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Downloaded as separate articles from Peter Kreeft’s web site. The site offers an extensive set of apologetics lectures recorded as MP3 files. Besides being a perfect replacement for talk radio, the lectures are the sort that you will want to start over at the beginning after you heard them all once.

After hearing and reading Peter Kreeft, I get the feeling I get after reading CS Lewis: “How could anyone possibly say or write it better?” But there’s just enough Calvinism (Reformed) in it that I find room to argue a little and learn a lot.

I’ve actually paid full price for six of his books and don’t regret a penny’s worth. These are also the sort you’re willing to read again – after a suitable cooling off period. You don’t have to agree with everything but you will learn and see some elegant arguments to appreciate, aesthetically, ethically and religiously.

PS: My memory is like my little finger: fully functional but short. I find Kreeft’s web site by simply using the search term “Peter Kreeft” in Google and clicking the first link that comes up. I recommend checking it out since he adds things from time to time.

12 Ideas by Peter Kreeft Featured Writing The Twelve Most Profound Ideas I Have Ever Had More Featured Writing

This is an expanded version of Three IdeasIdeas are more precious than diamonds. The twelve most precious ideas I have ever discovered all concern the love of God. None of them is original. But every one is revolutionary. None of them came from me. But all of them came to me with sudden force and fire: the "aha!" experience, the "eureka!" experience. They were all realizations, not just beliefs.

1. There Is Only "One Thing Necessary."

The first happened when I was about six or seven, I think. It was the first important conscious discovery I ever made, and I don't think I have ever had a more mature or wiser thought than that one. I remember to this day exactly where

I was when it hit me: riding north on Haledon Avenue between Sixth and Seventh

Streets in Paterson, New Jersey after Sunday morning church with my parents. Isn't it remarkable how we remember exactly where we were when great events happen that change our lives?

I had learned some things about God and Jesus, about heaven, and about good and

evil in church and Sunday school. Like most children at that age, I was a bit confused and overwhelmed by it all, especially by what this great being called

God expected of me. I felt a little insecure, I guess, about not knowing and a little guilty about not doing everything that I was supposed to be doing. Then all of a sudden the sun shone through the fog. I saw the one thing necessary that made sense and order out of everything else.

I checked out my insight with my father, my most reliable authority. He was an

elder in the church and (much more important) a good and wise man. "Dad, everything they teach us in church and Sunday school, all the stuff we're supposed to learn from the Bible—it all comes down to only one thing, doesn't

it? I mean, if we only remember the one most important thing all the time, then all the other things will be O.K., right?" He was rightly skeptical. "What one thing? There are a lot of things that are important."

"I mean, I should just always ask what God wants me to do and then do it. That's

all, isn't it?"

Wise men know when they've lost an argument. "You know, I think you're right, son. That's it"

I had perceived—via God's grace, not my own wit, surely- that since God is love, we must therefore love God and love whatever God loves. I now knew that if we turn to the divine conductor and follow his wise and loving baton-which is his will, his Word—then the music of our life will be a symphony.

2. The Way to Happiness Is Self-forgetful Love

A second realization follows closely upon this one. That is, it follows

logically. But it did not follow closely in time for me. Instead, it took half a lifetime to appreciate, through a million experiments, every one of which proved the same result: that the way to happiness is self-forgetful love and the way to

unhappiness is self-regard, self-worry, and the search for personal happiness. Our happiness comes to us only when we do not seek for it. It comes to us when we seek others' happiness instead.

It is an embarrassingly common lesson to take so long to learn, but most of us

are incredibly slow learners here. We constantly try other ways, thinking that perhaps the happiness that did not come to us the last time through selfishness will do so next time. It never does. The truth is blindingly clear, but we are clearly blind. The secret of love is not hidden, for "God is love," and God is not hidden. God said through his prophet Isaiah: "I did not speak in secret, / in a land of darkness; / I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, / 'Seek me in chaos.' / I the LORD speak the truth, / I declare what is right" (Is 45:19). Of course God's secret plans, which we do not need to know, are hidden. And God's infinite nature, which finite minds cannot know, is hidden. But the thing

that we need to know, God does not hide from us. He offers it to us publicly and freely. Jesus invited prospective disciples to "come and see" (In 1:39). We are told by the apostle Paul to "test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thes


This lesson is so well known that even a pagan like Buddha knew it profoundly,

or at least its negative half. His "second noble truth" is that the source of

all unhappiness and suffering (dukkha) is selfishness (tanha). All who teach the

opposite—that selfishness is the way to happiness—are unhappy souls. "By their fruits you shall know them," as Jesus tells us. Who are the happiest people on earth? People like Mother Teresa and her nuns who have nothing, give everything, and "rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil 4:4). 3. "In Everything God Works for Good with Those Who Love Him."

A third shattering realization was that Romans 8:28 was literally true: "In

everything God works for good with those who love him." This is surely the most astonishing verse in the Bible, for it certainly doesn't look as if all things

work for good. What awful things our lives contain! But if God, the all-powerful Creator and Designer and Provider of our lives, is 100 percent love, then it necessarily follows, as the night the day, that everything in his world, from birth to death, from kisses to slaps, from candy to cancer, comes to us out of God's active or permissive love.

It is incredibly simple and perfectly reasonable. It is only our adult

complexity that makes it look murky. As G.K. Chesterton says, life is always complicated for someone without principles. Here is the shining simplicity: if God is total love, then everything he wills for me must come from his love and be for my good. For that what love is, the willing of the beloved's good. And if this God of sheer love is also omnipotent and can do anything he wills, then it follows that all things must work together for my ultimate good. Not necessarily for my immediate good, for short-range harm may be the necessary road to long-range good. And not necessarily for my apparent good, for appearances may be deceiving. Thus suffering does not seem good. But it can always work for my real and ultimate good. Even the bad things I and others do, though they do not come from God, are allowed by God because they are included

in his plan. You can't checkmate, corner, surprise, or beat him. "He's got the

whole world in his hands," as the old gospel chorus tells us. And he's got my whole life in his hands, too. He could take away any evil- natural, human, or

demonic—like swatting a fly. He allows it only because it works out for our greater good in the end, just as it did with Job.

In fact, every atom in the universe moves exactly as it does only because

omnipotent Love designed it so. Dante was right: it is "the love that moves the sun and all the stars." This is not poetic fancy but sober, logical fact. Therefore, the most profound thing you can say really is this simple children's grace for meals: "God is great and God is good; let us thank him for our food.

Amen!" I had always believed in God's love and God's omnipotence. But once I put the two ideas together, saw the unavoidable logical conclusion (Rom 8:28), and applied this truth to my life, I could never again see the world the same way.

If God is great (omnipotent) and God is good (loving), then everything that

happens is our spiritual food; and we can and should thank him for it. Yet how often we fail to recognize and appreciate this simple but profound truth. 4. Everything Is a Gift from God

A fourth revolutionary insight follows closely upon the third: everything is a

gift. Nature, people, things, events—all the things in our lives that we take for granted—are granted to us and given to us actively and deliberately by God the giver.

This gives us a whole new way of looking at things. We usually see them as only things. But they are signs. A sign is not only a thing, but it also has another level of meaning. For instance, a road sign on a metal post along the roadway is first of all a thing, but it is also a sign. As a thing, it is simply a flat metal surface with a painted design of some sort placed along the roadway. But

as a sign, it means something else. It means what it points to. For instance, it

might tell us New York City is forty miles away in a certain direction. When we give a gift, it is not only a thing but also a sign of something: a sign

of our love perhaps. We want the recipient of the gift not only to get a

thing—like candy or flowers—but also "to get the message." We communicate that we care about them enough to give them a gift. All the things in this world are gifts and signs. As gifts, they point beyond themselves to the divine giver. As signs, they point beyond themselves to the God they signify and reveal, as a letter reveals the writer. And since God is love, the one thing everything signifies is God's love to us. The whole world is a love letter from God.

Bernard of Clairvaux, a Doctor of the Church and a great lover of God, said that when he looked at a crucifix, the wounds of Christ seemed like lips speaking to him and saying, "I love you." Everything is like that. Everything is God's lips speaking love, God's message to us. Everything has its meaning here between God and us, not in itself. Everything is relative to this absolute. This way of looking at things, as gifts and signs rather than simply as things

in themselves, is not our usual way of seeing. Try this new way for just one

hour and see the difference it makes. See the sunrise not as a mindless, mechanical necessity but as God's smile. See a wave not just as tons of cold

salt water crashing down on the shore but as God's playful action. See even death as not just a biological necessity but as God tucking us in at bedtime so that we can rise to new life in the morning.

This is not a trick we play on ourselves or a fantasy. This is what the world really is. It is just as true to say that every snowflake is a gift of God as it is true to say that every cent in a father's inheritance is a gift to his children. It is just as true to say that every leaf on every tree is a work of art made by the divine artist with the intention that we see it, know it, love it, and rejoice in it, as it is true to say that every word in a lover's letter to his beloved is meant to be seen, known, loved, and enjoyed. This is not fantasy. What is fantasy is the horrible habit the modern world has gotten itself into, the habit of thinking that what the world really is is only atoms and chance, only what the senses and science reveal, the view that everything else is mere subjective fancy.

5. God Did It All for Me Alone

The realization that God's love for me is bigger and more cosmic than we can ever imagine was complemented by the realization that it is also more intimate and personal than we can ever imagine. This entire cosmic drama was, in God's plan, there for me. And for every other member of his body, his family. Everything God ever did—the creation of the universe, amazing miracles, and the universal laws by which he moves history forward—the big bang, the incarnation, and the law of gravity—are there not for the universe or even for "humanity." No, they are there for you and me. If I had been the only one created, as one of the saints says, God would have done no less. He would have gone to all this trouble, even death on the cross, for me alone. In fact, it's not just that he would have done it all for me alone, but that he did do it all for me alone. The cross has my name on it. His intention did not go out to an anonymous mass of humanity with me simply included as a member of the species. His love letter to me does not come

addressed: "Dear Occupant." He gathers his sheep one by one, calling each by name (Jn 10:1-3). A name is a "proper noun," not a "common noun." Your name is uniquely yours. He knows you by name because that is what love is: intimate, personal knowledge of the beloved. That is why Scripture uses the word know for the monogamous marriage relationship. That is why marriage is used to symbolize our relationship to God.

Jesus never loved the conceptual abstraction called humanity, nor did he ever tell us to. He told us to love our real neighbor, the person who is there beside us and who by being there makes real and inconvenient demands on us. Loving our neighbor means laying down our will for him or her, as God laid down his will for us.

6. We Will Be Perfectly and Uniquely Fulfilled by God's Love in Heaven

Since love is always directed toward the individual person and since God's love for me is unique, heaven—the perfection and consummation of this special love relationship—must be altogether unique for each person. Each of us in heaven will have our own "mansion" or suite of rooms into which God will enter in an absolutely unique way.


am deeply moved by C.S. Lewis' chapter on heaven in The Problem of Pain,

especially by what he says about the scriptural symbol of the "white stone":

"To him that overcometh I will give a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." What can be more a man's own than this new name which even in eternity remains a secret between God and him? And what shall we take this secrecy to mean? Surely, that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the divine beauty better than any other creature can. Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently? And this difference,

so far from impairing, floods with meaning the love of all blessed creatures for

one another, the communion of

successful, yet never completed, attempt by each soul to communicate its unique vision to all others (and that by means whereof earthly art and philosophy are but clumsy imitations) is also among the ends for which the individual was

created. All my life I search for this unique, individual self—my true self—and yet I

never fully find it. Only God knows it fully, for he designed it. And only God can give it to me because he created it and is creating it right now, sculpting it with all the tools of heredity and environment that make up my life. None of us knows who we really are once we stop fooling ourselves. That knowledge and that destiny await us in our home. Our home is in heaven because our true identity as individuals is waiting for us there. The character's identity is found in the author's mind and nowhere else. 7. The Gift of Love Is Ours for the Taking

I am a Roman Catholic. But the most liberating idea I have ever heard I learned

from Martin Luther. Pope John Paul II told the German Lutheran bishops that Luther was profoundly right about this idea. He said that Catholic teaching affirms it just as strongly and that there was no contradiction between Protestant and Catholic theology on this terribly important point that was the central issue of the Protestant Reformation. I speak, of course, about "justification by faith" and its consequence, which Luther called "Christian liberty" or "the liberty of a Christian" in his little gem of an essay by that name. Let's be careful to approach the point in the right way. I think most misunderstandings begin at this very first step. Let's begin with a solid certainty: God is love. God is a lover. He is not a manager, businessman, accountant, owner, or puppet-master. What he wants from us first of all is not a technically correct performance but our heart. Protestants and Catholics alike need to relearn or re-emphasize that simple, liberating truth. 'When I first read C.S. Lewis' statement of it in Mere Christianity, I was a Protestant. But it liberated me just as it had the Catholic Augustinian monk Luther 450 years earlier. The crucial sentence for me was: "We may think God wants actions of a certain kind, but God wants people of a certain sort." The point is amazingly simple, which is why so many of us just don't get it. Heaven is free because love is free. It's a gift for the taking. The taking is faith. "If you believe, you will be saved." It's really that simple. If I offer

For doubtless the continually

you a gift, you have it if and only if you have the faith to take it. The primacy of faith does not discount or denigrate works, but liberates them. Our good works can now also be free—free from the worry and slavery and performance anxiety of having to buy heaven with them. Our good works can now flow from genuine love of neighbor, not fear of hell. Nobody wants to be loved merely as a means to build up the lover's merit pile. That attempt is ridiculous logically as well as psychologically. How much does heaven cost? A thousand good works? Would 999 not do, then? The very question shows its own absurdity. That absurdity comes from forgetting that God is love. God practices what he preaches. He loves the sinner and hates only the sin. The father of the prodigal son did not say to his repentant son: "You are welcome home, son, but of course you must now pay me back for all the harm you've done and all the money you've wasted." He didn't even say, "I hope you've learned your lesson." He simply fell on his neck, kissed him, and wept. The righteous older brother was scandalized by this injustice and justification of the sinner—just as the day-long laborers in another of Christ's strange and wonderful parables were scandalized when the master of the vineyard gave the same wage he had given them to the late arrivals. So too the people who heard Jesus forgive the repentant thief on the cross were probably scandalized by the words: "Today you shall be with me in Paradise." They probably thought, "But what about all his past sins? What about justice? What about punishment?" The answer is found in 1 John 4:18: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment. God cannot be outdone in loving us lavishly. No one can even imagine how loving God is: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor 2:9 KJV). The prodigal son did not find himself in the servants' quarters but in the banquet hall. He had hoped his father might consent to take him back as one of his hired servants, but he was dressed in festal robes and fed the fatted calf. The whole point of justification by faith is God's scandalous, crazy, and wonderful gift of love. 8. Because of the Love of God, We Can Love Our Neighbor Freely Another infinitely precious discovery came in the same package as the previous one. Flowing from the insight of justification by faith, which is about our vertical relationship with God, came this associated insight about our horizontal relationship with our neighbor: because we have received a new kind of love from God (agape), we can love our neighbor in a new way. We can love our neighbor freely without "performance anxiety," without worrying about results. We can now love not for success or gratification or happiness or fulfillment, but from God's love. We can love others not from need but from sheer bounty, just as we have been loved. We become channels of this new living water. We freely pass on this tremendous gift we have received. When we love for some desired end, we are slaves to anxiety and worry about attainment. We "hanker after the fruits," to quote Gandhi, and this hankering, even if not selfish, is anxious. Jesus offers a radically different way, as Gandhi found in the Gospels: "Be anxious for nothing" (Mt 6:25-34). Not even for

whether our love works or not. As Mother Teresa of Calcutta says, "God does not call us to be successful, but to be faithful." We are to love out of God and therefore out of success, rather than for success. We must live from our end and not just for it. For "it is finished." The battle has already been won by God's love. Our love is only the mop-up operation. We need not worry about success because our love is guaranteed success, even if it does not move our neighbor to respond. For if we are one with Christ as members of his body, then our love is part of Christ's love. It is not just an imitation from afar but a participation from within. And Christ's love is guaranteed success, even though it was crucified and in us often continues to be crucified by the world. It is guaranteed success not because of its intentions or goals, but because of where it comes from: the Son's perfect obedience to the Father. The question keeps coming up in John's Gospel: where does this man Jesus come from? Does he come from God or only from man? The question is the most basic one that can be asked about us and our love. Are we and our love born again from above, from God? Or are we and it only the product of human nature? The answer to this question makes an infinite difference, the difference between heaven and hell in the next life. It also makes the difference in this life between the holy happiness of living and loving from God's fullness versus the agonizing anxiety of living and loving for fullness only as an ideal but out of a deep emptiness and need, for that is what we find in the fallen human heart. The most liberating discovery is that since God has filled us with his own life, our loving can be like a tube open at both ends, with God's love coming in one end and out the other, in by faith and out by works. The alternative is to be a tube open at only one end, the neighbor's end. Then we try to squeeze our own toothpaste out of the tube. But we have only a finite amount of spiritual toothpaste to give. So we worry about squandering it, just as the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son did. But God's supply is infinite. That's why the saints love so recklessly. It's not their love they love with but God's. 9. God's Love Is an Objective Reality that Makes a Real Difference The foundation for understanding this infinite love of God, in turn, is another closely related big idea. It is an idea which I was amazed to discover most Christians today do not understand, though it has always been viewed as central to the Christian life in previous centuries. The truth put simply is that God's love is not a mere feeling or attitude inside God. No, it is an objective reality that causes a real effect outside God and in us. Just as God's Word (his Logos or mind) is not merely subjective in the Father but is another person altogether, the Son, so the love of the Father and the Son is not just a subjective reality in them but is another person, the Holy Spirit. God's love is as objective as light. Because the sun in a sense is light, or the source of light rather than being lit, it really gives its light to the earth. And because the earth really receives light from the sun, it is really transformed every morning from darkness to light. Just as objectively because God is love God really gives love to us. And because we receive real life. changing love from God, we are really transformed from darkness to light. It is

not a mere change in subjective attitude but in our objective being. We are "born again." We receive a new life, a kind of spiritual blood transfusion from God. It is not physical blood, but it is just as real. We receive life from God's love, not just a lifestyle. "If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Cor 5:17). Once again it was C.S. Lewis who taught me this. Outside the New Testament, I have never read any better summary of what it means to be a Christian than Lewis' Mere Christianity, especially Part IV, where he talks about this objective reality of the new birth. Repeatedly, I ask my students: "What is a Christian?" And repeatedly they answer only in terms of beliefs, feelings, or deeds. "A Christian is one who believes the teachings of Christ." Ah, but "even the demons believe—and shudder" (Jas 2:19). "A Christian is someone who trusts Christ." Then being a Christian depends on how trusting I feel toward God? "A Christian is someone who follows Christ's lifestyle or tries to." How many good deeds make you a Christian, then?

The answer is not only what a Christian believes or feels or does. A Christian is a different being, a new creature with a whole new nature. A Christian has been born again. Unfortunately, even this incomparably profound metaphor from the lips of Christ himself is often trivialized and subjectivized. It is reduced to mean a mere experience or feeling. But it is not first of all a feeling but a fact. When a baby is born, the birth occurs whether the baby feels like it or not. It is God's love that gives us our new birth, of course. God's love is the cause. It is also the effect in us. For the effect of the new birth is that we now have a share in our Father's nature, which is love. Letting God into my soul by faith changes not just my attitudes but my being, as a wife's acceptance of her husband's sexual advances can change not just her attitude but her being: it can make her pregnant. Faith means choosing to say "yes" to God's desire to impregnate our souls. Faith means being pregnant with God's life, which is divine overflowing love. Thus God's love is both the origin and the end, the cause and the effect, the Alpha and the Omega of our Christian life. That's why that life in Scripture is repeatedly referred to as a spiritual marriage relationship with him. 10. We Were Made to Be United to God Forever The next link in the chain of big ideas follows as closely as the previous ones. If faith is being pregnant with God's love in this life, then heaven is like our spiritual birthday. As a man plants his seed in a woman, the new life is planted in our souls by grace. As the seed grows and takes shape in the womb as a baby, our Christian life on earth grows and takes shape through God's grace in the womb of our souls. We are being prepared for glory. And as physical birth is like the full flowering of the "planted" baby, our heavenly life is the blossoming of this divine seed planted in our souls. Or to use another metaphor, our faith on earth is a solemn engagement and heaven is the marriage. Our destiny is to be so intimately united with God that, as the mystics say, we not only see God's face but see with God's face. We share in

God's own consciousness and love. Here on earth, too, personal intimacy, whether in marriage or in a lasting friendship, means not just being close to the other person as an object but sharing his or her own thoughts and feelings, having a common outlook on life. For this union the very stars were made. For this union God came an infinite distance from heaven to earth, from divine glory to humiliation, from holy purity and innocence to a criminal's death on a cross, from perfect oneness with the Father to the hell of being forsaken by the Father-all this just to marry us. And for this marriage God brought us an infinite distance, too. First he brought us from nothing into being by creation and by providentially guiding every atom in the universe in a cosmic dance to bring us to birth. (For the universe is like a great mother.) Then he brought us another infinite distance, from flesh to spirit, from Adam to New Adam, from damnation to salvation, by the new birth. God took all this double trouble, this infinite trouble-for what? For the consummation of his marriage with us. And why? Because God is love, and perfect union is the goal of love. This is the ultimate reason for the creation of the universe. Whenever we love God, whenever we turn from self-will to God's will, whenever we say "yes" to God's love, the whole universe rejoices and is consummated. That is what "the whole creation has been groaning in travail together" about (Rom 8:22). We can fulfill or frustrate the deepest longing of the stars. We are the priests of the universe. 11. The Desire for Joy Points Us to the Love of God This destiny explains another "big idea": the mysterious longing that C.S. Lewis writes about so movingly and calls "Joy." It is the most memorable and arresting theme in all his writing. Nothing ever moved him more. Any reader who has ever experienced it feels the same way: "No one who has ever experienced it would ever exchange it for all the happiness in the world" (Surprised by Joy). "Joy," says Lewis, "is a technical term" (thus he capitalizes it) "and must be distinguished from both pleasure and happiness." "Joy" in Lewis' sense is not a satisfaction but a desire. But he calls it "Joy" because though it is a dissatisfaction, it is more satisfyiing, more joyful, than any other satisfaction. This is one of its two distinctive qualities. The other is its mystery. Its object—the thing desired—is indefinable and unattainable, at least in this life. Nevertheless that object must be real, Lewis argues, for the desire is innate and every innate desire corresponds to some reality. Where there is hunger, there is somewhere real food that can satisfy it. If there is thirst, there must be water. And if there is divine discontent with earth even at its best, there must be a heaven. The explanation for this mysterious desire is Augustine's great sentence: "Thou hast made us for Thyself, and [therefore] our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee" (Confessions I, 1). The reason for our restless lover's quarrel with the world is that we are engaged to God, not to the world. "He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man~s mind," says Ecclesiastes (3:11). Our souls are God-shaped vacuums, and "this infinite

abyss can only be filled with an infinite and eternal object, i.e., by God," explains the French philosopher and scientist Blaise Pascal in the Pensees. This desire is God's footprint in the sands of the soul. This discontent with known earthly joy, this longing for an unknown joy more than earth can ever offer, is the most moving thing in our lives because it is really our longing for God, whether we know it or not. 12. Romantic Love Reveals the Beloved and Is Meant to Point Us toward Union with God The only possible rival to joy for the title of the most moving and precious experience in our lives is romantic love. Indeed, to many people who have repressed or misunderstood their innate longing for God, romantic love is the only momentous and moving mystery they know. How else could a face ever launch a thousand ships! Those who understand joy know why romantic love moves us: because it is an image of joy. It is joy horizontalized, with the earthly beloved standing for God in either of two very different ways: either it is substituted for God as an idol, or else it reflects and mediates the love of God, as in the Dante-Beatrice relationship in The Vita Nuova. In the first case love is not only blind but blinding, like all idolatries and all addictions. It is mistaking a creature for God, treating it as an absolute, as absolutely necessary to my happiness. But in the second case love is not blind but perfectly accurate. In fact, the highest and most precise accuracy is found here. Love has found its true mark. We see this reality reflected in Scripture. The bridegroom in Solomon's Song of Songs is traditionally interpreted as God the lover of our souls. We are his bride. But this divine bridegroom says to the human bride: "You are all fair, my love" (4:7). God says this to us! But how can it be true that we are "all fair" when we still struggle with sin? Is God blind? If not, then what he says is true. It is true as prophecy, a prophecy of our eternal identity and destiny. Christ refers to this when he says, "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt


God speaks from eternity and sees us as we are eternally before him. To us this "all fair" perfection is only in the future. But to God everything is present. For that is what eternity is: not endless futures but all times actually present with no dead past or unborn future, no "no longer" or "not yet." Whether we understand this or not, whether we can conceive eternity or not, one thing is clear: God is love and God is not blind, which means that love is not blind. Not this kind of love, not agape. Romantic love can be blind. It can be only eros. Or it can be a sharing in this agape kind of love. When it is the latter, it penetrates to the mysterious center of the beloved's being and perceives—at least unconsciously—her incalculable worth because it sees her not as an object, but as a subject, as an I. Every object, every thing, has a finite value that can be calculated quantitatively or qualitatively. But the I is not an object. The value of the I is not calculable. That is because the human I is made in the image of God whose

essential name is "I AM." Love sees this implicitly. Because love does not look from without but from within, it sees really and clearly. Love sees eye to eye because it sees I to I. "The heart has its reasons which the reason does not know," says Pascal in the Pensees. This is not sentimentality: the heart has its reasons. The heart sees. Love sees. It is this new vision that excites and moves us so mysteriously in romantic love, not just blind animal desire. Love glimpses a new world. Jesus knows this. That is why he says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8). As the nineteenth century Danish religious philosopher Soren Kierkegaard tells us in the title of one of his books, "Purity of heart is to will one thing." It is to obey "the great and first commandment:" "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Mt 22:37-38). Only when we have this purity of heart and love can we understand God. God is a person, and the only way to understand a person is by love, and the only way to perfect understanding is by perfect love. We all know this principle innately. Whom do you trust to understand you best:

one who loves you or one who does not? Who understands you best: someone with a large heart or someone with a large head? Is it the one who loves you deeply but is not terribly bright? Or is it the one who is terribly bright but does not love you? The genius may know more things about you, but only the lover knows you, for genius knows things but love knows persons. Romantic love is love of one special, unique individual. This love is not a command or a duty like love of neighbor. It has no moral merit. We fall into it as into a hole. It is a gift and a glory. It is like heaven that way: heaven too is a gift and a glory, not a payment. All talk of merit and law and obedience-necessary as it is on earth-will disappear in heaven, except perhaps as a joke. Romantic love is God's sample of heaven strewn along our earthly pilgrimage. Eros is the appetizer for agape.

These are, I think, the twelve most profound ideas I have ever had. However, there is one idea that I have heard that I think is even more profound. It is Karl Barth's answer to the questioner who asked him, "Professor Barth, you have written dozens of great books, and many of us think you are the greatest theologian in the world. Of all your many ideas, what is the most profound thought you have ever had?" Without a second's hesitation, the great theologian replied, "Jesus loves me."

From The God Who Loves You by Ignatius Press.

12 Ways to Know God by Peter Kreeft Featured Writing Featured Audio Books About FAQsTwelve Ways to Know God Jesus defines eternal life as knowing God (Jn 17:3). What are the ways? In how many different ways can we know God, and thus know eternal life? When I take an inventory, I find twelve. The final, complete, definitive way, of course, is Christ, God himself in human flesh. His church is his body, so we know God also through the church. The Scriptures are the church's book. This book, like Christ himself, is called "The Word of God." Scripture also says we can know God in nature see Romans 1. This is an innate, spontaneous, natural knowledge. I think no one who lives by the sea, or by a little river, can be an atheist. Art also reveals God. I know three ex-atheists who say, "There is the music of Bach, therefore there must be a God." This too is immediate. Conscience is the voice of God. It speaks absolutely, with no ifs, ands, or buts. This too is immediate. [The last three ways of knowing God (4-6) are natural, while the first three are supernatural. The last three reveal three attributes of God, the three things the human spirit wants most: truth, beauty, and goodness. God has filled his creation with these three things. Here are six more ways in which we can and do know God.] Reason, reflecting on nature, art, or conscience, can know God by good philosophical arguments. Experience, life, your story, can also reveal God. You can see the hand of Providence there. The collective experience of the race, embodied in history and tradition, expressed in literature, also reveals God.You can know God through others' stories, through great literature. The saints reveal God. They are advertisements, mirrors, little Christs. They are perhaps the most effective of all means of convincing and converting people. Our ordinary daily experience of doing God's will will reveal God. God becomes clearer to see when the eye of the heart is purified: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." Prayer meets God—ordinary prayer. You learn more of God from a few minutes of prayerful repentance than through a lifetime in a library. Unfortunately, Christians sometimes have family fights about these ways, and treat them as either/or instead of both/and. They all support each other, and nothing could be more foolish than treating them as rivals—for example, finding God in the church versus finding God in nature, or reason versus experience, or Christ versus art. If you have neglected any of these ways, it would be an excellent idea to explore them. For instance, pray using great music. Or take an hour to review

your life some time to see God's role in your past. Read a great book to better meet and know and glorify God. Pray about it first. Add to this list, if you can. There are more ways of finding and knowing God than any one essay can contain. Or any one world.

A Baptism of Imagination with Peter Kreeft Featured Writing

Featured Audio Books About FAQsA Baptism of Imagination More Featured Writing Source:

1996 Mars Hill ReviewA Conversation with Peter Kreeft by Ellen Haroutunian

In an age when the modern church seems to have lost some of her power and

credibility, philosopher and author Peter Kreeft (pronounced Krayft) has been an unpretentious but fervent voice in the Christian faith for many years. Once a Protestant of the Reformed tradition and now a Catholic convert, he has produced many works that have spoken with effectiveness to a large and diverse audience.

Kreeft writes with eloquence to the "modern pagan"—those of us who have embraced modernist thinking, narrowing our reason from the wide scope of wisdom to the stricter confines of science and, more strictly, calculation. Kreeft describes the modernist as "a calculator rather than a poet and prophet, a technocrat rather than a contemplator." In profound and often entertaining ways, Kreeft speaks from a worldview gleaned from the wisdom of the ages. His thought reflects the rich heritage of wisdom that is ours—one that awakens curiosity, giving us eyes to see the signposts to God all around us. Kreeft has been a professor of philosophy at Boston College for more than thirty years and has authored as many books. His works cover a variety of subjects, including studies of the difficult questions of faith and several books on heaven. Some of his most intriguing works include studies on the philosophies of Blaise Pascal and Thomas Aquinas, in which Kreeft brings fresh and lucid explanations to the common reader. He is probably best known for his work in apologetics, often using imaginative, dramatic dialogues to illustrate the points of various worldviews or modern moral dilemmas. In Between Heaven and Hell, he creates an after—death dialogue between Christian writer C.S. Lewis, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and philosopher Aldous Huxley (all of whom died on November 22, 1963) to discuss theism, humanism, and pantheism. Currently, Kreeft is working on his first novel. Initially I wondered about what I might be facing in my interview with the esteemed professor within the old, imposing brick walls of Boston College. I was delighted to find a humble, gracious man with a twinkle in his eye, who revealed a quick wit, tremendous energy of thought, and a passion for his faith. His office door was papered with comics and cartoons, revealing someone who enjoys laughter and doesn't take himself too seriously despite his position and success. I sat in his office, surrounded by old, oft—read books, gargoyles, and even a Star Trek poster, and listened to a man speak prophetically to modern times from the ancient wisdom of our shared tradition.

Mars Hill Review: You are described as a philosopher who looks at humankind with "both eyes open." What does that mean? Peter Kreeft: God gave us two eyes to give us a sense of perspective. If we close our right eye, everything looks flat and left. And if we close our left eye, everything looks flat and right. People often think in terms of being either left or right on everything, shoving every idea into political

categories, which is simplifying but silly. Having two eyes means that the world

is exciting, mysterious, full of depth. There is plenty to see of the dual

nature in people: good and bad, angel and animal, made in the image of God and yet obviously fallen, a capacity both for great good and for great evil. Jesus always used such paradoxes—for example, his admonition to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. He had to talk in parables and paradoxes, because only these are complex enough to encompass the truth to fit our humanity. In our relationships, we have to be pessimistic and optimistic,

cynical and idealistic. We have to realize that people are capable of evil, and yet we also must expect great good of them. That way, we are not surprised when we see a Mother Teresa, and we are not surprised when we see a Stalin. MHR: Yet we are surprised by both. You describe a philosopher as someone who is astonished at what we all see but fail to notice. What entices you to wonder? PK: Everything. I love a quotation by Kirkegaard. He said, "I am terrified by everything, from the smallest gnat to the mystery of the incarnation."


philosopher tries to penetrate through to ultimate causes. The ultimate cause


being itself—that is, existence—and nothing except God has to exist. A

philosopher wonders at the fact that anything exists. You may hold up a paper clip and say that this paper clip doesn't have to exist, and that this hand holding it doesn't have to exist, and that the wind blowing now doesn't have to exist, and that the planet earth doesn't have to exist, and that the whole universe doesn't have to exist—and yet they do. So you feel you are present at the moment of creation—as if God created the universe a second before you looked

at it.

MHR: Is this the same thought that's behind Heidegger's question: "Why is there

anything rather than nothing?" PK: It is. In fact, Heidegger talked about a number of moods in which that

realization dawned. One of those moods is the specifically Christian mood of joy and wonder at the sheer fact of existence. If you don't think the world was created, that it is an absolutely unnecessary eternal object, I don't see how you can wonder at it. The fact that we need each other, and the fact that we're male and female and incomplete in ourselves, is a part of the divine image. One of the wonderful things that this present Pope has been consistently teaching is that the image

of God is in the body as well as in the soul. It has a lot to do with our

sexuality. MHR: Would you elaborate on that? PK: Well, the human family is an image of the holy family. The interdependence between a man and a woman is an image of the interrelationship within the

trinity. The fact that love constitutes a new being—two people in one flesh, and then a new concrete being, a baby—is a physical image of a spiritual fact. In God, the love between the Father and the Son is that which constitutes the Holy Spirit. God is love, and love is creative. And that is mirrored in the family. MHR: And the love within the trinity is what created us. PK: Yes. A lot of philosophers think that God must have a needy, imperfect side. That's the only way they can figure out why there is a world and why he would pay any attention to us. One of the glories of Christian theology is that we have a God who is absolute, perfect in who he is. MHR: Why did you choose philosophy as a profession? PK: People become philosophers because they can't succeed at anything else. They can't balance a checkbook, do plumbing, or sell insurance. I love philosophy, but I tried some others things and was lousy at them. God puts our individual "vibes" in us and we respond to what pulls our strings. Why did Romeo fall in love with Juliet, of all people? MHR: I read that you decided to become a philosopher at age fifteen, when you first read the book of Ecclesiastes.

PK: It wasn't so much a career decision as it was falling in love with something

I had never realized existed. I could ask fundamental questions—deep, mysterious

questions—rationally and systematically and orderly. MHR: What has it been like to be a Christian in this field? PK: There's a natural affinity between Christianity and philosophy, between faith and reason, because God is the author of both and teaches us through both. Both philosophy and religion raise the same basic questions about the fundamental meaning of life. Therefore it is a mutually reinforcing relationship. It's hard to see this, though, in the modern American secular university. But Boston College is still a significantly Catholic school. Students often joke that BC means "Barely Catholic." But it's Catholic enough to feel like home and

pagan enough to feel like a mission field. MHR: So much of the modern church may be seen as a mission field. How do you see that modern believers have lost a sense of wonder, and how do we recapture it? PK: If we figure out how we lost wonder, we may be aided in our attempts to recapture it. If you compare twentieth-century novels with Homer, or if you compare Dante or Shakespeare (who were popular in their own day) with the trashy, popular eighteenth-century novels, you find much more wonder and innocence in the older writers. Now, how did we lose that? That's a long, complex story.

I suppose the basic answer is embarrassingly simple: we lost it because we lost

God. The closer we are to God, to divine attributes—such as absolute truth, goodness, and beauty—the more we wonder. When we separate ourselves from truth, goodness, and beauty, we lose wonder and become cynical. The Enlightenment was basically the narrowing of our vision to a purely scientific, empirical, rationalistic worldview, screwing down the manhole covers on us so we became squinting underground creatures. MHR: How ironic that while our knowledge about the universe increases, we have

lost the Creator. PK: It's the same irony that exists in the fact the richer we become and the more problems we solve, the more cynical and despairing and depressed we become. That's true in the Bible too. Through-out Israel's history, the more the nation prospered, the more wicked they became. I guess we're pretty stupid. We can't handle spiritual good and material good at the same time. MHR: The church herself appears to have moved from wonder, mystery, and paradox to emphasize merely her ethical side—which you have described as the "good judge, solid, secure, upright, never troubled by passion for the infinite or terror of the unknown." How have we come to this point? PK: For one thing, the church needs to recover some moxie, some chutzpah. We need to stop being nice and conforming to the world, saying, "We're going to win you by being just like you." The church has got to say, "We're better than you—not better people than you, but we have a better worldview, a deeper truth. Our product's the best one on the market." The church has been so bedeviled by the American religion of egalitarianism that we are terrified to claim superiority. Only if you believe you have something better can you be enthusiastic about it. MHR: What might that look like? PK: It looks like a full human being with a hard spine and soft flesh. Our ancestors had that hardness. They fought and died for their beliefs. Yet they lacked the softness of compassion. In reaction to them, we have developed well in the area of compassion and sensitivity to human beings and human rights, but it has been at the expense of our spine. We have become jellyfish. And in a spineless age like ours, anybody who's got any spine suddenly sells. That's why Orthodox Judaism and Islam are rapidly expanding. MHR: Christians today seem to practice a "sanctified rationalism." We don't tap into the sense of a higher reason that seems necessary to begin to apprehend the idea of a mysterious God. PK: My favorite villains here are Descartes and Kant, both of whom have narrowed reason. Descartes narrowed reason to a human psychological thing—calculating. And Kant narrowed reason to a subjective thing—merely something that goes on inside our head that does not correspond to an objective reality we can know. In the Middle Ages and in ancient times, reason was the cosmic order of things which we understood intuitively before we understood it analytically. When the ancients defined man as the rational animal, they didn't mean he was a narrow, dull, abstract analytic thing. They included his heart, his moral sense of conscience, his aesthetic sense. It was part of reason to wonder at the beauty of the heavens. MHR: You have stated that you see some mysteries or truths better in concrete stories rather than in abstract concepts—in novels rather than in philosophy. How has that been true for you? PK: It has been true for me in my reading of C.S. Lewis, Chesterton, Tolkien, Charles Williams, Dorothy Sayers. These writers have plugged into the depths of the Christian tradition. Their images and stories have influenced me from below.

MHR: What do you mean by "below"? PK: Let's use the image of water. A city is surrounded by walls and it is fighting a war. The enemy is trying to knock down the walls, but they can't do it because the walls are too strong. Then a great rainstorm comes. As the rain suddenly gets underneath the walls and softens the ground, the walls fall down and the city is conquered. Rational arguments are like bullets. They're useful, but if we're going to conquer the city that is the world, we need rain and not just bullets. Images and attractive symbols are like the rain. They soften the ground as they seep

into the unconscious. Lewis called it "baptizing the imagination." MHR: Is the study of literature important for the church? PK: It is crucial—absolutely crucial. We are still deeply influenced by stories. We learn morality more from stories than from anything else. If we're not good storytellers, and if we're not sensitive to good storytellers, we'll miss out on the most powerful means of enlightening ourselves and transforming our world apart from a living, personal example. Christianity has always produced great writers. But, unfortunately, I cannot name a single great one who is alive today. Walker Percy and Flannery O'Connor may be the two last great Christian writers. I'm sure there will be more, because it is in our tradition. MHR: That may be true especially with the shift that seems to be going on—the movement back to the old Christian worldview. PK: It's interesting that this worldview spontaneously produces image and symbol as well as it produces philosophy and theology. It can't be confined to just one expression. MHR: You've done great work as a Christian apologist in appealing to human reason for the case of Christianity. But you've said that even the older, larger notion of reason is not a sufficient power for climbing Jacob's ladder to heaven. Doesn't the human heart need more? PK: Of course. We need God's grace, and the prayer and sanctity which brings that down. And we also need a personal example.

