Some apologetics questions

Hi all. I joined the Church almost 2 years ago, but lately I have lost my religious enthusiasm. I don’t plan to quit but I’ve been drifting away toward apathy. It might be a seasonal thing. Some of my questions are:

  1. How do we know the Bible is more inspired than the Koran, Vedas, or Book of Mormon?
  2. Given how Christianity breaks with Judaism in the Incarnation, how do we know Jesus wasn’t just a cult leader rightly warned against by the Pharisees(the ones who actually knew their religion)?

The only thing that can’t be answered in my mind is where the body is. The question of the Resurrection is a problem for skeptics as Christ had plenty of enemies who would have loved to discredit the movement. On the other hand, if the disciples stole it(as reported), how’d they keep the theft under wraps and maintain their convictions in the face of persecution?

Because the Bible was given to us by the Church – the Church that Jesus founded, and which He promised would never be overcome by the devil! Because the others don’t come from the same Church, and without the same promises!

  1. Given how Christianity breaks with Judaism in the Incarnation, how do we know Jesus wasn’t just a cult leader rightly warned against by the Pharisees(the ones who actually knew their religion)?

This is a great question! Essentially, it’s the question that all belief boils down to: is Jesus really the Son of God? If He is, then your faith is solid; if He isn’t, then you’re simply misled. Now, here’s the $64,000 question: did Jesus really rise from the dead? If so, that’s a pretty solid indication that He was actually the Son of God, and not just some “cult leader”, right?

The only thing that can’t be answered in my mind is where the body is. The question of the Resurrection is a problem for skeptics as Christ had plenty of enemies who would have loved to discredit the movement. On the other hand, if the disciples stole it(as reported), how’d they keep the theft under wraps and maintain their convictions in the face of persecution?

Good points. If this was just a massive fraud, there’d be more than just rumors spread by religious enemies, don’t you think? If it never really happened, and therefore, Jesus never really appeared to anyone, then the people of the day wouldn’t have been convinced by the apostles, would they have been?

If the disciples stole it, it is not likely they would have accepted martyrdom based on what they knew was a lie. It is most reasonable, even from a completely skeptical perspective, to admit that the disciples believed he rose from the dead.

1 Corinthians 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

Some things never change. With matters of faith reason can’t always be applied. How do you provide evidence you have an immoral soul or the origin of your soul?

Luke 17:21 behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

**Hebrews 11:6 **But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

I’m definitely no apologist, so I trust that someone else will chime in. My question to you (since I too came into full communion with the RCC 3 yrs ago) is, what brought you to the church in the first place? I don’t think God is displeased with us when we have questions or search for answers but I wonder if something has happened which may have caused you to grow “apathetic”-your words? I am guessing you trusted your faith when you came in to the church.

Eventually we have to take it on faith, whatever our beliefs. We have to trust. If there is “proof”, then there is no need for faith. I can only pass on what helps me when the flame in my heart is flickering low. I have to stay involved in church community in my parish…they help me believe while living in a secular world. I participate in scripture study and also meet with a couple of ladies a few times a month to touch base on our faith journey. I volunteer in RCIA (nope-I’m no expert. I just have some extra time and know what it’s like to be new and it keeps me learning), I try to start and end the day in prayer (and if I slack off, I ask for forgiveness and start over). I’m definitely no saint, and still get nervous when I go to the sacrament of reconciliation (but sure feel great when I leave).
And of course I love receiving the Eucharist, so go to Mass as frequently as I can, but definitely once a week. I need God and He knows it :slight_smile:

Sorry to be “preachy”, I just wanted to share what works for me when I’m having doubts to keep my “lights on”.

Peace!

Josephback #1

  1. How do we know the Bible is more inspired than the Koran, Vedas, or Book of Mormon?

Because the Church teaches that it is the inspired Word of God. No others are inspired by God and they contradict the Bible, while leading away from Christ’s Church.

The facts are:

  1. There was a man called Jesus
  2. He claimed to be a messenger sent by God
  3. What He did proved that He was such a messenger
  4. While crowds followed Him, He spoke especially to a select group.
  5. He told His select followers to continue His teaching and instituted His Church with a supreme head
  6. He proclaimed that God would protect that teaching

His Church tells us that the messenger, Jesus of Nazareth, is God Himself, and She guides mankind with His teaching, and tells us that specific documents written before (OT) and after His coming (New Testament) are inspired and really have God as their author.

