Talking to the tooth fairy

It’s that man again! I tried saying: Get thee behind me, Satan. But he took no notice. We’ll just have to face up to Advocatus Diaboli again.

Hello, folks! I seem to have spent some time in the past laying out some of your more foolish ideas for you to think about.  I am afraid that you haven’t convinced me of anything yet. So here is an easy subject for you – to give you another chance. It must be easy because you have to be aware of the problem several times a week. I am all the keener because Quentin’s last column “Silly me” has put you all on warning that you find it easy to fool yourselves.

I am talking of course of those mysterious conversations you keep having in your heads. You call them prayer. I call them comforting fantasies. You tell me that you are speaking to God but, for all you know, you are speaking to the tooth fairy. (No harm done, I use worry beads.)  Of course you could prove it to me easily. All you have to do is to show me that when you pray for things, God gives them to you.

Or perhaps it’s not so easy. There’s Dad praying for a fine day for his golf tournament, and Mum, kneeling on the other side of the bed, praying for rain to save her parched vegetables. What is God to do? How about all those Spanish Catholics praying that the Armada would succeed, and your nasty English Protestants praying that it wouldn’t? If that proves anything, it proves that your God wants people to be Protestant rather than Catholic.

Of course you’ll be able to tell me of dozens of times that you’ve prayed – and got what you asked for. That doesn’t prove a thing unless you can show that you get what you ask for in prayer significantly more often than the atheist next door. And I don’t think you can do that. (If you could, of course, you’d have everyone on their knees the next day – particularly before going to the betting shop.)

Of course the scientists have done their measuring, and there are lots of studies. Unfortunately they show such mixed and vague results that they simply don’t help.
And you have some more explaining to do, haven’t you? I mean: you’re supposing that God will hear your prayer, stop in his tracks and fiddle the outcome for you. Given the millions of prayers for contradictory favours, his head must be in a whirl trying to fix things that he has to change from moment to moment. If he can see the future why didn’t he get it right first time?

But then you arrange things so that no one can prove you wrong. One friend of mine said that his prayers weren’t always answered because he didn’t pray hard enough. The next time I asked him he said that he guessed that he wasn’t holy enough. And on a third time he said God must know that I would be better off if he refused my prayer. All that tells me is that you lot have arranged things so that you can’t be shown to be wrong. Be my guest – but my question is how can you show me that  you are right? And if not, why are you bothering? If I found that the tooth fairy never gave me my sixpence I would soon conclude that either it was useless or, more likely, a figment of my imagination deceitfully triggered by my parents. How about you?

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81 Responses to Talking to the tooth fairy

  1. JamesH says:

    A good quote from American blogger Mark Shea: Under carefully controlled laboratory conditions, God does exactly what he wants. Why on earth should any experiment prove the efficacy of prayer? You’d do better finding correlations with sunspots.

    This is one of the sillier atheist objections. God is a person, not an outcomes tap. It’s so daft, I always wonder when it’s floated as a debating point. God answers prayers according to what he knows is good and right, not what we want. Any parent would do the same with their kids. If a child wants chocolate cake for breakfast and the parent says ‘Forget it,’ does that prove the parent doesn’t exist? Apparently so.

  2. Peter D. Wilson says:

    We can’t expect to convince Advocatus Diaboli that he’s wrong because

    (a) in many instances he’s probably right – the deity we are addressing is to some extent a figment of our desires;

    (b) he will rightly see our tacit proviso “but thy will be done” as a let-out;

    (c) there may be a sign of a caring God in the refusal of petitions that if granted would in hindsight have been detrimental, but it’s simpler to suppose that they simply hadn’t been heard;

    (d) where petitions do seem to have been granted, it could in most instances be through mere coincidence, of which I’ve known at least three instances so wildly improbable that I couldn’t possibly put them in fiction.

  3. Claret says:

    The answer should be that prayer is not about asking for things at all, and yet……. “Ask and you shall receive, knock and the door will be opened to you”…..etc…… of the more
    well known biblical passages and quoted from Christ himself. But is it a true promise ? Evidence would suggest otherwise unless it was meant for the Apostles alone and its probably a fair assumption that all of them would have asked to be saved from a violent death and yet we know of at least two who died quite brutally and tradition has it that they all died violently except John.
    Round One to Advocatus Diablo ( set and match as well ?)

  4. Advocatus Diaboli says:

    Thank you so much, James H. I hadn’t expected such an early confirmation of my theme. You have just demonstrated the pointlessness of asking God for things. Since he knows what we want and need he will supply it ‘according to what he knows is good and right, not what we want. ‘

    • tim says:

      But this also demonstrates the pointlessness of children asking parents for things, doesn’t it? (at least, good, powerful and well-informed parents). I don’t think AD understands how God intends the relation between Creator and created to be.

      This exemplifies the problem we have in debating with AD. We don’t know what we agree about, What are his premises? For example, do we agree that God exists? That He is good? Where do we have to start?

