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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Can God be Trusted?

This last semester at school (which, incidentally was also my first as a grad student), I learned a great deal and it had a huge spiritual impact on me. Thank you, John Paul the Great! His writings have greatly illuminated huge theological realities I was never taught, I did not previously understand, and having now learned them, my entire outlook on life is different.

Though his writings, I have come to learn several things about humanity, leading me, of course, to recognize even my own deep imperfections and tendencies, and WHY they exist. It is not a way of avoiding responsibility for my actions; rather, I have come to see by understanding the root, how to overcome the challenges of original sin.

So often, I come across people who cite their situations and fall into a sinful path, using their (very real) sufferings as a justification to reject God once again, wanting others to bolster their guilty consciences as a way to appease them; they want someone to endorse the actions they know are wrong, they want someone to tell them that yes, they are correct and God has it wrong this time.

I'm often guilty of this.

It's part of the human condition; to want to be God, to know good and evil, and rather than seeking the good, so often we are looking to justify the evil.

It all goes back to the Garden of Eden. God gave free rein to Adam and Eve to eat of any tree or plant in the Garden...all but one, the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So what did Satan do? He arrived on scene as a serpent, twisted God's words, and suggested to Eve that God had lied to them. In fact, he didn't just suggest it, he said so outright without using the word "lie".

Eve corrected the Serpent; she resisted him, but in the end, his twisted form of "logic" overcame her. She gave in to the first temptation; doubt of God, doubt of His Word, doubt of His Love.

Let us consider this, because it is a foundation of everything we choose or don't choose: it comes down to whether we trust God or not.

Eve was tempted through doubt, and this doubt lead to Pride, and it was Pride that was the first sin. Doubt is not a sin; doubt is human, for God gave us free will and the ability to reason. We are meant to doubt, because this is what we use to discern good or evil. Even though evil had not been introduced into their lives, God knew what was coming and so our first parents had the ability to doubt or to accept. In the case of the serpent, Adam and Eve learned to doubt God. Through their doubt, they gave in to the Serpent's twisted and empty promise to be "like God". They gave in to the actual sin of Pride, and they ate of the fruit.

They learned disobedience, and immediately began to blame each other. They learned shame, and we see that as sin entered the world, doubt of God was proliferated and at its core, it {sin} ruptures relationships. It certainly ruptured humanity’s relationship with God.

This leads to our history, the history of humanity. Note that God NEVER did anything to disrupt the relationship with Man. God has always been faithful to His promises; it was us, as humanity, who turned our backs on God. It is always WE who turn away and choose to listen to the Serpent, that very creature that still whispers false promises to us, encouraging us to know better than God what is good for us.

Read the Bible; throughout history, it has ALWAYS been Man who severed the relationship with God and with others. And in the entire history of the Bible, it has always been God who initiated the reconciliation, through the law, through the prophets, through the incarnation of His only Son, sent to reverse the sin of Adam, through Mary's fiat, given to reverse the sin of Eve.

The entire Bible is a love story; it is about God seeking reunification with we who continue to reject Him. Jesus is the definitive answer, but we still have the responsibility to either trust God, or to fall back in distrust of God.

With every decision we make, the main question we need to ask of ourselves is this:

Do I trust God?

If we trust God, we will follow His precepts. We will remain faithful, especially when it's difficult. We will resist the lisp of the Serpent who seeks our ruin, but whose words are so sweet in our ears.

If we do not trust God, we will repeat the sin in the Garden; we will give in to our own preferences, our own Pride, and we will call our Pride the "Holy Spirit" and justify our actions and attitudes, even if they are in complete disagreement with the teaching authority established by Jesus Christ himself, that of the Magisterium.

The Garden we live in now is a complicated place, but it doesn't have to be so; in reality, we can make this very simple; we can either have childlike trust in God and His loving will for us...or we can beat our own path, leaving Christ bleeding on the Cross, suffering even in the face of our continued rejection of him.

Yet God has proven throughout history that He can be trusted; it is we, humanity, that continues to reject God.

The next time you have to make a big decision, spend time gazing upon the crucifix, the sign of ultimate love for us, and ask yourself if your own suffering even compares to what Jesus has done for you. Just as God sees you through the wounds of Christ, learn to look through Christ's wounds and see the Father...and then you will have your answer.


