The Search for Absolute Truth


#1

I am a Protestant on a journey to Catholicism. I do not regret my time in the Protestant church, for without it I may not have come to know Jesus at all.

What has concerned me for some time now is the shifting sands of theology that are taught. The teaching will vary between churches even in the same denomination dependant on the Pastor. The Pastor may change his theology over time if he has a new revelation meaning the church may be completely different ten years from now. This began a search for a rock that I can stand on, an ABSOLUTE TRUTH that is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

In the protestant church, if you disagree with the teaching you have three options.

[list]
*]You stay in the church and grumble to everyone.
*]You move to another church that pleases your ears
*]You start up your own church in your garden
[/list]Submission to authority is not very often taught and is almost considered a dirty word.

This has brought me to the Catholic Church in which I can see a clear line of authority and accountability and what is considered “Truth” has not changed.

Here lies my dilemma. God has done a miraculous work in my mind and my heart to be able to accept so much of the teaching of the Catholic Church, and yet I still find myself disagreeing with some of the Church teaching (not major issues). Can I enter the Church when I don’t believe everything? I ask other Catholics who say “sure, it’s impossible to accept everything, don’t be naïve”. If the Church has the Absolute Truth, why do we not accept it? Why do we not submit to the Authority?

Must I agree with everything first or can I become a Catholic and just allow God to continue to transform me by the renewing of my mind”?

Thanks for reading my ramblings.

Your brother in Christ

Paul


#2

Hi Paul!!! :wave:

If the Church has the Absolute Truth, why do we not accept it? Why do we not submit to the Authority?

Good news Paul! Your intuitions are entirely correct! We DO accept it and we DO submit to authority! We believe that Christ has preserved the Church from error. I have found that every time I don’t understand a Church teaching or it doesn’t make sense to me, I just look it up and research it and it always makes sense in the end. After all, truth makes sense, doesn’t it?


#3

We Catholics differentiate between believing something and unserstanding why something is true.

To become a Catholic, one must beleive everything the Church teaches, as she teaches it. This does not mean you understand the reasons behind every single solitary thing, nor that you know everything there is to know about Catholicism. In fact, these things take a lifetime (and more!) to unravel. This is not because Catholicism is too hard for anyone to understand, but because the Catholic religion is infinitely knowable, just as God Himself is infinitely knowable. The more we learn, the more questions we have, the more we want to learn!

If you think about it, this applies on a natural level, too. We don’t marry someone because we know everything about them. We marry them because we love them, and want to continue to love and know and learn about them, no matter what it takes.

So of course, one who wishes toembrace Catholicism must know at least the basics of the faith, but along with that all he needs is a humble disposition. He needs to believe a) that the Catholic Church is the true Church, founded by Jesus Christ, and b) that she cannot err in her teaching.

Think about it: when one professes belief in Christ (with no denominational affiliation), does this mean he or she knows and understands all of Jesus’ teachings? Of course not. It simply means that you accept the authority and Divine Sonship of Jesus, and consequently you will believe everything he teaches, even if you don’t yet understand said teachings. (And you will be constantly praying for the gift of understanding.)


#4

To Brother Paul in Christ:

DominvsVobiscvm is right. And I applaud him or her for citing a very powerful comparison with the sacrament of matrimony.

Our Lord has shown you enough reasons to discover that Holy Mother Church is the One True Church and to be part of her, fully part of her. He cannot show you everything now because much of the rest of everything He will show you is found at Home. We are wanderers who wonder, “Where is Home?”. And He gives us hints as to the way Home. If our hearts are true, truly longing for Home, we will walk that way until we reach Home.

Peace, so be it.


#5

And I applaud him or her

Geez, should I be insulted? I have a pic posted in my profile. Either you didn’t see it, or you did see it and you couldn’t tell what I was.

Call me vain, but I hope the former is the truth.

(Hey, I’m an actor; I gotta be vain somewhat! Can’t a guy be religious and sexy?)


#6

Love for the truth has been a favorite theme of Pope John Paul II. “Let us seek the truth about Christ and about his Church!..Let us love the Truth, proclaim the Truth! O Christ, show us the Truth! Be the only Truth for us!” – Agenda for the Third Millennium Pope John Paul II

The Holy Father’s enthusiasm for the truth however is not shared by the secular world. In fact, its citizens, in general, harbor a distinct fear of the truth. This fear may be analyzed on three different levels:

  1. that the truth would impose unwanted moral responsibilities on them;

  2. that any association with the truth would occasion an air of pretentiousness;

  3. that any claim to the truth might expose them to being wrong.

They prefer freedom from moral responsibility, absence of any “holier than thou” attitude and exemption from the possible embarrassment of being in error. Their fears, however, take them from the very light and meaning they long for, and plunge them into a dark void were they are trapped by a misery of their own making. Their flight from the truth is also an entrance into a world of gloom.

