What Does “Supernatural” Mean? Can a Person Be Christian and NOT Believe in It?

What Does “Supernatural” Mean? Can a Person Be Christian and NOT Believe in It?

Augustine said it about “time”: When you don’t ask me, I know what it is, but as soon as you ask me, I don’t know. When you don’t ask me what “supernatural” means I know; as soon as you ask me, I don’t know. At least I find it difficult to define—in a way that will draw wide agreement among philosophers and theologians, anyway.

I’m writing a book in which the concept of “supernatural” plays a role. (It’s a theology book, not fiction per se. Of course, some people will say all theology is fiction, but it’s not intended to be and I don’t think it is.) Someone who read the manuscript challenged what I say about “the supernatural.”

It seems to me that belief in “the supernatural” is an essential part of traditional, classical Christianity (and I mean that normatively and not only historically). That is to say, denying the reality of the supernatural is tantamount to giving up Christianity. However, of course, many people who believe they are Christians deny the supernatural.  Why? What exactly are they denying? Are they all denying the same thing? Or does “the supernatural” have multiple meanings, like so many other seemingly necessary words?

One problem, of course, is folk language. In folk language, in America, at least, “supernatural” often means belief in: angels that protect people, demons that harass people, “crystal power,” ESP, reincarnation, “faith healing,” etc., etc. It’s linked in most people’s minds with the New Age movement and the Charismatic movement (especially as “seen” on TV).

Setting that aside, what does “supernatural” mean in terms of traditional Christian theology? What does it mean to philosophers (insofar as they ever use it)? Does it mean something different to, say, Catholics, than to Protestants?

An issue to consider here is what “the supernatural” has to do with “miracles.” While all miracles would seem to be examples of the supernatural, the latter category includes more than miracles in most traditional theology. For example, especially in Catholic theology “supernatural” includes everything of grace. Grace is by definition “supernatural” because it is “beyond nature” and cannot be compelled by nature. Yet, it does not necessarily cancel out or completely contradict nature. For most Protestants, I assume, “supernatural” does cancel out and contradict “nature.” That’s the old “nature/grace” issue between Catholic and Protestant theology.

Here’s the specific issue I face. A reader of my manuscript suggests that Karl Barth did NOT believe in the “supernatural.” And yet, he agrees that Barth believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus including the empty tomb. What can he mean? I’ve tried to tease that out without success so far. (Obviously this person, who I respect, believes one CAN deny the “supernatural” and be an orthodox Christian in at least a broad sense.)

I think there is a great deal of confusion surrounding the concept “the supernatural” in contemporary theology. Maybe there always has been a great deal of confusion surrounding it and modernity/postmodernity/hypermodernity is just exacerbating it.

If it is true that Barth denied the supernatural, he must have meant by “supernatural” something other than what I mean by it and, I think, what most Christian theologians have traditionally meant by it.

Is the problem something like the one surrounding “miracle” in which popular opinion thinks of it as a “violation of a law of nature” as if God broke into nature from somewhere else and disrupted it by “breaking” the laws he created and by which he normally governs the world of nature? Hardly any theologian I know has ever thought of “miracle” that way. As far back as the Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid and nineteenth century theologian Horace Bushnell Christian thinkers have been trying to correct such vulgar notions of “miracle.” C. S. Lewis corrected them in his book Miracles. God must not be thought as “outside” of the world of nature so that it operates autonomously and independently so that the laws of nature are rigid rules that he has to “break” in order to act in unusual, special ways. Rather, the laws of nature are to be thought of as regularities of God’s providential, sustaining work of continuous creation  and God can suspend them or use them differently in which case “miracle” is what results.

But we don’t throw out the word “miracle” or belief in them just because people vulgarize the idea. Is that what’s happening with “supernatural?” Is the concept beyond redemption because of its vulgarization in popular culture?

What do I mean by “supernatural?” Here is what I mean by it: the realm of activity of unseen agents unknowable by science because it is “above” nature. (By “above” I do not mean literally, spatially above; I mean transcends, goes beyond.) Add to that that supernatural events, “miracles,” are ones that are in principle unable to be explained by science or predicted by the scientist, even one who has all the information possible about the context and applicable natural laws.

What is an example of such a supernatural cause and event? Again, back to the resurrection of Jesus. By my definition of supernatural, the resurrection of Jesus, if it was something more than a “restitution of faith” in the hearts and minds of the disciples, was supernatural. What would be a better word for it than that and/or “miracle?” Or is “miracle” separable from “supernatural?” Is it possible to believe in a miracle but not in the supernatural?