Xavier Martel said...


Nice post. It has put me in mind of a few FRQ's (Famous Ratzinger Quotes):

"It is in just this way that the average attitude, without thinking about it, understands by freedom the right, and the practical possibility, of doing everything we wish and not having to do anything we do not wish to do."

"Man presumes completely of his own accord that others will be there for him... yet for his own part he would prefer not to be included in the constraint of such a from and for others; rather, he would prefer to become entirely independent, to be able to do and allow only just what he wants."

"The implicit goal of all modern freedom movements is, in the end, to be like a god, dependent on nothing and nobody, with one's own freedom not restricted by anyone else's."

(Truth & Tolerance, Part Two, Chapter 3)

"What happens in the world can be explained, so we think, only in worldly terms. Apart from ourselves there is no one at work in the world, and that is why we expect nothing from anyone other than ourselves..."

(God is Near Us, 13)

Simon-Peter Vickers-Buckley said...

"Eve was tempted through doubt, and this doubt lead to Pride, and it was Pride that was the first sin. Doubt is not a sin; doubt is human, for God gave us free will and the ability to reason. We are meant to doubt,"

I must disagree with you VERY strongly. This is not correct.

"doubt" does not lead to pride, pride, hubris actually, leads to doubt. Doubt is the opposite of trust. Eve doubted God at the behest of a creature, she placed the words of a creature before God's words judging herself this creature as true over God.

You said doubt is not a sin. I disagree, doubt most certainly IS a sin. You think Pope John Paul II was "great" (lets us leave THAT to the Church rather than substitutng our own unhistorical many Popes bear the title great? Look it up) then look to Faustina: What on earth was Jesus lamenting to Faustina throughout her diary?????? It breaks his heart that people do not trust Him, i.e. they doubt, i.e. they call Him a liar (dress it up anyway you want, it amounts to the same thing: "God says X, I do not believe X is the case, maybe Y, maybe Z, maybe XZ, okay, a bit of X, but not just X...").

If you meant "difficulties" say "difficulties" as a thousand difficulties do not a doubt make. To doubt God is to call Him a liar, period. To have difficulties means we do not call God a liar but we admit we do not understand for His ways are not our ways. It is pride that, listening to the whispering serpent again, converts difficulties into doubts as we decide we are the measure of all things.

Let me give you the best example from scripture and at the same time illustrating the corruption of Church teaching into what purports to be Church teaching.

When I was received into the Church I was so excited I rushed out and bought myself an expensive NAB complete with all the introductions, footnotes and so on.

It became clear that the NAB is riddled with doubt and plain heresy throughout. I would be happy to defend this charge against anyone.

The most egregious example is in Luke. According to the NAB footnotes, when Gabriel came to Mary and announced Gods plans, Mary doubted, but consented.

The NAB makes this clear because in the footnote accompanying the text recounting *Zachariah* being struck dumb as he offered incense the NAB states in the footnote to Luke 1:20: "Zachariah's becoming mute is the sign[sic!] given in response to his question in v.18. When Mary asks a similar question in Luke 1:34, UNLIKE Zahcariah who was punished for his doubt, she, IN SPITE OF HER DOUBT, is praised and reassured."

Zachariah was punished not because he asked just a question, because God seeing the interior of a man, declares the question to be the product of disbelief, as Gabriel said, "because you did not believe my words" and although a sign it is more than that, as his muteness is connected to his disbelief, v.20 "because you did not..."

Thus, in one swoop, the NAB makes God mendacious and accuses Mary of doubt, which, as a sin, terribly displeasing to God, caused Zachariah's chastisement. Nice not-too-subtle job NAB! The puropse here is to make people doubt God and Mary at the same moment.

In the footnote to Luke 1:36-7 the NAB again stikes at Mary's heel: "The sign given to Mary in confirmation of the angel's annoucement to her is the pregnancy of her aged relative, Elizabeth...why, the angel implies, should there be doubt about about Mary's pregnancy, for nothing will be impossible for God."

Aside from the fact this footnote is silly (how is *Elizabeth* a sign for Mary? Think about it carefully. Mary needed no sign, she did not doubt, she believed on word alone, and only in that sense is it a "sign"...or is the NAB encouraging us to infer that she did doubt, and continued to doubt until she SAW Elizabeth, then, all doubt being removed, THEN Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit at the same instant as John the Baptist leapt for joy???) the NAB accuses Mary of doubt again.

