Can of Worms

Faith-Based Arguments*

What is a Can of Worms post?

*Clarification for this post:  I do not use the term argument defined as an oral argument, but rather I use argument defined as a statement, reason, or fact for or against a point.  As in you can make an argument without having an argument.  Got it?  I at least hope it's clearer than mud.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
~1 Corinthians 2:14

As I read these words, my first thought was 'ah-ha!  I'm not crazy and why did I not ever just put this into words myself?'

And then I thought, careful now Rebecca, you don't know what verses 13 and 15 say and they could completely change what you are thinking you are reading in verse 14.

So, I finally took the time to look up not only verses 13 and 15, but all verses 10 - 16.  (And because sometimes I get stuck on the big words in a grown-up Bible, I also turned to the New Century Version (previously known as the children's Bible) to help me make sure I was understanding it correctly).  (Emphasis mine.)

But God has shown us these things through the Spirit.  The Spirit searches out all things, even the deep secrets of God.  Who knows the thoughts that another person has?  Only a person's spirit that lives within him knows his thoughts.  It is the same with God.  No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we did not receive the spirit of the world, but we received the Spirit that is from God so that we can know all that God has given us.  And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom but with words taught us by the Spirit.  And so we explain spiritual truths to spiritual people.  A person who does not have have the Spirit does not accept the truths that come from the Spirit of God.  That person thinks they are foolish and cannot understand them, because they can only be judged to be true by the Spirit.  The spiritual person is able to judge all things, but no one can judge him.  The Scripture says:  "Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Who has been able to teach him? (Isaiah 40:13)  But we have the mind of Christ. 
~1 Corinthians 2:10 - 16


So often those of us who have the mind of Christ and and his Spirit try to defend, explain, rationalize our views to those who do not.  I've frequently thought, we can't argue from a Catholic (or any religious/faith-based) point of view to people who do not share our opinion.  Yes, we can educate others about our opinion and we can seek to enlighten others, but if they have not been touched by the Spirit (or open to being touched by the Spirit) our words will fall on deaf ears.  (Hmmm, 'He makes the deaf to hear and the blind to speak'...)

Where does this leave us though?  For so many of us, our point of view is due to our faith and it is how we know to get our point across.  But how many people are we missing by taking this approach.  What if, instead of forming our opinions and arguments from only a faith-based point of view, we also found a secular point of view that agreed?  We (humans) will never all agree, but what about those people who might have like-thinking, but are put-off by the Faith-basedness of it all?  Yes, we are called to evangelize.  But what if it instead of bring souls into the fold, we are actually alienating them?  What if, by hearing their secular argument and responding to it with secular argument we might in fact change minds that would never be changed by a faith-based response?

Yes, there are some things that require a Faith-based argument:  the mystery of the Holy Trinity; the Resurrection; the birth of Jesus to a virgin; etc., etc., etc.  But, there are some things that I feel can, and should be, argued from not only a Faith-based point of view, but a secular one as well.  Capital punishment, human rights, abortion, and health-care to name a few.  Yes, there are strong Faith reasons for feeling one way or another on these issues, but are there not also strong secular reasons as well?

 To some degree, I feel it's like having an argument where one person is speaking English and the other Chinese.  Agreement is impossible when you are speaking two different languages.  So, why not try to say the same thing, in the other person's language?  They just might agree.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
~1 Corinthians 2:14

This Can of Worms has been opened.  What do you think?

(Note about comments:  Please comment on the topic at hand - ways to argue your point of view and not on specific topics and why you feel only a faith-based, only a secular-based, or a mixed approach is best.  Citing a brief example is welcome, but I would prefer this not become an argument about specific topics.  Because I do work during the day, if I feel this is becoming an issue, I may turn on comment moderation to ensure that I can keep up with it all.)


  1. Hi Rebecca,

    I'm glad your path brought you to my site tonight and especially glad that you offered your ideas on when the well seems dry. I left a message there for you, too.

    As for your post here? It's a thoroughly delightful presentation of a topic that happens to be near and dear to me. I've written about it actually - from my views from both sides of the fence, so to speak. This excerpt probably summarizes my view. Sorry if it's too long for your purposes. I'm long-winded on paper or keyboard...

    "Because the platforms from which I have assessed things for almost all of my life thus far, was not Catholic, and because I am a writer by nature - my own language of faith evolved. As my conversion evolved, I have been astonished over and over at the riches to be known and have rephrased what I've learned in my own tongue, so to speak [a more common tongue].
    The language of the Church is rich. I see that our words are richly symbolic of wide truths - a sort of shorthand for us in the faith when speaking or writing of these truths. I also see that, while the language is familiar to us, it is mysterious to the uninitiated. Further, while our faith language is familiar to those of us in the faith, I think our own attention to the words of our faith is lacking, and that meaning and richness and power are lost among us as well. These are barriers. Words are a utility of sorts, a gift, a transport to the Word, from our Father. In prayer and in contemplation, and otherwise, each word is a portal in a way through which one can pass to truth and to communion. Language is central to our relationship with one another, and in our service to God. So much is gained and lost through that alone."

  2. I agree; when I work with teenagers I tried to focus all of my arguments about being sexual active around health promotion, disease promotion ~ encouraging them to focus studies, friends, future plans.

    The reason I waited for my wedding night was because of my faith ~ but that is not why I don't believe teenagers should be sexually active.

  3. Sorry ~ disease prevention

  4. I've actually been thinking about this a lot lately, in the terms of natural law supporting all of our faith-based beliefs. I certainly agree that a great many (most?) topics can be argued from a secular perspective, although of course for people with the Spirit those arguments will always be of secondary importance.

  5. I agree with you. So much of the language of Christians can be hard to understand--we have our own "Christian-speak". My Brian has this gift of sitting with his high school friends (none of whom profess Christ) and validating everything he believes by reason alone. I love that. It reaches them in a way that just preaching "faith" would not reach.

    I really like how The Married Couple said it.

    Good stuff to chew on.

  6. I couldn't agree more. I think trying to persuade someone, that doesn't share your religious values, with a faith-based argument will turn them off immediately.

    If you truly believe something to be "right" then there must certainly be a secular reason, and a secular way of explaining it.

  7. Aspiring: A beautiful description, and yes so very much is gained and lost through our words.

    TMC - yes, for those of us with Spirit, the Secular argument will (most?) always come second, but how beautiful it is when we can express it first.

    Angie - I think you need to have Brian write a blog post how he explains it, or at least send me an email, I'd love to hear how someone else does it!

    NST - Agreed. And a piece of me, though I agree with TMC, says who cares which came first (secular or Faith-based reasoning), so long as the message is communicated.

  8. I'm still thinking about this topic, as I often do. I think my simple point and that of others is this. As a premise, the principles and salvation of Christianity apply to everyone, not just Christians. It was invaluable for others to reach me where I was instead of where they were. Likewise, I have found it invaluable to reach people where they are instead of where I am. Attitude and common ground and language make all the difference; they will either be helpful or not, and they wil either lose or gain souls for Christ. I appreciate your post, Rebecca. So glad I've made your acquaintance.

  9. I completely agree. I think that both faith and reason are important, and it is crucial to know when to rely more on one than the other.