Lawrence Feingold: The Motives of Credibility For Faith

Nov 9th, 2013 | By | 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.

IncredulityOfStThomas
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas
Caravaggio (1601-02)

Lecture:
 

I. Introduction
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 miracles
Christ’s Resurrection (23′)
Pentecost (24′)

(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′)
New Testament
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?

Tags: , , ,

103 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. I have some questions after listening to the lecture and the Q/A session.

    1) I do not understand his response to the fourth question. The motives of credibility do seem to only provide a “mass of probabilities” for the assent of faith. How, then, is the condemnation of Lamentabili Sane avoided?

    2) Do the motives of credibility suffice for a kind of natural faith? To be more precise, can the following proposition be affirmed through reasoned and critical investigation alone: the Church is a credible witness of supernatural revelation. If so, what differentiates divine faith from this kind of natural faith?

    3) Can the miracles of the saints, and not just their holy witness, be counted among the motives of credibility? What of other miracles such as those associated with Marian apparitions – are they also motives of credibility?

    4) How can inquirers be sure that the miracles they are investigating are not diabolical?

  2. I have been following along with this series and am loving it. Dr. Feingold is so smart, funny, and gentle, and does not talk down to you. Yet he manages to really push the brain cells to work a bit. Early in the series he explains (with the help of the Summa) the distinction between natural and sacred theology. Super helpful.

  3. My question concerns the Church as the third motive of credibility:

    What, if anything, could constitute a defeater for the proposition that the Roman Catholic Church is a motive of credibility?

    Just as C.S. Lewis observed that Christ’s strong claims required the title of “liar, lunatic, or Lord,” the Catholic Church’s strong statements require a similar response. The Catechism and Vatican I both point to the Church’s growth, holiness, fruitfulness, unity, and stability. But, what happens if the Catholic Church exhibits one or more of these characteristics less perfectly than Protestant believers? For example, do my Protestant friends identify potential defeaters in historic allegations of wrongdoing (William Tyndale, etc.)? Or, could a defeater arise from what even Peter Kreeft perceives to be a greater sense of personal relationship and religious excitement among Protestants?

    If the teachings of the Church are true, then why doesn’t God convince Protestants of those truths? I think the reason is spiritual and personal more than theological. Why should God let Prostestants become Catholics when many Protestants, perhaps most, already know Christ more intimately and personally than many Catholics, perhaps most? How can God lead Protestants home to the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church until the Catholic Church becomes that fullness that they knew as Protestants, plus more? When Catholics know Christ better than Protestants do–when Catholics are better Protestants than Protestants–then Protestants will become Catholics in order to become better Protestants. When Catholics are evengelized, Protestants will be sacramentalized, but not before, evangelizing comes first. — Peter Kreeft

    I understand the distinction between human and divine causes, with the former explaining evil hypocrisy and the latter providing legitimate motives of credibility. But, does this distinction entail that there could not be a (potentially true) defeater for the Catholic Church’s exclusive claims?

  4. Brian (#1):

    You write:

    I do not understand his response to the fourth question. The motives of credibility do seem to only provide a “mass of probabilities” for the assent of faith. How, then, is the condemnation of Lamentabili Sane avoided?

    The 25th proposition condemned in LS reads: “The assent of faith ultimately rests on a mass of probabilities.” What Prof. Feingold said is fully compatible with that. The role of the MCs in facilitating the assent of faith is to show that such assent is quitereasonable–not that it is compelled by reasoning from such evidence as may be available to the reasoner. But according to Catholic doctrine, the assent of faith itself depends “ultimately” on divine grace offering us the gift of faith. It does not depend just on, or even primarily on, one’s seeing the assent of faith as reasonable. That Catholic doctrine is itself reasonable. I know plenty of unbelievers who agree that my assent of faith is reasonable, but who also think that one or more alternatives would also be reasonable given the empirical evidence I cite. They can take that view because they have not yet chosen, and may never choose, to accept the gift of faith.

    Your 2), and the first question of your 3), are answered in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    156 What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe “because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived”. So “that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit.” 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” which show that the assent of faith is “by no means a blind impulse of the mind”.

    You also ask:

    What of other miracles such as those associated with Marian apparitions – are they also motives of credibility?

    For those who have not experienced them directly, such miracles are MCs if the relevant Church authorities formally deem them worthy of credence.

    Finally, you ask:

    4) How can inquirers be sure that the miracles they are investigating are not diabolical?

    Generally and informally: by their fruits. Formal investigators on the Church’s behalf have a much more rigorous set of criteria, which include but are not limited to such fruits.

    Best,
    Mike

  5. Michael (#4)
    It seems to me – would like your comment on this, Michael – that what constitutes adequate motives of credibility depends very much on the person and his situation. What would be enough for one person to make the act of faith would not be for another person. But the act of faith is an absolute, and is based not on the MC but on the fact that the person believes it is God Who has spoken.

    Is that right? I am thinking of Newman’s Grammar of Assent in which he says that faith and doubt cannot be coextensive. Faith is not simply a matter of the reason – the thing is overwhelmingly probable so for all practical purposes I will accept it as true. Reason (and reasons!) are necessary, but they are to enable me to make a judgement that it is God Who is speaking. The act of faith is still, though, an act of the will – I have concluded, not that I know enough to know that I have proved the thing true, but that I know enough to know that it is God Who is speaking.

