UPDATE #1 (2:15pm ET): Proof.

UPDATE #2 (3:25pm ET): I'm going to take a break and grab some lunch, but keep the questions coming! I'll be back soon.

UPDATE #3 (3:54pm ET): I'm back! What else perplexes you about God or religion?

UPDATE #4 (4:51pm ET): Thanks everyone! I'm heading out now to confirm over a hundreds kids at a nearby parish, but I'll check back in tonight to answer more questions.

I’m excited to be back for my third AMA! I'll be taking questions on Wednesday, April 21, from 2:00pm-3:30pm ET.

I’m here to discuss whatever most perplexes you about God, faith, Catholicism, or the spiritual life. Ask me anything!

I’m Bishop Robert Barron, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and host of two award-winning film series that have aired on PBS.

I’ve spoken about religion at the headquarters of Facebook, Google, and Amazon. I’ve also enjoyed talking about God with atheists such as Alex O’Connor (aka @CosmicSkeptic) and Dave Rubin.

Earlier this week I shared a wide-ranging dialogue with Jordan Peterson, on his podcast, about God, religion, the Bible, psychology, and the spiritual life.

I received a master’s degree in philosophy from the Catholic University of America in 1982 and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Institut Catholique de Paris in 1992. I served as a visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame and at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, and was twice scholar in residence at the Pontifical North American College at the Vatican.

In 2018, I became the first Catholic Bishop to host a Reddit AMA.

In 2019, I hosted another AMA, which drew nearly 15,000 comments, becoming the 9th most-commented-on AMA in Reddit history! I tried to answer as many as I could.

Both were great experiences, so I wanted to come back and do it again!

My website, https://WordOnFire.org, reaches millions of people each year, and I'm one of the world's most followed Catholics on social media:

3.2 million+ Facebook fans

400,000+ YouTube subscribers

170,000+ Twitter followers

Comments: 11076 • Responses: 58  • Date: 

Ibrey1763 karma

In your video "Misreading Genesis", you said of Adam, the first human being, "don't read it literally. We're not talking about a literal figure, we're talking in theological poetry." Do you mean by this that although Adam is really a historical individual, the events of his life are narrated in a poetic style, or do you mean that Adam himself is only a kind of symbol or metaphor, and there is no such historical individual at all?

The majority of theologians qualify the origin of the whole human race from one first ancestor as de fide (though some such as Ludwig Ott and Karl Rahner prefer to call it "at least theologically certain"), and the First Vatican Council was preparing an explicit dogmatic definition of this at the time it was interrupted by the outbreak of war, which Joseph Kleutgen anticipated no question about whatsoever, passing it over in his relatio to the Council Fathers in the single sentence, "the third dogma which is established is the unity of the human race, about which there is no difficulty." As Pope Pius XII writes in Humani generis, "the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own." In a footnote, Pius particularly cited the teaching of Saint Paul that "through one person sin entered the world ... through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners," and the dogmas of the Council of Trent predicated on the doctrine that "the first man, Adam, transgressed the commandment of God in paradise."

Again, St John Paul II, in a 1986 audience, quoted St Paul VI describing theories of original sin which start from "the unproved premise of polygenism" and "deny more or less clearly that the sin from which such a mass of evils has derived in humanity was, above all, the disobedience of Adam, the first man" as "irreconciliable with genuine Catholic teaching." If you deny that the Adam spoken of in the Book of Genesis signifies a real historical individual, how do you reconcile this with the Church's teaching on original sin?

BishopBarron1691 karma

I hope you understand that it is exceptionally difficult to give an adequate response to these complex questions within the confines of a combox. But let me say at least this. The stories at the beginning of the book of Genesis are using highly symbolic and figurative language to refer to what obtained at the very commencement of the human race. So they are certainly about real states of affairs, but their manner of expression is not literal or "scientific." And the primary interest of the author of Genesis is to make theological and spiritual observations.

FinisDesiderium1008 karma

Who are some atheist and non-Catholic thinkers that you appreciate?

BishopBarron1860 karma

I always appreciated the writing and style of Christopher Hitchens.

HEBushido664 karma

As a theologian, how do you reconcile the evolution of Christianity and the multitude of variations within the faith which have contradicted each other over the centuries?