Back to my original question and issue. Am I not right to say that traditional, classical, orthodox Christianity, in the broadest sense, has always included and still includes belief in the supernatural (so defined)?

One suggestion given to me for why Barth did not believe in the supernatural even though he believed in the resurrection of Jesus (in time and space) is that he did not like the idea of a dualist worldview of “nature” and “supernatural.” Well, neither did Hans Urs von Balthasar who wrote much about (and against) the idea of “pure nature”—nature without grace, without the presence of the transcendent. But he also spoke passionately and warmly about the supernatural. Does “supernatural” necessarily imply dualism? I certainly don’t mean it dualistically. Duality, yes. Dualism, no. There are two realms of reality—nature and supernatural—but they are not set over against one another dualistically.

Perhaps that’s why the reader of my manuscript objects to my insistence that belief in the supernatural is an essential part of traditional, classical Christianity. He thinks, perhaps, that “supernatural” is necessarily dualistic. What about “miracle,” then? Is that not dualistic? Isn’t the bodily resurrection of Jesus dualistic in the same sense—that it cannot be explained by nature? No, there is a way to conceive of supernatural and miracle that is not dualistic. But they do necessarily imply a duality in reality. Surely that’s part and parcel of traditional Christianity.

IF we toss out “supernatural” as a bad category, for whatever reason, how, then, are we to describe events such as the resurrection? Alvin Plantinga calls them “special acts of God.” That seems a little vague and broad to me. That is, surely something can be a “special act of God” without being miraculous. If God speaks to me by way of guidance, isn’t that a “special act of God?” I think so. But it isn’t in the same category as, say, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

Saying that “belief in special acts of God” is an essential part of traditional, classical Christianity sounds completely different from saying that “belief in the supernatural” is an essential part of traditional, classical Christianity. Hardly anyone would deny the former; many deny the latter (especially insofar as “traditional, classical Christianity is meant prescriptively and not only descriptively).

For example, I’m sure that Rudolf Bultmann would have affirmed that the cross was a “special act of God,” but he did not believe in miracles or what I am calling the supernatural.

I want to hold onto the language of the supernatural; like so many useful terms it remains important and helpful and even irreplaceable (in my opinion) even if it is widely vulgarized. What good theological term isn’t widely vulgarized? Shall we toss out traditional concepts and terms in theology as soon as we judge they have been vulgarized? Well, there would go “Trinity,” “worship,” “born again,” “election,” “freedom,” etc., etc. Almost every theological term I can think of has been so vulgarized as to almost useless without cautious, careful definition.

And I want to hold to my belief that authentic Christianity includes belief in the supernatural (as I have defined or described it) such that a person who denies it, that is, denies miracles, is seriously distorting, truncating, if not rejecting, authentic Christianity.

In my opinion, you cannot believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, including the empty tomb, and deny the supernatural (as I have defined it). Similarly, you cannot deny the resurrection and believe in the supernatural if you are a Christian, at least not consistently. To me, the resurrection of Jesus, not resuscitation of a corpse but transformation to a new form of life that involves transformation of his body, is essential to authentic Christianity. Therefore, so is the supernatural, rightly understood, and miracles, rightly understood.

  • http://www.psephizo.com Ian Paul

    Historically, isn’t it the case that the ‘supernatural’ as a category only arose post Enlightenment after the formulation of the ‘laws of nature’ (which are, curiously, universal, eternal and omnipresent, a bit like God…)

    • rogereolson

      Perhaps so. But now that it’s “there,” so to speak, can we really do without it? We do understand and acknowledge that miracles, if they happen, are “outside” the natural order of things. How can we describe the resurrection of Jesus other than as supernatural? Plantinga prefers “special acts of God,” but that would include the cross, wouldn’t it? I’m groping for a category that would include those acts of God that are absolutely unpredictable and unexplainable from any natural, scientific standpoint.

  • Tim Reisdorf

    Roger, you are correct in this. To deny the supernatural and hold only to the natural (like Naturalism, you mentioned in a recent post) is at odds with Orthodox Christianity in nearly every way except behavior. One might rationalize away angels or certain miracles or certain aspects of biblical inspiration . . . . But in the end, it is like Naturalism in that has no hope of continued existence after death and will over time lose its good behavior to nihlism. After all, on a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero, and good behavior doesn’t put of the inevitable for long.