I think nobody alive today is a more powerful agent of conversion than someone

like Mother Teresa. You can refute arguments but not her life. When she came to

the National Prayer Breakfast and lectured President Clinton about abortion, he had nothing to say to her. He can't argue with a saint. It's too bad there isn't an easier way, because becoming a saint is not the easiest thing in the world. It's much easier to become an apologist or a philosopher or a theologian. MHR: You make references to pop psychology—which would include the Christian counseling movement—as offering a prescription fit for cabbages and pigs, and not for men and women. What do you mean by that? PK: Well, the cabbages-and-pigs image recalls John Stuart Mill's statement. He said it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. So, if you go to a counselor to overcome your dissatisfaction and exchange it for satisfaction, I think that can be very foolish. There's a good satisfaction and

a bad satisfaction, a good dissatisfaction and a bad dissatisfaction. If you

have a lover's quarrel with the world because you have been taught to expect

happiness from this world yet you haven't found it and don't know why, that's a very good dissatisfaction. If a counselor throws cold water on the fire of that discontent, great harm is done. It's worth having the bad discontent in order to preserve the good discontent, which is the search for God. I think discontent is the second best thing in the world, because it brings us to God. MHR: And the first? PK: God. MHR: Describe what you refer to as the "dignity of despair." PK: To despair is to be so deeply discontented that you demand a meaning or happiness or truth or goodness in life that you have no more hope of finding. You want much more than what this world offers. But if you don't want more, you won't despair. If you are satisfied with the boob tube, you won't despair. If you are satisfied with accepting yourself as you are—if you're satisfied with reordering your feelings and making some sort of deal with reality, saying "Give me this and I'll be satisfied"—again, you won't despair. Yet we find in the lives of many of the saints moments of despair shortly before their conversion. God often brings us to that moment, just as an alcoholic has to be brought to the bottom before he can climb to the top. Only then is the ideal, the desire of our souls, awakened. MHR: What does it mean, then, to live with the moments of despair that life brings? PK: It means honesty, for one thing. It means seeking the truth above all things, even at the expense of contentment. A person remains in despair not because it makes him happy or fulfills or integrates him. He remains in despair because it is true. He doesn't pretend that things are all right when they are not. One of the reasons Christians are generally happier than nonbelievers is that they don't expect so much of the world. They look at the world as a gymnasium, or a training ground, or, if they are terribly pessimistic, as a prison. The world can be a wonderful barracks, a fantastic motel, but it's a lousy home. MHR: I have found that often Christians are not happier than everyone else, but, rather, they have a harder time being honest about their doubt and despair. PK: We are not taught much today that honestly means to seek truth in an absolute, fanatical way. Truth is no longer absolute, but is soft, squishy, and negotiable. Most Christians still do believe in an objective truth but don't see it as something to which we must be conformed. Truth has become merely one of the ingredients in their experience, one of the things they can use to obtain happiness. MHR: The modern Christian sees God as a part of our lives, whereas in the old Christian worldview we would see our lives as a function of his mercy. PK: You see this in the current angel craze. These are soft, cuddly, comforting creatures—not objects at which we would express fear or wonder, as they always are in the Bible. MHR: You wrote several books on heaven long before the current rise in interest on the afterlife. What prompted them? PK: My first three books were all on death and life after death—Love is Stronger

than Death, Heaven, the Heart's Deepest Longing, and Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know about Heaven but Were Afraid to Ask. They were meant to be one book, but I had more to say. What else is there to write about? It's much more interesting than earth. People ask me why I write books about "this, that, and the other thing," and I say, "This, that, and the other thing are obviously the most interesting subjects to think about." Death, heaven, morality, God—would I rather write books about economics? I'm not a freak, just an ordinary human being asking questions. Actually, the immediate origin of my books on heaven came from my daughter. She was six years old when her cat died. She asked me, "Can I have my cat in heaven?" I said, "I don't know, but I think so. I don't see any reason why not." She pressed the point. "Will my cat be happy in heaven?" I said, "Yes, everyone is happy in heaven." She said, "Well, he's got to have cat food, because that makes him happy." I said, "If that makes him happy, then there will be cat food." "How will God get cat food? Will there be factories in heaven? I think factories are ugly. Is there anything ugly in heaven?" I said, "No." "Then there's no factories in heaven. So where will the cat food come from?" I said, "I don't know." She said, "Isn't there a book about that? You should write one." So I did. MHR: Her curiosity led to some important works. The contemporary Christian view of heaven seems to be almost like a death—the end of desire and longing, the very things that awaken us to our need for God. What will "move" us for eternity? PK: The six things in this life that never get boring are knowing and loving God, your neighbor, and yourself. That's what we'll continue to do and perfect in heaven. And if there are beings on other planets, then they'll get thrown in too. We are creatures of time and progress and movement. Only God can be timeless without being threatened or bored. In heaven our humanity is fulfilled, not negated, so I think there will be endless progress. But for endless progress, you need an infinite object. That's why you need God. MHR: Heaven itself is a paradox then. We will be filled by God, yet we will desire more. PK: What C.S. Lewis called joy in this life is an image of heaven. Joy is the experience of wonder and love and longing for something that can't be defined, but which we can experience right now and find wonderfully fulfilling. Yet, by definition, it is a longing for more. MHR: You have employed W.H. Auden's poem, "September 1939," in several books as a picture of our desperate attempt to escape our existential pain. But again, our modern understanding of heaven sounds almost like a giant diversion as well. Why do we so fear being fully alive? PK: The obvious answer is faith. The object of faith is the living, mysterious God, not our theology or creeds or words of the Bible. They are only the accurate outline, not the living object. Faith and hope and love all have a moreness to them. Faith means I trust you more than I can prove, hope means I

hope for more than I can attain and grasp, and love means there is more in you than I can possibly love worthily. We've reduced mystery to a temporary problem that can be solved by reason. The ancient mind that produced myth, and the medieval mind that produced both a Dante and an Aquinas, combined mystery and order. They combined the conviction that the universe can be understood at least partly by human reason, and that the universe itself and the ultimate reality behind it is endlessly mysterious. They combined that, but we separate them. Some philosophers are rationalists, saying we can understand it all, and thus, there's no mystery. Some are irrationalists, saying it's all mystery. Those two halves of the human spirit haven't changed, but their relationship has. They have become disintegrated. Sometimes it's cynical and nihilistic, sometimes it's optimistic and romantic, sometimes it's just passionately existential—or something like that. What is often called the culture and the counterculture, and the classical versus romantic dualism of the nineteenth century, are all versions of that fundamental split. MHR: So we have created a God that we can anticipate, explain, and calculate. When he steps out of bounds, our faith becomes very brittle, or we become frightfully busy or dogmatic. What's another option? PK: I'd say, start by going back to our data. Find a single example in the Bible of God appearing to somebody and not surprising him. MHR: You would go back to stories. PK: Sure. The Bible is essentially narrative. It stops the narrative now and then to explain, philosophize, and poeticize, but it's fundamentally stories of God. You get to know God by living with him. Granted, the way God impinges on our lives today is not usually as spectacular or as miraculous as the way he impinges on the lives of famous Bible characters. But those stories are simply larger versions of the same God and the same relationship we experience with him. God doesn't literally talk to me as he does to Job, but, like everybody else, I go through pieces of what Job went through. And the same God has been testing me. That's how stories are illuminating for us. Even in this disjointed age, we still have enough paradigms or analogies in our own relationships to make it meaningful. Let's take a failed marriage. It began—they were in love once. That relationship of intimacy and hope is very much like the God relationship. So, now, even though they're out of it, they have it in memory. It forms a basis for analogy. God is like a lover. We can't ever totally abolish our humanity, turning ourselves into machines or mere creatures, because God is in our memory. Thomas Aquinas says the knowledge of the natural law can never possibly be abolished from the heart of man. That's the one point I think C.S. Lewis exaggerates in The Abolition of Man. I don't think that can happen. MHR: It's why even in the midst of whatever a person is struggling with, there is still something about our humanity that we have to offer each other. PK: That's our history. That's why when history goes downhill, it turns back. It's why after seventy years of communism, people are crying, "Please send us

information about Jesus." It's why after centuries of tyranny, the human spirit rises up and says, "That's not our design. We've got to change." MHR: And is that why there's a movement away from modern, rationalistic Christianity and a reclaiming of the older Christian worldview? PK: Yes. Our instinctive knowledge that God is more than our boxes makes us rightly dissatisfied with them. MHR: You've written a popular work called Making Sense Out of Suffering. How have some of your personal experiences with suffering changed or deepened your view of God and humanity? PK: They haven't directly or intellectually. It's not as if suffering was a surprising new piece of data. Rather, it affects my feelings more than my views, or my subjective viewing than my objective views. As we get older, the instrument by which we look at a problem is a more softened and sensitized instrument, like meat that's been pounded a bit. God has to take a knife and pound our heart a bit, in order to soften it and get inside to give us a new heart. It's heart surgery, and it's a bloody business. If we had adequate hearts to begin with, he wouldn't have to do that. C.S. Lewis put it this way: these pains are either necessary or they aren't. If they aren't necessary, God is not good. If they are necessary, then we're pretty stupid and pretty bad to need these pains. MHR: What has occurred in the mind of the modern thinker that causes him to refuse to face suffering? Or, what has occurred in the mind of the Christian that causes him to refuse to rage? PK: The thing common to both is a kind of escapism. The modernist who doesn't have an answer to suffering doesn't want to think about it. A Marxist will not think about death. The philosopher who raises a question about death is to the Marxist an enemy of the state. If you don't believe there is a benevolent mind guiding all of human existence, suffering is just a pointless and meaningless accident. The Christian who immediately runs to Romans 8:28—who doesn't rage and fulfill his human nature—is not humble enough. I suppose he thinks he can be a saint very quickly. He forgets one of the petitions of the Lord's prayer, which is "Lead us not into temptation." By this he does not mean sin, because God does not lead us into sin. Rather, we are commanded to pray, "God, give me an easy life. I am not as strong as Job, so please don't lead me into Job's place." It is a prayer of humility. Growing in faith means you realize you can't be a saint instantly—that you are first a human being, and that you must go through your full humanity, including the rage, and including the confession that we don't have all the answers and that God often seems far away. MHR: Are we like the secular modernist in some ways, having anesthetized our souls? PK: Sure. We're like little children. We don't want to hurt. MHR: And we don't want our view of God messed up. PK: I know a priest who calls God a wild man. That's Aslan. He's not a tame lion. He's not safe, but he's good. For our God to be bigger, to jump out of our

boxes, a lot of noise and destruction has to happen. MHR: We want to believe, as Job's friends did, that there's a logical reason for suffering. It can't be that God doesn't fit our categories. PK: Well, if we want to become Job's friends, we have plenty of theology courses and catechism texts and liturgies. MHR: There are plenty of Protestant-shaped boxes too. PK: Someday we'll find that there are not two boxes, but one God. Maybe that's the key to healing the terrible split in the church. I don't mean just the theological problem, but the problem of relationship to God. If you dare to be naked in front of this God, then you find out who he really is. MHR: You used to be a Protestant, of the Reformed persuasion. When did you become a Catholic? PK: At Calvin College I started getting interested in things medieval and things Catholic in an aesthetic and intellectual way. I gradually raised the serious question of the claims of the Catholic church. The overall, consuming question to me was, did Jesus Christ found the Catholic church as a visible institution, as it exists today? I read the church fathers to prove to myself that he didn't and that I was right to be a Protestant. I tried to prove to myself that the church was first Protestant and then went Catholic, and that that was bad. But I ended up convinced that it was the other way around—that it was Catholic from the beginning. MHR: Was there a personal shift that went along with the intellectual one? PK: The personal part was a gradual process. After becoming a Catholic, I didn't suddenly start believing I'm going to have to read Dante instead of Milton. I didn't think, now I'm going to have to cultivate a taste for art a little more. I've always had a sense of the need for a great liturgy. The liturgy takes you beyond itself. It has power to be a sign of the transcendent. When you're in a church that has a modern liturgy—one of these busy, fussy, rational things where the 'presider' draws attention to himself, and everyone has to be cheery and say the right things—you don't have the impression you are in the presence of God. You may be in the presence of good people who have good intentions toward God, but it's the human voice that's at work. In the ancient liturgy, you feel the divine voice coming through, like sunlight through a stained-glass window. MHR: What has been your personal involvement with the Catholic church? PK: I'm a happy, ordinary Catholic who has no quarrel with the church and an immense feeling of gratitude toward it. It's my mother. It's not perfect, and it's got a lot of warts, but it's divine, and it's God's instrument for saving human souls. MHR: I don't often hear of the church referred to as my mother, but as the body of Christ. That image seems to bring a sense of personhood to the collective body. PK: Well, it's not fashionable. The feminists have taken that wonderful image from us, which is a strange paradox because it's a wonderfully feminine image. MHR: Do you sense that on a very practical level there is a difference in

Catholic and Protestant thinking in the way community is envisioned? PK: There is a difference between the way I thought of community as a Protestant and now as a Catholic. Formerly, I would have said the body of Christ is, first, the number of all believers, but that it's also a very visible thing—meaning, the people across the aisle, in the next pew. Then, in heaven, these people will mystically and visibly be incorporated into one body. As a Catholic, I'd say the same two things in a reverse order. I start with the notion that these people in the next pew are the body of Christ. Jesus Christ himself is not just the incarnate Lord of the gospels, but he also comprises all of his body. We are his cells, his arms and legs. So when I look at the person in the next pew in that light, there's a kind of freedom from the merely human. If he talks too much, or seems distracted, or has the wrong political opinions, or has bad breath, that doesn't matter—that's Jesus Christ. That's a hard thing to say, and it's not as exact as that. Paradoxically, as a Catholic I think I have a more invisible notion of the body of Christ. As a Protestant, I had a more visible one. Maybe the proper words are "divine" and "human," rather than "visible" and "invisible." I don't feel as much of a necessity to tie things up on a human level, to organize things and make sure everything is in the right place visibly. I feel more room to let God do it. This thing we're in right now called the church is the first embryonic form of a tremendous, incredible heavenly thing, which is really divine as well as human, just as Christ is divine as well as human. So, what I see of it at present is the skin, the outer layer. MHR: There is less of a sense of people requiring of each other to "tow the line." PK: As a Catholic I don't feel that much, because the church does that. The church has its unchanging laws and calls us to task, so we don't have to do that individually to each other. MHR: You are free to love each other. Can you speak about the current tensions between Catholics and Protestants? PK: They're lessening, almost miraculously. In the fifties, when I was first considering Catholicism, most Catholics and Protestants had consigned each other to hell. They were afraid of each other's existence, and they didn't feel comfortable in each other's presence. They couldn't have conceived that they were brothers and sisters fighting the same war together. That has all changed radically. MHR: How, in your opinion? PK: God. We didn't sit down and say, let's heal the breach of the Reformation, and here are the first ten steps. The statement that came out last year, "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," coauthored by Richard John Neuhaus and Chuck Colson, is a wonderful thing. One of the lines in that statement answers this question. It says, "We did not choose each other, we were chosen. We didn't figure this out, God did. We didn't tell him what to do, he told us what to do." MHR: Do you think the current spiritual climate of secularism and spiritual superficiality has forced our hand, so to speak? PK: Definitely. The next book coming out under my authorship is called

Ecumenical Jihad. That is the main point of that book. There's something new in the air, and God is changing the strategy. He is minimizing or ending our civil wars, because a worldwide religious war against secularism is dawning much more clearly. We can expect more practical cooperation between Catholics and Protestants and Jews and Muslims. This happened at Assisi. That was a small thing, but it had never happened before in the history of the world. They all were confronted by a common enemy. MHR: The church no longer seems to know how to seduce people away from secularism. What should we be to do that? PK: Jesus Christ. We're looking for new clever, relevant, sophisticated answers, and we're not simple and childlike enough to go back to the old, powerful, simple answers. When Karl Barth gave his last address, someone asked him afterward, "Professor Barth, I believe that everyone in this room thinks you are the greatest theologian of this century. Please, tell me—what is the greatest idea that you have ever conceived?" Barth replied instantly, "Jesus loves me." MHR: What can evangelicals learn from Catholics? PK: They can learn the fullness about what it means to be an evangelical, the fullness of what it means to proclaim the gospel. The Catholic church says the full gospel includes this incarnational, sacramental, visible, institutional thing called the Catholic church. Most evangelicals are stronger than most Catholics on the issue of personal relationship to Christ. Catholics need to learn that from evangelicals. But that is already in the Catholic faith. Contained in the biblical gospel is a very strong Catholic notion of the church, which evangelicals are beginning to rediscover. My father was an elder in the Reformed church and an adamant Protestant. He once confessed to me: "I envy you one thing. Your church talks with authority like the New Testament church. I wish mine did." MHR: Why do you think that so much of the spiritual formation or spiritual direction movement seems to be led by the Catholic contemplatives? PK: Catholics have a long and deep tradition of the contemplative life. It has roots much deeper than those of modern pop psychology. Evangelicals are increasingly plugging in to that tradition. MHR: In light of your understanding of community, what does it mean for us to live in the "living present" rather than the "dead past" or the "unborn future"? PK: One obvious answer is that we don't identify who we are with what we were or what we are going to be. We can have some control over who we think we are going to be. And who we were is already fossilized. But who we are right now is frighteningly supple and open and elastic, because we continually manufacture it by our free choices. We are frightened by that elasticity. It also means that we are not to be bedeviled by past or future problems or by past or future fears. MHR: We can be so controlled by a lie from the past. PK: There's a simple, old biblical Christian answer to this: forgiveness. People say "I forgive but can't forget." They are really saying, "I can't really completely forgive." They are holding on. MHR: Where did you learn to think as you do? PK: Models. I had a couple of good teachers, William Harry Jellema at Calvin

College and Baldwin Schwartz at Fordham University. Also Brand Blanchard, an atheist at Yale University. And, above all, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Aquinas, and Plato. There are many who came before us who still live through their books. They are our community too. If you have the good sense not to try to be original, and to apprentice yourself to the masters and imitate them, you will grow to a point where you can think well for yourself. MHR: You state very clearly that you believe Christianity is the truth. However, in some of your writings it appears that you believe all roads lead to God. PK: All true roads do. All truth is God's truth. Many things other than the Christian revelation lead to God. I know some people who have found God by philosophical reasoning and even by scientific research. I know a scientist who converted from atheism through big bang cosmology. I know three people who overcame temptations to atheism through the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. And I even know somebody whose Christian faith was moved from being very weak to being very strong by going through a brief infatuation with Zen Buddhism. It opened him to a sense of the mysterious and the mystical. MHR: You are exceptionally well-read. What are you reading right now? PK: I don't usually read a book through from cover to cover unless it's very, very good. I'm very picky. The last book I read in its entirety was The Church and the Cultural War, by George Little. Right now I'm reading stuff I can use for my novel, stuff about Islam and abortion. MHR: How do your reading and study inform your understanding of scripture? PK: Everything we read enters into us. The instrument with which we read something else is, or should be, our whole self. So everything we read influences everything else we read. How could my reading of Dante or C.S. Lewis not influence my reading of scripture? It's not conscious intention. C.S. Lewis was asked if he intended to make the Chronicles of Narnia Christian allegories. He said, "No, I just told a story. But whatever roots are in me are going to spring up and produce that kind of flower. So of course it's going to be a Christian book from a Christian thinker." Scripture is literature. Whenever we neglect some aspect of God's revelation, he reminds us of it. Eventually, maybe after a few generations, we come back to it. And it's always richer than any one group or one age can exhaust. MHR: After more than twenty years of writing, how have you grown as an author? PK: My evolution has been toward simplicity. In my earlier books I tried to do too much and be too original. I don't try as hard anymore. I don't try to be scholarly, original, or creative. I just tell the truth. Most writers want to be looked at as profound thinkers, profound people. I want to tell a profound truth. And Christianity is the world's most profound truth. The more you are like a clear window, the more the light can come through, and the more profound the thing is. It's part of the paradox that if you grasp your life you'll lose it, but if you lose your life you'll find it. Trying to be original as a writer won't make you original. MHR: What will your novel be about? PK: It's about the sea, and about spiritual warfare, and about surfing and

philosophy and abortion and vikings. It's an angel's eye—view on the effects of dead vikings, Russian prophets, Red Sox collapses, hurricanes, blizzards, and fat Jewish-mother substitutes on the post-abortion trauma of Orthodox Jewish girlfriends of philosophical Muslim surfers in Boston in 1978. But that gives it far too great a unity.

A Close Encounter With the Angel of Death by Peter Kreeft

Because "he jests at scars who never felt a wound," and because the dimension of personal experience might be thought to be conspicuous by its absence, I include here after much hesitation these candid excerpts from my personal diary written

in the hospital where my wife and I suddenly found ourselves confronting a brain

tumor in our five-year-old daughter. This excerpt, taken from my book Love is Stronger Than Death, was written before this "close encounter," not as a result

of it. I include it simply as my other half: the book is my mind, this is my



The first vision that burns unforgettably in my mind is the simple one of a locked door: the back door of our house. As my wife and I left that morning for the hospital tests that would show what was wrong with our daughter, a small, dark insect in my mind buzzed with worry. Our pediatrician had seen pressure in the back of her eyes that made him insist on an immediate appointment with a

neurologist; and that was scary, even though her symptoms before the examination didn't seem terribly serious to us: poor morning appetite, naps, a dislike of gym, clumsy balance. The thought 'brain tumor' did not now escape us, but that thought seemed somehow foreign and incredible. But as I locked the back door of the house the thought pulled at my mind: Are you locking away the first half of your life today? Will you ever again in all of time return to this same house? Or will it be a totally different house, a different place in a different world? And when you return. will you be the same person, or will someone else who only looks like you open this door? Someone who looks alive but is really partly dead. a bit of a ghost, a wraith, a member of the kingdom of the dead? My precious daughter, my perfect one, if you are dying, so am I.

A second vision has the same meaning. It is a place on the highway, a junction,

the place the turnpike begins that carries us into the city where she will have more tests. Shall I ever be able to pass that junction again without remembering? The thought was a knife, and it cut both my wife and me at the same time at the same place on the highway. 'Will the world ever be the same again? Are we turning a corner on our life's road that is a one-way street? "You can't go home again" because when you come back, the rest of the world has

made a half turn in the mean time. The night falls; suppose there is no dawn?


Strange how the mind fixates on physical details in order to handle the unhandleable. When we can't handle truth we handle facts. We miniaturize; we find some small objective correlative to associate with the unhandleably enormous subjective feeling. In this case it is the chair I was sitting in when the doctor came out of the CAT-scan room with the results of the computerized

head X rays, while my wife was still in the X-ray room with my daughter. I will always remember the exact spot each chair leg occupied in the room. I will also remember the look on the doctor's face—an embarrassed look, a look not at me but vaguely around me. as if looking for help. It was as if he, not I, were the sufferer, or as if he were responsible for the bad news, the "blame the messenger" syndrome. But I could not blame the messenger; he seemed no more comfortable delivering the message than I in receiving it. Large brain tumor. What does that mean? Well, of course, this is not final or official; you will have to talk to Doctor so and so, I'm only a resident. Tell

me everything you know; I have to know. It is cancerous? We can't be sure until we go in. Can it be removed? We don't know; even if it isn't malignant, it could be in the brain stem, inoperable. Facts, please, statistics. (When we can't take truth, we feed on facts.) Well, if it's inoperable, the life expectancy is from nine months to two to five years. And those years would be a gradual

deterioration? Yes; but pain killers could make it painless

, Suddenly, instead of forty pounds of life, I confronted forty pounds of death. No one on earth can prepare you for the feeling. It sounds terrible to say it, but now that it is all over, I am grateful for having been allowed to experience that horrible, hopeless feeling, the worst moment of my life. A sudden vision of months of irreversible degeneration, slow dying, with neither her nor us understanding why. Dying is harder to bear than death, and the dying of a child infinitely harder than the dying of the old. I knew then what despair was. It is not a thought, not even a feeling. It exists not in the brain or even the heart but in the stomach. I tasted despair in the gut. My stomach suddenly turned to mud and iron. The round world swooped away, fell into the lightless abyss like a trillion-ton stone. It seemed to drop out of my guts. My mud-and-iron stomach was somehow identical with that world, dropping an infinite distance, becoming incalculably remote and utterly inaccessible. Both world and guts dropped away from my eyes, my head, my mind: the knowledge of the truth. The truth could not be both known and felt at the same time. I had to split in half. If the truth had to be felt with the iron-and-mud gut, the same truth could not be accepted by the clear, thin light of the mind. For about two minutes I knew death as a stranger as a desperate reaction to death as an enemy, I knew the protective shell of withdrawal, a sanity-saving retreat from unbearable truth. This can't possibly be really happening to us. It's a bad dream. I can wake up in a minute, and it will all have gone away. The real world can't possibly be like that; it would be too absurd. In that feeling, I am convinced, there is more than mere denial of death (though there is, of course, denial); there is also an affirmation. An affirmation that meaning and sense and goodness reign at the heart of reality, rather than absurdity. The "real world" didn't appear now as the heart of reality, as it usually does. Not that it was unreal, illusory; but that it was a surface, not the depths. There in the depths, at the bottom line, at the heart of all things, in the final analysis death and dying and doom and despair cannot be the truth, not the final truth. They are not illusions, but they are not truth either: they

beautiful child—

such a

what a shame.

are masks.

It is a quite unverifiable assurance to anyone else; but to the one who knows

it, it is beyond the need for verification. It is self-verifying. It is more than a wish, or even a hope; it is a prophetic fiat, an imperial absolute, a categorical imperative. For it is uttered by love. Love insists that contrary to appearances life holds the strings even of death. Our daughter may be dying; the affirmation does not insist that she is not as denial does. But it does insist that her dying is not her last word, the last truth. This affirmation does not feel at all like an illusion or a defense mechanism, a denial of the truth; but precisely like an affirmation of the truth, a genuine insight into objective reality. In the face of the visible triumph of death, it proclaims an invisible kingdom. The ground of this proclamation is not my desires or even my beliefs but my seeing: some deep inner eye that remained in the very center of my being when my head and my guts fell apart, and that kept me together. It was neither the head nor the guts that knew this, it was ME—center, heart, depth. Love comes from there; it was love that knew and affirmed her undying being. But my guts meanwhile wanted to defecate. A perfect symbol, though a grotesque one. The physical dying was like stool, a true thing but a thing to be exuded from the living self, from the perfect body: "Death, thou shalt die." Death must be like that: the perfect immortal body putting away the used-up waste product of the mortal body, the living flushing away the dead. But the dying body is there, and it is dying. Whether in two years or in ninety-two, it is dying. It makes no qualitative difference to the philosopher. But it makes a qualitative difference to the parent! Two years—in a flash, all

their gut-wrenching sorrow, unendurable yet endured, all the hopeless details of

a long and irreversible deterioration passed in my imagination. And as it did, a

piece of common sense assured me that there is a real reason why this can't happen to us. We are not saints or heroes. We are cowards. We can't take this, and you get only what you can take. God may take us to the brink; but He will not take us over it. He will not let us fall. Then the rational doubts chattered: won't He? Don't you see some go over the brink? And the deeper mind answered, Ah, but that is not the question. You have no assurances about anyone else, only yourself. Each has his own assurance because each has his own self and his own life. But, spoke the doubt, why couldn't He let you slip through His fingers? Because, triumphantly retorted the assurance, you are one of His fingers. Yes, death is a mother and a lover, death is God's loving touch. My mind did not doubt this; it knew. But my feelings were weak, vacillating and uncertain in their trust. And my guts remained utterly unredeemed; they threatened to pull my mind and feelings down with them into the abyss together with that trillion ton stone that was my guts' world. The assurance was as far from my guts as I was from that stone falling away into the abyss, too far for my reach ever again to touch it. "It" is not an it, it is you, my precious one, my baby. Where are you going? On what far, dark, and empty seas do you wander? Why can't I come with you? Where

am I without you, with this you-shaped emptiness in me instead? Which of us is nowhere? How far is that from home?


She was allowed to come home for a day or two before being hospitalized for the operation. It was like a prisoner's last meal. We took her shopping for toys, for pajamas for the hospital, for dozens of infinitely precious little things, as the thought constantly tortured us to dry tears: Is this her last this? Her

last that? We tried to make what might be her last normal day perfect. Today she can have whatever she wants. We know the books say this is wrong; but the books don't have a daughter who may be dying. Our other children don't understand why we're so preoccupied and silent on this vacationlike shopping day. They know of the operation, but not of the nearness to death. We buy them special treats too, of course, and we worry about them too. Did we do right by them? (The dying of one and the thoughts it gives rise to seem somehow to envelop all.) Did we put second things first and first things second? Did we disobey the fundamental ethical imperative; did we love things and use people instead of vice versa? Did we forget that the things that seem to our senses to change and grow and move so quickly—our children—are really the solid, eternal things, and that the things that seem solid and important—house and car and things—are really the ephemeral things, the mortal things? No, of course not; like all but the crazily wise, we habitually looked at the world inside out, upside down and backwards. The nearness of death is a harsh but effective teacher. And it teaches also a second lesson, not to mind but to heart: the infinite preciousness of life. When every little thing becomes perhaps the last, every little thing becomes a big thing. Why must we wait till death is near to see this? Walter de Ia Mare advises "Look thy last on all things lovely every hour." We thought, if this is the bad news we fear, we'll take her to Disneyland this summer, perhaps her last summer, certainly her last summer to travel semi-normally. Somehow we'll find the nonexistent money (death puts to death calculations). What a trip that would be: a thousand tearing, conflicting emotions, most of them without names. How raw the skin of our souls will be! A lot of psychic blood will be lost from our hearts; will any remain?


The next image impressed on my memory is her mother camped out on the floor of her hospital room, not leaving her daughter's side day or night for weeks, patiently (she is not a patient person) enduring all her grouchiness, fussiness, and cussedness because it might be her last. Every word, every grouch is infinitely precious. Not because it is good but because it is hers. For love demands to be with her. Not even happiness is more precious to love than withness. "Better unhappy with her than happy without her" are the words of love. It was easy and it was hard. The preciousness made it easy, necessary, inevitable. The pressure to act normal, not to break down, not to instill fear into her daughter, made it hard, very hard. The mother lion guards her injured cub. She will not relax her vigil until all is well, though the whole world may sneer and call her unreasonable and

overprotective. That is a judgment on the world, not on her. For she is enacting a mystery, a ritual that is larger and older than the world. Not only in her own name does she act, but also as representative for something transcendental, a mystery the human race has always felt and known until these times of uprootedness: Motherhood with a capital M, a metaphysical force of which human mothers are mere carriers. Her vocation speaks with authority—an absolute, and imperative, a divine revelation.


In her mother's arms outside the operating room, she fell asleep after a double dose of preliminary anaesthesia and double the expected time. We sang to her and spoke to her, as she drowsed off peacefully, of all the good things in her past and all the good things in her future. My voice cracked; when love and sorrow meet, the combustion cracks many things, including hearts and voices. I hope I didn't scare her. Finally, she slept and we gave her up to her surgeon, her

fate, and her God. Would this be the last time we would ever see her with hope? Would this be the last time we could see a twenty-year-old face behind her five-year-old face? Would this be the last time, even, we would see her alive? Operating tables aren't the safest places in the world, despite doctors' assurances. When her head finally fell back and her eyelids drooped, it seemed almost as if she had died to us right then and there, although of course our minds told us it was only the anaesthesia working as it was supposed to work. And when the anaesthesiologist gently lifted her stone-still form from her mother's arms where she had fallen asleep so trustingly and almost contentedly, it was like an offering, a ritual sacrifice. They wheeled her away on a table, and it seemed as if the Angel of Death had accepted the sacrifice. When the table turned the corner into the operating room and we could follow it no longer, we turned our last corner. We had done all we could do. Our work was over, except to believe and to pray. Our physical part played out, we were played out. We let go, collapsed in each other's arms, and wept wordlessly. One more scene etched unforgettably on the defenseless mind. The trusting child falling asleep—was it on the lap of Mother Life or Mother Death? The sleeping child—was it the sleep of healing or the sleep of dying? The taken-away child—was it just another step away from us, from her life, from her world, a step closer to death? The take-away scene looked like a little death. Everything is a little death, a step toward the one end awaiting us all. But must it be now? Now makes a qualitative difference. Ivan Ilyitch found that out. Is she so precious to Heaven that they can't wait for her? And what about us? Aren't we precious? Not too precious, I hope, not ready to be initiated into the greater mysteries of suffering yet. But she—the heavenly magnet seems to draw to itself the heavenly substance of her being, as if she were too heavenly to be on our dark earth for very long. All we can do is to beg for the gift to be returned. We now know three things:

whose gift it is, how infinitely precious it is, and what beggars we are.


No one ever told me how incredibly similar grief and joy feel. Both are tired,

numb, timeless, limbo feelings, a sheer state of "be-ing" with nothing added. When we received the news that she was alive, the tumor was benign, and had been completely removed, we just grinned for eight straight hours. We stared smilingly at her beautiful living form. It was perfect, absolutely perfect. It looked like a turkey, with puffy eyes, shaved hair, and all sorts of tubes stuffed into her; yet never has anyone ever looked so beautiful to me. Nothing more was needed, nothing could be added; she was perfect. It was like having another baby, a new life. How crazily close are the borders of heaven and hell on earth. From having lived on the rim of hell, thinking dead thoughts from a dead heart, I suddenly found myself closer to the rim of heaven than ever before. My child, whom I counted as dead, is alive again; the one who was lost is found. I shared the joy of the father of the prodigal son, of the shepherd finding the lost sheep, and perhaps even of God the Father at the resurrection of His Son. A remote but real beam of light from the heavenly sun. In the light of life-and-death, how far away the near little things of the day become, and how near the far, great things of the night! The black light that death shines onto life is a clear light, an enlightening light. The country of the dead, from whose borders we have just returned, dispenses a great grace, a gift of vision, a third eye, a dimension of depth, a metaphysical X-ray. Death is the deepest place, and it enables love to speak its word de profundis, from the depths, from the deepest place of all. It adds a basso profundo to love's soprano, and all things work together in ultimate harmony. Let us sing.

A Defense of Culture Wars by Peter Kreeft: A Call for Counterrevolution

What is the problem?

The problem is to "fight the good fight". Fight? What fight? Are we at war? Yes, we are at war. And if you aren't aware of that yet, the most important task this chapter can do for you is to alert you to that fact. The enemy is not people. The enemy is not humans, but dehumanization: the spectacular and unmistakable social, cultural, and above all moral decline and decay that our society has been suffering for decades.

A generation ago, the five most bothersome problems complained about in polled

American high schools were:

disrespect for property laziness; not doing homework

talking and not paying attention in class throwing spitballs leaving doors and windows open Does this sound like another world? It is. The same poll was retaken a few years ago. The five leading problems in those same high schools now are:

fear of violent death; guns and knives in school rape drugs abortion getting pregnant The streets are not safe. The schools are not safe. The society is not safe. Not safe physically and not safe morally. Parents today feel increasingly trapped and helpless. Control over their children's lives and happiness seems to have passed into the hands of an educational elite whose philosophy of life is radically different from that of the parents and is often a moral vacuum. At stake in this war is the next generation and the future of this country. It

is not a war between generations or races or political parties or religions or

economic classes. It is a war between good and evil.

If you love your children or your country, you must take sides in this war.

Neutrality is not an option in wartime. For "the only thing that is needed for the triumph of evil is that the good do nothing" (Edmund Burke). There is a wild divergence between the beliefs and values of ordinary people and those of the intellectual elite, or the teaching establishments in our society (journalism, public education, and entertainment). For instance, according to a poll by the secular Wirthlin Agency in Baltimore, while nearly all Americans (more than 90 percent) believe it is wrong to cheat sexually on your spouse, only about half of media people agree; while about half of all Americans attend religious services regularly, only 9 percent of media people do; while 72 percent (80 percent according to other polls) of Americans feel that abortion is somehow a bad thing and should have some restrictions placed on it

by law, only 3 percent of media people do. What is being ignored in our education and degraded in our entertainment are the moral values that every civilized society in history has believed in: things like self-discipline, character, loyalty, family, civility, courtesy, gentlemanliness, womanliness, and the very idea of objective truth and objective values. America was never a society of saints, but moral values were at least honored and taught. Even if they were "honored more in the breach than in the observance", they were still honored. But they are not honored any more. What can we do? There are answers. But to get from the problem to the answers, we must go through an analysis of the problem. Diagnosis before treatment. The first and most important point is that there is a desperately serious problem and a "culture war" going on. Next, we will target some of the specific "flash points" or battlefields in this moral war. Then, we will state some essential principles of a solution: the moral basics without which we cannot survive, the principles now being abandoned that we must recover. Finally, we will define a few concrete, practical steps we can take. If you agree that America isn't working and want to know why and how to help fix it, please read on. 1. WHAT ARE THE BATTLEFIELDS? a.) The Family This is not a good time for the family, the fundamental foundation and building block of all civilization. In the United States, half of all marriages break up, leaving permanent, devastating, and clearly documented scars on children's lives and behavior. Fundamental attitudes toward children are changing. In all previous stable societies, children were regarded as a blessing, and childlessness was regarded as a curse. Today, the attitude is often exactly the opposite. Child abuse, neglect, abandonment, and abortion all have their fundamental origin in this new "philosophy" that gives children rights only if those children are wanted. Family violence, teen violence, child abuse, and suicide are spiraling spectacularly. Streets, schools, and even homes are no longer safe. Killers now come in all ages, as young as ten. The feeling of hopelessness permeates many urban families and, increasingly, suburban ones too. Family breakdown is the one empirically observable, statistically documented, conclusively proven cause of all other social ills, even economic ills. We need family-friendly laws and government policies that encourage and reward families instead of those that presently often discourage and penalize them. Societies have survived with very bad political systems and very bad economies, but not without strong families. Families are to society what cells are to a body. The family is the only place most of us learn life's single most important lesson: unselfish love and lifelong commitment. I strongly recommend reading the most popular article the Atlantic Monthly ever published, "Dan Quayle Was Right", by Barbara Whitehead (April 1993). The

massive media barrage against Quayle's commonsensical remark that families without fathers, like Murphy Brown's, are not as desirable as families with fathers revealed far more about the media's hang-ups than about Quayle's. The traditional idea of the family—father, mother, and children, faithful and committed to each other for life—did not come from Dan Quayle or from fifties' TV sitcoms but from human nature and the God who designed it. We cannot arbitrarily redefine the family as any voluntary association, including that between two homosexuals. That definition reduces the family to the same kind of thing as a club or a political action committee or an affair. b.) Education The present school-age population is the first generation in American history that is less well educated than their parents (even though the amount of education keeps increasing). Quantity is displacing quality. The educational establishment consistently opposes tried-and-true recipes for educational success, like basics (the three Rs) or phonics or Great Books, and pushes experiments that fail, like the "look-say" reading method, condoms to reduce teenage pregnancy (they almost always have done exactly the opposite), and now "outcome-based education", which systematically penalizes excellence and grades students on "politically correct" feelings! The history textbooks have been rewritten to censor out nearly all mention of God and religion. In this revisionist history, the Pilgrims no longer came to America for religious freedom or gave thanks to God at Thanksgiving. Wherever the founding fathers are quoted, their frequent references to God and religion are clipped out. (See Paul Vitz, Censorship: Evidence of Bias in our Children's Textbooks.) Even long-standing texts have been sharply revised to appeal to the left-of-center educational establishment. The Wall Street Journal describes the new revision of the "American Nation" civics texts (first published in 1950) as "a big step backward, a case of 'dumbing down' and revisionist folly in search of a larger audience". In these textbooks, we meet Murphy Brown having a baby and learn that "many Americans were abandoning the idea that marriage was necessarily a lifelong commitment." The Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal to display the Ten Commandments in public schools. (For children might be religiously influenced; they might even obey them!) Yet the Ten Commandments are chiseled into the facade of the Supreme Court building where this ruling was made! It is not legal for a school to invoke God at school convocations. But blasphemy—taking God's name in vain—is protected. So it is legal to disobey the Second Commandment, but illegal to obey it. Bibles may not be used in any public school activity. But condoms are given out freely. The message is very obvious to all the kids; only the "experts" could miss that one. (By the way, Planned Parenthood itself estimates that among one hundred couples who use condoms, there will be fourteen pregnancies each year. With a nearly is-percent failure rate against pregnancy and a much higher failure rate against AIDS [whose virus is much smaller and has no "safe" period], condoms are about

as effective against AIDS as a twenty-four-chamber gun instead of a six-chamber gun when playing Russian roulette. Yet condoms are touted as "safe sex". That is how highly some educators think of your child's life.) John Stuart Mill wrote, "Education is too important to be left to the state." Public education is disappearing; state education is replacing it. A truly public school would be in the hands of the public, that is, the parents, first of all. But our public schools today are becoming more and more the ideological instruments of an educational elite who simply do not respect parents or their values. If you doubt this, just try getting some parents together to investigate and question your children's new sex-education program and note the reaction of the educational and media establishments. The bottom line is: Whose schools are they? c.) The Media America is an elitist society, a society of two cultures: ordinary people and "the experts". The vast majority of people still believe in:

family, fidelity (for without it families fail), morality (which supports fidelity), and religion (which supports morality). But our media establishment incessantly propagandizes against these four things, which they hate and fear. Even polls by the far-left Los Angeles Times in 1992 proved the existence of a massive media bias against traditional values, especially families, fidelity, morality, and religion. Journalists simply do not report publicity contrary to "their side". Any challenge to the Left is labeled "right-wing extremist" or "Religious Right", including positions always labeled moderate in the past. Major newspapers routinely falsify statistics. The number of deaths annually by illegal abortions was arbitrarily set at one hundred thousand, when the actual figure was more like two thousand. Numbers at pro-choice marches are doubled; numbers at pro-life marches are halved or ignored. Homosexuals were declared to constitute 10 percent of the population (that figure was constantly quoted), when the actual figure is 2 or 3 percent. Once exposed, the false figures are simply abandoned. Political candidates who are not "politically correct" are ignored until they say something compromising. Language is deliberately slanted as a matter of policy. Any idea at odds with media orthodoxy is labeled "right-wing extremist". (How often have you read the phrase "left-wing extremist"?) d.) Personal and Economic Freedom and Self-Determination One of the pervasive complaints of citizens today is that of helplessness. Life is not as good as it used to be, and there seems to be nothing anyone can do about it. Fewer families feel they can survive on a single income today. For many individuals, the work ethic no longer works: the willingness to work hard no longer guarantees a job or security. For many, America is no longer "the land of opportunity". The middle class feels crushed from both sides. Numbers and percentages on welfare keep increasing. There are more and more single mothers—who are finding it harder and harder to survive. Small independent

businesses are going broke, leaving the state or the country, or giving up their independence. We have less and less control over our income. The problem is not that we're not rich enough but that we're not free enough. Not free to walk our own streets or trust our institutions. People feel caught in some vague net called "the system" or "the way things are" or "modern society". The feeling is one of a loss of control. America is no longer felt to be our country. Our time with our children is continuously shrinking. Our sense of community is becoming more tenuous, based more on ideology and less on backyards. Parents feel impotence and loss of control over their own families. Ordinary people no longer seem to be controlling the life of this "democracy", which is moving in the direction of an arrogant oligarchy of the "experts" who are not elected by or accountable to the people at large. e.) Drugs and Violence Nothing can so quickly and tragically weaken and destroy a family as drugs. Yet only strong families can keep children from drugs. The same is true of violence:

violence weakens families, yet only strong families can deal with it. No one defends drugs or violence. But how can we win the war against them? Many "experts" are saying that the "war on drugs" is definitively lost. Some (on the Right as well as on the Left) are calling for the legalization of drugs, so your teenager can go to the corner store and buy drugs as easily as buying ice cream.

This capitulation is connected to the pervasive feeling of helplessness mentioned earlier, especially in our cities. Helplessness is both a cause and an effect of drug use. When you feel you have nothing to lose, why not do anything?

Violent criminals are turned out on the street to continue their violence. Criminals are commonly defended more conscientiously than their victims. Rape victims are made to suffer more than rapists. The criminal is seen as a victim, a patient rather than an agent. In other words, the prevailing legal philosophy is a simple, shocking denial of individual moral responsibility. Removing guns is a poor substitute for removing violent motivation. It changes physical circumstances but does not change minds. Our society's ability to tolerate violence is a symptom of a deep, underlying moral disease: moral insensitivity. We have become desensitized. Much of the violence and crime begins as early as cartoons, video games, and kids' toys, which teach force as the way to deal with conflict. We are not surprised when a teenager, who has typically seen fifteen thousand murders, rapes, and brutal beatings on TV and MTV and has heard this type of behavior encouraged and idealized on rap "music", turns to violence. We need to recapture moral outrage. Outrage is the only appropriate response to the outrageous. Mild disgust and disapproval are not enough. It's time to take back our cities, our streets, our schools, and our children. It's time to draw a line in the sand and say "Enough!" f.) Abortion Even people who identify themselves as "pro-choice", like President Clinton, say

they want to reduce the number of abortions. This means they, too, assume abortion is bad, for no one wants to reduce the number of something good. Surely the deliberate killing of unborn children is not something good! Most Americans will not deny that abortion is at least a moral tragedy. But it is more than that. It is a barbaric act that degrades a civilization. Polls repeatedly show that the majority of Americans are ignorant of the basic facts about abortion:

the stages of development of life in the womb: just what it is that is aborted; the biological and medical facts about just how an abortion is performed. You can see absolutely anything today on TV or MTV or HBO except the most frequent medical procedure in America. There is a total media censorship of the facts; the numbers: more than one and a half million abortions per year. One out of every three children conceived in the United States is aborted; the fact that Roe v. Wade did not restrict abortions, but any woman in America can get an abortion for any reason at all (including sex selection: wanting a son, therefore aborting a daughter) at any time whatsoever; the fact that abortion clinics are not legally subject to the same stringent standards of sanitation and safety as all other medical facilities; that the anti-abortion movement is much larger than the civil rights movement of the sixties ever was, in numbers of participants and numbers jailed, but the media simply black out these facts; that an overwhelming number of women who have had abortions say they regret it later and wish they had not done so; that post-abortion trauma is common and crushing; that most women who abort—by their own admission—do not believe their "fetus" was "only tissue" or "only potential life" but believe they killed their baby; and this sense of guilt haunts them for life if not dealt with. But this fact is also denied or censored by a total media blackout. Abortion splits the family in a literal and lethal way. It literally rips mother and child apart. And it desensitizes us in a gruesome way. We are starting to see the next stage in our "culture of death"—legalized suicide and euthanasia. The same principle that justifies killing at one end of life justifies it at the other: we will dispose of unwanted people. g.) The Sexuality of Children In some cities, half of the ten-year-olds are sexually active. Meanwhile, sex education programs that promote abstinence are banned by federal judges for being "religious" (even if they never mention God or religion)! Almost no one dares to talk about "sexual purity" any more. Yet it is a medical fact that the only really safe-sex guarantee against AIDS (that is, death) is abstinence before marriage and fidelity afterward. Have we come to the point where teaching virtue is illegal and only deadly vice is legally protected? We have come to the point where sexual virtue is no longer merely a matter of propriety or social acceptability; it is today a matter of physical and psychological survival, especially for the vastly increasing numbers of children who are sexually abused and for women who are abandoned, beaten, or raped by men

living the "sexual revolution". We need a counterrevolution. We do not need a return to "Victorianism". Nor do we need to be opposed to sex education in principle, but we do need to oppose the idea that sex be exempt from the moral rules we admit in all other areas of life—rules about not harming other people, keeping promises, and controlling our instincts. (What other instinct is ever given an absolute right to self-expression?) We need once again to agree with Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Confucius, and all stable and successful societies in history that sex belongs with marriage, monogamy, and fidelity; that sex is for life, not just for fun; that the taming of the sex drive and harnessing it to the family are a necessary condition for social stability and long-term human happiness. The alternative is the chaos we see around us, nearly all directly traceable to family breakdown and the "sexual revolution", that is, sex for exploitation and the "liberal" hypocrisy that forces all who can't afford private schools to send their children to state schools to be systematically seduced into losing their morals. Too many modern educators see the sexuality of children as a right and parents as impediments to children enjoying that right. Moreover, they zealously believe that the state must supersede parents in sensitizing children to sexual practices and behaviors. Parents don't realize the extent to which this has become an ideological battle. Parents don't know how bad things have gotten in the schools because school officials don't allow them to find out. And the media will not print the pornography that is often taught under the heading of "sex education" even when discovered and documented by parents. 2. MORAL PRINCIPLES AND SOCIETY Solomon said, "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Prov 29:18). What is most lacking today is a good vision of the good life. If we had a morally sane philosophy of life, we could see how all our social ills are linked together by the fundamental flaw of a skeptical, cynical, selfish, and materialistic world-and-life-view. For instance, the common principle behind child abuse, violent crime, and abortion is the principle of responding to problems by violence. Whether in the home, on the streets, or in the womb, violence is violence. The common principle behind absentee fathers, the breakdown of families, the 50-percent divorce rate, the spread of AIDS, teenage abortions, and giving kids condoms as a cure-all is the principle that unrestricted sex is our one absolute right, regardless of human consequences. The philosophy that sees sex as a commodity to be spent at will really confuses sex with money. The common principle behind abortion, the distribution of condoms, and the release of rapists is a denial of individual moral responsibility. Abortion means refusing to be responsible for your unborn children. Distributing condoms means young people are not expected to be responsible for their sexual behavior—they can say No to smoking or drugs but not to sex. And releasing rapists means seeing "society", not criminals, as responsible for crime. It is wrong to be judgmental as regards persons, but it is equally wrong to refuse to judge actions. Otherwise, such a moral relativism is an infallible

prescription for social chaos. We must stand for all human beings, but we must stand against dehumanizing deeds. To make a better society, we need better policies and plans, but these in turn must be based on better principles. Here is a set of very old principles that has worked in the past. Here is a set of ten statements that summarize what Jews, Christians, and Muslims—and rational pagans like Socrates, Aristotle, and Cicero—have always believed about morality. They are not a Ten Commandments, a specific set of laws. They are about the status of moral laws. The specific content of moral law is a matter of wide agreement between nearly all cultures and all religions. Justice, charity, self-control, wisdom, courage, loyalty, honesty, and responsibility are universally praised; and injustice, hatred, violence, foolishness, cowardice, betrayal, lying, lust, greed, and irresponsibility are universally blamed—at least they have been until recently. (After all, lust, greed, and irresponsibility sell products very effectively. An addict has little sales resistance.) The following statements about morality would be enthusiastically embraced by Moses, Solomon, Jesus, Muhammad, Socrates, Confucius, Ghandi, and Buddha, as well as by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. Morality is necessary for society to survive. The alternative is barbarism, decadence, and chaos. Morality is not sectarian (religiously) or partisan (politically). It is both universally known and universally binding. We all know in our hearts what good and evil are, and we are all responsible for living the way we know we ought to live. Morality is natural, or based on human nature. There is a "Natural (moral) Law". Morality is discovered, like stars, not invented, like games. It is not man-made, arbitrary, and changeable. Its laws are intrinsic to human nature, as the laws of hygiene are to the nature of the body or the laws of physics are to the nature of matter. Morality is liberating, not repressive. For it is a set of directions given for the purpose of making our human nature flourish and helping us to reach our full potential. A law like "don't drink poison" is not repressive to your health. Poison is. Morality takes effort. Like love, morality is work, not feeling. It is a fight against the forces of evil in all of us. Today it has become a fight against forces in our culture. Morality gives meaning and purpose and direction to life. It is a road map. Without a map, we wander aimlessly, hopelessly. Morality gives human beings dignity. Its basis is the intrinsic value of the human person. It commands us to love people and use things, not use people and love things. People are ends, things are means. Morality is reasonable. It is not blind but intelligent. It perceives a real difference between good and bad actions and lifestyles. It "discriminates". (Discrimination between people as good or bad may be foolish, but

discrimination between acts as good or bad is simply moral sanity.) We are a nation born in a struggle for freedom, so we continue to value personal freedom very highly, and rightly so. But we cannot have freedom without truth.


surgeon cannot free you from a disease without light to operate by, accurate


rays, and a knowledge of anatomy. Moral skepticism is the death of freedom.