    I don’t think I have expressed myself very clearly – but do you think I am in the right way, Michael?

    jj

  6. JJ,

    I think everything you have said is true, but I’d add one distinction. “[W]hat constitutes adequate motives of credibility” is not just a subjective matter, which “depends very much on the person and his situation,” but also an objective matter. If Catholicism is true, then objectively speaking, the aggregate of MCs throughout time and space must be enough to make the assent of faith supremely reasonable; but no one individual has access to more then a fraction of them, even by wide study. We can know well enough the kinds of MCs there are, but we cannot count them, or even always understand how individuals perceive and react to them. Hence the MCs can never intellectual compel faith; all they can do is show it to be at least reasonable. I believe that’s how God has set things up.

    Best,
    Mike

  7. “I have 10 questions that have come in from Called to Communion. These are kind of difficult.”

    That part was awesome. Nice going guys. :)

  8. Michael = #6) – thanks. Yes, I didn’t mean at all to imply that it was purely a subjective matter. These are real objective facts which ought reasonably to lead a person to Jesus Christ and to the Catholic faith. As a Protestant I was, for quite a while, a van Tillian presuppositionalist. I felt guilty trying to find evidences for the truth of Christianity.

    Fr Knox’s superb book The Belief of Catholics taught me not only the reality of evidences, but their normal necessity for incarnate beings – ‘normal’ only because, I suppose, God could, if He wished, produce infused knowledge in the soul. Though, come to think of it, even those, being created ideas, would not compel faith – would they? So they would still constitute a kind of evidences??

    jj

  9. Can these motives of credibility lead to the certainty spoken of in Vatican I?

    If anyone says that the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty
    from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema.

    Peace,
    John D.

  10. Mark (re: #3)

    What, if anything, could constitute a defeater for the proposition that the Roman Catholic Church is a motive of credibility? Just as C.S. Lewis observed that Christ’s strong claims required the title of “liar, lunatic, or Lord,” the Catholic Church’s strong statements require a similar response. The Catechism and Vatican I both point to the Church’s growth, holiness, fruitfulness, unity, and stability. But, what happens if the Catholic Church exhibits one or more of these characteristics less perfectly than Protestant believers?

    If the Church no longer possessed these things, the Church would no longer serve as a motive of credibility. But it is important in making such an evaluation not to go by mere appearances (or media depiction), but to find out the truth. As for the Kreeft quotation, as a qualifier see comment #117 in the “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement” thread. He is right that there are many poorly catechized Catholics, and that this is an obstacle to Protestant-Catholic union. But no other body possesses the four marks of the Church. Regarding holiness as a mark of the Church, see “The Holiness of the Church.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  11. JohnD (re: #9)

    The certainty attainable by the light of reason in this present life concerning the existence of God is metaphysical certitude, whereas the certainty attainable concerning the motives of credibility (i.e. establishing the fact of revelation) is moral certitude.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  12. Feingold lists the Church’s “exceptional holiness” and growth as motives of credibility.

    Why would a lack of holiness (abuse scandals) and shrinking numbers not be arguments against the validity of the church?

    To claim that good things are evidence for the church but bad things are not evidence against the church is bogus. You can’t have it both ways.

    It would seem more rational to conclude that perhaps God’s favor had departed.

  13. Erik (re: #12)

    Prof. Feingold addresses that question beginning around the end of the ninth minute of the lecture above. See also what I said beginning with “But if one wants to examine the fruit of the Catholic Church …” in comment #36 under the “Clark, Frame, …” post. This is also explained in more detail in “The Holiness of the Church” lecture. As for your claim about “shrinking numbers,” the Catholic Church grows by approximately 36,000 persons per day.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  14. the Catholic Church grows by approximately 36,000 persons per day.

    And yet, with Machen , being a member in the church he founded, I can affirm the following:

    Acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ, as He is offered
    to us in the gospel of His redeeming work, is saving
    faith. Despairing of any salvation to be obtained by
    our own efforts, we simply trust in Him to save us;
    we say no longer, as we contemplate the Cross, merely
    “He saved others” or “He saved the world” or “He
    saved the Church”; but we say, every one of us, by the
    strange individualizing power of faith, “He loved me
    and gave Himself for me.” When a man once says
    that, in his heart and not merely with his lips, then no
    matter what his guilt may be, no matter how far he
    is beyond any human pale, no matter how little oppor-
    tunity he has for making good the evil that he has
    done, he is a ransomed soul, a child of God forever.

    In words, an over emphasis on numbers can cause us to lose sight of the precious ness of each individual soul in Union and communion with God.

    Peace.