  5. Iona says:

    Advocatus Diaboli, I’m surprised at you. You seem to be calling for experiments to “prove” (or not) the existence of God. Surely you know the Scriptures at least as well as the rest of us?

    Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test (Jesus’s temptations in the desert)
    It is an evil generation that asks for a sign.
    “…as on that day at Massah in the desert, when your fathers put me to the test; when they tried me, though they saw my works.”

    Furthermore, even if you devised an experiment which demonstrated that everything prayed-for happened, and everything not-prayed-for didn’t, what would that prove? It would prove the power of prayer, not the existence of God.

    Claret – I don’t think it can be assumed that the apostles would have asked to be saved from a violent death. Saints have prayed for the grace of witnessing to Christ through suffering and martyrdom.

    • claret says:

      My point being that is the ‘promise’ of ‘ask and you shall receive’ for the Apostles only and therefore not for the rest of mankind since then? Paul ( admitedly not one of the twelve but claiming to be an Apostle,) says that he asked to be ‘cured’ of a particular ailment, the nature of which we are not told, but admits that he was not cured of it.

      • tim says:

        ‘Ask and you shall receive’ is difficult to understand. I hesitate to incur AD’s scorn, but maybe we are not promised that we shall necessarily receive what we ask (as experience indeed suggests)? But if God is good (as we, except perhaps AD, believe), what we do receive must be at least as good if not infinitely better. The point is to ask.

  6. johnbunting says:

    It’s been said – I forget by whom – that the purpose of prayer is to change the mind of the person praying, not the mind of God. Of course if someone dear to me was seriously ill, I would pray for their recovery, but it would also be a prayer for them, and for myself, to be at peace, whatever the outcome.

    • St.Joseph says:

      In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus said to His disciples ‘Stay here while I pray ‘He also stayed 40 days in the desert praying.So why should we not pray.

      Advocatus Diabloi, I think you should try it-it may not prove to you that God answers prayers if what you prayed for you don’t receive ,but you will get an answer.even if it is No
      That to me is just as much an answer as Yes.! He always listens.

  7. Nektarios says:

    Advocatus Diaboli

    I wonder if you really know what prayer actually is? From your preamble, it seems you are somewhat lacking in understanding. Such ideas, and opposite ideas of people asking for things would suggest
    a certain limitation on your own relationship with God. Ideas about spiritual matters, are not actual even though theymay appear so. Vanity or arrogance before God who sees all, yet not producing a corresponding action in you, shows you see nothing?. On your knees Advocatus Diaboli.
    I just might then open up the way of prayer that is answered. But as you are so full of comedic and a mocking approach to prayer that iare not answered, perhaps it might better for me to remain silent.

  8. sussexcatholic says:

    I think everyone here is overlooking a rather important point, namely God already knows everything and guides the world according to His Providence and permits what evil He does to allow a greater good to emerge. He has no need of human advice or assistance to act in a particular way, and indeed already knows the outcome. Instead one should, if one is a Christian believer, see prayer as a means of uniting our wills to the Divine Will, not in order to make up for some deficiency in God, but in order to achieve what Christ came to announce, the possibility of fallen human nature being raised to a new level of union with God. Thus we should pray earnestly for the needs of the world and in particular for those people we find it most difficult to pray for, and the marvellous economy of Grace means that, should God have chosen to act in a certain way to produce the outcome we have sought, then He will, by virtue of the communion of wills which prayer brings about, produce that outcome in a very real sense in answer to that prayer. The bottom line is that prayer is about what it can do for us in bringing us closer to God, not what it does for God who is already perfect in Himself.

    • Nektarios says:

      Welcome to the blog, I have not seen your name before.
      As to your posting, I can but agree with the theology of it, but let it start with ourselves.
      I know only too well, we can get carried away with things that we read, especially theological things that we like without it first having full sway in our lives. Please don’t think I am passing any judgment on you, but holding ideas and concepts and a theological position in our heads does not necessarily mean we are in possession of the same. That is the nature of religious and spiritual presumption and is spiritually deadly.

    • Vincent says:

      I had meant to make a comment at this point but, since sussexcatholic has contributed — and more clearly than I could have done — I see no need.

    • Rahner says:

      If a whole family are wiped out by a tsunami what is the “greater good” that emerges?

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        Rahner – Everyone has to die some time, somehow, and there are plenty of worse (or at least more unpleasant) ways than in a tsunami.

        We could speculate on what greater evil might have been avoided by these particular deaths, but it would almost certainly be unprofitable. Sometimes we just have to accept that what happens, happens, whether or not for a humanly identifiable purpose.

  9. Advocatus Diaboli says:

    OK, you all seem to be helping me in my question.

    Iona says:”Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test”. Where have I heard that before? So she says that the moment we try to verify prayer, God goes off in a huff, claiming that, as he is being tested, he won’t play ball. Not an edifying view of him I think.

