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5/11/2017 5:35 pm  #1


How to get from Christianity to Catholicism

My faith has been destroyed recently. I don't know where all these sudden doubts came from--the onslaught of doubts occurred after Easter right after I began considering seminary seriously for the first time. I have been trying to reconstruct my faith since. I want to be able to intellectually affirm and defend four facets: Existence of God, existence of the soul, the resurrection of Jesus, and the Catholic Church as Christ's Church. Right now I'm dealing with the first two fairly well, though I'm not entirely sure that the mind or soul is immaterial. I'm reading Michael Licona's book on the resurrection. I have read most of William Lane Craig's work and was able to get through NT Wright's hefty volume. All I need now is some good resources from getting me from Christianity to Catholicism. I want to believe again but I am open to the painful alternative that I, for most of my life, have been deluded.

Last edited by RomanJoe (5/11/2017 6:39 pm)

 

5/11/2017 6:54 pm  #2


Re: How to get from Christianity to Catholicism

I also think I should add that this process has been extremely difficult and mentally taxing. My faith is extremely dry now and I suffer from a great inner darkness--a desolation. I have been in and out of depression and I always fear I'm on the cusp of despair. I want to affirm belief in God, the Resurrection, the Catholic Church, but I doubt too much. I have been tempted in these last several weeks to adopt a sort of agnosticism or, even worse, nihilism. I think it ridiculous that only a month ago I thought I could likely become a priest--I feel very far from this now. I have lost my sense of the sacred, I don't see beauty in the mass, Adoration has become slow and even boring, prayer has become monotonous.

I know I can't press forward, I can't authentically believe in revelation, scripture, the life of Christ, the Catholic Church, unless I revisit these intellectual issues. I need to set a rock-solid foundation before I rebuild. I do observe that some people never do this, in fact some people don't seem like they need to do this--I envy them. I, however, find myself cursed with an ever-burning desire to intellectually justify everything I believe. I don't think that my mother, my friends, or any lay Catholic who is devout but doesn't pursue the intellectual projects, is any lesser of a Catholic or theist for doing so. Their beliefs may conform to reality regardless of whether or not they spend their time reading philosophical and theological tomes. 

Last edited by RomanJoe (5/11/2017 8:55 pm)

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5/12/2017 6:08 am  #3


Re: How to get from Christianity to Catholicism

Honestly, my first thought on seeing "after considering seminary" is that this is some serious spiritual warfare type of thing. Especially as you talk about problems with prayer, I wonder if the issue is as much spiritual as intellectual, and might only be solved by persevering in prayer, sacraments, works of charity, and reading Scripture. But onto the apologetic resources:

Dave Armstrong's "A Biblical Defence of Catholicism" is fairly solidly argued - the author himself is an ex-Protestant, who tend to be the best at arguing from scripture for a specifically Catholic Christianity against Protestant objections. There's a good First Things article by Cardinal Dulles onthe value of orthodoxy. The blog "Shameless Popery" (written by an ex-Protestant seminarian) is one I found important as I became more Catholic, especially his thread "Reasons to Reject the Reformation", which goes through a classic counter-reformation work by Edmund Campion. He has good individual posts on specific issues, such asthe identity of the Catholic Church with the early Church, the promises made by Jesus to the Church, and the silliness of "cafeteria Catholicism", but he normally goes back to some form of the "argument from history".

Frank Sheed's "Theology for Beginners" gives a solid presentation of Catholic doctrines, and he fends off common arguments against them. For an explanation of Marian doctrines, especially in their historical development, I recommend Aidan Nichols' "There is No Rose" - it was a Christmas present last year, and I found it very interesting, as I lack much of a focus on Mary. Bizarrely, he defends teachings like the Co-Redemption (which isn't even defined doctrine) in great detail, but spends very little time defending the perpetual virginity - possibly because he focuses on historical acceptance of the doctrines, and the latter isn't very controversial for most of Church history.

David Bentley Hart's "The Experience of God" is a beautiful book written in favour of general "theism", which touches on both reasons to believe in God and the existence of an immaterial soul. The reason I recommend it is that it takes quite a different route to Feser and the like, so if you're still struggling with belief in God, it may be a breath of fresh air amid the neo-Thomism.

I sincerely hope you resolve your difficulties, whether by answering your objections or by seeing some way through them. Whether or not you become a priest, I hope that your life as a Christian doesn't suffer without reason.

 

5/12/2017 6:41 am  #4


Re: How to get from Christianity to Catholicism

Thank you for those encouraging words. This has been an ongoing battle. I have struggled with a dry faith for a very long time--I even have a blog that reflects my experiences. It's just now, when I really believed my faith was gaining some vigor, it all fell apart. Part of me thinks that this is something spiritual and that my sudden shift to the intellectual roots of my faith may actually do more harm than good. Another part of me, on the premise that God wants me to become a priest, thinks this is a test that's meant to solidify my faith, to make it intellectually sound so I can properly fulfill my vocation with confidence. I also greatly appreciate all that information--you're quite well-read on the matter. 

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5/12/2017 8:00 am  #5


Re: How to get from Christianity to Catholicism

I don't have anything to add to Alexander's reading suggestions. For my own part, Catholicism has always seemed like the only live option given Christianity.

