Monthly Archives: August 2014

God Exists – I Can Prove It! Pt. 1

As a Catholic apologist, I hear way too many sad stories from parents telling of children gone astray. Little Johnny (or little Janey) went off to college and got ”enlightened” as to the truth about God and science. The refrain is repeated: “Science has disproved the existence of God, mom and dad. All that we know or can know exists is what we see in the material universe and that can be scientifically proven. Any notion of ‘spirit’ or a ‘supreme being’ is based purely on emotion and wishful thinking.”

The parents are always devastated and often ill-prepared to deal with their newly atheistic child.

In this blog post, and the next, I will offer recommends in the way of step by step instructions concerning just how to demonstrate to even the most skeptical of skeptics that God both exists and loves each and every one of us infinitely!

A Response for Johnny:

1. The idea that “all we can know is what we can see” represents a logical contradiction at its core. And it has nothing to do with true science. In fact, this is not a scientific claim at all; it’s a metaphysical statement, and therefore, self-refuting. Saying there is no God is to claim knowledge beyond the material, which little Johnny (and all true atheists) says can’t be known.

2. This statement is not only non-scientific, but it is, quite ironically, contrary to science in this sense: No scientist has ever seen a sub-atomic particle, yet, none that I know of would deny the existence of sub-atomic particles. Scientists examine the effects of these particles and from those effects conclude the particles must exist, even though they cannot see them. Moreover, scientists are nearly unanimous that there are certain patterns, or laws of nature, in the universe that govern all that we see, but no scientist has ever “seen” them either. Indeed, physicists tell us that there are more than 30 “cosmological or physical parameters” (more on that below) that govern the material universe, each having to be calibrated with a precision that boggles the mind in order for life to exist in the universe. No one has ever seen any of them!

So considering the fact that God is, by definition, pure spirit; it should come as no surprise that he cannot be “seen.” And most importantly, the fact that he can’t be seen does not mean we cannot prove he exists.

What we will seek to do, then, in these two posts, is present evidence for the existence of God analogous to the scientist who presents proof for the existence of a sub-atomic particle. We will demonstrate from the nature of material universe, considered as an “effect,” that it must of necessity have a creator–a cause. And we will then seek to discover what we can naturally know of the nature of that (first) cause, which is God.

When I say this is “analogous” to the scientist presenting proof for the existence of a sub-atomic particle, I want to be clear. This will not be “proof” as in something we can “see” with an electron microscope or measure in a test tube. These are philosophical proofs. But they will be “proofs” that rise to the level that a court of law would say are ”beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Cosmological Parameters

When we speak of “cosmological parameters,” we are speaking about  certain physical laws, “forces,” or patterns we discover in our universe that cannot be explained via the scientific method. Four examples among the many we could consider are the “forces” of strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, electro-magnetic force, and gravity. 

Scientists may argue over whether these four forces are actually one or two more unified forces with differing manifestations, or that they are four distinct forces, but they generally acknowledge that these forces we have discovered in our universe are real.

Most importantly, these four forces are radically fine-tuned in their force strengths, and, it would appear, necessarily so. If the “tuning” of these forces were to be altered in the slightest, the universe we know would not exist.

Here arises the problem for the atheist. How did these physical forces come into being and how did they get themselves as “finely-tuned” as they are? Think about this: We only named four, but there are 30+ cosmological parameters include things like “the cosmological constant,”—the energy density of so-called empty space (that is actually not “empty” at all)—the certain ratio of carbon to oxygen produced inside stars, the difference in mass between neutrons and protons, and this is just to name a few more. Physicists in general speak of these as “fine-tuned” because even the slightest change in any of their properties would prove devastating to the universe as we know it and most especially for the prospects of there being life in the universe. How do we explain this “fine-tuning” without a “fine-tuner?”