Morality is not simply about "freedoms" and "rights" but about duties and responsibilities. Victor Frankl says the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast should be completed by a Statue of Responsibility on the West. Morality is not legalistic. Its essence is not a set of rules but a vision of the good life and the good person; not only laws but also character. No set of rules will work without personal virtues. Morality is about how we can be real heroes. It's about how to avoid flunking Life despite getting A's in all your courses. 3. WHAT CAN WE DO?

What can we do to win this war? Much. We can take back our country and our families. We are the majority. There is no reason we must sit back and be cowed by the minority of establishment "experts". We can turn the tide of decadence in America. How? Two things are needed: attitudes and actions. Actions alone are not enough; attitudes come first. Doing all the right things with the wrong attitude is self-destructive. So the first thing is to take stock of our attitudes. For the spirit in which we act will stamp itself on all our actions and their results. We must not despair. Social decay is not inevitable. We are not machines; we make machines and fix them. We can fix America for the same reason we made it:

because we are free human beings, not helpless machines. And we can fix it by the same moral principles by which we designed it more than three centuries ago. We must believe that the war can be won. We are not pessimists. The tide may already be turning. Ordinary people are now coming to the point of saying "Enough!" For instance, "mere" parents in New York successfully stopped the largest public school bureaucracy in America from imposing its new curriculum

of propaganda for sodomy on first-graders ("Daddy's [Gay] Roommate" and

"Heather Has Two [Lesbian] Mommies"), despite school board outrage at parental "interference". We must stop trusting the "experts". America is not a nation of experts, by the experts, and for the experts; it is a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. Our children are not some educator's guinea pigs. Our money does not belong first to the state. We work for ourselves and our families, not for the System or the Party. We must resolve, by a deliberate decision of mind and will, to return control to the people, where it belongs. We must love, not hate. Even if hurt and frustrated, we must not hate, because hate makes only more frustration and hurt. Love alone heals. We must love our country, which is hurting. We must love our friends and families, who are hurting. That must be our motive for action. If it is, we will

win; if it is not, we will lose. What action? Individuals and families should pick one specific area they care about most, then get concretely involved in it. Here are some basic ways to do it:

Become informed. Find out more about what's going on in your schools, in your town, and in your country. In a democracy, those who are uninformed are powerless. Become involved. Join support organizations—or start one. join the front lines. Participate in positive social change. Make it happen! It's not up to the state to make a society what it should be, it's up to the people. Become vocal. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Write letters to your newspaper. Contribute to newsletters and church bulletins. For any movement, the pen is the first weapon. Set an example. Behave in a way that the world can follow. Give what you can of yourself to a good organization or movement that is "fighting the good fight". You can give two precious things: your money and your time. Time for letter writing, or envelope stuffing and addressing, time for organizing and recruiting, or simply time for "talking up" the organization to many friends. It will take sacrifice and suffering. It will mean being sneered at. For some, it may mean being sued, perhaps even jailed, for doing good deeds. Pray. Prayer is the most powerful force in the universe. Pray about this sincerely, not just as a nice little psychological trick to make yourself feel good, but to ask God for real power and guidance and (above all) goodness so that you and your society can follow the scriptural command to "Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." Ask God to lead you to find what, specifically, you can do and whom you can pray for. "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. " It's up to us.

For more on this see How to Win the Culture War by Intervarsity Press. Also see the audio lecture:

How to Win the Culture War

A Refutation of Moral Relativism [transcription] by Peter Kreeft

The text of the Relativism audio lecture Table of ContentsAudio Reference


1. Argument for Relativism: Psychological06:37

2. Argument for Relativism: Cultural09:35

3. Argument for Relativism: Social Conditioning17:02

4. Argument for Relativism: Freedom19:24

5. Argument for Relativism: Tolerance23:31

6. Argument for Relativism: Situations29:06

7. Argument for Absolutism: Consequences33:52

8. Argument for Absolutism: Tradition36:21

9. Argument for Absolutism: Moral Experience38:00

10. Argument for Absolutism: Ad Hominem40:54

11. Argument for Absolutism: Moral Language42:13

Postscript: Cause and Cure44:05

Introduction Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day defined a good society as one that makes it easy for you to be good. Correlatively, a free society is one that makes it easy to be free. To be free, and to live freely, is to live spiritually, because only spirit is free—matter is not. To live spiritually is to live morally. The two essential properties of spirit that distinguish it from matter are intellect and will—the capacity for knowledge and moral choice. The ideals of truth and goodness. The most radical threat to living morally today is the loss of moral principles.

Relativism is the single most important issue of our age

Moral practice has always been difficult for fallen humanity, but at least there was always the lighthouse of moral principles, no matter how stormy the sea of moral practice got. But today, with the majority of our mind-molders, in formal education, or informal education—that is, media—the light is gone. Morality is a fog of feelings. That is why to them, as Chesterton said, "Morality is always dreadfully complicated to a man who has lost all his principles." Principles mean moral absolutes. Unchanging rocks beneath the changing waves of feelings and practices. Moral relativism is a philosophy that denies moral absolutes. That thought to me is the prime suspect—public enemy number one. The philosophy that has extinguished the light in the minds of our teachers, and then their students, and eventually, if not reversed, will extinguish our whole

civilization. Therefore, I want not just to present a strong case against moral relativism, but to refute it, to unmask it, to strip it naked, to humiliate it, to shame it, to give it the wallop it deserves, as they say in Texas, America's good neighbor to the south. How important is this issue? After all, it's just philosophy, and philosophy is just ideas. But ideas have consequences. Sometimes these consequences are as momentous as a holocaust, or a Hiroshima. Sometimes even more momentous. Philosophy is just thought, but sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny. This is just as true for societies as it is for individuals. How important is the issue? The issue of moral relativism is merely the single most important issue of our age, for no society in all of human history has ever survived without rejecting the philosophy that I am about to refute. There has never been a society of relativists. Therefore, our society will do one of three things: either disprove one of the most universally established laws of all history; or repent of its relativism and survive; or persist in its relativism and perish. How important is the issue? C.S. Lewis says, in The Poison of Subjectivism, that relativism "will certainly end our species and damn our souls." Please remember that Oxonians are not given to exaggeration. Why does he say "damn our souls?" Because Lewis is a Christian, and he does not disagree with the fundamental teaching of his master, Christ, and all the prophets in the Jewish tradition, that salvation presupposes repentance, and repentance presupposes an objectively real moral law. Moral relativism eliminates that law, thus trivializes repentance, thus imperils salvation.

Ideas have consequences

Why does he say, "end our species," and not just modern Western civilization? Because the entire human species is becoming increasingly Westernized and relativized. It is ironic that America, the primary source of relativism in the world today, is also the world's most religious nation. This is ironic because religion is to relativism what Dr. Van Helsing is to Count Dracula. Within America, the strongest opposition to relativism comes from the churches. Yet a still further irony, according to the most recent polls, Catholics are as relativistic, both in behavior and in belief, as non-Catholics. Sixty-two percent of Evangelicals say they disbelieve in any absolute or unchanging truths, and American Jews are significantly more relativistic and more secular than Gentiles. Only Orthodox Jews, the Eastern Orthodox, and Fundamentalists seem to be resisting the culture, but not by converting it, but by withdrawing from it. And that includes most Muslims, except for the tiny minority who terrorize it. When Pat Buchanan told us in 1992 that we were in a culture war, all the media laughed, sneered, and barked at him. Today, everyone knows he was right, and the culture war is most essentially about this issue. We must define our terms when we begin. Moral relativism usually includes three claims: That morality is first of all changeable; secondly, subjective; and

third, individual. That it is relative first to changing times; you can't turn back the clock. Secondly, to what we subjectively think or feel; there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so. And thirdly, to individuals;

different strokes for different folks. Moral absolutism claims that there are moral principles that are unchangeable, objective, and universal. We should examine the arguments for moral relativism first, and refute them, to clear the way for the arguments against it.So first, I will refute each of the common arguments for relativism, and then relativism itself.

1. Argument for Relativism: Psychological

The first argument is psychological. In practice, psychological reasons—that is, psychological becauses, subjective personal motives—are usually a more powerful source of moral relativism than logical becauses—that is, objective logical arguments. So we should ask, what is the main motive for preferring relativism? Since our deepest desire is for happiness, and since fears correspond to desires, it is probably the fear that moral absolutism would make us unhappy by making us feel guilty. So we call moral absolutism unloving, or uncompassionate. Turned into argument, it looks like this: Good morality has good consequences, bad morality has bad consequences. Feelings of unhappiness and guilt are bad consequences, while feelings of happiness and self-esteem are good consequences. Moral absolutism produces the bad feelings of guilt and unhappiness, while moral relativism produces the good feelings of self-esteem and happiness. Therefore, moral absolutism is bad, and moral relativism is good.

Moral laws maximize happiness

The answer to this argument is first of all that absolute moral law exists not

to minimize, but to maximize human happiness, and therefore it is maximally

loving and compassionate, like labels, or roadmaps. You're not happy if you eat poison or drive off a cliff. But what about guilt? Removing moral absolutes does indeed remove the sense of guilt, and this sense obviously does not make you happy in the short run. But guilt, like physical pain, may be necessary to avoid greater unhappiness in the long run, if it is realistic, that is, in tune with reality and not pathological. So the question is, does reality include objective

moral laws? If it does not, guilt is an experience as pointless as paranoia. But

if it does, it is as proper as pain, and for a similar reason: to prevent harm.

Guilt is a warning in the soul, analogous to pain as a warning in the body. The relativist's argument also has a question-begging assumption. It assumes that feelings are the standard for judging morality. But the claim in traditional morality is exactly the opposite: that morality is the standard for judging feelings. Finally, if the argument from self-esteem versus guilt is correct, it logically follows that if rapists, cannibalists, terrorists, or

tyrants feel self-esteem, they are better persons than if they feel guilty. That Hitler's problem was a lack of self-confidence. Some ideas are beyond the need for refutation, except in universities.

2. Argument for Relativism: Cultural Influence

A second argument for relativism is the argument from cultural relativism. This

argument seems impregnable. The claim is that anthropologists and sociologists have discovered moral relativism to be not a theory but an empirical fact. Different cultures and societies, like different individuals, simply do, in fact, have very different moral values. In Eskimo culture, and in Holland, killing old people is right. In America, east of Oregon, it's wrong. In contemporary culture, fornication is right; in Christian cultures, it's wrong, and so forth. Descartes noted in A Discourse On Method that "there is no idea so strange that some philosopher has not seriously taught it." Similarly, there is no practice so strange that some society has not legitimized it; for instance, genocide, or cannibalism. Or, so innocent that some group has not forbidden it; for instance, entering a temple with a hat on, or without one. So anyone who thinks values are not relative to cultures is simply ignorant of the facts, so goes the argument.

It is not always right to obey the culture

To see the logical fallacy in this apparently impregnable argument, we need to look at its unspoken assumption—which is that moral rightness is a matter of obedience to cultural values. That it is right to obey your culture's values. Always. Only if we combine that hidden premise with the stated premise—that values differ with cultures—can we get to the conclusion that moral rightness differs with cultures. That what is wrong in one culture is right in another. But surely, this hidden premise begs the question. It presupposes the very moral relativism it is supposed to prove. The absolutist denies that it is always right to obey your culture's values. He has a trans-cultural standard by which he can criticize a whole culture's values. That is why he could be a progressive and a radical, while the relativist can only be a status-quo conservative, having no higher standard than his culture. My country, right or wrong. Only massive, media, big-lie propaganda could so confuse people's minds that they spontaneously think the opposite. But in fact it is only the believer in the old-fashioned natural moral law who could be a social radical and a progressive. He alone can say to a Hitler, or a Saddam Hussein, "You and your whole social order are wrong and wicked and deserve to be destroyed." The relativist could only say, "Different strokes for different folks, and I happen to hate your strokes and prefer mine, that's all."

We must distinguish subjective value opinions from objective values

The second logical weakness of the argument about cultural relativism is its equivocation on the term "values." The moral absolutist distinguishes subjective opinions about values from objectively true values. Just as he distinguishes objective truth from subjective opinions about God, or about life after death, or about happiness, or about numbers, or about beauty, just to take 5 other non-empirical things. It may be difficult, or even impossible, to prove these things, or to attain certainty about them, or even to know them at all. But that

does not mean they are unreal. Even if these things could not be known, it does not follow that they are unreal. And even if they could not be known with certainty, it does not follow that they could not be known at all by right opinion. And even if they could not be proved, it does not follow that they could not be known with certainty. And even if they could not be proved by the scientific method, it does not follow that they cannot be proved at all. They could be real, even if unknown; known, even if not certainly known; certainly known, even if not proved; and proved, even if not scientifically proved. The basic equivocation in the cultural relativist's argument is between values and value opinions. Different cultures may have different opinions about what is morally valuable, just as they may have different opinions about what happens after death. But this does not entail the conclusion that what is really right in one culture is really wrong in another, any more than different opinions about life after death entails the conclusion that different things really happen after death, depending on cultural beliefs. Just because I may believe there is no Hell does not prove that there is none and that I will not go there. If it did, a simple and infallible way of salvation would be simply to stop believing in Hell. Similarly, just because a good Nazi thinks genocide is right does not prove it is, unless there is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so. But that is the relativist's conclusion. It cannot also be his premise without begging the question.

Cultures do not differ totally

There is still another error in the cultural relativist's argument. It seems that just about everything that can possibly go wrong with an argument goes wrong with this one. The argument from facts doesn't even have its facts right. Cultures do not, in fact, differ totally about values, even if the term values is taken to mean merely value opinions. No culture has ever existed which believed and taught what Nietzsche called for: a transvaluation of all values. There have been differences in emphasis, for instance, our ancestors valued courage more than we do, while we value compassion more than they did. But there has never been anything like the relativism of opinions about values that the relativist teaches as factual history. Just imagine what that would be like. Try to imagine a society where justice, honesty, courage, wisdom, hope, and self-control were deemed morally evil. And unrestricted selfishness, cowardice, lying, betrayal, addiction, and despair were deemed morally good. Such a society is never found on Earth. If it exists anywhere, it is only in Hell and its colonies. Only Satan and his worshippers say "evil be thou my good." There are indeed important disagreements about values between cultures. But beneath about all disagreements about lesser values, there always lies an agreement about more basic ones. Beneath all disagreements about applying values to situations—for instance, should we have capital punishment or not—always lies agreement about values—for instance, murder is evil since human life is good. Moral disagreements between cultures as well as between individuals would be impossible unless there were some deeper

moral agreements, some common moral premises. Moral values are to a culture's laws something like what concepts are to words. When you visit a foreign country, you experience initial shock. The language sounds totally different.

But then beneath the different words you find common concepts. And this is what makes translation from one language to another possible. Analogously, beneath different social laws, we find common human moral laws. We find similar morals, beneath different mores. The moral agreement among Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Socrates, Solomon, Jesus, Cicero, Mohammad, Zoraster, and Hammurabbi is far greater than their moral differences.

3. Argument for Relativism: Social Conditioning

A third argument for relativism is similar to the second, but is more

psychological than anthropological. This argument is also supposedly based on scientifically verifiable fact. The fact is that society conditions values in us. If we had been brought up in a Hindu society, we would have had Hindu values. The origin of values thus seems to be human minds themselves, parents and teachers, rather than something objective to human minds. And what comes from human subjects is, of course, subjective, like the rules of baseball, even though they may be public and universally agreed to. This argument, like the previous one, also confuses values with value opinions. Perhaps society conditions value opinions in us, but that does not mean society conditions values in us, unless values are nothing but value opinions, which is precisely the point at issue, the conclusion. So the argument again begs the question.

Society conditions opinions, but not objective values

There is also a false assumption in this argument. The assumption is that whatever we learn from society must be subjective. That is not true. We learn the rules of baseball from society, but we also learn the rules of multiplication. The rules of baseball are subjective and manmade. The rules of multiplication are not. Of course, the language systems in which we express any

rules are always manmade. But the human mind creates, rather than discovers, the rules of baseball, but the mind discovers, rather than creates, the rules of multiplication. So the fact that we learn any given law or value from our society does not prove that it is subjective. Finally, even the express premise

of this argument is not fully true. Not all value opinions are the result of

social conditioning. For if they were, then there could be no non-conformity to

society based on moral values. There could only be rebellions of force, rather than principle. But, in fact, there are many principle non-conformists. These people did not derive their values wholly from their society, since they disagree with their society about values. So the existence of moral

non-conformists is empirical proof of the presence of some trans-social origin




Argument for Relativism: Freedom


fourth argument is that moral relativism alone guarantees freedom, while moral

absolutism threatens freedom. People often wonder how they can be truly free if

they are not free to create their own values. Indeed, our own Supreme Court has declared that we have a fundamental right to define the meaning of existence. This is either the most fundamental of all rights if it is right, or the most fundamental of all follies if it is wrong. This is either the wisest or the stupidest thing the court has ever writ. This was the casing decision. Please remember what Casey did in Casey At The Bat.

Freedom cannot create values, because freedom presupposes objective values

The most effective reply to this argument is often an "ad hominem." Say to the person who demands the right to be free to create his own values that you too demand that right. And that the value system that you choose to create is one in which his opinions have no value at all. Or, a system in which you are God, and rightly demand total obedience from everyone else. He will quickly protest in the name of truth and justice, thus showing that he really does believe in these two objective values after all. If he does not do this, if he protests merely in the name of his alternative value system, which he has created, then his protest against your selfishness and megalomania is no better than your protest against his justice and truth. And then the argument can only come down to brute force. And that is hardly a situation that guarantees freedom.

A second refutation of the relativist's argument from freedom is that freedom

cannot create values, because freedom presupposes values. Why does freedom presuppose values? Well, first because the relativist's argument that relativism

guarantees freedom must assume freedom is really valuable, thus assuming at least that one objective value. Second, if freedom is really good, it must be freedom from something really bad, thus assuming some objective good and bad. And third, the advocate of freedom will almost always insist that freedom be granted to all, not just some, thus presupposing the real value of equality, or the Golden Rule. But the simplest refutation of the argument about freedom is experience. Experience teaches us that we are free to create alternative mores, like socially acceptable rules for speech, or clothing, or eating, or driving. But it also teaches us that we are not, in fact, free to create alternative morals. Like making murder, or rape, or treason right. Or making charity or justice

wrong. We can no more create a new fundamental moral value than we can create a new primary color, or a new arithmetic, or a new universe. Never happened, never will. And if we could, if we could create new values, they would no longer be moral values. They would be just arbitrarily invented rules of the game. We would not feel bound in conscience by them, or guilty when we transgressed them.

If we were free to create "Thou shalt murder" or "Thou shalt not murder" as we

are free to create "Thou shalt play nine innings" or "Thou shalt play only six innings," then we would feel no more guilty about murder than about playing six innings. As a matter of fact, we all do feel bound by some fundamental moral values, like justice, the Golden Rule. We experience our freedom of will to choose to obey or

disobey them, but we also experience our lack of freedom to change them into their opposites. We cannot creatively make hate good, or love evil. Try it, you just can't do it. All you can do is refuse the whole moral order. You cannot make another one. You can choose to rape, but you cannot experience a moral obligation to rape. 5. Argument for Relativism: Tolerance A fifth argument, equally common today, is that moral relativism is tolerant, while absolutism is intolerant. Tolerance is one of the few non-controversial values today. Nearly everyone in our society accepts it. So it is a powerful selling point for any theory or practice that can claim it. What of relativism's claim to tolerance? Well, I see no less than eight fallacies in this popular argument. First, let us be clear what we mean by tolerance. Tolerance is a quality of people, not of ideas. Ideas can be confused, or fuzzy, or ill defined, but that does not make them tolerant, or intolerant, any more than clarity or exactness could make them intolerant. If a carpenter tolerates 3/16 of an inch deviation from plane, he is three times more tolerant than one who tolerates only 1/16 of an inch, but he is no less clear. One teacher may tolerate no dissent from his fuzzy and ill-defined views—a Marxist, let's say—while another, say Socrates, may tolerate much dissent from his clearly defined views. Second, the relativist's claim is that absolutism, belief in universal, objective, and unchanging moral laws, fosters intolerance of alternative views. But in the sciences, nothing like this has been the case. The sciences have certainly benefited and progressed remarkably because of tolerance of diverse and heretical views. Yet science is not about subjective truths, but about objective truths. Therefore, objectivism does not necessarily cause intolerance. Third, the relativist may further argue that absolutes are hard and unyielding and therefore the defender of them will also be hard and unyielding. But this is another non-sequitor. One may teach hard facts in a soft way, or soft opinions in a hard way. Fourth, the simplest refutation of the tolerance argument is its very premise. It assumes that tolerance is really, objectively, universally, absolutely good. If the relativist replied that he is not presupposing the objective value of tolerance, then all he is doing is demanding the imposition of his subjective personal preference for tolerance. That is surely more intolerant than the appeal to an objective, universal, impersonal, moral law. If no moral values are absolute, neither is tolerance. The absolutist can take tolerance far more seriously than the relativist. It is absolutism, not relativism, that fosters tolerance. Fifth fallacy: It is relativism that fosters intolerance. Why not be intolerant? He has no answer to this. Because tolerance feels better? Or because it is the popular consensus? Well suppose it no longer feels better. Suppose it ceases to be popular. The relativist can appeal to no moral law as a dam against the flood of intolerance. We desperately need such a dam,

because societies, like individuals, are fickle and fallen. What else will deter a humane and humanistic Germany from turning to an inhumane, Nazi philosophy of racial superiority? Or, a now-tolerant America from turning to a future intolerance against any group it decides to disenfranchise. It is unborn babies today, born babies tomorrow. Homophobes today, perhaps homosexuals tomorrow. The same absolutism that homosexuals usually fear because it is not tolerant of their behavior is their only secure protection against intolerance of their persons. Sixth fallacy. Examination of the essential meaning of the concept of tolerance reveals a presupposition of moral objectivism, for we do not tolerate goods. We only tolerate evils in order to prevent worse evils. The patient will tolerate the nausea brought on by chemotherapy in order to prevent death by cancer. And a society will tolerate bad things like smoking in order to preserve good things like privacy and freedom. Seventh, the advocate of tolerance faces a dilemma when it comes to cross-cultural tolerance. Most cultures throughout history have not put a high value on tolerance. In fact, some have even thought it a moral weakness. Should we tolerate this intolerance? If so, if we should tolerate intolerance, then the tolerance objectivist had better stop bad-mouthing the Spanish Inquisition. But if we should not tolerate intolerance, why not? Because tolerance is really good, and the Inquisition was really evil? In that case, we are presupposing a universal and objective trans-cultural value. What if instead, he says it is only because of our consensus for tolerance? But his history's consensus is against it. Why impose on ours? Is that not culturally intolerant? Eighth, finally, there is a logical non-sequitor in the relativist argument too. Even if the belief in absolute moral values did cause intolerance, it does not follow that such values are not real. The belief that the cop on the beat is sleeping may cause a mugger to be intolerant to his victims, but it does not follow that the cop is not asleep. Thus, there are no less than eight weaknesses in the tolerance argument. 6. Argument for Relativism: Situationalism A sixth and final argument for relativism is that situations are so diverse and complex that is seems unreasonable and unrealistic to hold them to universal moral norms. Even killing can be good if war is necessary for peace. Even theft can be good if you steal a weapon from a madman. Even lying can be good if you're a Dutchman lying to the Nazis about where you're hiding the Jews. The argument is essentially this: Morality is determined by situations, and situations are relative; therefore, morality is relative. A closely related argument can be considered together with this one that morality is relative because it is determined by motive. We all blame someone for trying to murder another, even though the deed is not successfully accomplished, simply because its motive is bad. But we do not hold someone morally guilty of murder for accidentally killing another. For instance, like giving sugary candy to a child he has no way of knowing is seriously diabetic. So the argument is essentially that morality is determined by motive, and motive is subjective, therefore

morality is subjective.

Morality is partly, but not wholly, determined by situations

So both the situationist and the motivationist conclude against moral absolutes. The situationist because he finds all morality relative to the situation, the motivationist because he finds all morality relative to the motive. We reply with a common-sense distinction. Morality is indeed conditioned, or partly determined, by both situations and motives, but it is not wholly determined by situations or motives. Traditional common sense morality involves three moral determinants, three factors that influence whether a specific act is morally good or bad. The nature of the act itself, the situation, and the motive. Or, what you do; when, where, and how you do it; and why you do it. It is true that doing the right thing in the wrong situation, or for the wrong motive, is not

good. Making love to your wife is a good deed, but doing so when it is medically dangerous is not. The deed is good, but not in that situation. Giving money to the poor is a good deed, but doing it just to show off is not. The deed is good, but the motive is not. However, there must first be a deed before it can be qualified by subjective motives or relative situations, and that is surely a morally relevant factor too. The good life is like a good work of art. A good work of art requires all its essential elements to be good. For instance, a good story must have a good plot, and good characters, and a good theme. So a good life requires you do the right thing, the act itself; and have a right reason or motive; and that you do

it in the right way, the situation. Furthermore, situations, though relative,

are objective, not subjective. And motives, though subjective, come under moral absolutes. They can be recognized as intrinsically and universally good or evil. The will to help is always good, the will to harm is always evil. So even situationism is an objective morality, and even motivationism or subjectivism is

a universal morality.

The fact that the same principles must be applied differently to different

situations presupposes the validity of those principles. Moral absolutists need not be absolutistic about applications to situations. They can be flexible. But

a flexible application of the standard presupposes not just a standard, but a

rigid standard. If the standard is as flexible as the situation it is no standard at all. If the yardstick with which to measure the length of a twisting alligator is as twisting as the alligator, you cannot measure with it. Yardsticks have to be rigid. And moral absolutists need not be judgmental about motives, only about deeds. When Jesus said, "Judge not that ye not be judged," he surely meant "Do not claim to judge hearts and motives, which only God can know." He certainly did not mean, "Do not claim to judge deeds. Do not morally discriminate bullying from defending, killing from healing, robbery from charity." In fact, it is only the moral absolutist, and not the relativist, who can condemn judgmentalism of motive, since he alone can condemn intolerance. The relativist can condemn only moral absolutism.

But merely refuting the most popular arguments for relativism does not refute relativism itself. We need positive arguments for absolutism as well. Here are five simple ones.

7. Argument for Absolutism: Consequences

First the pragmatic argument from consequences. If the relativist argues against absolutism from its supposed consequences of intolerance, we can argue against relativism from its real consequences. Consequences are, at least, a relative

indicator. They are clues. Good morality should have good consequences, and bad morality should have bad ones. Well, it's exceedingly obvious that the main consequence of moral relativism is the removal of moral deterrents. Just as the consequences of "do the right thing" are doing the right thing, so the consequences of "if it feels good, do it" are doing whatever feels good. Takes no PhD to see that. In fact, it takes a PhD to miss it.

Moral societies last

All immoral deeds and attitudes, with the possible exception of envy feel good. That's the main reason we do them. If sin didn't seem like fun, we'd all be saints. Relativism has never produced a saint. That is the pragmatic refutation of relativists. The same goes for societies. Relativism has never produced a good society, only a bad one. Compare the stability, longevity, and happiness of societies founded on the principles of moral relativists like Mussolini, and Mau Tse Tung, with societies founded on the principles of moral absolutists like Moses and Confucius. A society of moral relativists usually lasts one generation. Hitler's thousand-year Reich lasted not even that long. I think the following quotation should be sent to the U.S. Supreme Court, the ACLU, the National Teacher's Association, Hollywood, and all network TV executives:

Everything I have said and done is these last years is relativism, by intuition. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories, and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective immortal truth,

then there is nothing more relativistic than fascism.

8. Argument for Absolutism: Tradition

Second, the argument from tradition. This argument should appeal to egalitarians

who argue against absolutism because they think it is somehow connected with snobbery. It is exactly the opposite. Absolutism is traditional morality, and tradition is egalitarianism extended into history. Chesterton called it "the democracy of the dead, the extension of the franchise to that most powerless of

—Benito Mussolini

classes, those disenfranchised not by accident of birth but by accident of death. Tradition counters a small and arrogant oligarchy of the living, those who just happen to be walking around the planet today.

Absolutism is the norm in human history

To be a relativist, you must be a snob, at least on this centrally important issue. For you stand in a tiny minority, almost totally concentrated in one culture: the modern west; that is, white, democratic, industrialized, urbanized, university-educated, secularized, apostate, post-Christian society. To be a relativist, you must believe that nearly all human beings in history have ordered their lives by an illusion. Even societies like ours that are dominated by relativistic experts' popular opinion still tends to moral absolutism. Like the Communists, relativists pretend to be the party of the people, while in fact scorning the peoples' philosophy. In fact, for a generation now, a minority of relativistic elitists who have gained the power of the media have been relentlessly imposing their elitist relativism on popular opinion by accusing popular opinion—that is, traditional morality—of elitism. 9. Argument for Absolutism: Moral Experience Third, there is the argument from moral experience. This is the simplest and, I think, strongest argument for moral absolutism. In fact, it is so strong that it seems like an unnatural strain to put it into the form of an argument at all—it is more like primary data. The first and foundational moral experience is always absolutistic. Only later in the life of the individual or the society does sophistication sometimes suggest moral relativism. Every one of us remembers from early childhood experience what it feels like to be morally obligated. To bump up against an unyielding moral wall. This memory is enshrined in the words "ought," "should," "right," and "wrong."

Everyone experiences moral obligation

Moral absolutism is certainly based on experience. For instance, let's say last night you promised your friend you would help them at 8:00 this morning. Let's say he has to move his furniture before noon. But you were up 'til 3:00 am. And when the alarm rings at 7:00, you are very tired. You experience two things—the desire to sleep, and the obligation to get up. The two are generically different. You experience no obligation to sleep, and no desire to get up. You are moved, in one way, by your own desire for sleep, and you are moved in a very different way by what you think you ought to do. Your feelings appear from the inside out, so to speak, while your conscience appears from the outside in. Within you is the desire to sleep, and this may move you to the external deed of shutting off the alarm and creeping back to bad. But, if instead you get up to fulfill your promise to your friend, it will be because you chose to respond to a very different kind of thing: the perceived moral quality of the deed of fulfilling your promise, as opposed to the perceived moral quality of the deed of refusing to fulfill it. What you perceive as right, or obligatory—getting

up—pulls you from without, from itself, from its own nature. But the desires you feel as attractive—going back to sleep—push you from within, from yourself, from your own nature. The moral obligation moves you as an end, as a final cause, from above and ahead, so to speak. Your desires move you as a source, as an efficient cause, from below, or behind, so to speak. All this is primary data, fundamental moral experience. It can be denied, but only as some strange philosophies might deny the reality immediately perceived by our senses. Moral relativism is to moral experience what teaching of Christian Science is to the experience of pain and sickness and death. It tells us these experiences are illusions to be overcome by faith. Moral absolutism is empirical. Moral relativism is a dogma of faith.

10. Argument for Absolutism: Ad Hominem

We protest when treated immorally

Fourth, there is the ad hominem argument. Even the relativist always reacts with a moral protest when he is treated immorally. The man who appeals to the relativistic principle of "I gotta be me," who justified breaking his promise of fidelity to his own wife, whom he wants to leave for another woman, will then break his fidelity to his relativistic principle when his own wife uses that principle to justify leaving him for another man. This is not exceptional, but typical. It looks like the origin of relativism is more personal than philosophical. More in the hypocrisy than in the hypothesis. The contradiction between theory and practice is evident even in the relativist's act of teaching relativism. Why do relativists teach and write? To convince the world that relativism is wrong and absolutism wrong? Really right and really wrong? If so, then there is a real right and a real wrong. And if not, then there is nothing wrong with being an absolutist, and nothing right with being a relativist. So why do relativists write and teach? Really, for all the effort they've put into preaching their gospel of delivering humanity from the false and foolish repressions of absolutism, one would have thought they really believed this gospel.

11. Argument for Absolutism: Moral Language

Fifth, there's the argument from moral language. This is a very obvious argument, used by C.S. Lewis, at the very beginning of Mere Christianity. It is based on the observation that people quarrel. They do not merely fight, they argue about right and wrong. This is to act as if they believed in objectively real and universally binding moral principles. If nothing but subjective desires and passions were involved, it would be merely a contest of strength between competing persons. Or between competing passions within a person. If I'm more hungry than tired, I'll eat; if I'm more tired than hungry, I'll sleep. But we say things like, "That isn't fair." Or, "What right do you have to that?" If relativism were true, moral argument would be as stupid as arguing about feelings. "I feel great." "No, I feel terrible."

People live as if they believe morality is real

In fact, the moral language that everyone uses every day—language that praises, blames, counsels, or commands—would be strictly meaningless if relativism were true. We do not praise or blame non-moral agents like machines. When the Coke machine steals our money without delivering a Coke, we do not argue with it, call it a sinner, or tell it to go to confession. We kick it. So when some of our psychologists tell us that we are only very complex machines, they are telling us that morality is only very complex kicking. This is so absurd it hardly deserves an argument. I think it deserves a spanking, which is only practicing what they preach: kicking, but more honestly. The argument is simple. Moral language is meaningful, not meaningless. We all know that. We know how to use it, and we do. Relativism cannot explain that fact.

Postscript: Cause and Cure Finally, most importantly of all, my postscript. What is the cause, and cure of moral relativism? The real source of moral relativism is not any argument at all, and therefore its cure is not any refutation of an argument. Neither philosophy nor science nor logic nor common sense nor experience have ever refuted traditional moral absolutism. It is not reason, but the abdication of reason that is the source of moral relativism. Relativism is not rational, it is rationalization. It is not the conclusion of a rational argument. It is the rationalization of a prior action. It is the repudiation of the principle that passions must be evaluated by reason and controlled by will. That is the virtue Plato and Aristotle called self-control. It is not just one of the cardinal virtues, but a necessary ingredient in every virtue. That classical assumption is almost the definition of civilization. But romanticists, existentialists, Freudians, and many others have convinced many people in our culture that it is oppressive and unhealthy and inauthentic. If we embrace the opposite principle, and let passion govern reason, rather than reason govern passion, there is little hope for morality or for civilization.

The cure requires more than an argument

Obviously, the strongest and most attractive of the passions is sexual passion. It is therefore also the most addictive and the most blinding. So, there could hardly be a more powerful undermining of our moral knowledge and our moral life than the sexual revolution. Already, the demand for sexual freedom has overridden one of nature's strongest instincts: motherhood. A million mothers a year in America alone pay hired killers, who are called healers or physicians, to kill their own unborn daughters and sons. How could this happen? Only because abortion is driven by sexual motives. For abortion is backup birth control, and birth control is the demand to have sex without having babies. If the stork

brought babies, there'd be no Planned Parenthood. Divorce is a second example of the power of the sexual revolution to undermine basic moral principles. Suppose there were some other practice, not connected with sex, which had these three documentable results. First, betraying the person you claim to love the most, the person you had pledged your life to, betraying your solemn promise to her or him. Second, thereby abusing the children you had procreated and promised to protect, scarring their souls more infinitely than anything else except direct violent physical abuse, and making

it far more difficult for them ever to attain happy lives or marriages. And

thirdly, thereby harming, undermining, and perhaps destroying your society's future. Would not such a practice be universally condemned? Yet, that is exactly what divorce is, and it is universally accepted. Betrayal is universally condemned unless it is sexual. Justice, honesty, not doing other harms—these moral principles are affirmed, unless they interfere with sex.

We are designed for joy

The rest of traditional morality is still very widely believed and taught, even in TV sitcoms, soap operas, and Hollywood movies. The driving force of moral relativism seems to be almost exclusively sexual. Why this should be, and what we should do about it, are two further questions that demand much more time and thought than we have available here and now. But if you want a very short guess at an answer to both, here is the best I can do. I think a secularist has only one substitute left for God, only one experience in a desacrilized world that still gives him something like the mystical, self-transcending thrill of ecstasy that God designed all souls to have forever, and to long for until they have it. Unless he is a surfer, that experience has to be sex. We're designed for more than happiness; we're designed for joy. Aquinas writes, with simple logic, "Man cannot live without joy. That is why one deprived of true spiritual joys must spill over to carnal pleasures." Drugs and alcohol are attractive because they claim to feed the same need. The lack the ontological greatness of sex, but they provide the same semi-mystical thrill: the transcendence of reason and self-consciousness. I do not mean this merely as moral condemnation, but as psychological analysis. In fact, though they sound shocking, I think the addict is closer to the deepest truth than the mere moralist. He is looking for the very best thing in some of the very worst places. His demand for a state in which he transcends morality is very wrong,

but it's also very right. For we are designed for something beyond morality, something in which morality will be transformed. Mystical union with God. Sex is

a sign and appetizer of that. Moral absolutists must never forget that morality,

though absolute, is not ultimate. It is not our Summum Bonum. Sinai is not the Promised Land; Jerusalem is. And in the New Jerusalem, what finally happens as the last chapter of human history is a wedding between the Lamb and His bride. Deprived of this Jerusalem, we must buy into Babylon. If we do not worship God, we will worship idols, for we are by nature worshippers. Finally, what is the cure? It must be stronger medicine than philosophy, so I

can give you only three words in answer to this last and most practical question

of all. What we can do about it? What is the cure? These three words are totally

unoriginal. They are not my philosophical argument, but God's biblical demands.

Repent, fast, and pray. Confess, sacrifice, adore. I know of no other answer, and I can think of nothing else that can save this civilization except Saints. Please be one.

For more on this see the book:

A Refutation of Moral Relativism

Angels by Peter Kreeft

The Twelve Most Important Things to Know About Them They really exist. Not just in our minds, or our myths, or our symbols, or our culture. They are as real as your dog, or your sister, or electricity. They’re present, right here, right now, right next to you, reading these words with you. They’re not cute, cuddly, comfortable, chummy, or “cool”. They are fearsome and formidable. They are huge. They are warriors. They are the real “extra-terrestrials”, the real “Super-men”, the ultimate aliens. Their powers are far beyond those of all fictional creatures. They are more brilliant minds than Einstein. They can literally move the heavens and the earth if God permits them. There are also evil angels, fallen angels, demons, or devils. These too are not myths. Demon possessions, and exorcisms, are real. Angels are aware of you, even though you can’t usually see or hear them. But you can communicate with them. You can talk to them without even speaking. You really do have your very own “guardian angel”. Everybody does. Angels often come disguised. “Do not neglect hospitality, for some have entertained angels unawares”—that’s a warning from life’s oldest and best instruction manual. We are on a protected part of a great battlefield between angels and devils, extending to eternity. Angels are sentinels standing at the crossroads where life meets death. They work especially at moments of crisis, at the brink of disaster—for bodies, for souls, and for nations. Why do people think it's stupid to believe in angels? One reason is a mistake about themselves: the failure to distinguish between (1) sense perception or imagination (which is a kind of inner sensing) and (2) reason, or intelligence, or understanding. We don't see pure spirits, and we can't imagine them. That doesn't mean we can't know or understand them. We can see and imagine the difference between a five-sided figure (a pentagon) and a six-sided figure (a hexagon), and we can also intellectually understand that difference. We cannot, however, sense or imagine the difference between a 105-sided figure and a 106-sided figure. Both look to us simply like circles. But we can understand the difference and even measure it exactly. So we can understand some things we can't see. We can't see qualities like good and evil either. What color or shape or size is evil? Yet we can understand them. We can imagine our brains, but not our minds, our personalities. But we can know them. Many who deny angels deny or are uaware of the spiritual half of themselves. Angels are a touchstone of "know thyself". So are animals. Aren't angels irrelevant today? This is the age of man, isn't it? Yes, this is the age of man, of self-consciousness, of psychology. And therefore it is crucial to "know thyself" accurately today. The major heresies of our day are not about God but about man. The two most destructive of these heresies—and the two most popular—are

angelism, confusing man with an angel by denying his likeness to animals, and animalism, confusing man with an animal by denying his likeness to angels. Man is the only being that is both angel and animal, both spirit and body. He is the lowest spirit and the highest body, the stupidest angel and the smartest animal, the low point of the hierarchy of minds and the high point of the hierarchy of bodies. More accurately stated, man is not both angel and animal because he is neither angel nor animal; he is between angels and animals, a unique rung on the cosmic ladder. But whichever way you say it, man must know angels to know himself, just as he must know animals to know himself, for he must know what he is, and he must know what he is not.

Hierarchy and inequality among angels sound unjust and unfair. Is God an elitist? (1) Gods justice is not equality. Neither is nature's. God the Creator is not equal to any of his creatures, hut he is supreme. Among his creatures, spiritual creatures (angels and men) are superior to merely biological creatures. Among spiritual creatures, angels are more intelligent than men. Even within our own species, men are not all equal in intelligence, in quickness, in wisdom, in memory, or in many other things. And, of course. humans are superior to animals. If you doubt this, you'd better stop eating fish or start eating humans. Higher (more intelligent) animals are superior to lower (less intelligent) animals. That's why we prefer dogs to worms as pets. Even biologists rank species in a hierarchical order. The more complex they are, the more conscious they are and the more sophisticated their functions.

