He writes for lots of websites, journals and magazines and is the author of The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Good Living, The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Wine Whiskey and Song, The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins and his guest post is an excerpt from his latest book: The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Catechism.
John is a funny, bright and sometimes zany writer with a mile-a-minute style. I hope you enjoy his guest post and take time to visit his blog: The Bad Catholics Bingo Hall.
Excerpt from The Bad Catholics Guide to the Catechism.
FAQ From Your Stoner Neighbor #1
Dude, can God make a stone too heavy for him to lift?
On the simplest level, this is less like an argument than a pun, a brainteaser that relies on the squeaky hinges of human thought. This question confuses us at first by disguising a negative as a positive. It admits that God lacks limits. But it claims out that a limit is something, so God is lacking something, and therefore He isn’t perfect. You could say the same thing about flaws. Or feathers. Feathers are something, and they’re something good—God said so, in a roundabout way, in the book of Genesis. But God has no feathers. Therefore He isn’t perfect. One can imagine a boy in seventh grade Confirmation prep class substituting for feathers, “hooters.” “God has no hooters. But hooters are awesome…” and so on. Such arguments, like Edward Norton in Fight Club, seem tough at first but in fact just beat themselves senseless.
Still, there are some sober, adult reflections which come to mind when we think about this. As Pope Benedict XVI reiterated in his bomb-throwing address at Regensburg, Catholics believe that God is in fact bound by the laws of logic, which are part of His own very nature. He cannot make a square that is also a circle. Nor can He choose to cease existing, to go insane, or to make what is intrinsically evil good. Furthermore, He cannot betray His promises or reverse His own decisions. Since He made the souls of men immortal, He cannot decide to unmake them. In other words, an eavesdropper on the inner life of the Most Holy Trinity would never hear a dialog like this one:
Father: Do You remember that all-inclusive no-refund, eternal salvation-or-damnation initiative I came up with, way back before Vatican II?
Son: Yeah. Honestly, that always struck me as kind of… hardcore, Dad.
Holy Spirit: Not terribly Christian, if you ask me. But I’m always the last to be consulted.
Father: Yeah, well, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, especially back issues of The National Catholic Reporter….
Holy Spirit: Are they still publishing that? I guess I lost touch with those people.
Son: They’ve got pretty good book reviews, but you have to subscribe to the print edition to read them.
Father: And it got Me to thinking. Is it really fair to let fleeting decisions made in time and under duress have eternal results? How many humans really have the backbone to choose Heaven or Hell?
Holy Spirit: I’ve been trying to tell You….
Father: What did I say about “I told You so”?
Holy Spirit: It’s Your least favorite sentence. Sorry.
Father: So You know what I’m fixing to do? I’ll just keep the saints around so they’ll be happy.
Son: What about the sinners?
Father: You can have all the penitent ones, same as ever.
Holy Spirit: And the rest of the poor buggers?
Father: I’ve decided to momentarily avert My attention from them, and thus cease to maintain their contingent existences in Being. Then poof! They’ll wink out into nothingness.
Son: That is so much more compassionate, Dad.
Father: And just to top things off, I’m going to apply this retroactively—so We can call back Michael from guarding the gates of Hell. No need!
Son: Wow. Our God is an awesome God!
Holy Spirit: What are You going to tell the other angels? And the souls of the Just who have been taking a stern, reluctant pleasure in the execution of divine justice upon the Damned?
Son: We can announce officially that all those souls ran away, and We just couldn’t find them.
Holy Spirit: Why not just say that We couldn’t care for them any more, so We brought them to live on a farm, where they can run free and chase squirrels all they want?
Father: All good ideas, Persons. Why don’t We retire, and attend to the praise and adoration of the saints for a while? Let Us reconvene later to finalize the text of Our statement.
Would the perfections we attribute to God really be enhanced by such a discussion, or the prospect that He could take away our other gifts, such as free will and reason? The “ability” to flip-flop is much like the “ability” to chicken out, procrastinate, or have a panic attack. It’s just another way of saying one’s will is imperfect, changeable, and subject to new information—in other words, that it isn’t God’s.