The reason for expecting revelation in the first place is its necessity. Man cannot save himself and cannot get by on his own, so God had to reveal himself if man was going to have a relationship with him. And he did. I likewise think that once you have revelation, it has to be safeguarded, and something like the structure of the Catholic Church is necessary to that end. (Without getting into the historical weeds, which I'm not competent to do, the mileage of this argument will vary, and it will be especially contested by the Orthodox, whereas Protestants, I suppose, would be more inclined to try to reject the requirements of historical continuity and of visibility on Christ's Church--either by claiming mere Christianity is sufficient, or that scripture is sufficiently perspicuous, or something of the sort.)

I will pray for an increase in your faith and for your vocation, whatever it is. The fact about faith is that it is distinguished from reason precisely in that its grounds are less than coercive. Every Christian vocation demands sacrifice, but the scale of the sacrifice in the priesthood can perhaps elicit doubts--because why should one give up everything, if it might all be false?

That faith can be tested in that way is why it's appropriate to recognize that it is not just a certain kind of epistemic state but is a virtue. Living faith has the sort of resiliency characteristic of all virtues, and it needs that resiliency, given what it has to get Christians to do: pursue God's will, even as wayfarers who see now only through a glass, darkly.

 

5/12/2017 9:08 am  #6


Re: How to get from Christianity to Catholicism

Let's look at this one point at a time starting with the most general:

What are the nature of your doubts concerning the existence of God?

What are the nature of your doubts concerning the nature of the soul?

 

5/12/2017 12:48 pm  #7


Re: How to get from Christianity to Catholicism

DanielCC wrote:

Let's look at this one point at a time starting with the most general:

What are the nature of your doubts concerning the existence of God?

What are the nature of your doubts concerning the nature of the soul?

I don't see how the A-T proof for God's existence gets us to a being that exist as pure act. It can get us to a being whose causal power is pure act but that would make its nature far-off from what God usually is--That is, it could still have potentials in many ways.

I also don't see how establishing the existence of God does anything to tell us that he is personal or interacts in the world. Why something with agency and not a blind force?

If the soul (or mind) is material then we are all destined to be gone for eternity at the grave--life is brutal, short, and meaningless. We wouldn't be made in God's image--we would be the mindless slag of the universe that eventually falls apart. 

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5/13/2017 1:53 am  #8


Re: How to get from Christianity to Catholicism

Greg wrote:

I don't have anything to add to Alexander's reading suggestions. For my own part, Catholicism has always seemed like the only live option given Christianity.

The reason for expecting revelation in the first place is its necessity. Man cannot save himself and cannot get by on his own, so God had to reveal himself if man was going to have a relationship with him. And he did. I likewise think that once you have revelation, it has to be safeguarded, and something like the structure of the Catholic Church is necessary to that end. (Without getting into the historical weeds, which I'm not competent to do, the mileage of this argument will vary, and it will be especially contested by the Orthodox, whereas Protestants, I suppose, would be more inclined to try to reject the requirements of historical continuity and of visibility on Christ's Church--either by claiming mere Christianity is sufficient, or that scripture is sufficiently perspicuous, or something of the sort.)

I will pray for an increase in your faith and for your vocation, whatever it is. The fact about faith is that it is distinguished from reason precisely in that its grounds are less than coercive. Every Christian vocation demands sacrifice, but the scale of the sacrifice in the priesthood can perhaps elicit doubts--because why should one give up everything, if it might all be false?

That faith can be tested in that way is why it's appropriate to recognize that it is not just a certain kind of epistemic state but is a virtue. Living faith has the sort of resiliency characteristic of all virtues, and it needs that resiliency, given what it has to get Christians to do: pursue God's will, even as wayfarers who see now only through a glass, darkly.

This is some brilliant advice; I will keep it in mind on my journey. Thank you.

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5/13/2017 2:26 am  #9


Re: How to get from Christianity to Catholicism

RomanJoe wrote:

I don't see how the A-T proof for God's existence gets us to a being that exist as pure act. It can get us to a being whose causal power is pure act but that would make its nature far-off from what God usually is--That is, it could still have potentials in many ways.

This has more metaphysical baggage than what it seems, it has more to do with possibility, which I think Daniel was trying to address in another thread.

RomanJoe wrote:

I also don't see how establishing the existence of God does anything to tell us that he is personal or interacts in the world. Why something with agency and not a blind force?

If A-T is true, the intellect is an actualized potential, and thus the Purely Actual Causal power or what have you, must have the intellect in some sense.

 

5/13/2017 7:37 am  #10


Re: How to get from Christianity to Catholicism

RomanJoe wrote:

I don't see how the A-T proof for God's existence gets us to a being that exist as pure act. It can get us to a being whose causal power is pure act but that would make its nature far-off from what God usually is--That is, it could still have potentials in many ways.

=17pxIf you don't mind me saying you seem to be giving almost exclusive emphasis on Thomas' First Way, which is neither the most basic or the most helpful of the theistic proofs. If you want - I don't mean this in any patronizing kind of way in case it comes across like that - we go into this in greater depth here on this thread, in the older one about God and Actuality, or in PM.

RomanJoe wrote:

II also don't see how establishing the existence of God does anything to tell us that he is personal or interacts in the world. Why something with agency and not a blind force?

Were you aware of and did you accept the Thomistic arguments for the Divine Attributes?

RomanJoe wrote:

IIf the soul (or mind) is material then we are all destined to be gone for eternity at the grave--life is brutal, short, and meaningless. We wouldn't be made in God's image--we would be the mindless slag of the universe that eventually falls apart. 

I agree but what gives you cause to suddenly think the soul is material?

 

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