  • J.L. Schafer

    This article messes with all my categories and makes me think. I recall listening to a radio broadcast by Vernon McGee where he talked about Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Most people interpret that event as Jesus exercising his divinity, but McGee suggested that maybe Jesus was displaying his humanity. Perhaps that is the kind of ordinary authority that human beings, as regents on God’s earth, as supposed to exercise and one day will exercise. The coming of Jesus messes up our categories. Barriers between God and humanity, heaven and earth, time and eternity, etc. are coming down. What is supernatural? What is a miracle? I wonder how Jesus would have answered those questions. John’s gospel doesn’t speak of miracles but of miraculous signs. The resurrection of Jesus began a new creation, a marriage of heaven and earth. Perhaps a miraculous sign is a portent of that new creation, as opposed to the old order of things.

  • Ray

    Good post Roger. I would think, that although a miracle, particularly the resurrection, is an event that happens in Time and Space, the power that causes or generates that event originates from outside the Natural world. If I understand the word “natural” correctly, as it is used by the scientific community, natural refers to that which pertains to the natural world of space-time-matter. Thus, to believe in the supernatural is a necessary component of orthodox Christianity.

    I was having an on-line discussion with an agnostic/atheist last year who was thrilled with Hawkings multiverse theory. I explained, that if a universe, outside of our universe and our natural laws, spawned or created our universe, then that was a supernatural event. He seemed taken back by that statement and responded that I didn’t understand natural and supernatural. We ended on a stalemate but I think I am correct.

  • John Kaiser

    Supernatural is what exactly? Science studies the natural. If it can be measured or observed on a regular or repeatable basis then it most likely is natural. If it behaves in a way that is predictable it is most likely natural. If it is only observed or measured once it may still possibly be natural ( it would just be a rare event, think mass extinction or big bang.) Science has been able to find ways to “see” the invisible (think radio waves etc.) Science can infer the absolutely unseeable by secondary events ( think neutrinos). But if it can never be observed or never can be measured or it will, or never, happen, then it is most likely supernatural.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Reluctance to admit the supernatural (by whatever definition) goes hand in hand with a weak (natural? nominal?) theology of the Holy Spirit. Not only is the resurrection and the body of our resurrected Lord outside what we see as natural, but the sending of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s quiet and universal work is beyond our natural ken. The problem is not the existence of the supernatural, but our inability to see it without spiritual help. We can see the results (e.g. changed lives of those who turn to Christ, miracles, deliverances of all sorts) but, naturalistically, we can always find a way to wiggle out of full recognition of the Spirit’s work.

    In science there is a great temptation to see science as in some way omniscient (potentially, and given enough time). I do believe that we have God given ability to figure a lot of things out for ourselves, and that God not only smiles on these efforts, but also that the Spirit can (quietly and unobserved) assist us in our quest – even sinners :) As a young scientist and Christian I needed to know where the boundary might be. A wonderful little book from the 1980s was a great help in sorting this out. I may well be helpful to others – Peter Medawar “The Limits of Science”. It seems to be out of print and some of the copies are pricey. Hopefully it’s easily available in good libraries.

    I’m glad to hear that you are writing this volume on the supernatural Roger. Don’t let the reviewers get you down, or weaken your message. How theologians can accept Scripture as revelation in any sort of way and still set aside the supernatural and try to put the Holy Spirit in specially constructed boxes is beyond me.

  • ReasJack

    I think absolutely that supernatural is a bad category. http://maybeweagree.blogspot.com/2012/07/there-really-is-no-such-thing-as.html

    I think you also have a problem with your definition of supernatural because it doesn’t really dig down to what it would mean for something to be explainable or predictable by science yet still somehow be extant. Explainable and predictable by science isn’t so easy to define itself, so leaving its opposite so vague really kills the conversation. It is a tremendously large universe, and we have very limited time and observational power within it. Anything that is simply part of the nature of things, yet exceedingly rare such that it might only happen within observational range once every 100,000 years, say, would for all practical purposes meet your criteria for a supernatural event, and yet not be one at all. We would not know.

    Uniqueness doesn’t necessarily qualify as supernatural either. What we would likely agree to call the natural world is riddled with uniqueness. There is but one Roger E. Olson, author of this blog, or if you cling to a special class for human beings, we can say the same of my pet Labrador Retriever Cotton. There is only one of her. Like the Marines say, “This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this rifle is mine.”

