Dennis Prager and Catholic Theology

Simple Catholic Snapshots

  • God Created the Universe from Nothing
  • God Has a Purpose for Creation
  • Man was Created, therefore, Man Has a Divine Purpose
  • Man was Created in the Image of God
  • Religion Must Reveal and Highlight Our Divine Purpose

Simple Catholic Truth

Introduction

‘Why was I Created?’
‘What is the Purpose of my Life?’
‘Why am I Here?’

Right after ‘What’s for dinner?’, the first question our earliest caveman ancestors probably asked was one or all of the above. It makes sense actually, because man(kind) is unique in all creation. Mankind is the only creature that as part of his fundamental nature has, among other things, a keen self awareness and asks such questions. Scripture tells us that mankind was the summit and fulfillment of all creation – mankind was created in the image of God (Gn 1:27). Sharing in the likeness of God, we were created with an intellect and a free will that allows us to question, to seek understanding, to know, and ultimately to love.

Throughout history, what we call Religion has served as the cornerstone in the pursuit of these answers. Yes, religion has taken various forms around the globe and across the ages, but fundamentally all religion share the common goal of answering at least those primordial questions. With this in mind, I pay particular attention when any person of faith addresses these questions. I am eager to understand, and to compare and contrast their position with that of my beloved Catholicism. And this led me to a 6 minute video of Dennis Prager recently speaking to a Senate Judiciary Committee on freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech? What does that have to do with the Theology of Creation?

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager is Jewish American conservative radio talk show host and writer that I regularly listen to on my car radio. His intellectual approach to seeking “clarity before agreement” seems particularly wise. In this day and age we have largely lost the ability to disagree and too often ignorance lies at the center. Instead of trying to learn and see the other person’s perspective and share our own, dialog often degrades to emotional name calling. A rigid prejudice often exists against anyone who we disagree with thus preventing constructive dialog. Over the years I have found Dennis’ approach to discussing difficult topics refreshing and productive.

He founded PragerU, an American non-profit organization that creates videos on various political, economic, and philosophical topics from a conservative perspective. Each video is only 5 minutes long and I highly recommend you check out the video library by clicking HERE (but only after you finish reading this blog post!)

As it turns out, Google has placed a number of the Prager U videos on a restricted list an action that Dennis has been fighting for some time. On this topic of freedom of speech and censorship, Dennis was invited to speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee which he did on 16 July 2019. Here is a video of his complete 5 minute speech which he precedes with a short statement on Google’s restricting in particular his video on the 10 Commandments. Watch the entire video and then I will provide commentary below:

Commentary

As I said, I have been listening to Dennis for many years. To be sure I do not agree with everything he says but at least when listening I end up understanding what he believes and why, and I can go from there.

One topic that I have consistently taken issue with is what I see as his excessive focus and near obsession with the idea of good and evil as the cornerstone of our relationship with God. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that there is a moral code provided by God and that we are held responsible for our behavior relative to that code. The Bible is clear and I embrace that as absolutely true. That said, it seems that Dennis’ emphasis on moral behavior rather than our moral or immoral character is slightly off target.

And this brings me to his statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If you recall, he offered a quick summary of what he considers the defining principle in man’s relationship to God:

My philosophy of life is easily summarized: God wants us to be good. Period. God without goodness is fanaticism, and goodness without God will not long endure. Everything I and PragerU do emanates from belief in the importance of being a good person.

Dennis Prager 16 July 2019, addressing U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee

I can’t express how these words jumped out at me. I expected him to say that ‘God wants us to act good’. But no, he said that God wanted us to BE good. Of course a good person (a person of virtue) will act accordingly, but notice here the emphasis is not on the act itself but on the underlying motive of those good moral actions. In other words, it is the invisible moral virtuous content of a person that is important to God, not the resultant and observable good moral actions.

This is exciting because it lines up perfectly with Catholicism’s view on those original primordial questions and God’s plan for our eternal destiny. Keep in mind that Catholicism (and Christianity in general) are rooted in, and is the fulfillment of, Judaism, so to recognize such a confirming synergy is refreshing.

God created us in his image with a share in his ability to love. Through the prideful choices of our parents in the garden, we lost that capability – our basic nature was perverted but not destroyed. Thankfully, through the grace of God in Christ, we are again gifted the Spirit of God which transforms us back towards his image once again which leads to our eternal life with him. In other words, our salvation is a process of transformation wherein the grace of God makes us a new creation (Gal 2:20, 1Cor 6:11, 2Pet 1:4), makes us holy and acceptable to God.

Therefore, it should be our life’s principle to cooperate with God’s grace so that we are fundamentally changed – from the fallen creature that has lost the Spirit of God within us, to a new creation that lives forever.

 

 

Conclusion

It’s okay, don’t be shy…be a caveman. Ask – What is the purpose of my existence?

The Church and scripture tells us, the reason why any of us exists is because God wanted to share with us His very nature. This sharing of God’s Spirit and life is what makes each one of us unique and irreplaceable as individuals. We are literally an image and likeness of God.

God is perfect and complete all on His own so we can’t let our pride get the upper hand thinking he needed something from us. Of course it is right and just to worship God, but that is not why we were created.
For God, creation was not an act of getting something…creation was an act of giving. God’s own nature motivated Him to share with us His very essence – imperfectly yes, incompletely yes, but sharing that loving nature nevertheless.

So our lives are a gift of beginning and the graces of God as Christ is a gift of transformation. Humbly we accept these gifts and respond by imitating Christ in faith, hope and love. In our acts of charity we fulfill God’s plan of a world full of goodness. Not just a world full of good acts, but a world full of good creatures, created in His image and likeness that are internally good. On the final day of judgement the lambs will be separated from the goats (Mt 25) and once again, God will look at everything He made and as He did in the beginning, He will find all of creation very good.

 

 

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