It gets better.

Some time later I bought myself a Confraternity Bible (1963) published by the same company as the NAB (Catholic Book Publishing), which was standard in the US and published just before the NAB. It was, as it were, the last american bible before the NAB. Now, aside from the fact that extent the NAB notes flatly contradict this Catholic bible (and the teaching of the Church) let me just tell you what the footnotes to the annunciation say about Mary. The footnote Luke 1:34 states that "Mary did NOT doubt, as did Zachary, that the angel's words would be fulfilled, but prudently enquired how this would be accomplished, since she had firmly resolved to remain a virgin..."

The NAB footnote to Luke 1:34 is simply bizarre: " Mary's questioning response is a denial of sexual relations[!!!!, was she being accused????] and is used by Luke [subtle NAB LOL] to lead to the angel's declaration about the Spirit's role in the conception of this child [sic]. According to Luke [subtle NAB LOL]..."

The CCD bible states exactly the opposite to the NAB! The NAB says Mary doubted like Zacharias implying God is arbitrary and, of course, that Mary's sinless nature is tainted. The CCC bible states Mary did not doubt, UNLIKE Zacharias.

Mary had difficulties in understanding, NOT doubts. Difficulties and doubts are poles apart and are not way-stations on some continuum.

It is NOT proper to "humans" to doubt, it is devlish. It IS proper to "humans" to have difficulties.

The NAB is not Catholic, burn it:

footnote to Luke 1:46-55: "...the Magnificat may have been a Jewish Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story. Even if not composed by Luke..." and 1:68-79 "[Again] like Mary's canticle, it [Zachariah's] is largely composed of of phrases taken from the Greek Old Testement [Sept.] and may have been a Jewish Christian hymn of praise that Luke adapted to fit the present context..."

The is like this from the beginning, it is remorseless in speading doubt and deepening difficulties converting them into doubts.

You seriously need to reconsider lauding doubt as somehow pleasing to God or natural to man: you have confused doubts and difficulties and may well have confused many others now into thinking their doubts area actually directly willed by God; they are NOT: permissively willed, yes, directly, no.

Adoro said...

I continue to disagree with YOU. (Although I agree the NAB is a terrible translation. I don't use it if I can avoid it).

Doubt is a TEMPTATION. Giving in to doubt is a sin. Doubt leads us to actual sin.

To doubt is human; it is free will. To say that doubt is not human is an error.

What I wrote here was, admittedly, oversimplified, but it was part of a much larger discussion on the first day of my grad school class, taught by Professor Douglas Bushman.

If I can find some specific info for clarification purposes for you in the class notes, I'll post them later. Some of the info I gave though may actually be from his lecture.

Anyway, it seems, by your logic, that any temptation is a sin, and this is not the case. We may doubt; the serpent introdued doubt, and Eve gave into it. At that point, yes, it became a sin which spiraled into greater and more numerous sins.

So here we sit today.

As far as Jesus lamenting to St. Faustina, also remember that she had already reached a certain level of sanctity that most of us never will, and she was also thus held to a higher standard in the spiritual life. As we progress in the spiritual life, our sins and imperfections bother us more, as they should. It is a process. It is far more offensive to God for a Saint to doubt him, than for someone like, say, me (not even close to being A saint!)

Different things plague us as humans; but before we call them sins, we have to consider whether they are actually temptations that can be overcome before we fall.

Doubt by itself is not a sin; giving into it is.

Anonymous said...

S-P ~ The Popes who have the title "Great" were given that title by popular acclamation, even before canonization.

Simon-Peter Vickers-Buckley said...

"Anyway, it seems, by your logic, that any temptation is a sin,"

Not at all.

Are you sure you understand the *stages* of temptation?

Doubt: the question shall I doubt or trust presents itself to the mind, this is the beginning of the temptation, there is no sin of doubt.

The mind apprehends the question, between doubt and trust and holds it, there is no sin of doubt.

Then the issue must be resolved by the will, one way or another; to doubt, to resolve to adopt the tempatation (sin), or to reject it (no sin).

Doubt is not the temptation itself, the temptation is to doubt; the doubt, the sin, is the end.

