In St. Jude 1:3, we read, "Dearly beloved, taking all care to write unto you concerning your common salvation, I was under a necessity to write unto you: to beseech you to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." [Emphasis mine]. Contending For The Faith is a series of posts dedicated to apologetics (i.e., the intellectual defense of the truth of the Traditional Catholic Faith) to be published the first Monday of each month. This is the next installment.
Sadly, in this time of Great Apostasy, the faith is under attack like never before, and many Traditionalists don't know their faith well enough to defend it. Remember the words of our first pope, "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." (1Peter 3:16). There are five (5) categories of attacks that will be dealt with in these posts. Attacks against:
- The existence and attributes of God
- The truth of the One True Church established by Christ for the salvation of all
- The truth of a particular dogma or doctrine of the Church
- The truth of Catholic moral teaching
- The truth of the sedevacantist position as the only Catholic solution to what has happened since Vatican II
In addition, controversial topics touching on the Faith will sometimes be featured, so that the problem and possible solutions may be better understood. If anyone has suggestions for topics that would fall into any of these categories, you may post them in the comments. I cannot guarantee a post on each one, but each will be carefully considered.
The One True Church and the Attack By Religious Pluralism
"Everyone thinks their religion is the true religion. That's what divides us and keeps us apart. Endless arguments, and until we die, we won't know which religion, if any, is true." These statements were made by a colleague of mine in response to my refusal to go to an "ecumenical Thanksgiving party" given by the firm where grace before the meal would be given by attorneys of different religions. My colleague wanted to know why I would not attend since I could say a Traditionalist Catholic prayer. I explained that my faith was not "one among many" religions, that it was the One True Church founded by Christ to which all must belong in order to be saved. By attending that party, I would give scandal by letting people think that religion is no big deal, and the True Church is somehow on par with Mohammedanism, Judaism, Protestantism, Hinduism, and any other false sect.
I told him his contentions were wrong, and invited him to go to lunch with me in January, when things slow down a little bit, and I would explain why. He said he would, and I'll see how that goes if he keeps his word. My fellow attorney is not alone in his sentiments (which led to his becoming an atheist). With the ever-growing secularization of society, and the existence of every religion under the sun here in the United States (with the Masonic separation of Church and State), a large segment of society believes as he does--and agnosticism/atheism many times is the result.
The primary meaning of this attack proceeds as follows: if God is truthful, loving, and clear, why is there so much religious disagreement? This, in turn, leads to religious indifferentism; the view that one religion is as good as another and no religion can be considered correct. There is also negative indifferentism, which asserts all religions are false and bad (atheism/agnosticism), or one only needs to be "spiritual"---whatever that means.
Our culture, with its pluralism, subjectivism, and relativism, finds it easy to replace truth with certainty. This attitude is enjoying unprecedented popularity. However, truth is not the same thing as certainty. Truth is what corresponds with reality, while certainty refers to a person having no doubt or being fully convinced about something which may or may not correspond to reality.
In this post, I will demonstrate how someone should answer these statements that may well confront you. In this age of Great Apostasy, ushered in by Vatican II, you may very well come up against someone who is convinced by the diversity of religion, and the prevalence of ecumenism, that no religion is true. They assert one of three positions: (1) All religions are false; (2) all religions are equally good; or (3) beliefs don't matter because we can't know which, if any, is true--just be "spiritual."
(In the writing of this post, I have used many sources, both online and books. I have incorporated the works of Christian philosophers including (but not limited to) St. Thomas Aquinas, Dr. John Lennox, and Professor Richard Swinburne. I take no credit for the material herein, but only for compiling it into a terse and readable post---Introibo).
A Pluralistic World
Occultist guru Oprah Winfrey says it’s a big mistake to believe there’s just one means of salvation: “There are millions of ways to be a human being and many paths to what you call ‘God.’ . . . There couldn’t possibly be just one way.” Now, the observation that religious beliefs abound (descriptive religious pluralism) is one thing; perhaps we could simply call this “religious diversity.” However, there is also truth-suppressing, Traditionalist-threatening prescriptive religious pluralism: “It’s true—and therefore you need to believe—that no one faith is uniquely capable of saving or liberating; all religions are able to do so.”(those who become atheists will assert no religion can save you).
