Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cats of Chrysolite

Since the Bear posted Faith and Risk the other day, he has been thinking about faith in general, and how our faith can seem overwhelmed by the world around us.

There's our first mistake: life only seems ordinary, because we are doubly blind: we see too much and not enough. It is beyond dispute that the universe is so full of the extraordinary it is properly called ordinary. The Book of Revelation talks about a city made of jewels and paved with gold. In a sense, we already live in that city. Our cats are chrysolite, our spoons are sapphire, and our goldfish really are made of gold.

Your body alone is a marvel of unexplained tricks from consciousness right down to the incredible cascade of events that clots the blood just where you cut yourself shaving this morning. We can't see the forest for the nymphs.

But let's say the everyday miracles the Bear alludes to aren't anything special at all, really. Just a fortuitous interplay of molecules in time and space. If we concede that 99.99% of the world around us is entirely naturalistic in origin and function, materialism still has to worry about a single, tiny trace of the supernatural somewhere in the cosmos. The spotless machine must really be literally spotless. because the fingerprint of the tiniest angel on a pebble on the most remote moon on the edge of space sabotages all of the fond certainties of materialists.

Out of a thousand of pious legends, one real miracle scuttles materialism.

The Plausibility of Christianity

If the "converging and convincing arguments" alluded to in the previous article introduce the slightest stir of doubt about materialism, there's more.

Once we concede the possibility of the supernatural, if only as something to be toyed with, anything is possible. More to the point, Christianity -- once we feel that mote of the supernatural irritating our jaundiced eye -- becomes not only possible, but plausible.
  • If there is a god, he may have created the universe
  • If he created the universe, its fine-tuning for life is understandable
  • If the universe is fine-tuned for life, it is possible he cares for us
  • If he cares for us, we must share some qualities, since we care for others, too
  • further, there is no reason not to extend that care to intervention in our history and lives
Of course, this does not prove anything. That's not what the Bear is up to. But, having admitted that speck of the supernatural, there is no principled reason to reject Christianity. In fact, of all religions, Christianity is the one rooted in historical miracles, particularly the great one of the resurrection.

Christianity is very logical, once the simple premise that there is a God is introduced. Those doubts we have are based not on logic, but on fear, fear that we may be deluded. That's natural. We tend to fear the loss of things that are important to us, but often, if not usually, those fears are not based in reality. In fact, if we admit the supernatural, there is no principled reason to reject supernatural adversaries, who may contribute to those fears and doubts, and much more besides.

Scientism and Militant Atheism

Of course, our faith in this post-Christian era is assaulted in ways our ancestors didn't have to face.
  • militant atheism
  • a hostile material culture
  • popular scientific materialism (e.g. "Darwinism")
  • college professors who attack the faith of poorly-prepared young students
Increasingly, the Christian must swim against the current of his age, when for centuries, he could float serenely downstream with it. 

There are a few things to keep in mind, however.

Both the popular press and scientific journals are guilty of overselling their claims. Even if you believe every news story that begins with "Scientists say..." science -- real science -- has its difficulties, too. The "hard problem of consciousness" and unacknowledged cracks in the foundation of Darwinism to name but two. (The Bear does not believe any story that begins with "Scientists say..." He's sure to be right more that he's wrong that way, and he knows that neither grants nor bylines are won by "Scientists fail" stories.

The arguments of the "New Atheists" are nothing the Church hasn't seen before. They are not more palatable for having been reheated and served up by some -- frankly -- rather obnoxious spokesmen. Still worse is the pathetic atheist agitprop one sees online. The Flying Spaghetti Monster? A picture of Jesus with the caption "because believing in the Easter Bunny would be silly?" This is what passes for serious thought in the atheist community. It is pathetic, and its existence should not trouble Christians. The village crackpot with a degree or an internet connection is still the village crackpot.

Calling the Devil's Bluff

Catholicism is a very logical religion. St. Thomas Aquinas is as relevant today as he ever was. We are not called to fideism, but a mature belief. 

St. Paul's warning to the Colossians about false philosophies is as relevant today as when it was written.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Col 2:8). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

The One True Faith is as relevant, appealing and satisfying as it ever was. Do not let your faith be overwhelmed by a hostile world. We have good cards but Lord of the World is an excellent bluffer. Only God knows what the hole card is, but the Bear is betting everything that it's a winner.


  1. Herr Bear, isn't there some newspaper or journal to which you might consider submitting this for publication? Please do. And persevere until one of them recognizes it for the jewel that it is (discourse of diamond?) :-)

  2. You are too kind. My readers can help with my Share the Bear program. Just hit the share button, or cut and paste the URL into com boxes of other blogs you visit, if you feel it's appropriate. That's a huge help.

    The Bear is happy to belong to his small, loyal readership, though. And this is the ONLY place you can find the Bear :-) Besides, your proposal sounds suspiciously like work LOL

    Once in awhile Pewsitter will pick up something. My one about the tragedy of ecumenism smashed the previous Pewsitter bump record. It was a good piece, I thought, so I was happy. But most respectable journals do not publish articles written by bears.

    I have to admit I am proud of this one, though. No chance of Pewsitter picking it up though, because it is not "newsy" or outrageous. Speaking of being proud, I cringe every time I do lectio divina. I am always running across something that condemns bloggers. The Bible says keep your mouth shut, don't presume to teach others, and don't be critical. I have to tell myself whatever good I do justifies the risk of the near occasion of sin.

    I thought of you when I chose the title.

  3. Thank you! This has much to think over. (Though I do think cats with fur are preferable to cats of chrysolite.)


  4. I am honored (as are Maddie, Lucy, and Katrina)!


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