The Gravity of the Situation

If we consider just one of these over thirty cosmological parameters—gravity—we discover a precision that betrays an intelligent source. Remember, there is an enormous range of possible force strengths in nature. There is no necessity involved with the “fine-tuning” of the force of gravity or any of the other physical forces. Dr. Robin Collins, PhD, has described this precision like this:

Imagine a ruler, or one of those old-fashioned linear radio dials that goes all the way across the universe… broken down into one-inch increments. The entire dial represents the range of [possible] force strengths in nature…

Now, let’s imagine that you want to move the dial from where it’s currently set. Even if you move it by one inch the impact on life in the universe would be catastrophic.

And we are only considering one cosmological parameter here. When you begin to add up the numbers with regard to all of the cosmological parameters required for there to be life in the universe, it becomes obvious to the unbiased observer that somebody has been tinkering with things here!

If we add just one more of these finely-tuned parameters—”the cosmological constant” (i.e., the energy density of so-called “empty space” that allows matter to cluster together so that we can have things like galaxies, stars and solar systems), we find the fine tuning to be to the order of “one part in a hundred million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion.” That number roughly equals the entire number of atoms in the universe!

Just to give you a sense of what we are talking about here, the chances of just these two cosmological parameters among the more than thirty to have been “fine-tuned” by happenstance and without intelligent intervention would be akin to painting one atom among all atoms in the universe red, shaking them all up, and then picking the red atom out of a universe-sized hat! It’s evidence like this that has led even a leading evolutionist like Sir Fred Hoyle to say,

… a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and… there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.

And these parameters are intimately interwoven as well. According to Collins:

… recent studies by the physicist Heinz Oberhummer and his colleagues show that just a one-percent change in the strong nuclear force would have a thirty-to a thousand-fold impact on the production of oxygen and carbon in stars.

Without oxygen and carbon existing in a proper ratio to sustain life, life in the universe is impossible. Or, consider the difference in Mass between neutrons and protons: Increase the mass of the neutron by about one part in seven hundred and nuclear fusion in stars would stop. There would be no energy source for life. And we could go on and on.

Perhaps They “Just Exist”

In a recent dialogue with an atheist, and after I presented the above and more to him, his response was, “You make interesting points, but I would argue that these so-called cosmological parameters just exist. They weren’t created at all. They’ve just always been there.”

The amazing thing here is this fellow did not seem to realize his obvious contradiction. He had earlier stated his belief that all we can know is what we can prove scientifically. So where might we find scientific proof for such a statement as this? “They’ve just always been there?”

There is none.

But I must say my atheist friend then surprised me. He conceded the point, but then proceeded to challenge me saying, “I may not be able to prove that statement scientifically, but you can’t prove that your God is the source of these cosmological parameters either.”

It’s On!

Without belaboring the point that this atheist was actually making a declaration of faith–oh, the irony–the fact is, we can prove God to be the source not only of all the “cosmological parameters” in the universe, but we can demonstrate him to be the source of the entire universe and all of its parts. And in some ways, it is actually scientific discovery that is pointing the way today to this conclusion as never before. The most recent discoveries in science have led many scientists such as the esteemed quantum physicist John Archibald Wheeler, former president of the American Physical Society and professor of physics at Princeton University, as well as recipient of the Einstein Award and member of the National Academy of Sciences, to conclude that what underlies all existence is not matter; rather, it is an idea, “the ‘bit’ (the binary digit) of information that gives rise to the ‘it,’ the substance of matter.” In other words, science seems to point to the first cause of the universe being rational. Roy Abraham Varghese quotes Wheeler as making a fascinating statement about the movement of science in our time:

The quantum physicist John Archibald Wheeler has said that his lifetime in physics was divided into three periods: (1) “everything is particles,” (2) “everything is fields,” and now, (3) “everything is information.”

