Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Beginnings of a Question-and-Answer Pamplet about Catholicism

I'm interested in street evangelisation. I'm not the kind of person who can approach strangers, but I have been chatting with a friend about a form of street evangelisation that won't require bothering anybody who doesn't want t be bothered. If this comes about, and isn't yet another of my crackpot ideas that come to nought, it won't be any time soon. But I thought I would start working on a question and answer pamphlet that could be handed out. Tell me what you think.

"Religion is based on faith, and faith means pretending to know what you don't know. Faith means not asking questions, not thinking."

Religion is certainly based on faith, but not on blind faith.  There are plenty of rational arguments for the existence of God and the truth of the Catholic faith.

“Can the existence of God be proven?”

Yes. The Catholic Church teaches that we can be certain of the existence of God, through the use of our reason. There are many philosophical arguments for God’s existence. The most famous are the Five Ways of St. Thomas Aquinas. These are detailed arguments, very often caricatured and simplified by atheist writers. They need to be explained in detail and cannot be presented adequately here.

“Can all Catholic doctrine be proven?”

No, the Church does not claim that it can. Some of the things the Church teaches have to be taken on faith. Again, this isn’t blind faith. There is evidence for all Catholic teaching, but—unlike the existence of God—the Church does not claim that we can know the truth of everything it teaches just by using our reason. Faith is involved.

“Surely faith is irrational?”

Not at all. Our day-to-day lives would be impossible without faith. We have (to some extent, at least) faith in doctors, faith in government officials, faith in the bank, faith in the news reports that come to us from around the world, faith in the airplane that takes us thousands of feet in the air. Our faith in these things is not blind or irrational, but based on experience and judgement. The same goes for the Catholic faith.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, don’t they?”

Absolutely, and the evidence the Catholic Church presents is extraordinary. It can be argued that the Catholic Church is the oldest continuing institution in the whole world. In a history of more than two thousand years, it has never changed its essential teachings, even in the face of many persecutions. It was spread by an obscure group of preachers—Jesus Christ’s apostles (followers)—who were willing to be be killed (and most of whom were killed) for telling the world that Jesus had died and risen from the dead. If this was a lie, they would have been extraordinarily stupid to stick to it even in the face of persecution and death.
There are many other extraordinary evidences for the truth of Catholicism, including the lives of the saints, well-documented miracles (in modern as well as historical times), and the fact that the Catholic faith flourishes in every part of the world. Many books could be written on this subject. Indeed, many books have been written on this subject.

“I believe in some kind of Supreme Being, but not an old man with a white beard sitting on a cloud.”

Join the club. God is beyond our understanding. There are things we can know about Him—some of them based on reason, some of them based on faith—but we can only have a very basic understanding even of these things.


  1. Hi M,

    did you know the phrase 'Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence' was coined by Carl Sagan, who also said the following with regard to atheism: 'An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists.' Of course he went on to also say 'To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed.' All the same, when it comes to extraordinary evidence, it would seem to me that it is up to the atheist to produce it to convince those who do believe in God, in other words the vast majority of mankind, of their position, rather than demanding that it is up to believers to produce that extraordinary evidence.

  2. I'm not sure I agree with you on this one, Father. I tend to think that the burden of evidence is on the believer. If only because a majority in our own society are unbelieving or at least sceptical.

    Carl Sagan coined that exact phrase but apparently he was adapting something many other people had said. Sagan was a bit fluffy when it came to philosophy. I saw him on one video making fun of the idea that Man was created in the Divine image. He actually seemed to think that meant hands and fingers and eyebrows, etc.

  3. Reading your last post, I'm glad the beginning of the pamphlet didn't mean the end of the purple notebook!

    My English blood runs cold in my veins at the very thought of street evangelisation! This is a really good idea, and I feel a surer way of announcing the Good News than the traditional way. For one thing, the message is received and digested on the reader's terms, rather than the evangelist's. And even better than a pamphlet that can be handed out is a pamphlet that can be picked up discreetly from a pile without anybody (apart from God...) being any the wiser.

    It also occurs to me that a good title is important, and that it should be eye-catching without being confrontational. How about 'I am with you always'? To someone who has never heard these words before, let alone who said themand why, it sounds both intriguing and comforting.

  4. Thanks for that, Dominic. I'm glad you're happy the purple notebook is not to abolished!

    My idea is a little bit more involved. The centrepiece of the idea is to read the gospel out aloud in the street. From beginning to end, on a rota. I think that this would be very attention-grabbing and would draw passers-by, who wouldn't feel intimidated or frightened of being harassed. It's also related to what you said about your suggested title...people have never heard a lot of the gospel before and who knows what words might really grab them? It's powerful stuff.

    I personally don't think I would have a problem doing this. It's only approaching people that bothers me.

    "I am with you always" is a good title, thanks for that.

  5. I really like this idea Maolsheachlann. It would definitely be more attractive to people who might be intimidated by the idea of a preacher drawing attention to them.