When I read the Old Testament I see God as an evil being which uses violence, advocates rape, slavery and genocide, etc. For example in Exodus God murders every first born son of Egypt.

How is this compatible with the New Testament and the concept of a loving God? Surely a loving being doesn't murder people when a less violent solution is obviously present? These two parts of the Bible don't seem to line up very well in a cohesive theology.

BishopBarron83 karma

There is progressive revelation on display in the Bible. Just as you might speak to a toddler one way, a teen-ager another, and an adult in still another way, so God speaks to his people, gradually unfolding his mind and purpose. The best way to read the Bible is to interpret the whole of it from the standpoint of Christ crucified and risen. He is the lens through which the entire Scripture should be read.

Mizar83569 karma

Hello Bishop Barron. I'm an astrophysicist and an atheist, and from all my scientifical studies I just cannot wrap my head around the fact that any god may exist or that as humans we are something more than a biological machine. The thought of our demise and following non-existence makes me sad, but I cannot read the Bible or any other sacred text without thinking that it's all wishful thinking fairytales. Are there any texts you would suggest that look at this questions more in depth than just "have faith" and could instill me some doubt that it's not just endless darkness after this brief life? Thanks

BishopBarron497 karma

Might I suggest you look into the writings of John Polkinghorne, who died just recently? He was a Cambridge particle physicist, who at mid-life became an Anglican priest and then wrote marvelous books on religion and science. One of his key ideas is that the radical intelligibility of the universe, which has to be assumed by any scientist, points toward a Mind that gave rise to it. But my favorite argument for God's existence is the so-called contingency argument. Take a look at my book Arguing Religion to find my presentation of it.

Instaconfused27413 karma

Hello Bishop Barron. I'm an Atheist that has read some of your works. Thank you for stopping by. Before I ask my questions I just want to begin by saying that I actually agree with a lot of your ideas. I think your critiques of the New Atheism and their dogmatic commitment to Scientism are especially salient. I also really enjoyed your book Arguing Religion where you encourage a return to rational argumentation that is modeled by clarity, rigor, and respect for one's interlocutor. I also especially appreciate that you highlight the importance of civil disagreement, utilizing the classic example of G.K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw.

With that said, I do have some questions:

  1. In your work, you consistently call upon Atheists and Non-Believers to take on the Catholic Intellectual tradition seriously, by invoking this notion that we should take on the strongest of the opposing views instead of settling for straw-men. I agree with this, and further agree that many atheists don't understand the Catholic conception of God, namely the notion of God as being itself, or as Aquinas would put it ipsum esse subsistens, rather than just being another being that competes with others in our ontology. My question then is: Following your method of argumentation, have you yourself taken the opportunity to engage with the best of what philosophical Atheism has to offer? I'm well aware you're familiar with continental thought, such as the work of Marx, Satre, Camus, Foucault, etc. But I'm more asking if you're aware of the work of contemporary analytic atheist philosophers such as J.L. Mackie, Graham Oppy, J.H. Sobel, Paul Draper, Quentin Smith, Wes Morriston, Evan Fales, Richard Gales, etc? Unlike popular level atheists, many of these individuals understand the classical-theist tradition you belong to and have offered powerful critiques, that are respected and taken seriously by Theistic philosophers. I'd love to know your thoughts on some of these serious and formidable Atheists?
  2. You've routinely talked about how the vast majority of Catholics are uninformed in their faith. For example, only 1/3rd of Catholics accept the Church's teaching of the real presence of the Eucharist. I know you've talked about how this is the result of a "dumbing-down" of the faith, but I'm curious if you could provide some philosophical/theological explanations as to why God would allow so many of his followers to be ignorant about important teachings of His church? Especially when this ignorance leads a lot of other people to leave the faith as well?
  3. What projects are you working on at Word on Fire that will appeal exclusively to Atheists? I know you've released a Word on Fire Bible and a book for parents to help their kids return to the faith, but I'm working if you have any projects in the work targetted towards sincere Atheists that outline a reasonable case for Catholicism or Theism from the ground up?

Thank you.

