I'll be honest. The Bible is not always my favorite. Often, I'll read it and end up with even more questions. Sometimes, it has even scandalized my faith. The text is complex, dated, and sometimes just plain archaic. It seems so human. How can this be the Word of God, I think. What makes it worse is that there are SO many approaches to the Bible, both inside and outside the church. This makes it hard to nail down the exact nature of the book, to begin with.
Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day, but one of the chief takeaways from his life can be appreciated every day of the year. From this fifth century saint, we see the transforming power of suffering at work. I admit it sounds a bit off to uphold suffering as a good, especially nowadays, when we run from pain in all its forms. But Patrick's life is a story that only makes sense if we grant suffering's essential part in the plot. And though it might seem inconceivable for now, our own suffering has the capacity to make our life stories much, much greater than they would be otherwise.
My cat Petra is good at many things. She’s quite the expert at teleporting from one room to another (she’s that fast). She knows how to manipulate—she gets fed whenever she wants, really. She usually wins the play fights against her sister Ollie, the slower (dumber?) one. Most of all, she’s good at winning my attention. But Petra’s also good at proving God. Here’s how.
God is not an old man with a beard. He’s not floating around up there in space. If that’s what Christianity meant by God, then yes—science would have plenty to say. But God is not just another being out there. He’s not even the highest being. Rather, according to classical theism, God is being. The great thirteenth-century theologian Thomas Aquinas described God as ipsum esse subsistens, or the act of “to be” itself. This is beautifully confirmed in the story of the burning bush, when God reveals his name to Moses as “I am who I am” (Ex. 3:14). God just is. In God, there is no difference between what God is and that God is.
Lent is a special time dedicated to self-examination and conversion as Christians prepare to celebrate Easter, the high point of the Christian calendar. To appreciate Lent as a distinct period of the year, one has to remember that Christians have historically celebrated their faith by dividing the year into different liturgical seasons. Based on the central mysteries of the Christian faith and the life of Christ, these seasons allow believers to enter into the events of salvation history and mature in their faith—both individually and collectively as members of the church.
In Christian thought, one does not suspend the use of one’s brain when choosing to believe. When the Christian declares “I believe,” she is not saying “I choose to believe something I have absolutely no evidence for.” No! The intellect is fully active in the process. Reason, arguments, history, science, philosophy, experience—all of these come into play when preparing to make the act of faith.