Lawrence Feingold: The Motives of Credibility For FaithNov 9th, 2013 | By Bryan Cross | Category: Blog Posts
On November 6, 2013, Dr. Lawrence Feingold, Associate Professor of Philosophy & Theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Saint Louis, Missouri, and author of The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas and his Interpreters and the three volume series The Mystery of Israel and the Church gave a lecture titled “The Motives of Credibility for Faith” to the Association of Hebrew Catholics. I have discussed the motives of credibility only indirectly and tangentially before, in my “Wilson vs. Hitchens” post, and in the comments following it, but Prof. Feingold’s lecture addresses the matter directly. There was a handout provided at the lecture, and this handout is available as a pdf file here. The audio recordings of the lecture and of the following Q&A session, along with an outline of the lecture and a list of the questions asked during the Q&A are available below. The mp3s can be downloaded here.
Key question: How do we know where God has spoken? (0′)
Why this question is inevitable: because God speaks through intermediaries. (1′)
If God wishes to speak to the world, and to do so through intermediaries, He must do so in such a way that believing the intermediary is neither imprudent nor unreasonable. (1′)
Hence God makes known His voice by way of marks that are unmistakable, i.e. something that only God can do (i.e. miracles). These are what are called the motives of credibility, by which we recognize God’s word as God’s word. (2′)
Motives of credibility allow us to make the transition from human faith to divine faith. (3′)
The motives of credibility allow the act of faith to be reasonable, and make the act of disbelief unreasonable; without them the act of faith would be unreasonable, and would lay us open to superstition. (3′)
God acts on our reason through grace, to aid our intellect in recognizing the motives of credibility. (4′)
II. Four categories of signs serving as motives of credibility:
(1) miracles, (5′)
(2) prophecies (6′)
(3) the Church (7′)
(4) the wisdom and beauty of revelation itself, and Christ Himself (7′)
The Catechism on the motives of credibility (8′)
Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability “are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all”; they are “motives of credibility” (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is “by no means a blind impulse of the mind.” (CCC 156)
The First Vatican Council speaks of the Church as a motive of credibility: (9′)
But, even the Church itself by itself, because of its marvelous propagation, its exceptional holiness, and inexhaustible fruitfulness in all good works; because of its catholic unity and invincible stability, is a very great and perpetual motive of credibility, and an incontestable witness of its own divine mission. (Vatican I, Session 3, chapter 3)
This requires an ability to distinguish the holiness of the Church, from the sins and scandals of her members (10′)
Explains why the saints are motives of credibility while bad Catholics are not “antimotives of credibility.” (10′)
(1.) The Witness of Miracles (11′)
Example of Moses (11′)
diabolical miracles (13′)
the purpose of the miracles was not only to lead the people out of Egypt (14′)
Example of Elijah (15′)
Miracles do not coerce faith, but respect our free will (18′)
Example of Jesus (19′)
Christ’s Resurrection (23′)
(2.) The Witness of Prophesy (26′)
Why prophesy is a motives of credibility
The vaticinium ex eventu objection (28′)
The Messianic prophesies (29′)
Israel and the Church: Fulfillment of Prophecy (30′)
Four ways the Catholic Church is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel 2
How the Catholic Church fulfills the prophecy of Christ in Matthew 16 (35′)
Seeing the Church as a motive of credibility (36′)
No Protestant denomination possesses this motive of credibility (38′)
What about Islam? (39′)
(3.) The Witness of the People of God (40′)
Under the Old Covenant
Under the New Covenant (42′)
The propagation and endurance of the gospel testifies to its divine origin
St. Augustine’s statement about this (42′)
Pinchas Lapide (44′)
(4a.) The Sanctity of God’s Revelation as a Motive of Credibility (49′)
The supernatural sanctity, nobility, and wisdom of God’s Revelation.
Old Testament (51′)
Agreement with the dictates of conscience (54′)
The harmony of what God reveals and the best we can know about God.
(4b.) The Beauty of Christ and the Saints(58′)
Christ, especially in His Passion
The Saints (59′)
III. St. Thomas Aquinas on the Motives of Credibility (61′)
Summa Contra Gentiles I a.6
Faith would be imprudent without the motives of credibility (62′)
Different kinds of miracles
transformation of the Apostles (63′)
Mass conversions to Christianity
High moral code
Transcendent supernatural end; a beatitude that is not carnal, not “pig heaven”
The dilemma: spread by miracles or without miracles (67′)
Comparison with Islam (68′)
Comparison with Protestant denominations (70′)
Question and Answer:
1. (0′) The extreme use of the historical critical method, what does that do to faith? Can it negate typology?
2. (1′) Can you use the hermeneutic of the continuity of the Church as a proof of God, or only as a motive of credibility?
3. (2′) What can you say about the motive of credibility of Buddhism?
4. (8′) The Church, in a document condemning modernism, called Lamentabili Sane, condemned the following statement: “The assent of faith ultimately rests on a mass of probabilities.” Is the error that is being condemned here the notion that the motives of credibility provide only a mass of probabilities, and if so, what do the motives of credibility provide above and beyond a “mass of probabilities?” In what sense or to what degree are the various and cumulative motives of credibility rationally persuasive or decisive for an intellect which fully grasps their scope and force?
5. (23′) Do the motives of credibility merely make the grace-aided act of faith reasonable, while in light of them the act of disbelief also remains equally reasonable, or are the motives of credibility such that those who know the motives of credibility entirely, and yet do not believe what Christ and the Church say God has revealed, not only are resisting actual grace, but are being unreasonable and epistemically culpable? In other words, can the motives of credibility make a person culpable for not believing, or do they only make it reasonable to believe?
6. (25′) Given that God desires all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, and given that divine revelation is said to have been vouchsafed to the human race precisely in order to help secure those two goals (even if explicit contact with divine revelation is not strictly necessary for salvation); why has God, in His providence, not ordained that divine revelation and the motives of credibility be ubiquitously available across time and geography throughout human history? Why does God hide? Why not present all human cultures across all places and times with extraordinary and overwhelming motives of credibility? God could write His name in the sky permanently, why doesn’t He?