    John Bunting says that the purpose of prayer is to change the mind of the person praying. Yes, that’s what I said – comfortable fantasies. At least I don’t pretend that my comforting worry beads have anything mystical about them. If they make me feel better then I operate better – that’s psychology not divinity. So no doubt prayer makes us feeler better etc. That’s what I would expect, and that’s what on the whole the scientists tell us. Doesn’t need God – only belief that he exists and hears us.

    Nektarios has the answer. But apparently I am unworthy to hear what it might be. I am told that your Scripture says that God saved you when you were yet sinners. I think Nektarios is claiming to be more righteous than God. Excuse me while I genuflect in front of his contribution.
    St Joysef, thank you for what you say. Oh dear, I have misspelled your name. But then you misspelled mine.

    • Nektarios says:

      Advocatus Diaboli
      Prayer invoking God, or addressed to God is meaningless, until one realizes one is actually perishing.
      I am nothing, a sinful one, the idea that I won’t answer your questions or deem you as unworthy, is not that I am more righteous than God, but am taught of Him and when provoked
      as you are tempting me to react accordingly, He has taught me to keep silent.

      • Advocatus Diaboli says:

        There you have your answer, Nektarios. Since God has taught you personally you have had your answer to prayer.

    • johnbunting says:

      A.D. Please don’t distort the meaning of what I said: it is not the same as your ‘comfortable fantasies’.
      “At least I don’t pretend…..” etc.
      I am not ‘pretending’ anything, so kindly withdraw what is in effect, an accusation of dishonesty.

      • Advocatus Diaboli says:

        Sorry, John Bunting. I should of course have remembered that the meaning of ‘pretend’ in the sense of ‘claim’ might not be known to all. I must remind myself to use only demotic language.

    • Iona says:

      Iona says:”Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test”. Where have I heard that before? So she says that the moment we try to verify prayer, God goes off in a huff, claiming that, as he is being tested, he won’t play ball. Not an edifying view of him I think.

      Any relationship is going to be on rather shaky ground if one person insists on casting doubts on the existence and nature of the other. For example:
      Small child: Mum, will you buy me [names expensive present]
      Mum: No.
      Small child: Then you don’t love me. [Turns his/her back on Mum] You’re not really there at all.
      [Mum doesn’t reply, but gets on with making small child’s tea]

      By the way, just checking, – you are just Advocatus Diaboli, aren’t you? Not Diabolos himself? (apologies if Diabolos is incorrect spelling). I wondered, when you said “where have I heard that before?” – You didn’t hear it directly, spoken to you, did you?

      • Advocatus Diaboli says:

        ”Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test” Yes Iona. I read it where you did. I have been surprised that so few of you have any familiarity with the New Testament treatment of prayer — especially St Luke. I wouldn’t dream of criticising a Catholic belief without researching your best apologists first. That’s how ‘facile’ and ‘shallow’ I am — to answer another of you. And it’s Diabolus, by the way. Pity you all gave up Latin.
        Your example is a poor one. A better example would be the child who was sceptical of Father Christmas. His scepticism comes from writing letters asking for a variety of presents and always getting ones he hasn’t chosen – year after year.

  10. mike Horsnall says:

    As to your worthiness or I wouldnt like to say. Worthiness is a bit of a non starter among christians-we don’t bother with it very much being convinced that we are all, christians and non christians alike, in pretty much the same boat.
    It is true that from your posts you seem to go for the quick bite and the shallow answer so don’t be too surprised if you get back occasionally what you give. This is because facile discussions about prayer such as yours are genuinely facile and can be named as such quite squarely because they seem deliberately so.

    If you care to look you will see that humanity has grappled profoundly with the subject of its relationship with God over the thousands of years, if you genuinely want to know about the subkject then you must get on your knees with the rest of us- but understand you must ask from the heart when you speak with God.
    As to prayer answers then of course it is true that man is by and large a complex multifacet being who understands himself and his condition only poorly-this means his approach to prayer will be skewed and have a tendency towards being self centred. In other words he will tend to build his prayer around his own needs and his understanding of God which is often made after his own image-much like you and your arguments in fact.
    But because we are made in the likeness of God somehow then in the deep of our spirit there is a calling out to the God whose we are, and whose you are. Prayer then is not a simple game ,but I suspect you already know that.

  11. St.Joseph says:

    AD. sorry about the misspelling. it was rather late for me,well past my bedtime after a strenuous choir rehearsal! If I had notice I would have corrected it.
    What’s your excuse??

  12. Nektarios says:

    Advocatus Diaboli
    I have some answers, yes, but ah, you are giving up too easily. If must be a first, Advocatus Diaboli capitulating before he has hardly got off the starting blocks – amazing!

  13. John L says:

    Why do we give so much attention to A D by addressing at length his non-question? He isn’t making a valid point but is merely being provocative.
    The ultimate end of prayer is union with God (whose existence is independent of our belief). God limits us, and gives us the opportunity to change, by placing us within His creation of Time as well as Space. God does not exist within a boundary of space/time, so concepts of before and after, or of changing His mind are meaningless. He knows our prayers before we make them – otherwise why pray for the dead who have passed beyond time and therefore beyond the scope for change?
    Yes we should try to communicate with God, and Christ showed us how to do it, but is in God’s environment, and on His terms that we should direct our attention. That, I believe, is what He meant by “Thy will be done”.
    Johnbunting had it right, some replies back, when he remarked on praying for a sick loved one’s recovery, but in the recognition that the sickness could be the way to God.