    Finally, there is the problem or mere ignorance. Archimedes was a great scientist, and yet the prediction or explanation of a comet or asteroid impact would have been practically beyond him. Yet it would be wrong to say that it was beyond him in principle. For all intents and purposes we are blind to whether something is unknown or unknowable.

    • rogereolson

      You raise interesting questions worth wrestling with. But how do you fit God into the picture? Wouldn’t an event that only God can cause (e.g., Jesus’ resurrection) be supernatural–beyond unique or not yet understood? Isn’t the new form of life Jesus received totally incomprehensible to science?

      • Kenny Johnson

        Couldn’t these miracles and the resurrection actually be natural and within the laws of physics of God’s creation, but just not normative and beyond our comprehension? Perhaps God does not violate the natural laws, but we simply don’t understand how its done.

        It reminds me of Brian Green’s (string theorist) illustration that trying to teach advanced mathematics to a dog MAY be like humans trying to understand the universe. Perhaps both are futile attempts. :)

        • rogereolson

          But whoever said anything about God “violating” natural laws? See, that’s the problem. People hear terms like “supernatural” and “miracle” and automatically assume they mean what they don’t necessarily say. Even if it is the case that the resurrection is simply not normative and beyond our comprehension, what word should we use to describe it? To what category of events does it belong? As I mentioned, Plantinga prefers “special acts of God,” but that would seem to be too broad. The cross event was a “special act of God” in some sense, but it hardly belongs in the same category as the resurrection IN TERMS OF natural explanations for its “mechanics.” Is it even conceivable that humans, for example, could ever arrive at the technological knowledge enabling them to bring about what happened to Jesus’ body at the resurrection? I don’t think so. It’s something ONLY God can do. Finite beings are incapable of it. That’s what makes it supernatural, in my opinion. I just can’t think of a better term for such things.

      • ReasJack

        I would say that all discussion of God is inexorably drawn into a conception of something that is an actual natural phenomenon. One can bob and weave about being above or superior or transcendent, but eventually everybody has an answer to the question “What is the nature of this thing I am calling God?”. Nobody really believes in a God that cannot be held to an inherent nature, a set of ways that that the God IS, and the remaining set of ways that the god IS NOT.

        There is no valid way that I can think of to parse your last question. The declaration that there are things in principle that will be beyond our own explanation, prediction or control can never be more than mere speculation. Perhaps everything that is actually the case is eventually understandable. The point is that we would have to have some way of determining EVERYTHING that is knowable through reason, evidence and sound epistemology before we could reasonably identify anything as not a member of that set. We are nowhere near that state of affairs. So the only answer to the last question is “How the hell would we know?”.

        • rogereolson

          IF you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus AND, say, the future transformation of earth (Romans 8, “freedom from bondage to decay”), don’t you have to say they are events beyond conceivable human achievement? It seems so to me.

          • ReasJack

            No. What “Beyond conceivable human understanding” means is even more difficult to pin down than the material validity or mechanics of bodily resurrection. There’s a habit of simply rolling the the idea that it’s inaccessible to man into the definition of these things then using that definition to derive the idea, but that’s tautological. If you don’t make it part of the definition then your belief in the ultimate reality of these things can exist perfectly well unconnected from whether they are ultimately comprehensible. By example, some Greeks believed in atoms and conservation of matter almost 2000 years before anyone got a handle on their material validity and true nature. Had Democritus the lifespan of a Bristlecone Pine, final understanding would not have been beyond his reach, yet he only lived 90 years so it was beyond it, but only in practice, not theory. This is the nature of human understanding. Does it have limits? Probably. Do we know where they lie? No, because of what is truly beyond us–we are totally ignorant of how much of our future experience will be novel, atypical, heretofore unobserved. What these exceptional observations will reveal to our understanding is anybody’s guess. So even if one believes that 2000 years ago, after being a corpse for 3 days, a person reappeared in a recognizable (i.e. consistent with their pre-mortem nature) form, having observable effects out in the world at large, you can’t automatically assume it would be beyond anyone’s understanding, ever. You can only say whether you can understand it now.

          • rogereolson

            So you are suggesting that it is conceivable that someday in the future human beings might create technology that will bring dead people not only back to life but to heavenly life, the life the risen Jesus had? I don’t find that conceivable.

  • http://cjbanning.dreamwidth.org Cole J. Banning

    In my own usage, I distinguish between “transcendent,” in which a non-empirical cause creates a non-empirical effect, and “supernatural,” in which a non-empirical cause creates an empirical effect. The bodily resurrection would seem to be the latter, but much–the vast majority, I’d think–of Christian theology would fall under the former category. Or to put it another way, the supernatural is what happens when the transcendent impinges on and visibly affects the natural.