It appears that from the macro-level of the cosmos to the microscopic world of the cell and DNA, to the atomic and sub-atomic level, science points us to the realization that there is a wisdom and rationality to our universe that simply cannot be explained by examining the material alone. Attempting to discover the ultimate answers for existence in matter alone would be like looking for the first cause of a Shakespearian sonnet by examining iambic pentameter and the ink and paper upon which the sonnet is written. As Varghese describes it, in nature “information precedes its manifestation in matter.”

Another esteemed physicist, Dr. Gerald Schroeder, puts it this way:

A single consciousness, an all-encompassing wisdom, pervades the universe. The discoveries of science… have moved us to the brink of a startling realization: all existence is the expression of this wisdom.

In his own earth-shattering research and discoveries, the great Albert Einstein saw science pointing to the existence of reason—the logos—as necessarily preceding the material universe:

Whoever has undergone the intense experience of successful advances in this domain [science] is moved by profound reverence for the rationality made manifest in existence… the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence.

If you think about it, the idea of “chair” is qualitatively different than the physical chair I am sitting in. I could burn this chair until there is nothing but ash remaining. This particular “chair” would then be gone. But would the idea of chair be gone? Of course not! An idea is non-material; it is spiritual. Indeed, the idea of chair in the mind of the maker of that chair preceded that chair. Well, science is pointing in the direction of the “idea” of the universe preceding the creation of the universe itself.

At this point, all we’ve done is to show that examination of the material universe points to an intelligence behind the material universe. This does not mean this intelligent source is “God.” How do we prove that to be the case?

Making the First Motion

St. Thomas Aquinas gave many gifts to the world by way of philosophy and theology, but perhaps his most well-known are his famous “five ways” to prove God’s existence. But before we can start to explain them, we must first get acquainted with some foundational principles that will help us to understand these proofs. And these are principles  that most scientists would agree with today.

1. St. Thomas’s proofs are based on the observable and knowable first principles that objects and beings we encounter every day are in motion, caused, and contingent. Moreover, as we examine these objects and beings we find they each possess various degrees of perfection and they are ordered toward particular ends. Yet, there is not a single object or being we see that can explain the origin of any of these phenomena. And most importantly, no finite being or object could ever explain these phenomena.

2. Let’s break down what we mean by “no finite being could ever explain these phenomena.” First, let’s consider “motion.” Every high school physics student knows Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion. One aspect of the first of those laws tells us that every object at rest will remain at rest until it is acted upon by an object already in motion. Thus, according to scientific principle, the explanation for the motion of every object or being in motion is not within itself; its motion originates from another. This is good science.

Second, let’s consider “cause.” It is integral to the scientific method to understand that no finite thing or being can cause itself. That would mean it would have to be before it existed, which is absurd. This is foundational to science because the scientific method seeks to discover the natural cause to every natural effect. This presupposes that there is, in fact, a natural “cause” to every natural “effect.”

Third, let’s consider “contingency.” And again this is good science. Everything we see in the universe is contingent. It can either be or not be because it owes its very existence to other things or beings. That is what we mean by contingent being. Thus, no thing or creature that exists or has ever existed can explain or is the source of its own existence.

Fourth, let’s consider “degrees of perfection” and “order.” We’ll combine the fourth and fifth of St. Thomas’ points by observing that we see things and beings possessing various levels of perfection that are designed into them and that they act for particular ends they did not devise. For example, termites in Africa can keep the interior chamber of their mounds protected to within a few degrees in temperature regardless of whether it is 20 or 120 degrees outside by the “worker” termites spraying small amounts of water on the walls of the inner chamber where the queen is kept and protected. This water along with the construction of and the materials used in constructing the mound, keep the temperature within the needed 2 to 3 degrees centigrade so that the queen is able to lay her eggs. This incredibly complex system was not designed by the termites. There is not one engineering degree to be found among them! And this is one of the simpler systems we see in nature. We don’t have time now, but if we were to examine the human cell with its hundreds of thousands of microscopic working parts, machines within machines, and the complexity of DNA within the cell, which is basically a computer program that provides the blueprint for the construction of proteins, which are the building blocks of life, the argument becomes all the more convincing.