  14. Ion_Zone says:

    “If that proves anything, it proves that your God wants people to be Protestant rather than Catholic.”

    Actually it doesn’t, if God caused the storm, and we aren’t claiming he did, it really comes down to more practical things. God is not, despite what a lot of people will tell you, patriotic to any one country or religion. As Bishop Tutu succinctly put it, God is not a Christian. In fact, it is entirely unreasonable for us think of God in human terms, even to the point of thinking pain or dying is bad. How do we know that God isn’t already coddling us? When you are a little child you never realise how much of the world there is and how much you are being protected from.

    When we ask things of God we are shifting our burdens (and, often, desires) onto someone who has a very different perspective on life. God has no reason to answer us, or even listen, but he has said he will. When Christians and Muslims call God ‘father’ (Abba) they mean it in a very real (and semi-literal) scense. Personally I think James nailed it in the very first post, a man praying every night for a new car is a lot like a little kid begging their mother for sweets that they really don’t deserve. Jesus told the disciples that their prayer was a powerful thing. The thing he never had to say outright, but which he lived in everything he did, is that God is NOT our servant, God is NOT our slave, and God is NOT at our beck and call. God isn’t going to spoil us and do everything for us. He didn’t save Jesus from his fate, no matter how hard he prayed. They both knew it had to happen, and that’s the thing. “I do not offer comfort”, as he himself is known to have said. And lets not forget what God said to Solomon in the book of Kings:

    5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
    6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
    7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
    10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.

    So yes, if you pray, make sure it is reasonable!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Ionzone.As Jesus is God the second ‘person’ of the Blessed Trinity and Christianity is the belief in Christ Jesus our Saviour, I think that God as a person is a Christian.

  15. johnbunting says:

    Ah, yes;
    “…….But who pretender is, and who the king;
    God bless my soul, that’s quite another thing”.

    • ionzone says:

      Well there is always that argument, but the quote is really for illustrative purposes. Solomon does not ask for riches or long life, but to rule fairly. That is, I think, the essence of a good prayer – one that is in line with what Jesus taught about humility and so on. If Solomon ever really had this conversation is, of course, moot. He himself admits it was a dream.

      “I think that God as a person is a Christian.”

      That, I think, is highly debatable. After all, Christ’s teachings are from God to us. God, as someone who is not human and does not have any being we can comprehend with our weak senses is above these teachings by definition.

      • ionzone says:

        To be honest, I think John L nailed it in his last post and JamesH in his first, so there really isn’t much more for me to add.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Ion Zone.
        Yes God is Love! But Jesus is the 2nd person and ‘equal’ to the Father, He is the head of the Church so therefore as the Church is a Christian Church he has to be one too.
        I don’t believe it is debatable.. He took on our human nature as a Jew but He is now the Body of the Christian Church He came to establish.
        That does not mean we all are not his children to be one Fold and one Shepherd.,which we will all be in the end of the world.He is the way the Truth and the Life.
        But others may have a different belief.and wish to debate it.
        Thank you I did like your comment though-but felt I had to say this, and I am not criticizing you..

  16. Horace says:

    I m surprised that no one has mentioned the answer that Jesus himself gave when asked “Lord teach us to pray”.

    “The first and most important thing is to declare our belief in, and commitment to, God.
    Then to acknowledge our dependence on him in our daily lives.
    Following this we should resolve to make our behaviour conform to the ideals that he has taught us.
    And – ask God to help us avoid wrongdoing.”

    Is this simply a ‘comforting fantasy’?

  17. mike Horsnall says:

    “If a whole family are wiped out by a tsunami what is the “greater good” that emerges?”

    I have some sympathy with Rahners objection. It does seem very difficult to see the Tsumani or the holocaust as being part of Gods providential provision out of which good may emerge. One can of course fantasise solutions along this line such as the Holocaust bringing about a return to Israel and the overhelming surge of help following the Tsunami as an opportunity for Grace in abundance. Personally I cannot accept this way of thinking and see it as a cynical and twisted calculus. I wonder if anyone else has any tentative thoughts on this difficult issue?

    • St.Joseph says:

      The way I see it is that natural disasters when they happen we can ask ourselves how they happen and wonder if it is because it is something to do with our neglect as to how we should look after the natural world that God made in the beginning and left us in charge.
      He does’t intervene unless He thinks it is right to do so.
      The Lord can change man’s will if we listen to Him.But then we all have to be of the same mind at the same time,and there lies the problem.
      How many thousands of years will it take to convert the world.
      We have good science and bad science-some for the good and other for our destruction plus a free will.
      We are up against a world that has no faith.We had governments that believed in God, now it is a man’s world.

