The Resurrection Myth Myth

Resurrection IICatholicism commemorates the life and teachings of Christ by means of the liturgical year.  Through specific days and seasons, the events of our Lord’s earthly ministry are prayerfully recalled, proclaimed, celebrated, and studied.  Unfortunately, the same is true for the opponents of the ancient faith.  They, too, follow the liturgical year, and through various media channels, present their best refutations of the mysteries of Christianity precisely as we’re commemorating them.  For example, during Advent, programs will appear on television or elsewhere explaining that many different religions contain prophecies about a future Messianic figure.  At Christmas, it will be asserted that the world abounds with ancient myths about demi-goods coming down from heaven through a miraculous virgin birth.  Lent will be paralleled with scientific claims that it is demonstrably impossible for a human being to fast for forty days and forty nights.  And Easter will resound with claims that paganism has always had its share of resurrecting deities, so that Christianity is only more of the same.

The intended effect of these impious efforts is to undermine the truths of the Christian religion by making them appear ordinary, even boring, as if they offered nothing new but were only reiterations of the same old redundant doctrines.  But is it logical to claim that an event or belief is necessarily false simply because a similar event or belief can be found at an earlier time?  Must there be a connection between two similar things, so that the only rational explanation is that the younger borrowed from the older?  No, this is not at all logical or necessary.  It would be like claiming that two people who looked alike must have the same parents, or that if two people shared the same name, then the younger person must have derived their name from the older.  Two things can be quite similar but unrelated.  In ordinary life, we all realize this.  But sadly, when claims are made against Christian belief in this “documentary” or by that “expert,” the faithful often quickly collapse in a state of embarrassment and doubt.

Such claims are hypocritical and would never be made about other politically and culturally protected groups.  By contrast, Catholics are assaulted for their beliefs on all sides.  They are condemned as being founded on ignorance and even hatred.  Ironically, the world that denies the existence of truth and moral absolutes proclaims that the Church’s doctrines are certainly false and her moral teachings absolutely wrong.  The world that demands tolerance, open-mindedness, diversity, and non-judgmentalism from everyone then denies them to the faithful, so that Catholicism can be openly and publically derided.

There are several standard arguments presented by critics that attempt to undermine the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  One or another is popularly presented to us during the Resurrection season, in an attempt to shame the faithful and mock the faith; but of equal gravity is the desire to prevent non-believers from ever embracing the faith.  For now, however, I would like to focus on an argument that attempts to go above and beyond these petty arguments by questioning the very historicity of the Resurrected One.  It seeks, not merely to disprove the Resurrection, but to eliminate from existence the One who Resurrected.  It may be occasionally used by the professional intellectual classes, but it is more often heard from the ordinary folk, from our own relatives, friends, or acquaintances who generally put little effort into such religious argumentation.  The objection is this:

“Christianity is founded on a myth.  The hero of the religion – Jesus Christ – never even existed.  He was probably invented by an individual or group of overly fervid apocalyptic-minded Jews who wanted to make a name for themselves.  Borrowing ideas from other ancient religions, they merely gave a new twist to old themes and characters.  Thus, the Gospel is pure legend, and the world fell for the lie.”

The power behind this claim is found in its vagueness.  There is hardly a single detail a Catholic could identify, isolate, and discuss.  It sounds historical, and yet there is nothing historically concrete about it.  Rather than an actual argument, it is more of a broad swipe that wipes away the whole subject, leaving nothing to debate.  And because it poses as a historical claim, it deserves a historical response.

As stated above, the “borrowing” claim is pure presumption.  It is entirely possible that two or more religions could contain similar ideas, while only one of those religions was free from error.  There is nothing illogical about this possibility.  A variation on this notion of odds is the claim that, in light of the many thousands of “gods” proposed by the world’s religions, it is impossible that one religion could proclaim the one true God, while all the others proclaimed only false gods.  This view is also illogical.  It is entirely possible that there could be only one true God among a myriad of false gods, just as it is true that, among the billions of parents that exist, only one pair is truly mine.  The mere fact of the vast number of parents throughout the world does not make it one iota more likely that I may have several or more mothers and fathers.  Odds have nothing to do with some equations, and nothing at all to say about mysteries and the supernatural order.  For the deeper truths of religion are not contrary to reason, but above it, and are therefore accessible only through divine revelation.  This is one of the reasons religion is so despised: it strikes at the root of human pride.  It does not and will not submit to man’s limited lights, nor to his egotistical desire to believe he intellectually grasps all things.  For according to the rationalist, any concept that man does not understand should be rejected.  But even science disproves the sensibility of this precept on a daily basis.