The bottom line is: the “design” we find in nature, whether we speak of DNA or termite mounds comes from without as just an infinitesimal part of a massively complex design we see in nature that cannot be explained by nature itself.

So What?

The response I have received more than once at this point of the discussion with atheists is to say, “So what if every thing and every being owes its motion, cause, being, perfection and purpose or end to another. What does that prove?”

The answer is simple. There must logically be an unmoved mover, that itself is not moved, yet is the cause of all motion, an uncaused cause, that is the first cause of all, yet not caused, a necessary being, to use Thomistic language, whose essence is existence, meaning simply that it did not receive its being from another—it simply exists, or more precisely, it is existence itself—and a source of all perfection and order that itself does not receive perfection or order from without. This being we are talking about is referred to commonly as “God.”

The Problem With an Infinite Universe

At this point, the discussion will often regress to an argument like this: “Why does matter, motion, or being necessarily have to have a beginning? What if I say matter has been in motion forever? In other words, how do you know the universe—and motion—is not eternal? And you still have not explained why this ‘God’ of yours would have to be infinite. I’m not buying it!”

There are two major problems with an “infinite material universe.”

1. An infinite universe is contrary to what science has uncovered. There is a growing consensus among scientists today that the universe had a beginning. Since the discoveries of the Hubble telescope in the 1920’s, the laws of thermodynamics and the reality of entropy, and Einstein’s theories of relativity, speculation about an infinite universe has become antiquated. Let me explain:

The Hubble telescope has given us overwhelming evidence, as was predicted by scientists like Fr. Georges Lamitre, a Belgian physicist and Catholic priest, that all of the galaxies and clusters of galaxies in the universe are moving away from each other, and somewhat surprisingly increasing in speed, yet from one central point in a uniform fashion. This means there was a “time” when the entire universe was reduced to a single point physicists refer to as “singularity.” All physical laws that we know of seem to break down at this point and all attempts to explain this beginning end up employing infinity, e.g. “infinite density,” in order to even begin to understand it. This mysterious beginning of our universe has been labeled as “the Big Bang.” Believers in the world’s great monotheistic religions call it “creation!” But most importantly, it represents a beginning.

The second law of thermodynamics tells us that the amount of entropy in the universe is constantly increasing. In other words, the amount of usable energy in the universe is decreasing, or tending toward entropy (this is why your morning cup of coffee goes from hot to tepid and why broken coffee cups don’t mend themselves, apart from intelligent direction). That would mean that the universe started with an immense amount of energy (scientists tell us ca. 13.7 billion years ago) and that one day the universe will run out of usable energy. That would mean there was a fixed beginning as well when it comes to energy.

And finally, Einstein demonstrated what has stood up to and has been confirmed by experiment after experiment over the years: energy, matter, velocity, time and space are all relative. His famous equation E=Mc2 tells us that energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. The key here is that “equals” sign. This means energy is just another form of matter and matter is another form of energy. And very importantly, it tells us they are relative to one another along with velocity, time and space. If there was a beginning with regard to energy—and we know there was—there was a beginning with regard to matter. Time is the measurement of the motion of physical bodies and thus would be relative to energy and matter as well. Thus, “time” has a beginning. And space would be relative as well because space itself is “created” by the relative position and direction of objects and events. Velocity is a quantifying of the rate of the change of position of objects. Thus, energy, matter, velocity (or motion), time and space are all relative and all have a beginning.

2. As Trent Horn points out in his book, “Answering Atheism,” available at Catholic Answers, an infinite universe cannot be. He uses the example of a woman who owns a flower shop. Every morning before she opens her shop, she has to count all of her flowers she will be selling for inventory purposes. What if she had an infinite number of flowers to count before she could open? She could never open her shop!

In the same way, if there were an infinite amount of time, or let’s say, an infinite number of “days,” there could never be a “today,” because we could never exhaust the days leading up to “today.” I argue that positing an infinite material universe is like positing a square circle. It is logically impossible.