      • Rahner says:

        The idea that all the natural disasters that have occurred are a result of human neglect is absurd…

  18. St.Joseph says:

    I said above ‘we can ask ourselves how they happen and wonder’!!!!

    Rahner you seem to believe that is absurd-can you come up with the you seem to know.? Tell me.!

    • Rahner says:

      Wonder? What is there to wonder about? Surely as a traditional Catholic you accept the teaching, set out in the CCC, that suffering and death are a consequence of human sin?

      • St.Joseph says:

        What on earth are you talking about-I think you have got your wires crossed a little.
        Read my comment properly! If it is unclear to you ask me,and I will explain it to you.
        BTW. I would not consider myself as a traditional Catholic-what gives you that idea-there is only one kind as far as I know!

  19. johnbunting says:

    As a point of interest in the context of this discussion, may I ask how many of us here have ever read Schrödinger’s ‘Mind and Matter’ (Cambridge, 1956) ?
    Worth reading I think, for his ideas on time, consciousness, and the science/religion question.

  20. Quentin says:

    In one respect at least I think that Advocatus Diaboli has done us a service this time in making us think about the whole question of prayer of petition. And I do believe that he is right in his claim that we are unable to demonstrate a relationship between our prayers and their results.

    But the point has been made that it is hard, and perhaps impossible, to understand the process of prayer without in fact the experience of faith in God and an active prayer-life.

    First, I think that prayer and its effects are a matter of faith. We are often exhorted to pray by Jesus, in the Gospels. We are told that we must be ready to persist in prayer. We are told that God will not answer our prayers unless the answer is to be for our benefit. We are explicitly taught how to pray, and the Our Father includes “give us this day our daily bread”. In the Garden we learn that, whatever our wishes may be, we must accept the will of God first. So, even if I don’t understand how the process works, I know for certain that it is what I am required to do. But in fact I find great consolation and closeness in prayer; if that’s a fantasy then it’s a good one to experience!

    Sussexcatholic writes of the ‘the marvelous economy of Grace’ by which through prayer our will and God’s will can be blended. We do not know how it happens but I am sure that this is right. And here we need to remember that God is not a bloke in a beard – he knows from the beginning what will happen, including what prayers the faithful will make. His wishes for the world can easily take our prayers into account.

    And of course so many of my prayers have been answered. I am not bothered about whether the answers might have come without my prayer. All I know is that I have asked, and have been given, and am grateful

    • St.Joseph says:

      A little thought came into my head in what you say ‘he knows from the beginning what will happen’.
      If someone has a car accident , do you mean that God foresee’s that .
      I am not questioning your post-just interested in the thought !

      You are right about answers to prayer in your last sentence- but that won’t satisfy AD.,he is looking for proof. Perhaps he might find that by looking at the Lourdes Miracles and the spiritual cures we receive through pilgrimages and all the time in the Sacraments.
      It is not only asking in prayer that our needs are answered,

      • Quentin says:

        ‘Foreseeing’ is a human word in that we picture God seeing a future event. But nothing of what we might see as past, present or future is absent from God’s knowledge in the eternal present. While we have to use descriptions based on our human experience in space and time we must always remain aware that the whole reality escapes us.

    • Singalong says:

      Thank you, Quentin, for such a positive and satisfying account.

      There is another aspect which I have been wondering about, which is the reply Christ gave to his disciples when they had been unable to heal an afflicted child, Mark 9.29, and Matthew 17.21, that this kind of evil spirit cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting. I believe different translations vary in their inclusion of fasting, but it is mentioned quite often in writings about the spiritual life, though not as much as in the past, and by Our Lady at Fatima and Medjugorge particularly.

      I think that perhaps it might apply particularly to petitions which we make about the effects of sin and evil. It is harder to accept when God does not seem to answer these sort of prayers, for society in general, or for individuals. Does He want us to pray more intensely, and do more in the way of fasting or penance, before He can bring about the changes we are asking for?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Perhaps the prayer to St Michael ought not to have stopped also the Last Gospel of St John after Mass on Sundays.
        It began to ‘safeguard us from the snares of the Satan and ‘to thrust down to Hell all the wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls’.
        I am sure you will know that!
        We say it after the Rosary-but it did need to be publicly prayed. after Holy Mass as the Holy Father asked.
        A lot of prayers were stopped after Vatican 2, including Benediction- it was not necessary to do that along with others things.
        Our children’s generation missed a lot in the prayer life of the Church and schools.,and also in the home.

  21. johnbunting says:

    I hope the post to St. Joseph appeared correctly; I accidentally added a j to my username! Here it is again, to be sure:
    St. Joseph,
    I don’t think ‘foresee’ is quite the right word here. I think of God as ‘outside’ time, so events that appear to us as being in the past, present or future are all equally apparent to God.
    It is perhaps a little easier to see that God is also ‘outside’ space. Within space, He would see some things as nearby, and others as distant, or in different directions; whereas in fact all things are equally ‘near’ to God.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Thank you . On the other hand I was thinking about our free will and how God interferes in that. I know it is complicated to explain- but there must be a time when we choose our ‘own destiny’.,through our own faults and failures
      100 years ago I was not born but my parents life was chosen by themselves how they behaved and put the future into effect and then I came along.
      God see it all from the beginning, does one think?
      My father was on leave from the war and I was conceived-did God plan ‘me’ did God know that my father would survive etc etc.. and if my parents would be in Heaven!
      One could blow their brains out if one was that way inclined. Just thoughts.