  15. Andrew, (re: #14)

    an over emphasis on numbers can cause us to lose sight of the precious ness of each individual soul in Union and communion with God

    True. My inclusion of the statement about the numbers was not to emphasize it (let alone overemphasize it), but only to refute Erik’s claim about “shrinking numbers.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  16. Ok, thanks, Bryan. If you’ll permit me, please remember, that Catholics being in the biggest church may make you the kind of Yankees of Christiainity, if you follow my drift, here. I know this website props up your church (as I do that on my website, see link on my name). But in the standards of my church, we talk about more and less pure churches. In other words, 36,000 members per day sounds pretty impressive, but that doesn’t necessarily speak to the purity of the Roman Catholic Church as compared to the many other faithful churches we find in our midst.

    Take care.

  17. Andrew, (re: #16)

    But in the standards of my church, we talk about more and less pure churches. In other words, 36,000 members per day sounds pretty impressive, but that doesn’t necessarily speak to the purity of the Roman Catholic Church as compared to the many other faithful churches we find in our midst.

    If you define ‘purity’ in terms of doctrine as determined by your own interpretation of Scripture, then you face the problem of constructing ‘church’ around your own interpretation of Scripture [and thus making your own interpretation the standard by which ‘purity’ is defined], as I described in “Clark, Frame, and the Analogy of Painting a Magisterial Target Around One’s Interpretive Arrow.” But if you define ‘purity’ in terms of moral perfection, then you’ll need to draw a distinction between mortal and venial sins in order for anyone to be a member. But Reformed folks deny that distinction. Hence, such a ‘pure church’ can have no members.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  18. Hey Bryan,

    I’ve got some time and some thoughts on this. Let’s think about this, and I’ll stick around. Let me know if I go off topic. First of all, thanks for your time.

    You wrote:

    If you define ‘purity’ in terms of doctrine as determined by your own interpretation of Scripture, then you face the problem of constructing ‘church’ around your own interpretation of Scripture [and thus making your own interpretation the standard by which ‘purity’ is defined]

    Forget about me, my dog, and my interpretation. How about Brother Martin Luther? Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, I accept his views on the Bible hook, line, and sinker. If you want to discuss Roman Catholic and Protestant dialogue with me, that’s a good way to look at this. But, the further we go, I may bring in John Calvin. I am a Calvinist, after all.

    as I described in “Clark, Frame, and the Analogy of Painting a Magisterial Target Around One’s Interpretive Arrow.” But if you define ‘purity’ in terms of moral perfection, then you’ll need to draw a distinction between mortal and venial sins in order for anyone to be a member. But Reformed folks deny that distinction.

    Hey man, I hope this doesn’t come off bad or anything, it’s not meant to. But I don’t want to click on any more links on this website. Guess what, I have a blog, and I can do that too – if people ever came to talk to me. It’s helpful for future people or others following along, so you may continue. But I want to discuss here and now with you, and not with your self from a previous day, or some audio or sermon that someone else gave. That’s just me, and again, I’m not trying to come off as harsh. It’s just, my eyes start to glaze over pretty fast, sometimes..

    Hence, such a ‘pure church’ can have no members.

    Come on, Bryan. This is a bit absurd. You are, if I understand, essentially saying, the Catholic church distinguishes between mortal and venial sins, and your church, not being the Catholic church, may not properly (or at all) make that distinction. Ergo – my Catholic Church is more pure than your church, which is not the catholic church.

    Did I miss anything? Look, I’ll just finish by saying that your other interlocutor here, Erik Charter, wrote up a blog piece at his website with his views on Feingold et al. It’s pretty scathing. I’m willing to keep dialoguing with you here, and again, I have time. Thank you for yours. We can hope for good days ahead in Prot/Cath relations.

    Peace.

  19. Andrew, (re: #18)

    Forget about me, my dog, and my interpretation. How about Brother Martin Luther? Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, I accept his views on the Bible hook, line, and sinker. If you want to discuss Roman Catholic and Protestant dialogue with me, that’s a good way to look at this. But, the further we go, I may bring in John Calvin. I am a Calvinist, after all.

    All that is fully compatible with the truth of what I said in #17.

    Hey man, I hope this doesn’t come off bad or anything, it’s not meant to. But I don’t want to click on any more links on this website. Guess what, I have a blog, and I can do that too – if people ever came to talk to me. It’s helpful for future people or others following along, so you may continue. But I want to discuss here and now with you, and not with your self from a previous day, or some audio or sermon that someone else gave. That’s just me, and again, I’m not trying to come off as harsh. It’s just, my eyes start to glaze over pretty fast, sometimes.

    All this too is fully compatible with the truth of what I said in #17.

    You are, if I understand, essentially saying, the Catholic church distinguishes between mortal and venial sins, and your church, not being the Catholic church, may not properly (or at all) make that distinction. Ergo – my Catholic Church is more pure than your church, which is not the catholic church.

    No, that is not the argument I made. The argument I made has two premises. Those two premises are: (1) if you define ‘purity’ in terms of moral perfection, then you’ll need to draw a distinction between mortal and venial sins in order for anyone to be a member [because no one is without sin], (2) Reformed folks deny that distinction. And the conclusion of the argument is “Hence, such a ‘pure church’ can have no members.”

    Look, I’ll just finish by saying that your other interlocutor here, Erik Charter, wrote up a blog piece at his website with his views on Feingold et al. It’s pretty scathing.

