Today’s topic for the Young Professionals’ Fellowship was researched by me and written by our friend Universal. It’s on the historical evidence for Catholic Christianity, which compliments faith.
|Historical Evidence for Catholicism
There seems to be an idea that is common amongst many people including Catholics that the faith, especially that of the Trinity, the Resurrection and the Eucharist are simply and entirely about faith alone. This idea is half right; it is about faith, however it is not only about faith because like everything in Catholicism reason is intimately involved.
It is important to note that the desire for evidence is not inevitably a lack of faith but a desire for the rational part of our human nature to be fulfilled. So are these seemingly unintuitive and allegedly improbable beliefs able to be defended by reason?
“John Warwick Montgomery… a law professor with two doctorates and the author of numerous books, accepted Christianity “kicking and screaming” while at university … “Christian faith alone,” the reluctant convert concludes, “among the religious claims of history, is able to stand in the dock and be vindicated evidentially… (It) rests its case on the divine life, sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection of the incarnate God”
The issue is much like a court case. We have alleged and events, and like a jury we must determine if they are true. We have to determine who the witnesses are, how trustworthy they are, and what the evidence is to support their testimony.
The witnesses are Christ the Apostles, pagan sources and Jewish sources.
Because we know most about Christ from the Apostles the testimony of Christ is reliant heavily upon the testimony of the Apostles.
The Apostles are the primary witnesses to Christ as evidenced by the Gospels and epistles in Sacred Scripture. The mere existence of these documents is no proof at all because of the obvious possibility of them being fiction. However their testimony is backed up by history.
Firstly they say that Christ existed, but couldnÕt He simply be a made up man who they promoted as being divine? Not according to disinterested pagan and Jewish sources. The Jew Josephus Flavius not only testified to the existence of Christ but also to His death on the cross and miracles.
So independent witnesses with no motive to lie have supported the Apostles testimony so far. But what about ChristÕs divinity and resurrection?
History testifies to the persecution of Christians by the Jews and then Romans. History tells us that the Apostles went to their deaths by horrible means (with the exception of St John who was banished to an island for years until his death). They didn’t need to die, they could have simply recanted that Jesus was the Christ, that He died and rose again, but they didn’t.
This wasn’t like the death of a Christian now for the same issues, because they weren’t dying for a belief, something that they had not seen, they were dying for something that they saw, heard, touched and tasted. It is an extremely unreasonable stretch to say that this behaviour is indicative of anything but those telling the complete truth that they couldnÕt deny because they were direct witnesses of it.
A jury given this argumentation would consider their testimony to be above reproach.
Therefore given the testimony of the Apostles, it is the most reasonable position to hold that Christ must have lived, performed miracles, died and risen again! The reality of these factors makes Christ’s claim to be God, and part of a Trinity of person in God, extremely reasonable itself.
A last point about the trustworthiness of the Apostles and of Christ is that their predictions have come true. Christ said the Church would never be destroyed and even through terrible persecutions and schisms it has remained. Christ also promised to send His Holy Spirit to guide the Church to all truth, and through every conceivable heresy and attempt at subverting the teachings of the Church She has remained undefiled and firm in the teachings She received from Christ.
This is another testament in history as to the truth of the words of Christ and the Apostles.
Kreeft, Peter (1994). Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ. Retrieved September 8, 2006, from http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/resurrection-evidence.htm
Catholic Encyclopedia (1910). Early Historical Documents on Jesus Christ. Retrieved September 8, 2006, from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08375a.htm
Catholic Answers. The Great Heresies. Retrieved September 8, 2006, from http://www.catholic.com/library/great_heresies.asp
 Kilgour, David, M.P. (1999). Review: Leading Lawyers’ Case for Resurrection. Retrieved September 8, 2006, from http://www.ciltpp.com/rev_llaw.htm
 Catholic Encyclopedia (1910). Early Historical Documents on Jesus Christ. Retrieved September 8, 2006, from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08375a.htm
 John 8:58 – “I am” refers to God’s words in Exodus 3:14 where God refers to Himself as “I am.” The Jews were going to stone Jesus because He was claiming to be God.
 Matthew 16:18
 John 16:13; Catholic Answers. The Great Heresies. Retrieved September 8, 2006, from http://www.catholic.com/library/great_heresies.asp