To assert Christ’s saving uniqueness is arrogant and imperialistic—a relic of the Colonial age. Pluralism is more suited to our individualistic, consumer-oriented, buffet-style approach that says, “I’ll take some of this; no, I don’t like that.” Oprah’s spiritual advisor, Eckhart Tolle (b. 1948), author of A New Earth, presents a pluralistic, souped-up version of Hinduism. Likened to drops of water, individual humans need to recognize that they’re part of an ocean (“God”) and thus can be “One with Life.” There aren’t others—God and fellow humans—to love and relate to, since everything is ultimately one (pantheism).
Tolle says that a time is coming when not only “all mythologies but also . . . ideologies and belief systems” will evaporate. Though he denies his view is a “belief system,” it certainly is one, nonetheless. Tolle confidently proclaims that all religions are “equally false and equally true, depending on how you use them.” In fact, to assert that your religion is “the truth” is to let your ego get in the way. Perhaps the most notable religious pluralist is John Harwood Hick (b. 1922), who grew up in England amid the Anglican sect.
Once, he had a religious experience on the top floor of a double-decker bus, after which he embraced “the entire evangelical package of Christianity,” complete with serious Bible studies and activities. However, during his studies at Edinburgh under the Kant scholar Norman Kemp Smith (1872–1958), his mind began to change about the centrality of Christ and the historicity of the Resurrection. Moreover, seeds of skepticism were sown due to the idea that the structure of the human mind shapes our perceptions of reality. He then began attending worship in mosques, synagogues, and temples, and he came to believe that the “same kind of thinking” was taking place in those places as in Christian churches: people “opening their minds to a higher divine Reality.”
Hick became convinced of “God’s universal saving activity,” incompatible with the belief that there can be only one true way of salvation. He saw all religions as human attempts to understand the Ultimate Reality. Over the years he has established himself as an outspoken, highly respected proponent of religious pluralism.
No stranger to religious diversity, Christianity throughout history has engaged with other religions. In the New Testament itself, believers faced imperial Rome with its emperor cult and polytheism, hostile Judaizers, and syncretistic religion. In the second and third centuries, Christian apologists responded to Gnostic religions (salvation through occult, "enlightened knowledge") and interacted with Judaistic ideas. Centuries later, Christians grappled with Islamic expansion and domination in formerly Christianized regions (e.g., North Africa and the Middle East). Holding on to the truth at all costs was the message of the Church.
Religious pluralism, which has become deeply embedded within Western culture, has a foundational resistance to one religious faith alone bringing salvation or liberation. One instance of pluralism’s going mainstream is Harvard University’s Pluralism Project, chaired by Diana Eck (b. 1945). Eck acknowledges that religious differences exist and shouldn’t be minimized, but the project’s not-so-subtle assumption is twofold: (1) No one religious perspective should be affirmed over against another, and (2) proselytism is an inappropriate response to religious plurality.
Increased globalization carries with it a presupposition of “tolerant pluralism;" this, though, turns out to be an intolerant exclusivism (just as with “relative truth” and “relative morality”). We need to be prepared to respond wisely to this phenomenon, which will be a long-term feature in the worldwide religious landscape in these dark days without a true pope.
The Horrific Implications of Pluralism
- Proselytism is prohibited. On many university campuses, proselytism is viewed as “cramming your religion down someone’s throat.” Obviously, trying to persuade—to tell someone about the One True Church of Jesus Christ—gets some people upset. Proselytism implies that you believe your doctrines are true and, what’s more, that you believe your listeners should turn from (change) their present way of life. As Bergoglio says, "Proselytism is solemn nonsense."
- To be exclusivist is to be arrogant. Given the variation of religious beliefs in the world, claiming to know something others don’t must be wrongheaded and erroneous. Moreover, many people convolute exclusive claims—especially about Christ’s saving uniqueness—with colonialism and imperialism, seeing them as nothing more than "Western bigotry" and narrow-mindedness being imposed on unknowing or unwilling people. We invite criticism when we shout that Catholicism alone is true—and equally loudly proclaim that other religions are false.