Final Thoughts

Muslim, Jewish and Christian philosophers and theologians have been saying for centuries what scientists are finally coming around to seeing: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth!” If energy, matter and therefore time have a beginning, they had to be brought into being. And if this is so, they would have had to be brought into being by something or someone that is immaterial and exists outside of time and space. Moreover, this something or someone would have to have infinite power in order to bring something into being from nothing. Sound familiar? We’ll speak more about this “something” or more accurately “someone” in our next post. And we’ll also get to how we can know this someone loves us!

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Mormonism and the Question of Authority

Catholics and members of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” the Mormons, can agree on at least one very important principle. Both Catholics and the LDS believe in an authoritative, hierarchical Church that speaks with the authority of Christ. The problem with the Mormon attempt to claim apostolic authority is the obvious fact that there was no such Mormon “church” until less than 200 years ago. The informed Catholic need only ask the question: “Why would I leave the Catholic Church which was, as a matter of history, founded by Jesus Christ, and received apostolic authority directly from Christ and the apostles to join the LDS? The bishops in union with the Pope are the true successors of the apostles and possess apostolic authority.”

The Great Apostasy That Could Never Be

The Mormon response to this Catholic question is to claim the Church Jesus Christ established fell into, not just an apostasy, but a total and complete apostasy after the death of the last apostle. Moreover, they maintain biblical texts like Amos 8:11-14 and II Thessalonians 2:1-4 (which we will examine below), among others, positively teach this to be so. Thus, the contention is made that the true Church of Christ did not exist at all for some 1,800 years. It has been re-established through another Testament given to Joseph Smith and “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”

A great place to begin a discussion on this point is with the biblical texts used by Mormons in an attempt to demonstrate their position. Let’s begin with the Prophet Amos who prophesied in Israel ca. 785 BC. Among other things, he warned of the coming destruction of Israel that would, in fact, occur in 721 BC because of her idolatry (see chapters six and seven). Amos 8:11-14 reads:

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.”

This text speaks of an apostasy in ancient Israel, not after the death of the last apostle in the New Testament. But even this apostasy was not total; it does not qualify to be the apostasy Mormons claim it to be. In the very next chapter—9:8-10—Amos makes this very clear.

“Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground; except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” says the Lord. “For lo, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the ground. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘Evil shall not overtake or meet us.’”

There were many times in Old Testament salvation history when priests and prophets were corrupt (cf. Lam. 4:13, Ez. 22:22-26, Zeph. 1:4, Mic. 3:5), prophets had no vision from the Lord, prophesied falsely (cf. Lam. 2:14, Jer. 23:26-31), or at times there were no prophets at all (cf. Ps.74:9). Apostasies were frequent in the Old Testament, but never total. There was always a faithful remnant.

Even When God’s People Are Faithless – God Remains Faithful

When one examines the entire Old Testament, one can readily see that in the midst of good times and bad—times of faithlessness and faithfulness—there was one constant: The existence of the High Priesthood and a God-ordained hierarchy as detailed in Exodus 28 and Deuteronomy 17. It was God himself who established and gave authority to this hierarchy in order to guide the children of Israel. The High Priest, or those to whom the High Priest delegated authority, had the power to deliver the oracle of God to His people. Deuteronomy 17:8-12 is an example of the divine origin of this historical fact:

If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another any case… which is too difficult for you, then you shall… go up to… the Levitical priests, and to the judge who is in office in those days, you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. Then you shall do according to what they declare… you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you… The man who acts presumptuously, by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge… shall die.

According to Exodus 28:30, the High Priest had what was called the “Urim and the Thummim” on the breastplate of his vestments whereby he would bear the sins of the people of Israel when he went before the Lord in the temple. Through this gift of God the High Priest would also hear the word of God and proclaim divine oracles from God.

