Monday, 17 November 2014

Answers for an Atheist (Part VII)

I'm continuing my series of posts responding to Hemant "The Friendly Atheist" Mehta. You can find his original video here, the most recent post in my series here and my first post here.

#29 Does God speak to you?

Good question and a tough one to answer. I believe He has spoken to me directly at least once although I admit I can't be sure.

Most protestants, from what I can see, fall into two camps on the "God speaking to people" question. On the one hand, there are those who believe that God stopped directly speaking to people when the last apostle died or when the last book of the New Testament was written. My problem with this view is that I see no real evidence for this position in the Bible.

On the other hand, there are those who seem to believe that a Christian should expect God to be constantly speaking and giving personal revelation to them. The objection to this is pretty obvious, God can't really be behind all the many contradictory messages that people think they are receiving from Him. I once had a conversation with a woman, a member of such a group, who told me that her boy friend had recently broken up with her because (he believed) that God had told him to that he wasn't ready to be in a relationship and wouldn't be for some time. Less then a fortnight later "God told" the same young man to start a relationship with another girl and, in less than a month "God told" him to propose to her. Now, I hope it's reasonably obvious that, unless we assume that God was either mistaken or deliberately giving bad advice, then God could not actually have been giving all of these messages.

Catholics take something of a middle ground here. We accept that God can and does continue to speak to His people, but we tend to be wary of the claims that expect such revelations to be constant. Fortunately for us, we believe that God has given us a reliable guide in the form of the Church hierarchy which Christ has established. Therefore a Catholic who believes that God is speaking to him or her is best advised to approach a reliable priest and ask his opinion.

Our example here should be St. Theresa of Avila. St. Theresa is one of the great mystics in history and believed herself to have been directly spoken to by God many times throughout her life. It is significant, however, that St. Theresa never directly acted on these messages without first consulting with her confessor/spiritual director.

I want to close by stressing what I am and am not saying here. Obviously I don't imagine any atheist, on reading this, is going to be convinced of the truth of Catholicism. I what I do hope I can show, however, is that a belief in a Church hierarchy, established by God and empowered to teach for Him, at least gives those who believe God has directly spoken to them a meaningful structure to evaluate whether it really comes from God.

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