Because God Said So: Limiting Yourself by What You Understand

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“Because I said so.”

Most parents have, at one time or another, said this to their children. This statement of finality is, at times, a matter of expediency (after much childish whining), but often it is due to the inability of children of certain ages to understand the reasoning behind a command or prohibition. No matter how permissive or orthodox we may be as parents, there are certain parameters beyond which our children are not allowed to trod, whether or not those are rationales to our offspring.

“Yes, you must wear a helmet (even though your cousin doesn’t).”

“No, you may not eat that.”

“Yes, you must go to Mass (even though you already went with your class).”

“No, you may not sleep over at his/her house.”

“Yes, you still must be home by 10 (even though your friend can stay out until 12).”

“No, you may not stay in the same room as your girlfriend.”

All but the laxest — or lacking — parents set rules for their children for one reason alone: They love their children beyond all measure and want to protect them from harm. Even though our children may not understand the reason for our rules, we are right to expect them to obey, for their own good.

 “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” (Psalms 111: 2)

We can generally agree that even the best educated among us cannot comprehend the enormity and complexity of God’s creation and design. There is so much which we simply do not understand in His creation, even with all of the scientific and technological advances of our age.

Yet, ironically, we often demand to understand God and His rules for us before we accept and obey them. We often become the petulant children who demand to know why, and when the answer is not to our liking or understanding, we feel entitled to disobey.

“The works of His hands are faithful and just; all of His precepts are trustworthy.” (Psalm 111:7)

Worse yet, we use our own limited understanding to define what God’s rules should be or how they should be interpreted. We like to select alleged discrepancies in God’s law, which, we submit, invalidates all of those laws. We point out that, if we were following God’s laws, we would still be stoning adulterers, not eating shellfish, or wearing linen with wool. We conveniently ignore the difference between God’s laws and those traditions made by men, even though Jesus clearly differentiated between those traditions, which were not valid, and God’s eternal laws.

Finally, in our own Christian “virtue-signaling,” we set up various “if/then” scenarios to attempt to belittle the faith of others. How can you call yourself pro-life if you promote policies to help the poor, but do not protect the unborn? How can you claim to promote Catholic social justice if you advocate for anti-trafficking legislation, but also support abortion access for minors? How can you support the needs of our refugees and immigrants, but still purchase products made by slave/poorly paid workers from many of those same countries?

“Reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”(Psalm 111:10)

To paraphrase Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J., we choose the rules we like and then create a God who agrees with our choices.

We demand the right to understand and approve of His laws before we follow them.

We call ourselves children of God but do not give Him the deference that our Father deserves. He is allowed, “Because I said so,” for the same reason we say this to our own children — and even more so. We only loved because He first loved us.

We must first have faith before we can have any understanding. Whether it is His definition of marriage, His creation of male and female, His prohibition on divorce, His openness to life, His command that we forgive as He forgives, or His requirement to love Him above all else (and our neighbors as ourselves), we do not get to choose which law to obey.

If we love Him, we obey His laws. If you lack understanding, rely upon faith, just as Abraham, Mary, and so many others have before us.

Our loving Father will never let us down.

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16 thoughts on “Because God Said So: Limiting Yourself by What You Understand”

  1. Which God said so?

    With so many competing claims for “what God says”, even within the Catholic Church, how does one know which one is right?

    1. James,

      Are there any “competing claims” that come to mind? I don’t see any conflicts in what the Catholic Church teaches.

      Cindy

    2. First, the Catholic Church is not the only organization making claims about God.

      Second, even within the Catholic Church, different priests will have different interpretations of “what God says”—just look at the controversy over Amoris Laetitia.

    3. James,
      1. Nothing which Pope Francis has written has changed Church teaching. He has said so himself.
      2. If you look at God’s teachings (not man’s traditions), it’s clear what the truth is. Keep it simple. 10 Commandments. Jesus’ teachings. Perhaps you have some specific examples.
      Cynthia

    4. Let’s try again:

      1. How do we know the Catholic Church’s claims about “what God wants” are true as opposed to some other Christian denomination or some other religion?

      2. If the Catholic Church is the institution that understands “what God wants” then why are there so many different opinions within the Church about everything from worship to moral issues?