These three fears are ill fated, as well as ill founded. First of all, truth is our only avenue to real freedom. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” John 8:32

Ignorance may at times be blissful, but it is never illuminating. St. Augustine once remarked that he had met many people who had been deceived, but never met anyone who wanted to be deceived.

We have a natural hunger for the truth of things. No one ever asks for the wrong time. It is always the “right” time and the truth about things we want to learn.

Untruth is not helpful, but truth is like a beacon that shows us the way. This is why the Pope titled his great encyclical on the freeing function of truth as Veritas Splendor (Truth’s Splendor).

When we are lost we want to lean the truth about our situation so that we can be liberated from our confusion. The truth makes us free; untruth binds us to bewilderment.

The truth about ourselves awakens us to our moral responsibilities, but we need this awakening in order to become whom we truly are, to advance toward our destiny, to build a meaningful life.

(con’t)


#7

We should welcome the truth that illuminates our moral responsibilities with the same enthusiasm that a person who is lost in the woods and welcomes a compass and a map.

Secondly, the fear that any discovery of truth would make us pretentious is also counterproductive. Truth is not of our own making. Even Christ proclaimed that the truth He illuminated did not spring from Him alone. “My teaching is not mine, but His who sent me” (John 17:6)

Truth is not subjective. It represents the objective order of things. The person who comes to know something of the truth, then should experience humility, not vanity, for he discovers something that is not his.

Christ was emphatic in his denunciation of the Pharisees who claimed to know something of the truth but behaved with a pretentious snobbery. Truth is not he cause of Pharisaism, vanity is.

And both Christ and his Church are unrelenting in their advocacy of humility and in their condemnation of vanity. In fact, it may be far less tolerant of Pharisaism than the secular world. Consider, for example, the comment, “I hate anything fake,” made by Britney Spears, a veritable icon of artificiality and pretense. The secular world awards this kind of duplicity with celebrity.

Thirdly, there is the rather spineless fear that in perusing the truth, we might fall into the embarrassing predicament of being wrong. Again, there is nothing wrong that can reasonably justify this anxiety. We all make mistakes. Not to try something for fear of making a mistake is akin to a paralyzing neurosis that would discourage one from trying anything.

Some people avoid marriage because they fear divorce. Others avoid friendship because they fear rejection. The pursuit of truth presupposes a certain amount of courage. If nothing is ventured, as the maxim goes, nothing is gained.

The fact that truth is indispensable for a meaningful life does not mean that it is always agreeable. Mounting the bathroom scale can be a breathless ascent, because the anxious weight-watcher knows that this simple piece of machinery tells the truth.

But he disconcerting truth that one is overweight may be exactly what one needs if exercising and dieting are to follow. The freedom that health offers may need to be preceded by the disagreeable truth that one is too fat.

(con’t)


#8

Truth is as natural to our minds as oxygen is to our lungs and food is to our digestive system. It is a great mistake to regard the teaching of truth as an imposition. The Church does not, nor can she, “impose” truth.

Rather, she endeavors to propose truths to those who are disposed to receive them. The Vatican’s Declaration of Religious Liberty states that, “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it wins over the mind with gentleness and power.

The Church as Guardian of the Truth and Teacher of the Word provides food for hungry minds. She does not impose the truth; no more than do Christians impose food on hungry bodies when they practice this corporeal act of mercy.

She guards it because it needs to be protected against the contamination of error. She teaches it because it is more nourishing than error. Moreover, the truth enables her to teach realistically about the truth of Christ, the truth of the Catholic Church, and the truth of man. Apostles are ministers of love, but they are also servants of the truth.

By Dr. Donald DeMarco, Professor of Philosophy, St. Jerome’s College at U. of Waterloo, he is married with 5 children.

Taken from The Bread of Life Magazine, July / Aug. Volume 26 Number 3, with minor editing by me.


#9

[quote=Pukunui]Can I enter the Church when I don’t believe everything? I ask other Catholics who say “sure, it’s impossible to accept everything, don’t be naïve”. If the Church has the Absolute Truth, why do we not accept it? Why do we not submit to the Authority?

Must I agree with everything first or can I become a Catholic and just allow God to continue to transform me by the renewing of my mind”?

[/quote]

Dear Paul,

From personal experience I know that Catholics don’t necessarily believe everything the Church teaches, nor do they necessarily agree with the behavior of the leaders of the Church regarding some of their public stands on political issues and political strategy. There are some issues I am struggling with myself, and insofar as one of them is the “infallibility” of the teaching authority “magisterium” of the Church (what exactly that means varies from one discussion to the next) I personally do not feel bound to believe any specific teaching.

There are many who would then say that I’m really not a Catholic, but according to apologists in this very forum once you are baptized Catholic or accepted into the Church after a valid baptism elsewhere you are always Catholic, even if you are excommunicated or renounce your faith.

So I am being honest, but neither proud nor afraid to admit that I am what many would call a “cafeteria Catholic.” There are many like me, but most of them are much more covert about it.

