should put undue burdens on you for not being aware of something that you were never taught.

The beauty of God and the C. Church is that it can be simple enough for a child to understand and rich enough for the best theologians to live a hundred years and still have more questions.

Study is good, but not everyone has the time or the ability to be an expert in Church doctrine and apologetics. If you know the basics of what the Church teaches, really believe it, and live accordingly, that alone will have a huge impact on others, more than if you are a trained apologist but lack the other things. Sometimes saying “I don’t know” has a better effect than having a prepackaged answer to every conceivable question.

To quote the Imitation of Christ:

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God?

I don’t think it’s a false contentment at all. I think we live in a day and age where it would be wonderful if folks were simply more docile to what the Church teaches, rather than having to constantly set their own understanding up as some sort of judge over the Church. So WHAT if I don’t understand something? Are things only true if the great ME happens to understand them? I’m sorry, but I’m an idiot, and I’m not using myself as a standard.

We have to keep in mind that it is impossible to truly assent to some of these truths without grace. Although they do not contradict reason, and although reason can understand them, assenting to them is a gift from God.

So it’s just not true that we should only believe things we understand. That presupposes something that isn’t true: that faith comes from our own understanding, rather than from God. We cannot be so smart and so educated and so thoughtful that we somehow cause faith to permit our intellect to assent to revealed truth. That’s not how God set things up, lest any man should boast.

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with delving deeply into these things and trying to understand them, so long as:

(a) We keep in mind that, no matter how much we read, we’re not going to suddenly turn into professional, world-class theologians. There will always be gaps in what we know, since our study will be self-guided and probably not really that challenging;

(b) Our study isn’t causing us to avoid things we should be doing given our state in life.

And just one more point: lots of folks have a sort of human confidence in the Church because every objection they’ve ever raised always seems to have a very reasonable and sufficient answer. They find the Church credible, and that’s perfectly rational and reasonable. It would be foolish to distrust someone if they were consistently correct.

If I have a good friend who’s a doctor, and if I trust his level of education and his expertise, I don’t have to hold up an index finger to his advice and tell him to wait while I verify everything he’s saying. I TRUST him. And I humbly keep in mind that my Googling something, or reading an article or a book or a series of books, isn’t going to somehow overthrow his entire education.

So yes, I think all of these things are important to keep in mind.

I’m a convert and married to a cradle Catholic. I went through the RCIA program and used to discuss with my wife when I got home what I had learned during the class. I was surprised by how little she knew about her faith and what the Church taught. I have since found out through extensive experience that many many cradle Catholics are like that. They are very devout people but ignorant (not properly catechised). Sadly, this makes it easier for bible thumping Protestants to make them doubt and sometimes walk away from the Church.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, just acknowledge that you don’t know. But that you would be happy to find out if they wish.

To find the answer, come here to this site and ask the question, “where do I look to find the answer?”

Don’t feel bad that you don’t know. After 2000 years of church history, and the big Bible, and the CCC, and much more, there is a lot all of us don’t know and can’t explain. Remember, the Holy Spirit is with you and he too will nudge you along.

Always be composed and make it sound simple to put them at ease.

We are all ignorant to some extent in whatever we profess to believe. We are not perfect. As someone wrote we all have different capacities of learning and understanding.
This from Thomas A. Kempis from the imitation of Christ.

 "Faith is required of you, and a sincere life, not the height of understanding, nor diving deep into the mysteries of God."

 This from the Buddha-

 "Little though he recites the sacred texts, but puts the Teaching into practice, forsaking lust, hatred, and delusion, with true wisdom and emancipated mind clinging to nothing of this or any other world-he indeed partakes of the blessings of a holy life."

 We should strive in my view to study and learn, but also let go of thinking we will know everything about whatever tradition we have faith in.

they: “How could you be faithful when your faith is based on ignorance!”

me: “My faith is based on an inner knowing of Love and its universality. I am working on the other details.”

And while we are working on it, we can certainly forgive our ignorance and the ignorance of everyone else, as the Father most certainly does so.

:slight_smile:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.