We continue with our message series God’s Not Dead. In this series, we are looking at some evidential proofs for the existence of God. This series is purely educational and informative, because I strongly believe that all of us Catholics have no iota of doubt about the existence of God. So this is not even a topic of discussion for us Christians because we are a people of faith and wisdom. As Psalm 14:1 says, “Fools say in their hearts, there is no God.” We are not fools, so we believe there is God. But when we encounter people who don’t believe in God, with our knowledge and faith in God, we can talk to them about God.
Not too long ago, atheists were haunted by regret. Even as they denied God’s existence, they recognized that a world with God would be better than one without God. For example, Pascal Blaise (1623-1662) was a French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist, who proposed an argument for the existence of God known as “Pascal’s Wager.” This argument posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not exist. Pascal argues that, “A rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasure, luxury, etc.), whereas he or she stands to receive infinite gains as represented by (eternity in heaven and avoid infinite losses eternity in hell).”
St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a Dominican friar, a philosopher, theologian and a Catholic Priest, outlined five ways to prove the existence of God. He claims that these “ways” prove that a God must exist for the universe and nature to have come into being. The five ways are:
God is a supernatural Being who alone exists of himself, and we believe in his existence.
—Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
In this fourth week of our current message series, God’s Not Dead, we want to look at the reality of Hell. Atheists argue that a loving God cannot create Hell. Because there is no Hell, there is no God. But more and more “religious people” also are rejecting the biblical doctrine of Hell. They contend that a God of love and mercy could not create such a place as Hell and confine man, who is created in his own image, to such a horrible place for eternity.
If there is an eternal Hell, you are entitled to know about it to be warned thereby. If the notion of a Hell of torment is a doctrine of men, you are certainly entitled to know that too. It would be morally wrong to teach the idea of a burning Hell just to scare people into doing certain things.
The fact of sin’s existence proves that there is a Hell. From the Bible, we learn sin is a “transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). But if there were no penalty imposed for breaking the law, the law would be worthless. Take, for example, the laws that govern speed on our highways. We know that if we disobey these laws, we will be charged. So, if there were no laws to regulate speed, men could drive at any speed they desired and not be guilty of any crime. But in order to make the laws effective, there are penalties for their violations and people are charged with enforcing them.
In the same way, the law of God would be meaningless if there were no penalty for its transgression. The fact of a penalty for the violation of God’s law is an incentive for people to obey him rather than transgress his laws. Sin, the violation of God’s law, is an unquestionable reality; therefore Hell, the penalty for sin also must be a reality.
The Bible ascribes many characteristics to God. He is described as love but is also described as a God of justice. Neither of these characteristics should be exaggerated as to exclude the other. Some have supposed that, since God is a God of great love, he could not possibly bring suffering to anyone for any reason. But since he is also a God of justice and holiness, he must punish sin.
The book of Hebrews makes this very same argument about the necessary punishment for sin. “Therefore, we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the message declared through the angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him” (Hebrews 2:1-3).
God must punish those who break his law. Since his law is the highest and holiest of all laws. Hell exists because God is a God of Love and is a God of Justice.
—Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
In our current message series, God’s Not Dead, we’re looking at the scientific and philosophical evidence for the existence of God. We want to grow in our faith by understanding the reasoned basis for what we believe.
One of the most common arguments for atheism is the imperfect universe. How could an omniscient, omnipotent, perfect God create a universe with so many inherent design defects? Any earthly manufacturer who had sent a product to market with the same kind of built-in flaws would surely have been sued many times over for products liability and ultimately forced into bankruptcy. Consequently, the universe could not have been created by an intelligent mind. Or so the argument goes.
As a result, many skeptics and non-believers turn to naturalistic explanations for the origin of life on Earth and the development of humankind, Darwin’s theory of evolution being the most common. Indeed, evolution is an attractive alternative to the theory of intelligent design because apparent imperfections in the natural order can be easily be explained by a process that does not involve God and does not have humans in mind. In this view, design defects are not attributable to an intelligent mind that should have known better.
But this misunderstands who God is and how he works, which is something that religious people in the course of the centuries frequently have misunderstood. In the gospel reading this week, for instance, the Pharisees condemn Jesus for eating with so-called “sinners” because they are seeking a perfect order. In response, Jesus sets them straight with three parables about seeking the lost. With God, there are no rejects and the imperfect are never really lost.