    Saying that the bodily resurrection “cannot be explained by nature” seems to miss the fact that all “explanations by nature” are post hoc explanations put forth by human beings; that is, nature does not herself put forth any explanations–nor, for that fact, does she require any. That being the case, saying that any event “cannot be explained by nature” seems to me to grossly underestimate the ingenuity of those charged with coming up with explanations.

  • http://www.jcfreak737.blogspot.com Martin Glynn

    For that matter, how can one believe in God at all without believing in the supernatural? While God is not seperate from nature, He most certainly transcends it, and it beyond scientific observation. To me, Christianity without the supernatural is like speghetti and meatballs with no sauce.

  • Paul W

    “I want to hold onto the language of the supernatural; like so many useful terms it remains important and helpful and even irreplaceable (in my opinion) even if it is widely vulgarized.”

    I have no real disagreement with the thesis of your article. But the way you define it couldn’t the term ‘metaphysical’ or perhaps even ‘paranormal’ work just as well? Just having a hard time seeing how the term is really all that irreplaceable.

    • rogereolson

      I think that within a Christian context calling Jesus’ resurrection metaphysical or paranormal would give people the impression I am coming at the subject from a New Age-ish perspective–that we all have powers to create reality that are godlike.

  • Steve Rogers

    Perhaps our brief glimpses of things we label supernatural are really reminders of how unnatural our current limited ability to see through the ” darkened glass” is. We live a sub- natural existence that truly impairs our ability to explain some things.

  • Kyle Lauf

    These words of yours intrigue me…
    ” I want to hold onto the language of the supernatural”
    It strikes me that integral to the work of the theologian is constructing a language to talk about and (hopefully) understand the accounts of the bible. In a postmodern setting where many conventional belief systems no longer demand universal adherance, it is no wonder that the very language is under threat. And what if all the words were dismantled? What would we be left with? I think we’ve still got the stories, and on some level what we do with the ‘miraculous’ is suspend disbelief for the sake of coherence.

  • Chuck

    I think using the Resurrection of Christ as an example is problematic, because it is essentially “the presence of the future” (to use the title of a book by George Eldon Ladd). In other words, when the future general resurrection occurs, it won’t be unique, though I suppose it won’t be understandable under the rules of science in that time. Will the future resurrection then be qualified as a miracle at that time? Christ’s resurrection is therefore an early example of this future event. Perhaps it is “supra-temporal” rather than “super-natural?”
    Even our perspective of a “routine” healing is time-bound, because we do not know if “science” will figure it out a hundred years from now, so that the healing will not contradict scientific knowledge at that time. That’s why I think “miracle” should always be defined based on the perspective of those experiencing it. I think I read a biblical theologian who defined miracle solely i nthe eyes of the beholder, as an “amazing event.” (Was it perhaps Meier’s Marginal Jew?)
    I think “supernatural” is too bound up with western materialistic assumptions and should be eschewed by theologians unless they are engaged in apologetics. Why would we want to buck up a word that does us no favors?
    (Sorry for the rambling nature of this comment.)

  • James Petticrew

    I am interested in whether someonebwho denies the miraculous can still be thought of as a Christian? William Barclay comes to mind, despite worldwide recognition for his Daily Study Bible here in Scotland many (most) evangelicals didn’t believe he was a ” true Christian” as he sought to explain away the miracles of Jesus. He was also “unsure” about the Trinity.

    I have no idea how categorise him. I am pretty certain he believed in the resurrection so is that enough? I have been incredibly grateful for insights from his books into what it means to be a Christian, could he really not be a true Christian and write with such insight! I also know some people who studied under him or were in his church and all say he was a humble man of deep Christian spirituality.

    The tragic death of his 21 yr old daughter was seen by many evangelicals as God’s judgement on him for denying “fundamental” truths yet he reacted to this with more grace than he was shown.

    What you think! Was Barclay a Christian ? what about Bultmann?

    • rogereolson

      I think we will have to work with something like a “subchristian” category for some people. In this conversation I always have to emphasize that by “not a Christian” (or “subchristian”) I am not passing any judgment on a person’s salvation. Their salvation is absolutely and exclusively God’s business. But whether a person counts as “Christian” is a theological judgment. I personally draw one line at the resurrection. I can’t see how a person who denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is a Christian in any historical, theological sense of the word. Sure, they are “Christians” in a nominal sense (being members of a Christian church, for example), but that’s not what I mean by Christian as a theological judgment.