Even during such a corrupt time as we find in the book of Judges, we see this gift in operation in Israel. This was a time characterized by these words from Judges 17:6: “…every man did what was right in his own eyes.” It was a time of rebellion and disobedience; yet, even then the ministry of the High Priest and the gift of “the Urim and the Thummim” was alive and functioning. We see one example of this in Judges 20:18-28. Israel is recorded to have consulted God through “Phineas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron” who was High Priest at the time and they received the oracle of God through him. They may not have always consulted the Lord, nor did they always obey him when they did, but God was always there for them through the ministry of his priests.

In fact, Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself acknowledged the existence of this hierarchy and its authority during his earthly sojourn. In Matthew 23:2-3, Jesus commanded his apostles: “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.” Even the apostles had to obey the scribes and Pharisees who spoke in an official capacity as God’s authority in Israel. Moreover, St. John the Apostle acknowledged the authority of the High Priest to be valid and effective even though the person occupying the office at the time was personally corrupt (see John 11:47-52).

A New Covenant Apostasy?

A sharp Mormon missionary may contend that even if the Old Testament People of God didn’t completely apostatize, St. Paul prophesied the New Covenant People of God would in II Thessalonians 2:1-3:

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition.

St. Paul used the Greek word apostasia in verse three—translated as “the rebellion”—to describe it. He declared this apostasy must first come before Jesus would come again. And after all, did not the Jews themselves reject the Messiah and apostatize? Does this not at least demonstrate that an apostasy is possible?

First of all, not all of Israel apostatized. The apostles, Mary, and the earliest disciples were mostly Jews so obviously not all in Israel fell away from God. And II Thessalonians never says, nor is there one shred of biblical evidence elsewhere to say, a total apostasy would ever happen. Apostasy, yes! But total apostasy, no! But even more important to the point is this: A total apostasy as taught by the LDS is not only never mentioned in Scripture, but it is impossible according to Scripture for at least three reasons.

1. Old Testament prophecies concerning the New Covenant and the then future coming of the kingdom of God, the Church, describe it as perpetual and indefectible. For example, Daniel 7:13-14:

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man (Jesus), and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (emphasis added, see also Isaiah 9:6-7 and Daniel 2:44).

2. The New Testament describes the Church as indefectible as well.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20, emphasis added).

…and of his kingdom there will be no end (Lk. 1:33).

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt. 16:18-19, emphasis added).

The LDS claim these quoted texts merely speak of the ultimate triumph of the Church, but that they do not mean there could not be a total apostasy in the centuries between the time of the apostles and that final triumph through the LDS. This contention leads us to my third and perhaps most definitive reason to say a total apostasy is impossible:

3. St. Paul uses most explicit terms in his letter to the Ephesians eliminating the possibility of a total apostasy. In Ephesians 1:22, he describes the Church as “[Christ’s] body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” This Church, he goes on, is “built upon the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone” (2:20). Indeed, Paul describes the Church as being the instrument God has chosen so that “through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places” (3:10). Paul then reminds us, as we have already seen, this Church must have apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists and teachers (cf. 4:11). Why? “For the equipment of the saints… for building up the body of Christ… so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” (4:12-14).

According to St. Paul, God gave us the Church so that we may know with certainty the truths of the Faith. This is by no means the only reason for the existence of the Church, but it is a central reason. But most important to our purpose here, we need to consider Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

This Church that St. Paul is describing in Ephesians will be here to all generations (pasas tas geneas, “all the generations”) forever and ever. This biblical text eliminates the possibility of a total apostasy for even one generation, much less 1,800 years!

A Final Question and Comment

According to Matthew 18:15-18, Jesus gave us a definitive commandment: He said:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you… If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Mormons and Catholics agree that Christ was here directing the faithful to obey the Church that he established and that we can be confident to do so because the true Church to which Jesus was leading us would never steer us away from God. The question is: what Church is being referred to here? Mormons say it is the LDS “church.” Catholics say it is the Catholic Church. How do we know which is true?