      • Quentin says:

        On this question of God’s ability to foresee what we will do without taking away freewill, I was once given the picture of looking downwards from the corner of a skyscraper and seeing two cars on course to hit each other at the corner. We know that it’s going to happen but the car drivers are free to choose.

        However I am not sure that this kind of illustration really helps. The fact is that we have no experience of such things as absence of space or time — so, whatever we imagine is going to be incorrect. We know what they aren’t, not what they are.

        A very famous medieval Jewish philosopher, called Moses Maimonides, taught that every time we say that God has not got this characteristic nor that, we get a mite closer to understanding what God is. God is defined by what he is not.

        This gives us an idea of the ineffable (notice, a negative word) mystery of God. The more we try to shrink him to fit our imaginations the further we get from understanding him. So what is the answer? Jesus told us in one sentence: “He who has seen me has seen the father.” To me that is the most wonderful sentence in the whole of Scripture.

        That is why AD cannot see. He is trying to grasp realities that are beyond the human mind, however sincere and thoughtful it is. The realities of God can only be grasped through faith

    • Quentin says:

      John, you were recognised as a ‘new user’, and came through for moderation. So I have deleted that.

  22. johnbunting says:

    Quentin, the verse you quote seems closely related to St John’s “No man has seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, who is one with the Father, has declared Him to us”. But then Paul says “Now we see as in a glass, darkly”. So the truth is, I think, that in Christ we see enough of God for our present needs. It reminds me of Keats, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”.

  23. St.Joseph says:

    .That reminded me of my mother who when I was very young and always asking questions of ‘why and what’ and ‘if’ she used to say ‘God is a mystery’ and we will never know the answers until we die! Just Trust in Him.!
    But then we do think about it sometimes!

  24. St.Joseph says:

    Just another little thought.
    St Padre Pio told a story , One time a woman came to confession and he did not give her penance,but told her to go to a certain hill and pray and then come back to confession again.
    She did and this happened a few times. On the last time a man in white stood before her in a vision. She went back to confession and asked Padre Pio to explain it to her. This is what he told.
    ‘That man you saw was your aborted baby who you did not mention in confession’!.
    I wonder (maybe I shouldn’t )however- if we die young or aborted would that mean that we will become in the next life what we would have been before we died.
    Of course we will not know the answer.Just another thought.
    Oh dear I can hear my grandmother saying ‘hold your tongue’ I think I used to bother her as well as my mother.

  25. Mike Horsnall says:

    I was reading the other day the thought that when God made the heavens and the earth he did so not as a completed object but in a state of journeying. This made so much sense to me that I found myself practically jumping up and down. So much of our difficulty with understanding (and praying) comes from the fact that we see ourselves, God, things, explanations …as fixed and unchangeable states. But we are heading towards completeness-not there yet, journey not done and we cannot see around the corner. I wonder about our current scriptural understanding as much as I wonder about our current understanding of the physical world about us.

    So to go back to Quentins imperfect analogy of the cars, I often think of the whole thing as a mountain range..the little ridge I happen to be on occupies all of my ‘time’ quite literally-but God looks at the whole range. The state of journeying has application to natural disaster in that the unfixed nature of the earth-its adaptability if you like, demands change and change in gelogical terms demands earthquakes and floods, without these phenomena there would be no earth and no life at all. I think disasters affect humanity so much partly because peoples are consigned to live in unsafe areas because of war greed or simple waste of resource-so our shared ‘evolution’ through the thousands of years certainly interacts with the physical constraints of the journeying earth to produce an effect. Teihard de Chardin -the geologist/jesuit of course had much to say on the spiritual ‘evolution’ of mankind as a species. Though he was on the proscribed list for awhile (I think) his writings remain of interest

    • Rahner says:

      The idea that creation was always made in a “state of journeying” is attractive, and, as you suggest, coheres with a broadly evolutionary world view. Of course, accepting this idea would mean putting aside the traditional view of the creation/fall.

      • Mike Horsnall says:

        Rahner, Aren’t you tired of that old chestnut yet? You know there is no belief in the literality of the story-nor even any pretence of such. You also know that ‘journeying ‘ can encompass a fall away and a return, you know that most odf the storying in the bible points to such a rythmn…time to turn over and start a new day I think.

    • Singalong says:

      Thank you, Mike, I think the whole concept, and your thoughts about journeying very stimulating. I suppose it is another way of describing change, and part of the explanation for growth and decay, and would include the inevitability of illnesses and health problems, and friction and conflict in human history. I don`t anticipate that heaven will be static either, the best of both worlds . . .

