I'm a Catholic Bishop and Philosopher Who Loves Dialoguing with Atheists and Agnostics Online. AMA!

Bishop Barron,

I would describe myself as a lapsed Protestant whose faith life has been idle since high school. I am now in graduate school, will soon be married, and have begun to reproach my own metaphysical beliefs. I came across one of your videos on YouTube some time ago and have been strongly considering the Catholic Church ever since. I sincerely enjoyed your presentation of complex philosophical ideas and the intellectual depth I never knew really existed in Christianity. I have read your book "Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith", the book you co-wrote with John Allen "To Light a Fire on the Earth", and enjoyed watching the free screening of the "Catholicism" documentary series not too long ago. Currently I am working on G.K. Chesterton's book on Aquinas you have referenced in some of your material.

Needless to say I am reproaching my faith with absolutely nothing taken for granted and would describe my process as a methodical evaluation of everything, a rebuilding from the ground up. I would also describe myself as actively searching for answers. The honest truth is I vacillate between a form of deistic universalism and a true desire to become a Catholic. This relates directly to the two main issues/questions that hold me at this impasse and I would be very grateful and pleased if you would answer one or both of them.

  1. Throughout much of your material you have described God as something so far beyond the comprehension of man that we cannot even begin to attempt to comprehend. I think in the "To Light a Fire on the Earth" book you quote Pope Benedict XVI who said something to the effect that whenever you think you know God, stop because you do not. My question is, if God who is so far beyond the comprehension of man, who created the cosmos on a scale that is inconceivably massive, why then does God in the Catholic tradition seem so contradictory to this? If we really consider the scale of the cosmos and then consider that the creator of it all decided that in one particular part of the universe, in one particular super cluster of galaxies, in one particular insignificant galaxy, in one average solar system, on the third planet, he would decide that that was where he would create his people, he would designate a small patch of land on the eastern edge of a sea the “Holy Land” of the entire universe, where he would watch over his chosen people and eventually come in person to die and be resurrected. It seems very odd when considering the scale of the universe and a higher dimensional God that God would be so personal, create a plethora of rules, and put on such pageantry and mysticism throughout the Bible, for a species that on a cosmic scale is virtually nothing.

  2. I recently read a general audience statement from Pope John Paul II from 9 Sept 1998. In it he reiterated the Catholic stance that there are points of light in all religions of the world. He stated, “The various religions arose precisely from this primordial human openness to God. At their origins we often find founders who, with the help of God’s Spirit, achieved a deeper religious experience. Handed on to others, this experience took form in the doctrines, rites and precepts of the various religions.” My question is according to Catholic teachings; would a Buddhist, Muslim, or Hindu who diligently obeys the tenants of their religion, is God fearing and seeks to understand God in their tradition, who loves their family and lives a good and morally conscientious life, holds to their faith strongly, and through no fault of their own either never hears the Gospel or due to the aforementioned faith, rejects it, would that person be condemned? I know you have often given the answer that it is impossible to know if hell is full or empty but I think this is an important concept to at least have some answer to. People of other religions according to most Christian traditions would go to hell, because salvation is through Christ. But paradoxically when trying to spread the Christian faith to these groups it is precisely the people who have strong faith and who are God fearing and God seeking who will reject the Gospel, and those who are weak in their non-Christian faith who are most likely to accept it. This doesn’t even consider the billions of people who through no fault of their own never heard the gospel. I would even press this question further. Stephen Hawking died not long ago, he was an open atheist. When he arrived at St. Peter’s gate on the edge of heaven (metaphorically), what was he told? “Stephen, you diligently sought knowledge and a deeper understanding of the universe, you will be remembered for the rest of human history along with Einstein, Newton, and Galileo. Your scientific pursuits pushed all of humanity forward, but because you strictly adhered to science and never found “evidence” for God I am sorry to say you will be headed to the fire for the rest of eternity.”

I hope you are able to take the time to discuss one or both of my questions. I have greatly enjoyed reading and watching your material and follow you on Instagram and enjoy the watching your missionary journeys. I am someone who you have reached through the new media and who you have brought to the front doors of the Catholic faith, and in a larger sense I am deeply grateful for the reawakening of my faith and a deepening of the my thought you have caused in me. I wish your Word on Fire Institute all the success and hope you get that movement you dream. Your approach just might be the only one that can survive the secularization of our time.

Thank you.

/r/IAmA Thread