In Orthodoxy, his masterful defense of the Christian faith, G.K Chesterton writes: “It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced. It is comparatively easy when he is only partially convinced. He is partially convinced because he has found this or that proof of the thing, and he can expound it.”
“But a man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds that something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it.”
Chesterton’s point is born out any time someone asks the question, “How do you know the Catholic faith is true?” We have a difficult time coming up with an easy answer. There are so many things we could say that suddenly we can think of nothing to say. None of the answers we could give appear to be sufficient by themselves, but when taken together, they make a case for the faith that is hard to dispute. Indeed, it is not that one thing proves it, it is that everything proves it.
And when we have our days of doubt, when we are confused by the incessant attacks and the personal disappointments, it is a good exercise to sit down and make a list of all the things that prove that the Catholic faith is true.
• The Church is the only consistent defender of morality and virtue. It defends marriage and the family. It defends children and babies and the unborn. It defends the poor. It defends peace and human dignity. It defends order and it also defends freedom. It defends the body and the mind and the soul.
• The Church is the only institution in history that has continually survived its own defeats. Chesterton even maintains that it has survived its own death. Several times in history the Church seemed to be done and destroyed. But it is still here. It has survived its own death, says Chesterton, “because it had a God who knew his way out of the grave.”
• The history of Christianity is the history of the Catholic Church. The Church has not only carried the faith through history, it has carried the whole culture. The monasteries preserved the texts of the ancient world, keeping open our only windows to the past. When iconoclasts were smashing statues, Catholics preserved the art of sculpture. Catholic artists even brought sculpture inside paintings, giving them depth and dimension. They wrote music that we can still sing. The castles built in the medieval times are now museums or ruins. The Cathedrals built at the same time are still being used for their original purpose.
• All other Christian sects are a reaction against or a splitting off from the Catholic Church. They are always something less than the Catholic Church, never anything more. They lack something, whether it be a pope or a priest or a pronouncement. Whatever partial truth they cling to is something that they have received from the Catholic Church, whether it be the Bible or baptism or “bringing in the sheaves.”
• History’s greatest people, the saints, are Catholic. We too often forget how great they are. They have worked miracles, they have defied unbelievable odds, they have written monumental testimonies of truth, they have had exquisite visions, they have suffered unimaginable hardship with unexplainable joy, they have selflessly served their fellow human beings, caring for the sick and the dying and the outcast with astonishing charity. They have willingly died for their faith rather live without it. There may be outstanding individuals in history who did one thing well or lived notable and worthy lives: Buddha, Confucius, Spinoza, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and so on. But whoever you want to name, not one of them not a one! compares with the smallest saint with St. Maria Goretti, with the Little Flower, with Don Bosco, with St. Francis de Sales, with Blessed Miriam Baouardy, with Mother Teresa. One saint is enough to prove the truth of the Church. But we have hundreds and hundreds, every one of them with an exemplary life worth contemplating and imitating.
• Even the sins of the Catholic Church are evidence of its truth. Its failures only point to the great value of its precepts. The world cannot abide the Church failing because the world unconsciously knows that the truth it proclaims must be upheld. Chesterton says that the sins of Christianity are one of the doctrines of Christianity. In other words, our sins point to one of our sacraments: confession. He says, “The Church is not justified when her children do not sin, but when they do.”
The list goes on. We can always add to it. There is always another reason to believe the Church’s teachings, always more evidence to support its truth. As Chesterton says, the Church “has endured for two thousand years; and the world within the Church has been more lucid, more level-headed, more reasonable in its hopes, more healthy in its instincts, more humorous and cheerful in the face of fate and death, than all the world outside.”
Everything proves it.
Dale Ahlquist is President of the American Chesterton Society and host of EWTN's The Apostle of Common Sense.