  26. St.Joseph says:

    Back to Quentins cars.
    I was thinking if we were able to move them we obviously would.
    But God knows better and probably does alter things as He thinks fit, with out prayer.

    What I was wondering before is (for Rahner’s interest)’ How much damage do we do to the natural world to the environment through ignorance when we think we are doing good.’ Nothing to do with sin! Just man’s incompetence .

  27. Iona says:

    Thinking about Rahner’s example of a family being totally wiped out in the tsunami, and asking where is the good in that? And I thought, first of all, it would have been worse if only some of the family had died, and maybe just one member was left, – the survivor would have been bereft, all his/her network of close relationships gone. So, better for all to go together.
    Secondly, because of the huge loss of life in the tsunami, I understand the Indian Ocean now has an efficient early warning system in place. A good outcome from a devastating tragedy.
    I’m sure many of us could think of a “thirdly” and a “fourthly” if we tried. I’m equally sure that whatever was thought of, Rahner would scoff at, maintaining that it would have been so much better if the tsunami hadn’t happened in the first place. But to argue that tragedies should never happen calls into question how bad an event has to be before it can be called a tragedy, and if we want God not to allow even minor tragedies to happen, I suspect we will reach a point where absolutely nothing should happen, including creation in the first place. (Which is probably what Mike Horsnall was saying).

    • St.Joseph says:

      When we look back to Genesis and the beginning when every thing was perfect and Adam and Eve were in the state of perfect grace made in the image of God in their soul,
      then were sent out of Paradise-we could ask what would the natural effects of the environment be if they had not sinned.(just thinking about Rahners comment) and what he meant!
      We speak about them as being sent out of Paradise to toil the land and work until we die and the second coming for us (if we die in (grace) will be a new heaven but will it be a new earth . I wonder if ‘then’ will there be no natural disasters.
      Was heaven and earth joined together in the beginning ,and will it the be the same as then at the second coming. This may not suit the evolutionists mind but their thoughts would be welcome for me to hear.

  28. Iona says:

    No, St. Joseph, – you’re talking to us on the blog!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Yes Iona, I know but there are many who think it is a fairy tale some of the things some of us say ! Still it is good to have different thoughts on different subjects, and if we can do it with honesty, and mostly a sense of humour.and still remain friends we will learn from each other-which I can say I honestly have- lots of things I never knew or even heard of!.
      Also learning to use a computer as I I didn’t know a thing about it until I started the blog-and still learning .

  29. Iona says:

    I have a difficulty with thinking of environmental disasters having started only after the Fall (of Adam and Eve). This is because geology and other sciences seem to have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that there was a great deal of geological time, and a great many living creatures, before there were any human beings; and this pre-historical time included many events which we would surely think of as environmental disasters, – volcanic eruptions, asteroid strikes – which wiped out huge numbers of animals and plants. The Fall may have – certainly must have – had an effect on our social environment, but I don’t think it can account for earthquakes, volcanoes, asteroids, sunspot activity etc.
    Except maybe in an “outside time” kind of way, which I can’t readily get my head round.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Yes I can see your point.
      However we don’t know when Adam and Eve were created it could have been long before any of the natural disasters.
      It could have taken man and women billions and billions of years to develop on the earth-and to write Genesis and maybe this is the earth with all its eruptions that Adam and Eve were sent too- to suffer all these disasters as you say from ‘outside time’After all that is what we are going back to. – when we die our spirit is in another dimension.Earth being the place we were cast out too, .Although I can not understand the evolutionists thinking that humans developed from the animal world-and believing in Angels as well.!!
      Maybe the earth will burn up and all those left in will be the ones who live in it and will be their hell.
      Any way in the end the Truth is ‘we needed a Saviour’ and we got one in Jesus Christ-really that is all that matters to us as Christians.

  30. John Nolan says:

    From the Great War:

    God heard the embattled nations sing and shout
    ‘Gott strafe England!’ ‘God save the King!’
    ‘God this, God that, and God the other thing!’
    ‘My God’, said God, ‘I’ve got my work cut out.’

  31. Iona says:

    That made me laugh, John Nolan!
    St. Joseph – intriguing idea, that Adam and Eve may have been created somewhere quite different, and been sent to inhabit Planet Earth only after the Fall.

    • St.Joseph says:

      ‘Yes’ all things are possible.When we think about it,it will be a new Heaven and a new earth-not where we are now, where we wont need to work ,sounds like Heaven to me.All the people who will be able to live in peace,we wont need for anything, all living in Love.with Jesus Our Blessed Mother the Angels and Saints.etc. Our Lady looks good when She visits us! It could blow our mind thinking about it!