BishopBarron32 karma

Sorry. Trying to get to as many as I can. Yes, I have read some of the contemporary atheists you reference. I still find that their objections are typically based on misunderstandings of the dynamics of the classical arguments. Or they stop with the arguments themselves and don't bother to pull out the implications that show the relationship between the conclusions of these demonstrations and the Biblical God. On the question of why would God "allow" ignorance of the Church's teaching, I suppose it's because he respects our integrity and our freedom. Would you want a God who simply infuses his truths into our minds and compels us to accept them? He uses the instrumentality of his Church and then invites people to accept or reject. Not sure we have a "project" specially oriented toward atheists, though we have certainly done a lot of videos and articles on atheism, and I have written a small book that explores some of the classical proofs and objections. Just recently, I participated in a two hour conversation with Alex O'Connor on the program "Unbelievable." Alex is a young and fiercely-atheist philosopher from Oxford.

horaciopb1363 karma

I have an unresolved question that I find nagging, especially in Easter. Why were we created if God knew we were going to fall? And even the rescue by his Son would entail pain and suffering? What exactly is our function: to learn how to suffer? If so, what for? St. Paul indicates that as we grow spiritually we become more and more conformed to Christ. It is, the way I see it, my only, although undeserved, hope.

BishopBarron781 karma

Why would a parent bring a child into the world, knowing full well that she is going to suffer, fail, be humiliated, and eventually die? Because that parent understands that the child's life is greater and more beautiful than all of that darkness. Something similar obtains in regard to God. Something I always like to emphasize when questions like this arise is that the only problem more puzzling than the problem of evil is the problem of the good. Evil is a privation of the good, always parasitic upon it, and therefore good is always greater than evil. It always manages to run ahead of evil.

NotSilviaMorgan263 karma

Thank you for doing this, Bishop. Question for you... If Thomas Aquinas was able to do a Reddit AMA, what question would you ask him?

BishopBarron541 karma

I would ask him what he saw on December 6, 1273, which convinced him that, compared to it, everything he'd written seemed like straw to him.

DeanWithAn_N244 karma

I’m curious about what’s it’s like to only move in diagonals?

BishopBarron457 karma

Um...that was funny in 2018, the first time I heard it.

SwingingSalmon148 karma

Thanks for doing this!

One part of what stops me from really fully going back into religion is the fact that there have been thousands (if not 10s or 100s of thousands) of religions over the course of human history. What is it about Christianity that makes you think that it’s the “correct” religion?

BishopBarron239 karma

Once again, I don't think it's a matter of simple correct and incorrect, but rather of fullness and participation. I have no hesitation saying that there are many, many elements of truth and goodness in the many religions of the world. Part of what I find so appealing about Christianity is the radicality of its humanism. God became human that humans might become divine, said many of the Church fathers. I don't know any more dramatic affirmation of humanity than that.

GuruOnAMountain58 karma

Firstly, I stumbled across you on YouTube a few weeks ago and you've been such a gift. Thanks for all you do! Secondly, I have a question regarding omniscience and predestination. If God is a creator God who knows all, surely he would then know prior to creating a soul what decisions it would make and whether it would choose to be saved. It seems unthinkable to me that He would create a soul to be sent to earth knowing in advance that the person is going to reject salvation. Are there any theologians who tackle this that you could recommend?

BishopBarron118 karma

This has been one of the most discussed questions in the history of theology. If you want the graduate level treatment of it, read Luis Molina's densely complicated treatment from the 16th century. In a nutshell, God, who is outside of time, does not so much know things "in advance;" rather, he knows everything in one great glance. Therefore, just as my knowledge of what you're doing now does not determine what you do, so God's knowledge of our behavior doesn't determine it.

10inchpriapism40 karma

What have you currently, actively, publicly done to help the victims of rape by Catholic priests, bishops clergy ect.?

BishopBarron135 karma

I wrote a book on the abuse crisis called Letter to a Suffering Church. It sold well over a million copies, and I gave all of the proceeds to victims of sexual abuse.

MJ283040 karma

If Joe Biden attended mass in your church, would you give him communion?

BishopBarron73 karma

If he is in the state of grace, he may receive Communion.

MoodDue720639 karma

Thank you Bishop Barron for another AMA.

Critical race theory (CRT) seems to be gaining more steam in public consciousness.

I’m curious what your thoughts on CRT is. Do you think it is incompatible with Catholic doctrine? If so, what has the Church in the US done/is doing to combat this ideology? I’m particularly concerned that Catholic parochial schools will begin adopting elements of CRT to “keep up” with public education.