(2) The hierarchy of angels over men parallels the hierarchy of men over animals, and the hierarchy within angels parallels the hierarchy within animals. If the arrangement of animals tells us something about the Creator's style and principles and preferences, it's reasonable to expect to find his style and principles and preferences manifested in angels too.

(3) Justice does not mean equality, even among men. It means treating unequals unequally—giving an A to a student who answered 95 out of 100 questions correctly and an F to a student who answered only 45. Many traditional societies, like those of classical Greece and Confucian China, saw justice as essentially an inequality, a harmony among different things: organs in the body, nembers in a family, heavenly bodies in the cosmos, musical notes in a song, classes in the state, faculties in the soul. The President is not necessarily a superior person to his military chief of stati but his office is. Justice demands the chief of staff obey his "superior", even if the latter has shortcomings.

(4) Resentment against some kind ot superiority is one of the seven deadly sins. It is called envy, and it is the only sin that never gave anyone any kind of pleasure at all. In the Divine Comedy, Dante discovers that there are many unequal levels even in heaven. He asks Piccarda, who is on heaven's lowest level, whether she is not discontented with her lowly place and whether she longs to move up closer to God, to see more of God and receive more joy. Her answer is that no one in heaven is dissatisfied with his place or envious of anyone else: "From seat to seat throughout this realm, to all the realm is pleasing. [That is, each citizen is pleased with the kingdom as a whole; the whole is present to each individual.] For in his will our hearts have found their peace. T. S. Eliot called this the profoundest line in all human literature.

From Angels (and Demons) — What Do We Really Know About Them? by Ignatius Press.

You are also welcome to listen to the fascinating audio lecture Aquinas and the Angels.

Argument from Conscience by Peter Kreeft

The argument from conscience is one of the only two arguments for the existence of God alluded to in Scripture, the other being the argument from design (both in Romans). Both arguments are essentially simple natural intuitions. Only when complex, artificial objections are made do these arguments begin to take on a complex appearance. The simple, intuitive point of the argument from conscience is that everyone in the world knows, deep down, that he is absolutely obligated to be and do good, and this absolute obligation could come only from God. Thus everyone knows God, however obscurely, by this moral intuition, which we usually call conscience. Conscience is the voice of God in the soul. Like all arguments for the existence of God, this one proves only a small part of what we know God to be by divine revelation. But this part is significantly more than the arguments from nature reveal about God because this argument has richer data, a richer starting point. Here we have inside information, so to speak: the very will of God speaking, however obscurely and whisperingly, however poorly heard, admitted, and heeded, in the depths of our souls. The arguments from nature begin with data that are like an author's books; the argument from conscience begins with data that are more like talking with the author directly, live.

The only possible source of absolute authority is an absolutely perfect will. Before beginning, we should define and clarify the key term conscience. The modern meaning tends to indicate a mere feeling that I did something wrong or am about to do something wrong. The traditional meaning in Catholic theology is the knowledge of what is right and wrong: intellect applied to morality. The meaning of conscience in the argument is knowledge and not just a feeling; but it is intuitive knowledge rather than rational or analytical knowledge, and it is first of all the knowledge that I must always do right and never wrong, the knowledge of my absolute obligation to goodness, all goodness: justice and charity and virtue and holiness; only in the second place is it the knowledge of which things are right and which things are wrong. This second-place knowledge is a knowledge of moral facts, while the first-place knowledge is a knowledge of my personal moral obligation, a knowledge of the moral law itself and its binding authority over my life. That knowledge forms the basis for the argument from conscience. If anyone claims he simply does not have that knowledge, if anyone says he simply doesn't see it, then the argument will not work for him. The question remains, however, whether he honestly doesn't see it and really has no conscience (or a radically defective conscience) or whether he is repressing the knowledge he really has. Divine revelation tells us that he is repressing the knowledge (Rom 1:18b; 2:15). In that case, what is needed before the rational, philosophical argument is some honest introspection to see the data. The data, conscience, is like a bag of gold buried in my backyard. If someone tells me it

is there and that this proves some rich man buried it, I must first dig and find the treasure before I can infer anything more about the cause of the treasure's existence. Before conscience can prove God to anyone, that person must admit the presence of the treasure of conscience in the backyard of his soul. Nearly everyone will admit the premise, though. They will often explain it differently, interpret it differently, insist it has nothing to do with God. But that is exactly what the argument tries to show: that once you admit the premise of the authority of conscience, you must admit the conclusion of God. How does that work?

Conscience has an absolute authority over me. Nearly everyone will admit not only the existence of conscience but also its authority. In this age of rebellion against and doubt about nearly every authority, in this age in which the very word authority has changed from a word of respect to a word of scorn, one authority remains: an individual's conscience. Almost no one will say that one ought to sin against one's conscience, disobey one's conscience. Disobey the church, the state, parents, authority figures, but do not disobey your conscience. Thus people usually admit, though not usually in these words, the absolute moral authority and binding obligation of conscience. Such people are usually surprised and pleased to find out that Saint Thomas Aquinas, of all people, agrees with them to such an extent that he says if a Catholic comes to believe the Church is in error in some essential, officially defined doctrine, it is a mortal sin against conscience, a sin of hypocrisy, for him to remain in the Church and call himself a Catholic, but only a venial sin against knowledge for him to leave the Church in honest but partly culpable error. So one of the two premises of the argument is established: conscience has an absolute authority over me. The second premise is that the only possible source of absolute authority is an absolutely perfect will, a divine being. The conclusion follows that such a being exists. How would someone disagree with the second premise? By finding an alternative basis for conscience besides God. There are four such possibilities:

something abstract and impersonal, like an idea; something concrete but less than human, something on the level of animal instinct; something on the human level but not divine; and something higher than the human level but not yet divine. In other words, we cover all the possibilities by looking at the abstract, the concrete-less-than-human, the concrete-human, and the concrete-more-than-human. The first possibility means that the basis of conscience is a law without a lawgiver. We are obligated absolutely to an abstract ideal, a pattern of behavior. The question then comes up, where does this pattern exist? If it does not exist anywhere, how can a real person be under the authority of something unreal? How can more be subject to "less"? If, however, this pattern or idea

exists in the minds of people, then what authority do they have to impose this idea of theirs on me? If the idea is only an idea, it has no personal will behind it; if it is only someone's idea, it has only that someone behind it. In neither case do we have a sufficient basis for absolute, infallible, no-exceptions authority. But we already admitted that conscience has that authority, that no one should ever disobey his conscience. The second possibility means that we trace conscience to a biological instinct.

"We must love one another or die", writes the poet W. H. Auden. We unconsciously know this, says the believer in this second possibility, just as animals unconsciously know that unless they behave in certain ways the species will not survive. That's why animal mothers sacrifice for their children, and that's a sufficient explanation for human altruism too. It's the herd instinct. The problem with that explanation is that it, like the first, does not account for the absoluteness of conscience's authority. We believe we ought to disobey an instinct—any instinct—on some occasions. But we do not believe we ought ever

to disobey our conscience. You should usually obey instincts like mother love,

but not if it means keeping your son back from risking his life to save his

country in a just and necessary defensive war, or if it means injustice and lack

of charity to other mothers' sons. There is no instinct that should always be

obeyed. The instincts are like the keys on a piano (the illustration comes from C. S. Lewis); the moral law is like sheet music. Different notes are right at different times. Furthermore, instinct fails to account not only for what we ought to do but also for what we do do. We don't always follow instinct. Sometimes we follow the weaker instinct, as when we go to the aid of a victim even though we fear for our own safety. The herd instinct here is weaker than the instinct for self-preservation, but our conscience, like sheet music, tells us to play the weak note here rather than the strong one. Honest introspection will reveal to anyone that conscience is not an instinct.

When the alarm wakes you up early and you realize that you promised to help your friend this morning, your instincts pull you back to bed, but something quite different from your instincts tells you you should get out. Even if you feel two instincts pulling you (e.g., you are both hungry and tired), the conflict between those two instincts is quite different, and can be felt and known to be quite different, from the conflict between conscience and either or both of the instincts. Quite simply, conscience tells you that you ought to do or not do something, while instincts simply drive you to do or not do something. Instincts make something attractive or repulsive to your appetites, but conscience makes something obligatory to your choice, no matter how your appetites feel about it. Most people will admit this piece of obvious introspective data if they are honest. If they try to wriggle out of the argument at this point, leave them alone with the question, and if they are honest, they will confront the data when they are alone.

A third possibility is that other human beings (or society) are the source of

the authority of conscience. That is the most popular belief, but it is also the

weakest of all the four possibilities. For society does not mean something over

and above other human beings, something like God, although many people treat society exactly like God, even in speech, almost lowering the voice to a whisper when the sacred name is mentioned. Society is simply other people like myself. What authority do they have over me? Are they always right? Must I never disobey them? What kind of blind status quo conservatism is this? Should a German have obeyed society in the Nazi era? To say society is the source of conscience is to say that when one prisoner becomes a thousand prisoners, they become the judge. It is to say that mere quantity gives absolute authority; that what the individual has in his soul is nothing, no authoritative conscience, but that what society (i.e., many individuals) has is. That is simply a logical impossibility, like thinking stones can think if only you have enough of them. (Some proponents of artificial intelligence believe exactly that kind of logical fallacy, by the way: that electrons and chips and chunks of metal can think if only you have enough of them in the right geometrical arrangements.) The fourth possibility remains, that the source of conscience's authority is something above me but not God. What could this be? Society is not above me, nor is instinct. An ideal? That is the first possibility we discussed. It looks as though there are simply no candidates in this area. And that leaves us with God. Not just some sort of God, but the moral God of the Bible, the God at least of Judaism. Among all the ancient peoples, the Jews were the only ones who identified their God with the source of moral obligation. The gods of the pagans demanded ritual worship, inspired fear, designed the universe, or ruled over the events in human life, but none of them ever gave a Ten Commandments or said, "Be ye holy for I the Lord your God am holy." The Jews saw the origin of nature and the origin of conscience as one, and Christians (and Muslims) have inherited this insight. The Jews' claim to be God's chosen people interprets the insight in the humblest possible way: as divine revelation, not human cleverness. But once revealed, the claim can be seen to be utterly logical. To sum up the argument most simply and essentially, conscience has absolute, exceptionless, binding moral authority over us, demanding unqualified obedience. But only a perfectly good, righteous divine will has this authority and a right to absolute, exceptionless obedience. Therefore conscience is the voice of the will of God. Of course, we do not always hear that voice aright. Our consciences can err. That is why the first obligation we have, in conscience, is to form our conscience by seeking the truth, especially the truth about whether this God has revealed to us clear moral maps (Scripture and Church). If so, whenever our conscience seems to tell us to disobey those maps, it is not working properly, and we can know that by conscience itself if only we remember that conscience is more than just immediate feeling. If our immediate feelings were the voice of God, we would have to be polytheists or else God would have to be schizophrenic.

From Fundamentals of the Faith by Ignatius Press. This text is also available as an audio lecture under:

Arguments for God's Existence

Argument from Design by Peter Kreeft

The argument starts with the major premise that where there is design, there must be a designer. The minor premise is the existence of design throughout the universe. The conclusion is that there must be a universal designer. Why must we believe the major premise, that all design implies a designer? Because everyone admits this principle in practice. For instance, suppose you came upon a deserted island and found "S.O.S." written in the sand on the beach. You would not think the wind or the waves had written it by mere chance but that someone had been there, someone intelligent enough to design and write the message. If you found a stone hut on the island with windows, doors, and a fireplace, you would not think a hurricane had piled up the stones that way by chance. You immediately infer a designer when you see design. When the first moon rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, two U.S. scientists stood watching it, side by side. One was a believer, the other an unbeliever. The believer said, "Isn't it wonderful that our rocket is going to hit the moon by chance?" The unbeliever objected, "What do you mean, chance? We put millions of manhours of design into that rocket." "Oh," said the believer, "you don't think chance is a good explanation for the rocket? Then why do you think it's a good explanation for the universe? There's much more design in a universe than in a rocket. We can design a rocket, but we couldn't design a whole universe. I wonder who can?" Later that day the two were strolling down a street and passed an antique store. The atheist admired a picture in the window and asked, "I wonder who painted that picture?" "No one," joked the believer; "it just happened by chance." Is it possible that design happens by chance without a designer? There is perhaps one chance in a trillion that "S.O.S." could be written in the sand by the wind. But who would use a one-in-a-trillion explanation? Someone once said that if you sat a million monkeys at a million typewriters for a million years, one of them would eventually type out all of Hamlet by chance. But when we find the text of Hamlet, we don't wonder whether it came from chance and monkeys. Why then does the atheist use that incredibly improbable explanation for the universe? Clearly, because it is his only chance of remaining an atheist. At this point we need a psychological explanation of the atheist rather than a logical explanation of the universe. We have a logical explanation of the universe, but the atheist does not like it. It's called God. There is one especially strong version of the argument from design that hits close to home because it's about the design of the very thing we use to think about design: our brains. The human brain is the most complex piece of design in the known universe. In many ways it is like a computer. Now just suppose there were a computer that was programmed only by chance. For instance, suppose you were in a plane and the public-address system announced that there was no pilot, but the plane was being flown by a computer that had been programmed by a random fall of hailstones on its keyboard or by a baseball player in spiked shoes dancing on computer cards. How much confidence would you have in that plane? But if our brain computer has no cosmic intelligence behind the heredity and

environment that program it, why should we trust it when it tells us about anything, even about the brain?

You can't get more in the effect than you had in the cause. Another specially strong aspect of the design argument is the so-called anthropic principle, according to which the universe seems to have been specially designed from the beginning for human life to evolve. If the temperature of the primal fireball that resulted from the Big Bang some fifteen to twenty billion years ago, which was the beginning of our universe, had been a trillionth of a degree colder or hotter, the carbon molecule that is the foundation of all organic life could never have developed. The number of possible universes is trillions of trillions; only one of them could support human life: this one. Sounds suspiciously like a plot. If the cosmic rays had bombarded the primordial slime at a slightly different angle or time or intensity, the hemoglobin molecule, necessary for all warm-blooded animals, could never have evolved. The chance of this molecule's evolving is something like one in a trillion trillion. Add together each of the chances and you have something far more unbelievable than a million monkeys writing Hamlet. There are relatively few atheists among neurologists and brain surgeons and among astrophysicists, but many among psychologists, sociologists, and historians. The reason seems obvious: the first study divine design, the second study human undesign. But doesn't evolution explain everything without a divine Designer? Just the opposite; evolution is a beautiful example of design, a great clue to God. There is very good scientific evidence for the evolving, ordered appearance of species, from simple to complex. But there is no scientific proof of natural selection as the mechanism of evolution, Natural selection "explains" the emergence of higher forms without intelligent design by the survival-of-the-fittest principle. But this is sheer theory. There is no evidence that abstract, theoretical thinking or altruistic love make it easier for man to survive. How did they evolve then? Furthermore, could the design that obviously now exists in man and in the human brain come from something with less or no design? Such an explanation violates the principle of causality, which states that you can't get more in the effect than you had in the cause. If there is intelligence in the effect (man), there must be intelligence in the cause. But a universe ruled by blind chance has no intelligence. Therefore there must be a cause for human intelligence that transcends the universe: a mind behind the physical universe. (Most great scientists have believed in such a mind, by the way, even those who did not accept any revealed religion.) How much does this argument prove? Not all that the Christian means by God, of course—no argument can do that. But it proves a pretty thick slice of God: some designing intelligence great enough to account for all the design in the universe and the human mind. If that's not God, what is it? Steven Spielberg?

From Fundamentals of the Faith by Ignatius Press. This text is also available as an audio lecture under:

Arguments for God's Existence

Argument From Desire by Peter Kreeft

Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire. But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy. Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire. This something is what people call "God" and "life with God forever." The first premise implies a distinction of desires into two kinds: innate and externally conditioned, or natural and artificial. We naturally desire things like food, drink, sex, sleep, knowledge, friendship and beauty; and we naturally shun things like starvation, loneliness, ignorance and ugliness. We also desire (but not innately or naturally) things like sports cars, political office, flying through the air like Superman, the land of Oz and a Red Sox world championship. Now there are differences between these two kinds of desires. We do not, for example, for the most part, recognize corresponding states of deprivation for the second, the artificial, desires, as we do for the first. There is no word like "Ozlessness" parallel to "sleeplessness." But more importantly, the natural desires come from within, from our nature, while the artificial ones come from without, from society, advertising or fiction. This second difference is the reason for a third difference: the natural desires are found in all of us, but the artificial ones vary from person to person. The existence of the artificial desires does not necessarily mean that the desired objects exist. Some do; some don't. Sports cars do; Oz does not. But the existence of natural desires does, in every discoverable case, mean that the objects desired exist. No one has ever found one case of an innate desire for a nonexistent object. The second premise requires only honest introspection. If someone defies it and says, "I am perfectly happy playing with mud pies, or sports cars, or money, or sex, or power," we can only ask, "Are you, really?" But we can only appeal, we cannot compel. And we can refer such a person to the nearly universal testimony of human history in all its great literature. Even the atheist Jean-Paul Sartre admitted that "there comes a time when one asks, even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, 'Is that all there is?'"

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." — C.S. Lewis The conclusion of the argument is not that everything the Bible tells us about God and life with God is really so. What it proves is an unknown X, but an unknown whose direction, so to speak, is known. This X is more: more beauty, more desirability, more awesomeness, more joy. This X is to great beauty as, for

example, great beauty is to small beauty or to a mixture of beauty and ugliness. And the same is true of other perfections. But the "more" is infinitely more, for we are not satisfied with the finite and partial. Thus the analogy (X is to great beauty as great beauty is to small beauty) is not proportionate. Twenty is to ten as ten is to five, but infinity is not to twenty as twenty is to ten. The argument points down an infinite corridor in a definite direction. Its conclusion is not "God" as already conceived or defined, but a moving and mysterious X which pulls us to itself and pulls all our images and concepts out of themselves. In other words, the only concept of God in this argument is the concept of that which transcends concepts, something "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived" (1 Cor 2:9). In other words, this is the real God. C. S. Lewis, who uses this argument in a number of places, summarizes it succinctly:

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, "Hope") Question 1: How can you know the major premise—that every natural desire has a real object—is universally true, without first knowing that this natural desire also has a real object? But that is the conclusion. Thus you beg the question. You must know the Conclusion to be true before you can know the major premise. Reply: This is really not an objection to the argument from desire only, but to every deductive argument whatsoever, every syllogism. It is the old saw of John Stuart Mill and the nominalists against the syllogism. It presupposes empiricism—that is, that the only way we can ever know anything is by sensing individual things and then generalizing, by induction. It excludes deduction because it excludes the knowledge of any universal truths (like our major premise). For nominalists do not believe in the existence of any


This is very easy to refute. We can and do come to a knowledge of universal truths, like "all humans are mortal," not by sense experience alone (for we can never sense all humans) but through abstracting the common universal essence or nature of humanity from the few specimens we do experience by our senses. We know that all humans are mortal because humanity, as such, involves mortality, it is the nature of a human being to be mortal; mortality follows necessarily from its having an animal body. We can understand that. We have the power of understanding, or intellectual intuition, or insight, in addition to the mental powers of sensation and calculation, which are the only two the nominalist and empiricist give us. (We share sensation with animals and calculation with computers; where is the distinctively human way of knowing for the empiricist and nominalist?) When there is no real connection between the nature of a proposition's subject and the nature of the predicate, the only way we can know the truth of that


one (that all universals are only names).

proposition is by sense experience and induction. For instance, we can know that all the books on this shelf are red only by looking at each one and counting them. But when there is a real connection between the nature of the subject and

the nature of the predicate, we can know the truth of that proposition by understanding and insight—for instance, "Whatever has color must have size," or, "A Perfect Being would not be ignorant." Question 2: Suppose I simply deny the minor premise and say that I just don't observe any hidden desire for God, or infinite joy, or some mysterious X that is more than earth can offer? Reply: This denial may take two forms. First, one may say, "Although I am not perfectly happy now, I believe I would be if only I had ten million dollars, a Lear jet, and a new mistress every day." The reply to this is, of course, "Try it. You won't like it." It's been tried and has never satisfied. In fact, billions of people have performed and are even now performing trillions of such experiments, desperately seeking the ever-elusive satisfaction they crave. For even if they won the whole world, it would not be enough to fill one human heart.

Yet they keep trying, believing that "If only

stupidest gamble in the world, for it is the only one that consistently has never paid off. It is like the game of predicting the end of the world: every batter who has ever approached that plate has struck out. There is hardly reason

to hope the present ones will fare any better. After trillions of failures and a

one hundred percent failure rate, this is one experiment no one should keep trying.

A second form of denial of our premise is: "I am perfectly happy now." This, we

suggest, verges on idiocy or, worse, dishonesty. It requires something more like exorcism than refutation. This is Merseult in Camus's The Stranger. This is subhuman, vegetation, pop psychology. Even the hedonist utilitarian John Stuart Mill, one of the shallowest (though cleverest) minds in the history of

philosophy, said that "it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied." Question 3: This argument is just another version of Anselm's ontological argument (see Argument 13 in The Handbook of Christian Apologetics), which is invalid. You argue to an objective God from a mere subjective idea or desire in you. Reply: No, we do not argue from the idea alone, as Anselm does. Rather, our argument first derives a major premise from the real world of nature: that nature makes no desire in vain. Then it discovers something real in human nature—namely, human desire for something more than nature—which nature cannot explain, because nature cannot satisfy it. Thus, the argument is based on observed facts in nature, both outer and inner. It has data.

. Next time

." This is the

Taken from The Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald

Tacelli. © 1994 Peter Kreeft & Ronald K. Tacelli. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL


A broader version of this is available in the audio lecture:


This argument is summarized within this audio lecture:

Arguments for God's Existence

Argument from History by Peter Kreeft

This argument is both stronger and weaker than the other arguments for the

existence of God. It is stronger because its data (its evidence) are some facts

of history, things that have happened on this planet, rather than principles or

ideas. People are more convinced by facts than by principles. But it is weaker because the historical data amount only to strong clues, not to deductive

proofs. The argument from history is the strongest psychologically with most people, but it is not the logically strongest argument. It is like footprints in the sands

of time, footprints made by someone great enough to be God.

There are at least eight different arguments from history, not just one.

A story points to a storyteller.

First, we could argue from the meaningfulness of history itself. History, both human and prehuman, has a storyline. It is not just random. The atheist Jean-Paul Sartre has his alter ego Roquentin say something like this about

history in the novel Nausea: "I have never had adventures. Things have happened

to me, that's all." If atheism is true, there are no adventures, nothing has

intrinsic significance, life is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing". But life is not that. Life is a story. Stories are not told by idiots. In J. R. R. Tolkien's great epic The Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Sam are crawling through the slag heaps of Mordor desperately

attempting to fulfill their perilous quest when Sam stops to ask, "I wonder what kind of story we're in, Mr. Frodo?" It is a great question, a concrete way of asking the abstract question, "What is the meaning of life?" That the question


asked at all shows that we are in a story, not a jumble, and a story points


a storyteller. Thus the general argument from history is a version of the

argument from design.

Whenever God's laws are followed, the people prosper.

A second argument concentrates more specifically on the moral design in history.

Thus it can be seen as similar to the argument from conscience in that it uses the same evidence, morality. But in this case the premise is the justice revealed in history rather than the obligation imposed by individual conscience. The historical books of the Old Testament constitute an extended argument for the existence of God based on the history of the Jewish people. The argument is implicit, not explicit, of course; the Bible is not a book of philosophical arguments. It is not so much an argument as an invitation to look and see the hand of God in history. Whenever God's laws are followed, the people prosper. When they are violated, the people perish. History shows that moral laws are as inescapable as physical laws. Just as you can flout gravity only temporarily before you fall, so you can flout the moral laws of God only temporarily before

you fall. Great tyrants like Adolf Hitler flourish for a day, like the mayfly, and perish. Great saints experience apparent failure, and emerge into triumph and joy. The same is true of nations as well as individuals. The lesson is

scorned not because it is unknown or obscure but because it is so well known; it

is what our mothers and nurses told us as children. And however "square" it may

be, it is true. History proves you can't cut the corners of the moral square. In geometry, you can't square the circle, and in history you can't circle the

square. Now is this moral design (which the East calls karma) mere chance or the product of a wise moral will, a lawgiver? But no human lawgiver invented history itself. The only adequate cause for such an effect is God.

"Coincidences" bring suspicion that an unseen divine hand is at work.

A third argument from history looks at providential "coincidences", like the Red

Sea's parting (moved by an east wind, according to Exodus) at just the right time for the Jews to escape Pharaoh. Our own individual histories usually have

some similar bits of incredible timing. Insightful and unprejudiced examination

of these "coincidences" will bring us at least to the suspicion, if not to the

conviction, that an unseen divine hand is at work here. The writers of the Bible often shortcut the argument and simply ascribe such natural events to God. Indeed, another passage in Exodus says simply that God parted the sea. This may not be miracle; God may have worked here, as he continues to work, through the second causes of natural agents. But it is God who works, and the hand of the Worker is visible through the work, if we only look. The argument is not a logical compulsion but an invitation to look, like Christ's "come and see."

Miracles directly and inescapably show the presence of God.

A fourth argument from history, the strongest one of all, is the argument from

miracles. Miracles directly and inescapably show the presence of God, for a miracle, in the ordinary sense of the word, is a deed done by supernatural, not

natural, power. Neither nature nor chance nor human power can perform a miracle.

If miracles happen, they show God's existence as clearly as reproduction shows

the existence of organic life or rational speech shows the existence of thought.

If I were an atheist, I think I would save my money to buy a plane ticket to

Italy to see whether the blood of Saint Januarius really did liquefy and congeal

miraculously, as it is supposed to do annually. I would go to Medjugorge. I would study all published interviews of any of the seventy thousand who saw the miracle of the sun at Fatima. I would ransack hospital records for documented "impossible", miraculous cures. Yet, strangely, almost all atheists argue against miracles philosophically rather than historically. They are convinced a priori, by argument, that miracles can't happen. So they don't waste their time

or money on such an empirical investigation. Those who do soon cease to be

atheists—like the sceptical scientists who investigated the Shroud of Turin, or

like Frank Morrison, who investigated the evidence for the "myth" of Christ's

Resurrection with the careful scientific eye of the historian—and became a believer. (His book Who Moved the Stone? is still a classic and still in print after more than sixty years.) The evidence is there for those who have eyes to see or, rather, the will to look. God provided just enough evidence of himself: enough for any honest and open-minded seeker whose heart really cares about the truth of the matter but not so much that dull and hardened hearts are convinced by force. Even Christ did not convince everyone by his miracles. He could have remained on earth, offered to walk into any scientific laboratory of the twentieth century, and invited scientists to perform experiments on him. He could have come down from the Cross, and then the doubters would have believed. But he did not. Even the Resurrection was kept semiprivate. The New Testament speaks of five hundred who saw him. Why did he not reveal himself to all? He will, on the last day, when it will be too late to change sides. His mercy gives us time to choose and freedom to choose. The evidence for him, especially his miracles, is clear enough throughout history so that anyone with an honest, trusting, and seeking heart will find him: "All who seek find." But those who do not seek will not find. He leaves us free. He is like a lover with a marriage proposal, not like a soldier with a gun or a policeman with a warrant.

If Christ was not God, he was a madman or a devil.


fifth argument from history is Christ himself. Here is a man who lived among


and claimed to be God. If Christ was God, then, of course, there is a God.

But if Christ was not God, he was a madman or a devil—a madman if he really thought he was God but was not, and a devil if he knew he was not God and yet tempted men to worship him as God. Which is he—Lord, lunatic, or liar? Part of the data of history are the Gospel records of his life and his character. Reading the Gospels is like reading Plato's accounts of Socrates, or

Boswell's account of Dr. Johnson: an absolutely unforgettable character emerges, on a human level. His personality is distinctive and compelling to every reader

of the Gospels, even unbelievers, even his enemies, like Nietzsche. And the

character revealed there is utterly unlike that of a lunatic or a liar. If it is impossible that a lunatic could be that wise or a liar that loving, then he must be the Lord; he must be the one he claims to be. This is the progress of the argument in Scripture: you meet God through Christ, and (as the next argument will show) you meet Christ through Christians, through the Church. The logical order is: first prove the existence of God, then prove the divinity of Christ, then prove the authority of Christ's Church. But the actual order in which an individual confronts these things is the reverse: he meets Christ through Christians (first, the apostles and writers of the Gospels; then the saints, past and present) and God through Christ. Once again, the "argument" is more like an invitation to "come and see."

Who put smiles on the lips of martyrs?

A sixth argument is the saints, especially their joy. G. K. Chesterton once said

that the only unanswerable argument against Christianity was Christians. (He meant bad and sad Christians.) Similarly, the only unanswerable argument for

Christianity is Christians—saintly Christians. You can argue against Mother Teresa's theology if you are sceptical of mind, but you cannot argue against Mother Teresa unless you are hopelessly hard of heart. If there is no God, how can life's most fundamental illusion cause life's greatest joy? If God didn't do

it, who put smiles on the lips of martyrs? "By their fruits you shall know

them." Illusions do not have the staying power that the Faith has.

Worldly men pin their hopes on otherworldly goals, en masse, century after century.

And that brings us to our seventh argument from history: the conversion of the world. How explain the success of the Faith in winning the hearts of men? Hard-hearted Romans give up worldly pleasures and ambitions, and often life itself. Worldly men pin their hopes on otherworldly goals and do it consistently, en masse, century after century. If Christianity is not true and there are no miracles, then the conversion of the world is an even greater miracle. Greek philosophy won converts through rational proofs, and Mohammed through force of arms in the jihad, or holy war, but Christ won the hearts of men by the miracle of "amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." (I almost believe it is our high and holy duty to sing loudly the original "wretch" line that our liturgical experts have bowdlerized out of that great old song whenever the congregation sings the bland version instead. God in his wisdom saw that the American Church lacked persecutions and so sent her liturgists.)

All who seek him will find him.

The eighth and last argument from history is from our own individual history and

life's experiences. The Christian faith is verifiable in a laboratory, but it is a subtle and complex laboratory: the laboratory of one's life. If God exists, he wants to get in touch with us and reveal himself to us, and he has promised that all who seek him will find him. Well, then, all the agnostic has to do is to seek, sincerely, honestly, and with an open mind, and he will find, in God's way and in God's time. That is part of the hypothesis, part of the promise. How to seek? Not just by arguing but by praying, not just by talking about God,

as Job's three friends did and did not find him, but by talking to God, as Job

did, and found him. I always tell a sceptic to pray the prayer of the sceptic if he really wants to know whether God exists. This is the scientific thing to do,

to test a hypothesis by performing the relevant experiment. I tell him to go out

into his backyard some night when no one can see and hear him and make him feel foolish, and say to the empty universe above him, "God, I don't know whether you exist or not. Maybe I'm praying to nobody, but maybe I'm praying to you. So if you are really there, please let me know somehow, because I do want to know. I

want only the Truth, whatever it is. If you are the Truth, here I am, ready and willing to follow you wherever you lead." If our faith is not a pack of lies, then whoever sincerely prays that prayer will find God in his own life, no matter how hard, how long, or how complex the road, as Augustine's was in the Confessions. "All roads lead to Rome" if only we follow them.

From Fundamentals of the Faith by Ignatius Press.

Argument from Pascal's Wager by Peter Kreeft

Most philosophers think Pascal's Wager is the weakest of all arguments for believing in the existence of God. Pascal thought it was the strongest. After finishing the argument in his Pensées, he wrote, "This is conclusive, and if men are capable of any truth, this is it." That is the only time Pascal ever wrote a sentence like that, for he was one of the most sceptical philosophers who ever wrote. Suppose someone terribly precious to you lay dying, and the doctor offered to try a new "miracle drug" that he could not guarantee but that seemed to have a 50-50 chance of saving your beloved friend's life. Would it be reasonable to try it, even if it cost a little money? And suppose it were free—wouldn't it be utterly reasonable to try it and unreasonable not to? Suppose you hear reports that your house is on fire and your children are inside. You do not know whether the reports are true or false. What is the reasonable thing to do—to ignore them or to take the time to run home or at least phone home just in case the reports are true? Suppose a winning sweepstakes ticket is worth a million dollars, and there are only two tickets left. You know that one of them is the winning ticket, while the other is worth nothing, and you are allowed to buy only one of the two tickets, at random. Would it be a good investment to spend a dollar on the good chance of winning a million? No reasonable person can be or ever is in doubt in such cases. But deciding whether to believe in God is a case like these, argues Pascal. It is therefore the height of folly not to "bet" on God, even if you have no certainty, no proof, no guarantee that your bet will win.

Atheism is a terrible bet. It gives you no chance of winning the prize.

To understand Pascal's Wager you have to understand the background of the argument. Pascal lived in a time of great scepticism. Medieval philosophy was dead, and medieval theology was being ignored or sneered at by the new intellectuals of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. Montaigne, the great sceptical essayist, was the most popular writer of the day. The classic arguments for the existence of God were no longer popularly believed. What could the Christian apologist say to the sceptical mind of this age? Suppose such a typical mind lacked both the gift of faith and the confidence in reason to prove God's existence; could there be a third ladder out of the pit of unbelief into the light of belief? Pascal's Wager claims to be that third ladder. Pascal well knew that it was a low ladder. If you believe in God only as a bet, that is certainly not a deep, mature, or adequate faith. But it is something, it is a start, it is enough to dam the tide of atheism. The Wager appeals not to a high ideal, like faith, hope, love, or proof, but to a low one: the instinct for self-preservation, the desire to be happy and not unhappy. But on that low natural level, it has tremendous force. Thus Pascal prefaces his argument with the words, "Let us now

speak according to our natural lights." Imagine you are playing a game for two prizes. You wager blue chips to win blue prizes and red chips to win red prizes. The blue chips are your mind, your reason, and the blue prize is the truth about God's existence. The red chips are your will, your desires, and the red prize is heavenly happiness. Everyone wants both prizes, truth and happiness. Now suppose there is no way of calculating how to play the blue chips. Suppose your reason cannot win you the truth. In that case, you can still calculate how to play the red chips. Believe in God not because your reason can prove with certainty that it is true that God exists but because your will seeks happiness, and God is your only chance of attaining happiness eternally. Pascal says, "Either God is, or he is not. But to which view shall we be inclined? Reason cannot decide this question. [Remember that Pascal's Wager is an argument for sceptics.] Infinite chaos separates us. At the far end of this infinite distance [death] a coin is being spun that will come down heads [God] or tails [no God]. How will you wager?"

We are like ships that need to get home.

The most powerful part of Pascal's argument comes next. It is not his refutation of atheism as a foolish wager (that comes last) but his refutation of agnosticism as impossible. Agnosticism, not-knowing, maintaining a sceptical, uncommitted attitude, seems to be the most reasonable option. The agnostic says, "The right thing is not to wager at all." Pascal replies, "But you must wager. There is no choice. You are already committed [embarked]." We are not outside observers of life, but participants. We are like ships that need to get home, sailing past a port that has signs on it proclaiming that it is our true home and our true happiness. The ships are our own lives and the signs on the port say "God". The agnostic says he will neither put in at that port (believe) nor turn away from it (disbelieve) but stay anchored a reasonable distance away until the weather clears and he can see better whether this is the true port or a fake (for there are a lot of fakes around). Why is this attitude unreasonable, even impossible? Because we are moving. The ship of life is moving along the waters of time, and there comes a point of no return, when our fuel runs out, when it is too late. The Wager works because of the fact of death. Suppose Romeo proposes to Juliet and Juliet says, "Give me some time to make up my mind." Suppose Romeo keeps coming back day after day, and Juliet keeps saying the same thing day after day: "Perhaps tomorrow." In the words of a small, female, red-haired American philosopher, "Tomorrow is always a day away. And there comes a time when there are no more tomorrows. Then "maybe" becomes "no". Romeo will die. Corpses do not marry. Christianity is God's marriage proposal to the soul. Saying "maybe" and "perhaps tomorrow" cannot continue indefinitely because life does not continue indefinitely. The weather will never clear enough for the agnostic navigator to be sure whether the port is true home or false just by looking at it through binoculars from a distance. He has to take a

chance, on this port or some other, or he will never get home. Once it is decided that we must wager; once it is decided that there are only two options, theism and atheism, not three, theism, atheism, and agnosticism; then the rest of the argument is simple. Atheism is a terrible bet. It gives you no chance of winning the red prize. Pascal states the argument this way:

You have two things to lose: the true and the good; and two things to stake:

your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to avoid: error and wretchedness. Since you must necessarily choose, your reason is no more affronted by choosing one rather than the other. That is one point cleared up. But your happiness? Let us weigh up the gain and the loss involved in calling heads that God exists. Let us assess the two cases: if you win, you win everything: if you lose, you lose nothing. Do not hesitate then: wager that he does exist. If God does not exist, it does not matter how you wager, for there is nothing to win after death and nothing to lose after death. But if God does exist, your only chance of winning eternal happiness is to believe, and your only chance of losing it is to refuse to believe. As Pascal says, "I should be much more afraid of being mistaken and then finding out that Christianity is true than of being mistaken in believing it to be true." If you believe too much, you neither win nor lose eternal happiness. But if you believe too little, you risk losing everything. But is it worth the price? What must be given up to wager that God exists? Whatever it is, it is only finite, and it is most reasonable to wager something finite on the chance of winning an infinite prize. Perhaps you must give up autonomy or illicit pleasures, but you will gain infinite happiness in eternity, and "I tell you that you will gain even in this life "—purpose, peace, hope, joy, the things that put smiles on the lips of martyrs.

Christianity is God's marriage proposal to the soul.

Lest we take this argument with less seriousness than Pascal meant it, he concludes: "If my words please you and seem cogent, you must know that they come from a man who went down upon his knees before and after." To the high-minded objector who refuses to believe for the low motive of saving the eternal skin of his own soul, we may reply that the Wager works quite as well if we change the motive. Let us say we want to give God his due if there is a God. Now if there is a God, justice demands total faith, hope, love, obedience, and worship. If there is a God and we refuse to give him these things, we sin maximally against the truth. But the only chance of doing infinite justice is if God exists and we believe, while the only chance of doing infinite injustice is if God exists and we do not believe. If God does not exist, there is no one there to do infinite justice or infinite injustice to. So the motive of doing justice moves the Wager just as well as the motive of seeking happiness. Pascal used the more selfish motive because we all have that all the time, while only some are motivated by justice, and only some of the time.

Because the whole argument moves on the practical rather than the theoretical level, it is fitting that Pascal next imagines the listener offering the practical objection that he just cannot bring himself to believe. Pascal then

answers the objection with stunningly practical psychology, with the suggestion that the prospective convert "act into" his belief if he cannot yet "act out" of it. If you are unable to believe, it is because of your passions since reason impels you to believe and yet you cannot do so. Concentrate then not on convincing yourself by multiplying proofs of God's existence but by diminishing your passions. You want to find faith, and you do not know the road. You want to be cured of unbelief, and you ask for the remedy: learn from


behaved just as if they did believe. This is the same advice Dostoevsky's guru, Father Zossima, gives to the "woman of little faith" in The Brothers Karamazov. The behavior Pascal mentions is "taking holy water, having Masses said, and so on". The behavior Father Zossima counsels to the same end is "active and indefatigable love of your neighbor." In both cases, living the Faith can be a way of getting the Faith. As Pascal says:

"That will make you believe quite naturally and will make you more docile." "But that is what I am afraid of.'' ''But why? What have you to lose?" An atheist visited the great rabbi and philosopher Martin Buber and demanded that Buber prove the existence of God to him. Buber refused, and the atheist got up to leave in anger. As he left, Buber called after him, "But can you be sure there is no God?" That atheist wrote, forty years later, "I am still an atheist. But Buber's question has haunted me every day of my life." The Wager has just that haunting power.

those who were once bound like you and who now wager all they

From Fundamentals of the Faith by Ignatius Press. This text is also available as an audio lecture under:

Arguments for God's Existence

Boston College Interview with Professor Peter Kreeft


Boston College Observer 4/22/04A Conversation with Peter Kreeft by Paul Camacho An author of over 40 books, a philosophy professor at BC for 38 years, a speaker in high demand, and arguably one of the most well-known and well-read Christian apologists of our age, Professor Peter Kreeft nevertheless refers to himself in his works as a "beginner writing for beginners." His style, both in teaching and in writing, is as unpretentious as it is fervent: in deeply profound, elegant, and often entertaining ways, Kreeft questions the assumptions of modern thought with the wonderful wisdom and wit of a wider worldview. Refusing to restrict reason to the narrow confines of modern philosophy, Kreeft draws deeply from all areas of human experience. He is fond of saying that his role of a professor is merely to introduce a student to a great thinker by means of their work, and then to allow them to converse: "Student, meet Socrates. Socrates, meet student." It is our hope that this interview will serve a similar purpose:

"Reader, meet Prof. Kreeft."

You received your Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1965 and have been teaching philosophy at Boston College ever since. Why did you decide to become a philosopher?

I did not decide to become a philosopher any more than Fred Astaire decided to

become a dancer or Alfred E. Neuman decided to have big ears. It was in my script. Actually, I was at first an English major in college, but I kept looking

for the philosophy inside everything I read, so I went for the nut instead of the shell.

You have described philosophy as beginning in wonder. Could you explain what you mean by that, and how that is relevant to our culture of skepticism and


I wrote my doctoral dissertation on that: wonder as the origin of philosophy.

(1) It begins with surprise, shock. Little kids do it all the time; everything surprises them because they have no ruts yet. (2) Then it becomes intellectual; emotional wonder turns into intellectual wonder. We want to explain these surprises, like uncles and oranges and spiders and tubas. We naturally want to know why. It's a little kid's favorite word. We want to know everything there is to know about everything there is (to paraphrase Lonergan). (3) Finally, the deepest wonder, the fruit of the other two, is appreciation, contemplation:

something very close to love. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all say "philosophy begins in wonder." If the thing done today by scholarly cyborgs doesn't, then it's not philosophy. It may be worthwhile to do. So is bookbinding, and computer repair, and news reporting; it's just a different thing. When you wonder, you get all still inside, not wordy. Words that come from wonder come from silence. They have heft, and weight. Words that come from other words are just more members of the chain gang. If that's no longer fashionable, so what? Chesterton

says that whoever marries the spirit of the times must soon become a widower. Who are your heroes, both philosophical and otherwise? Jesus, Socrates, and my father. And Duke Kahunamoku, Bill Lee, and Chopin. What have been your most popular classes over the years, and why do you think they have been so popular? Tolkien—because he's simply the greatest writer of the 20th century, and because I concentrate on just one great book; Augustine's Confessions—because there has never been another man or another book like it; C.S. Lewis—because no writer is more clear, honest, reliable, or full of joy; World Religions—because everyone wants to know the very deepest things in people's hearts and lives.

You have written over forty books, and are perhaps best known to your readers as

a Christian apologist. What has it been like to be a faithful orthodox Christian

in the field of philosophy? I just try to tell the truth as I see it. I don't worry about what "the field of philosophy" is doing. The question seems to assume a tension between Christianity and philosophy, faith and reason. I don't feel it at all. In principle, faith and reason are allies because they are two communications from the same Author. In practice, many of the greatest philosophers have been Christians, and this continues to be true even in our secular age. What has inspired you to write so many books? Why do you think they are so eagerly received? Greed inspires me. Greed for truth, for one thing: I want to learn, and I learn best by teaching, and writing is a form of teaching. Greed to share the truths I find exciting and joyful with others, too. Greed to create, for another thing. What the artist wants to build with color or the musician with sound, the writer wants to build with words. And also, frankly, greed for enough money to keep a big extended family and a house in Newton. No greed for fame, though; that's just stupid. If anyone likes my books that's because they've stepped into the same boat I've invited them into and enjoyed the ride.