Satan did NOT introduce doubt at all, he introduced the temptation! It was only man who by giving way gave it "concrete" "form." Jesus did not die on the cross for temptations, for suggestions,but for temptations resolved into sin by acts of the will. The temptation that held the mind of Eve did not cause Eve to be offensive to God. It was only when she consented that she offended Him.

You are really mixing this up: you are not making a distinction between the temptation to doubt, and the completed sin of doubt nor of difficulties, and difficulties are themselves not necessarily connected to temptation at all.

"To doubt is human; it is free will."

I don't think this is right at all. The fact that humans are presented with the temptation to doubt is not in any way an act of free will (it comes from satan!)unless the human has, in some way, failed to avoid an occasion of sin or something else similar! That is such a person has been reckless or negligent in opening himself up to temptation, but this still does not vitiate his free will to reject the subject-matter of the temptation itself. Even if the temptation to doubt bubbles up from within as it sometimes does from the consequences of a past sinful life (abetting the consequences of the fall), that bubbling up is NOT a matter of free will *NOW* at all: an act of the will to reject the temptation to doubt is required.

The free will you talk of is excerised in accepting or rejecting the temptation NOT in the presentation or apprehension of it!

Okay: lets try this: You are calling the temptation to doubt "Doubt" and do not think "Doubt" in and of itself is a sin, only a gateway "Doubt leads us to actual sin." Is that right?

I disagree:

The temptation to doubt is just that, a temptation and is not "Doubt", as a temptation is by definition not a completed act of the will. Doubt is in and of itself a sin, an actual sin, which may or may not lead to other sins. However, just becuase in 100% oid cases doubt does lead to other sins, does not mean in and of itself doubt is not a sin. Or, perhaps, doubt is the sin from others flow as consequents.

"Doubt by itself is not a sin; giving into it is.

You are collapsing the stages of temptation in on themselves and renaming it "Doubt." Doubt is not the beginning of temptation, it is the end of the line!!! It IS what results AFTER giving-in to the temptation, after presentation and apprehension.

Jesus complaints were directed to everyone. Not just Faustina or those in the religious life. Yes, culpability may increase or decrease, but His messages, and her diary are meant for everyone. I have no idea why you would say this "It is far more offensive to God for a Saint to doubt him, than for someone like, say, me (not even close to being A saint!)."

I know what you mean...but if you ever really MEAN that, THAT is going to make Him quite sad indeed! Do you not have a suspicion that the greatest saints are those no one has **ever** heard of?

My complaint about the NAB was directed at the comments and footnotes, that is all.

This is all very interesting.

BTW: this is not my opinion but what I think I have understood (and perhaps misunderstood) over the last 4 years. If there any errors here they are totally my own!

Adoro said...

S-P ~ Sorry so long to respond, had a couple busy evenings.

Now, I don't think we really disagree, it comes down to maybe my blurring the lines a little between everyday "doubt" that we all use in discerning right from wrong, and doubt of God.

And the serpent did indeed introduce that little doubt first. He did it by twisting God's words. Eve corrected him, and then he shifted his position (as snakes tend to do), and twisted God's words more forcefully.

"No! You shall not die!"

Enter doubt. He is calling God into question, confronting Eve with a lie. As doubt entered, she COUDLD have resisted and walked away, proclaimed fidelity to God...something, but then she gave into doubt, turning it into sin, giving into the lie, giving into Pride, seeking to be "like God". I havne't had a chance to look up the notes from the class, but that is the gist of what our (very faithful and orthodox) professor stated in the context of the class.

I stand by what I said although I admit I should have done a better job using a more theological definition. That said, however, I wrote this more as a meditation and not a scholarly project.

Unfortunately, now that I have the post on Centering Prayer which uses citations and footnotes, I've just shot myself in the foot on anything else I "meditate" on as I've lifted my standard.

* sigh *

God bless!

Simon-Peter Vickers-Buckley said...

Yes, I thought you might have had.

I tend to agree. Perhaps I should define my terms first, but truth is I have little doubt we mean the same thing.

