Lately I’ve been working to write a catechism of the faith for our students, one that incorporates both the particular confessions of Christian belief as well as the philosophical commitments that make such beliefs intelligible.
Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed an increasing number of young people who go off to college and subsequently ‘reject’ Christianity especially and even belief in God generally. Such rejections are often voiced in the name of science and reason. Frequently it’s not God so much as the behavior and closed-off worldview of other Christians with which they wish to part ways.
I’ve discovered too how all too often the Christianity which gets rejected is not
the actual Christian tradition as such.
It’s not the ancient Christian tradition and its conception of God, Christ and scripture.
Rather the faith an increasing number of the ‘nones’ reject is the sort of pop caricature of Christianity that our connected culture allows to metastasize until the god rendered therein is either unbelievable or repugnant and sometimes both.
So over the past couple of years I’ve become convinced that its important for the Church to inoculate our young people with a healthy dose of catechesis before we ship them off to college, just enough so that when they first hear about Nietzsche or really study Darwin they won’t freak out and presume that what the Church taught them in 6th grade confirmation is the only wisdom the Church has to offer.
Knowing most folks won’t read long boring books, I’ve been working on writing a catechism, a distillation of the faith into concise questions and answers with brief supporting scriptures. The Q/A’s of a catechism are, really, the pretense for a longer dialogue.
Given the post-Christian world in which we will live, I think it’s important to outline the faith such that people can see- and learn- the philosophical foundation beneath it.
It’s important for (young) people to see that ours is a faith which isn’t afraid of doubt even as it takes the reasons for doubt with moral seriousness.
Ours is a faith that has ancient answers for ‘modern’ questions, a faith that will always rely upon God’s self-revelation but it is not irrational for all truth is God’s truth.
In other words, ours is a faith with the resources to tame the cynicism of a post-Christian culture.
I’ve used the catechism of the Catholic Church as a basic skeleton of categories. I’ve phrased the questions in the approximate wording of the questions I’ve received from doubters and believers over the past couple years while the answers are an incestuous amalgamation of Karl Barth, Thomas Aquinas, John Wesley, Stanley Hauerwas and all my other theological crushes.
Here are the first 3 (of a couple hundred) Questions:
Part I ~ The Father
- Does God exist?
To say something exists is to suggest that it had a beginning in time, that it is an object in the universe, but God is without beginning or end, is outside time and is not an object within the universe.
God just is; therefore, the subject and the predicate of the statement ‘God exists’ are identical.
So God does not ‘exist’ in our sense of the term, rather God is the Source of existence itself in that everything which exists owes its existence to God.
‘God said to Moses: “I Am He Who Is.”’ – Exodus 3.14
“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” – Hebrews 11.3
2. Do human beings exist?
A ‘being’ is someone who is still, someone who doesn’t change, someone constant, someone who’s always true.
Human life isn’t really being in that sense. Only God is a true being. The only being who can act without changing identity is God.
Everything else in creation is a “becoming,” a creature or thing that’s in constant process of changing. Everything else acts in such a way that it closes off some of the possible options and thus reduces the potential of their existence. God alone acts in such a way that there is no loss, just being.
So, no, human ‘beings’ do not exist. Human ‘becomings‘ exist. To speak of human ‘beings’ is only possibly by our incorporation into God’s Triune Being through the incarnation of the Son.
“For you [God] created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” – Revelation 4.11
“For in God we live and move and have our being.” – Acts 17.28
3. Is God knowable?
In a certain sense.
As Being that supplies existence to all created things in the universe, God is knowable for God is literally closer to us than we are to ourselves.
However, as Creator, God is necessarily greater than his creatures‘ apprehension of him. Our knowledge of God is never full or perfect. We can know that God is but never know what God is.
Therefore we know God only analogically; that is, we can know what God is ‘like’ but we do not know God in his essence.
“I beseech thee, my son, look upon the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, and consider that God made them of things that were not; and so was mankind made likewise.” – 2 Maccabees 7.28
“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.” – Psalm 139.6