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My podcast posse of Dr. Johanna Hartelius and Teer Hardy recently rebooted our show Hermeneutics by recording a conversation on atheism. Thinking about the intersections and dissonances between popular religion, classical theism, and biblical dogma, I decided to revisit and finally finish a catechism I began writing a decade ago. Thanks to a long vacation called cancer I never completed it.
My plan is to rework what I had written, as God has made otherwise than who I was back then, and to write new entries for the questions that I left unaddressed. Using the catechism of the Catholic Church as a basic skeleton of categories, my own responses will be an incestuous amalgamation of Karl Barth, Thomas Aquinas, Robert Jenson, Stanley Hauerwas, Martin Luther, Augustine, and all my other theological crushes.
Originally, I began writing it because I became convinced it is important for the Church to inoculate our young people with a healthy dose of catechesis before we ship them off to college, just enough so that when they first hear about Nietzsche or really study Darwin they won't freak out and presume that what the Church taught them in six grade confirmation is the only wisdom the Church has to offer. What I’ve realized since then is that adults— more specifically, Christians—also need this kind of catechesis. There is a long tradition in the historic church, especially in the Reformation, of distilling the faith down into concise questions and answers with brief supporting scriptures. As Luther intended his own Small Catechism, the Q/A's of a catechism are, really, the pretense for a longer dialogue, in Luther’s case a conversation between parents and their children. Given the post-Christian world in which we will live, I think it's important to outline the faith such that people can see— and learn— the philosophical foundation beneath it. It's important for people, in and out of the faith, to see that ours is a faith which isn't afraid of doubt even as it takes the reasons for doubt with moral seriousness. Ours is a faith that has ancient answers for modern questions, a faith that will always rely upon God's self-revelation but it is not irrational for all truth is God's truth. In other words, ours is a faith with the resources to tame the cynicism of a post-Christian culture.
I’ll post one every Wednesday so if you’ve not yet subscribed to the Substack…what the hell?!
Here’s a teaser.
And thanks Father Kenneth Tanner for giving me the push to return to the catechism.
Part I ~ The Father
1. Does God exist?
To say something exists is to suggest that it had a beginning in time, that it is an object in the universe, but God is without beginning or end, is outside time and is not an object within the universe.
God just is; therefore, the subject and the predicate of the statement ‘God exists’ are identical.
So God does not ‘exist’ in our sense of the term, rather God is the Source of existence itself in that everything which exists owes its existence to God.
“God said to Moses: “I Am He Who Is.”” - Exodus 3.14
"By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible" - Hebrews 11.3
2. Do human beings exist?
A ‘being’ is someone who is still, someone who doesn’t change, someone constant, someone who’s always true.
Human life isn’t really being in that sense. Only God is a true being. The only being who can act without changing identity is God.
Everything else in creation is a “becoming,” a creature or thing that’s in constant process of changing. Everything else acts in such a way that it closes off some of the possible options and thus reduces the potential of their existence. God alone acts in such a way that there is no loss, just being.
So, no, human ‘beings’ do not exist. Human ‘becomings‘ exist. To speak of human ‘beings’ is only possibly by our incorporation into God’s Triune Being through the incarnation of the Son.
"For you [God] created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." - Revelation 4.11
“For in God we live and move and have our being.” - Acts 17.28
Good for you for restarting this, Jason!
This should be fun, and helpful. Nice start. Looking for Luther.