New series ‘Challenging Faith’ tackles tough questions with honesty
September 12, 2017
Dr. Joseph Magee, director of campus ministry at Texas Medical Center Universities, speaks to young adults asking tough questions and getting straight answers about their belief in God, the Catholic faith and the truth of the Bible, especially in relation to science. Photo by Rebecca Torrellas/Herald.
HOUSTON — The Archdiocesan Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry began a series called “Challenging Faith,” featuring evening discussions for young adults asking tough questions and getting straight answers about belief in God, the Catholic faith and the truth of the Bible, especially in relation to science.
Dr. Joseph Magee, director of campus ministry at Texas Medical Center Universities, began the series to engage participants from the perspective of the Catholic faith and centuries of Church wisdom.
“I was struck hearing or reading stories of young people who left their faith saying that, when they approached their Church leaders with questions or doubts, they were discouraged from raising such issues, or they didn’t receive adequate answers, or they were told to just believe harder,” he said. “I thought I would offer to take seriously people’s questions and doubts, and offer the best answers the Church can give, even if not everyone finds them satisfactory.”
Challenging Faith Series
6:30 to 8 p.m. at Black Labrador Pub, located at 4100 Montrose Blvd.
■ Wednesday, Sept. 20 — Does evolution fit with what the Bible teaches?
■ Wednesday, Oct. 18 — Why would Jesus have to die on the cross?
■ Wednesday, Nov. 15 — Did Jesus really rise from the dead, and how could we know it?
The first session was held Aug. 23. The topic was “Is there actual, rational evidence for God?” Magee’s presentation included scientific viewpoints, physics, famous arguments and intellectual possibilities.
“Each evening will have a different focus for the presentations. On Sept. 20 we will focus on how evolution fits with the Bible and Catholic faith, Oct. 18 the focus is on the problem of evil and why Jesus would have to suffer and die, and on Nov. 15 the focus is on whether Jesus really rose from the dead. In all the discussions, though, I try to make time to entertain any other questions people have,” Magee said.
Magee said he hopes attendees come to understand that questions and doubts are a normal and healthy part of a person’s growth in faith.
“They spur us onto a deeper understanding of what we believe,” he said. “I also hope those who attend see that the Catholic tradition has thought long and hard about these issues, and that the answers the Church proposes, while often not simple or easy, are worth considering, and ultimately worth accepting.”
Amy Stonecipher, who just graduated from grad school at Texas A&M University, thought the discussion was really interesting.
“They started from a very preliminary point with the existence of God,” she said. “I think I have two solid arguments now in my head, one was causality and one was from design, so now I can draw from those two arguments when trying to explain to friends and family why I believe in God.”
Maureen Reynolds, student at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, said that the talk was more academic than she anticipated, but she found that using physics to discuss the existence was fascinating.
“The greatest value of what Joe does here, as young people trying to grow in our faith especially in secular college campuses, is that the Church doesn’t challenge us often enough. They feel that they have to reach out to us with what they think will appeal, which is oftentimes the more spiritual highs — the retreats, the music,” she said. “Often older people within the church are afraid to challenge younger people with the tough theology questions. I appreciate that Joe respects us enough to talk to us like that. It’s something we don’t find anywhere else.”
Jenifer Brewer, also a student at Sam Houston State University, said that the session helped her figure out more easily what parts of her faith she wants to learn about more in depth.
“I feel good in my faith, but there’s always stuff I want to learn and I don’t know how to think about it,” she said. “Being able to sit down and being able to figure out first thing, ‘here’s the question,’ you realize that’s actually something you’ve been thinking about. Then, as the answers come, you’re like, ‘oh, that makes sense again.’ It’s very informative.”
All respectful questions are welcome, and all efforts will be made to provide a clear understanding that provides meaning and direction for attendees and for billions of other Catholics.
The series continues on Wednesdays, Sept. 20, Oct. 18, Nov. 15 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Black Labrador Pub, located at 4100 Montrose Blvd. Appetizers will be served.
For more information, contact Magee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 281-733-6680, or visit archgh.org/YACM.