- Tolerance is the "greatest virtue." Implying that someone is wrong sounds terribly intolerant when tolerance popularly (but mistakenly) is defined as “being open to or accepting of all ideas.” What sodomite activists call "tolerance," for example, is unconditional acceptance of their lifestyle as legitimate and right. As we’ll see later, this disposition of open-mindedness turns out to be inconsistent: Such sodomite activists, for instance, don’t consider the one holding the traditional view of marriage to be legitimate and right. They are open and accepting (what they call "tolerant") toward those who agree with their argument, and to no others. You are claimed to have a mental illness (the made up "homophobia"), if you dare to disagree.
Faith and morals go hand-in-glove. If there is no true Faith, then there can't be a true morality based on religious beliefs either. Some statistics from 2016:
- 71% of Americans believe divorce is morally acceptable
- 68% of Americans believe fornication is acceptable as long as the two people "love" each other
- 63% of Americans believe shacking up ("cohabitation") is okay
- 63% of Americans believe it's OK for married people to have sexual thoughts about someone other than their spouse
- 63% of Americans believe sodomite relations are okay
- 61% of Americans believe it is acceptable to have a baby out of wedlock
- 69% of Americans believe euthanasia should be permitted
- 53% of Americans think having an adulterous affair is justifiable
- 50% of Americans identify as "pro-choice"--the alleged right to murder an innocent unborn baby
(See George Barna, America at the Crossroads, (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Books, , pg. 9; abortion statistic from 2017 Gallup Poll).
When confronted by someone who has become an Indifferentist (especially due to pluralism), here are some talking points:
1. Multiple claims to truth do not imply that there is no truth. We can see this throughout history, for example, in the history of science. Over the centuries, people had all sorts of theories to account for natural phenomena, but that variety of views did not mean there was no correct view in any case. You can introduce this point with an analogy and a question: “Does the existence of counterfeit money show there is no real money?” Your discussion partner may answer “no” and then add something to press the objection further. That’s a good thing, and it allows you to see more of what he has in mind. He may argue something like this: “Yes, but if God reveals only one religion, He should do so clearly so that there would not be any other ones. The fact that there are so many religions shows that God did not adequately reveal Himself." You can respond by asking if he believes God to be all-good and all-powerful. If he responds in the affirmative, you can reply that God would not allow for inadequate revelation. If he is an atheist, continue with the other points in this section.
2. Widespread religious disagreement may be due in part to a widespread religious impulse within a fallible human race. Most human beings throughout history have believed in God in some sense. Since they believed in God, it’s not surprising that they attempted to find God and draw conclusions about Him on their own. Being fallible, these conclusions were prone to error. Add to this that human beings are not only fallible (prone to error) but also vicious (prone to doing evil), and we can see how some would falsely claim divine revelation for their own gain.
3. The fall of Adam and Eve, through which sin entered the world, is the root cause of our living in an imperfect world—complete with pain, suffering, disease, disasters, and yes, religious disagreement. Nonetheless, God has a rescue plan, according to Christianity, and the created order is in a state of “journeying” toward perfection.
4. Willful and culpable ignorance also accounts for some measure of religious disagreement. In Five Proofs of the Existence of God, philosopher Edward Feser writes, “Just as God allows us a very long leash with respect to errors in what we do—even to the extent of moral breakdown at the level of entire societies, genocide and other atrocities, and so forth—so too does he allow us a very long leash with respect to errors in what we think.”(See pg. 302). If a person is offered evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus or some other proof for the existence of God and the truth of the Catholic Church, but refuses to consider it or investigate it, by his choice he remains ignorant of these motives for faith. So the “long leash” that Feser describes can include the free decisions of people who culpably refuse to examine the evidence honestly.
Now, you can offer proof for the existence of God and/or the proofs of the Catholic Church's claims to be the One True Church. (Unfortunately, this is made very difficult because of the Vatican II sect falsely claiming to be the Catholic Church).
