Catherine asked:

How do I explain the Church's teachings on mysteries as opposed to accepting them on blind faith alone?


Tim Staples replied:

"...often Catholics will unwittingly use it as a cop out you know, I don't understand it so it's a mystery. That's unfortunate because what mystery really means, and by the way it's all over the New Testament, 1st Timothy 3:16 Saint Paul says, great is the mystery of Godliness. He, referring to Christ, was manifest in the flesh, seen of angles, preached on the gentiles, received up into glory. 1st Corinthian 4 Paul says ... we are dispensers of the mysteries of God, referring to the sacraments. So this is a very biblical concept when we're talking about the mysteries of the faith. So we should not shy away from saying, yes these are mysteries, the incarnation, Paul explicitly says is a mystery.

Well, God in his essence of course is a mystery. Saint Paul will explain it in Romans 9, Romans 11 that even his ways, quoting Isaiah the prophet, even his ways are past finding out. If his ways are past finding out how much more is his essence? So God is infintiely beyond us, so of course there is mystery at the core of who God is. We can not fully comprehend him because we are human beings infinitely beneath him ... having said that when we're talking about the Trinity we're talking about a mystery because we're talking about the inner life of God as he has existed for all eternity. That is beyond our ability to comprehend ... we can comprehend what God has revealed about the nature of the Trinity. That they are three distinct persons and so forth. We can understand that as far as it goes. We simply can not penetrate the depths...

So when we're talking about mysteries, we're talking about things that are super rational, that is beyond our ability to comprehend just using the natural light of reason. However, they are never ever irrational. This really separates us from a lot of the Protestant sects that unfortunately are infected with the heresy of fideism that the faith doesn't make sense, doesn't have to make sense so they accept all kinds of irrational things...

[Editor's note: Tim goes on to give an example (quoting from a book) where some Protestants believe in double pre-destination (some destined for heaven, some destined for hell by God) but they've never been comfortable with that so they also have come to believe in free will knowing that the two are logically contradictory.]

Now that's an example of something that does not fly in the Catholic church and does not fly biblically where you have something that is irrrational. That is they are contrary to one another. We do not believe opposites in the Catholic church, or things that are mutually exclusive. So we don't want to get to that point. And this is a dangerous thing concerning faith where people say, oh it doesn't make sense, I just believe it. Or, yeah it's illogical it's even irrational but I just believe it. That's not faith. That's superstition. Because true faith must be grounded in reason, there's nothing irrational about it."


Copyrights:

Catholic Answers, "Open Forum" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2013)

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of the answer provided. For the complete response download the podcast.

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Show air date: October 29, 2013

Name of show: Open Forum

Guest comments by: Tim Staples

Question appeared in show: 27:47


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