saints and sinners

There rests a common complaint among many and I must confess throughout much of my life to membership with those so conflicted, that there is no valid rationale for imbibing at the altar of church. After all, isn’t church simply a crutch, a group therapy clinic for the weak and broken? The argument follows along a well-worn arc: church is unnecessary because I pray to God on my own, read and study about God on my own, talk and hear God on my own, anytime and anyplace. So why go to church? Why waste my time?

Sand House

Sand House

Having been a full-fledged member of this self-inflicted orthodoxy for many years I can say with no small amount of equanimity and assurance that it is a delusion of the highest order which rests upon a shaky foundation. Arguably, there is absolutely nothing wrong with praying to God, reading and studying about God, or talking and listening to God. Those are all good and valid activities to engage in doing. But will you? How often and for how long?

And then there is the issue of coming to know God. On this Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us “It was necessary for man’s salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed by God besides philosophical science built up by human reason … because man is directed to God as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason. But the end must first be known by men who are to direct their … actions to the end. Hence it was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths about God which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation.[1]

Our intellect and reason are incapable of discerning much that is God thus it was necessary for God to reveal something of himself to us in order that we might come to know God not just know about God. Consider how little we know about God, the fact that we still are attempting to “prove” or “disprove” his very existence.

Peter Kreeft offers this insight:

But even if we had not fallen into sin and error, our knowledge of God would have been less adequate than a worm’s knowledge of us. For the distance between the finitude of the worm and the finitude of man is only finite, while the distance between finite man and infinite God is infinite.

Only God can bridge that gap, by acting ‘down’ with His power; we cannot bridge it by moving ‘up’ with our power…This was so from the beginning, even before we fell. How much more do we need divinely revealed truth now that we are fallen.[2]

Returning to the question of whether church (organized religion) is a crutch, Kreeft responds, “Yes, organized religion is a crutch. You mean you didn’t know that you are a cripple? … Go back to Socrates: ‘Know thyself.’ For Socrates, there are only two kinds of people: the wise, who know they are fools; and the fools, who think they are wise. Similarly, for Christ and all the prophets, there are only two kinds of people: saints, who know they are sinners; and sinners, who think they are saints. Which are you? You can tell which class you fit into by whether or not you accept the ‘crutch’ …”


[1] Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I,1,1.
[2] Peter Kreeft, Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from St. Thomas Aquinas, 1. Religion.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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