    What in particular in Charter’s post falsified what Prof. Feingold said?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  20. What in particular in Charter’s post falsified what Prof. Feingold said?

    Let’s say for the sake of argument, nothing.

    What if, after hearing and getting to know Prof. Feingold and his views on the Roman Catholic Church, I decide to stay an Orthodox Presbyterian, because the Roman Catholic Church has said that there are communions other than her who are faithful churches (of which the OPC may be one), and since I have my reasons for staying Orthodox Presbyterian that really aren’t anyone else’s concerns, for the intellecutalism of the discussion at hand.

    My main concern with Roman Catholic Christians is the amount of confusion that they must be experiencing. What I mean, is, with what I have come to learn about the Roman Catholic Church, is that it can be hard to make heads or tails of what she has said in the past, and especially how what she has said in the past cohere with say, for example, statements that the Pope makes on a regular basis (in whatever capacity he is giving those statements).

    I came to talk generally about Roman Catholic and Reformed dialogue with you today, Bryan, because you referred me to this thread from another, and I desire to talk about such things, because my faith is very important to me and helpful. I believe it could be for others, as well, and so I wish to share.

    Do you have pointers on how I might proceed from here? I read this article, read Charter’s, but haven’t had the time to fully digest Prof. Feingold. Would you suggest that I ponder on all those things linked to (audio and pieces of writing) linked to here, in order to continue dialogue? I’ll be honest, time almost assuredly won’t permit me that, at least not any time in the near future, and you’ll likely have more blog posts by that time.

    Thank you for letting me express myself here. With that, I have nothing further to say on this thread, for today or the immediate future.

    Peace.

  21. Andrew (re: #20)

    Let’s say for the sake of argument, nothing.

    Then Prof. Feingold’s points stand unrefuted.

    What if, after hearing and getting to know Prof. Feingold and his views on the Roman Catholic Church, I decide to stay an Orthodox Presbyterian, …

    As I explained recently elsewhere, because nothing follows from a single-premise, questions of the form “What if x?” have only x as an answer if x is a single proposition.

    … because the Roman Catholic Church has said that there are communions other than her who are faithful churches (of which the OPC may be one),

    Except she hasn’t said that. According to the Catholic Church (see here), Protestant communions are not even churches, because they did not preserve apostolic succession, and therefore do not have the Eucharist. And having the Eucharist is necessary for being a [particular] church. And if, according to the Catholic Church, Protestant communions are not even churches, then she cannot believe that any of them are “faithful churches.”

    My main concern with Roman Catholic Christians is the amount of confusion that they must be experiencing. What I mean, is, with what I have come to learn about the Roman Catholic Church, is that it can be hard to make heads or tails of what she has said in the past, and especially how what she has said in the past cohere with say, for example, statements that the Pope makes on a regular basis (in whatever capacity he is giving those statements).

    Thanks for your concern. Which statement made by the Pope do you think does not cohere with what the Church has said in the past?

    I came to talk generally about Roman Catholic and Reformed dialogue with you today, Bryan, because you referred me to this thread from another, and I desire to talk about such things, because my faith is very important to me and helpful. I believe it could be for others, as well, and so I wish to share. Do you have pointers on how I might proceed from here? I read this article, read Charter’s, but haven’t had the time to fully digest Prof. Feingold. Would you suggest that I ponder on all those things linked to (audio and pieces of writing) linked to here, in order to continue dialogue? I’ll be honest, time almost assuredly won’t permit me that, at least not any time in the near future, and you’ll likely have more blog posts by that time.

    I would recommend that before writing about any post or article, you first take the time to read it carefully, or listen to the lecture, and then, if you wish to discuss it, keep your comments on the topic of the post. The purpose of each combox is for discussing the post or article above it, not just whatever comes to mind.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  22. In the lecture/article, it says:

    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.

    What about a person who responds in faith to the words of a preacher prior to hearing about the motives of credibility? Is that act of faith automatically unreasonable until the person is exposed to motives of credibility?

    Peace,
    John D.

  23. Bryan,

    If I have carefully studied the topic at hand, I can provide thoughtful and helpful ideas without expending the necessary effort that you may think is necessary. In this case, Erik Charter did a lot of heavy lifting for people of my persuasion.

    As for my final thought now, Isaiah 55:7-8 contrasts God’s thoughts and our thoughts. You know this. Christians are wise to hold on to this (and not let go of the other)thinking of the Eccl. passage)) when discussing theology online.

    Take care.

  24. Bryan – But if one wants to examine the fruit of the Catholic Church, one has to look at her in her entirety, over the last 2,000 years, and look especially at those who live in conformity with the Church’s teachings, and make frequent use of her sacraments. The fruit of the Church is not best found in those who reject her teachings, or in one relatively short time span, but in the whole of Church history, and particularly in those who are deeply devoted to her teachings, as is explained in “The Holiness of the Church.”

    Erik – In stating that the history of the Roman Catholic Church itself is one of the “Motives of Credibility” (objective evidences for the truth of Roman Catholicism) you don’t have the option of insisting that the seeker only “look especially at those who live in conformity with the Church’s teachings, and make frequent use of her sacraments.” This is blatant stacking of the deck.