I write the books I want to read, but can't, because no one else writes them, so

I have to write them before I can read them. I like to bridge the scholarly and

the popular, to do philosophy and theology in a way intelligent readers who aren't academics can profit from. When they asked Mel Gibson what kind of a character he thought he had, he replied, "Somewhere between Saint Francis of Assisi and Howard Stern." I think my books are somewhere between G.K. Chesterton and Tim La Haye. You are currently on sabbatical—what are you working on right now? You have been working on a novel for quite some time now, is that to be forthcoming soon? More books in the Socrates Meets series? I'm working on a novel that really isn't a novel, but a fictional set of documents that give you an angel's eye view of the connection between Jesus Christ, dead Vikings, the St. Michael statue in Gasson Hall, hopelessly Victorian romantics, sassy Black feminists, Dutch Calvinist seminarians, Jewish mother substitutes, Caribbean rubber dancers, Russian prophets, the disguises of

angels, the Palestinian "intifadah," sea serpents, the fatal beauty of the sea, the Unified Field Theory, the Curse of the Bambino, armless nature mystics, two and a half popes, Islam in the art of body surfing, post-abortion trauma, the Great Blizzard of '78, the demon Hurricano, Jesuit philosophers, Nahant, the psychology of suicide, the ecumenical jihad, the victims of the Sexual Revolution, and the end of the world. I hope to get it done before that last item happens. Every September, I speed up if the Red Sox have any chance to get

into the World Series, because that would be the apocalypse. Meanwhile, Socrates will meet Sartre, then Descartes, then Kant, then Freud (probably one a year).

You used to be a Reformed Protestant


I became a Catholic for the only honest reason anyone should: because it's true.

I read my way into the Church in the same way Newman did: I tried to prove to

myself that the Church Christ established was Protestant and then went wrong, that is, Catholic, later. I found the opposite. For instance, not one Christian in the world for the first 1000 years ever denied the Real Presence in the

Eucharist. Do you think this helps to account for the widespread appeal of your works across traditional denominational divides? What else about your writing explains this popularity? Jews who become Christians today almost always say they have become better Jews, completed Jews. I think I'm more, not less, Evangelical as a Catholic than I was when I was an Evangelical Protestant. Read the Introduction to C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity for the answer to your question. Although in many of your works you state that you are defending and explaining what C.S. Lewis calls "mere Christianity," you are also a devout and faithful Catholic and a staunch defender of the Church. After teaching at Boston College,

a Catholic university, for over 35 years, what are your thoughts about the role

the Church plays at B.C.? Why do journalists always call any Catholic who isn't a heretic or an apostate a "devout" Catholic? Walker Percy used to say he was not a good Catholic, he was a bad Catholic. But that was back when there were lines at the confessionals. When people ask me the question about how Catholic BC is, I like to say that it's Catholic enough to feel like my home but at the same time pagan enough to feel like a mission field. A university isn't a seminary, and a university in 21st century America is necessarily pluralistic. At the same time, the university historically emerged "from the heart of the Church," ("ex corde ecclesia"), and a Catholic university is not an anachronism or an oxymoron or a quirky, weird kind of university. The Church does not have direct supervision of BC. Yet if what the Church teaches is not true, there is no reason for BC to exist. Its identity is both Catholic and catholic (universal, open to all truth, and pluralistic). If it loses the first, it will become BU. That's quite possible; that happened to most Protestant universities. If it loses the second, it will become St. John's seminary or Weston School of Theology. That's not going to happen. It's simply silly for anybody to worry about that. You often speak about "cafeteria-style" Catholics, a category many B.C. students

when and why did you decide to become a

fit into. Could you explain what you mean by this? What can be done to bring

Catholics back to orthodoxy, and why is this important?

A cafeteria is a place where you pick whatever foods you want. A home is where

you eat what Mommy puts on your plate. The Church is not Alice's Restaurant, where "you can have anything you want." It's Mommy, and she puts a lot of strange food on your plate, things you never would have figured out on your own (like the Trinity) and things you don't want to eat (like the spinach of practicing all the virtues, even the unpopular ones, and avoiding the vices, even the popular ones). I'm a Cafeteria Norseman. I love some things in Norse mythology. But I don't believe most of it. For instance, I love thunder, and I

love to imagine I hear the hammer of Thor. It's a great image. But I'm not going

to live for Thor or die for Thor. Thor didn't die for my sins.

Many B.C. students consider themselves to be Catholics, but state that they have trouble reconciling the Church's teachings with their own "personal beliefs."

What would you say to such a student? Many of the Church's teachings don't require faith, only reason and honesty. For instance, the value of reason and honesty itself. I'd start by appealing to that. Use your reason. Think. And be fanatically honest with yourself. Don't play games with yourself. Lying to others is bad enough, but lying to yourself

is like putting out your own eyes. So if your "personal beliefs" are just your

feelings, ask yourself why Hitler wasn't as good as you are, because he lived

according to his "personal beliefs" and feelings too. If, on the other hand, your "personal beliefs" are the result of your honest and rational search for truth, and you honestly believe you have good objective reasons for disbelieving some of the essential teachings of the Church, then you must follow your conscience and become a Protestant or a Muslim or a Buddhist or an agnostic or something else. If your personal beliefs contradict the Church's definition of the Catholic faith, then you are not a Catholic, any more than I am a Buddhist

if I believe in egotism and war, or a Marxist if I believe in the stock market.

That's not a personal insult, just a rational label. Honesty demands "truth in labeling." What sort of changes have you noticed in your students over the years? Everybody asks me that. The major answer is: nothing major at all. The human mind and heart doesn't change much. The media thrive on change, so they hype every little change. Really, the two clearest changes I can think of are both little: first, there aren't many sixties style hippies who think they can change the world and bring in the Age of Aquarius any more, they're too busy preparing

for law school or med school; and second, their English skills and knowledge of history have deteriorated and their math and computer skills have increased. The elves are leaving Middle-earth and we are approaching The Matrix.

If you had to point to the biggest obstacle in society today facing Orthodox

Christianity, what would it be? Our own sins. They always have social consequences. We construct society, for

good or ill, far more than it constructs us. It has no free will; we do. It is merely what we make; we are not merely what it makes. By "orthodox Christianity"

I assume you mean the whole nine yards, the whole treatment

That begins with

faith, and truth, and teachings, but it ends with the works of love, with being saints. Only saints can save the world. And only our own sins can stop us from being saints. There has been a lot of talk among students around campus lately about dissatisfaction with the current "hook-up" culture, in which students have replaced dating with what is described as random, no-strings-attached, inebriated sexual liaisons on weekends. What are your thoughts on this, and on how this can be overcome? Perhaps a reading of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah might refresh our memories. At some point, a culture or an individual gets so bad that if they don't stop themselves, God does. No one knows where that point is until it's too late. And that's true for any evil: pride, hypocrisy, selfishness, injustice--or "random, no-strings-attached, inebriated sexual liaisons," as you so charmingly put it. I believe in fear. When the ship is falling apart and sinking, it is better to feel fear than peace and self-esteem. There was once an old book that people used to read, back in the Dark Ages. It was the book that taught us all about love and peace and hope and other upbeat stuff. That book also identified "the beginning of wisdom." It was fear: the fear of the Lord. I know psychologists sneer at that today, but I'd rather sneer at psychologists who sneer at God's psychology, than sneer at God's psychology. What are your thoughts on Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ? One does not "have thoughts" about that movie. One goes, sees, feels, participates, identifies, agonizes, dies—something in you dies when you see that movie. Your distance, your safe perch from which to observe, your self-esteem. The movie is really about us. Gibson stands for all of us in that movie. You know how he put himself into it: the hand that hammers Christ's hand to the Cross is Gibson's hand. Your hand. My hand. My candidate for the greatest line in any movie ever made is the one where Mary asks Christ when He's going to stop, why He has to go that far, after He's fallen down the third time under the Cross, and He picks up His cross—He embraces it as a man embraces a woman, and turns to Mary and says, with almost a tiny smile, "See, Mother, how I make all things new." And then He goes on and does it. What are your thoughts on the current debate about gay marriage? As a philosopher the thing that strikes me most is the brilliant strategy of the gay marriage movement. Like Orwell in 1984 it sees that the main battlefield is language. If they can redefine a key term like "marriage" they win. Control language and you control thought; control thought and you control action; control action and you control the world. Mussolini knew that too. He made it illegal for Italians to say "hi" in the traditional way. The Italian for "how are you?" is "Come sta lei?" "Lei" is the feminine inclusive pronoun. Fascist ideology held that this was emasculating and weak, so you had to say "Come sta lui?" from now on. "Lui" is the masculine pronoun. So no one could say "hi" in Italy without identifying themselves as pro or anti-fascist. In America, the feminists have succeeded in exactly the same way. They've labeled the traditional inclusive language, the language of every single one of

the great books of Western civilization written in English, as exclusive because it uses "he" and "man" to include women; and they've labeled their new artificial ideological invention, which insists, contrary to historical fact, that "he" and "man" exclude women--they've labeled this "inclusive" language. And amazingly, nearly everyone follows like sheep! So it will be easy, I think, for them to redefine marriage. Hell, they've already redefined "human beings" or "persons" so that they can murder the littlest ones whenever they want to. Why should they feel any guilt about dishonesty when they don't feel any guilt about


I think you will find that there is an overwhelmingly strong connection between

these three agendas: gay marriage, feminism, and abortion. Very seldom do you find people who are for one but not the other, or against one but not the other. And what they all have in common is this attitude toward language: it is what the most powerful and insidious propaganda film in history called "the triumph

of the will." Already in Canada it is a crime, punishable by a fine or even imprisonment, to speak against homosexuality in public. Politically incorrect

ideas, such as Biblical morality, are now defined as "hate speech." One of the things I fear from this is an ugly backlash against homosexuals. If the truth is now whatever we will, then just as there is nothing to stop society today from redefining marriage, there is nothing to stop it tomorrow from redefining personal dignity and rights so as to take them away from homosexuals. The Nazis did exactly that. The Church is the best friend of homosexuals, both because she tells them they are made in God's image and have intrinsic dignity and rights and are called to be saints, and because she is the only social force left that insists on moral absolutes--so when they sin against themselves she says NO, just as she does to heterosexuals who sin against themselves sexually, but when others sin against them she says NO also. No one else dares to say NO. She speaks up for everyone, including homosexuals.

You wrote The Handbook of Christian Apologetics with Fr. Tacelli

like working with him? Perfect. He did some chapters, I did others. We didn't argue. I was the Navy, he was the Air Force. You have described yourself as an avid surfer. Could you explain your fascination for surfing, and any connections you see between surfing and


In 25,000 words or less? Wait till my novel comes out. No, the temptation is too strong. Here's three answers: (1) Soul-surfing is

becoming one with the wave, which is the form of all energy, and the form the energy of the Big Bang is taking right now, so surfing is a time machine that takes you back to the moment of creation. (2) Surfing is the only thing that never gets boring on earth because what you will do in Heaven is surf in God forever. (3) You have an evil twin who is always with you. He is called your ego. In surfing, you lose him. Surfing is the world's easiest mysticism. Do you have any final words for the typical Boston College student today?

what was it

Can You Prove God Exists? by Peter Kreeft

Before we answer this question, we must distinguish five questions that are often confused. First, there is the question of whether something exists or not. A thing can exist whether we know it or not. Second, there is the question of whether we know it exists. (To answer this question affirmatively is to presuppose that the first question is answered affirmatively, of course; though a thing can exist without our knowing it, we cannot know it exists unless it exists.) Third, there is the question of whether we have a reason for our knowledge. We can know some things without being able to lead others to that knowledge by reasons. Many Christians think God's existence is like that. Fourth, there is the question of whether this reason, if it exists, amounts to a proof. Most reasons do not. Most of the reasons we give for what we believe amount to probabilities, not proofs. For instance, the building you sit in may collapse in one minute, but the reliability of the contractor and the construction materials is a good reason for thinking that very improbable. Fifth, if there is a proof, is it a scientific proof, a proof by the scientific method, i.e., by experiment, observation, and measurement? Philosophical proofs can be good proofs, but they do not have to be scientific proofs. I believe we can answer yes to the first four of these questions about the existence of God but not to the fifth. God exists, we can know that, we can give reasons, and those reasons amount to proof, but not scientific proof, except in an unusually broad sense. There are many arguments for God's existence, but most of them have the same logical structure, which is the basic structure of any deductive argument. First, there is a major premise, or general principle. Then, a minor premise states some particular data in our experience that come under that principle. Finally, the conclusion follows from applying the general principle to the particular case. In each case the conclusion is that God exists, but the premises of the different arguments are different. The arguments are like roads, from different starting points, all aiming at the same goal of God. In subsequent essays we will explore the arguments from cause and effect, from conscience, from history, and from Pascal's Wager. The next essay explores the Argument from Design.

From Fundamentals of the Faith by Ignatius Press.

This text is also available as an audio lecture under:

Arguments for God's Existence

Comparing Christianity & Buddhism by Peter Kreeft

The great German Catholic theologian, Romano Guardini, wrote a profoundly insightful and orthodox meditation on the life of Christ entitled The Lord. In it, he noted that no man in history ever came closer to rivaling the enormity of Christ's claim to transform human nature itself, at its roots, than did Buddha (though in a radically different way). Huston Smith says in The Religions of Man that there have been only two people in history about whom others asked not "Who are you?" but "What are you: a man or a god?" They were Jesus and Buddha. Buddha's clear answer was: I am a man, not a god; Christ's clear answer was: I am both "Son of Man" and "Son of God." Buddha said, "Look not to me, look to my dharma (doctrine)"; Christ said, "Come unto me." Buddha said, "Be ye lamps unto yourselves"; Christ said, "I am the

light of the world." Yet contrary to the original intentions of both men, some later Buddhists (the Pure Land sect) divinized Buddha. And some later Christians (Arians and Modernists) de-divinized Christ. The claims of Buddha and Christ are in fact so different that we may wonder whether Buddhism can be called a "religion" at all. It does not speak of God, or Brahman, as does Hinduism from which it emerged. Nor does it speak of Atman, or soul. In fact, it teaches the doctrine of an-atta, "no soul"—that we are made of "strands" (skandhas) of impersonal consciousness woven together by causal necessity without any underlying substance, self or soul. Buddhism does not deny God. It is silent about God. It is agnostic, not atheistic. But it is not silent about soul. Its denial of soul has practical import: It teaches us not to be "attached," not to send our soul out in desire, not to love. Instead of personal, individual, free-willed agape (active love), Buddhism teaches an impersonal, universal feeling of compassion (karuna). Compassion is something we often hear more about than agape in the modern West, for (as Dostoyevsky put it) "love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams." Karuna and agape lead the disciple to do similar, strikingly selfless deeds—but in strikingly different spirits. Both points are shown by the Buddhist story of

a saint who, like St. Martin of Tours, gave his cloak to a beggar. But the

Buddhist's explanation was not "because I love you" or "because Christ loves you" but rather: "This is the enlightened thing to do. For if you were freezing and had two gloves on one hand and none on the other hand, would it not be the enlightened thing to do to give one of the gloves to the bare hand?" The Buddhist point is not the welfare of the recipient, but the liberation of the giver from the burden of self. The same end could be achieved without a recipient. For instance: A man, fleeing a man-eating tiger, came to the edge of

a cliff. The only way was down. He found a vine and climbed down it; but there,

at the foot of the cliff, was a second man-eating tiger. Then he saw two mice, one black and one white (yin and yang) eating the vine in two above him. Just before it broke, he saw a wild strawberry on the face of the cliff. He plucked

it and ate it. It was delicious!

The "unenlightened" will wonder what the point is, or why he didn't distract the tiger with the strawberry. But the "enlightened" will explain the parable thus:

"The man tasted to the tiger exactly as the strawberry did to the man." In other words, the man, the tiger and the strawberry are all one Self. The "illusion" of individuality is seen through. There is no soul, so there is no fear—no fear of death because there is no one there to die. For Buddhism, egotism (selfish desire) causes the illusion of an ego. For the West, secular as well as religious, a real ego is the cause and egotism is the effect. Agape is a different effect from the same cause: altruism from the ego instead of egotism from the ego. To the Buddhist, agape is impossible; there can be no ego without egotism, no self without selfishness, because the self is not

a real cause that might conceivably change its effect. Rather, the self is the

illusion—effect of selfishness. There's nobody there to love or to hate. How can this apparent nihilism, this philosophy of nothingness, feel liberating to Buddhists? The answer is found in Buddha himself: his personality and the events of his life, especially his "great enlightenment." Like Jesus, Buddha taught a very shocking message. And, like Jesus, Buddha was believed only because of his personality. "Holy to his fingertips" is how he is described. If you or I said what Buddha or Jesus said, we would be laughed at. There was something deep and moving there that made the incredible credible. The events of Buddha's life are dramatic and offer a clue to this "something." It is not, however, Buddha's life or his personality that are central to Buddhism; there could be a Buddhism without Buddha. There could not, of course, be a Christianity without Christ. "Buddha" is a title, not a given name—like "Christ" ("Messiah"). It is his essential claim; for it means "the enlightened one" or "the one who woke up." Buddha claims we are all spiritually asleep until the experience of Enlightenment, or Awakening. Here is the story of how Buddha became Buddha, of how a man woke up. Born Gautama Siddhartha, son of a king who hoped the prince would become the most successful king in India's history, he was protected in a palace of earthly delights to make kingship irresistibly attractive to him. But curiosity led him to sneak away into the forbidden world outside, where he saw the Four Distressing Sights. The first three were a sick man, an old man and a dead man. Gautama puzzled deeply over these newly discovered mysteries of sickness, old age and death—to no avail. Then came the fourth sight: a begging ascetic who had renounced the world to seek Enlightenment. Gautama decided to do the same. He spent years meditating on life's deepest mystery: Why is man unhappy? After years of torturing his body to free his soul, all in vain, he decided on the "Middle Way" between his earlier self-indulgence and his later self-torture. Taking a decent meal for the first time in years, he sat in full lotus position under the sacred bodhi tree in Benares and resolved not to rise until he was enlightened. When he rose he proclaimed that he was Buddha. He had broken through the great mystery of life. The breakthrough had to be experienced, not just verbalized. Buddhism is not

essentially a doctrine but an experience. Yet Buddha verbalized a doctrine (dharma): the Four Noble Truths summarized everything he taught. Whenever he was pressed by his disciples to go beyond the Four Noble Truths, he refused. Everything else was "questions not tending to edification." The First Noble Truth is that all of life is dukkha, suffering. The word means "out-of-joint-ness" or separation—something very similar to "sin," but without the personal, relational dimension: not a broken relationship but a broken consciousness. Inner brokenness is Buddhism's "bad news" that precedes its gospel or "good news." The Second Noble Truth is that the cause of suffering is tanha, "grasping," selfish desire. We suffer because of the gap between what we want and what we have. This gap is created by our dissatisfaction, our wanting to get what we do not have or wanting to keep what we do have (e.g., life, which causes fear of death). Thus desire is the villain for Buddha, the cause of all suffering. This explains the "no soul" doctrine. Desire creates the illusion of a desirer alienated from the desired object, the illusion of twoness. Enlightenment is the "extinction" of this illusion. "I want that" creates the illusion of an "I" distinct from the "that"; and this distinction is the cause of suffering. Desire is thus the fuel of suffering's fire. The Third Noble Truth follows inevitably. To remove the cause is to remove the effect, therefore suffering can be extinguished (nirvana) by extinguishing its cause, desire. Remove the fuel and you put out the fire. The Fourth Noble Truth tells you how to extinguish desire: by the "Noble Eightfold Path" of ego-reduction in each of life's eight defined areas, inward and outward (e.g., "right thought:" "right associations," etc.). The content of the Four Noble Truths is specifically Buddhist, but the form is universal. Every religion, every practical philosophy, every therapy, spiritual or physical, has its Four Noble Truths: the symptoms, the diagnosis, the prognosis and the prescription. They are the bad effect, the bad cause, the good effect and the good cause, respectively. For example, Marxism's Four Noble Truths are: class conflict, capitalism. communism and revolution. Christianity's are: death, sin, Christ and salvation. The most crucial of the four steps is the second. The patient knows his own symptoms, but only a trained doctor can diagnose the hidden cause, the disease. Once diagnosed, most diseases have a standard prognosis and prescription which can be looked up in a medical textbook. On this crucial issue—the diagnosis of the human problem—Christianity and Buddhism seem about as far apart as possible. For where Buddha finds our desires too strong, Christ finds them too weak. He wants us to love more, not less: to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength. Buddha "solves" the problem of pain by a spiritual euthanasia: curing the disease of egotism and the suffering it brings by killing the patient, the ego, self, soul or I-image of God in man. Yet perhaps things are not quite as contradictory as that. For the "desire" Buddha speaks of is only selfish desire. He does not distinguish unselfish love (agape) from selfish love (eros); he simply does not know agape at all. He

profoundly knows and condemns the desire to possess something less than ourselves, like money, sex or power, but he does not know the desire to be possessed by something more than ourselves. Buddha knows greed, but not God. And surely we Westerners, whose very lives and economic systems are based on greed, need to hear Buddha when he speaks about what he knows and what we have forgotten. But Buddhists even more desperately need to hear what they do not know: the news about God and His love.

From Fundamentals of the Faith by Ignatius Press.

Comparing Christianity & Hinduism by Peter Kreeft

There are two basic kinds of religions in the world: Eastern and Western. The main differences between Hinduism and Christianity are typical of the differences between Eastern and Western religions in general. Here are some examples:

Hinduism is pantheistic, not theistic. The doctrine that God created the world out of nothing rather than emanating it out of His own substance or merely shaping some pre-existing material is an idea that simply never occurred to anyone but the Jews and those who learned it from them. Everyone else either thought of the gods as part of the world (paganism) or the world as part of God (pantheism). If God is in everything, God is in both good and evil. But then there is no absolute morality, no divine law, no divine will discriminating good and evil. In Hinduism, morality is practical; its end is to purify the soul from desires so that it can attain mystical consciousness. Again, the Jews are unique in identifying the source of morality with the object of religion. Everyone has two innate senses: the religious sense to worship, and the moral sense of conscience; but only the Jewish God is the focus of both. Only the God of the Bible is absolutely righteous. Eastern religions come from private mystical experiences; Western religions come from public revelations recorded in a book and summarized in a creed. In the East, human experience validates the Scriptures; in the West, Scripture judges experience. Eastern religions are esoteric, understandable only from within by the few who share the experience. Western religions are esoteric, public, democratic, open to all. In Hinduism there are many levels of truth: polytheism, sacred cows and reincarnation for the masses; monotheism (or monism) for the mystics, who declare the individual soul one with Brahman (God) and beyond reincarnation ("Brahman is the only reincarnator"). Truth is relative to the level of experience. Individuality is illusion according to Eastern mysticism. Not that we're not real, but that we are not distinct from God or each other. Christianity tells you to love your neighbors; Hinduism tells you you are your neighbors. The word spoken by God Himself as His own essential name, the word "I," is the ultimate illusion, not the ultimate reality, according to the East. There Is no separate ego. All is one. Since individuality is illusion, so is free will. If free will is illusion, so is sin. And if sin is illusion, so is hell. Perhaps the strongest attraction of Eastern religions is in their denial of sin, guilt and hell. Thus the two essential points of Christianity—sin and salvation—are both missing in the East. If there is no sin, no salvation is needed, only enlightenment. We need not be born again; rather, we must merely wake up to our innate divinity. If I am part of God. I can never really be alienated from God by sin. Body, matter, history and time itself are not independently real, according to

Hinduism. Mystical experience lifts the spirit out of time and the world. In contrast, Judaism and Christianity are essentially news, events in time:

creation, providence, prophets, Messiah, incarnation, death and, resurrection, ascension, second coming. Incarnation and New Birth are eternity dramatically entering time. Eastern religions are not dramatic. The ultimate Hindu ideal is not sanctity but mysticism. Sanctity is fundamentally a matter of the will: willing God's will, loving God and neighbor. Mysticism is fundamentally a matter of intellect, intuition, consciousness. This fits the Eastern picture of God as consciousness—not will, not lawgiver. When C.S. Lewis was converted from atheism, he shopped around in the world's religious supermarket and narrowed his choice down to Hinduism or Christianity. Religions are like soups, he said. Some, like consomme, are thin and clear (Unitarianism, Confucianism, modern Judaism); others, like minestrone, are thick and dark (paganism, "mystery religions"). Only Hinduism and Christianity are both "thin" (philosophical) and "thick" (sacramental and mysterious). But Hinduism is really two religions: "thick" for the masses, "thin" for the sages. Only Christianity is both. Hinduism claims that all other religions are yogas: ways, deeds, paths. Christianity is a form of bhakti yoga (yoga for emotional types and lovers). There is also jnana yoga (yoga for intellectuals), raja yoga (yoga for experimenters), karma yoga (yoga for workers, practical people) and hatha yoga (the physical preliminary to the other four). For Hindus, religions are human roads up the divine mountain to enlightenment-religion is relative to human need; there is no "one way" or single objective truth. There is, however, a universal subjective truth about human nature: It has "four wants": pleasure, power, altruism and enlightenment. Hinduism encourages us to try all four paths, confident that only the fourth brings fulfillment. If there is reincarnation and if there is no hell, Hindus can afford to be patient and to learn the long, hard way: by experience rather than by faith and revelation. Hindus are hard to dialogue with for the opposite reason Moslems are: Moslems are very intolerant, Hindus are very tolerant. Nothing is false; everything is true in a way. The summit of Hinduism is the mystical experience, called mukti, or moksha:

"liberation" from the illusion of finitude, realization that tat tvam asi, "thou art That (Brahman]." At the center of your being is not individual ego but Atman, universal self which is identical with Brahman, the All. This sounds like the most absurd and blasphemous thing one could say: that I am God. But it is not that I, John Smith, am God the Father Almighty. Atman is not ego and Brahman is not God the Father. Hinduism identifies not the immanent human self with the transcendent divine self but the transcendent human self with the immanent divine self. It is not Christianity. But neither is it idiocy.

Martin Buber, in "I and Thou," suggests that Hindu mysticism is the profound experience of the "original pre-biographical unity" of the self, beneath all forms and contents brought to it by experience, but confused with God. Even

Aristotle said that "the soul is, in a way, all things." Hinduism construes this "way" as identity, or inclusion, rather than knowing: being all things substantially rather than mentally. The soul is a mirror for the whole world.

From Fundamentals of the Faith by Ignatius Press.

Comparing Christianity & Islam by Peter Kreeft

Two unsettling facts dominate the relations between Christianity and Islam:

Dialogue is almost nonexistent. Islam resists ecumenical dialogue more than any other religion. To "proselytize" in any way in a Moslem country is to go to prison. Islam once nearly conquered the world, in the early Middle Ages when its empire stretched from Spain to Indonesia, and it looks as if it could do so again. Islamic growth rates in Africa and even America are phenomenal.

In other words, Islam has the world's lowest rate of being converted and one of the world's highest rates of converting. What accounts for this success? What makes Islam such an attractive creed? In a word: simplicity. Islam reflects the stark simplicity of the Arabian desert where it was born. A Moslem knows exactly where he stands. To a world more and more confused, Islam comes with a sword that cuts through the Gordian Knot of modern malaise in a single stroke. That stroke, the striking simplicity of Islam's creed, is summed up in the palindrome (i.e., it reads the same backward as forward) which shatters the silence daily from every mosque and minaret: la illaha illa Allah! "There is no God but Allah!" Allah, of course, is the same God Jews and Christians worship. Islam is not only

a Western, monotheistic religion rather than an Oriental, pantheistic religion,

but explicitly bases itself on the historical revelation of the God of the Jews, tracing itself to Ishmael, Isaac's brother, to whom God also promised special

blessings according to Genesis. Isaac and Ishmael, Jews and Moslems, have been engaged in sibling rivalry ever since. The older name that "infidels" gave this religion, "Mohammedanism," is inaccurate, for neither Mohammed nor any of his followers ever claimed Mohammed was anything more than a human prophet. "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is His prophet," is the complete Moslem creed. The code is almost as simple as the creed. The "Five Pillars of Islam" define the duties of every Moslem. They include a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in

a lifetime, if possible, to commemorate Islam's beginning in 622 A.D. with the

"Hegira;" Mohammed's flight from Mecca; fasting; almsgiving; ritual prayer five times a day; and professing the creed, "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is His prophet." In one sense Islam is a simplification of Christianity as Buddhism is a simplification of Hinduism. But in another sense Islam adds to Christianity, for where Jews have only our "Old Testament" Scriptures and Christians add the New Testament, Moslems also add the Koran. They accept the claims of the Jewish prophets to be sent by God. They believe Jesus deepened this revelation and that Mohammed completed it. Mohammed is "the seal of the prophets." He tells you how to live Jesus' ethic (Jesus is seen only as a man, an ethical teacher). Actually, Islam neither merely simplifies Christianity nor merely adds to it, but reinterprets it—somewhat as Christianity does to Judaism. As the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament is not the same as the Jewish one, the

Moslem interpretation of the New Testament is not the same as the Christian one; the Koran authoritatively interprets the New Testament as the New interprets the Old. The Koran itself is the only miracle Mohammed claimed—though perhaps equally miraculous is the fact that Mohammed's wife became his first convert. An illiterate peasant, Mohammed received the Koran by word-for-word dictation from Allah, according to the faith of Islam. When Moslems read the Koran, they become ecstatic with admiration. They say no outsider can appreciate it, nor can it be adequately translated out of Arabic. In this sense, Islam is a bit esoteric, though it is a religion of public revelation in a book. Islam believes in a single, all-just, all-merciful, all-powerful God who created the world and man, insists on obedience to His will, and promises salvation and immortality to believers and obeyers. In all these ways Islam is like Judaism and Christianity (Western) rather than like Hinduism and Buddhism. (Eastern). Allah is not a Force but a Person; not merely Being or even merely Consciousness but moral Will. From the Will of Allah comes both the existence of the world by creation and the rule over it, over nature and history by Providence and over human free choice by moral law. The three crucial Christian doctrines Islam denies are the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Resurrection. Like Judaism, Islam denies Christ's claim to divinity. Allah is one; so how could He be three? Jesus is human; so how could He be divine? "It is unfitting for Allah to have a son," wrote Mohammed, apparently interpreting sonship biologically. The Koran believes in Christ's virgin birth, but not His resurrection; in His prophetic function (teaching) but not His priestly function (salvation) or His kingly function (ruling); in His moral authority but not His supernatural authority. To Moslems, as with Jews, Christ is the stumbling block. The theology of God the Father and the ethics of human living are essentially the same for Jews, Christians and Moslems. What then is missing? Aren't these the two essentials? No. What's missing is the link between the two, the "missing link," Christ the Mediator between God and man. Mohammed and the Koran are essentially another Moses (lawgiver) and another law. What's missing is grace, salvation, redemption. What's missing is precisely the essential thing. There are two kinds of Moslems today, just as there were in the Middle Ages:

modernists and orthodox, liberals and fundamentalist, Mutazilites (rationalists) and Mutikalimoun. In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas confronted "Latin Averroism," the European copy of the Moslem philosopher Averroes' way of reconciling the Koran with the philosophy of Aristotle by reducing much of the Koran to myth and exalting Aristotle to the authority of Pure Reason. He taught that a literal interpretation of the Koran (which the vast majority of Moslems hold) is proper for the masses, who cannot rise to the level of philosophical abstraction, but for those who can, Aristotle's arguments must prevail over belief in divine providence, creation of the world and individual immortality (all of which Aristotle denied). But Islam, by and large, has resisted this "demythologizing" rationalism far more completely than Judaism and Christianity

have in our day. We have not yet mentioned the most important thing about Islam: What is it to be a Moslem? How do Moslems exist religiously? Here too, as in Moslem theology and ethics, there is a striking simplicity, summarized in the very title of the religion. "Islam" means both "peace" (etymologically connected with the Hebrew shalom) and "submission," or "surrender"; it is the peace that comes from submission to Allah's will. Moslems would applaud T.S. Eliot's choice of Dante's line: "In His will, our peace" as "the profoundest line in all of human literature." The famous Moslem "fatalism" ("it is the will of Allah"), like the Calvinistic doctrine of Predestination, makes them work harder, not less hard. Moslems, like Christians, believe in man's free will as well as God's sovereignty. Theirs is not the modern fatalism from below, a scientific determinism, but from above. It is energizing and liberating, not squashing. Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, has produced a rich crop of saints and mystics, especially in the Sufi tradition, which is similar in many ways to the Jewish Hasidic tradition. Can Moslems be saved? They reject Christ as Savior; yet they seek and love God "Islam" means essentially the "fundamental option" of a whole-hearted "yes" to God. Most Moslems, like most Jews, see Christ only through broken lenses. If God-seeking and God-loving Jews, both before and after Christ's Incarnation, can find God, then surely God-seeking Moslems can too, according to Christ's own promise that "all who seek, find"—whether in this life or the next. Yet Christ also insists that "no one can come to the Father but by me." Whatever truth Mohammed taught Moslems about God is really present in Christ the Logos, the full revelation of God. If Moslems are saved, they are saved by Christ. Christians should hope and pray that their separated Islamic brothers and sisters be reunited with our common Father by finding Christ the Way. We cannot stop "proselytizing," for proselytizing means leading our brothers Home.

From Fundamentals of the Faith by Ignatius Press.

Comparing Christianity & Judaism by Peter Kreeft

If Jesus returned to earth today, which church would He go to? A Catholic church, of course, replies the Catholic. No, a Protestant church, argues the Protestant. I think both are wrong. I think he would begin as He did 2,000 years ago in a Jewish synagogue. The long history of Christian anti-Semitism, in thought and deed, is perhaps the worst scandal in all the Church's history. It is the Oedipus complex, for Judaism is Christianity's father. All Christians are spiritually Jews, said Vatican II, echoing St. Paul. Christianity subtracts nothing from Judaism, but only fulfills it. This is the point of the "Jews for Jesus," who insist that a Jew who becomes a Christian does not lose anything Jewish but completes his or her identity. When a Hindu or a pagan becomes a Christian, he is converted. When a Jew becomes a Christian, he is completed. This is surely Jesus' point of view too, for He said He came not to destroy the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them. From His point of view, Christianity is more Jewish than modern Judaism. Pre-Christian Judaism is like a virgin:

post-Christian Judaism is like a spinster. In Christ, God consummates the marriage to His people and through them to the world. What have Christians inherited from the Jews? Everything in the Old Testament. The knowledge of the true God. Comparing that with all the other religions of the ancient world, six crucial, distinctive teachings stand out: monotheism, creation, law, redemption, sin and faith. Only rarely did a few gentiles like Socrates and Akenaton ever reach to the heights and simplicity of monotheism. A world of many forces seemed to most pagans to point to many gods. A world of good and evil seemed to indicate good and evil gods. Polytheism seems eminently reasonable; in fact, I wonder why it is not much more popular today. There are only two possible explanations for the Jews' unique idea of a single, all-powerful and all-good God: Either they were the most brilliant philosophers in the world, or else they were "the Chosen People"—i.e., God told them. The latter explanation, which is their traditional claim, is just the opposite of arrogant. It is the humblest possible interpretation of the data. With a unique idea of God came the unique idea of creation of the universe out of nothing. The so-called "creation myths" of other religions are really only formation myths, for their gods always fashion the world out of some pre-existing stuff, some primal glop the gods were stuck with and on which you can blame things: matter, fate, darkness, etc. But a Jew can't blame evil on matter, for God created it; nor on God, since He is all-good. The idea of human free will, therefore, as the only possible origin of evil, is correlative to the idea of creation. The Hebrew word "to create" (bara) is used only three times in the Genesis account: for the creation of the universe (1:1), life (1:21) and man (1:27). Everything else was not "created" (out of nothing) but "formed" (out of something).

The consequences of the idea of creation are immense. A world created by God is real, not a dream either of God or of man. And that world is rational. Finally,

it is good. Christianity is a realistic, rational and world-affirming religion,

rather than a mythical, mystical, or world-denying religion because of its Jewish source. The essence of Judaism, which is above all a practical religion, is the Law. The Law binds the human will to the divine will. For the God of the Jews is not just

a Being or a Force, or even just a Mind, but a Will and a person. His will is

that our will should conform to His: "Be holy, for I am holy" (Lev. 11:44). The Law has levels of intimacy ranging from the multifarious external civil and ceremonial laws, through the Ten Commandments of the moral law, to the single heart of the Law. This is expressed in the central prayer of Judaism, the shma (from its first word, "hear"): "Hear O Israel: the Lord, the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" Deut. 6:4). Thus, the essence of Judaism is the same as the essence of Christianity: the love of God. Only the way of fulfilling that essence—Christ—is different. Judaism knows the Truth and the Life, but not the Way. As the song says: "Two out of three ain't bad." Even the Way is foreshadowed in Judaism, of course. The act brought dramatically before the Jews every time they worshiped in the temple was an act of sacrifice, the blood of bulls and goats and lambs foretelling forgiveness. To Christians, every detail of Old Testament Judaism was a line or a dot in the portrait of Christ. That is why it was so tragic and ironic that "He came to what was His own, but his own people did not accept Him" (John 1:11). Scripture is His picture, but most Jews preferred the picture to the person. Thus the irony of His saying:

You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf" (John 5:39-40). No religion outside Judaism and Christianity ever knew of such an intimate relationship with God as "faith." Faith means not just belief but fidelity to the covenant, like a marriage covenant. Sin is the opposite of faith, for sin means not just vice but divorce, breaking the covenant. In Judaism, as in Christianity, sin is not just moral and faith is not just intellectual; both are spiritual, i.e., from the heart. Rabbi Martin Buber's little classic "I and Thou" lays bare the essence of Judaism and of its essential oneness with Christianity. Christians are often asked by Jews to agree not to "proselytize." They cannot comply, of course, since their Lord has commanded them otherwise (Matt. 28:18-20). But the request is understandable, for Judaism does not proselytize. Originally this was because Jews believed that only when the Messiah came was the Jewish revelation to spread to the gentiles. Orthodox Jews still believe this, but modern Judaism does not proselytize for other reasons, often relativistic ones. Christianity and Judaism are both closer and farther apart than any two other religions. On the one hand, Christians are completed Jews; but on the other,

while dialogue between any two other religions may always fall back on the idea that they do not really contradict each other because they are talking about different things, Jews and Christians both know who Jesus is, and fundamentally differ about who He is. He is the stumbling stone (Is. 8:14).

From Fundamentals of the Faith by Ignatius Press.

Comparing Christianity & The New Paganism by Peter Kreeft

The most serious challenge for Christianity today isn't one of the other great religions of the world, such as Islam or Buddhism. Nor is it simple atheism, which has no depth, no mass appeal, no staying power. Rather, it's a religion most of us think is dead. That religion is paganism—and it is very much alive. Paganism is simply the natural gravity of the human spirit, the line of least resistance, religion in its fallen state.

The "old" paganism came from the country. Indeed, the very word "paganism" comes from the Latin pagani, "from the fields" or "country-dwellers." Country people were the last to be converted to Christianity during the Roman Empire, the last

to abandon their ancestral roots in pre-Christian belief. Today, country people

are the last to abandon Christianity for the "new" paganism, which flourishes in

the cities. The old paganism was a far greater thing than the new. In fact, Chesterton brilliantly summarized the entire spiritual history of the world in this one sentence: "Paganism was the biggest thing in the world, and Christianity was bigger and everything since has been comparatively small." There were at least three elements in the old paganism that made it great. And all three are missing in the new paganism The first is the sense of piety (pietas), the natural religious instinct to respect something greater than yourself, the humility that instinctively realizes man's subordinate place in the great scheme of things. "Moderation" or "temperance" went along with this, especially in classical civilization. The motto "nothing too much" was inscribed over every temple to Apollo, along with "know thyself." This natural modesty and respect contrast sharply with the arrogant attitude of the new pagan in the modern West. Only Oriental societies still preserve a traditional reverence. The West does not understand this, and thinks it quaint

at best and hypocritical at worst.

The new paganism is the virtual divinization of man, the religion of man as the new God. One of its popular slogans, repeated often by Christians, is "the infinite value of the human person." Its aim is building a heaven on earth, a secular salvation. Another word for the new paganism is humanism, the religion that will not lift up its head to the heavens but stuffs the heavens into its head.

A second ingredient of the old paganism that's missing in the new is an

objective morality, what C.S. Lewis called "the Tao" in his prophetic little classic "The Abolition of Man." To pre-modern man, pagan as well as Christian, moral rules were absolute: unyielding and unquestionable. They were also objective: discovered rather than created, given in the nature of things. This has all changed. The new paganism is situational and pragmatic. It says we are the makers of moral values. It not only finds the moral law written in the human heart but also by the human heart. It acknowledges no divine revelation, thus no one's values can be judged to be wrong.

The new paganism's favorite Scripture is "judge not." The only judgment is the judgment against judging. The only thing wrong is the idea that there is a real wrong. The only thing to feel guilty about is feeling guilty. And, since man rather than God is the origin of values, don't impose "your" values on me (another favorite line). This is really polytheism—many gods, many goods, many moralities. No one believes in Zeus and Apollo and Neptune any more. (I wonder why: Has science really refuted them—or is it due to total conformity to fashion, supine submission to newspapers?) But moral relativism is the equivalent of the old polytheism. Each of us has become a god or goddess, a giver of law rather than receiver.

A third ingredient of the old paganism but not of the new is awe at something

transcendent, the sense of worship and mystery. What the old pagan worshiped differed widely—almost anything from Zeus to cows—but he worshiped something. In the modern world the very sense of worship is dying, even in our own liturgy,

which sounds as if it were invented by a Committee for the Abolition of Poetry. Our religious sense has dried up. Modern religion is de-mythologized, de-miraclized, de-divinized. God is not the Lord but the All, not transcendent but immanent, not super-natural but natural. Pantheism is comfortable, and this is the modem summum bonum. The Force of "Star Wars" fame is a pantheistic God, and it is immensely popular, because it's "like

a book on the shelf," as C.S. Lewis put it: available whenever you want it, but

not bothersome when you don't want it. How convenient to think we are bubbles in

a divine froth rather than rebellious children of a righteous divine Father!

Pantheism has no sense of sin, for sin means separation, and no one can ever be separated from the All. Thus the third feature, no transcendence, is connected with the second, no absolute morality. The new paganism is a great triumph of wishful thinking. Without losing the

thrill and patina of religion, the terror of religion is removed. The new paganism stoutly rejects "the fear of God." Nearly all religious educators today, including many supposedly Catholic ones, are agreed that the thing the Bible calls "the beginning of wisdom" is instead the thing we must above all eradicate from the minds of the young with all the softly destructive power of the weapons of modern pop psychology—namely, the fear of the Lord.

"Perfect love casts out fear," says St. John; but when God has become the Pillsbury Doughboy, there is no fear left to cast out. And when there is no fear

to cast out, perfect love lacks its strong roots. It becomes instead mere

compassion—something good but dull, or even weak: precisely the idea people have

today of religion. The shock is gone. That the God of the Bible should love us

is a thunderbolt; that the God of the new paganism should love us is a

self-evident platitude. The new paganism is winning not by opposing but by infiltrating the Church. It

is cleverer than the old. It knows that any opposition from without, even by a

vastly superior force, has never worked, for "the blood of the martyrs is the

million conversions in 60 years; when Mao and communism persecuted the Church, there were 20 million conversions in 20 years. The Church in East Germany is immensely stronger than the Church in West Germany for the same reason. The new paganism understands this, so it uses the soft, suggestive strategy of the serpent. It whispers, in the words of Scripture scholars, the very words of the

serpent: "Has God really said

The new paganism is a joining of forces by three of the enemies of theism:

humanism, polytheism and pantheism. The only five possibilities for ultimate meaning and values are: atheism (no God); humanism (man as God); polytheism (many gods); pantheism (one immanent God); and theism (one transcendent God). The Battle of the Five Kings in the Valley of Armageddon might, in our era, be beginning. Predictions are always unwise, but the signs of the times, for some thoughtful observers, point to a fundamental turning point, the end of an age. The so-called "New Age Movement" combines all the features described under the title of the new paganism. It's a loosely organized movement, basically a re flowering of '60s hippiedom, rather than a centralized agenda. But strategies are connected in three places. There may be no conspiracy on earth to unify the enemies of the Church, but the strategy of hell is more than the strategy of earth. Only one thing is more than the strategy of hell: the strategy of heaven.

?" (Gen. 3:1).

The gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church; in fact, God uses the devil to defeat the devil, just as He did on Calvary, when the forces of the Hebrew, Greek and Roman worlds united to crucify Christ, as symbolized by the three languages on the accusation sign over the cross. The very triumph of the devil, the death of God, was the defeat of the devil, the redemption of mankind, "Good Friday" Because God, who spoke the first word, always gets the last word.

From Fundamentals of the Faith by Ignatius Press.

Confessions of a Computer Hater by Peter Kreeft


Crisis Magazine, May 2004Make no mistake: I do not merely hate computers. I loathe, fear, despise, curse, and have constant torture and dismemberment fantasies about them. I know there are others out there like me, an entire unorganized underground. I’ve talked to some of them, in conspiratorial whispers. We are not cyberterrorists—viruses hurt us more than anyone else. But we need a support network. We need a manifesto. — This isn’t it.

