1) The Meaning of a True Religion
The word ‘re-ligare’ (Latin for religion), has its origin in the Roman Empire, via Marcus Tullius Cicero, (106-43 BC.), Senator and philosopher, and Aurelius Augustinus, St. Augustine, theologian and Bishop of Hippo (Algeria); Converted to the Catholic faith in A.D. 430 . His writings were very influential in the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy.
The meaning of the word religion is to re-consider or re-connect that has also a connotation with a duty to a divine Authority. The duties of a true religion include its practical application, called divine worship.
Primarily, a true religion implies in essence to the Natural Law, that there is an intrinsic relationship of all created human beings to their Creator. Under the Natural Law, every one of us has fundamental rights and duties towards ourselves, our family as well as towards our fellow human beings.
The question in context with religion is rather of duties than of rights, and as discussed in another article that is the validity of ‘right‘ of one person depends on the availability of a willing and commensurate ‘duty‘ acknowledged by others, who are expected to respect our Natural Rights.
Conversely, it follows necessarily that we have duties also to our Creator as He expects such duties from His creatures without any conditions.
Here we have arrived at the very essence and purpose of a true religion, whose practical application intends to lead us through a metaphysical relationship with other true religions, (the ‘ecumenism’), ultimately to our Creator.
Furthermore, it becomes evident also that while we may ignore our religion, (as people often do), the acceptance or rejection of its implications for us, Christians, is no longer an option, for in baptism we have already confirmed our metaphysical ‘belonging‘ and became interlocked intrinsically with our Creator; (Although someone remarked wryly: ‘Many don’t even know that they belong’.)
This ‘belonging‘ is analogous to the mysterious meaning of ‘connection‘, which denotes the incomprehensible essence between cause and effect in every event of causation; (an obstacle for many a sincere, doubting scientist). Apart from our metaphysical belonging to the Creator, an analogous ‘belonging‘ applies to us with reference to our parents also, through our physical origin; which we may ignore, but could never deny. In the next Clause, we will examine the objective basis of a true religion.
2) The Objective ‘Basis’ of a TRUE Religion
We believe that the following fundamental items are the objective basis of the Catholic Christian Religion, verified by Church Authority, and rests on the transcendental realities of Scriptures, prophecies, tradition, and reason, which is synonymous with a properly enlightened conscience.
It is important to point out that the following intend to demonstrate the objective Authority of the Catholic Christian Church, through the basis of its origin (all as detailed below), which found in the physical reality.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker, an American Author, describes those bases on his Website: (http://dwightlongenecker.com/Patheos/Archived Articles/Apologetics Articles/Authority of the Catholic Church/How do we know that it’s the True Church?) that are known already to many Catholics from the Catechism, although without his systematically clarifying details.
Fr. Longenecker is a convert from the Evangelical movement to Anglican Priesthood, then he finally became a Catholic priest. The following abbreviated and paraphrased extracts are from his Website:-
As he studied and pondered the matter further, (beyond the ‘Fundamental Items’ of the Catechism), he found further Six pairs of axioms for the basis of the Catholic Church’s objective authority. (The reader will find those items set out below in twelve simplified axioms).
These items, he continues, helped him to understand how comprehensive and complete the Catholic claims of authority are. He came to realise also that other churches and ecclesiastic bodies might claim some of these, but only the Catholic Church demonstrated all of them fully. These are the twelve paraphrased items, (referring to them here as axioms):-
1) It is rooted in History. He had moved away from the Protestant understanding that Scripture is the only authority, and as an Anglican, believed that authority rested in Scripture, tradition, and reason. First of all, it seems clear that their decision would have to be made from a historical perspective.
It was not good enough to decide complex moral, social, or doctrinal issues based on popularity polls or yesterday’s newspaper. To decide difficult questions, a valid authority has to be historical.
In addition, the authority has to show a real continuity with the historical experience of Christianity. Church has a living link with history that goes back to Roman times—and then, through Judaism, back to the beginning of human history.
2). . . and Adaptable. ‘A valid authority structure needs to be flexible and adaptable. Christians face complex modern moral and doctrinal dilemmas. A valid authority system draws on the wisdom of the past to rule properly on the questions of the present.