    Keep in mind that the seeker is at the “stage of inquiry”, to quote Feingold. He has no responsibility to adopt your paradigm of only considering “faithful Catholics” to ascertain the validity of Catholicism.

    This is important, because if the seeker were to look at the most faithful Reformed Protestants, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Muslims, or even atheists they may find pious people who live morally upright lives. For a seeker to draw any valid conclusions about the truth of a religious claim by way of history, all of the history of that religion must be fair game. This is the only valid way a seeker can move from “outside the paradigm” to “inside the paradigm” honestly.

    In Roman Catholicism this is especially crucial because of the claims of authority and, in some cases, infallibility, made by the Church. Some Catholic Popes have undeniably been evil and have committed evil deeds. For the seeker to be asked to only consider the acts of faithful, pious, Popes is not a reasonable request if the Motives of Credibility are going to stand up “outside” of the Roman Catholic paradigm.

    Say human parents claim a superior approach to parenting. The family has 6 children. 4 of the children are on the honor roll, attend church frequently, visit the elderly, and are stars on their sports teams. the other 2 children are truants, smoke marijuana, get poor grades, and have been arrested several times. How would you respond to a request to only evaluate the parenting of the parents based exclusively on the 4 good kids? After all, those kids are carrying out the teaching of the parents, upholding their principles. Take the illustration a step further and say that the parents conduct little or no discipline on the 2 wayward children. How would you evaluate the parenting of the parents?

    If a tree is going to be judged by its fruit, all the fruit is fair game, especially if, as Feingold claims, “Accepting the Motives of Credibility makes it reasonable to believe and makes us culpable if we refuse to believe.”

  25. JohnD (re: #22)

    Is that act of faith automatically unreasonable until the person is exposed to motives of credibility?

    Yes and no. It is unreasonable, all other things being equal, to believe just anybody who claims to speak for God. On the other hand, since faith in God is supremely reasonable, the act of faith can be reasonable (in that respect) even if (while) it is unreasonable in the choice to believe person x to be God’s spokesperson apart from any provision of motives of credibility demonstrating his divine authorization.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  26. Andrew (re: 23)

    In this case, Erik Charter did a lot of heavy lifting for people of my persuasion.

    If nothing was falsified, then exactly what “heavy lifting” was done?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  27. Erik (re: #24)

    In stating that the history of the Roman Catholic Church itself is one of the “Motives of Credibility” (objective evidences for the truth of Roman Catholicism) you don’t have the option of insisting that the seeker only “look especially at those who live in conformity with the Church’s teachings, and make frequent use of her sacraments.” This is blatant stacking of the deck.

    You added the word ‘only,’ and thus created a straw man. Nor did anyone “insist” on anything. The point is, if you want to know the fruit of something, you have to look especially at those who adhere to it and follow it devoutly, not focus on those who are far from it.

    Keep in mind that the seeker is at the “stage of inquiry”, to quote Feingold. He has no responsibility to adopt your paradigm of only considering “faithful Catholics” to ascertain the validity of Catholicism.

    It is not a paradigm-relative claim that determining the fruit of something requires looking at those who follow it, not those who ignore, disregard, disobey, or distance themselves from it.

    For the seeker to be asked to only consider the acts of faithful, pious, Popes is not a reasonable request if the Motives of Credibility are going to stand up “outside” of the Roman Catholic paradigm.

    Again, you’re constructing a strawman, making up a position I never claimed or said, when you say “asked to only consider ….” If you want to engage in authentic dialogue, then you have to strive not only to avoid setting up strawmen, but you need to be sincerely apologetic when it is pointed out that you have done so. Inquirers can look at everything. But we do not rightly determine the fruit of x by looking at those who do not follow x, or those who in their belief and practice are far removed from x. We do not rightly judge what is the fruit of prayer, for example, by looking at the lives of those who never pray.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  28. Bryan – The point is, if you want to know the fruit of something, you have to look especially at those who adhere to it and follow it devoutly, not focus on those who are far from it.

    Erik – But I don’t accept your point. Isn’t that just your opinion? If I am looking at the history of the Catholic church objectively from the “outside”, how am I supposed to conclude that a bad pope is “far from” the Catholic church without first going “inside” to study Catholic theology? Please flesh out your case for your point if you are able.

    Please also tell me how this part of the Motives as you are interpreting it gives Catholicism any advantage over other faiths who can point to members who uphold the teachings of those faiths in exemplary ways.

    Keep in mind that you as a Catholic are the one saying that I am culpable if I look at the fruit of the Roman Catholic Church and do not conclude that she is who she says she is. How is it fair that you tell me who I can look at and who I can’t?

    Do you have an answer for my hypothetical on the family who claimed to be superior parents?

  29. Erik, (re: #28)

    But I don’t accept your point. Isn’t that just your opinion?

    No, it is common sense. The fruit of something is best determined by examining that which is most deeply united to it and lives fully and completely in it, not that which is only marginally related to it, rejects its doctrines, and lives contrary to its rules and practices.

    If I am looking at the history of the Catholic church objectively from the “outside”, how am I supposed to conclude that a bad pope is “far from” the Catholic church without first going “inside” to study Catholic theology?