A Response Against Indifferentism/Pluralism by a Pre-Vatican II Theologian
The following is part of an essay entitled Indifferentism, the Heresy that All Religions are Equal:
A Consequence of Martin Luther's Heresy of Faith Alone contained in the 1929 book, The Question Box, Second Edition, by Fr. Bertrand L. Conway, C.S.P.
The Catholic Church condemns indifferentism in the name of reason, of the Sacred Scriptures, and of Christian tradition. The god of indifferentism is not a God to be adored by rational men. God is Essential, Absolute and Eternal Truth; He is likewise Essential. Absolute and Eternal Holiness. A God of Truth and Holiness, He cannot be equally pleased with truth and error, with good and evil. To assert, therefore, that God does not care what men believe, is indeed blasphemous. A man indifferent to truth--a liar, in other words,--cannot have the respect of his fellows. A God indifferent to truth could not demand the homage of thinking men. No wonder, then, that those who formed so low a concept of the Deity finally denied Him altogether. Indifferentism is merely atheism in disguise.
The assertion that one religion is as good as another is irrational. It is a first principle of reason that two contradictory statements cannot both be true. If one is true, the other is undoubtedly false. Either there are many gods or one God; either Jesus Christ is God or He is not; Mohammed is either a prophet or an impostor; divorce is either allowed or prohibited by Christ; the Eucharist is the living Jesus Christ or it is mere bread.
To declare all religions equally true, or that their differences are immaterial, is to deny objective truth altogether with the pragmatist--a denial which is the curse of our age. On this theory a man ought to change his religion as he changes the cut of his clothes, according to his environment. He ought to be a Catholic in Italy, a Lutheran in Sweden, a Mohammedan in Turkey, a Buddhist in China, a Shintoist in Japan.
It is certainly strange that many believers in the Bible are indifferentists, in spite of its clear, explicit condemnation of this theory. Jesus Christ commanded His Apostles to teach a definite Gospel, and condemned those who knowingly rejected it. "Preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be condemned" (Mark xvi. 15, 16). He prophesied that many would gainsay His teaching, but He denounced them in unmeasured terms. "Beware of false prophets who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matt. vii. 15).
Revelation, if it has any meaning, is a divine message which no one can reject without sin. We must receive it, as the Apostle says, "not as the word of men, but as it is indeed the Word of God" (1 Thess. ii. 13). God, a God of Truth, could not possibly have revealed a plurality of religions, or a multitude of varying Christianities. He founded one Church, one Kingdom of God, one Sheepfold, under the perpetual and infallible guidance of Himself and the Holy Spirit.
The history of Christianity in every age shows how alien to Christ is the heresy of indifferentism, which was first popularized by the English Deists and the French Rationalists of the seventeenth century. In the first three centuries the Christian martyrs died by the thousands, rather than save their lives by a profession of indifferentism. Frequently they were asked by friends and kinsfolk to sacrifice to the gods of pagan Rome, or at least to allow their names to be written down as having sacrificed. "What difference does it make?" asked their pagan friends. They answered in the words of Christ: "Every one, therefore, that shall confess Me before men, I will confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But he that shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. x. 32, 33). They were not indifferentists. In sixteenth century England, many a Catholic was offered money, preferment and life, if he would but acknowledge the royal supremacy of the Tudors in things spiritual, against the constant voice of Christendom from the beginning. But men like Blessed Thomas More, Bishop Fisher and Edmund Campion gladly died for the certain teaching of Christ. They were not indifferentists.
As a matter of fact, we find that the man who says first, "It does not make any difference what a man BELIEVES" is led logically to say, "It does not make any difference what a man DOES." His morality is built upon the shifting, sands of opinion, fancy, human respect, and, therefore, will not stand the stress of sorrow, disgrace, difficulty or temptation. If religion be a mere matter of opinion, all certainty in morals becomes impossible, and men lapse into the old-time vices of paganism.