If the above objection that Christ is only a myth is correct, then it should be the case that there were no mentions of Jesus during the first or second centuries, outside of the New Testament.  This is the only period of time that matters, because no other era would have had certain firsthand or at least reliable secondhand knowledge of the question.  But such is not the case.  There are both Jewish and non-Jewish references to Christ during this time period.

But first, it should be appreciated that the sacred writers of the New Testament understood their faith to be grounded on real objective factual events and facts, and their writings reflect this.  Saint Luke began his Gospel in this way:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.”

In the third chapter, the same evangelist wrote,

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan , preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

If one is about to invent a myth out of the blue, one does not begin by citing an assortment of verifiable characters and circumstances.  One wouldn’t dare.

Saint Peter presented his teaching in a similar way, Recalling Christ’s Transfiguration on the Mount, he wrote,

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain’ (2 Pet. 1:16-18).

Saint John witnessed to the tangibility of Gospel events in a similar way.  Beginning his First Letter, he declared,

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you….”

These four passages contain, not the language of fantasy, but that of reality and history.  And moving on from the initial Christian witness, we can find many non-Christian testimonies as well.

 

Jewish References to Jesus

The Talmud is a Jewish collection of rabbinical writings composed between the years 70 and 500 AD.  It contains many insulting remarks about Jesus and even claims that, after the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, Jesus remained there and studied magic; later, He practiced the black arts in Palestine and, as a result, made a name for Himself and gained a number of dedicated followers.

The specific insulting claims found in the Talmud are irrelevant.  All that matters is that the references are to Jesus Christ.  The Jews did not claim He never existed; rather, they sought to distort and discredit His character and work.  So, one passage says,

“On the eve of the Passover, Yeshu was hanged.  For forty days before the execution took place, a herald…cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.”

“Yeshu” is Jesus’ name in Hebrew.  He was executed on the “Eve of the Passover.”  And Holy Scripture indeed refers to crucifixion as a sort of hanging.  Saint Paul wrote,

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree” (Gal. 3:13; Dt. 21:23; Lk. 23:39).

The charge of sorcery most likely came from the Pharisees’ inability to deny Christ’s miracles, including His exorcisms.  After all, they authorities publically witnessed them.  The worst they could do was to denounce them as being evil in origin.  Hence, after Jesus had liberated a mute demoniac, the Pharisees objected,

“He casts out demons by the prince of demons” (Mt. 9:34).

On another occasion, after our Lord had liberated a blind and mute demoniac, the Pharisees said,

“It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons” (Mt. 12:24).

Josephus was born in 37 or 38 AD.  He was a Pharisee as well as a military leader in the Jewish uprising against Rome in 70 AD that eventually led to the destruction of the city and the temple.  For a while, he was imprisoned by the Roman emperor Vespasian, but was later freed.  He died 100 A. D.

Josephus is famous for a work entitled Jewish Antiquities, written in 93-94, that recounted the entire history of the Jewish people.

“Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man.  He drew over to Him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles.  And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned Him to the Cross, those that loved Him at the first did not forsake Him.  And the tribe of Christians, so named from Him, is not extinct at this day.”

We can forgive Josephus his derogatory reference to the Church as a “tribe,” for the simple reason that, as with so many of the Church’s other enemies, in writing against her, they left us a precious ancient historical record of the existence of Christ and His disciples.  In the end, they have actually helped us!

Josephus also wrote,

“[Ananus] assembled the Sanhedrin of the judges and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.”

Incidentally, the description of James (the “lesser” or “younger”) as the “brother of Jesus” is in accord with the Jewish custom of referring to cousins as brothers.  He is described in the New Testament as the son of Alpheus (Mt. 10:3; Mk. 3:18; Lk. 6:15) and a Mary other than the Mother of Jesus.  The Gospel of Saint Mark records that, at the scene of Christ’s crucifixion,

“There were also women looking on from afar, among them whom were…Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses…” (Mk. 15:40).

This James the younger, then, was the son of Alpheus and Mary, the brother of Joses, and the cousin of Jesus.

 

Pagan References to Jesus

In addition to these ancient Jewish references to Christ, there are several pagan accounts as well.