One way to know is to ask another simple question: What if you were living in, let’s say, 1805, and you were to read this very passage from St. Matthew. You could know that Jesus would never lead you to a “church” with no one who could speak for him. In obedience to Jesus, where would you go? The LDS did not exist yet. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He would never lead us astray or command us to follow error. If the true church did not exist on this earth for 1,800 years, then Jesus misguided millions into obeying an error-filled church with no apostolic authority. That would be unthinkable.

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The Holy Spirit is God

The third person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is sometimes referred to as “the forgotten” member of the godhead. He is, no doubt, the least spoken of among the three persons of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is; therefore, no surprise to find many Catholics ill-equipped to deal with some of the more notable errors concerning he who is “the Lord and giver of life.” Thus, studying the person and nature of the Holy Spirit, though sometimes neglected, is crucial for us as Catholic apologists and as Catholics in general.

The most common attacks on Catholic belief concerning the Holy Spirit generally come from quasi-Christian sects such as the Iglesia Ni Cristo, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who deny the central mystery of the Christian faith—the Trinity. Both the personhood as well as the divinity of the Holy Spirit are rejected by these groups. The Holy Spirit is spoken of as a “force,” or as “power” emanating from God; rather than as God himself. For the Catholic, then, we must be able to respond to these two key misunderstandings concerning the Holy Spirit. 1. He is a person. 2. He is God.

A Personal Message from the Spirit of God

One of the first reasons given for denying the divine nature of the Holy Spirit is often to point out the fact that the Greek word for “spirit” (pneuma) is neuter. John 14:26, for example, refers to the Spirit as to pneuma to hagion (the Holy Spirit). This is, in fact, neuter. While the Father and the Son are clearly personal terms, and therefore, most will see them revealed to be persons, “spirit,” being neuter, it is claimed, indicates we are dealing with an impersonal force rather than a person.

While it is a fact that “spirit” in Greek is a neuter term, this does not necessarily mean the Holy Spirit is impersonal. Nouns in Greek are assigned gender as they are in many languages. In Latin and the modern romance languages this is the case as well. For example, the Latin word for lance is lancea which is feminine. This does not mean that lances or daggers are actually female and personal! The same can be said for Greek words such as kardia, which means, “heart.” The fact that this Greek word is feminine does not indicate hearts to be female and personal. Nor does the fact that a word like baros, Greek for arrow, which is neuter, indicate arrows to be impersonal forces. Words are simply assigned gender in these languages.

Further, if being referred to as “spirit” indicates the third person of the Blessed Trinity is impersonal, then both angels and God the Father would have to be “forces” rather than persons as well. In John 4:24, Jesus says “God is spirit (Gr. – pneuma) and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” And in Hebrews 1:14 angels are referred to as “ministering spirits (Gr. – pneumata) sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation.” Thus, the key here is to examine the context and usage of a word in Scripture, rather than just its “gender,” in order to determine whether we are dealing with a person, a force, or perhaps just an arrow.

Speaking of the importance of context, the truth is, the very verse of Scripture often used to “prove” the Holy Spirit to be an impersonal force actually demonstrates the Holy Spirit to be both personal and masculine when examined more fully. John 14:26 in its entirety actually says:

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

There are three key points to be made here.

1. “The Counselor” is ho paracleto in Greek which is masculine, not neuter.

2. When the text says he will teach you all things the demonstrative pronoun (Gr. ekeinos) is used in the masculine singular. This is very significant because the inspired author could have used the neuter ekeino, but he did not. If the Holy Spirit were an impersonal force, the inspired author would not refer to “it” as a “he.”

3. Notice what the Holy Spirit does. Jesus says he will both teach and remind us “all that [he has] said to [us].” Action follows being. One cannot “teach” and “remind” if one does not have the intellectual powers unique to rational persons that enable one to do so! The Holy Spirit is here clearly revealed to be a person.