Thanks & God Bless you.

BishopBarron139 karma

I completely subscribe to the view that social injustice should be fought whenever and however it raises its ugly head. Racism, sexism,, oppression of the marginalized, etc. should never be accepted in any form. Having said that, I'm not a fan of CRT. I am deeply suspicious of its philosophical underpinnings in Nietzsche, Marx, Foucault, and Derrida. I don't agree with the antagonistic social theory that it proposes; I don't think we should analyze society purely in terms of power relationships. I don't like programs of collective guilt. I believe in equality of opportunity, but not forced equity of outcome.

TheSnake4229 karma

Who is your favorite Church Father?

BishopBarron79 karma

St. Irenaeus

MundaneSyllabub123420 karma

Settle this once and for all: best Chicago pizza?

BishopBarron45 karma

Gino's East.

Archaeologeez16 karma

If St Thomas Aquinas did an AMA, what would you ask him?

Also, where do you disagree with Aquinas?

BishopBarron49 karma

I disagree with him on a lot of things. In many ways, he was a child of his time and some of his views are outdated or downright silly. For example, he thought, following Aristotle, that women are best understood as misbegotten males. He also thought that angels were assigned to move the planets.

Insomniac-42714 karma

As a mother whose 20 year old son died in a car accident, not practicing his Catholic faith, how can I ever have real joy in Heaven if he is not there? I still pray for him daly.

BishopBarron44 karma

Why do you presume he's not in heaven? Keep praying for him. Turn him over to God.

yesandifthen13 karma

Hey Bishop Barron, thank you for your work for the Church. I just finished your podcast with Jordan Peterson, it was fantastic. I was captivated by his point that the Church needs to do a better job calling young people (and everyone) to adventure. Could you pontificate for a moment on the meeting point between Catholicism and adventure? Why is the Catholic Church the best possible place to find the adventure of a lifetime?

BishopBarron18 karma

I strongly agreed with Jordan on that one. The Church in which I came of age made very few demands on us, and that was a huge mistake. Young people (and old people too) respond to a challenge. The name for this challenge in the Catholic context is discipleship, following the Lord. This is a joyful and strenuous path, joyful because it brings us closer to God but strenuous because it calls us to love. The greatest possible adventure is the one proposed by the Church, namely, deification, becoming like unto God. The Church Fathers said, "God became human so that humans might become God." If you can find a more exciting adventure than that, take it.

nmutham11 karma

What does the Bible say about dinosaurs ?

BishopBarron40 karma


[deleted]10 karma


BishopBarron55 karma

Friend, I don't pretend to know for sure regarding anyone's damnation. I contend that we may hope that all will be saved. But hope is not the same as expectation. This is based upon a whole range of Biblical texts. Is Judas damned? Finally only God knows.

tommy-aquinas10 karma

Given that a day on Venus is 116 earth-days long: if we would settle there, would we celebrate Sunday mass every 2 years or every 168 hours?

BishopBarron34 karma

Well, since you couldn't possibly survive on Venus, I think the Mass schedule would be the least of your worries.

Catholic-Apologist7 karma

First - thank you for all of your work in evangelization. I was a young "none" and your videos gradually brought me back to the Church. I have never been happier.

Ok, the question - What is your response to detractors who say that you do not take social justice seriously, that argue that you do not speak enough about race, that you shouldn't appear on certain platforms with conservative moderators, etc.? I don't think these are fair criticisms, but I want to hear your response to such things.

BishopBarron25 karma

Well, first of all, those who say I don't speak of social justice issues are not well acquainted with my work. I have written and spoken extensively on Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, and Thomas Merton. I have also strongly defended the strategy of non-violent social protest, both in writing and in many of my videos. I have presented the thought of Rene Girard, who was one of the most eloquent contemporary critics of scapegoating violence. I have appeared on platforms with "conservative" moderators, and I have also appeared at Facebook headquarters, Google headquarters, Amazon headquarters; I have been on podcasts at America Magazine; I have spoken many times at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress--hardly bastions of conservatism! My basic principle is that I want to evangelize in every corner of the society--and this means that I will appear in some venues that irritate the right and others that irritate the left. So be it! As Paul said, I want to be all things to all people in order to bring as many as I can to Christ.