The university that employs me gave every one of its nearly 1,000 professors a free computer. Having had no luck with IBM PCs in the past, I asked for an Apple. “They’re user-friendly,” said friendly users. One fact should have made me suspicious: Computers are the only thing the university has ever given away. It doesn’t even give away free books. Just think about it: Who gives expensive stuff away? Missionaries and drug dealers. Oh, the devil gave away an apple, too. And look what came of that. But apparently no one remembers. So here I sit with my Apple, and of course it’s inedible. I have had it for three days now and haven’t yet achieved the lofty goal of being able to plug it in. In quest of that distant utopia, I’ve found every accessory conceivable by the mind of man—as well as several that are not—but not anything as simple as a plug and a wire. Seven different experts have recommended seven different things to “solve my problem,” including routers, ethernets, “airports,” a different service provider, a separate modem, special instructional courses, and buying a new computer.

I am told I can get instructions on how to plug my Apple in from the Apple Web

site on the Internet. But to get into that, I need to plug my Apple into the Internet. Gotcha! So I turned it on from the battery. And before the battery wore out, I got past

the first gate of the giant’s castle. At this point, the screen demands my “user name and password.” I have already been assigned two different “user names,” but the computer accepted neither. I finally figured out my true “user name.” (I will not tell you how, but I will say this: It was much more difficult than in the fantasy video games, in which all you have to do is outwit a leprechaun, steal its gold, bribe the wicked witch, seize the magic sword, and slay the giant ogre.) I then clicked on “log in,” and—and the arrogant &*^% laughed at me. The light on the screen shook back and forth, glowing and glimmering like the face of a department-store Santa.

I went back to the Apple store for help. But of course the computer people there

were not capable of understanding a question like How Do You Make It Work? And by the way, am I the first to notice that computer people are eerily computer-like…so polite, so programmed, so humorless? Clearly, they’ve made computers in their own image. After three days of unrelenting failure, I marched into the office of those generous university people who gave me the computer and plunked it down on their desk, together with all its tentacled, alien accessories. “How much do I have to

pay you to take this beast away from me?” I asked. “It’s a protection racket,


No, thankfully, the takeaway was free. But of course there was a catch: Everyone

in the university has to have a computer, either Apple or PC. We have freedom of choice—so long as we choose between Beelzebub and Mephistopheles. And that’s how I returned to the snuggly arms of Bill Gates and his monopoly. Despite my ordeal, I had not lost hope. “My name is Peter,” I told myself, “and the Hell of Gates will not prevail against me.” After all, after a mere twelve years of Herculean labors, I have actually figured out how to use Microsoft Word. Here’s the secret: You must trick the computer. If it knows you’re indenting, or paragraphing, or numbering, it will correct you. Only by doing something else entirely will the computer give you what you really want. Another successful trick is to visualize the computer screen as a map of the United States, and then translate all the incredibly uninteresting computer instructions into commands like:

Click on the little square gray box with the “x” in it that appears at Seattle, Washington. If the screen changes and three white rectangles appear in Minneapolis, then click on the “x” in the westernmost extremity of the northernmost rectangle. If the moon is not full, you will see everything on the screen quiver with fear for a second, disappear, and then reappear like the Living Dead from the tomb, and a large coffin-shaped box will appear in New Orleans. Do not click on it, for if you do, you’ll get a large gray message extending from Denver to Atlanta that says you have performed an illegal operation. It will also declare a “permanent fatal error” and may threaten a complete shutdown, or a meltdown. If all else fails, pray to St. Michael the archangel. Let him deal with it. When Xerox Machines Strike My enemy isn’t just IBM or Apple; it’s everything digital. I am allergic to digitalia. For example, some years ago our department got its first digital Xerox machine. The brand wasn’t actually Xerox, but we called it that because the generic term “reproduction machine” made it sound like a Mormon father. (The old unit was a big, ugly contraption made by the A. B. Dick Company—I won’t tell you what we called that one.)

I kept jamming the new machine—I alone. I knew that it recognized me, probably

by the smell of my fear. I tested my hypothesis scientifically, as follows, with

our department secretary present:

I pushed button B. It jammed. The secretary fixed the jam. She pushed button B.

It did not jam. I pushed button B. It jammed. The secretary fixed the jam. She pushed button B. It did not jam. I pushed button B. It jammed. You get the idea. Groundhog Day. Another secretary watched this demonstration of obvious supernatural influence with a peasant’s skepticism of miracles. She said, “Peter, this is nonsense. I’m going to get to the bottom of it. Push the button again while I’m leaning over it, looking inside.” I did. The machine did not jam. Instead, it squirted a jet

of black ink at her, ruining the expensive new silk blouse she’d bought that morning for a party that night. We called in the Xerox people to fix their spawn. When they arrived, we told them what happened. They didn’t believe us, even though there were three eyewitnesses. “It is physically impossible for this machine to squirt ink,” said the Xerox man. He was probably right. Of course, with Satan all things are possible. The Great Computer Conspiracy About ten years ago, a man phoned me, identifying himself as “one of the six most intelligent men in the world according to the New York Times.” He had authored a best-selling book on the dangers of the computer revolution and had read a line in one of my books that identified me as a possible co-conspirator. He tried to convince me, in all seriousness, that the Abolition of Man was immanent at the hands of the faceless, impersonal mind of universal cyberspace.

Its strategy was amazingly simple: Get everyone to voluntarily reformat all human thinking from analog to digital patterns. Once nondigital thinking ceases, there will be only one Thinker, and each of us will be a cell—or a digit—in the single giant digital brain.

I got off the phone as soon as I could, convinced the man was crazy as all hell.

I now suspect he was a prophet.


Last year the SAT people dropped the “analogies” part of their universal test, because no one could do it anymore. The minds of the computer literate are no longer literate. Indeed, people often ask me how students have changed over my 40 years of teaching. The most dramatic change is in logic. Students used to find ordinary logic fairly easy and mathematical logic (digital logic) fairly hard. Now it’s exactly the opposite. If there’s a longer line than usual at a store’s cash register, you can be pretty sure they just installed a new, superefficient computer network. Whenever

your car’s fuel exhaust system, the bank, the library, the phone, City Hall, or the U.S. Army doesn’t work, you can expect the same excuse. And have you ever met a single human being who has actually been helped by clicking on the “Help” icon?

I grant there’s nothing conclusive here. But still, food for thought.

Here’s one more morsel: When we used quill pens, marriages were indissoluble, like the words we wrote on the paper. People took their words seriously then. They were set in stone, like cuneiform. (I’ll bet the ancient Babylonians didn’t have many divorces.) Then came fountain pens, and then ballpoint pens, and typewriters, and electronic typewriters, and word processors… With each step, divorce multiplied. Computers are the final step. Words are now as ephemeral as little glimmers of light on a screen, effortlessly changeable. No-fault editing and no-fault divorce are two sides of the same thought pattern. The sacredness of words—especially promises, especially the wedding vow—is the glue that holds society together.00 For promises bind together people, and bind together the generations, and bind together the past, the present, and the future.

Therefore, to save families, and to save society, abolish computers and restore quill pens. How 24 out of 24 People Refused to Become Multimillionaires I’m going to share a secret with you. It’s the simplest and easiest road to fabulous wealth available today. I’ve shared this idea with 24 computer people thus far, and not one has ever disagreed with any one of the following three facts:

If you do this, you will become very, very rich. It is technologically very easy and cheap to do.

No one will ever do it. Do what? Make a Dumb Computer (I call it a DC). What’s a DC, you ask? Simply put, it’s a computer that can do nothing but type…a typewriter with a screen, in effect. It’s not smarter than you are. It doesn’t lose your files. It doesn’t give you attitude. It’s a donkey—a dumb, slow, reliable servant. Build this, my friend, and it will sell like crack cocaine. Millions of dummies like me would love a DC. I could give you a hundred names of

people who would gladly pay $2,000 for one. The market is vast

authors, absentminded professors, poets, people with attention deficit disorder, conspiracy theorists who fear technology, pre-digital dinosaurs more than 50 years old, and people who don’t have kids to bail them out when they can’t find the computer’s “on” button. But while the DC would sell, it’ll never be made. Computer people just don’t think that way. Concluding Unscientific Postscript Behind all my clowning is a serious point about how technology has changed not only the world but ourselves as well. You see, we are not only very, very good at technology. We are technology. It gives us our identity. It is what distinguishes our culture most spectacularly—and most successfully—from all others in history. Furthermore, it’s stupid to fear technology. (A bird’s nest is a form of technology.) It’s even stupid to fear computers—our brains are computers, after all. And so I do not recommend that we become Luddites, but saints; that is, I counsel detachment. We need not teetotalers but designated drivers at the digital orgy. Of course, I don’t really believe in a Great Conspiracy either. My concern isn’t that computer technology is an alien, but that it is not.that it's our own new self-created identity, our voluntary self-encrutching. I fear that perhaps we've fallen for a great irony: King Arthur using Excalibur as a cane instead of a weapon. Already there are many computer people who feel more at home in virtual reality than in reality itself. But reality has the remarkable power of forcing us to live in it whether we like it or not, and even whether we know it or not. Flesh dreaming that it is spirit does not cease to be flesh. And if reality is computer technology’s first casualty, time is its second. Now that our lives are computerized, we all have less free time, not more. Computers are the apogee of efficiency, but all the time they have saved us—where did it


go? I have badgered dozens of “experts” in all fields with this simple child’s question: Where has the time saved by all our time-saving devices gone? So far only one person has answered it: Pascal, the inventor of the world’s first working computer. (Malcolm Muggeridge said that is the one unforgivable sin that prevents his canonization.) Pascal’s answer, in a word, is “diversion”:

diversion from ourselves and from the emptiness of our over-full lives. And this reveals the third and final casualty of computer technology:

self-knowledge. We demand external fullness to cover up the internal emptiness, constant noise to cover up the sound of silence. Thus we multiply mice to drive away the uncomfortable elephants of Fear and Death and God. We have become masters of self-deception. As for me, I’m done with it. I’ve found my way out with a relic as rare as a chastity belt: a beautiful little manual typewriter. It has no will, no devious designs, no nefarious stratagems. It’s the honest, obedient slave the Industrial Revolution was intended to create. It’s content to be my creature, and I adore it. Of course it takes longer to use than a computer, but who cares? Time ceases to matter when you’re in love.

Discernment by Peter Kreeft

Does God have one right choice for me in each decision I make?

When we pray for wisdom to discern God's will when it comes to choosing a mate,

a career, a job change, a move, a home, a school, a friend, a vacation, how to

spend money, or any other choice, big or little, whenever there are two or more different paths opening up before us and we have to choose, does God always will

one of those paths for us? If so, how do we discern it? Many Christians who struggle with this question today are unaware that Christians of the past can help them from their own experience. Christian wisdom embodied in the lives and teachings of the saints tells us two things that are relevant to this question. First, they tell us that God not only knows and loves us in general but that he cares about every detail of our lives, and we are to seek to walk in his will in all things, big and little. Second, they tell us that he has given us free will and reason because he wants us to use it to make decisions. This tradition is exemplified in Saint Augustine's famous motto "Love God and [then] do what you will." In other words, if you truly love God and his will, then doing what you will, will, in fact, be doing what God wills.

If you truly love God and his will, then doing what you will, will, in fact, be doing what God wills. Do these two pieces of advice pull us in opposite directions, or do they only

seem to? Since there is obviously a great truth embodied in both of them, which do we emphasize the most to resolve our question of whether God has one right way for us?

I think the first and most obvious answer to this question is that it depends on

which people are asking it. We have a tendency to emphasize one half of the truth at the expense of the other half, and we can do that in either of the two ways. Every heresy in the history of theology fits this pattern: for instance, emphasizing Christ's divinity at the expense of his humanity or his humanity at the expense of his divinity; or emphasizing divine sovereignty at the expense of free will or free will at the expense of divine sovereignty. Five general principles of discernment of God's will that apply to all questions about it, and therefore to our question too, are the following:

Always begin with data, with what we know for sure. Judge the unknown by the known, the uncertain by the certain. Adam and Eve neglected that principle in Eden and ignored God's clear command and warning for the devil's promised pig in a poke. Let your heart educate your mind. Let your love of God educate your reason in discerning his will. Jesus teaches this principle in John 7:17 to the Pharisees. (Would that certain Scripture scholars today would heed it!) They were asking how they could interpret his words, and he gave them the first principle of hermeneutics (the science of interpretation): "If your will were to do the will of my Father, you would understand my teaching." The saints

understand the Bible better than the theologians, because they understand its primary author, God, by loving him with their whole heart and their whole mind. Have a soft heart but a hard head. We should be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves," sharp as a fox in thought but loyal as a dog in will and deed. Soft-heartedness does not excuse soft-headedness, and hard-headedness does not excuse hard-heartedness. In our hearts we should be "bleeding-heart liberals" and in our heads "stuck-in-the-mud conservatives." All God's signs should line up, by a kind of trigonometry. There are at least seven such signs: (1) Scripture, (2) church teaching, (3) human reason (which God created), (4) the appropriate situation, or circumstances (which he controls by his providence), (5) conscience, our innate sense of right and wrong, (6) our individual personal bent or desire or instincts, and (7) prayer. Test your choice by holding it up before God's face. If one of these seven voices says no, don't do it. If none say no, do it. Look for the fruits of the spirit, especially the first three: love, joy, and peace. If we are angry and anxious and worried, loveless and joyless and peaceless, we have no right to say we are sure of being securely in God's will. Discernment itself should not be a stiff, brittle, anxious thing, but—since it too is part of God's will for our lives—loving and joyful and peace-filled, more like a game than a war, more like writing love letters than taking final exams.

Now to our question. Does God have just one right choice for me to make each time? If so, I must find it. If not, I should relax more and be a little looser. Here are some clues to the answer.

The answer depends on what kind of person you are. I assume that many readers of this page are (1) Catholic, (2) orthodox and faithful to the teachings of the church, (3) conservative, and (4) charismatic. I have had many friends—casual, close, and very close—of this description for many years. In fact, I fit the description myself. So I speak from some experience when I say that people of this type have a strong tendency toward a certain character or personality type—which is in itself neither good nor bad—which needs to be nourished by one of these emphases more than the other. The opposite personality type would require the opposite emphasis.

Relax. Enjoy life. My first clue, based on my purely personal observation of this kind of people, is that we often get bent out of human shape by our desire—in itself a very good desire—to find God's perfect will for us. We give a terrible testimony to non-Christians; we seem unable to relax, to stop and smell God's roses, to enjoy life as God gives it to us. We often seem fearful, fretful, terribly serious, humorless, and brittle—in short, the kind of people that don't make a very good

advertisement for our faith. I am not suggesting that we compromise one iota of our faith to appeal to unbelievers. I am simply suggesting that we be human. Go watch a ball game. Enjoy a drink—just one—unless you're at risk for alcoholism. Be a little silly once in a while. Tickle your kids—and your wife. Learn how to tell a good joke. Read Frank Schaeffer's funny novel Portofino. Go live in Italy for a while.

Most do not have knowledge of God's will in every single choice. Here's a second clue. Most Christians, including many of the saints, don't, in

fact, have the discernment we are asking about, the knowledge of what God wills

in every single choice. It's rare. Could something as important as this be so

rare? Could God have left almost all of us so clueless?

The gospel frees us from sin and its consequences, but not suffering and uncertainties.

A third clue is Scripture. It records some examples—most of them miraculous,

many of them spectacular—of God revealing his particular will. But these are reported in the same vein as miracles: as something remarkable, not as general policy. The "electronic gospel" of health and wealth, "name it and claim it," is unscriptural, and so is the notion that we must find the one right answer to every practical problem, for the same reason: we are simply never assured such a blanket promise. Darkness and uncertainty are as common in the lives of the saints, in Scripture as well as afterwards, as pain and poverty are. The only thing common to all humanity that the gospel guarantees to free us from is sin (and its consequences, death, guilt, and fear), not suffering and not uncertainties. If God had wanted us to know the clear, infallible way, he surely would have told us clearly and infallibly.

God wants his chorus to sing in harmony, but not in unison.

A fourth clue is something God did in fact give us: free will. Why? There are a

number of good reasons—for instance, so that our love could be infinitely more valuable than instinctive, unfree animal affection. But I think I see another reason. As a teacher, I know that I sometimes should withhold answers from my students so that they find them themselves, and thus appreciate and remember them better—and also learn how to exercise their own judgment in finding answers themselves. "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." God gave us some big fish, but he also gave us

the freedom to fish for a lot of little ones (and some big ones) ourselves. Reason and free will always go together. God created both in us as part of his image. He gives supernatural revelation to both: dogmas to our reason and commandments to our will. But just as he didn't give us all the answers, even in theology, in applying the dogmas or drawing out the consequences of them, so he didn't give us all the answers in morality or practical guidance, in applying the commandments and drawing out their consequences. He gave us the mental and

moral equipment with which to do that, and he is not pleased when we bury our talent in the ground instead of investing it so that he will see how much it has grown in us when he returns. In education, I know there are always two extremes. You can be too modern, too experimental, too Deweyan, too structureless. But you can also be too classical, too rigid. Students need initiative and creativity and originality too. God's law is short. He gave us ten commandments, not ten thousand. Why? Why not a more complete list of specifics? Because he wanted freedom and variety. Why do you think he created so many persons? Why not just one? Because he loves different personalities. He wants his chorus to sing in harmony, but not in unison.

As long as you love God and act within his law, he wants you to play around a bit.

I know Christians who are cultivating ingrown eyeballs trying to know themselves

so well—often by questionable techniques like the enneagram, or Oriental modes of prayer—so that they can make the decision that is exactly what God wants for them every time. I think it is much healthier to think about God and your neighbor more and yourself less, to forget yourself—follow your instincts without demanding to know everything about them. As long as you love God and act within his law, I think he wants you to play around a bit. I'm happily haunted by Chesterton's image of the playground fence erected around the children on top of the mountain so that they could play without fear of falling off the side. That's why God gave us his law: not to make us worried but to keep us safe so that we could play the great games of life and love and joy. Each of us has a different set of instincts and desires. Sin infects them, of course. But sin infects our reason and our bodies too; yet we are supposed to follow our bodily instincts (for example, hunger and self-preservation) and our mind's instincts (for example, curiosity and logic). I think he wants us to follow our hearts. Surely, if John loves Mary more than Susan, he has more reason to think God is leading him to marry Mary than Susan. Why not treat all other choices by the same principle?

I am not suggesting, of course, that our hearts are infallible, or that

following them justifies sinful behavior. Nor am I suggesting that the heart is the only thing to follow. I mentioned seven guidelines earlier. But surely it is God who designed our hearts—the spiritual heart with desire and will as much as the physical heart with aorta and valves. Our parents are sinful and fallible guides too, but God gave them to us to follow. So our hearts can be worth following too even though they are sinful and fallible. If your heart loves God, it is worth following. If it doesn't, then you're not interested in the problem of discernment of his will anyway.

Peace is a mark of the Holy Spirit. Here is a fifth clue. When we do follow Augustine's advice to "love God and then do what you will," we usually experience great relief and peace. Peace is a mark of the Holy Spirit.


know a few people who have abandoned Christianity altogether because they

lacked that peace. They tried to be super-Christians in everything, and the pressure was just unendurable. They should have read Galatians.

Goodness is multicolored. Only pure evil lacks color and variety. Here is a sixth clue. If God has one right choice in everything you do, then you can't draw any line. That means that God wants you to know which room to clean first, the kitchen or the bedroom, and which dish to pick up first, the plate or the saucer. You see, if you carry out this principle's logical implications, it shows itself to be ridiculous, unlivable, and certainly not the kind of life God wants for us—the kind described in the Bible and the lives of the saints. Clue number six is the principle that many diverse things are good; that good is plural. Even for the same person, there are often two or more choices that are both good. Good is kaleidoscopic. Many roads are right. The road to the beach is right and the road to the mountains is right, for God awaits us in both places. Goodness is multicolored. Only pure evil lacks color and variety. In hell there is no color, no individuality. Souls are melted down like lead, or chewed up together in Satan's mouth. The two most uniform places on earth are prisons and armies, not the church. Take a specific instance where different choices are both equally good. Take married sex. As long as you stay within God's law—no adultery, no cruelty, no egotism, no unnatural acts, as, for example, contraception—anything goes. Use your imagination. Is there one and only one way God wants you to make love to your spouse? What a silly question! Yet making love to your spouse is a great good, and God's will. He wants you to decide to be tender or wild, moving or still, loud or quiet, so that your spouse knows it's you, not anyone else, not some book who's deciding.

God writes the story of our lives with the pen strokes of our own free choices. Clue number seven is an example from my own present experience. I am writing a

novel for the first time, and learning how to do it. First, I placed it in God's hands, told him I wanted to do it for his kingdom, and trusted him to lead me. Then, I simply followed my own interests, instincts, and unconscious. I let the story tell itself and the characters become themselves. God doesn't stop me or start me. He doesn't do my homework for me. But he's there, like a good parent.

I think living is like writing a novel. It's writing the story of your own life

and even your own self (for you shape your self by all your choices, like a statue that is its own sculptor). God is the primary author, of course, the primary sculptor. But he uses different human means to get different human results. He is the primary author of each book in the Bible too, but the personality of each human author is no less clear there than in secular literature. God is the universal storyteller. He wants many different stories. And he wants

you to thank him for the unique story that comes from your free will and your choices too. Because your free will and his eternal plan are not two competing things, but two sides of one thing. We cannot fully understand this great mystery in this life, because we see only the underside of the tapestry. But in heaven, I think, one of the things we will praise and thank God the most for is how wildly and wonderfully and dangerously he put the driving wheel of our life into our hands—like a parent teaching a young child to drive. You see, we have to learn that, because the cars are much bigger in heaven. There, we will rule angels and kingdoms. God, in giving us all free will, said to us: "Your will be done." Some of us turn back to him and say: "My will is that your will be done." That is obedience to the first and greatest commandment. Then, when we do that, he turns to us and says: "And now, your will be done." And then he writes the story of our lives with the pen strokes of our own free choices.

Ecumenism [transcription] by Peter Kreeft

The text of the Ecumenism Wihout Compromise audio lecture Table of ContentsAudio Reference


The Golden Key 04:00 Common Ground 11:02 A Surprising Clue 41:23 Why Not Now 19:15 Recap and Example 23:45 Spiritual Gravity 28:31

Introduction I’d like to give a fairly short, fairly formal semi-lecture followed by an interesting discussion about ecumenism. If we are to witness to the world, the problem is not only the world, the problem is in us. And the problem in us is not just that we are wicked and foolish, that’s always the case. We are also split, we’re divided. We can ignore that, we can be dishonest and compromise our convictions, but obviously that’s not going to do any good. Is there any hope for reunion? I am increasingly convinced that there is much more hope than most of us think. And my hope is based most fundamentally on the fact that the most passionate ecumenist in all of existence is Jesus Christ. We all know His prayer to His Father just before His Crucifixion in John 17, “That they may be one even as Thou the Father art in me and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe.” He explicitly connects apologetics and ecumenism. “I in them and Thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that Thou has sent me and has loved them even Thou hast loved me.” If you read the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians, you will see that denominationalism was not just a scandal, but absolutely unthinkable and intolerable to St. Paul. Because denominationalism is not the multiplying of subdivisions in an organization, it’s the amputation of limbs from an organism. Just as no sane person loves war, so no sane Christian loves the war among Christians that so scandalizes the world and weakens our witness to it. How could a divided church unify a divided world? No more than an infected physician can heal himself. But our divisions seem as intractable as war! Here are 9 grounds for hope for ecumenical reunion that are commonly given, and not a one of them has worked:

Reasonable compromises. Understanding and education: the hope that deep down, we’ll find that we don’t really disagree. That we’re all saying the same thing in different words but just misunderstanding each other. Mystical experience: if you only have one, you’ll see that the previous point is true. Tolerance: like a mutual non-aggression pact. Why can’t we just get along?

Subjectivism: reduction of THE Truth to “my truth” or “your truth” or “our truth.” Skepticism: no one knows the truth anyway. Rational argument: perhaps we can persuade each other as in a scientific laboratory. A vague optimism: Dickon’s Mr. McColbers, “Something will turn up!” Merely a temporary tactical and pragmatic union to fight a common enemy: an ecumenical jihad. Good but not enough. None of these is the golden key to reunion. The Golden Key There is a golden key! His name is Jesus Christ. We can’t do it. And He can. We must be very clear about those two truths. The main reason it hasn’t happened is that we do not fully believe both those two truths. Christ Himself is the most powerful source of reunion in the world because it comes not from the world but from Heaven. And He will have His way with us sooner or later, one way or another. We don’t know whether it’s going to be sooner or later, and we don’t know if it will come by one way or by another. But we do know that it will come because it is his will. We don’t know when and we don’t know how, but we know who. Pope John Paul II has voiced the bold hope that as the first thousand years of Christian history were the millennium of Christian unity, and the second thousand years were the millennium of Christian disunity, 1054, 1517, and the over twenty-thousand denominations that came from 1517, so the third thousand years may be the millennium of Christian re-unity, reunification. But how? The deepest division is obviously between Catholics and Protestants, for the Eastern Orthodox Churches have all remained one, not split into twenty-thousand in creed, code, or cult. They have preserved the fullness of Catholic faith. Except for universal papal authority, but that has changed its form quite a bit throughout Christian history, though not its reality, and it can change again. The pope himself explicitly said that in Ut Unum Sint. But how can Catholics and Protestants achieve reunion? I will prescind entirely from the question whether Anglicans are Catholics, Protestants, both, or neither. Well it cannot be by yielding or weakening or compromising one iota of divinely revealed truth! All the serious differences between Protestants and Catholics concern how much territory this category of divinely revealed truth covers. For instance, the Church’s doctrines about Mary, and the saints, and the seven Sacraments, and Transubstantiation, and purgatory, Catholics accept them because they believe they are true and divinely revealed. Protestants reject them because they believe they are not true and not divinely revealed. Protestants say Catholics believe too much. Catholics say Protestants believe too little. Protestants say the Church added to Christ’s original, pure and simple revelation in the New Testament. Protestantism is thus Catholicism stripped down: the Catholic Ark with what Protestants claim are the non-scriptural barnacles scraped off of it. When I was at Calvin College and investigating things Catholic and falling in love with them and feeling guilty about it, because this was the wrong church, I

took a course in church history to try to get things clear. And the very first day of the course, the wise-old professor said, “What is the Church?” And we were all just freshman, we didn’t know for nothing so nobody answered. So he said, “Well, you’re going to meet a Roman Catholic someday and he’s going to say, ‘You’re in the wrong church! You’re a Calvinist, you’re in the church John Calvin founded 500 years ago. We’re in the church Jesus Christ founded 2000 years ago.’ What do you say to him?” Nobody had an answer. I said to myself, “I’m in the right class.” He said, “Well, here’s what the Catholics will say: the church today is a great big thing and it looks very different from the simple thing you read about in the New Testament, but it’s the same just as that oak tree is the same organism as that little acorn. What’s wrong with that picture? The Catholic will say that Luther and Calvin broke off some branches of the church because it was really rotten and they tried to start a new one, but that can’t be done cause there’s only one Jesus. And therefore, only one church. What’s your answer to that? What’s wrong with that picture?” And nobody had an answer. I said to myself, “I’m in the right class!” And he said, “Well, here’s what’s wrong with that pictures, here’s what happened: Jesus founded one church indeed and it is the church described in the New Testament, and it’s like Noah’s Ark, and it did get rotten, and Luther and Calvin and Knox and others said, ‘Gee, this Ark is sinking! We gotta scrape the barnacles off!’ So they scraped the barnacles off and restored it to its simple, pure, primitive, New Testament essence. So we’re in the right church! It’s the Catholics who are the upstarts. They’re the ones who added all those pagan barnacles.” I said, “Oh that makes me feel good.” I remember asking a question, I said, “Professor, do you mean to tell me that, if my Catholic neighbor and I both found a time machine and went back to the first century,” I still remember his look, “What’s this guy, a weirdo? Science fiction?” “…and worshipped together, that I as a Protestant would feel more at home in that church than he as a Catholic would?” And then he smiled. He said, “That’s exactly what I’m saying.” I said to myself, “Good, that means that I don’t have to be a great theologian to figure out who’s right. All I have to do is read the Church Fathers to prove to myself that they were all Calvinists.” Well, I read the Church Fathers and proved to myself they were all Catholics, so that’s why I’m here. But the very word “Protestant” means protesting, refusing some of the Catholic whole because they think it’s anti-scriptural and unscriptural barnacles added to what Christ gave us. While the very word “Catholic” means universal, or whole. The whole deal. So this has a problem, apparently without a possible solution because no faithful Catholic could dream of unity with Protestants except on Catholic grounds. For to be a Catholic is to believe that those grounds are holy grounds, divinely revealed. It is the Protestants who must remove their shoes. Catholics cannot negotiate away any of the deposit of faith because it is not theirs, it is Christ’s! The divinely appointed mail carriers may not edit God’s mail. Common Ground

So the reunion must be on Catholic grounds. That is, complete, universal grounds. That is the essentially and distinctively Catholic point: essential Catholic point and it is non-negotiable for any faithful Catholic.

But at the same time, reunion must be on Protestant grounds. And these are equally non-negotiable. What I mean by that is the essentially and distinctively Protestant point: the central Protestant point seems to be the opposite of the Catholic one, namely the simple all sufficiency of Christ alone. Jesus only. Jesus plus nothing. Jesus straight, not mixed drink. If reunion

is possible, that is its only foundation. The Church’s one foundation is Jesus

Christ her Lord. Now of course that doesn’t have to mean, and it shouldn’t mean “no creed but Christ” or “Jesus only and therefore no Church” or “Jesus only therefore no Sacraments” for most Protestants do have a creed and a church and sacraments. So perhaps those two central points already overlap a bit, or more than a bit.

In fact they overlap so much that we can say, without trickery, that the whole

reason for being a Catholic is to be the best possible evangelical Protestant. What I mean by that strange statement is that the essence of evangelical Protestantism is to be one with Christ, to meet Christ, and that’s the best reason to be a Catholic. That’s the reason for the Mass, and the Eucharist, namely the Protestant thing of meeting Christ. That’s the whole point of the Catholic thing of the Church, and of the Sacraments and of the Saints and all of the rest. Take the Eucharist. Christ is no great because of the Eucharist, the Eucharist is great because of Christ. We Catholics don’t try to squeeze Christ out of the Church like orange juice out of an orange, Christ gave us the Church. We got the Church from Christ first of all. Only then do we get Christ from the Church because He put Himself into her. The Church is the servant, the messenger. The Church is Christ’s body, but the body is the head’s body. We don’t idolize anything. Protestants accuse Catholics of idolatry, ecclesiolatry, sacramentiology, Mariolatry, Christ is the only “idol.” The

total “idola” or “icon” or “image” of God. We do not idolize, for instance, the doctrine of the Real Presence. It’s only a doctrine, though it’s a true doctrine. We worship Christ not doctrines about Christ. The Real Presence is the real presence of Christ. Christ alone is the absolute everywhere in Catholicism. Mary for instance, is holy only because of her relationship to Christ. She gave us Him by freely consenting to be His mother. And He gave us her, from the Cross. “Behold, your mother.”

A Surprising Clue

But reunion without compromise between Catholics and Protestants still seems impossible. Yet, here’s a surprising clue that it may be possible after all:

the main point of what I said in the last few minutes “Jesus only,” “the all sufficiency of Christ,” that’s the essential Protestant point and it was just made by me, a Catholic. That point seems to be an essential dividing point for Catholicism seems to Protestants to violate that point. Catholicism seems to Protestants to be “Christ plus paganism,” “the Ark plus the barnacles,” or “Christ plus many human traditions and historical accretions,” “Christ plus the pope,” “Christ plus

Mary,” whatever. The most serious Protestant objection to Catholicism as a religion, not just as a theology, is that it violates the scriptural teaching of the all sufficiency of Christ, the teaching that there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. To Protestants, Catholicism seems to add other mediaries, other intermediaries between man and Christ: Mary, the saints, the Church, Sacraments, priests, human traditions. But I suggest that if Protestants make just one single adjustment in their vision, they will see the possibility of reunion. Not just theologically, but more deeply religiously and spiritually, without any compromise at all. And that one adjustment is not to see Christ in any different way at all, but to see the Church in a different way. Not as an obstacle between us and Christ, not even as an intermediary between us and Christ, but as the very body of Christ Himself. And why would they make that adjustment? Well, which of these two concepts of the Church is the scriptural way of seeing it? Come on, answer honestly. You read the Bible and isn’t the Bible the supreme authority for any Protestant? Once Protestants see the Church’s identity, they can love her instead of fearing her because the body of Christ is Christ as your body is you. It’s not an alien, it’s not an obstacle. How can your own body be an obstacle? How Gnostic! The body is not your prison house, or your coffin, or your punishment. It’s not even your tool, or your clothing, or your house. It’s not This Old House. It’s you. Although it’s not the whole you. It’s not your head, or your soul. The same is true of Christ’s body which is what the New Testament calls the Church. It is Christ. Though it’s not the whole Christ. He is her head. And the Holy Spirit is her soul. Protestants will not and should not stop protesting against the Catholic Church until they see the totally Christocentric character of her and all her teachings. Sometimes, the understanding of the Church’s Christocentrism can be the key to understanding the Christocentric nature of each of the Church’s teachings. And sometimes, it works the other way around. Doctrine by doctrine, yielding its Christocentric treasure at the heart as it is more deeply explored and understood. As Christ the teacher appears at the heart of each of the Church’s teachings. I know a number of Protestants who have read the Church’s new Catechism and had been amazed at how consistently Christocentric everything in it is. And unless Protestants see this, how could they think of reunion with Catholics? And how can they see this, unless Catholics show it to them? And how can Catholics show it to them, unless they see it themselves? And how can they see it, unless they have a teacher, a preacher? As it is written, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that preach the good news.” In this light, it seems to me, clearly Providential that God has raised up for our time, the time of the end of the second millennium, the millennium of Christian disunity, and the beginning of the third millennium, hopefully the millennium of Christian re-unity, has raised up John Paul the Great. The most Christocentric pope of modern times, probably of all times. The most ecumenical pope of all times, and yet one who is totally and traditionally and

enthusiastically Catholic. Is the pope Catholic? There have been times in the Church’s dark history when that joke was not funny. Today it’s funny. Why Not Now? Well, if God can do this, if God can effect an ecumenical reunion, why not now? Why does he delay? God never delays. Well then if the teachings of the Church are true, why doesn’t God convince Protestants of those truths? I think the reason is spiritual and personal, more than theological. Why should God let Protestants become Catholics when many Protestants, perhaps most, already know Christ more intimately and personally than many Catholics, perhaps most! How can God lead Protestants home to the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church until the Catholic Church becomes that fullness that they knew as Protestants plus more, not any less! When Catholics know Christ better than Protestants do, when Catholics are better Protestants than Protestants, then Protestants will become Catholics in order to become better Protestants! When Catholics are evangelized, Protestants will be sacramentalized. But not before! Evangelizing comes first. So I think we Catholics have to change first. But that change involves not the slightest compromising with anything Catholic: no dumbing down of the faith and no addition from without, no paganization nor secularization nor negation not weakening. Only a rediscovery of our own essence from within. Frankly, it is the Protestants who are going to have to add to the doctrines they rejected by seeing them differently. What we have to add, or rather, rediscover is something even more important then doctrines: namely the relationship that we have neglected. A truer relationship with a person is even more important than a truer concept about him. So that point will probably make many Protestants cheer. But any good Protestant who is hearing this ought to protest one thing I said a few moments ago: namely that Protestantism is essentially a protest movement, essentially negative. Protestants defend Protestantism as essentially positive. Why? Not because it doesn’t have a pope or Transubstantiation or purgatory or rosary, that is negative. But because it knows Christ, because its essence is the absolute all-sufficiency of Christ. But that means that good Protestants are Protestants for exactly the same good reason that good Catholics are Catholic: out of fidelity to Christ. So if the Protestant and the Catholic are both totally sincere about this Christocentrism, If both sections of Christ’s orchestra want only to follow the baton of Christ the one conductor, and if they never yield on this holy fanaticism of love and loyalty to Christ, then they will play in harmony. For we know that Christ’s will is harmony, and unity. Look at that most intimate glimpse of the inner life of the Trinity that we have in Scripture: Christ’s high priestly prayer to His Father just before His death in John 17. Unity is central to it. Departure from Christ was the fundamental cause of the Church’s tragic divisions in the first place. Another word for departure from Christ is “sin.” Therefore, return to Christ will be the cause of the Church’s return to unity. That is simple logic. I could put that into a syllogism. It is also simple sanity and sanctity. Another word for “return to Christ” is “sanctity.”

When bishops and theologians become saints, then Catholics will become Evangelicals and Evangelicals will become Catholics. When both Protestants and Catholics become saints they will become one. For a saint means only an “alter Christos,” another Christ, a little Christ, and Christ is not divided. Christ’s body is not divided. When Christ comes at the end of the world to marry His Church, He will not be a polygamist. The Church will not be His harem. Recap and Example Let’s go through the whole thing one more time in a somewhat different way because it’s an apparently an impossible, unbelievable point: this hope for ecumenical reunion without compromise. Already ecumenism has defied predictions and expectations. Apparently easy bridges have not been built, for example between Catholics and Orthodox. While apparently impossible ones have been built, for instance the Catholic-Lutheran agreement on Justification. In my individual experience I find the same surprising principle to be true. I often find more mutual understanding between myself and a fundamentalist Southern Baptist who sincerely believes I am worshipping the great whore of Babylon and on my way to Hell, or with a Muslim who uncompromisingly rejects my belief that Christ is Lord as utter pagan blasphemy, than I find with some active Catholic laity, nuns, especially ex-nuns, priests and even bishops! As fellow Catholics we may agree on more articles of faith than I do with the Protestant or the Muslim, yet I sense we disagree more fundamentally than I do with the Protestant or the Muslim, and not just by personal temperament. Here’s a mystery and when I try to unravel it, here’s what I came up with. Let’s begin at the beginning with God, and the nature of God, and the will of God. God is Love and God wills above all for us all to enter into that Love forever: to incorporate us into the very mystery of the life of the Trinity. Everything that God does, from banging out the big bang, to incarnating His own Son, to arranging for each and every hair that falls from our head, everything He does is done for that end. Now with this general and very Heavenly principle in mind, let us look at something very earthly and very particular. Let’s look at the ecumenical situation in a very local time and place. Latin America today. Catholics are complaining that Evangelical, Fundamentalist, and Pentecostal sects are stealing sheep. Protestant sects are growing and Catholic percentages are declining. Well, instead of complaining, let’s look deeper at the reality. Why is this happening? I think the ultimate reason is because God is Love. Because God wills to draw all men to Himself. Because of that spiritual gravity, because nature abhors a vacuum, spiritually as well as physically, and because the Catholic Church has been so remiss in giving God’s children the fullness of the spiritual food that God has given the Church to give out, therefore, the children have been going elsewhere to eat it. And God has allowed this because God is a good father. And a good father would rather see his children go away from home and live, than stay home and die. Of course things are not that simple, of course motives for leaving the Church and joining the sects are many and mixed and some are simply bad, but still I think the main force that’s driving these events is in the realm of the spirit is the

Spirit. When these sheep find little or no Christ in the Catholic Church, whoever’s fault that is, and find Christ more really in a sect, more really objectively and not just subjectively, and certainly not just emotionally, then they’re moving closer to and not farther from the fullness of the Catholic faith. They may have left the Eucharist, the real presence of Christ in the Catholic Church, and that is the fullest presence of Christ in this world, but they did not know the Person who is present there, and whose body they ate with their bodies, but not with their souls. When these starving sheep leave home to find the manna of Christ in the sects, they are learning the lesson one that should have learned as Catholics but didn’t. And that lesson one is the only possible foundation for lesson two and three and four. That is, the fullness of the faith that the Catholic Church has, the building, rests on one foundation. As Catholics, these people may have gotten the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but they didn’t get the real presence of Christ in their hearts and in their lives. They got the upper stories of the Catholic skyscrapers, but not the foundation. Not the faith and the hope and the love relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior. Therefore, in order to become good Catholics, they must first become good Protestants. Spiritual Gravity God pulled them out of a Catholic Church and put them into a Protestant sect because God is spiritual gravity and God pulls us towards Himself, like a massive sun. If His rays are blocked in one place, we must go elsewhere to find them, for find them we must! They draw us, they give us life. They are a matter of life or death, not a religious shopping mart. You may think this God-Gravity somewhat speculative, but why should God have less gravity than the sun? Why should there be less gravity in grace than in nature? Why should the spiritual universe be less united by gravity than the physical universe? The parallel works perfectly. Look at physical gravity carefully. It’s like love. It bring together. Time and space are principles of dispersion, separation that prevent complete union. Time disperses our being out into past and future. Space disperses matter out into various places. Those two dispersions make death possible. Time and space enable death to insert its destructive sword between one year, when you live and one year, when you die. And between one material part of you, let’s say your head, and another, your body. Yet, despite these dispersions, the physical universe is still united by a universal, gravitational attraction which is a real force of love and union. A non-random, directed, purposive movement or tendency towards all other matter. All matter is in love with all other matter. That is, the universe wants to return to the big bang unity, the one divine source of the many. In the act of creation, the physical universe runs by the love of God. “The love that moves the sun and all the stars,” in Dante’s words. For gravity is not just like love, but gravity IS love on a material level. In fact, it has two movements: one is towards union, back to the center, the big bang, the past by gravity. And the other is to give itself out to all other beings, out into the future, the expanding universe, by energy, and by entropy,

which is energy giving itself out to the empty places. Aquinas says, “The good is diffusive of itself.” On every level, from the Trinity to subatomic particles. Thus the light that leaves the star goes everywhere in the universe forever. A dropped rock on earth goes to the moon and makes the rocks on the moon shudder just a little. We can calculate how much, it’s a function of the two variables of mass and distance. Every mass at any distance exerts some gravity. When I drop a pebble into a pool, I make ripples all the way to the shore. And when I drop a good deed into another person’s life, those ripples, tiny and imperceptible though they may be, do not stop short of the shore of death. And even then, they proceed on to the “third and fourth generation of those who hate God and goodness onto thousands of generations of those who love God and keep His commandments.” God is the source of all spiritual gravity and God touches us only through Christ. “No one can come to the Father but by me.” Thus all spiritual gravity, including ecumenical gravity is through Christ. All return, all homecoming, all reconciliation, all mutual understanding, all healing of wounds in the body of Christ, is through the gravity of grace in the body of Christ. Now this is a largely unconscious and invisible thing, this gravity of grace. We don’t see it and we don’t even know what is happening when our spirit is drawn, just as we don’t know when our body falls. It’s not our conscious knowledge that is the prime mover of spiritual events. When the human race first learned the law of gravity through Newton, it was a scientific and technological revolution. When we will learn the law of spiritual gravity, when we learn that it is a person and His name is Jesus, there will be a greater revolution. He promised that revolution. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men to myself.” “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Those are divine promises. Why do we limit them to what we have already seen, or to what we can imagine or comprehend? All God’s deeds transcend our vision, our imagination, and our comprehension. Christ is the golden key to all of history and therefore, to future ecumenism. Let us not dare to cut down the full Christ into understandable and predictable pieces. That’s exactly what all the heresies tried to do. I think this ecumenical unity must wait until Christ in Protestants and Christ in Catholics see each other. That is, until they see the same Christ, until you have what you might call “evangelical intimacy.” And see more Christ in the other. The same is true of Eastern Orthodox. They must see the adoration and the beauty of Christ in us or else reunion will be a watering down. And with the Jews! The Jews must see us as more Jewish, more faithful, more martyrs, than the Jews. The same with the Muslims. They must see their “islam,” their absolute submission to God in us, and their spiritual warfare, their right jihad. And the Buddhist must see in us a greater peace, a greater mindfulness. And even the worldings and sex maniacs. They must see in us the joy that they’re seeking and not finding. That’s necessary, that’s not an option, not an ideal, it’s necessary because of

gravity. There’s not choice, it’s the nature of things. Like physical gravity. It can be impeded, just as gravity can be impeded by a hand catching a falling apple, but only temporarily. Art can’t change the nature of things, nature always take over eventually. Grass grows through abandoned buildings, and Christ is more like grass than like buildings. So let’s not limit His growth. Those are some bold and speculative thoughts, and I would appreciate your reactions to them in questions.

Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli

The Strategy: Five Possible Theories We believe Christ's resurrection can be proved with at least as much certainty as any universally believed and well-documented event in ancient history. To prove this, we do not need to presuppose anything controversial (e.g. that miracles happen). But the skeptic must also not presuppose anything (e.g. that they do not). We do not need to presuppose that the New Testament is infallible, or divinely inspired or even true. We do not need to presuppose that there really was an empty tomb or post-resurrection appearances, as recorded. We need to presuppose only two things, both of which are hard data, empirical data, which no one denies: The existence of the New Testament texts as we have them, and the existence (but not necessarily the truth) of the Christian religion as we find it today. The question is this: Which theory about what really happened in Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday can account for the data? There are five possible theories: Christianity, hallucination, myth, conspiracy and swoon. 1Jesus diedJesus roseChristianity 2Jesus diedJesus didn't rise—apostles deceivedHallucination 3Jesus diedJesus didn't rise—apostles myth-makersMyth 4Jesus diedJesus didn't rise—apostles deceiversConspiracy 5Jesus didn't die Swoon

Theories 2 and 4 constitute a dilemma: if Jesus didn't rise, then the apostles, who taught that he did, were either deceived (if they thought he did) or deceivers (if they knew he didn't). The Modernists could not escape this dilemma until they came up with a middle category, myth. It is the most popular alternative today. Thus either (1) the resurrection really happened, (2) the apostles were deceived by a hallucination, (3) the apostles created a myth, not meaning it literally, (4) the apostles were deceivers who conspired to foist on the world the most famous and successful lie in history, or (5) Jesus only swooned and was resuscitated, not resurrected. All five theories are logically possible, and therefore must be fairly investigated—even (1) ! They are also the only possibilities, unless we include really far-out ideas that responsible historians have never taken seriously, such as that Jesus was really a Martian who came in a flying saucer. Or that he never even existed; that the whole story was the world's greatest fantasy novel, written by some simple fisherman; that he was a literary character whom everyone in history mistook for a real person, including all Christians and their enemies, until some scholar many centuries later got the real scoop from sources unnamed. If we can refute all other theories (2-5), we will have proved the truth of the resurrection (1). The form of the argument here is similar to that of most of the arguments for the existence of God. Neither God nor the resurrection are

directly observable, but from data that are directly observable we can argue that the only possible adequate explanation of this data is the Christian one. We shall take the four non-believing theories in the following order: from the simplest, least popular and most easily refuted to the most confusing, most popular and most complexly refuted: first swoon, then conspiracy, then hallucination and finally myth.

Refutation of the Swoon Theory: Nine Arguments Nine pieces of evidence refute the swoon theory:

(1) Jesus could not have survived crucifixion. Roman procedures were very careful to eliminate that possibility. Roman law even laid the death penalty on any soldier who let a capital prisoner escape in any way, including bungling a crucifixion. It was never done. (2) The fact that the Roman soldier did not break Jesus' legs, as he did to the other two crucified criminals (Jn 19:31-33), means that the soldier was sure Jesus was dead. Breaking the legs hastened the death so that the corpse could be taken down before the sabbath (v. 31). (3) John, an eyewitness, certified that he saw blood and water come from Jesus' pierced heart (Jn 19:34-35). This shows that Jesus' lungs had collapsed and he had died of asphyxiation. Any medical expert can vouch for this. (4) The body was totally encased in winding sheets and entombed (Jn 19:38-42). (5) The post-resurrection appearances convinced the disciples, even "doubting Thomas," that Jesus was gloriously alive (Jn 20:19-29). It is psychologically impossible for the disciples to have been so transformed and confident if Jesus had merely struggled out of a swoon, badly in need of a doctor. A half-dead, staggering sick man who has just had a narrow escape is not worshiped fearlessly as divine lord and conquerer of death. (6) How were the Roman guards at the tomb overpowered by a swooning corpse? Or by unarmed disciples? And if the disciples did it, they knowingly lied when they wrote the Gospels, and we are into the conspiracy theory, which we will refute shortly. (7) How could a swooning half-dead man have moved the great stone at the door of the tomb? Who moved the stone if not an angel? No one has ever answered that question. Neither the Jews nor the Romans would move it, for it was in both their interests to keep the tomb sealed, the Jews had the stone put there in the first place, and the Roman guards would be killed if they let the body "escape."

The story the Jewish authorities spread, that the guards fell asleep and the disciples stole the body (Mt 28:11-15), is unbelievable. Roman guards would not fall asleep on a job like that; if they did, they would lose their lives. And even if they did fall asleep, the crowd and the effort and the noise it would have taken to move an enormous boulder would have wakened them. Furthermore, we are again into the conspiracy theory, with all its unanswerable difficulties (see next section).

(8) If Jesus awoke from a swoon, where did he go? Think this through: you have a living body to deal with now, not a dead one. Why did it disappear? There is absolutely no data, not even any false, fantastic, imagined data, about Jesus' life after his crucifixion, in any sources, friend or foe, at any time, early or late. A man like that, with a past like that, would have left traces. (9) Most simply, the swoon theory necessarily turns into the conspiracy theory or the hallucination theory, for the disciples testified that Jesus did not swoon but really died and really rose. It may seem that these nine arguments have violated our initial principle about not presupposing the truth of the Gospel texts, since we have argued from data in the texts. But the swoon theory does not challenge the truths in the texts which we refer to as data; it uses them and explains them (by swoon rather than resurrection). Thus we use them too. We argue from our opponents' own premises. Refutation of the Conspiracy Theory: Seven Arguments Why couldn't the disciples have made up the whole story? (1) Blaise Pascal gives a simple, psychologically sound proof for why this is


The apostles were either deceived or deceivers. Either supposition is difficult, for it is not possible to imagine that a man has risen from the dead. While Jesus was with them, he could sustain them; but afterwards, if he did not appear to them, who did make them act? The hypothesis that the Apostles were knaves is quite absurd. Follow it out to the end, and imagine these twelve men meeting after Jesus' death and conspiring to say that he has risen from the dead. This means attacking all the powers that be. The human heart is singularly susceptible to fickleness, to change, to promises, to bribery. One of them had only to deny his story under these inducements, or still more because of possible imprisonment, tortures and death, and they would all have been lost.

Follow that out.

The "cruncher" in this argument is the historical fact that no one, weak or strong, saint or sinner, Christian or heretic, ever confessed, freely or under pressure, bribe or even torture, that the whole story of the resurrection was a fake a lie, a deliberate deception. Even when people broke under torture, denied Christ and worshiped Caesar, they never let that cat out of the bag, never revealed that the resurrection was their conspiracy. For that cat was never in that bag. No Christians believed the resurrection was a conspiracy; if they had, they wouldn't have become Christians. (2) If they made up the story, they were the most creative, clever, intelligent fantasists in history, far surpassing Shakespeare, or Dante or Tolkien. Fisherman's "fish stories" are never that elaborate, that convincing, that life-changing, and that enduring. (3) The disciples' character argues strongly against such a conspiracy on the part of all of them, with no dissenters. They were simple, honest, common peasants, not cunning, conniving liars. They weren't even lawyers! Their sincerity is proved by their words and deeds. They preached a resurrected Christ and they lived a resurrected Christ. They willingly died for their "conspiracy." Nothing proves sincerity like martyrdom. They change in their lives from fear to

(Pascal, Pensees 322, 310)

faith, despair to confidence, confusion to certitude, runaway cowardice to steadfast boldness under threat and persecution, not only proves their sincerity but testifies to some powerful cause of it. Can a lie cause such a transformation? Are truth and goodness such enemies that the greatest good in history—sanctity—has come from the greatest lie? Use your imagination and sense of perspective here. Imagine twelve poor, fearful, stupid (read the Gospels!) peasants changing the hard-nosed Roman world with a lie. And not an easily digested, attractive lie either. St. Thomas Aquinas says:

In the midst of the tyranny of the persecutors, an innumerable throng of people, both simple and learned, flocked to the Christian faith. In this faith there are truths proclaimed that surpass every human intellect; the pleasures of the flesh are curbed; it is taught that the things of the world should be spurned. Now, for the minds of mortal men to assent to these things is the greatest of


clearest witness

world had been led by simply and humble men to believe such lofty truths, to accomplish such difficult actions, and to have such high hopes. (Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 6) (4) There could be no possible motive for such a lie. Lies are always told for some selfish advantage. What advantage did the "conspirators" derive from their "lie" ? They were hated, scorned, persecuted, excommunicated, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, crucified, boiled alive, roasted, beheaded, disemboweled and fed to lions—hardly a catalog of perks! (5) If the resurrection was a lie, the Jews would have produced the corpse and nipped this feared superstition in the bud. All they had to do was go to the tomb and get it. The Roman soldiers and their leaders were on their side, not the Christians'. And if the Jews couldn't get the body because the disciples stole it, how did they do that? The arguments against the swoon theory hold here

too: unarmed peasants could not have overpowered Roman soldiers or rolled away a great stone while they slept on duty. (6) The disciples could not have gotten away with proclaiming the resurrection in Jerusalem-same time, same place, full of eyewitnesses—if it had been a lie. William Lane Craig says, The Gospels were written in such a temporal and geographical proximity to the events they record that it would have been almost impossible to fabricate


Jerusalem in the face of their enemies a few weeks after the crucifixion shows that what they proclaimed was true, for they could never have proclaimed the resurrection (and been believed) under such circumstances had it not occurred. (Knowing the Truth About the Resurrection, chapter 6) (7) If there had been a conspiracy, it would certainly have been unearthed by the disciples' adversaries, who had both the interest and the power to expose any fraud. Common experience shows that such intrigues are inevitably exposed (Craig, ibid). In conclusion, if the resurrection was a concocted, conspired lie, it violates


wonderful conversion of the world to the Christian faith is the


it would be truly more wonderful than all signs if the


fact that the disciples were able to proclaim the resurrection in

all known historical and psychological laws of lying. It is, then, as unscientific, as unrepeatable, unique and untestable as the resurrection itself. But unlike the resurrection, it is also contradicted by things we do know (the above points). Refutation of the Hallucination Theory: Thirteen Arguments If you thought you saw a dead man walking and talking, wouldn't you think it more likely that you were hallucinating than that you were seeing correctly? Why then not think the same thing about Christ's resurrection? (1) There were too many witnesses. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective. Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples minus Thomas, to the disciples including Thomas, to the two disciples at Emmaus, to the fisherman on the shore, to James (his "brother" or cousin), and even to five hundred people at once (1 Cor 15:3-8). Even three different witnesses are enough for a kind of psychological trigonometry; over five hundred is about as public as you can wish. And Paul says in this passage (v. 6) that most of the five hundred are still alive, inviting any reader to check the truth of the story by questioning the eyewitnesses—he could never have done this and gotten away with it, given the power, resources and numbers of his enemies, if it were not true. (2) The witnesses were qualified. They were simple, honest, moral people who had firsthand knowledge of the facts. (3) The five hundred saw Christ together, at the same time and place. This is even more remarkable than five hundred private "hallucinations" at different times and places of the same Jesus. Five hundred separate Elvis sightings may be dismissed, but if five hundred simple fishermen in Maine saw, touched and talked with him at once, in the same town, that would be a different matter. (The only other dead person we know of who is reported to have appeared to hundreds of qualified and skeptical eyewitnesses at once is Mary the mother of Jesus [at Fatima, to 70,000]. And that was not a claim of physical resurrection but of a vision.) (4) Hallucinations usually last a few seconds or minutes; rarely hours. This one hung around for forty days (Acts 1:3). (5) Hallucinations usually happen only once, except to the insane. This one returned many times, to ordinary people (Jn 20:19-21:14; Acts 1:3). (6) Hallucinations come from within, from what we already know, at least unconsciously. This one said and did surprising and unexpected things (Acts 1:4,9)—like a real person and unlike a dream. (7) Not only did the disciples not expect this, they didn't even believe it at first—neither Peter, nor the women, nor Thomas, nor the eleven. They thought he was a ghost; he had to eat something to prove he was not (Lk 24:36-43). (8) Hallucinations do not eat. The resurrected Christ did, on at least two occasions (Lk 24:42-43; Jn 21:1-14). (9) The disciples touched him (Mt 28:9; Lk 24:39; Jn 20:27). (10) They also spoke with him, and he spoke back. Figments of your imagination do not hold profound, extended conversations with you, unless you have the kind of mental disorder that isolates you. But this "hallucination" conversed with at least eleven people at once, for forty days (Acts 1:3).

(11) The apostles could not have believed in the "hallucination" if Jesus'

corpse had still been in the tomb. This is very simple and telling point; for if


was a hallucination, where was the corpse? They would have checked for it; if


was there, they could not have believed.

(12) If the apostles had hallucinated and then spread their hallucinogenic story, the Jews would have stopped it by producing the body—unless the disciples had stolen it, in which case we are back with the conspiracy theory and all its difficulties. (13) A hallucination would explain only the post-resurrection appearances; it would not explain the empty tomb, the rolled-away stone, or the inability to produce the corpse. No theory can explain all these data except a real resurrection. C.S. Lewis says, Any theory of hallucination breaks down on the fact (and if it is invention [rather than fact], it is the oddest invention that ever entered the mind of man) that on three separate occasions this hallucination was not immediately recognized as Jesus (Lk 24:13-31; Jn 20:15; 21:4). Even granting that God sent a holy hallucination to teach truths already widely believed without it, and far more easily taught by other methods, and certain to be completely obscured by this, might we not at least hope that he would get the face of the hallucination right? Is he who made all faces such a bungler that he cannot even work up a recognizable likeness of the Man who was himself? (Miracles, chapter 16) Some of these arguments are as old as the Church Fathers. Most go back to the eighteenth century, especially William Paley. How do unbelievers try to answer them? Today, few even try to meet these arguments, although occasionally someone tries to refurbish one of the three theories of swoon, conspiracy or hallucination (e.g. Schonfield's conspiratorial The Passover Plot). But the counter-attack today most often takes one of the two following forms. Some dismiss the resurrection simply because it is miraculous, thus throwing the whole issue back to whether miracles are possible. They argue, as Hume did, that any other explanation is always more probable than a miracle. For a refutation of these arguments, see our chapter on miracles (chapter 5). The other form of counter-attack, by far the most popular, is to try to escape the traditional dilemma of "deceivers" (conspirators) or "deceived" (hallucinators) by interpreting the Gospels as myth—neither literally true nor literally false, but spiritually or symbolically true. This is the standard line of liberal theology departments in colleges, universities and seminaries throughout the Western world today. Refutation of the Myth Theory: Six Arguments (1) The style of the Gospels is radically and clearly different from the style

of all the myths. Any literary scholar who knows and appreciates myths can verify this. There are no overblown, spectacular, childishly exaggerated events. Nothing is arbitrary. Everything fits in. Everything is meaningful. The hand of

a master is at work here.

Psychological depth is at a maximum. In myth it is at a minimum. In myth, such spectacular external events happen that it would be distracting to add much internal depth of character. That is why it is ordinary people like Alice who

are the protagonists of extra-ordinary adventures like Wonderland. That character depth and development of everyone in the Gospels—especially, of course, Jesus himself—is remarkable. It is also done with an incredible economy of words. Myths are verbose; the Gospels are laconic (concise). There are also telltale marks of eyewitness description, like the little detail of Jesus writing in the sand when asked whether to stone the adulteress or not (Jn 8:6). No one knows why this is put in; nothing comes of it. The only explanation is that the writer saw it. If this detail and others like it throughout all four Gospels were invented, then a first-century tax collector (Matthew), a "young man" (Mark), a doctor (Luke), and a fisherman (John) all independently invented the new genre of realistic fantasy nineteen centuries before it was reinvented in the twentieth. The stylistic point is argued so well by C.S. Lewis in "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism" (in Christian Reflections and also in Fern-Seed and

Elephants) that we strongly refer the reader to it as the best comprehensive anti-demythologizing essay we have seen. Let us be even more specific. Let us compare the Gospels with two particular mythic writings from around that time to see for ourselves the stylistic differences. The first is the so-called Gospel of Peter, a forgery from around A.D. 125 which John Dominic Crossan (of the "Jesus Seminar"), a current media darling among the doubters, insists is earlier than the four Gospels. As William Lane Craig puts it:

In this account, the tomb is not only surrounded by Roman guards but also by all the Jewish Pharisees and elders as well as a great multitude from all the surrounding countryside who have come to watch the resurrection. Suddenly in the night there rings out a loud voice in heaven, and two men descend from heaven to the tomb. The stone over the door rolls back by itself, and they go into the tomb. The three men come out of the tomb, two of them holding up the third man. The heads of the two men reach up into the clouds, but the head of the third man reaches beyond the clouds. Then a cross comes out of the tomb, and a voice from heaven asks, 'Have you preached to them that sleep?' And the cross answers, 'Yes.' (Apologetics, p. 189) Here is a second comparison, from Richard Purtill:

It may be worthwhile to take a quick look, for purposes of comparison at the closest thing we have around the time of the Gospels to an attempt at a realistic fantasy. This is the story of Apollonius of Tyana, written about A.D.

250 by Flavius Philostratus

sage named Apollonius may really have lived, and thus Philostratus' work is a real example of what have thought the Gospels to be: a fictionalized account of the life of a real sage and teacher, introducing miraculous elements to build up the prestige of the central figure. It thus gives us a good look at what a real example of a fictionalized biography would look like, written at a time and place not too far removed from those in which the Gospels were written. The first thing we notice is the fairy-tale atmosphere. There is a rather nice little vampire story, which inspired a minor poem by Keats entitled Lamia. There are animal stories about, for instance, snakes in India big enough to drag off


is some evidence that a neo-Pythagorean

and eat an elephant. The sage wanders from country to country and wherever he goes he is likely to be entertained by the king or emperor, who holds long conversations with him and sends him on his way with camels and precious stones.

Here is a typical passage about healing miracles: 'A woman who had had seven miscarriages was cured through the prayers of her husband, as follows. The Wise Man told the husband, when his wife was in labor, to bring a live rabbit under his cloak to the place where she was, walk around her and immediately release the rabbit; for she would lose her womb as well as her baby if the rabbit was not immediately driven away.' [Bk 3, sec 39] The point is that this is what you get when the imagination goes to work. Once the boundaries of fact are crossed we wander into fairyland. And very nice too, for amusement or recreation. But the Gospels are set firmly in the real Palestine of the first century, and the little details are not picturesque inventions but the real details that only an eyewitness or a skilled realistic

novelist can give.

(2) A second problem is that there was not enough time for myth to develop. The original demythologizers pinned their case onto a late second-century date for the writing of the Gospels; several generations have to pass before the added mythological elements can be mistakenly believed to be facts. Eyewitnesses would be around before that to discredit the new, mythic versions. We know of other cases where myths and legends of miracles developed around a religious founder—for example, Buddha, Lao-tzu and Muhammad. In each case, many generations passed before the myth surfaced. The dates for the writing of the Gospels have been pushed back by every empirical manuscript discovery; only abstract hypothesizing pushes the date forward. Almost no knowledgeable scholar today holds what Bultmann said it was necessary to hold in order to believe the myth theory, namely, that there is no first-century textual evidence that Christianity began with a divine and

resurrected Christ, not a human and dead one. Some scholars still dispute the first-century date for the Gospels, especially

John's. But no one disputes that Paul's letters were written within the lifetime of eyewitnesses to Christ. So let us argue from Paul's letters. Either these letters contain myth or they do not. If so, there is lacking the several generations necessary to build up a commonly believed myth. There is not even one generation. If these letters are not myth, then the Gospels are not either, for Paul affirms all the main claims of the Gospels. Julius Muller put the anti-myth argument this way:

One cannot imagine how such a series of legends could arise in an historical age, obtain universal respect, and supplant the historical recollection of the

true character [Jesus]

questioned respecting the truth of the recorded marvels. Hence, legendary fiction, as it likes not the clear present time but prefers the mysterious gloom of gray antiquity, is wont to seek a remoteness of age, along with that of space, and to remove its boldest and most rare and wonderful creations into a very remote and unknown land. (The Theory of Myths in Its Application to the

(Thinking About Religion, p. 75-76)


eyewitnesses were still at hand who could be

Gospel History Examined and Confuted [London, 1844], p. 26) Muller challenged his nineteenth-century contemporaries to produce a single example anywhere in history of a great myth or legend arising around a historical figure and being generally believed within thirty years after that figure's death. No one has ever answered him. (3) The myth theory has two layers. The first layer is the historical Jesus, who was not divine, did not claim divinity, performed no miracles, and did not rise from the dead. The second, later, mythologized layer is the Gospels as we have them, with a Jesus who claimed to be divine, performed miracles and rose from the dead. The problem with this theory is simply that there is not the slightest bit of any real evidence whatever for the existence of any such first layer. The two-layer cake theory has the first layer made entirely of air—and hot air at that. St. Augustine refutes the two-layer theory with his usual condensed power and simplicity:

The speech of one Elpidius, who had spoken and disputed face to face against the

Manichees, had already begun to affect me at Carthage, when he produced arguments from Scripture which were not easy to answer. And the answer they [the Manichees, who claimed to be the true Christians] gave seemed to me feeble—indeed they preferred not to give it in public but only among ourselves in private—the answer being that the Scriptures of the New Testament had been

corrupted by some persons unknown

uncorrupted copies. (Confessions, V, 11, Sheed translation) Note the sarcasm in the last sentence. It still applies today. William Lane

Craig summarizes the evidence—the lack of evidence:

The Gospels are a miraculous story, and we have no other story handed down to us

than that contained in the Gospels

to Jesus' miracles and resurrection. Polycarp mentions the resurrection of Christ, and Irenaeus relates that he had heard Polycarp tell of Jesus' miracles.

Ignatius speaks of the resurrection. Puadratus reports that persons were still living who had been healed by Jesus. Justin Martyr mentions the miracles of Christ. No relic of a non-miraculous story exists. That the original story should be lost and replaced by another goes beyond any known example of corruption of even oral tradition, not to speak of the experience of written transmissions. These facts show that the story in the Gospels was in substance

the same story that Christians had at the beginning. This means

resurrection of Jesus was always a part of the story. (Apologetics, chapter 6)

(4) A little detail, seldom noticed, is significant in distinguishing the Gospels from myth: the first witnesses of the resurrection were women. In first-century Judaism, women had low social status and no legal right to serve as witnesses. If the empty tomb were an invented legend, its inventors surely would not have had it discovered by women, whose testimony was considered worthless. If, on the other hand, the writers were simply reporting what they saw, they would have to tell the truth, however socially and legally inconvenient. (5) The New Testament could not be myth misinterpreted and confused with fact


the Manicheans made no effort to produce


letters of Barnabas and Clement refer

that the

because it specifically distinguishes the two and repudiates the mythic interpretation (2 Peter 1:16). Since it explicitly says it is not myth, if it is myth it is a deliberate lie rather than myth. The dilemma still stands. It is either truth or lie, whether deliberate (conspiracy) or non-deliberate (hallucination). There is no escape from the horns of this dilemma. Once a child asks whether Santa Claus is real, your yes becomes a lie, not myth, if he is not literally real. Once the New Testament distinguishes myth from fact, it becomes a lie if the resurrection is not fact. (6) William Lane Craig has summarized the traditional textual arguments with

such clarity, condensation and power that we quote him here at length. The following arguments (rearranged and outlined from Knowing the Truth About the Resurrection) prove two things: first, that the Gospels were written by the disciples, not later myth-makers, and second, that the Gospels we have today are essentially the same as the originals. (A) Proof that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses:

1. Internal evidence, from the Gospels themselves:

The style of writing in the Gospels is simple and alive, what we would expect from their traditionally accepted authors. Moreover, since Luke was written before Acts, and since Acts was written prior to the death of Paul, Luke must have an early date, which speaks for its authenticity. The Gospels also show an intimate knowledge of Jerusalem prior to its destruction in A.D. 70. The Gospels are full of proper names, dates, cultural details, historical events, and customs and opinions of that time. Jesus' prophecies of that event (the destruction of Jerusalem) must have been written prior to Jerusalem's fall, for otherwise the church would have separated out the apocalyptic element in the prophecies, which makes them appear to concern the end of the world. Since the end of the world did not come about when Jerusalem was destroyed, the so-called prophecies of its

destruction that were really written after the city was destroyed would not have made that event appear so closely connected with the end of the world. Hence, the Gospels must have been written prior to A.D. 70. The stories of Jesus' human weaknesses and of the disciples' faults also bespeak the Gospels' accuracy. Furthermore, it would have been impossible for forgers to put together so consistent a narrative as that which we find in the Gospels. The Gospels do not try to suppress apparent discrepancies, which indicates their originality (written by eyewitnesses). There is no attempt at harmonization between the Gospels, such as we might expect from forgers. The Gospels do not contain anachronisms; the authors appear to have been first-century Jews who were witnesses of the events.

We may conclude that there is no more reason to doubt that the Gospels come from the traditional authors than there is to doubt that the works of Philo or Josephus are authentic, except that the Gospels contain supernatural events.

2. External evidence:

The disciples must have left some writings, engaged as they were in giving

lessons to and counseling believers who were geographically distant; and what could these writings be if not the Gospels and epistles themselves? Eventually the apostles would have needed to publish accurate narratives of Jesus' history, so that any spurious attempts would be discredited and the genuine Gospels preserved. There were many eyewitnesses who were still alive when the books were written who could testify whether they came from their purported authors or not. The extra-biblical testimony unanimously attributes the Gospels to their traditional authors: the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle of Clement, the Shepherd of Hermes, Theophilus, Hippolytus, Origen, Puadratus, Irenaeus, Melito, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Dionysius, Tertullian, Cyprian, Tatian, Caius, Athanasius, Cyril, up to Eusebius in A.D. 315, even Christianity's opponents conceded this: Celsus, Porphyry, Emperor Julian. With a single exception, no apocryphal gospel is ever quoted by any known author during the first three hundred years after Christ. In fact there is no evidence that any inauthentic gospel whatever existed in the first century, in which all four Gospels and Acts were written. (B) Proof that the Gospels we have today are the same Gospels originally written:

Because of the need for instruction and personal devotion, these writings must have been copied many times, which increases the chances of preserving the original text. In fact, no other ancient work is available in so many copies and languages, and yet all these various versions agree in content. The text has also remained unmarred by heretical additions. The abundance of manuscripts over a wide geographical distribution demonstrates that the text has been transmitted with only trifling discrepancies. The differences that do exist are quite minor and are the result of unintentional mistakes. The quotations of the New Testament books in the early Church Fathers all coincide. The Gospels could not have been corrupted without a great outcry on the part of all orthodox Christians. No one could have corrupted all the manuscripts. There is no precise time when the falsification could have occurred, since, as we have seen, the New Testament books are cited by the Church Fathers in regular and close succession. The text could not have been falsified before all external testimony, since then the apostles were still alive and could repudiate such tampering. The text of the New Testament is every bit as good as the text of the classical works of antiquity. To repudiate the textual parity of the Gospels would be to reverse all the rules of criticism and to reject all the works of antiquity, since the text of those works is less certain than that of the Gospels. Richard Purtill summarizes the textual case:

Many events which are regarded as firmly established historically have (1) far less documentary evidence than many biblical events; (2) and the documents on

which historians rely for much secular history are written much longer after the event than many records of biblical events; (3) furthermore, we have many more copies of biblical narratives than of secular histories; and (4) the surviving copies are much earlier than those on which our evidence for secular history is based. If the biblical narratives did not contain accounts of miraculous events,

biblical history would probably be regarded as much more firmly established than

most of the history of, say, classical Greece and Rome.

Religion, p. 84-85) Conclusions: More Objections Answered No alternative to a real resurrection has yet explained: the existence of the Gospels, the origin of the Christian faith, the failure of Christ's enemies to produce his corpse, the empty tomb, the rolled-away stone, or the accounts of the post-resurrection appearances. Swoon, conspiracy, hallucination and myth have been shown to be the only alternatives to a real resurrection, and each has been refuted. What reasons could be given at this point for anyone who still would refuse to believe? At this point, general rather than specific objections are usually given. For instance:

Objection 1: History is not an exact science. It does not yield absolute certainty like mathematics. Reply: This is true, but why would you note that fact now and not when you speak of Caesar or Luther or George Washington? History is not exact, but it is sufficient. No one doubts that Caesar crossed the Rubicon; why do many doubt that Jesus rose from the dead? The evidence for the latter is much better than for the former. Objection 2: You can't trust documents. Paper proves nothing. Anything can be forged. Reply: This is simply ignorance. Not trusting documents is like not trusting telescopes. Paper evidence suffices for most of what we believe; why should it suddenly become suspect here? Objection 3: Because the resurrection is miraculous. It's the content of the idea rather than the documentary evidence for it that makes it incredible. Reply: Now we finally have a straightforward objection—not to the documentary evidence but to miracles. This is a philosophical question, not a scientific, historical or textual question. (See chapter five in this book for an answer). Objection 4: It's not only miracles in general but this miracle in particular that is objectionable. The resurrection of a corpse is crass, crude, vulgar, literalistic and materialistic. Religion should be more spiritual, inward, ethical. Reply: If religion is what we invent, we can make it whatever we like. If it is what God invented, then we have to take it as we find it, just as we have to take the universe as we find it, rather than as we'd like it to be. Death is crass, crude, vulgar, literal and material. The resurrection meets death where it is and conquers it, rather than merely spouting some harmless, vaporous abstractions about spirituality. The resurrection is as vulgar as the God who did it. He also made mud and bugs and toenails.

(Thinking About

Objection 5: But a literalistic interpretation of the resurrection ignores the profound dimensions of meaning found in the symbolic, spiritual and mythic realms that have been deeply explored by other religions. Why are Christians so narrow and exclusive? Why can't they see the profound symbolism in the idea of resurrection? Reply: They can. It's not either-or. Christianity does not invalidate the myths, it validates them, by incarnating them. It is "myth become fact," to use the title of a germane essay by C.S. Lewis (in God in the Dock). Why prefer a one-layer cake to a two-layer cake? Why refuse either the literal-historical or the mythic-symbolic aspects of the resurrection? The Fundamentalist refuses the mythic-symbolic aspects because he has seen what the Modernist has done with it:

used it to exclude the literal-historical aspects. Why have the Modernists done that? What terrible fate awaits them if they follow the multifarious and weighty evidence and argument that naturally emerges from the data, as we have summarized it here in this chapter? The answer is not obscure: traditional Christianity awaits them, complete with adoration of Christ as God, obedience to Christ as Lord, dependence on Christ as Savior, humble confession of sin and a serious effort to live Christ's life of self-sacrifice, detachment from the world, righteousness, holiness and purity of thought, word and deed. The historical evidence is massive enough to convince the open-minded inquirer. By analogy with any other historical event, the resurrection has eminently credible evidence behind it. To disbelieve it, you must deliberately make an exception to the rules you use everywhere else in history. Now why would someone want to do that? Ask yourself that question if you dare, and take an honest look into your heart before you answer.

From the Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ronald Tacelli, SJ (Intervarsity Press, 1994) Sources for Further Study:

Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morison (1930) The Son Rises (Moody Press, 1981)Knowing the Truth About the Resurrection (Servant Books, 1988) Apologetics: An Introduction (Moody Press, 1984) all three by William Lane Craig The Resurrection of Jesus: An Apologetic (Baker Books, 1980)Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? (Harper and Row, 1987) both by Gary Habermas (latter with atheist Antony Flew) Christian Apologetics (Baker Books, 1976) by Norman Geisler Easter Enigma (Academie Books, 1984) by John Wenham (on the consistency of the Gospel narratives) The Resurrection Report (Broadman and Holman, 1998) by William Proctor (journalist)

Four Arguments for Transcendence

A Philosophical Refutation of Reductionism

Presented to the Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities, 2008Ronald Knox once quipped that "the study of comparative religions is the best way to become comparatively religious." The reason, as G. K. Chesterton says, is that, according to most "scholars" of comparative religion, "Christianity and Buddhism are very much alike, especially Buddhism."

But any Christian who does apologetics must think about comparative religions because the most popular of all objections against the claims of Christianity today comes from this field. The objection is not that Christianity is not true but that it is not the truth; not that it is a false religion but that it is only a religion. The world is a big place, the objector reasons; "different strokes for different folks". How insufferably narrow-minded to claim that Christianity is the one true religion! God just has to be more open-minded than that. This is the single most common objection to the Faith today, for "today" worships not God but equality. It fears being right where others are wrong more than it fears being wrong. It worships democracy and resents the fact that God

is an absolute monarch. It has changed the meaning of the word honor from being

respected because you are superior in some way to being accepted because you are not superior in any way but just like us. The one unanswerable insult, the absolutely worst name you can possibly call a person in today's society, is "fanatic", especially "religious fanatic". If you confess at a fashionable cocktail party that you are plotting to overthrow the government, or that you are a PLO terrorist or a KGB spy, or that you molest porcupines or bite bats' heads off, you will soon attract a buzzing, fascinated, sympathetic circle of listeners. But if you confess that you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son


the living God, you will find yourself suddenly alone, with a distinct chill


the air.

Here are twelve of the commonest forms of this objection, the odium of elitism, with answers to each. The Issue The most usual position among philosophers in the Western world today, in fact the most usual position among academics generally, is some kind of reductionism. By “reductionism” I mean simply the belief that the world-view, or implicit metaphysics, of most people, or ordinary people, especially people of previous eras and cultures, errs by believing too much; that Hamlet’s Shakespeare was exactly wrong when he said to Horatio that “there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy.” The prevailing view among modern

Western intellectuals is that there are in fact fewer things, or fewer kinds of things, or fewer dimensions of things, in heaen and earth, that is, in objective

reality, than in most people’s philosophies or beliefs.

philosophers see the role of philosophical education primarily as a

disillusioning, a debunking of myth, superstition, and naivete.

Thus most modern

This contrasts sharply with the way Plato and most classical philosophers saw the role of philosophy and the purpose of philosophical education. They saw it as a “leading-out” (that is the literal meaning of our word “education”: from the Latin e-ducare), leading the student out of a smaller, narrower belief-system that was like a little underground cave into a radically larger world. For Plato, this meant a world with more than the two metaphysical dimensions that most people believe exists: objective matter and subjective spirit or mind. It meant a third dimension, the dimension of objective Platonic Forms, objectively real Ideas that were not dependent on subjective minds. Plato’s “cave,” the most famous image in the history of philosophy, and Plato’s “theory of Forms” or “theory of Ideas,” the most famous theory in the history of philosophy, exemplify the claim that Shakespeare was right. For they claim that that there is not just another world, but another whole kind of world, another whole dimension of reality, which is neither subjective consciousness nor objective matter, but objective Form, essence, Idea, meaning, or “whatness.” When Shakespeare had Hamlet utter his famous statement comparing the number of things in heaven and earth, that is, in objective reality, with the number of things in your philosophy, that is, in subjective consciousness, he probably did not have Plato’s theory of Forms in mind explicitly. Hamlet was simply telling Horatio that ghosts are real even though Horatio did not believe they were; that heaven and earth were more commodious than Horatio’s thoughts because they contained real ghosts. But what is common to both Plato and Shakespeare is the view that ordinary thinking errs not by believing too much to be real, but too little. Certainly, most traditional philosophers, that is, most pre-modern philosophers, held this view. This is certainly true of Eastern philosophy, of Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist philosophy. (We can call these religions “philosophies” insofar as they are examples of the human “love of wisdom,” though not primarily through the instrument of reason). It is true also of most pre-modern Jewish, Christian, and Muslim philosophers. But the modern tendency in the West is the opposite. It could be called “reductionism.” It seeks to reduce rather than to expand the student’s objects of belief. This tendency is already clearly present in Bacon, Machiavelli, Descartes, and Hobbes. In fact, it began with William of Ockham’s Nominalism, the denial of objectively real universals, which even in the 14th century was called the “via moderna,” the modern way. I will label these two directions in philosophy “reductionism” and “transcendent-alism,” just to have two handy, one-word terms. I mean by “transcendentalism” not the particular philosophy of Emerson and Thoreau but simply Shakespeare’s view that there is more, not less, in objective reality than we usually think. The Thesis It is usually thought today, by both reductionists and transcendentalists alike, that reason (in the modern sense of severely logical reasoning rather than in the older sense of the word “reason” that included intuitive or contemplative wisdom) leads to reductionism, and that the only way to justify transcendentalism is to reduce reason to a secondary or instrumental status and

to exalt something else over it—for instance, intuition, desire, imagination or religious faith. The purpose of this paper is to refute that idea by demonstrating, by strictly logical reasoning, (1) that reductionism is self-contradictory, and (2) that transcendentalism is self-evident once we admit data from our three most valued and distinctively human powers, namely our power to think anything true, to choose anything good, and to appreciate anything beautiful. Narrowing the Definition We must first define transcendentalism more carefully. For in one sense, transcendentalism is obviously and non-controversially true: there are a larger number of entities in the world than we know about, more than any one individual human being and even all human beings, are aware of: more galaxies, more bacteria, more craters on the moon, more species of insects, etc. But that is merely quantitative. What is controversial is qualitative transcendentalism,

which claims not merely that there are more things but more kinds of things than we think, more dimensions; that there are, in addition to rocks and dogs and stars, also things like gods or God, ghosts or angels, Platonic Ideas or Hegelian dialectical triads, attributes of Brahman or of Allah, and after-death experiences of reincarnations on earth or levels of Heaven and Hell. I do not claim to demonstrate the truth of any one of these particular versions of transcendentalism, but simply to demonstrate transcendentalism in principle. Other meanings of “transcendence” are either too broad or too narrow for our purposes here. The term is too broad if it means simply any kind of moreness, for no one denies the purely quantitative moreness I mentioned above. Also no one denies the literal, physical transcendence of a flying airplane over the ground, or of a tall person over a short one, or the quantitative transcendence of the number 4 over the number 3, or of the amount of territory in the United States in the 21st century over the amount of territory in the United States in the 18th century, or the psychological transcendence of an act of disobedience

to a law over the intention of the lawmaker to limit such acts.

the term more narrowly and controversially than that. On the other hand, “transcendence” is often used in a specifically theistic sense, as asserting a transcendent Creator-God. This is only one case in point

of what I mean by “transcendence,” though probably the most important one. But

I want to include also things like Plato’s “Ideas,” Plotinus’s “One beyond

being,” Buddha’s “Nirvana,” Spinoza’s “natura naturans,” and even Shankara’s nondualistic notion of Brahman, which is monistic or pantheistic or

pan-entheistic and thus not transcendent in the theistic sense. What all of these have in common is the claim that there are more kinds of things in reality than we ordinarily believe.


I will first refute reductionism in general, then three of the most important

forms of reductionism in particular, namely the reduction of thought to something material, of moral choice to something relative, and of aesthetic experience to something subjective. Metaphysical materialism, moral relativism, and aesthetic subjectivism are three of the most popular forms of relativism,

I want to use

among ordinary people as well as philosophers. And they are all logically refutable. The Refutation of Reductionism in General Here is my logical refutation of reductionism. The formula for reductionism is that “S is nothing more than P”, or “S is only P,” or “there is no more in S than P.” For instance, we may say “He’s nothing but a fake,” denying that he is authentic, or trustable, or truth-telling. Or we may say “that monster was nothing but a dream,” denying that it exists outside the dream. Or we may say that “love is nothing but lust” or “thinking is nothing but cerebral biochemistry,” or “evolution is nothing but the survival of the fittest” or “religion is nothing but superstition.” My argument here is not with the content but with the logical form of these assertions, so my point applies to all assertions that have this logical form, no matter what their content. “S is nothing but P” means “there is nothing more in S than there is in P.” This, in turn, means that “there is no more-than-P S,” or “there is no trans-P S,” or “S does not transcend P.” For instance, “love is nothing but lust” means “there is no more-than-lust love,” or “there is no love that transcends lust.” Thus the formula for reductionism can always be expressed as an E proposition, a universal negative. But there is a well-known difficulty in justifying universal negative propositions. To say that “there is no S that transcends P” means that “there is in all reality no S that transcends P.” For instance, to say that there is no real Santa Claus is to say that there is no real Santa Claus anywhere in the world, either at the North Pole or at the equator or in your closet. Let us define Santa literally, as the entity in the popular story, the fat man in the red flannel suit who lives near the North Pole, employs elves to make toys, and flies magical reindeer through the skies to deliver presents to children around the world every Christmas. Even asserting skepticism about the existence of this literal Santa Claus has a logical difficulty. It is this: to claim that there is no Santa Claus is to claim that you know that there is no Santa Claus; and that is to claim that you know this universal negative, that you know that there is no Santa Claus anywhere in objective reality, as distinct from subjective reality, or consciousness, or imagination, or belief. The difficulty is that in order to know that a proposition of this kind is true, we would have to know all of objective reality. For if we do not, then we cannot be sure that the thing we have denied existence to might not exist in some corner, or dimension, or part, or area, of objective reality that we did not know about. The difficulty can be overcome, however, and the assertion that there is no Santa can be reasonably verified. For it does not require a universal knowledge of every particular, only of some empirical facts. For instance, we do not need to search every closet to be sure there is no Santa. For Santa, as defined, lives and works at the North Pole, and we have mapped all the regions around the North Pole and are quite sure that there are no factories there capable of producing enough toys for all the world’s children. Also, the laws of physics

prevent anyone, even if he had magic flying reindeer, from flying to every child’s house in the world and depositing Christmas presents in one night. (By the way, I do not think that magic flying reindeer are refuted in the same way by the laws off empirical physics, any more than any other kind of magic is. It is not logically impossible that some entities perform acts which defy physical laws, if those entities are not merely physical entities. We ourselves defy gravity whenever we decide to jump, because while we live we are not merely physical entities, but have souls or minds or wills, which interfere with matter, as a hand interferes with a sword’s tendency to fall whenever that hand swings the sword. But when we die, we (or what is left of us in this world) become merely physical entities. That is what we bury in cemeteries. And what we bury in cemeteries never jumps around and defies physical laws, just as a sword always drops to the ground and stays there when no longer wielded by a hand.) Now let us substitute God for Santa Claus. (According to atheism, that is exactly what we do when we grow up.) God is not the only example of transcendence, but He is clearly the one most important, most interesting, and most argued about. So let us analyze what we are saying when we say “there is no God.” Let us define or describe God as most people do, as “the being that created the universe.” Thus God by definition transcends the universe. So when we say that there is no God we are saying that there is in all reality no being that transcends the universe, that there is nothing more in reality than there is in the universe. Now in order for us to know that there is nothing more in all reality than there is in the universe, we have to know something about all reality—in fact, we have to know enough about it to be sure that it excludes God. And if the idea of God is neither logically self-contradictory nor refuted by any empirical fact, then in order to justify the assertion that there is no God, we must know that there is no corner of reality, no kind of reality, and no dimension of reality, in which God can possibly exist. And that means that we have to know every corner, every kind, and every dimension of reality. The word for that kind of knowledge is “omniscience.” It is an attribute of God. If there is an omniscient being, that being is God. So the claim that we can know that there is no God logically implies that the person who makes that claim has omniscience, that is, is God. So to claim to know that there is no God is to imply that there is a God, and that he is now speaking.

Merely refuting reductionism does not yet give us any positive evidence for transcendentalism, however, just as merely refuting atheism does not give you positive evidence for theism. We might well be stuck in agnosticism, unable to prove either of the two contradictory propositions, that there is or that there

is not a God, or a Santa Claus, or any S that is more than P.

proofs for transcendentalism, in three different areas of human experience:

thinking, choosing, and loving, which are our attempts to get at, or know, or attain, or deal with, the three ideals that we usually believe raise us above the animals, the three ideals everyone wants, and wants without limit: truth, goodness, and beauty. The three commonest forms of reductionism in these three areas are metaphysical materialism, moral relativism, and aesthetic subjectivism. The Demonstration of Metaphysical Transcedence The commonest form of metaphysical reductionism, and the most philosophically interesting and controversial one, is materialism, which is the claim that everything that is real is material; that there is not a second dimension or kind of reality that is immaterial, or spiritual, or mental, but that what we call mind and mental phenomena can be reduced to and explained as merely material phenomena. According to materialism, all that happens when we calculate that 21+31=52, or when we judge that murder is evil, or when we believe that God exists, or that we perceive the sky as blue, or when we predict that we will die, is that certain bundles of physical energy are doing certain physical things, like moving across synapses or producing chemical reactions, in our brains. The claim is that there are no immaterial phenomena that cannot be explained as material phenomena. Now there is one very easy refutation of this argument for materialism. It is simply that the premise does not entail the conclusion. For even if we grant the premise that we find no immaterial phenomena that cannot be fully explained as material phenomena, this does not logically entail the conclusion that there are no immaterial phenomena, any more than the fact that we find no convex curve in the Canadian border of America that cannot be explained as a concave curve in the American border of Canada entails the fact that there is no Canada but only America. In fact, the very same argument that the materialist uses to justify materialism can be used, with equal force, by an immaterialist, that is, by someone who believes that matter does not exist and all is mind. For we can find no material phenomena that cannot be explained as immaterial phenomena, as projections of consciousness or forms of consciousness. For as soon as you think about a thing, even if that thing is a supposedly material thing like a rock, that thing has become an ingredient in your consciousness. It is in principle impossible to think of a rock that cannot be explained as the thought of a rock. (And if the thought is true, by the most common definition of truth, there is nothing different in the thought than in the thing, that is, nothing different in the “rock” in quotation marks and the rock without quotation marks, except the quotation marks; and the quotation marks are not part of the material inside the quotation marks. Insofar as there is any difference between the thought in the quotation marks and the thing outside the quotation marks, the thought designated by the quotation marks is not true, because it is not the same as the thing.)

