Friday, June 13, 2014

Answering a Sweeping Question with Dr.Kreeft

I recently ran across this comment on another blog:
“I’d like to learn more about this God. Are you suggesting that I read the Bible and follow the teachings of the Catholic Church in order to accomplish this? If so, why?”

It’s a sweeping question. Based on other comments from this person the question may have been posed more in sarcasm than sincerity, but whatever the case it certainly cuts to the chase. The question reminded me of a good answer from a book I read called “Jacobs ladder: 10 Steps to Truth” by Dr. Peter Kreeft.
Unlike aspects of this blog that tend to lead with the head in hopes that the heart will follow, Dr. Kreeft’s book seems to lead more with the heart, and the answer does not start with the Bible or the Catholic Church.  I thought I would share some notes and thoughts on this 10-step logic path in hopes that it can assist anyone with the sometimes difficult journey from the the heart to the head.

STEP 1: Passion
This is the first rung of the ladder. Humans get passionate about transcendent things like “the good”, “the beautiful” and “the true” and we all know the difference between true passion and just “interest”.

Many are passionate about morals or justice (the good). Others have their passion in art, literature (blogging?), music, dance, theater, athleticism or nature (the beautiful). Still others have a passion for technology, science, math, problem solving or discovery (the true). This is also how we know we are different than animals. Not even our closest animal relatives show evidence for having passion for “the good”, “the beautiful” and “the true”.
But passion alone can ignite anything it touches. It’s like blind power. This is why it is very dangerous to stop at step one. Adolf Hitler had passion. Imagine if his passion was driven by love instead of hate. Maybe we would be calling him Saint Hitler today.

STEP 2: Truth
If you are truly passionate, it’s not a big step to get to the second rung of the ladder and accept objective truth as something real. Holding truths to be self-evident, as the founders of this nation wrote, is different than a personal belief or opinion. If you are passionate in holding the truth that genocide is wrong, you will not accept relativistic terms like “it’s wrong for me” or “it’s wrong in our culture”. No, it is wrong…period. Just like a physical law, genocide being wrong is something universal and unchangeable.

STEP 3: Meaning
Once we consent to the existence of at least some objective truth, the acceptance of some meaning or purpose behind it all is not a far leap either. All people desire lasting happiness and the truths that we hold are meant to lead us to happiness. We use our heads and our hearts in the pursuit of that happiness that will ultimately lead us to the meaning of life.
STEP 4: Love
If we are only physical beings, then it stands to reason that only physical things are needed to keep us happy. Outward abundance and physical pleasure should satisfy us fully and bring lasting happiness, but they don’t. We seek more; we seek love and love is not the same as “good feelings”. If it were, we could say that taking drugs, which result in good feelings, is what true love is all about.

So what kind of love are we looking for? It’s unconditional, unselfish and sacrificial love. This kind of love involves more than feelings. It requires willing the good of the other, so it requires an act of the will or a choice. So love comes from an act of the will and it brings lasting happiness to everyone and is thus the meaning of life.

“If you find the meaning of life, you’ve found something more precious than the little time it took you to find it, because you’ve found the meaning of ALL your times.”
― Dr. Peter Kreeft
STEP 5: Principles (law)
Humans live in organized societies which are guided according to certain principles and those principles are reflected in the laws. If love is the meaning of life that will bring lasting happiness, then the law should be love’s servant, not love’s masters; love’s ally, not love’s enemy. Good laws would support and be consistent with the natural law of love. Bad laws would undermine love and thus be unnatural.

STEP 6: God
If there is sunlight, there must be a sun. There are always the traditional proofs for the existence of God, like how the creation proves the Creator or the design proves the Designer, but in the context of these steps God is not a far leap of faith after step 5. If one has accepted objective truth or morals that are not sourced from human opinion (step 2), then there must be a truth giver of some sort. If love is from the will and is the meaning of life (steps 3&4) there must be a first lover and a first “willer”. If there is a natural law (step 5) there must be a natural law giver.
“…they told you that love is just down here, under the clouds; so when you climb up high enough, beyond the clouds, to places you can’t see from down here, you won’t find love but something else.”
― Dr. Peter Kreeft

STEP 7: The Jews
Why doesn’t this God revel himself publicly? Well, He did, and in a big way. God revealed himself publicly to both believers and non-believers when establishing the nation of Israel. The Hebrew people were few and weak, but broke out of bondage and survived for thousands of years even with many powerful nations wanting to destroy them. They received and passed on the greatest moral code in history (10 commandments) which the world still lives by today.

They taught us that God is one, a person, a creator, eternal, perfect, faithful and loving. This notion of god or gods did not come from the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks or anyone else in history. They taught us that God loves us and wants us to love Him and each other in return. This fits with the meaning of life we concluded in step 4.

STEP 8: Christ
The Jews were expecting a savior as can be read about in the Old Testament. Other religious figures like Buddha or Mohammad were not anticipated ahead of their birth and certainly did not make the radical claims or do the radical things that Jesus did. God went public once again in the person of Jesus through many public miracles and a public resurrection with many witnesses.

Although many Jews were expecting a political savior, a savior that can free us from sin through sacrificial love makes more sense in the logic of life we are following. Sin is what separates us from God which means we are separated from the source of love. Since we are saying love is the meaning of life (step 4), it makes sense that we need to be freed from sin to travel properly from passion (step 1) all the way up to God (step 6).

STEP 9: Catholic Church
Jesus was concrete. He was historical, visible and authoritative, so it stands to reason that His Church would also be concrete, historical, visible and authoritative. He didn’t wait for us to invent a church of our own. Jesus authorized His Apostles and they in turn authorized their own successors. The two big reasons for believing the Catholic Church is to be sure to get Jesus right and to be sure to get the Bible right. Jesus founded a Church, not a book.

STEP 10: Authority
We need the authority of the Church when reason isn’t enough. Things like the Trinity or the cannon of scripture cannot come from reason alone and certainly cannot come from the Bible alone. All Church creeds are basically answers to heresies of the past.

If you reject step 10, you must water-down or completely reject step 9 and so on with the other steps, all the way back to rejecting step1,  which leaves you nowhere, and that’s where many people are today.

It is inconsistent to have…
  • Authority without a Church…or a Church without authority
  • The Church without Christ…or Christ without a Church
  • Christ without Jews…or Jews without a Christ
  • Jews without God…or God without Jews
  • God without laws…or laws without God
  • Law without love…or love without law
  • Love without meaning…or meaning without love
  • Meaning without truth…or truth without meaning
  • Truth without passion…or passion without truth

Please take the time to read and explore the 10 Steps to Truth in their totality!



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