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus was a Roman historian who served as director of the imperial library under Emperor Trajan and as private secretary under Emperor Hadrian.  He lived from 69-140 AD.  Suetonius composed The Twelve Caesars – a history of the Roman emperors from Augustus to Domition.  In this work, he wrote

“Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from the city.”

“Chrestus” is the name by which the ancient Romans wrongly but repeatedly referred to Jesus Christ, while they sometimes called the followers of Our Lord “Chrestians.”  The Jewish disturbances and expulsion Suetonius mentioned are referred to in the Acts of the Apostles:

“And he [Paul] found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, lately come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome” (Acts 18:2).

Suetonius also recorded that, under the emperor Nero,

“Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.”

Nero was a notorious persecutor of the early Church, and reigned from 54-68 AD.  This evidence for the existence of Christians obviously implies the previous existence of Christ.

Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a Roman historian and politician who lived from 55-117 AD.  He wrote two famous works, the Annals and the Histories.  In the former book, Tacitus recorded the plight of the Christians under Nero.  In 64 A.D. a massive fire destroyed much of Rome.  The common belief was that it was set by Nero, but the emperor blamed it on the Christians.  Tacitus wrote,

“All human efforts…did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order.  Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace.  Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular….Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths.  Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt to serve a sa nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”

This excerpt contains a remarkable amount of accurate information.  It states that the name “Christian” was given by the populace, these Christians already existed at the turn of the second century, and they were followers of a Christ who was executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate.  And in spite of the execution of their Founder and the persecution of His followers, the religion continued to spread throughout Judea and to Rome.

Gaius Plinius Caecilius served as imperial legate of Bithynia (modern northern Turkey) under Emperor Trajan.  He lived from 61-114 AD.  The Christian religion had been accepted by many Bithynians, and as a result, pagan worship was rapidly falling away.  Because this concerned Pliny, he wrote to Trajan for advice in governing the people as a whole and dealing with the Christians.  He explained,

“For the moment, this is the line I have taken with all persons brought before on the charge of being Christians.  I have asked them in person if they are Christians, and if they admit it, I repeat the question a second and a third time, with a warning of the punishment awaiting them.  If they persist, I order them to be led away for execution.  For, whatever the nature of their admission, I am convinced that their stubbornness and unshakeable obstinacy ought not to go unpunished.”

Pliny continued,

“Others…said that they had ceased to be Christians….They also declared that the sum total of their guilt was this: they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god, and also to bind themselves by oath, not for any criminal purpose, but to abstain from theft, robbery, and adultery, to commit no break of trust and not to deny a deposit when called upon to restore it.  After this ceremony, it had been their custom to disperse and reassemble later to take food of an ordinary harmless kind….”

This letter reveals that Christians at the turn of the first century worshipped Christ on a particular day of the week through the chanting of verses, observed a strict a moral law higher than that of paganism, and, as a religious act, shared in some sort of a meal.

 

The Vagueness of the Objection

In light of the above evidence, it is clear the claim that Jesus Christ never existed is simply absurd.  The historical evidence for His existence is found in Christian, Jewish, and pagan sources.  But a proper and full response must address another aspect of the objection – its convenient vagueness.  It lacks specifics of any kind, so that a series of questions should be asked in response.  They are the following:

Who invented the so-called Christian myth?  Is it known with certainty?  Have many scholars found and named the person?  And are they all in substantial agreement about the details of his or her identity?

When did this person invent the Christian myth?  Was it at the time of John the Baptist, or is he, too, a part of the myth?  This is important, because the early first century was a time of fervid Messianic expectation.  The Jews were expecting the Messiah to appear precisely when Christ the “myth” did.

Where was the Christian myth invented?  Was it in Palestine or Egypt?  Was it in Rome?  Perhaps it was in Atlantis?

Why was the Christian myth invented?  What was the motive?  Considering that it is known the early Christians were horrifically persecuted, tortured, and executed on a mass scale until the beginning of the fourth century, why on earth would anyone bring such misery upon themselves and their family and friends?

Considering the superb organization of the Roman Empire and its military forces, how did a miniscule band of pacifistic religious commoners effectively convert the empire to a lie, and without a shred of political influence or military might of their own?

If Christianity had been concocted out of thin air, the ancient world of the time – both Jews and gentiles, religious and irreligious – would have risen up in one consistent voice against the early Church and insisted, “Jesus Christ never even existed, and you know it!”  It would have been the only refutation needed against the new religion.  But this was not the cry of the first-century non-Christian world, for the obvious reason that many of those who had personally witnessed the teachings and miracles of Christ were still alive, and those He had healed or liberated from demonic possession were still walking about.  And the next generation received the same accounts from those whom they knew and trusted.  Only after a substantial amount of time had passed could the claim be made that Jesus Christ never existed.