Aj12187 karma

How do you feel about Vatican 2?

BishopBarron39 karma

I'm for it.

TheSenate196 karma

In your recent conversation with Jordan Peterson, you spoke of a theologian that theorized Jesus still would have been sent even if Adam and Eve had not fell. Could you talk a bit more about that?


BishopBarron13 karma

Duns Scotus opined that the Incarnation would have happened as the culmination of God's creative intentions for the universe. Even if we never had fallen, Jesus would have come to recapitulate all of space and all of time. The Church has actually integrated both the Thomist and Scotist positions in each teaching.

quesstionsarentwrong6 karma

A lot of modern Catholic theologians don’t believe in the real presence. What would you say to them?

BishopBarron6 karma

They're wrong! The problem is that lots of people mistake "real presence" for "physical presence." Thomas Aquinas would not say that Christ is "physically present" in the Eucharist; he would say that the physical Christ is sacramentally present in the Eucharist through transsubstantiation.

jld2145 karma

Hi Bishop Barron, my mom and I really appreciate your content online! She wanted me to ask you -- what is an effective response when someone tells you they are "spiritual, but not religious" that will make them stop to think more deeply, particularly if they are a lapsed Catholic? Thank you!

BishopBarron13 karma

The problem is that a spirituality divorced from religion quickly fades away. Unless one's spirituality is rooted in formal prayer, liturgy, the sacraments, the fellowship of the community, the teaching of the tradition, etc., it will evanesce in short order. Take a look at Dr. Jean Twenge's study of teens and twenty-somethings, who are now increasingly neither religious nor spiritual.

tenachiasaca5 karma

What is your feeling on those that use the holy doctrines you preach to spread hate?

BishopBarron26 karma

I'm against it.

mercury4344 karma

Hi Bishop - what book do you recommend as an introduction to the Summa Theologiae for a 14 year old who chose "Thomas" for his confirmation name?

BishopBarron2 karma

Perhaps my own "Thomas Aquinas Spiritual Master."

JumbledPileOfPerson4 karma

Are any athiests ever satisfied with the answers provided in these sorts of threads? As an Agnostic Athiest I came here excited to hear a different perspective but the Bishop's answers are all so vague and wishy washy. I can't imagine being converted by this kind of stuff.

BishopBarron4 karma

Tell me exactly what you're concerned about. I'll try to answer it.

MyNewTransAccount4 karma

I'm trans but I was raised catholic. Sometimes I think I'd like to go back, but knowing the churches position on transgender people I can't justify the hypocrisy.

What is your position on transgender individuals and their place within the church?

BishopBarron24 karma

They belong in the Church as beloved members of the flock.

Turbulent-Reserve-263 karma

My young adult children have a problem with the existence of evil. They say, if God created everything and everything He created was good and God Himself is all good, then how can evil exist? I told them that God didn’t create evil, but evil is the absence of good. They were not satisfied with this answer, I guess because it didn’t fit into their logic (?). How could I explain it in a better way so it makes sense to them?

BishopBarron14 karma

Perhaps you could ask them to give you even one example of evil that is not a privation of the good. A cavity is evil because it's a compromising of the integrity of a tooth. Cancer is evil in the measure that it undermines the health of an organ. Adultery is evil inasmuch as it violates the nature of marriage, etc.

patchone1 karma

Bishop why did you not tell Ben Shapiro when he asked the catholic position that baptism is necessary for salvation?

BishopBarron19 karma

Because that's not the Catholic position. The Second Vatican Council clearly teaches that non-Christians, even non-believers, "can" be saved. Notice, please, that I highlighted the word "can." I'm certainly not arguing that evangelization is a matter of indifference since everyone is saved anyway. But I am arguing that it is possible for a non-Christian to be saved through a kind of participation in the grace of Christ. John Henry Newman is helpful here, for he speaks of the conscience as the "aboriginal vicar of Christ in the soul." This implies that anyone who is following his conscience sincerely is in fact following Christ (and being saved by him), though he might not be explicitly aware of this.

See more about my interaction with Ben here: http://wordonfire.org/hope/#shapiro

Tenebrousoul1 karma

Your church stole millions in ppe loans. How are you still part of a group that steals from the poor, and protects child molesters? How do you square that with your faith in the Bible?

BishopBarron14 karma

That's simply not true.