    No one claimed that you don’t first have to study Catholic theology in order to determine whether a bad pope is “far from” the Catholic Church.

    Please flesh out your case for your point if you are able.

    I don’t think I can make it any clearer than I have in the previous comments.

    Please also tell me how this part of the Motives as you are interpreting it gives Catholicism any advantage over other faiths who can point to members who uphold the teachings of those faiths in exemplary ways.

    Because there are no greater saints than Catholic saints, and no holier doctrine than Catholic doctrine.

    How is it fair that you tell me who I can look at and who I can’t?

    One last time (hopefully), I have never told you (or anyone) that you can’t look at anyone. Please, try to avoid constructing straw men.

    Do you have an answer for my hypothetical on the family who claimed to be superior parents?

    It is disanalogous, not only because the wayward children were as equally united to and formed under the parenting as the other children, but also because the fruit of the Catholic faith (and the Catholic Church) isn’t rightly measured by the percentage of good persons resulting from *some* exposure to it, but rather by the lives of those who fully and devoutly embrace it. Jesus explained how much of the seed falls on rocky ground, is eaten by birds, and choked out by weeds. Those results are not a good way of judging the fruitfulness of the seed. The right way to judge the fruitfulness of the seed is to examine the cases where the seed thrives and flourishes, and then one sees the fruitfulness of the seed. Conversion rate upon exposure is not the same thing as fruitfulness.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  30. Bryan,

    In #13 above you referred me to the following comment you made on another article:

    “But if one wants to examine the fruit of the Catholic Church, one has to look at her in her entirety, over the last 2,000 years, and look especially at those who live in conformity with the Church’s teachings, and make frequent use of her sacraments.”

    How do you define the word “entirety”?

    In #29 above you say:

    “Because there are no greater saints than Catholic saints, and no holier doctrine than Catholic doctrine.”

    Do you have evidence to support these contentions? Is this not begging the question in regard to the Motives? Are the Motives not supposed to bring an outsider into the church without him first having to concede the superiority of Catholic saints over, say, Protestant saints? Of Catholic doctrine over say, Mormon doctrine?

    Mr. Feingold seems willing to allow people a “stage of inquiry” in which they are not required to recognize the superiority of Catholic X over Not Catholic X prior to assenting to Catholicism. Do you not allow such a “stage of inquiry”?

  31. Erik, (re: #30)

    How do you define the word “entirety”?

    The same way the dictionary does.

    Do you have evidence to support these contentions?

    Yes, the lives of the Catholic saints (see, for example, Butler’s four volume Lives of the Saints), are unmatched by the lives of the holiest of any other organization. As for doctrine, no one else stands against contraception (while Reformed leader Mark Driscoll gives the green light for anal sex with one’s spouse, and the Reformed community does not rebuke him; see the link at comment #161 of the Contraception thread); no one else disallows divorce and remarriage. No one has anything close to Catholic social doctrine. Etc., etc. If you disagree, then which organization do you think has produced saints that are holier than those set down in Butler’s book, and has holier doctrines than those set down in the Catechism?

    Is this not begging the question in regard to the Motives?

    It could be, if you had studied the evidence, and didn’t agree with my claim about it, and we were trying to resolve that disagreement. But I’m under the impression that you haven’t studied the evidence (on the Catholic side). So feel free to take it as my evaluative judgment, not as something that you’re supposed to agree with on my say so, without your own investigation.

    Are the Motives not supposed to bring an outsider into the church without him first having to concede the superiority of Catholic saints over, say, Protestant saints? Of Catholic doctrine over say, Mormon doctrine?

    Of course. See above.

    Mr. Feingold seems willing to allow people a “stage of inquiry” in which they are not required to recognize the superiority of Catholic X over Not Catholic X prior to assenting to Catholicism. Do you not allow such a “stage of inquiry”?

    I don’t allow or disallow anyone anything.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  32. Bryan,

    The definition I find for “entirety” is “The whole of something”. You invite me to look at the church in her entirety, but then qualify entirety with “especially”.

    What ratio would you suggest I use between “entirety” and “especially”? Do you have a list of Popes that I should not look at? Should I confine my examination to certain publishers and avoid others? Right now I am reading Paul Johnson’s “A History of Christianity”. Johnson claims to be a Roman Catholic. Is he a fair source for me to use or not?

    If I am inquiring into becoming a Jehovah’s Witness would you suggest that I confine my inquiry to “The Watchtower” and not read any sources that may be critical of JW’s? After all, I will probably be considering more than “the best” of JW’s if I do that. I may read an objective treatment of their doctrines and history that puts them in an unfavorable light. Is that unfair to them?

    Regarding Butler’s “Lives of the Saints”, why should I consider these lives a greater witness than say, “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs”? People in both books presumably lived exemplary Christian lives and may have died for their beliefs.

    Regarding contraception, is the Church disciplining any Catholics who are using contraception? Certainly they are using it since I don’t think anyone will deny that Catholic families are shrinking by historical standards. If Catholics were reproducing as they once were they would not be shrinking relative to Islam on a percentage basis of world population as they are.