Sometimes the good lives of unbelievers are mentioned as proof positive that belief is an unimportant factor in the regulation of conduct. A man will argue, "A never puts his foot inside a church, nor does he accept any creed whatever; yet he is a man, kindly, charitable, pure and honest. On the other hand, B is a Catholic, accepting without question every dogma and law of his Church, and I know him to be a drunkard, an adulterer, a hypocrite, the most uncharitable and contemptible of men." But this statement proves nothing at all, because the comparison is made between the open, well-known vices of a sinful, hypocritical believer, and the obvious good deeds of an amiable unbeliever. The whole character of the two men is often not adequately known, and consequently is not weighed in a true balance.
But even if we grant that a particular unbeliever is a fairly good man, his goodness is certainly not due to his unbelief. He lives in a Christian environment; he comes of Christian stock; he may perhaps have received a Christian education as a child. His life is parasitic. As Balfour writes in his Foundations of Belief, 82: "Biologists tell us of parasites which live, and can only live in the bodies of animals more highly organized than they. . . . . So it is with those persons who claim to show by their example that naturalism is practically consistent with the maintenance of ethical ideals, with which naturalism has no natural affinity. Their spiritual life is parasitic; it is sheltered by convictions which belong not to them, but to the society of which they form a part; it is nourished by processes in which they take no share. And when these convictions decay, and these processes come to an end, the alien life which they have maintained can scarce be expected to outlast them."
If a man be utterly indifferent to the truth of God, if he look upon the Ten Commandments as temporary laws evolved out of the consciousness of a certain Semitic race, if he questions the fact of God's existence, makes little of the fact of immortality, denies the fact of sin, and the freedom of the will, what basis can he have for the moral law? A lawyer, he will not hesitate to bribe both jury and judge, if he can do so without detection; a doctor, he will not shrink from child murder or a criminal operation; a politician, he will steal what he can from the State's treasury, and be loyal to his friends, no matter what their competence or their morals; a preacher of the Gospel of Christ, he will deny its every doctrine, and be at the beck and call of the rich and powerful among his hearers--a mere "seller of rhetoric," as St. Augustine called him long ago.
The true Christian may under stress of temptation fall into the worst vices of the pagan, and give the lie to his high profession. But no matter how low he may fall, he falls FROM A STANDARD, and you may appeal to him for amendment. He has once climbed up the mount of God, and he knows that with God's help he can again reach the summit. But if a man feels confident that every lapse is due merely to the evil of environment, a taint in the blood, or the impelling force of a stronger will, he will not answer your appeal to higher things. He calls evil good, and good evil.
Will you say that conduct is the one thing essential? You are right. But faith is the inspiration and support of right conduct. It is the very foundation stone of the supernatural life. A good man will accept God's word in its entirety, once he knows it. A good man is bound to search for the revelation of God, once he begins to doubt about the validity of his own ethical and religious convictions. It is just as much a sin to deny the known truth or to be indifferent in its search, as to commit murder or adultery. This is a principle which the modern world has forgotten, but it will have to come back to it. It is a truth that the Catholic Church is ever trying to drive home to every heart and mind. She appeals to all men, however deluded by error or debased by sin, in a spirit of kindliness, tact, sympathy and patience. But she dare not sacrifice one jot or tittle of the divine message, which Christ gave her for the healing of the nations.
We must be prepared for the challenge of indifferentism spurred on by unrestrained religious pluralism, in the age of "religious liberty" ushered in by Vatican II. Believe it or not, intolerance is a virtue. It doesn't mean we go around hating people, but ideas and actions should be forcefully hated and condemned. We should be intolerant of abortion, sodomite "marriage" and the idea that beliefs don't matter, because "all religions lead to God" or "no one can know the truth about religion." If someone believes all religions lead to salvation, then he believes he has the correct perspective to the exclusion of all who think otherwise, whom he would consider wrong and (ironically) be intolerant of their belief. If someone thinks we can't know the truth about religion, he has made a truth claim. Ask, "how do you know that"?
Objective truth and objective morality exist, and it carries with it great implications for us. We must strive to live in accordance with them and defend our Holy Mother the Church whenever She is attacked.