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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ash Wednesday is not in the Bible!

There's a lot of non-Catholic Christians who have adopted the Catholic tradition (small "t" tradition) of observing Ash Wednesday.

However, there's also a lot of Christians who vehemently object to our Ash Wednesday liturgy. "Ash Wednesday is not in the Bible!" is the mantra of these folks.

From a website I found: 

But guess what? Ash Wednesday is not in the Bible. Jesus never kept Ash Wednesday and neither did the apostles of the Early Church. If this “holy day” is a “Christian” ritual to remember Christ, then how come none of the disciples kept it after Jesus ascended to heaven? I’ve never read about Apostle Paul or John teaching in his letters to the churches about burning ashes and putting it on their foreheads.

Firstly, we should ask these folks: why does every practice we do have to be found in the Bible?  Does the Bible say that we're supposed to do this?
     Inline image

                                                                This meme by Catholic apologist Steve Ray could also apply to "Where is Ash Wednesday in the Bible?"

Secondly, we can point out that there's probably a whole lot of practices that they do which also aren't found in the Bible.
To wit:
-altar calls
-Wednesday evening Bible studies
-having steeples on churches
-folding one's hands in prayer
-weddings in a church
-praying to the Holy Spirit
-wearing a wedding ring

And here's a lot of things these folks probably do that Jesus/Paul/John never did:
-attend a wedding on a beach
-sing hymns with an organ accompaniment
-preside at a wedding
-use a sound system at a prayer meeting

I also saw this from another website objecting to Ash Wednesday:

Based on what Jesus said in Matthew 6:16-18, those who participate in Ash Wednesday are… hypocrites.

“When you fast,* do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,

so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.--Matthew 6:16-18

I think the response to this is: if we are putting ashes on our foreheads to let the world know we are fasting, and therefore holier than everyone else who isn't fasting, then we are indeed "like the hypocrites". But I doubt any person walking around with ashes is doing this in the same way the hypocrites of Jesus' time did.

Finally, there are numerous references in the Bible to using ashes as a sign of repentance.

A Benjaminite fled from the battlefield and reached Shiloh that same day, with his clothes torn and his head covered with dirt.--1 Sam 4:12

Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long tunic in which she was clothed.--2 Sam.13:19

Ashes also symbolize death and so remind us of our mortality. When the priest uses his thumb to sign one of the faithful with the ashes and says, "Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return," he is echoing God's address to Adam:

For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.--Gen. 3:19
And Abraham's confession: I am nothing but dust and ashes" --Gen. 18:27.

In short, Ash Wednesday is deeply rooted in Christian tradition/practice/custom and there's nothing we do in our Lenten obervations which is contrary to Scripture.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Abortion/Free Will/Religion

The anniversary of Roe v Wade is upon us, and it often invites discussions with folks who disagree with prolifers on our view of abortion.

One particular argument presented by prochoicers is this:  "God gave us all free will.  If we make abortion illegal, aren't we interfering with a woman's free will?" As presented on this prochoice website:

"We have a clearer understanding that men and women are moral agents and equipped to make decisions about even the most difficult and complex matters. We must ensure a woman can determine when and whether to have children according to her own conscience and religious beliefs and without governmental interference or coercion."

Prolife Response: We are all free moral agents, but our right to self-determination does not involve being free to inflict harm on someone else. There are thousands of laws which, in some manner, bind us from utilizing our free will to inflict harm on another. If the prochoicer is being consistent, then she would have to oppose any laws which make domestic violence illegal as well. That is, making it illegal for a husband to harm his wife would remove the husband's right to act as his own moral agent in decisions about what goes on in the privacy of his home.

All we are doing by making abortion illegal is protecting a tiny human being from being killed.  It's a matter of human rights, not human free will.

And that segues into another prochoice argument:  "I'm not Catholic, so don't inflict your religious views about abortion on me".

Prolife Response: Abortion isn't a religious issue. It's a human rights issue. That the Catholic Church has a teaching on abortion doesn't make it a religious issue, any more than feeding the poor is a religious issue because the Catholic Church has a command to feed the hungry. I don't know many prochoicers who say that the government shouldn't be involved in federal assistance programs to feed children because they're not Catholic. 

We can argue against stealing, lying, depravity, deception,  etc  etc etc without ever appealing to the Bible or to Catholic teaching.

Just like we can argue against abortion without ever once referencing religion.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

If everything has a cause, then what caused God?

Question:  If everything has a cause, then what caused God? 

Atheists like to present their objection to Theistic arguments for God's existence in this way:

Today's argument: But All of This Had to Come From Somewhere! Otherwise known as the "First Cause" argument. "Things don't just come out of nowhere," the argument goes. "Everything that exists has a cause. Therefore, the entirety of physical existence itself had to have had a cause. Therefore, God exists."

Yeah. See, there are some big problems with that argument.

For starters: If everything has to have a cause...then what caused God?

And if God can somehow have always existed or come into being out of nothing...then why can't that be true of the universe? 

Answer: The error lies in the bolded statements above. Theists don't argue "Everything that exists has a cause".  

Rather, our argument is this: "Whatever begins to exist needs a cause".  

If something began, then we need an explanation for what caused its existence. (But if something is eternal, then logic tells us that it doesn't need a cause. And that's why we don't have to give an explanation for what caused God. God is eternal and therefore doesn't need a cause.)

Thus, if the universe began to exist, then common sense tells us it needs a cause.  

And that cause is God.

Some atheists may try to argue that the universe may have always existed--that is, it's eternal. However, the scientific community is almost unanimous in agreeing that the universe began to exist. The most accepted theory for how the universe began to exist is the Big Bang, which postulates that the universe is expanding and had a beginning in the finite past, about 14 billion years ago.

Not only is the science pretty firm on the universe beginning to exist (as opposed to always existing), philosophy and logic tells us that the universe cannot be eternal.  If the universe is eternal, and the past is infinite, we could never traverse to the point of the present.  That is, if there's an infinite number of days in the past, we can never get to today. As the 18th century Scottish Philosopher David Hume said: "An infinite number of real parts of time, passing in succession, and exhausted one after another, appears so evident a contradiction, that no man, one should think, whose judgment is not corrupted, instead of being improved, by the sciences, would ever be able to admit it." 

Finally, it should be pointed out that Theists have a incontrovertible argument when we point out:  "Something" can't come from "nothing". The universe is "something", and it requires an explanation--it didn't just pop up, magically, out of nothing of its own power. In fact, atheist Richard Dawkins called it our trump card:  “Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?,’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages."   

(Dawkins was writing an afterword for a book by a scientist named Lawrence Krauss called "A Universe from Nothing" in which Krauss claimed to have created "something" out of "nothing" in a laboratory setting. Krauss claims that he was able to recreate particles coming to exist out of nothing.)

Except, it turns out, that Krauss redefines "nothing" to be a low level quantum field of energy.

Reminds me of the joke:

God was once approached by a scientist who said, “Listen God, we’ve decided we don’t need you anymore. These days we can clone people, transplant organs and do all sorts of things that used to be considered miraculous.”
God replied, “Don’t need me huh? How about we put your theory to the test. Why don’t we have a competition to see who can make a human being, say, a male human being.”
The scientist agrees, so God declares they should do it like he did in the good old days when he created Adam.
“Fine” says the scientist as he bends down to scoop up a handful of dirt.”
“Whoa!” says God, shaking his head in disapproval. “Not so fast. You get your own dirt.”