    Driscoll may give the green light for anal sex with one’s spouse but I doubt many spouses are (ha, ha). How am I accountable for Driscoll?

    Regarding divorce and remarriage, stay tuned for what Pope Francis may bring about. Additionally, do you think annulments in the Catholic church are always obtained in a pure way?

  33. Nice to see that your side also knows Jack-Chick style polemics.

    BTW, plenty in the Reformed world have critiqued Driscoll for all sorts of folly and vices. You should tell the truth.

    But if that is the standard, when did you ever call Cardinal Martini to account?

  34. Erik (re: #32)

    The definition I find for “entirety” is “The whole of something”. You invite me to look at the church in her entirety, but then qualify entirety with “especially”. What ratio would you suggest I use between “entirety” and “especially”? Do you have a list of Popes that I should not look at? Should I confine my examination to certain publishers and avoid others?

    You’re still not understanding what I’m saying. Once again, I’m not saying that you may not or cannot look at anyone or anything. I’m saying rather, as I’ve said multiple times now, that in order to judge rightly the fruit of something, one must look at those living its life. Looking at the lives of persons disconnected from it will not show you what is its fruit, just as looking at the stony ground will not show you the fruitfulness of the seed that was sown.

    If I am inquiring into becoming a Jehovah’s Witness would you suggest that I confine my inquiry to “The Watchtower” and not read any sources that may be critical of JW’s?

    Again, I’m not saying, nor have I said, not to look at something, or not to read something. If you keep attacking a straw man, then we’ll have to wrap up the conversation.

    Regarding Butler’s “Lives of the Saints”, why should I consider these lives a greater witness than say, “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs”?

    I recommend reading them both, and comparing.

    Regarding contraception, is the Church disciplining any Catholics who are using contraception?

    Notice the red herring. You jumped from the question of the holiness of the doctrine, to the question of discipline. That’s a separate question. Again, see “The Holiness of the Church” to understand why those are distinct.

    Driscoll may give the green light for anal sex with one’s spouse but I doubt many spouses are (ha, ha). How am I accountable for Driscoll?

    No one said you were.

    Regarding divorce and remarriage, stay tuned for what Pope Francis may bring about.

    Cheap prognostications are easy, but worthless.

    Additionally, do you think annulments in the Catholic church are always obtained in a pure way?

    Again, that’s a red herring. The purity of the doctrine does not mean or entail, nor is refuted by the failure by certain members to adhere to that doctrine in every instance, as is explained in “The Holiness of the Church.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  35. Darryl, (re: #33)

    BTW, plenty in the Reformed world have critiqued Driscoll for all sorts of folly and vices.

    Feel free to provide the link to the article by any Reformed leader showing why Driscoll is wrong on *this* teaching (i.e. the permissibility of anal sex with one’s spouse). Hand-waving is easy, but unhelpful.

    But if that is the standard, when did you ever call Cardinal Martini to account?

    I already answered that question in comment #189 in the Habemus thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  36. Bryan,

    Please bear with me as I think we are making progress.

    In the Catholic Encyclopedia I find the following passage on the Motives of Credibility that I think is on point regarding our discussion:

    (c) These testimonies are unanimous; they all point in one direction, they are of every age, they are clear and simple, and are within the grasp of the humblest intelligence. And, as the Vatican Council has said, “the Church herself, is, by her marvellous propagation, her wondrous sanctity, her inexhaustible fruitfulness in good works, her Catholic unity, and her enduring stability, a great and perpetual motive of credibility and an irrefragable witness to her Divine commission” (Const. Dei Filius) .

    You know Catholic sources better than me so you can suggest another source if you do not believe this passage is accurate.

    There are a few points I would like to make about the passage:

    By using phrases like “These testimonies are unanimous”, “they all point in one direction”, “they are of every age”, “they are clear and simple”, “and are within the grasp of the humblest intelligence”, “her wondrous sanctity”, and “her inexhaustible fruitfulness in good works”, the Church itself does not seem to put the requirements on a person at the stage of inquiry that you are putting on me.

    It would certainly be difficult for a person “of the humblest intelligence” to go through 2,ooo years (your figure — I think exactly when the RCC started is up for debate) and discern which Catholics, statements of the Church, historical events, and deeds he should consider to be a valid expression of Catholicism and which he should disregard due to their “unfaithfulness”.

    Indeed, in order to complete this arduous task the inquirer would need to know the entire 2,865 article Catechism of the Catholic Church and be able to apply that knowledge to the various historical figures, statements, events, and deeds he encountered during his 2,000 year historical search. Add to that the great difficulty of knowing who was making “frequent use of her sacraments” and who was not.

    This would require a high degree of expertise and wisdom and would be a supreme act of private judgment at many points. This certainly does not seem to be what the Motives have in mind given the language I quoted above.

    Is it possible that at the time the Motives were formulated the Church was not aware of its own history to the degree they are today? Is it possible that at that time the Church knew that inquirers would not have knowledge of past Church misdeeds at their disposal as they do today?