  32. johnbuntingj says:

    It occurs to me that AD knows quite a lot about us, both from what we say here and from Christian belief in general, as expressed in the Creeds, whereas we don’t know much about him apart from the fact that he disagrees with us. How would you describe yourself, AD? Atheist, agnostic, materialist? None of the above?
    Atheists are of course ready to tell you what they don’t believe, but if you say, “OK then, what do you believe?”, they often say, “Oh, I don’t do belief: I need evidence”.Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Well, no, because we are dealing here with things about which no certain evidence is possible, in the scientific sense of the word, which is what they want. That applies whether you believe in God or not. The point is that specific beliefs and practices, such as prayer, don’t exist in a vaccuum: they are part of a total world view, and if you reject one such view, is your mind a complete blank on the matter? For example, to believe in God, for Christians, means to believe that the material universe was consciously created. If you reject that, do you have some other view of it? Did it arise by pure chance? Because it has some inherent inevitability, and couldn’t possibly not exist? None of these scenarios can be proved beyond doubt, so aren’t we all going for the one that we think is most likely?
    As for belief, I tend to use the word for things where there is insufficient evidence to be certain, as we often do in everyday life. The Creed begins, “I believe…….”, not “I know”; so a statement of belief is not a claim to absolute certainty, although of course people may vary greatly in their own personal feeling of doubt or certainty.
    Thinking about all this, I had a vague memory of reading Locke, many years ago, and looked him up to check:
    “Where is the man that has incontestable evidence of the truth of all that he holds, or of the falsehood of all he condemns, or can say that he has examined to the bottom all his own, or other men’s, opinions? The necessity of believing without knowledge, nay often upon very slight grounds, in this fleeting state of action and blindness we are in, should make us more busy and careful to inform ourselves than constrain others”.

  33. johnbunting says:

    Trouble with the username again: can’t get rid of the incorrect one!

    • St.Joseph says:

      If I am reading you right, I agree with what you say.
      Who can’t define faith, I would say it is gift to accept of which we are meant to believe.
      Those who are not spiritual bodies will not understand that, to me it is in our bones, our very existence from the soul.
      Some people are cradle Catholics and other Christians from birth,and still don’t believe, others can be converted in an instant like St Paul, we call it Grace but maybe it is something that is more deeper than that.A calling from God.

      I believe not because I know, it is something inside that tells me and it has always been like that for me-all the knowledge I learned in later years in sermons books HV encyclicals
      or other writings were not ‘important’ (but only made me think more ) only confirmed what I already believed.
      Now AD will never understand that, He will have to become like a little child! And pray for him.

  34. Geordie says:

    Good post John Bunting. I particularly liked your quote from Locke. It’s a pity Dawkins and co. can’t stop trying to constrain others. It would be much more beneficial if they made a greater effort to inform themselves.
    Why is there a universal craving for the infinite? Why are we never satisfied? As Christians we believe we have the answer to these questions but does AD ever consider them?
    I agree that it is time AD came clean and informed us of what exactly he does accept.

  35. Singalong says:

    I think AD is trying to subject our prayers of petition to a system of quality control which is not suitable for this activity, as other contributions have mentioned.

    However, it has got me thinking, and given me several ideas and questions over the last few days, so he must be doing some good, which probably was not his intention.

    I wonder how far almighty God has made Himself dependant on our asking for favours, graces and blessings. He wants us to ask, does He delay granting them until we do, and deny them altogether if we don`t?

    We have a good Catholic friend who has recently died. A relative has arranged for his funeral to be at the local Crematorium, and due to the circumstances of his illness he did not receive the Sacrament of the Sick either. There will be a Requiem Mass for him later, but we hope he is not missing out in the meantime. We wonder who will pray for us, after our deaths, if our children are not devout enough to do so. How important is the practice of arranging for Masses to be offerred indefinitely, we think of the endowment of chantries by the wealthy in mediaeval times for this purpose.

    If we do not bother to pray for those in need spiritually or materially, will God really not intervene? Could their salvation really depend on us, and our own, if others are not praying for us likewise? How far are we all dependant on each other`s prayers? It is a great responsibility, but it seems rather random, and hard on people whose needs are not individually prayed for. I know that prayers are never wasted, that if we pray for someone who has died and who is no longer in Purgatory, for instance, that someone else will benefit from the prayers. Does this happen across the board so to speak?

    AD no doubt will be sorry to hear that as a result of all this thinking, I am planning to spend
    some time during the approaching weeks of Lent in reading about the whole subject of prayer, and i would welcome any suggestions, but not from him.

    On a technical note, my name became highlighted when I mistakenly signed up with Word Press to get the email comments which hadn`t been coming through, and it now tells me that cannot be undone.

    • St.Joseph says:

      You said you would welcome any suggestions on reading about the whole subject of prayer.
      The Catechism of the Catholic Church has so much information on prayer.
      So much reading not only informative but beautiful. That is the thing I found with the CCC that it is not only for the info it provides ,but the sheer beauty the way it gives us an understanding of the Truth of what our Church teaches.
      A truly special Gift from God.

      On the technical note too .I can not get e.mails from Word Press and I have tried many many times.

      • Anne Smith says:

        Thank you for this suggestion St. Joseph, I will certainly be reading it, and I am sure I will appreciate it as you describe.

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