Tag Archives: Fides quaerens intellectum

Two Days, Two Ways

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(This is a simul-post with Ignitum Today)

Tempting as it was to declare that we should write a Discovery-channel-spinoff in the vein of this xkcd (Quill doing the words, Ink doing the doodles), being wrapped up in family matters has made that logistically impossible. Plus, it seemed more appropriate to write a heavier post.

Funnier than Black Friday

In light of today yesterday [1] being Black Friday, our thoughts were drawn to the very strange contrast between a day like yesterday, where the mindset of sales, purchases, and consumption dominates, and a day like Thursday, whose spirit is one of thanksgiving (exactly as it says on the can), and the recognition that everything we have is first and foremost a gift [2].  It’s as if by an accident of human affairs– or by the strange shadow of crass commercialism cast by all that is finest in our calendar holidays– whether by one or by the other, Providence has drawn out examples of the same two choices He puts before us time and again in the Scriptures: today He has set before us two ways.

“See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil.  If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it.  But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.  I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”  [3]

These two different attitudes can be found everywhere.  Scripture, as seen above, is only one location.  Salvation history is an equally blatant example.  Our own lives, however, are just as subject to this very fundamental choice: good and life, evil and death.

English-Ancient Greek dictionary

Thanksgiving – ευχαριστειν (eucharistein): to give thanks.

–notice eucharistein can be broken down into eu-charis (charis being the word for grace): to give thanks is to respond well (eu) to the grace (charis) we have received.

At the Last Supper, even God found the time to give thanks.  On the night of the first and truest Thanksgiving Thursday, the night all His friends turned their backs on Him and handed Him over to His great suffering, He still said the blessing “and gave thanks” [4].  And on the same night we find Judas grasping for his purse of silver, like Adam grasping for the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, mirroring the hands of the soldiers grasping for God Himself, to destroy His body.

This then was the first Black Friday, when the sun hid for shame, an example then as every Black Friday is now of the grasping, seizing, devouring attitude: the one that does not so much say “I Do Not Want” to God’s gift– for there is nothing else out there to be desired but things which God has already given us– so much as say “I Do Not Want It to Be A Gift.”  We want to have it both ways, to receive and then to hold on to it as if we had created it ourselves, bit by bit to privatize the world away from God and then to dispose of it as if it had all come from us to begin with, as if we called it out of nothing, as if we earned it and every other thing back to our own birth– to dominate, in the strictest sense, everything that comes our way.

Thanksgiving Thursday and Black Friday–the days upon which we give thanks for our many blessings and then proceed to destroy ourselves with greed, not even a full 24 hours later.  The way that recognizes the gift, receives it in thanks, and gives back to others and to the Giver; and the way of consumption and possession, of appropriating what we come across and sealing it off from the world, until we turn in upon ourselves and away from the source of every gift: in a word, the choice between the way Our Lord went on Holy Thursday and the way the whole world went on Good Friday.

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[1] This was originally meant to be published on Friday but, again, life got in the way.

[2] All things, being in existence, are first gifts from God, who actively Wills all things and beings into existence.  Do you feel small yet?

[3] Deuteronomy 30:15-20

[4] Luke 22:17

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“Does God exist?”

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More depends on the answer to this question than any other. What a pity, then, that it remains so rarely discussed! I mean, of course, the reality of God, to which all Catholics must bear witness. Ours is a time which is in such desperate need of recovering intimacy with the God of Love. That makes it all the more sad to think that so often, when the topic is broached, it becomes an occasion for animosty and antagonism rather than for the truth of the Gospel to be depicted with clarity and charity.

The story of God and His Love needs telling. Hopefully, the following thoughts will help somehow in that.

“Does God exist?”
It can be easy, because the question continues to be debated generation after generation, with so many on either side and with so many different arguments and counter-arguments, to lay the question aside, or else to throw up our hands like Socrates at the end of a dialogue and say, “I guess we can’t know after all.” Perhaps it starts to look like a court case, and the “evidence” just doesn’t seem worthy of conviction. Perhaps the apparent futility of the whole back-and-forth leaves us thinking the question isn’t worth pursuing.

But this question is worth pursuing, like no other. Let’s take a step back here. The living God we proclaim is not a kind of superman, basically like us but a spiritual being of much greater power and intelligence. The question “Does God exist?” does not work the same way “Does Superman exist?” or “Does Zeus exist?” We work with some idea of Superman or Zeus– their essence, what makes Zeus Zeus and not, say, my neighbor’s dog. Then we try to figure out whether Zeus exists or not– he may or may not, and the difference is whether this one property, the property of existing, happens to be true of him or not.

When we ask the question “Does God exist?” it’s dangerous to imagine the answer comes the same way. “Existence” is not some one property we can ascribe to God in the same way we ascribe it to ourselves, or a dog, or a rock, any more than we can say that an author exists in the same way as his characters. The living God is Himself the fullness of Being, whereas our existence is merely participation in God, in the free gift He makes of His Being. It can be helpful, perhaps, to think of it along the same lines as the relation between light and window. A window has no inherent tendency of its own to illuminate or be illuminated, much the same way that we have no inherent tendency of our own, independent and self-contained, to come into or remain in existence. When the light shines on a window, however, the window is filled with light which passes on into the room. The window is illuminated, and the window, in a certain sense, illuminates the room, but the light itself suffers no diminution because the window “participates” in it. In much the same way, when we participate in God thanks to His loving act of creation, God suffers no diminution– or else we would not be talking about God, but some imperfect, imagined image of Him.

This brief consideration can serve as a first step in considering what thinking about the existence of God really entails. To purge our thinking about God of all that is unworthy of Him is a task as important as it is difficult– in fact a task impossible to succeed in altogether, as a consequence of the Fall, but that should not dissuade us from doing the best we can, realistically. God is not one specially powerful being among others but Being Himself, the non-contingent ground of all beings, the creative Reason that imparts His intelligibility upon all His creatures.
We can use this as a starting point, to prevent a kind of idolatry when thinking about God; that is, by ascribing something to Him that is altogether unworthy of Him or by neglecting to ascribe something to Him which must be true. On its own, however, this isn’t likely to produce a new conviction about God’s existence in someone. In future posts, we’ll take a closer look together at why recognizing God’s existence should be so difficult, what the proper attitude of assent to God’s existence consists in, and what some arguments for God’s existence look like.