  1. Given how Christianity breaks with Judaism in the Incarnation, how do we know Jesus wasn’t just a cult leader rightly warned against by the Pharisees(the ones who actually knew their religion)?

The writings of these facts — the Gospels – are comparable with other ancient documents from writers such as Caesar, Tacitus, Thucydides and others, they are all reliable as history.

Historically, they prove that the messenger sent from God worked many miracles to support His mission and teaching to the extent of forgiving sins. God as Truth cannot provide such power to prove falsehood, so the claims of Jesus are true, culminating in the fact of His resurrection from the dead.

So from the reliability of the Gospels as history, we now know that:

  1. An infallible Church was founded by the Son of God
  2. That infallible Church teaches that the Bible, as She has given us, is the inspired Word of God.

Quadratus writes (circa 123 A.D.) that in his day there were still persons around who had been cured or raised from the dead by Jesus – prime witnesses. [Eusebius, *Church History, 4.3, 1.2; See Free From All Error, Fr W. Most, p 12].

Even Adolf von Harnack, a rationalist historian of high repute among Rationalists and Protestants, wrote that the Synoptic Gospels were written before 70 A.D. – before the fall of Jerusalem, and accepted the tradition that St Luke derived his information on the infancy of Jesus from Mary His Mother. Theologische Quartalsch, Tubingen 1929, IV, p 443-4].
[See *Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, The Saint Austin Press, 2001, Sheehan/Joseph p 89, 93].

Not only are the facts of Jesus miracles recorded by His own Apostles who were present – Saints Matthew and John were companions of Christ, and Saints Mark and Luke lived in constant contact with His contemporaries.

His miracles “were so frequent, the eyewitnesses so numerous, and the evidence so stark, that not even Christ’s enemies disputed the fact of their occurrence. Instead they ascribed them to the power of the devil, or defied Him to perform another one in His own favour.” (See Mt 12:24; 27:39-42; Jn 11:47). Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, Sheehan/Joseph, Saint Austin Press, 2001, p 104].

No other religious founder claimed to be God – not Mohammed of Islam, not in Hinduism, not in Buddhism, not in Taoism, not in Confucianism.

The vast gulf between Catholicism and any other religion is that the Catholic Church has been founded by a Divine Person who lived with a human and divine nature and claimed to be God, proving that claim by His Resurrection and many recorded miracles. When God leads us through His Church, others fashion their own beliefs and morals.

I came to the Church by a process of elimination. Luther was wrong, and hence the entire movement he inspired was brought into question. I ultimately couldn’t accept Orthodoxy’s rejection of Papal Supremacy, and that left only one option.

My reasons for growing apathetic are more complex, but part of it probably has to do with the fact I have no meaningful relationship with any of the parishioners where I attend. I know some names and my neighbors are among them, but otherwise…-perhaps I need to try harder there. I also need to make Confession, but have zero resolve to amend. Church without connection is pointless unless you commune. Thus, I am apathetic. I’ve gotten into saying I don’t believe in God. More specifically, I don’t believe in personal direct revelation, which as a holdover from my non-Catholic days becomes a problem, being taught to think that my own melancholic thoughts are promptings from God. I’ve been listening to John Lennon’s “Imagine” and certainty seems unlikely, unbelief freeing. Paradoxically, I still have an interest in learning and theology books.

Thanks everyone for commenting. I’m reading.

This is a good argument, given that they were in a position to know.

to kindof add, i’ve also read that there was also a large Jewish movement to convert to Christianity after the death of Christ, whether this was from post-mortem appearances we’ll never know, this coming from a people who had very strong roots to Judaism so there had to be a reason for that coming after majority rejected him as the Son of God? Add that to the martyrdom argument and you’re getting somewhere, IMO

  1. How do we know the Bible is more inspired than the Koran, Vedas, or Book of Mormon?

Lots of people have claimed to be someone and all have similar qualities that they claim to have had. Whether or not they are true (e.g miracles) is irrelevant to me because they don’t offer anything different. Christianity is unique because it’s a religion where the founder claimed to be God, it’s belief system, at least Catholicism’s, is rational, and it involves a miracle by the religious leader (Jesus) that isn’t claimed by any other religious group (Resurrection).

  1. Given how Christianity breaks with Judaism in the Incarnation, how do we know Jesus wasn’t just a cult leader rightly warned against by the Pharisees(the ones who actually knew their religion)?