3) It Is Objective . . . A valid authority transcends all political, economic, and cultural pressures. The objective quality of this authority system also allows it to make decisions that are unpopular or that go against the spirit of the times and majority opinion.
An objective authority is based on certain universal basic assumptions, immutable principles, and observable and undeniable premises. From these objective criteria, the valid authority system builds its teaching.
4).. . . And Flexible. For the authority to be valid, however, it cannot rely on abstract principles and objective criteria alone. The valid authority is suitably subjective in applying objective principles. Throughout the Code of Canon Law, for example, we are reminded that the law is there to serve the people of God in their quest for salvation.
5) It Is Universal . . . An authority that can speak to all situations can only do so if it comes from a universal source. This source of authority needs to be universal not only geographically, but also chronologically. In other words, it transcends national agendas and limitations, but it also transcends the cultural trends and intellectual fashions of any particular time.
6). . . and Local. However, this universal authority needs to be applied in a particular and local way. An authority that is only universal remains vague, abstract, and disincarnate. For a universal authority system to be valid, it also must be expressed locally.
7) It is Intellectually Challenging . . .The fourth pair of characteristics that demonstrate the validity of the Catholic authority system include its intellectual satisfaction and its accessibility. This authority must not only be able to hold its own with the intellectual experts in all fields, but it must be intellectually satisfying and coherent within itself.
8) .. . and Accessible to the Uneducated. Nonetheless, while the authority system must be intellectually top notch, the religious system must also be accessible to peasants and the illiterate.
Catholicism, on the other hand, is a religion of the greatest minds of history and the religion of ignorant peasants. It is a religion that is complex enough for St. Thomas Aquinas and simple enough for St. Joseph Cupertino. It has room at the manger for both the magi and the shepherds’.
9) It Is Visible . . . The Church is made up of all people everywhere who trust in Christ. However, this characteristic alone is not satisfactory because human beings locked in the visible plane of reality also demand that the Church be visible.
10). . . and Invisible. The Catholic system of authority recognizes both the invisible dimension of the Church and the visible. The Church is greater than what we can observe, but the church we observe is also greater than we think.
11) It is both, Human and Divine. For the Church to speak with authority it must be both human and divine. An authority that speaks only with a divine voice lacks the authenticity that comes with human experience.
Hence, any religion that based solely on a book, supposedly ‘authorised only by angels’, is unsatisfactory because its authority is supernaturally imposed on the human condition.
On the other hand, a religion that is purely a construct of the human condition is merely a system of humanism, religious techniques, or good ideas’.
12) Finally, the Catholic Christian Church Built upon the Rock. When the Catholic Church pronounces on any difficult question, the response is historical, but up to date. It is based on objective principles but applies to specific needs. The Church’s authority transcends space and time, but it is relevant to a particular place and time.
The response will be intellectually profound, but expressed in a way that is simple enough for anyone to apply. Finally, it posits factual truths that are based in the human experience, but spring from divine inspiration.
The Church is able to claim its authority on the twelve axioms as the objective basis for its decision-making. This authority works infallibly through the active ministry of the whole Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church posits that it is Christ who is infallible, and He grants a measure of His infallibility, in matters of faith, to His mystical body, the Church.
‘That infallibility is worked out through these six pairs of maxims, but it is expressed most majestically and fully through Christ’s minister of infallibility: one person—the ‘Rock’ on which the Church is built, Peter and his successors.
The scientific axiom requires that every scientific theory and finding must have its verification based in the physical reality.
Others wish to apply this same requirement equally to all religions; (as if the bases, i.e.: the origin, and the intent and meaning of a true religion would be identical with those of science).
Nevertheless, this article demonstrated the ‘transcendental verification’ of the Catholic Church, whoseevidence of Authority based also on historical events in the physical reality, and all as described in the Bible.
Hence, in this case, the value of verification through transcendental Authority is analogous to a scientific verification of a physical theory.
“I came to know an other type of men, who even hold the truth in suspicion and refuse to accept it if it is presented to them. But you, my God, had already taught me in wonderful and secret ways, and therefore I believe because you taught me.”; St. Augustine.