Today there are many of us who are still seeking a perfect Church. All are not welcome in their eyes. But our vision is to welcome the unchurched and to create an irresistible environment for those people who don’t like or feel uncomfortable in church and may not know all the words to every prayer. We don’t have a dress code. We don’t enforce silence. We just try to love and accept everyone who comes through those doors, which is what Saint Paul means in the second reading when he says Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He loved the unchurched and so should we.
With a tremendous flash of light and energy, a perfect universe came into being billions of years ago. It was created in perfect harmony. Whatever “defects” our limited minds can accurately identify in the created order are the result of human folly and disobedience. Yet, God is not a God of the perfect, and it is God’s magnificent intelligent design that brings the imperfect to perfection through the love of his Son, Jesus Christ.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Everything we do is built on our mission “to help each other find our way in Christ,” our vision “to spark curiosity in spiritual growth,” and our overarching church goals to:
Over the summer months, we’ve answered questions about the Catholic faith in our message series called FAQ. We also considered the wisdom of the Book of Proverbs in a series called Fool Proof, and we tried to correct some common misinterpretations of the Bible in our most recent series, Bible Oddities.
Today, we begin another adventure with a brand new theme for the year that we’re calling, Grow 2 Go! Focusing on the fourth of our five church goals, we’ll spend the year reflecting on how to GROW spiritually, so that next year we’ll be even more ready 2 GO and love others.
We kick off our regular preaching season this weekend with an intriguing new message series that we’re calling, God’s Not Dead. Based on Rice Broocks’ book and the subsequent 2014 movie by the same name, we’ll take a close look at the overwhelming evidence for the existence of God from science itself. During the series, we plan to debunk the myth that science and religion are mortal enemies and demonstrate that our faith actually is deeply rooted in reason, as well as the rational observation of our universe.
Our next series, The Case for Christ, beginning in mid-October likewise will examine the historical evidence for belief in Christ. Following the same pattern, our Advent series, Expect Miracles, will look at how and why God sometimes chooses to intervene and break through history in a dramatic and unusual way. Our series in the new year will help us to grow by learning what Christ believed and following how he lived. Our final series for the year during the Easter season will help us identify our unique, God-given purpose in life and answer the question, What On Earth Am I Here For?
Even those who are already convinced of God’s existence, the divine nature of Christ, the reality of supernatural miracles, and the benefits of following the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus will find this year to be valuable in equipping them to live out their purpose and speak more openly and confidently about their own spiritual development.
Join us each Sunday in church or online for a powerful experience in spiritual growth.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
The Bible is full of truth that unpacking it often involves peeling away layers before we understand what God is really saying. We have tried to correctly interpret some of the passages that are commonly misinterpreted.
In the first week we looked at Matthew 6:25-33, on “Priorities and Selflessness”. The wrong context has been “God helps those who help themselves” this saying is quoted regularly but cannot be found anywhere in the Bible. What the Bible does say is found in Psalm 121:2 “my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” and Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” this means that God will help us when we seek first his kingdom.”
Week two, we delved into the letter of St Paul to the Philippians 4:13, on “Trust and Prosperity” “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” this passage illustrates how God can help us overcome any challenge we have when we trust in Him.
In the third week we looked at another commonly misinterpreted passage on “Accountability and Judgment”. Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge and you will not be judge” this is not to be treated as a statement banning all forms of judgment but rather, it encourages rational judgments and corrections.
In the fourth week our reflection was on “Strength and weakness”, we looked at another common saying that is very often times misquoted and misinterpreted but not found in the Bible. “God won’t give you more than you can handle”. But the ideal interpretation of 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 is that God will never give you more than He can handle. This is why all throughout 2 Corinthians, Paul makes a boast in his weakness and his need to rely on God for strength.
We shall conclude this series by taking a look at another very common misinterpreted passage in Luke 18:24-25. “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a Camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Many people use this passage to make the wealthy feel guilty for their financial success. I guess that means we should all aim to be poor, right? But did you know that majority of Americans earn an annual salary that puts them in the 1% of the world’s wealth? According to that misinterpretation, nobody in America earning more than $34,000 a year will enter the kingdom of God.
This passage doesn’t condemn wealth at all. The reality is that Jesus is calling out a major stumbling block for anyone who thinks they can get to heaven by their own works or wealth. Jesus is letting us know that none of can get to heaven by our own efforts even if you have all the money or not. Money not shared but used selfishly is no money. Jesus encourages generosity and dependence on Him Jesus. This is the interpretation of Luke 18:24-25.
--Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
Father Roger Gustafson