Until the persons who make the Christ-myth objection can answer all of the above questions, and until many scholars substantially agree on the details of their answers, the claim itself is only a wild wish.  More precisely, it is a myth – the myth myth.

The Transcendence of Christianity

 

Birth of ChristThere are many religions on the face of the earth. There are many spiritualities, philosophies, and world views.  And there are countless self-proclaimed preachers, prophets, visionaries, and reformers – most of whom claim to have the one truth that can set us free, the single uncorrupted interpretation of Scripture, or the final urgent end times message from heaven.  Our world is dense with religious demagogues peddling their wares, advertising the latest and greatest doctrines and morals for those in the market for a deluxe new and improved religion.  For the restless seeker of truth, who observes this often insincere marketing of religious ideas, it is only too tempting to dismiss the quest as simply hopeless.  Indeed, choosing a denomination, spirituality, or philosophy in the modern world can be comparable to shopping for cereal at a supermarket: you look to the left and the right, and see nothing but cereal to the vanishing point.  In the end, you choose the cereal that is the sweetest, the cheapest, or the nearest.  Or else, you go home and create your own.

And so it is with truth in the modern world, so that one is tempted to denounce the religious riddle as unsolvable. There is guidance, however, in the very word, “religion.”  The term “religion” is most likely derived from the Latin word, “religare,” meaning to tie, fasten, or bind.  The religious person ties, fastens, or binds himself to God. The essence of true religion is not in a person binding himself downwards to man, but in a the person binding himself upwards to God.  Hence, in Col. 3:1-2, St. Paul wrote,

“Therefore, if you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Mind the things that are above, not the things that are on earth.”

The movement and orientation of authentic religion, then, is upwards; it is vertical, rather than horizontal, transcendent, rather than mundane, and eternal, rather than temporal.  True religion directs the human mind above itself to the great and Supreme Other.  It summons the human person to follow, not the movements of the heart or the cravings of the passions, but instead, the designs and intentions of the eternal God above.

Hence, when a person discovers the living God and offers to Him their life, they experience a conversion.  The term “conversion” means a “turning.”  In a conversion, a person turns from one thing to another thing; they turn away from themselves and to God.  This entails the submitting of the free will and the person’s assorted beliefs to that which God has revealed.  For true religion consists, not only in what one believes, but also in what one does not believe.  Conversion requires that a person purge from their hearts and minds all that is contrary to the truth.

Religion that lacks conversion is a contradiction in terms.  If it instructs a person to turn, not away from themselves, but instead, to themselves, to dwell on their feelings and opinions with confidence and self-esteem, rather than on God and the truths He has revealed, then such a so-called religion is actually an anti-religion; it is the very opposite of true religion because it ties, fastens, and binds one downward to oneself.  Such a “spirituality” – as it is more often called – is only glorified self-absorption.  And that describes much modern religion – the glorification of the self.

Today, it is far more common for a person to convert a religion to himself rather than for a person to convert to a religion.  For example, consider a Catholic mother who has a homosexual son.  Religiously speaking, she has two options: either she can favor the faith, or she can favor her son.  If she favors the faith, then she will understand that homosexual acts are sinful and that loving her son means praying for him and helping him to resist his homosexual desires.  For if she loves him with a holy love, then she will desire his eternal salvation above all the passing pleasures of this life.  In other words, being converted to the true God and His truth, she will remain faithful, even in such a difficult and painful situation, and even if her son rejects her for it.  But if the mother instead favors her son over the faith, then she will make all sorts of excuses for him, speak of him only in glowing terms, and condemn the Church for having such harsh teachings.  In other words, she will convert the Catholic religion to her situation, and anything that the Church teaches that is critical of the homosexual life style she will claim is simply wrong and needs to be changed.  Hence, the conversion is headed in the wrong direction.  Ultimately, it is God who is being told that He must convert to her, and be tied, fastened, and bound downward to her!