Indeed, the Holy Spirit is referred to in personal terms by our Lord throughout the New Testament. If we only consider John chapters 14, 15 and 16, the evidence is overwhelming. This is not to mention the abundance of examples we could cite throughout the Scriptures, both Old (in seed form) and New Testaments. Here are some more examples to add to John 14:26 already mentioned.

In John 14:16-17, Jesus says,

And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, who the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you (emphasis added).

In John 15:26, Jesus says,

But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning (emphasis added).

And in John 16:7-13, Jesus makes it very plain,

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you (emphasis added).

The Holy Spirit is clearly personal. He “convinces of sin,” “teaches” the truth, “speaks,” “declares things that are to come,” etc. There is no doubt as to the person of the Holy Spirit in these texts.

How to “Pour Out” a Person in One Easy Step

One last obstacle for some who deny the personhood of the Holy Spirit is found in Acts 2:14-18. In this text, St. Peter describes the power of God being manifested on the day of Pentecost quoting Joel 2:28:

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.”

The question is often asked, “How can you pour out a person? Is this not proof the Holy Spirit is a force rather than a person?” The answer is a resounding “no!” Consider Psalm 22. This is a messianic Psalm referring to our Lord’s passion. But notice how it describes our Lord in verse 15: “I am poured out like water…” Would we say Jesus is just a force and not a person because he is “poured out” in this verse? Of course not! So it goes with the Holy Spirit. We do not deny the plain verses of Scripture indicating his person because he is described as being “poured out” in Acts 2:17.

The Holy Spirit is Omniscient

There is one key phrase from John 16, cited above, that we should examine more fully when considering the truth that the Holy Spirit is revealed to be not only a person, but divine—God himself. Verse 13 tells us that the Holy Spirit “will guide [us] into all truth.” We have a hint here of what we see even more plainly in texts like I Corinthians 2:11: the Scripture indicates the Holy Spirit is omniscient, a quality that God alone possesses or even has the capability to possess.

For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

The reason “no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” is because it would require infinite power to be able to comprehend the thoughts of God which are infinite. Romans 11:33-34 tells us:

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

The fact that the Holy Spirit of God fully comprehends the thoughts of God proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he is, in fact, God.

The Lord and Giver of Life

Among the manifold texts of Scripture revealing the Holy Spirit to be God, St. Thomas Aquinas comments on a key verse most pass over: I Cor. 6:19

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?

According to The Summa Theologiae, Part I, Q. 27, Art. 1, St. Thomas says it is the prerogative of God, and God alone, to have a temple; therefore the Holy Spirit is here revealed to be God, and our bodies are revealed to be his temple.

Acts 5:1-4:

But a man named Anani’as with his wife Sapphi’ra sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostle’s feet. But Peter said, “Anani’as, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? … How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

St. Peter is remarkably clear here that lying to the Holy Spirit is identical to lying to God. The Holy Spirit is once again revealed to be God.

Perhaps the most plain and unmistakable texts demonstrating the divinity of the Holy Spirit are found in Hebrews. First, we’ll examine Hebrews 3:7-10:

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, “They always go astray in their hearts; they have not known my ways (emphasis added).”

Notice the Holy Spirit is once again revealed to be synonymous with God himself. In Hebrews 10:15-17, the reference is even clearer:

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more” (emphasis added).

The Holy Spirit is revealed here to be both a person and divine. He is depicted as “bear[ing] witness,” “establish[ing] a covenant”, is referred to as “the Lord”, “puts [his] laws on [our] hearts” and even forgives sins.

In Acts 28:25-28, St. Paul says:

The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

Go to this people, and say, You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.

Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.

Once again, “the Holy Spirit” and “God” are synonyms.

Every Catholic should know that when they recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday at Mass, they are clearly and concisely professing just what we see here in Scripture: The Holy Spirit truly is “the Lord and Giver of Life.”

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