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The Foundation of Christianity: The Three "L"s of Our Faith
By Angelo Stagnaro
Though not a lot of people are still talking about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, he still holds an important place in my heart. Prior to him, I had found it hard to find an important, modern thinker who so perfectly advocated for the intellectual life in the Church.
I don’t mean this in exclusivist manner. All I mean is that a faith that is based exclusively upon emotions is easily brought asunder at the slightest pressure―internal or external. A non-Catholic asks a clever or, in most cases, a less-than-clever question, and then the emotions-driven Catholic is thrown into a tizzy. A Catholic who has an intellectual foundation of the Faith is more likely to withstand those pressures.
I don't mean to suggest that non-educated Catholics need not apply. Rather, I mean if a Catholic understands the historical and theological underpinnings of the Faith, she will more likely maintain her faith.
And thus, I came up with the simple mnemonic device that can shield one's faith when it's being attacked― Love, Life, Logic. The Three "L"s of our Faith.
Love, Life, Logic. These are the foundation of all Christian thought including our ethics, our philosophy and our personal outlook. All aspects of Christianity must affirm these three essential points. All of them find their origin in God and with which we are imbued, ordered and can immediately recognize:
As John assures us, God is love Itself.
Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)
We are made in this image of love. When we love, it's because we reflect the love that is the Trinity. We are able to love others only because we give ourselves over to the Author of Love. Love is how we know God exists and recognition of this love in our lives allows us to find meaning and purpose. St. Paul describes it best in his Epistle to the Corinthians:
I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. I may give away everything I have and even give up my body to be burned —but if I have no love, this does me no good. Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope and patience never fail. Love is eternal. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)
God is the Author of Life. Thus, life is sacred:
Then God commanded, "Let the earth produce all kinds of animal life: domestic and wild, large and small"—and it was done. So God made them all and He was pleased with what He saw. Then God said, "And now we will make human beings; they will be like Us and resemble Us. They will have power over the fish, the birds and all animals, domestic and wild, large and small." (Genesis 1:24-26)
Of all chemical functions and reactions, life is unique. It can never be taken needlessly nor abused in any way.
We get the word "logic" from the Greek word logos which means "word" or "reason." It is the same word that we use when we refer to Christ as the Logos, that is, the Word of God:
In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God and the Word was God. From the very beginning the Word was with God. Through Him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without Him. The Word was the Source of Life and this life brought light to people. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out. (John 1:1-5)
It's this Logos Who gives us the ability to think rationally and critically. When we think logically, we celebrate and participate in His essence:
The Lord gave us mind and conscience; we cannot hide from ourselves. (Proverbs 20:27)
When we refuse to listen to reason, we reject Him. Reason separates us from the animals. Without reason, we are no better than animals. This Logos orders the world making it predictable. Without this, science and knowledge of the world would be impossible. (That’s why only an outlook like Christianity could have produced a culture that could have developed science.) It's from God that we can come to understand ourselves, our purpose in life, the universe around us and its Creator:
The Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
The Logos imbues the universe with His holiness:
[Christ] reflects the brightness of God's glory and is the exact likeness of God's own being, sustaining the universe with His powerful word. After achieving forgiveness for the sins of all human beings, He sat down in heaven at the right side of God, the Supreme Power. (Hebrews 1:3)
The Logos can neither lie nor deceive as this would be against His very nature:
God is not like people, who lie; He is not a human who changes His mind. Whatever He promises, He does; He speaks and it is done. (Numbers 23:19)
Israel's majestic God does not lie or change His mind. He is not a human being—He does not change His mind." (1 Samuel 15:29)
Despite the emotionalist protestations of "rational" atheists, Christianity is based completely on rational, critical thinking as is our natural knowledge of God. We conceive of God as a Being Who is perfect in compassion and justice, is consistent and can do all things. His perfect nature precludes the possibility of Him contradicting Himself. A perfect God cannot become unloving, unjust, arbitrary or incapable or weak. Tertullian, the ancient Christian philosopher specifically wrote about this point:
For reason is a property of God's, since there is nothing which God, the Creator of all things, has not foreseen, arranged and determined by reason; moreover, there is nothing He does not wish to be investigated and understood by reason. (Quippe res dei ratio quia deus omnium conditor nihil non ratione providit disposuit ordinavit, nihil [enim] non ratione tractari intellegique voluit. —Apologeticum ch. 50, 13.)
These three aspects of Christianity mirror the Scriptural passage: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37)
And when you stand before your accusers and they question you about our Faith, use logic. And if logic fails, try compassion. If compassion fails, try logic. When both fail, appeal to Christ Who is Life Itself.
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