What does that mean for you? Nothing in particular except do not be under the delusion that all Catholics are perfect saints whose wills and intellects are totally bound to the Church. I’m sure you’ve heard the Church is a hospital for sinners rather than a museum for saints. Actually we have both, but that another issue. :wink:

What to make of all this? Come on in, the water’s fine. I don’t know what you have to agree to in order to convert, but I’d say that if you don’t yet agree to or understand every little detail (which as you suggested is impossible) then come on in, and as you said, allow God to continue to transform you by the renewing of your mind.

The reasons you cite for wanting to be in the Church are valid. It is nice to go to a Mass anywhere and hear the same basic teachings and procedures. Also keep in mind that the Catholic Church started with Peter as the head, and that the Catholic Church wrote the New Testament. Therefore, every “Christian” denomination that uses the Bible actually affirms, to some extent, the authority of the Catholic Church.

Alan


#10

[quote=AlanFromWichita]Dear Paul,

I’m sure you’ve heard the Church is a hospital for sinners rather than a museum for saints. Actually we have both, but that another issue. :wink:

Alan
[/quote]

Alan, I like that. I’ve never heard it but I’ll be sure to give you credit if and when I use it. And I would add that the struggle towards faith is at least as important as faith itself. Some issues I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to intellectually reconcile and even the ones that I have demand constant upkeep and objective reevaluation. If they be true and just they will withstand this criticism and the more they do, the more I can have…er… faith… in my um… faith… if that makes sense.


#11

Paul…WELCOME!!

You should always keep in mind that your life in the Catholic faith is a continuous JOURNEY. I personally feel that as long as you are seeking the truth in all things that you are on the right path, and no one can fault you for that. You may not understand it all or even agree with it right now (or maybe never), but the important thing is that you don’t give up trying to reconcile the truths of the Church with the world you live in. Good luck on your faith journey…it’s nice to have you along for the ride HOME.

Peace!


#12

What do you have to believe? That the church is right. If you disagree, Lord help me to understand. I like to say that I do not agree with everything the Church teaches, but that does not mean She is not right. My job is to work towards the understanding. I can’t just say I don’t agree and do nothing else. And if you needed to understand and agree with everything the Church taught, you could never become Catholic. Learning is a lifelong process. A person should never stop learning something new and questioning whether or not it is right. JMHO.


#13

Paul, I only returned to the Church in 2001 myself. I struggled with alot of things but as I understood one point and came to believe it would make clear another point and so on and so on. As you come to understand the whys, whats and hows the truth will come forth. Soon you will connect the dots. Don’t stop asking questions. that’s what I did.

God bless you!


#14

To Brother DominvsVobiscvm in Christ:

I apologized if you feel insulted. Please believe me, I truly didn’t see your picture because I don’t usually view profiles–only read posts. I’m still new to this forum (and to online forums, in general), which is why I’m not very familiar with some of its features. When I quoted you, I forgot that we users do have profile, hence the “him or her” uncertainty phrase in my earlier post. But, now I did view your profile and conclude that you’re a brother indeed.

Again, I apologized.

Shalom, amen.


#15

I’m an ex-Protestant myself, just entered the Church this year.

When I found myself in your situation, I made an act of the will to submit to the Church’s teaching in all such matters. Based on what I had learned, I affirmed that in all matters of faith and morals the Chuch has the authority to say “Because I say so”, and I am bound to agree with its teaching whether or not I like it or understand the reasoning given.

Yep, it’s blunt, but otherwise I could (and would) continue to rely on my own understanding and do what is right in my own eyes.

After my confirmation, baptism and first communion, I felt like a gushing well of water opened up inside of me, and over the course of the next few weeks I was given the grace to understand many of my difficult points and to see that, of course, the Church has it right. As the Body of Christ, it could be no other way than for the Church to teach true doctrine, continually and forever.

sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.


#16

What are some of the things you disagree with? I’ve been a Catholic for 11 years (having been raised as a Nothing), and it seems like everything I thought was kind of antediluvian turned out to be spot-on, even in a materialistic sense. Like, look at the Church’s position on birth control, and all the medical problems people have had with various artificial methods. Everyone thought the Church was being so retrograde but when you look back it seems like it had the right idea. after all; people were totally losing their perspective on the role of sex.

As a woman, I even believe that reserving priesthood for men has a very important reason also, to pull the lesser-civilized sex into the Church by bestowing on them a special role. It’s just the way men are. Otherwise they would drift away and we would become a church of women.

Gee, I think by the time I die I will understand everything!


#17

I think it is important to realize that we will never understand everything and that it is okay to become a Catholic while still unsure of our personal opinions as long as we realize that the Church is right. I know of a woman who was being prepared to enter the Church. The man preparing her was unsure if she was really ready because of certain issues she didn’t seem to agree with the Church on. He was told that he should allow her to become Catholic and trust the power of the sacraments. He did, and the grace conveyed to her greatly helped her. Sometimes our brains just can’t figure everything out, but we can trust God’s grace to lead us where He wants us.


#18

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.