Consider another common situation. Say, a Catholic man believes in reincarnation.  He likes the idea because, first, it seems to explain why bad things happen to good people, second, it acknowledges the existence of life after death, and third, it provides an escape from the finality of the Christian teaching on a final judgement immediately after this life.  Like the mother, this man has two choices; either he can favor the Catholic faith, or he can favor the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation.  If he favors the faith, then, after doing some catechetical and biblical research, he will firmly reject reincarnation as irreconcilable with Catholic teaching.  But if he favors reincarnation, then he will submit the teachings of the Church to a doctrine totally contrary to the faith, and to whatever degree he recognizes this conflict, he will say that it is Catholicism that is wrong and needs to change.  In other words, again, the conversion goes in the wrong direction; the faith is converted to the opinions of the man, so that it is tied, fastened, and bound downward to him.

Both of these common situations reveal the antithesis of true religion in which the self is regarded as the supreme being and the author and judge of all doctrines and morals.  They depose God and demand that He be the humble convert.

The life and teaching of Jesus Christ are thoroughly transcendent. He taught us to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”  When He prayed, blessed, healed, or restored the dead to life, he lifted His eyes upward.  He asserted that the first and foremost commandment was to love God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength, such that the other great commandment – the love of others – must always remain subservient to the first.  All the days of His earthly ministry, He spoke of his heavenly Father and of the Kingdom of God.  And when Our Lord departed this world, as if to offer us one final lesson, He ascended into heaven.  Jesus consistently emphasized the essential truth that His religion was a transcendent religion – one from heaven, teaching heavenly doctrines, bestowing heavenly grace, and leading its adherents to heaven.

The transcendent orientation of Christianity has always been manifested in the environments in which Catholics worshipped. The mind of the worshipper was drawn upward to God and the things of God by dignified ritual, language, gesture, music, and architecture.  Sanctuaries shimmered with the heavenly, with the finest vestments and sacred vessels, with pillars, arches, frescoes, stained-glass windows, and spires, all of which elevated the human mind and drew it upwards to the thought of the otherworldly and divine.  Even the distracted mind that wandered at Mass could be brought back to the godly by such purely religious designs.  And sacred music especially, chanted in sweet clouds of rising incense, rehearsed the human soul for the day of salvation.  Such internal and external religion served the internal and external nature of man.  It responded to the truth that the human being is an inescapably religious creature, such that the human heart burns for the supernatural and the mysterious, so that, without these, it withers and despairs.  The human being is by design and nature a religious being whose true vocation is not natural, but supernatural.  Man was made for God, to know Him, love Him, serve Him, and enjoy His divine presence for eternity.

How, then, may the spirit of man be most effectively broken? How best subjugate him with emptiness and misery?  Not with wars, poverty, injustice, and loneliness.  Rather, if the soul of man is to be broken, then let his religion be corrupted.  Take from the human person true religion, give a poor substitute in its place, and the source of man’s strength, virtue, mission, hope, and the very purpose for which he was created – eternal life with God – will all at once be lost.

Now, how may religion most effectively be corrupted? Simply, by reversing its orientation, by supplanting the transcendent with the mundane, the vertical with the horizontal, the upward with the downward, and the eternal with the temporal.  Let the Gospel of salvation become the Gospel of social justice.  Let Christ the Redeemer become Christ the community organizer.  Let the homilies offer, not exhortations to repentance and faith, but platitudes about self-esteem and self-love.  Let religious education offer, not sound catechesis, but a warm community experience.  Let churches be built with low ceilings, thick carpets, and loud PA systems.  Whitewash the frescoes, jack hammer the high altars, tear down the pillars, and shatter the stained-glass windows.  And the music?  Oh, fill the nave, not with that magnificent repertoire that has carried the faith through the ages, not with the Church’s music, but with the world’s music; not Gregorian chant and Palestrina’s motets, but with rock and jazz.  Celebrate Mass with…a polka band.  Forbid the use of Latin – that ancient language that rings with the sound of the sacred.  In a word, reverse the orientation so that the new religion of the new man will sing of human goodness and human achievements.  Let the hymns proclaim the greatness of our race and celebrate, not man’s need for God, but God’s need for us!

If it isn’t obvious, the foregoing litany of reversals is not imaginary, but an accurate accounting of the changes made to Catholicism over the last fifty years. It is as if the City of God had given way to the secular city.  And because true religion has been abandoned, man has been abandoned; or rather, man has liberated himself from his divine liberator.

This modern distortion of authentic Catholicism is unworthy of the name religion, for it ties, fastens, and binds man to this world and asks him to turn from, and be converted to, nothing.