If he is risen than he’s for real.

The only thing that can’t be answered in my mind is where the body is. The question of the Resurrection is a problem for skeptics as Christ had plenty of enemies who would have loved to discredit the movement. On the other hand, if the disciples stole it(as reported), how’d they keep the theft under wraps and maintain their convictions in the face of persecution?

It seems like your biggest difficulty with the Resurrection involves the conspiracy theory or theological speculation by the Apostles.

Say hypothetically that someone did steal the body and it wasn’t the Apostles. It fails to explain multiple things:

  1. Why would they believe that Jesus was risen if just the body was gone? They weren’t expecting a risen Jesus any more than anyone else was.

  2. Why would they change the day of rest from the Sabbath to Sunday? It’s a point Benedict XVI makes in Jesus of Nazereth, and I find it extremely convincing. If you consider how important the Sabbath was for ancient Jews and the extent to which it was ingrained in their lives, only a radically new event and encounter could have caused this shift from Saturday to Sunday.

  3. St. Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 an early proclamation of faith that dates to the mid 30’s, less than 10 years after Jesus’ Passion. No doubt he got that formulation of faith at Damascus, and got clarification from the Apostles at Jerusalem, at the very least from Sts. Peter and James. This clearly does away with the idea of the Resurrection being theological speculation by a later group of Christians (not to mention the fact that early Christian debate with Jews presupposes the debate revolves around a body).

  4. Why would the disciples lie? They had no reason to come up with an idea that would appall the Greeks, anger the Jews, and bring ridicule from the Romans. They wouldn’t make up a story that gave women a prominent role, and make themselves look like cowards. And we know Sts. Peter and Paul were martyred for their faith, in addition to St. James the Less (this is even if you take a skeptical view on the disciple’s lives and don’t accept that most of them were martyred). We also know St. James the Great got murdered as a Christian, St. John the Evangelist devoted his entire life to spreading the Christian Church in Turkey, St. Andrew spread the Gospel in Turkey and is likely a martyr, and St. Thomas spread the Gospel to at least eastern Persia. This again is if you take a very skeptical view about Christian history. It’s unanimously accepted that Sts. Peter and Paul were sincere, and St. James the Less as well since we know for a fact that all of them died for their faith. So that further solidifies how the faith formula from 1 Corinthians 15 is legitimate, seeing that St. Paul got it from at least St. Peter and St. James the Less, if not also the other disciples, as Paul tells us in Galatians (note: Galatians and 1 Corinthians are 2 of the undisputed Pauline letters). All this goes to show that the disciples really did encounter something, and that Jesus did appear to them.

This leaves one possible objection: maybe they hallucinated. But that’s a big stretch, considering it would necessarily involve the same hallucination happening to at least 6 disciples who we have concluded were sincere. And likely at least 8 if you consider St. Matthew and St. Philip who we have good reason to believe also devoted their lives to the spread of Christianity (once again I’m taking a minimalist approach here to the historical situation). That is more than highly improbable–it’s a miracle itself!–and that allowing for St. Bartholomew, St. Jude, and St. Simon to lie about seeing Jesus, which we have no reason to believe. And this isn’t including the women who claimed to have seen Angels and St. Mary Magdelene encountering Jesus.

Now maybe you dismiss that entire argument and say it’s stupid, that they still did hallucinate. That’s still quite a few hallucinations to account for, and on top of that, we have the problem that even if the disciples hallucinated, they had no reason to believe he was risen. In the context of the times, had the disciples seen a hallucination of Jesus, they might have thought that it proved he really was on God’s side, that he was going to the Father. But they had no reason to believe he was resurrected bodily. Why should they have believed so? As I mentioned, they weren’t expecting him to rise, and the Jews thought of the Resurrection as something for the end of times. If anything, Jesus reinforces this belief of the Resurrection being at the end of times in his discussions with the Sadducees. In fact, the idea of Jesus rising is something in itself that can really only be accounted for by Jesus rising.

It becomes even more convincing if you don’t take a minimalist approach at history and are more generous, as you should be, since most evidence for events in this time period are dated later than anything for Christianity.

Sorry for the tangent, but hopefully that cleared things up a little, at least with regards to our Faith. :slight_smile:

Sounds just like me. :slight_smile:

My reasons for growing apathetic are more complex, but part of it probably has to do with the fact I have no meaningful relationship with any of the parishioners where I attend. I know some names and my neighbors are among them, but otherwise…-perhaps I need to try harder there. I also need to make Confession, but have zero resolve to amend. Church without connection is pointless unless you commune. Thus, I am apathetic.