The reason why I like a very strict and delineated approach to the stages of temptation and when it becomes sin, and why I like to stick to a clear distinction between difficulties or pondering and crossing the line into actual (what I call doubt, that is a firm decision that God in this instance, or that instance, is not to be trusted) doubt is because of the utter horror life was for me the first year as a Catholic. I actually thought about killing myself, utter "despair"....because I did not know the difference (it's unbelievable) between a temptation (and its stages) and completed sin.

You can imagine what it was like. It was insane.

Then I discovered a little book out of nowhere written about 1930 I think, by an English OSB priest (I think that's's upstairs somewhere) called "How to resist temptation".

Now I had read other things, but they did not help at all.

So I ordered the book from Sophia press and it totally changed my life. It broke down temptation and sin into their consituent, progressive parts...step by step.

It was amazing. It really is the best treatment of temptation, I mean the "mechanics" of temptation I have found yet.It really helped me step back from any temptation, to hold it at arms length as it were, to examine it, to say "aha...I know you, you are a temptation, I know what will happen if X or if Y".

It also helped me to "detect" temptations as they were still over the horizon...sort of a temptation radar detector...before they even get close enough (most of the time) for me to make a definte id, e.g. "I cannot tell if you are an F-15, or a Super Hornet or whatever, but I do know this, there are no friendlies in that sector, ever...launch missiles."

I don't see the point in waiting for a "visual id" doesn't matter what it is, it isn't friendly.

Thanks for the back and forth!

Adoro said...

SP, can you give me any additional info on that book?

And also, are you willing to share with me a little of what you went through in your first year as a Catholic? I ask this second question with more of a "pastoral" concern as I am about to begin my second year teaching RCIA. We are restructuring our program and are seeking ways to help people make that transition from the Sacraments into parish life, but that's a challenging phase. I would love to know more about what you experienced, any suggestions you might have that may assist those I'm seeking to "teach". (I use that term so loosely in relation to myself).

If you do wish to share any of that, my email is:

And I will keep your emails confidential.

God bless!

Unknown said...

Interesting conversation.

I do remember reading that witout the room for doubt, it is impossible to have faith.

One of the greatest Catholic thinkers, Chesterton, did say that faith is seeing what is and believing otherwise. HE did state that it is impossible to have faith unless you could have it when everything said that you shouldn't have it.

I'm not quoting him perfectly, but what he wrote in Orthodoxy (chapter 6 I think, the paradoxes of Christianity) is well worth the read.


Adoro said...

JZ ~ Interesting. Sadly, I have not read Chesterton, although several of his books, beginning with "Orthodoxy" have been on my list for a very long time.

What you say may be true, because faith, while it is absolutely a gift of the Holy Spirit, is also an act of the will. It takes perseverance to maintain our faith and keep the focus on God. Some of the greatest Saints had the greatest doubts...after all, we see St. Paul in the New Testament, what happened to him!

If you haven't read St. Augustine's "Confessions". Now, there was a man who fought not only the flesh and pride, but fought doubts as well.

God bless!

Unknown said...


haven' Give me a sec here, just need to recover........

Okay, I'm ready. Seriously, I cannot recommend him highly enough. Aside from being astutely and accurately intelligent, he was also the funniest catholic that ever lived.

"What you say may be true, because faith, while it is absolutely a gift of the Holy Spirit, is also an act of the will."

I agree. I cannot remember exactly where in the Bible it is, but I do recall a young man talking to Jesus and saying "I believe, help me with my unbelief."

I haven't read much Augustine (Chesterton is my favourite catholic philosopher) but if you say it is worth the read, I might just add it to my next Amazon order. That and some Luther, and maybe a bit more Barth (his Romans should be read by every serious minded christian).

Wasn't it Augustine that said, "Those that truly love God may do whatever they wish?"


Adoro said...

JZ ~ That was one of the Apostles, and suddenly I'm spacing out who it was! My knee-jerk reaction is to say it is Thomas, who placed his hands into Jesus' side. But I can't remember!

Chesterton ~ I have read bits here and there, I really want to read Orthodoxy, and I own the Fr. Brown mysteries and just haven't had a chance to pick it up yet. I've been focusing on other theological works in prep for grad school.

But on the list he remains.

I also highly recommend St. Frances de Sales, "Introduction to the Devout Life." But careful with the translations...there are some bad ones out there and as he is Catholic, it is a Catholic book and should be read from that perspective and understanding. I have it at home...will try to give you the ID # in case you do plan to search it out.