So I offer three

You can explain all supposedly material phenomena as immaterial just as you can explain all supposedly immaterial phenomena as material. Imagine the two sets of phenomena listed in two parallel columns. There is no phenomenon in either of the two columns that does not have an identical twin in the other column. The two columns match perfectly, so that monistic materialism, common sense dualism, and monistic spiritualism all explain the data. (So does William James’ “neutral monism,” although that one neutral stuff that is neither matter nor spirit cannot be defined or conceived except negatively.) But this leaves us undecided among the three (or four) alternative metaphysics. It does not refute any one of them, all of which explain the data. It only refutes the materialist’s claimed refutation of spirit and the immaterialist’s claimed refutation of matter. I want to go farther: I want to refute materialism, as my primary example of metaphysical reductionism. The Refutation of Materialism The refutation depends on one simple and obvious premise: that the knowledge of a thing is not one of the parts of that thing. I shall first prove this premise (that will take some time), and then I will use it to prove my conclusion that knowledge transcends matter (that will not take much time at all). Let’s say you want to know x. Let’s say x is Beatrice and you are Dante. Now all knowing, insofar as it is knowing, is true, is accurate. And this means, according to common sense, that it is all that the thing known is. Aristotle’s “identity theory” of truth is simply what common sense means by truth. A true thought matches the real thing so that there is nothing added or subtracted. If there is a lack of identity between the objective thing and the subjective thought of it, there is a fault in the thought, a lack of knowledge. There is no such thing as false knowledge. Of course none of us can have complete knowledge of anything or anybody, not even a flea, much less Beatrice. Only God is omniscient and infallible, by definition; that is, only God, the creator and designer of Beatrice, if He exists, could know everything there is to know about her. And we are not God. (I apologize if this news upsets any of you.) Yet not only do “all men by nature desire to know,” as Aristotle famously said, but we wantto know everything there is to know about everything there is to know, in Bernard Lonergan’s formula. That is what curiosity means. Now let’s suppose you are Dante, and you know something new about Beatrice: that she ate a plum this morning. Then that knowledge is a new fact about you, a new piece of knowing for you; but your knowing this new fact about Beatrice does not add anything new to Beatrice, as the plum did. If it did, then that would falsify the Beatrice you want to know, which is Beatrice-as-she-is-in-herself, not merely Beatrice-as-known-by-you. There is no problem at all in knowing Beatrice-as-known-by-you; that happens automatically, by definition. You want to know more than that; you want to know Beatrice-as-she-really-is-in-herself; and because you usually do not succeed at this task, it is a struggle and not an automatic success. If Beatrice sees you looking at her, this changes her; this is a new fact about her. But if she does not see you looking at her, your looking does not change

her, only you. New facts about you do not of themselves constitute new facts about her. (If you are thinking about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle here, and wondering whether the observation of B by A might not change B as well as A, I am here assuming that Einstein was right and Heisenberg wrong about the Uncertainty Principle; that the act of knowing a thing, mentally, does not change the thing, unless it also changes it physically, by interfering with light waves, for instance. If the mental act of knowing B changed A (whether B is Beatrice or a subatomic particle), then knowledge of B would be impossible, because things would change and jump outside our knowledge as soon as we knew them, as if the target would jump away from the arrow just as the arrow was about to enter it, so that no arrow would ever hit its target; no knowledge would ever know its intended object—even the mental object labeled ‘Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.’ Thus the Uncertainty Principle, interpreted ontologically, seems self-contradictory, like all forms of universal skepticism.) (I am also implicitly assuming an epistemological realism in assuming that we are like archers, and acts of knowing are like arrows, and bows are like minds, and targets are like the things we want to know. I am assuming that ideas are not targets but arrows; that ideas are means-of-knowing or acts-of-knowing, not objects-of-knowing; that real things are our targets, or objects-of-knowing. I am assuming that Aquinas is right in ST I, 85, 2 when he defines ideas as means of knowing and real things as objects of knowing, and that Locke is wrong in the very first sentence of his Essay, when he defines an idea as the object of knowing. For if that were true, then we could never know whether or not any of our ideas corresponded to or were identical with the real world, and we would have to draw Hume’s skeptical conclusion. We would be like prisoners in a jail cell who saw only pictures of the outside world on a TV screen; without a direct knowing of the outside world, we could never know which of the pictures were true and which were not.) So Beatrice’s plum is a new part of Beatrice, not of me (Dante), and my knowing this is a new part of me, not of her. That this must be so can be shown by a merely logical analysis. Let us suppose that 9000 facts about Beatrice constitute the whole Beatrice. If my knowing these 9000 facts constituted fact # 9001 about her, then I could not know her, because the Beatrice I knew would be “Beatrice minus fact #9001,” and that is not the true Beatrice, any more than Beatrice-without-a-plum is not the true Beatrice this morning. Knowledge cannot commit suicide in the very act of coming to life; and that is what it would do if each act of knowledge changed the old object to a new one in the very act of trying to know the old one. From this crucial premise, that I have taken such a long time to expound, I quickly deduce the falsity of materialism. I do this by adding just one more premise, namely that modern science is possible. Modern science claims to know some principles that are true for the whole universe, principles like F=MA or E=MC squared. Now since the universe is the sum total of all material things (matter, time, and space being correlative), it follows that modern science

knows some truths about all of matter. Now take this second premise—that by science we can know the universe, and combine it with our first premise, that the knowledge of any thing is not one of the parts of that thing, and you get the conclusion that our knowledge of the universe is not part of the universe, but an addition to it, transcending it. The conclusion is shocking to the reductionist. As C.S. Lewis puts it in Miracles, it gives us a metaphysic that is like the moon: a material body pockmarked with craters caused by things that came from outside, like meteors, fingerprints of transcendence. Each of these meteors symbolizes an act of knowing. Reductionism gives us a picture of reality that is like the moon with craters caused from within by its own volcanoes (which many astronomers believed to be the true source of lunar craters until the middle of the 20th century). Transcendentalism gives us a picture of the universe that is like the moon with craters caused by meteors that come from beyond the moon. Intelligent extraterrestrials looking at the farms and cities of our globe from their space ship would not explain these things in the same way as they would explain earth’s geological formations, for they are effects not just of material forces but of acts of knowing material forces and knowing how to change them. The simple “bottom line” is that since any act of knowing transcends its object, the act of knowing the universe transcends the universe. Of course, this conclusion is intuitively obvious to those whose “right brain” is still working well, because mere matter can’t know anything at all, only mind can, however dependent on brain matter and external matter its actions may be. But sometimes it is necessary to prove what is intuitively obvious, to someone whose “right brain” has abdicated all its authority to the left.

For more see the Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ronald Tacelli, SJ

Freewill and Predestination by Peter Kreeft

For a deeper exploration, via The Lord of the Rings, hear the full audio lecture Fated and Free

For C.S. Lewis's fascinating comments, hear section 4 of Time and Eternity


For Augustine's synthesis, described briefly, hear The Problem of Pain [12:50-14:26] If God is not love but only knowledge, then it is difficult or impossible to see how human free will and divine predestination can both be true. But if God is love, there is a way. Freedom and predestination is one of the most frequently asked questions among

my students—partly because of modern man's great concern for freedom, but also,

I think, for the largely unconscious reason that we intuitively know both these

things must be true because they are the warp and woof of every good story. If a story has no plot, no destiny—if its events are haphazard and arbitrary—it is not a great story.

Every good story has a sense of destiny, of fittingness as if it were written by God. But every story also leaves its characters free. Lesser writers may jimmy and force their characters into molds, but the greater the writer the more clearly the reader sees that his characters are real people and not just mental concepts. The more nearly the characters have a life of their own and seem to leap off the page into real life, the greater a writer we have. God, of course, is the greatest writer of all. Since human life is his story, it must have both destiny and freedom. Let's look first at the side called destiny. Predestination is a misleading word, I think, for it concedes too much to our temporal way of thinking. God is not pre or post anything. He is present to everything. God does not look down rows of dominoes or into crystal balls. He does not have to wait for anything. Nor does he wonder what will happen. Nothing is uncertain to him, as the future is uncertain to us. There is not predestination but destination, not predestiny but destiny. This follows from divine omniscience and eternity. But our free will follows from the divine love. To love someone is to make them free. To enslave them is always a defect of love. Now since divine love is God's very essence, while omniscience and omnipotence

are only attributes of that essence, therefore if one of these two truths had to come first—in the sense of being more primordial and non-negotiable than the other—it would have to be freedom.

I do not think either truth needs to be compromised. I think we can do as much

justice to the sovereignty of God as a Calvinist and as much justice to the free will of man as a Baptist. Yet it would not compromise the very essence of God to deny predestination. Arminianism, the theological viewpoint that denies

predestination and emphasizes the role of man's free will in receiving grace from God, may be wrong. But it is wrong at a relatively technical, theoretical level. Denying human free will, on the other hand, would cut out something immediately essential to the Christian life: personal responsibility. If I am a robot, even a divinely programmed robot, my life no longer has the drama of real choice and turns into a formula, the unrolling of a pre-written script. God loves me too much to allow that. He would sooner compromise his power than my freedom. Actually, he does neither. It is precisely his power that gives me my freedom. Aquinas reconciles freedom with predestination by saying that God's love is so powerful that he not only gets what he wants but he also gets it in the way that he wants. Not only is everything done that God wills to be done, but it is also done in the way he wants it to be done. It happens without freedom in the case of natural things like falling rain and freely in the case of human choices. A power a little less then total may get what it wants without getting it in the way that it wants it. But omnipotence gets both. And the way omnipotence wants human acts done is freely. In other words, freedom and predestination are two sides of one coin. The omnipotent author chose to write a story about free human beings, not just trees or machines. That means we are really free. We are free precisely because God is all-powerful. If love and power were not one, we would have the classic standoff, an unending conflict between the two. Once you see the center, love, everything else falls into place like spokes in a wheel. The oneness of love and power is also why we need not fear God's power: it is his very love. Therefore, it cannot be used lovelessly. And it is also why we need not fear that his love will ever fail, for it is omnipotent. It is power. The very hands that tossed the galaxies around like grains of sand loved mankind so much that they let mere men nail them to the cross, all for love. The One who loved us even unto death, the supreme weakness, is infinite strength. In fact, if we only believe and remember the unity of these two things, God's love and God's power, if we only believe in the two attributes that can least be subtracted from God, the practical result will be the most revolutionary transformation of joy and confidence imaginable in our lives. To see this all we need do is reread Romans 8:.31-39. "What then shall we say to this?" What is the inevitable consequence of the fact that the omnipotent God loves us so much that he "did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all?" Simply this: "Will he not also give us all things with him?" It follows as the night the day that not "anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God." No, it follows even more surely than the night follows the day, for the laws of physics will change before the laws of God's nature ever will. If God is all-powerful and all-loving, then "in everything God works for good with those who love him." Even in persecution, torture, and death! For although "for thy sake we are being killed all the day long," yet "in all these things we are more than conquerors." Why? Because these tortures, like everything, serve the one single end of the single-minded and single-hearted God who wills only

our good. He practices what he preaches: purity and simplicity of heart, 100 percent love. The only way out of his love is not chance or suffering or death, but deadly sin. And even past sins can work for our good through present repentance. If only we will it, everything works for our good because everything is God's love. It's so simple that only a child could understand it, or one who has become like a child. "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth," said Jesus, "that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes" (Mt 11:25).

From The God Who Loves You by Ignatius Press.

Hauled Aboard the Ark by Peter Kreeft

I was born into a loving, believing community, a Protestant "mother church" (the

Reformed Church) which, though it had not for me the fullness of the faith, had strong and genuine piety. I believed, mainly because of the good example of my parents and my church. The faith of my parents, Sunday School teachers, ministers, and relatives made a real difference to their lives, a difference big enough to compensate for many shortcomings. "Love covers a multitude of sins."

I was taught what C. S. Lewis calls "mere Christianity," essentially the Bible.

But no one reads the Bible as an extraterrestrial or an angel; our church community provides the colored glasses through which we read, and the framework, or horizon, or limits within which we understand. My "glasses" were of Dutch Reformed Calvinist construction, and my limiting framework stopped very far short of anything "Catholic!' The Catholic Church was regarded with utmost suspicion. In the world of the forties and fifties in which I grew up, that suspicion may have been equally reciprocated by most Catholics. Each group believed that most of the other group were probably on the road to hell. Christian ecumenism and understanding has made astonishing strides since then. Dutch Calvinists, like most conservative Protestants, sincerely believed that Catholicism was not only heresy but idolatry; that Catholics worshipped the Church, the Pope, Mary, saints, images, and who knows what else; that the Church

had added some inane "traditions of men" to the Word of God, traditions and doctrines that obviously contradicted it (how could they not see this? I wondered); and, most important of all, that Catholics believed "another gospel;' another religion, that they didn't even know how to get to Heaven: they tried to pile up brownie points with God with their good works, trying to work their way in instead of trusting in Jesus as their Savior. They never read the Bible, obviously.

I was never taught to hate Catholics, but to pity them and to fear their errors.

I learned a serious concern for truth that to this day I find sadly missing in

many Catholic circles. The typical Calvinist anti-Catholic attitude I knew was not so much prejudice, judgment with no concern for evidence, but judgment based on apparent and false evidence: sincere mistakes rather than dishonest rationalizations. Though I thought it pagan rather than Christian, the richness and mystery of Catholicism fascinated me—the dimensions which avant-garde liturgists have been dismantling since the Silly Sixties. (When God saw that the Church in America lacked persecutions, he sent them liturgists.) The first independent idea about religion I ever remember thinking was a question I asked my father, an elder in the church, a good and wise and holy man. I was amazed that he couldn't answer it. "Why do we Calvinists have the whole truth and no one else? We're so few. How could God leave the rest of the world in error? Especially the rest of the Christian churches?" Since no good answer seemed forthcoming, I then came to the explosive conclusion that the truth about God was more mysterious—more wonderfully and uncomfortably mysterious—than anything any of us could ever fully comprehend. (Calvinists

would not deny that, but they do not usually teach it either. They are strong on God's "sovereignty," but weak on the richness of God's mystery.) That conviction, that the truth is always infinitely more than anyone can have, has not diminished. Not even all the infallible creeds are a container for all that is God.

I also realized at a very young age, obscurely but strongly, that the truth

about God had to be far simpler than I had been taught, as well as far more complex and mysterious. I remember surprising my father with this realization (which was certainly because of God's grace rather than my intelligence, for I was only about eight, I think): "Dad, everything we learn in church and everything in the Bible comes down to just one thing, doesn't it? There's only one thing we have to worry about, isn't there?" "Why, no, I don't see that. There are many things. What do you mean?" "I mean that all God wants us to do—all the time—is to ask Him what He wants us to do, and then do it. That

covers everything, doesn't it? Instead of asking ourselves, ask God!' Surprised, my father replied, "You know, you're right!' After eight years of public elementary school, my parents offered me a choice between two high schools: public or Christian (Calvinist), and I chose the latter, even though it meant leaving old friends. Eastern Christian High School was run by a sister denomination, the Christian Reformed Church. Asking myself now why I made that choice, I cannot say. Providence often works in obscurity. I was not a remarkably religious kid, and loved the New York Giants baseball team with considerable more passion and less guilt than I loved God.

I won an essay contest in high school with a meditation on Dostoyevski's story "The Grand Inquisitor;" interpreted as an anti-Catholic, anti-authoritarian

cautionary tale. The Church, like Communism, seemed a great, dark, totalitarian threat.

I then went to Calvin College, the Christian Reformed college which has such a

great influence for its small size and provincial locale (Grand Rapids, Michigan) because it takes both its faith and its scholarship very seriously. I registered as a pre-seminary student because, though I did not think I was

personally "called" by God to be a clergyman, I thought I might "give it a try."

I was deeply impressed by the caption under a picture of Christ on the cross:

"This is what I did for thee. What will you do for Me?" But in college I quickly fell in love with English, and then Philosophy, and thus twice changed my major. Both subjects were widening my appreciation of the history of Western civilization and therefore of things Catholic. The first serious doubt about my anti-Catholic beliefs was planted in my mind by my roommate, who was becoming an Anglican: "Why don't Protestants pray to saints? There's nothing wrong in you asking me to pray for you, is there? Why not ask the dead, then, if we believe they're alive with God in Heaven, part of the 'great cloud of witnesses' that surrounds us (Hebrews 12)?" It was the first serious question I had absolutely no answer to, and that bothered me. I attended Anglican liturgy with my roommate and was enthralled by the same things that captivated Tom Howard (see his essay in this volume) and many others: not just the aesthetic beauty but the full-ness, the solidity, the moreness of it all.


remember a church service I went to while at Calvin, in the Wealthy Street

Baptist Temple (fundamentalist). I had never heard such faith and conviction, such joy in the music, such love of Jesus. I needed to focus my aroused love of

God on an object. But God is invisible, and we are not angels. There was no religious object in the church. It was a bare, Protestant church; images were "idols." I suddenly understood why Protestants were so subjectivistic: their love of God had no visible object to focus it. The living water welling up from

within had no material riverbed, no shores, to direct its flow to the far divine sea. It rushed back upon itself and became a pool of froth. Then I caught sight of a Catholic spy in the Protestant camp: a gold cross atop the pole of the church flag. Adoring Christ required using that symbol. The alternative was the froth. My gratitude to the Catholic Church for this one relic, this remnant, of her riches, was immense. For this good Protestant water to flow, there had to be Catholic aqueducts. To change the metaphor, I had been told that reliance on external things was a "crutch!' I now realized that I was

a cripple. And I thanked the Catholic "hospital" (that's what the Church is) for responding to my needs.

Perhaps, I thought, these good Protestant people could worship like angels, but

I could not. Then I realized that they couldn't either. Their ears were using

crutches but not their eyes. They used beautiful hymns, for which I would gladly exchange the new, flat, unmusical, wimpy "liturgical responses" no one sings in

our masses—their audible imagery is their crutch. I think that in Heaven, Protestants will teach Catholics to sing and Catholics will teach Protestants to dance and sculpt.

I developed a strong intellectual and aesthetic love for things medieval:

Gregorian chant, Gothic architecture, Thomistic philosophy, illuminated

manuscripts, etc. I felt vaguely guilty about it, for that was the Catholic era.

I thought I could separate these legitimate cultural forms from the "dangerous"

Catholic essence, as the modern Church separated the essence from these discarded forms. Yet I saw a natural connection. Then one summer, on the beach at Ocean Grove, New Jersey, I read St. John of the Cross. I did not understand much of it, but I knew, with undeniable certainty, that here was reality, something as massive and positive as a mountain range. I felt as if I had just come out of a small, comfortable cave, in which I had lived all my life, and found that there was an unsuspected world outside of incredible dimensions. Above all, the dimensions were those of holiness, goodness, purity of heart, obedience to the first and greatest commandment, willing God's will, the one absolute I had discovered, at the age of eight. I was very far from saintly, but that did not prevent me from fascinated admiration from afar; the valley dweller appreciates the height of the mountain more than the dweller on the foothills. I read other Catholic saints and mystics, and discovered the same reality there, however different the style (even St. Thérèse "The Little Flower"!) I felt sure it was the same reality I had learned to love from my parents and teachers, only a far deeper version of it. It did not seem alien and other. It was not another religion but the adult version of my own.

Then in a church history class at Calvin a professor gave me a way to investigate the claims of the Catholic Church on my own. The essential claim is historical: that Christ founded the Catholic Church, that there is historical continuity. If that were true, I would have to be a Catholic out of obedience to my one absolute, the will of my Lord. The teacher explained the Protestant belief. He said that Catholics accuse we who are Protestants of going back only to Luther and Calvin; but this is not true; we go back to Christ. Christ had never intended a Catholic-style Church, but a Protestant-style one. The Catholic additions to the simple, Protestant-style New Testament church had grown up gradually in the Middle Ages like barnacles on the hull of a ship, and the Protestant Reformers had merely scraped off the barnacles, the alien, pagan accretions. The Catholics, on the other hand, believed that Christ established the Church Catholic from the start, and that the doctrines and practices that Protestants saw as barnacles were, in fact, the very living and inseparable parts of the planks and beams of the ship. I thought this made the Catholic claim empirically testable, and I wanted to test it because I was worried by this time about my dangerous interest in things Catholic. Half of me wanted to discover it was the true Church (that was the more adventurous half); the other half wanted to prove it false (that was the comfortable half). My adventurous half rejoiced when I discovered in the early Church such Catholic elements as the centrality of the Eucharist, the Real Presence, prayers to saints, devotion to Mary, an insistence on visible unity, and apostolic succession. Furthermore, the Church Fathers just "smelled" more Catholic than Protestant, especially St. Augustine, my personal favorite and a hero to most Protestants too. It seemed very obvious that if Augustine or Jerome or Ignatius of Antioch or Anthony of the Desert, or Justin Martyr, or Clement of Alexandria, or Athanasius were alive today they would be Catholics, not Protestants. The issue of the Church's historical roots was crucial to me, for the thing I had found in the Catholic Church and in no Protestant church was simply this:

the massive historical fact that there she is, majestic and unsinkable. It was the same old seaworthy ship, the Noah's ark that Jesus had commissioned. It was like discovering not an accurate picture of the ark, or even a real relic of its wood, but the whole ark itself, still sailing unscathed on the seas of history! It was like a fairy tale come true, like a "myth become fact;' to use C. S. Lewis' formula for the Incarnation. The parallel between Christ and Church, Incarnation and Church history, goes still further. I thought, just as Jesus made a claim about His identity that forces us into one of only two camps, His enemies or His worshippers, those who call Him liar and those who call Him Lord; so the Catholic Church's claim to be the one true Church, the Church Christ founded, forces us to say either that this is the most arrogant, blasphemous and wicked claim imaginable, if it is not true, or else that she is just what she claims to be. Just as Jesus stood out as the absolute exception to all other human teachers in claiming to be more than human and more than a teacher, so the Catholic Church stood out above all other denominations in claiming to be not merely a denomination, but the Body of

Christ incarnate, infallible, one, and holy, presenting the really present Christ in her Eucharist. I could never rest in a comfortable, respectable ecumenical halfway house of measured admiration from a distance. I had to shout either "Crucify her!" or "Hosanna!" if I could not love and believe her, honesty forced me to despise and fight her. But I could not despise her. The beauty and sanctity and wisdom of her, like that of Christ, prevented me from calling her liar or lunatic, just as it prevented me from calling Christ that. But simple logic offered then one and only one other option: this must be the Church my Lord provided for me—my Lord, for me. So she had better become my Church if He is my Lord. There were many strands in the rope that hauled me aboard the ark, though this one—the Church's claim to be the one Church historically founded by Christ—was the central and deciding one. The book that more than any other decided it for me was Ronald Knox's The Belief of Catholics. He and Chesterton "spoke with

authority, and not as the scribes!' Even C. S. Lewis, the darling of Protestant Evangelicals, "smelled" Catholic most of the time. A recent book by a Calvinist author I went to high school with, John Beversluis, mercilessly tries to tear all Lewis' arguments to shreds; but Lewis is left without a scratch and Beversluis comes out looking like an atheist. Lewis is the only author I ever have read whom I thought I could completely trust and completely understand. But he believed in Purgatory, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and not Total Depravity. He was no Calvinist. In fact, he was a medieval. William Harry Jellema, the greatest teacher I ever knew, though a Calvinist, showed me what I can only call the Catholic vision of the history of philosophy, embracing the Greek and medieval tradition and the view of reason it assumed, a thick rather than a thin one. Technically this was "realism" (Aquinas) as vs. "nominalism" (Ockham and Luther). Commonsensically, it meant wisdom rather than mere logical consistency, insight rather than mere calculation. I saw Protestant theology as infected with shallow nominalism and Descartes' narrow scientificization of reason.

A second and related difference is that Catholics, like their Greek and medieval

teachers, still believed that reason was essentially reliable, not utterly untrustworthy because fallen. We make mistakes in using it, yes. There are "noetic effects of sin," yes. But the instrument is reliable. Only our misuse of it is not.

This is connected with a third difference. For Catholics, reason is not just subjective but objective; reason is not our artificial little man-made rules for our own subjective thought processes or intersubjective communications, but a window on the world. And not just the material world, but form, order, objective truth. Reason was from God. All truth was God's truth. When Plato or Socrates knew the truth, the logos, they knew Christ, unless John lies in chapter 1 of his gospel. I gave a chapel speech at Calvin calling Socrates a "common-grace Christian" and unwittingly scandalized the powers that be. They still remember

it, 30 years later.

The only person who almost kept me Protestant was Kierkegaard. Not Calvin or Luther. Their denial of free will made human choice a sham game of predestined

dice. Kierkegaard offered a brilliant, consistent alternative to Catholicism, but such a quirkily individualistic one, such a pessimistic and antirational one, that he was incompletely human. He could hold a candle to Augustine and

Aquinas, I thought—the only Protestant thinker I ever found who could—but he was only the rebel in the ark, while they were the family, Noah's sons. But if Catholic dogma contradicted Scripture or itself at any point, I could not believe it. I explored all the cases of claimed contradiction and found each to he a Protestant misunderstanding. No matter how morally bad the Church had gotten in the Renaissance, it never taught heresy. I was impressed with its very hypocrisy: even when it didn't raise its practice to its preaching, it never lowered its preaching to its practice. Hypocrisy, someone said, is the tribute vice pays to virtue.

I was impressed by the argument that "the Church wrote the Bible:" Christianity

was preached by the Church before the New Testament was written—that is simply a

historical fact. It is also a fact that the apostles wrote the New Testament and the Church canonized it, deciding which books were divinely inspired. I knew, from logic and common sense, that a cause can never be less than its effect. You can't give what you don't have. If the Church has no divine inspiration and no infallibility, no divine authority, then neither can the New Testament. Protestantism logically entails Modernism. I had to be either a Catholic or a Modernist. That decided it; that was like saying I had to be either a patriot or

a traitor.

One afternoon I knelt alone in my room and prayed God would decide for me, for I am good at thinking but bad at acting, like Hamlet. Unexpectedly, I seemed to sense my heroes Augustine and Aquinas and thousands of other saints and sages calling out to me from the great ark, "Come aboard! We are really here. We still live. Join us. Here is the Body of Christ." I said Yes. My intellect and feelings had long been conquered; the will is the last to surrender. One crucial issue remained to be resolved: Justification by Faith, the central bone of contention of the Reformation. Luther was obviously right here: the doctrine is dearly taught in Romans and Galatians. If the Catholic Church teaches "another gospel" of salvation by works, then it teaches fundamental heresy. I found here however another case of misunderstanding. I read in Aquinas' Summa on grace, and the decrees of the Council of Trent, and found them just as strong on grace as Luther or Calvin. I was overjoyed to find that the Catholic Church had read the Bible too! At Heaven's gate our entrance ticket, according to Scripture and Church dogma, is not our good works or our sincerity, but our faith, which glues us to Jesus. He saves us; we do not save ourselves. But I find, incredibly, that 9 out of 10 Catholics do not know this, the absolutely central, core, essential dogma of Christianity. Protestants are right: most Catholics do in fact believe a whole other religion. Well over 90% of students I have polled who have had 12 years of catechism classes, even Catholic high schools, say they expect to go to Heaven because they tried, or did their best, or had compassionate feelings to everyone, or were sincere. They hardly ever mention Jesus. Asked why they hope to be saved, they mention almost anything except the Savior. Who taught them? Who wrote their textbooks? These

teachers have stolen from our precious children the most valuable thing in the world, the "pearl of great price;' their faith. Jesus had some rather terrifying warnings about such things something about millstones. Catholicism taught that we are saved by faith, by grace, by Christ, however few Catholics understood this. And Protestants taught that true faith necessarily produces good works. The fundamental issue of the Reformation is an argument between the roots and the blossoms on the same flower. But though Luther did not neglect good works, he connected them to faith by only

a thin and unreliable thread: human gratitude. In response to God's great gift

of salvation, which we accept by faith, we do good works out of gratitude, he taught. But gratitude is only a feeling, and dependent on the self. The Catholic connection between faith and works is a far stronger and more reliable one. I found it in C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, the best introduction to Christianity I have ever read. It is the ontological reality of we, supernatural life, sanctifying grace, God's own life in the soul, which is received by faith and then itself produces good works. God comes in one end and out the other: the very same thing that comes in by faith (the life of God) goes out as works, through our free cooperation.

I was also dissatisfied with Luther's teaching that justification was a legal

fiction on God's part rather than a real event in us; that God looks on the Christian in Christ, sees only Christ's righteousness, and legally counts or imputes Christ's righteousness as ours. I thought it had to be as Catholicism says, that God actually imparts Christ to us, in baptism and through faith (these two are usually together in the New Testament). Here I found the fundamentalists, especially the Baptists, more philosophically sound than the Calvinists and Lutherans. For me, their language, however sloganish and satirizable, is more accurate when they speak of "Receiving Christ as your personal Savior." Though my doubts were all resolved and the choice was made in 1959, my senior

year at Calvin, actual membership came a year later, at Yale. My parents were horrified, and only gradually came to realize I had not lost my head or my soul, that Catholics were Christians, not pagans. It was very difficult, for I am a shy and soft-hearted sort, and almost nothing is worse for me than to hurt people I love. I think that I hurt almost as much as they did. But God marvelously binds up wounds.

I have been happy as a Catholic for many years now. The honeymoon faded, of

course, but the marriage has deepened. Like all converts I ever have heard of, I was hauled aboard not by those Catholics who try to "sell" the church by conforming it to the spirit of the times by saying Catholics are just like everyone else, but by those who joyfully held out the ancient and orthodox faith in all its fullness and prophetic challenge to the world. The minimalists, who reduce miracles to myths, dogmas to opinions, laws to values, and the Body of Christ to a psycho-social club, have always elicited wrath, pity, or boredom from me. So has political partisanship masquerading as religion. I am happy as a child to follow Christ's vicar on earth everywhere he leads. What he loves, I love; what he leaves, I leave; where he leads, I follow. For the Lord we both

adore said to Peter his predecessor, "Who hears you, hears Me." That is why I am a Catholic: because I am a Christian.

Peter Kreeft's portion from The Spiritual Journeys published by the Daughters of St. Paul.

Heaven by Peter Kreeft

Quo vadis? Where are you going? That's the most important question for a traveler. And we the living are all travelers. Death calls us all and moves us on. Stability is illusion. So those who cannot abide illusion must raise the question: Quo vadis? If heaven is not the answer to the question, our whole faith is false, and Jesus was a fool. If it is, then there's nothing that is more important in the whole world. Indeed, the whole world is only heaven's womb.

Why do we hear so little about this today, even from the pulpit? Why are we told by our "leading theologians" that we must take our eyes off the clouds and keep them on the ground? Why is it so outrageously irresponsible to think more about heaven than politics? Because these leading theologians are really following theologians, with their noses to the tail of the modern world. They are in fact upside down: not only are their eyes stuck in the mud, but their feet are kicking up in rebellion at the sky. They want to turn Christianity—which in the clear teaching of its founder was an otherworldly religion of faith, hope, and charity—into a this-worldly religion of prosperity and success (the Right with its electronic Church) or of political revolution (the left with its liberation theology). But these shams don't satisfy for long. Prosperity is boring. The suicide rate in Sweden is something like a thousand times that of Haiti. And even revolution is finally boring. No revolution can survive its own success. Every revolution turns into a new tyranny, and Ecclesiastes' cycles return like the clouds after

a rain.

Even the sceptic who does not believe in heaven has a heaven-shaped heart. The big, blazing, terrible truth about man is that he has a heaven-sized hole in his heart, and nothing else can fill it. We pass our lives trying to fill the Grand Canyon with marbles. As Augustine said: "Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee." That's the greatest sentence ever written outside Scripture because it tells us the secret of our destiny, our happiness—and our unhappiness, It is, however, not only unfashionable but terribly threatening. It tears the band-aid off our wound. It shows up our false gods for the tiny things they are compared with our own hearts. People do not take kindly to idol smashing. Look what they did to the prophets.

But we should be encouraged. Even the sceptic who does not believe in heaven has

a heaven-shaped heart. The deck is stacked and the dice are loaded, loaded with

the love of heaven. Amor meus, pondus meum, said Augustine: "My love is my weight." The gravity of his own heart pulls the sceptic in heaven's direction, even while the antigravity of sin pulls him away. But the head must often be outwitted, for it is entangled in verbal prejudices. Talk about heaven and you'll get sneers. But talk about a mysterious dissatisfaction with life even when things go well—especially when things go well—and you'll get a hearing from man's heart, even if his lips will not agree.

No one longs for fluffy clouds and sexless cherubs, but everyone longs for heaven. No one longs for any of the heavens that we have ever imagined, but everyone longs for "something no eye has seen, no ear has heard, something that has not entered into the imagination of man, something God has prepared for those who love him."

Heaven is home. We are still children, however hard we try to cover that up. There are no "grown-ups". When we get old, we only exchange our toys: business for bats, sex

for sleds, power for popguns. At death our Father calls: "Come, little one. Time to put away your toys and come home." Home—that's what heaven is. It won't appear strange and faraway and "supernatural", but utterly natural. Heaven is what we were designed for. All our epics seek it: It is the "home" of Odysseus, of Aeneas, of Frodo, of E.T. Heaven is not escapist. Worldliness is escapist. Heaven is home. People think heaven is escapist because they fear that thinking about heaven will distract us from living well here and now. It is exactly the opposite, and the lives of the saints and our Lord himself prove it. Those who truly love heaven will do the most for earth. It's easy to see why. Those who love the homeland best work the hardest in the colonies to make them resemble the

homeland. "Thy kingdom

The pregnant woman who plans a live birth cares for her unborn baby; the woman who plans for an abortion does not. Highways that lead somewhere are well maintained; dead ends are not. So if we see life as a road to heaven, some of heaven's own glory will reflect back onto that road, if only by anticipation:

the world is charged with the grandeur of God and every event smells of eternity. But if it all goes down the drain in death, then this life is just swirls of dirty water, and however comfortable we make our wallowing in it, it remains a vanity of vanities.

on earth as it is in heaven."

What decides for joy? The existence of heaven, the desire for heaven, the nature of heaven, and the relevance of heaven are all important questions. But there is only one question that's absolutely essential, one question compared with which how we might save the world from a nuclear holocaust is trivial: "What must I do to be saved?" When I'm honest enough to look through the door of death, infinite joy or infinite joylessness loom up as my only two possible destinies. What decides for joy? What is heaven's entrance ticket? What is the Way, the Truth and the Life? I am horrified to report that I've asked this question of hundreds of Catholic college students, and far fewer than half have known the answer. This means that the Church's religious education has been not a failure but an inexcusable disaster. Most reply either "God is good to everybody" or "I'm basically a good person." If anyone out there is unsure of the correct answer, then for the love of God get out your Bible and study for your finals! To save you time—since you may die while reaching for your Bible—I will quote God's scandalously simple answer to

the most important question in the world, how to get to heaven: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).

From Fundamentals of the Faith by Ignatius Press. For an online audio lecture see Heaven.

Hell by Peter Kreeft Featured

The hell with hell! says the modern mind. Of all Christianity's teachings, hell is certainly the least popular. Non-Christians ignore it, weak Christians excuse it, and anti-Christians attack it. Some, like Bertrand Russell in his famous essay "Why I Am Not a Christian", argue that because Jesus clearly taught it, he was not a good moral teacher. (Russell's essay, by the way, makes fine devotional reading for a Christian. My college roommate was about to lose his faith until he read it; he said to me, "If those are the arguments against Christianity, I'd better be a Christian.") Why do we believe there's a hell? Not because we're vindictive. "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Why, then? Simply because we've been told, by Christ himself. There's a popular fallacy that Jesus spoke only comforting words and that the fear of hell began with Saint Paul. The textual truth is the opposite: Jesus uttered many "hell fire and damnation" sermons, while nearly all the passages that offer any hope to the universalist (who believe all men will be saved in the end) are from Paul. Fear of hell is not a base motive. As George MacDonald says, "As long as there are wild beasts about, it is better to be afraid than secure. "God's graciousness accepts even the "low" motive of fear of hell for salvation if that's the best we can muster. His arms are open to all prodigals. He is not high-minded, like some of his detractors. All's fair in love and war. And life is both. Hell follows from two other doctrines: heaven and free will. If there is a heaven, there can be a not-heaven. And if there is free will, we can act on it and abuse it. Those who deny hell must also deny either heaven (as does Western secularism) or free will (as does Eastern pantheism). Hell and heaven make life serious. Heaven without hell removes the bite from life's drama. C. S. Lewis once said that he never met a single person who had a lively faith in heaven without a similar belief in hell. The height of the mountain is measured by the depth of the valley, the greatness of salvation by the awfulness of the thing we're saved from. What is hell? The popular image of demons gleefully poking pitchforks into unrepentant posteriors misses the point of the biblical image of fire. Fire destroys. Gehenna, the word Jesus used for hell, was the valley outside Jerusalem that the Jews used for the perpetual burning of garbage because it had been desecrated by heathen tribes who used it for human sacrifice. In hell you make an eternal ash of yourself. Hell is not eternal life with torture but something far worse: eternal dying. What goes to hell, said C. S. Lewis, is "not a man, but remains". The images for hell in Scripture are horrible, but they're only symbols. The thing symbolized is not less horrible than the symbols, but more. Spiritual fire is worse than material fire; spiritual death is worse than physical death. The pain of loss—the loss of God, who is the source of all joy—is infinitely more horrible than any torture could ever be. All who know God and his joy understand that. Saints do not need to be threatened with fire, only with loss. "All your

life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it—or else that it was within your grasp and you have lost it forever" (C. S. Lewis). Jesus does not tell us much detail about hell. He tells us that it exists, that it's horrible, that any man can go there. Judas seems to be one, for Jesus says of him, "It would have been good for that man if he had not been born." If no one goes to hell, it would seem to be inexcusable for Jesus to give us so many fearful warnings about it. But he does not give us population statistics. To his disciples' question "Are many saved?" he does not answer with estimates but with a forceful appeal to the will: "Strive to enter in."

Hell follows from two other doctrines:

heaven and free will.

Jesus says the way to hell is broad and many find it and that the way to heaven is narrow and few find it. And he means it: you don't get to heaven simply by being born, by being nice, or by oozing into an eternal growth experience. But "few" here does not mean that less than half of mankind will be saved. For God speaks as our Father, not our statistician. Even one child lost is too many, and the rest saved are too few. The good shepherd who left his ninety-nine sheep safe at home to rescue his one lost sheep found even 99 percent salvation too "few". The most important question about hell, as about heaven, is the practical one: What roads lead there? They are interior, of course. In fact, heaven and hell may be the very same objective place—namely God's love, experienced oppositely by opposite souls, just as the same opera or rock concert can be heavenly for you and hellish for the reluctant guest at your side. The fires of hell maybe made of the very love of God, experienced as torture by those who hate him: the very light of God's truth, hated and fled from in vain by those who love darkness. Imagine a man in hell—no, a ghost—endlessly chasing his own shadow, as the light of God shines endlessly behind him. If he would only turn and face the light, he would be saved. But he refuses to—forever. Just as we can attain heaven by implicit as well as explicit faith ("Saint Socrates, pray for us," says Erasmus), so hell too can be reached without explicit rebellion. This is the terrible—and terribly needed—truth taught by C. S. Lewis in The Great Divorce and Charles Williams in Descent into Hell. We can drift, slide, even snooze comfortably into hell. All God's messengers, the prophets, say so. We desperately need to hear this truth about hell again, simply out of honesty, because it is there. And also out of compassion. For when an abyss looms ahead, the least compassionate thing to tell the traveler is "peace, peace, when there is no peace". Out of love for god and man, let us tell the truth about hell! Sure, we'll be mocked as vindictive, manipulative, or fundamentalist. Let it be so. Sometimes it seems that we're more afraid of sharing our Lord's holy unrespectability than of hell itself. It's a small price to pay for the salvation of a single infinitely precious soul. And that is the business we're

supposed to be in.

From Fundamentals of the Faith by Ignatius Press.

How Does the Weakness of the Cross Make Us Strong? by Peter Kreeft Featured

"When I am weak, then I am strong"; "power made perfect in weakness." Such verses are often cited as key to spiritual growth, but do we really understand what they are talking about? Can anyone ever understand? Yes. If we couldn't understand it at all, God would not have told it to us. God does not waste words. It is a great mystery, but a mystery is not something we cannot understand at all, but something we cannot understand by our own reason, without God's revelation. It is also something we cannot understand wholly, but something we can understand partly. Partial understanding is not total darkness. "We see through a glass, darkly." The key to the mystery of strength made perfect in weakness is the cross of Christ. Without the cross it is not a mystery but an absurdity, a darkness. But non-Christians like the great Chinese mystic and poet Lao Tzo seem to have understood the mystery of strength made perfect in weakness quite profoundly, at least in some of its aspects, without knowing Christ or the cross. Perhaps they understand a similar and related mystery but not quite the same one. Or perhaps they understand it through Christ and his cross too, though not consciously and explicitly. How do we know where the boundaries of the cross extend to? Its arms are very wide. Christ is "the light that enlightens every man who comes into the world" (Jn 1:9) by natural revelation, natural wisdom, and the natural law known by conscience. When a Lao Tzo, or a Socrates, or a Buddha arrive at a profound knowledge of some eternal truth, they do so by the light of Christ the eternal Logos, the pre-incarnate Word or revelation of God. He is the same person, but not with his human, incarnate nature. All truth is his truth.

The key to the mystery of strength made perfect in weakness is the cross of Christ. But the incarnate Jesus is God's definitive revelation, God's face turned to us in utmost intimacy. We know far more of a person through his face than his back or his feet. So let's look at that final, definitive, total revelation of God that we have—Christ and his cross—to try to shed some light on our paradox of strength coming from weakness. Our question is: How does weakness make us strong through the cross? or, How does the weakness of the cross make us strong? There are two questions here, not one. The first is theoretical and unanswerable. The second is practical and answerable. The first question is: How does it work? By what supernatural, spiritual technology does the machine of weakness produce the product of strength? How does the cross work? Theologians have been working on that one for nearly two thousand years, and there is no clear consensus in Christendom, no obviously adequate answer, only analogies. St. Anselm's legal analogy is of the devil owning us and Christ paying the price to buy us back. The early Church Fathers gave a cosmic battle analogy: Christ invaded enemy-occupied territory—first earth, then, on Holy

Saturday, the underworld, and defeated the devil and his forces of sin and death. Then there is the Southern Free-Will Baptist preacher's delightfully simple Americanism: "Satan votes agin' ye, an' Jesus votes for ye, and ye cast the deciding vote." These metaphors are helpful, but they are only symbols,

likenesses. We hardly know how electricity works, how can we know how redemption works?

A second question, however, is more definitely answerable. That is the practical

question: How should I live; how should I behave in relation to weakness? How should I enact the cross in my life? For the cross is in my life. It is not a freak but a universal truth incarnated, not merely a once-for-all event outside me in space and time, in Israel in A.D. 29, separated from me by eight thousand miles and two thousand years, but also a continuing event within me, or rather I within it.

Christianity is more paradoxical than the simple no of humanism or the simple yes of fatalism. There are two equal and opposite errors in answering the question: How shall I enact this mystery of the cross in my life? They are humanism and quietism, activism and passivism. Humanism says that all is human action, that we must fight and overcome weakness, failure, defeat, disease, death, and suffering. We must overcome the cross. But we never do, in the end. Humanism is Don Quixote

riding forth on a horse to fight a tank. Quietism, or fatalism, says simply: Endure it, accept it. In other words, don't be human. Go "gentle into that good night," do not "rage, rage against the dying

of the light."

Christianity is mor