    5. Cynthia Millen

      James,
      You just proved the point of my article. The Catholic Catechism is the source of our “interpretation” of Christ’s teachings.
      “Blessed are they who believe without seeing.”
      God bless,
      Cindy

    6. James – Please define the words you use – “are true.”

      Since I believe, I understand; and since I believe, I accept as true what the church teaches, and I accept it as Jesus’s one, true, holy, Cathoilc and apostolic church. There is no lab experiment or scientific study that could be done to “prove” these Truths – and I thank God that Jesus’s Truth is not limited to that small, narrow, restricted area of what goes under the name of “scientific truth,” or that similarly tiny area of “logical truth.”

      If I have the opinion [which I do not] that Jesus did not issue the “command of the Lord” [1 Cor 14:37] and that women can be ordained priests, that does not negate the magisterial truth, proclaimed by Jesus’s Church, that women cannot (and never have been) ordained priests. Opinion are like belly buttons – everyone has one- but mere opinion is not Jesus’s Truth.

      Guy McClung San Antonio TX

    7. 1. Why do you accept that the Catholic Church is true, and not, for example, the Orthodox Church, the Baptist Church, or Islam? What proves Catholicism right? Or have you simply made your choice and placed your bets?

      2. If it is a settled matter that women cannot be ordained priests, then why are so many Catholics of the opinion that women can be ordained priests?

    8. James-Good – now we have a good discussion going!

      I will reply further in detail once you define your words : “are true,” “true,” and “proves.”

      Re opinions: many Catholics are of the opinion ___. Fill in the blank with whatever you wish. If eg many of them are of the opinion that “Jesus was a woman,” that does not mean He was. Please try to understand the difference between magisterial truth and false opinion.

      Guy McClung, San Antonio TX

    9. Truth: That which corresponds with objective reality.

      [belief system] is true: The belief system teaches the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, i.e. what is taught consistently corresponds with objective reality.

      Proves: Shown to be true beyond a reasonable doubt to an uninterested third party observer by objective evidence.

    10. Note that if a belief system is not 100% true, then it is false. While a system of belief that is 99% true is better than one that is 1% true, both contain errors and, therefore, there must be a higher authority to determine truth than that belief system.

    11. James-Please – still – define those words you use. If you do, you will make clear that science itself, and also mathematics are “belief” systems. Each has their core beliefs and their own dogmas. No science is 100% true, using your word yet for you to define.

      If you still contend that science and math are NOT belief systems, then define the words “true” and “prove” as you sue them. Guy McClung San Antonio TX

    12. Ok, I know how this game is played: You’re going to have me go around and around in circles defining and redefining truth until you have shown that everything is a belief system and I might as well believe in Catholicism.

      I have given you my definitions. Did you not read that post where I defined all three terms? If you are interested in having a discussion in good faith, then you will provide yours.

      Mathematics is true. Mathematicians may be in error, but math can correct erroneous mathematicians. Science is a method. We know a lot about the natural world, but that which we know is still subject to being proven or disproven.

      Where is the “proof” of your religion?

    13. Cynthia Millen

      To paraphrase St Thomas Aquinas: For those who believe, there is no need for proof; for unbelievers, there can never be enough proof.

  2. Cynthia-You should republish this article once a month for everyone of every age to read and read again. We are so immersed in “you’re not the boss of me” and “I can do what I want when I want” [no hypocriasy here: I’ve been there, done that] that the idea of obedience to anyone or anything is rejected.

    But these (MNM)3 people- me-me-me-now-now-now-more-more-more – only see when it is too late: 1. they will never get the more more more; 2. those power people – totalitarians – lying to them that they will insure they get (MNM)3 are simply using this as a ruse to take away their personal freedom and rule them (also mostly known as democrats), e.g. just look at the lies told to girls and women about abortion; and 3.that God is the Father who waits daily looking out to see the prodigal return and then later goes outside the feast to ask the good son to come in.

    You echo so well Francis Thompson in the Hound Of Heaven re: our true Father:

    Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,

    Save Me, save
    only Me?

    All which I took from thee I did but take,

    Not for thy
    harms,

    But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.

    All which thy
    child’s mistake

    Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:

    Rise, clasp My
    hand, and come!’

    Thank you. Guy McClung

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