I feel ya. I’ve recently gone through something similar with my faith–hanging on but not really at the same time. For the most part I still feel isolated. The “we” of the Church is to a large extent missing; my (and probably yours too) relationship to God is an I/Thou relationship, at least more than it should be, which can’t really survive long term.

I’ve gotten into saying I don’t believe in God. More specifically, I don’t believe in personal direct revelation, which as a holdover from my non-Catholic days becomes a problem, being taught to think that my own melancholic thoughts are promptings from God.

Yep. I know what it’s like.

I’ve been listening to John Lennon’s “Imagine” and certainty seems unlikely, unbelief freeing. Paradoxically, I still have an interest in learning and theology books.

Just look at the 20th century to know that unbelief isn’t freeing. What we do in the name of progress and freedom from God is incredibly sad.

Maybe this excerpt from Pope Francis’ Lumen Fidei would be useful (underline mine):

*38. The transmission of the faith not only brings light to men and women in every place; it travels through time, passing from one generation to another. Because faith is born of an encounter which takes place in history and lights up our journey through time, it must be passed on in every age. It is through an unbroken chain of witnesses that we come to see the face of Jesus. But how is this possible? How can we be certain, after all these centuries, that we have encountered the “real Jesus”? Were we merely isolated individuals, were our starting point simply our own individual ego seeking in itself the basis of absolutely sure knowledge, a certainty of this sort would be impossible. I cannot possibly verify for myself something which happened so long ago. But this is not the only way we attain knowledge. Persons always live in relationship. We come from others, we belong to others, and our lives are enlarged by our encounter with others. Even our own knowledge and self-awareness are relational; they are linked to others who have gone before us: in the first place, our parents, who gave us our life and our name. Language itself, the words by which we make sense of our lives and the world around us, comes to us from others, preserved in the living memory of others. Self-knowledge is only possible when we share in a greater memory. The same thing holds true for faith, which brings human understanding to its fullness. Faith’s past, that act of Jesus’ love which brought new life to the world, comes down to us through the memory of others — witnesses — and is kept alive in that one remembering subject which is the Church. The Church is a Mother who teaches us to speak the language of faith. Saint John brings this out in his Gospel by closely uniting faith and memory and associating both with the working of the Holy Spirit, who, as Jesus says, “will remind you of all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:26). The love which is the Holy Spirit and which dwells in the Church unites every age and makes us contemporaries of Jesus, thus guiding us along our pilgrimage of faith.

As you surely know from discerning between different branches of Christianity, the Church Fathers pretty much had identical beliefs about ecclesiology, Christology, etc. So it comes down to whether or not the Apostles are trustworthy, whether or not we can entrust our lives to their message. And I think you’ll see that we can. Radical skepticism that much of atheism and agnosticism encourages can only tear down trust in others, not build others up in fraternal charity.

I also recommend, if you haven’t already, looking into why God would become Incarnate, why he would die, and why he would rise again. It makes the case for Catholicism a lot more compelling.

God bless and sorry for another long post. :o

Prayer, prayer, and more prayer. God is listening. Listen with humility and readiness to respond. If you want to know Him and to love Him, ask for that grace. God knows all things, can fix all things, loves you totally and completely, wants your happiness, and is ready to give it to you. Ask for enlightenment, ask for a strong faith. Make that Padre Pio/Sacred Heart novena, and every day ask for God to enlighten you, because faith is freeing, God’s love is freeing. Do you know that prayer, “Lord Jesus, you have said, ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you. Behold, I knock, I seek, I ask for…” It’s on this page: padrepiodevotions.org/prayers-of-padre-pio/ Scroll down the page and you’ll see it.

You say that John Lennon’s “Imagine” seems freeing, but there’s nothing as freeing as God’s love and true humility. Just don’t stop asking until you get it. He’ll give you an unbelievable abundance of love, joy, happiness, faith, and hope. Persevere in prayer and you’ll have all your answers, and more besides.

I’ll keep you in my prayers. God bless!!

Because the life, death and message of Jesus are inspired by the greatest love the world has ever known.

Some insightful words from Romano Guardini: payingattentiontothesky.com/2011/07/27/faith-and-doubt-in-the-stages-of-life-–-fr-romano-guardini/

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