It represents my own line of reasoning from when I started back on the journey home about 20 years ago. Although I had some sense of these steps even before that time, I could not articulate them back then, not even to myself. I can do a better job now.
Step 1: Is there a God?
All of reality can be described in terms of two parts. There are physical or material realities and there are spiritual or immaterial realities.
It can be proven through metaphysical logic that any physical reality must trace back to a “first cause” or one unconditioned reality; one thing that needs absolutely nothing else for its own existence, not even space or time. See a formal logic proof HERE. Unless someone can show a more rational proof that shows differently, the existence of one unconditioned reality remains the most reasonable conclusion.
INTERESTING SIDE NOTE:
If you knew people who denied the existence of physical reality, you would likely note that they do not live as if they actually believe what they claim (if they are sane), which implies they don’t really believe it.
The SpiritualFor the strict materialist to be consistent in his position, he must hold that we come from nothing for the purpose of nothing. More specifically, we come from nothing intelligent for no intended purpose. The universe and everything in it is a mindless accident that happens by itself (we are “dumbly” here). It must also follow that immaterial things like morality, human rights, justice, goodness, meaning, beauty and love cannot exist objectively. The rest of us get the sense that these things exists. For instance, moral law (right vs. wrong) is real. Consider rape as a specific example. Rape is objectively wrong regardless of ANY social construct or human opinion to the contrary.
Put this idea together with the physical “first cause” above and we are close to what Catholics call God.
INTERESTING SIDE NOTE:
If you knew people who denied the existence of spiritual reality, you will likely note that they do not live as if they actually believed what they claim (if they are sane), which implies that they don’t really believe it.
Step 2: Are we separated from God?
We do not see God plainly or face to face. Catholic teaching holds that sin is what separates us from God, but this is a simple step to reason through without any special catholic teaching. If we have concluded that God must exist in step 1, observation clearly shows us that we are separated from Him somehow. We also sense that the world is not as it should be.
Step 3: Does God care?Creators tend to care about their creations, but we might ask why God would be concerned about any separation from man and his pitiful little world. Why would He care about our needs, our sins or our non-sins? Oddly, we project negative human characteristics of pettiness, arrogance and aloofness onto God. We thus imagine Him as a consciousness that will not embrace the whole.
God has reached out to man and revealed himself publicly to both believers and non-believers when establishing the nation of Israel (The Jews). Much could be said here about covenant theology, but simply put, God reaching out to bond with man over and over again via covenants certainly implies “caring”.
Step 4: Is there a particular way back to God?Particular problems tend to have particular solutions. I deal with analytical problem solving for a global 500 company. There is often more than one solution to a problem; more than one way to skin a cat, but when faced with a serious global problem we standardize one global solution intended for everyone experiencing the problem. It stands to reason that God would also provide a global solution intended for everyone.
Step 5: Can we know the way?
The Jews were expecting a savior to “make things right” and God went public once again in the person of Jesus. Jesus claimed to not only know the way, but to actually be “The Way” by making himself equal to God. No other religious figure in history was so anticipated before their birth and made such radical claims of authority with the action to back it up, through many public miracles and a public resurrection with many eye witnesses. Much more could be said on this topic as it relates to salvation history. Click HERE for more.
Step 6: Did Jesus establish any particular church to guide us?Many Christians may object to this step and say there is only the Bible to guide us, but Jesus founded a Church, not a book. The Bible is subject to human interpretation and requires a teaching authority to go with it. Jesus didn’t wait for us to invent a church of our own. Ironically for other Christians, it is the authority of the Catholic Church that certifies the authority of the Bible.
Step 7: What would His Church look like?Jesus was concrete, historical, visible and authoritative, so it stands to reason that His Church would be the same way, and let’s not forget about four more things…
ONE: The Church is one, undivided in belief and worship. For both Catholics and non-Catholics who disagree…you believe & worship the way you want; the Church will continue to believe & worship the way God wants.
HOLY: The Church is holy because it flows from the holiness of Christ, not from the holiness of any individual members at any point in history.
CATHOLIC: The Church is catholic by its nature since catholic means universal. It is a global solution. The Church is for everyone in every nation. It would be strange if it were otherwise.
APOSTOLIC: The Church is descendent from the original apostles. Jesus authorized His apostles and they in turn authorized their own successors and this still goes on today.
It is the exception, not the rule, to find a strict materialist as described in step 1. Most people believe in a higher power of some kind, like “The Force”, but it is often a faith that is devoid of reason, which results in blind superstition. This quote I once ran across sums it all up pretty well:
“There is a widespread idea today that it does not matter what our conception of God is like; how vague it is, how confused, even how distorted. “We all worship the same God” has become almost a shrug of the shoulders, dismissing the responsibility of knowing God as he reveals himself to be, as if to know truly is no difference to us.”
– Caryll Houselander
Click HERE for a PDF version of the flow chart below for a visual that goes with the flow above.