      • http://www.mariuslombaard.net Marius

        i’ve heard some fundamentalists insist on “physical” resurrection as opposed to “bodily”. are these mere semantics, or is there actually a real distinction in what is meant with either word?

        • rogereolson

          I prefer “bodily” as it seems to be a better translation of “soma pneumatikos.” “Physical” implies resuscitation of a corpse, not transformation to a new form of (heavenly) life.

  • Mark Rogers

    “The seriousness and the ready acceptance with which the confessional commitment could become authoritative in the earliest period [before Pietism and Liberalism] were based on the fact that in this period one still knew that faith is an objective thing, not an arbitrary act at the individual’s discretion, and thus it is a public affair. With all seriousness it counts on the fact that the center of the religious question lies in the counsels of God, the Lord of the world and of history, and not in the sentiment, the heart, or the conscience of the person who believes.”
    This quote from Barth is perhaps a clue as to why someone might say that Barth denied the supernatural?
    Very interesting post, thank you Dr. Olson.

  • J.E. Edwards

    Interesting to see how you wrestled with the different variations of supernatural. I agree with your conclusion. Great post, Roger. I also find it interesting the amount of bantering about your (to me) clear conclusion.

  • Bill S

    I am Catholic and I practice the faith for the sake of my wife but I know that the supernatural does not exist. No God, no resurrection, no heaven or hell.

    • rogereolson

      I doubt the pope would consider you a “Catholic.” How do you “know” that the supernatural does not exist?

  • http://theoldadam.com/ theoldadam

    I think the greatest miracle is that the Lord has made a believer out of me.

    I do believe in the supernatural. That God could become incarnate from the womb of a woman (without the involvement of a man), is pretty supernatural.

    Giving sight to the blind. Healing the sick. Raising the dead. And being raised himself. All very supernatural.

    But, likewise, He is also the ‘down to earth’ God. He comes to us now in quite ordinary means. In the hearing of His Word. In the Scriptures. In the consolation of the brethren, one to another, and in the earthly elements of water, bread and wine. In quite ordinary means.

    The finite contains the supernatural. Or, the finite contains the infinite. God surely uses earthen vessels for His supernatural intentions.

    Thanks.

    • rogereolson

      But, for this discussion, anyway, I’m trying to keep “supernatural” and “miracle” separate from their ordinary, colloquial uses. In the latter, for many people, any unusual occurrence can be supernatural and a miracle. How often do we hear “It’s a miracle!” about a surprising event that has a natural explanation? As I explained in my post, what I’m asking about is the necessity of belief in “the supernatural” and “miracles” in their theological senses–events that IN PRINCIPLE cannot have a scientific explanation, cannot be explained by natural laws. For example, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ to a new form of life (immortal, incorruptible, capable of walking through walls, appearing an disappearing, etc.). Another, less important example, is turning water into wine. Put another way: Is Christianity compatible with naturalism?

  • Bill S

    I don’t care that the Pope would not consider me to be a Catholic. I figured out that there is no supernatural from research. Even if the supernatural does exist, it is not necessary for me to believe in it in the absence of proof.

    • rogereolson

      You’re confused. You can’t just declare yourself to be (Roman) Catholic and make it so. No one can KNOW there is no supernatural from research. No research can prove there is no supernatural. Your slide into the last statement is irrelevant. Of course not. Nobody said it’s necessary for you to believe in the supernatural, period. The question is whether it is necessary to believe in it to be authentically Christian.

  • Bill S

    “You can’t just declare yourself to be (Roman) Catholic and make it so.”

    I was baptized, confirmed, etc. I list Roman Catholic as my religion. I go to church for the sake of my wife, and I support her faith by not disagreeing with it. As a non-believer who sees the value of faith for those who believe, I don’t do anything to discourage them. From my own experience, I find that losing one’s faith carries a number of negative consequences, so I try not to cause anyone to lose their faith. In my own way of seeing things, I am being an adult who doesn’t believe among children who believe. Like not telling my younger siblings the truth about Santa Claus, I am taking the high road by not telling the people around me about God, angels, demons, saints, miracles, etc. This is my outlet, discussing this with people who I trust have strong enough faith not to be dissuaded by me. I think this is a great article and its title applies to me.

    • rogereolson

      If you’re an informed Roman Catholic, then you know about automatic excommunication.

  • Bill S

    No. I didn’t know that but it doesn’t surprise me.


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