But is there proof for the dramatic claims I’ve made?  Yes, I believe so.  The proof is found in the modern mass exodus of Catholics out of the Church.  Is this the result of the many clerical sex scandals?  Yes, in part.  But the sex scandals are part and parcel of the new religion of the new catholic.  After all, if the homilies we hear year after year are void of references to the divine and natural moral law, then why should we be surprised if the men who preach such homilies are found to be living immoral lives?  It actually makes perfect sense. They’re just practicing what they preach, or what they don’t preach, which is a pseudo-religion void of both morality and doctrine.  Hence, to state what should be obvious by now, the most rapidly declining religious body in the United States today is the Catholic Church.

Every single departure from the Catholic Church is a tragedy of eternal proportions. Each one is a repetition of the tragedies that followed our Lord’s Bread of Life Discourse, in which many of His disciples rejected Him specifically because they rejected His Eucharistic teaching.  And who was the most infamous member of this faithless band but Judas Iscariot himself, whose betrayal is first mentioned in relation to his Eucharistic unbelief.  In the midst of this mutiny, Jesus did not compromise His teaching.  He did not omit those truths which repelled the crowd, but maintained them simply because they were true.  Yes, He was the living Bread of Life, and to consume His Body and Blood would be to receive His divine life.  It was not mere metaphor, simile, or figures of speech; it was literally true.  His Flesh would be true food and His Blood true drink.  By means of His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist made present among the faithful by transubstantiation in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Christ would remain Emmanuel for all time – “God with us” by a sacramental mode of presence.

Such is the sacramental vocabulary that the Church developed over the centuries. Through controversies and necessary clarifications, the Church carefully refined her teaching, in order to express with precision the profound truths contained in Holy Scripture.  But the Apostles had no such benefits; they lacked such a developed sacramental theology, and yet they believed in the Person, Jesus Christ, in His divine authority, power, and nature.  Thus, when Our Lord turned to the twelve and asked, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered with the confidence of faith, saying,

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.”

After one has found the true God and the true religion, there is no other place to go, no other spiritual domain except that single domain of saving eternal truth.

So, where can a person go after leaving the one true Church of Jesus Christ? Where can a Catholic go after having at their daily disposal the fullness of God’s truth and grace for our salvation?  As a Catholic, and as an adult convert, I have a duty to publically confess that there is no other place to go, no comparable denomination, religion, spirituality, philosophy, or world view.  Catholicism, which is the fullness of the Christian religion, bears the totality of God’s gift to humanity in Christ, the truth and grace for which man was created.

On the topic of the various world religions, in the encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, Pope Saint Paul VI wrote,

“Obviously, we cannot agree with these various forms of religion, nor can we adopt an indifferent or uncritical attitude toward them on the assumption that they are all to be regarded as on an equal footing, and that there is no need for those who profess them, to enquire whether or not God has Himself revealed definitively and infallibly how He wishes to be known, loved, and served. Indeed, honesty compels us to declare openly our conviction that the Christian religion is the one and only true religion, and it is our hope that it will be acknowledged as such by all who look for God and worship Him” (#107).

All religions contain some truth. Even Satanism holds to certain ideas that are correct.  But some truth is only some truth.  God has far more for us than merely some truth.  Whereas the various world religions comprise man’s search for God, the Christian religion comprises God’s search for man.  In Christ, the one true God literally entered the human scene and shared in the human condition.  In the Incarnation, God literally walked among us, teaching us what we must believe and showing us how we must live.  In this revelation alone, humanity may find its answers and its peace of soul.

But why should any person believe such exclusive claims? And how, in the era of tolerance, diversity, and religious pluralism, can Christians still make such claims?  The answer is always the same: Jesus Christ.  For Christ is not merely the founder of another world religion.  He is not merely the priest and prophet of Christians.  He does not compare with Muhammad, Buddha, or Zoroaster.  These men were only the founders of their particular religions.

Christ is no mere founder of a religion. Rather, He is the Savior of the world and the only hope of salvation for the entire human race and every member of it.  He is, then the Savior of Muhammad, Buddha, and Zoroaster, if ever they could be saved.

Christianity is, then, Christ, and Christ is the living God come in human flesh to offer to His Father what no human being could offer – namely, a spotless human life made eternally valuable, due to the divine Person to which it was joined. Thus, it would be an insult to speak of Him as merely the founder of the Christian religion, for He is its God as well.  Thus, we sing at Christmas,

“God of God, Light of Light. Lo he abhors not the Virgin’s womb.  Very God, begotten, not created.  O Come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.”

Christ is divine, and therefore, Christianity is divine.