  37. Erik, (re: #36)

    Here’s what I wrote in that comment:

    But if one wants to examine the fruit of the Catholic Church, one has to look at her in her entirety, over the last 2,000 years, and look especially at those who live in conformity with the Church’s teachings, and make frequent use of her sacraments. The fruit of the Church is not best found in those who reject her teachings, or in one relatively short time span, but in the whole of Church history, and particularly in those who are deeply devoted to her teachings, as is explained in “The Holiness of the Church.”

    I’m not there saying that one cannot encounter the motives of credibility without studying the whole of Church history. Rather, I’m saying that if one wants to study the fruit of the Catholic Church and judge accurately concerning her fruit, then one should not limit one’s inquiry to one specific place or one specific time or one specific person, nor should one focus on persons removed from her life and teaching. So I was speaking about how to avoid inaccurate judgments. The encyclopedia, by contrast, is referring to the evidential character of the motives of credibility when it says that “they are within the grasp of the humblest intelligence.” That is, in their evidential character they are accessible to anyone who encounters them. They are not a complicated argument that only highly intelligent persons can grasp as evidential. For example, one does not have to study the whole of Church history to encounter the Church’s holiness. It can be encountered in a single saint (e.g. St. Francis, St. Padre Pio), or in her doctrine. The prescription of universal extension for avoiding bad judgment in inquiry is fully compatible with the universal accessibility of the evidential character of the motives of credibility.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  38. Andrew and Erik, I can’t help but think you are looking to judge a medicine based on those who pour it down the sink. I wouldn’t do that for any faith – be it Reformed, Evangelical, JW, or even Islam.

    Of course that’s not to say you might learn something else from the rest, but I’m not sure it’s helpful in the sense you’re looking for.

  39. Bryan,

    Thanks for your sincere responses. One follow up question: If the ratio of “good” that I find is say, 1 “good” for every 5 “bad”, would it still be rational to convert? Usually we reach verdicts in a court of law based on “a preponderance of the evidence” or “beyond a reasonable doubt”, depending on the type of case. You seem to be adopting a standard of “if you find any evidence”, which is a far lower burden of proof.

    Say I accept your responses and pursue my inquiry into the Roman Catholic Church. I decide that in spite of encountering unholy Catholics and events which do not seem consistent with being a church that Jesus Christ Himself founded that there are enough divine attributes that shine through in history that it is rational for me to pursue membership in the Church. I do so and am now a Catholic.

    What difficulty does the process that I have just gone through pose to me as a now practicing Catholic? I am now “inside” the Catholic paradigm as opposed to examining Catholicism objectively from “outside”.

    The reasons that the Catholic paradigm is supposedly superior to the Protestant paradigm is that it provides a principled alternative to the problems caused by many conflicting Protestant “private judgments”. There is a mechanism within Catholicism for deciding the contentious issues that divide Protestants, namely an authoritative Magisterium led by an infallible leader, The Pope.

    In the process of becoming Catholic I have used private judgment to overlook the past bad actions of Catholic priests, bishops, and popes because I believe they were outweighed by my private judgment about good actions of priests, bishops, and popes. I would call this “warranted private judgment”.

    Now I am in the church and living the Catholic life in real time. I do not have the benefit of hindsight. How do I deal with the following situations:

    (1) I am a German Catholic under the authority of Bishop of Limburg Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst. I become aware that he is spending a large sum of money remodeling his residence. I am not wealthy and have concern for the poor and do not think this is right. Do I have a right to private judgment on this matter or would my judgment be unwarranted because he is a bishop and I am a layman?

    (2) I am a member of a Catholic parish in Chicago in the 1960s. A son of mine has made what I believe to be credible allegations of sexual abuse against a priest who was transferred into our parish within the last year. Another family in the parish has told us that their son has made similar allegations. We decide to report these allegations to the bishop. Time passes and after 6 months we learn that the priest is being transferred to another parish in another part of the city. We are concerned that this is not right and that the priest should be punished. Do I have a right to private judgment on this matter or would my judgment be unwarranted because the men in question are a bishop and a priest and I am a layman?

    (3) After extensive study I find that the practice of offering indulgences is not biblical and should not be promoted by the church. The Pope, however, is clearly in favor of indulgences. Do I have a right to private judgment on this matter or would my judgment be unwarranted because the men in question are a bishop and a priest and I am a layman?

    When I was an inquirer I was given the right to make private judgments about the church and made determinations, with the benefit of hindsight, that some past actions by Catholic priests, bishops, and popes were bad. Do I now, without benefit of hindsight, have that same right? Why or why not?

    If I do, have I not in a sense become an authority over an infallible authority to whom I am supposed to submit?

    If I do not, is this rational because I have learned during my previous inquiry that Catholic leaders can and do err and sin. Does God require me to be a victim of clerical error and sin happening in real time, even on matters that may put my eternal soul in jeopardy?

  40. Erik (re: #39)

    Your comment contains a number of different points and questions. The conversation would be easier if you kept your comments focused. For the most part, the issue you are asking about here (in comment #39) is not the motives of credibility, but private judgment and authority within the Catholic paradigm. So if that’s what you wish to discuss, then please do that at “The “Catholics are Divided Too” Objection,” so that the discussion here can remain on-topic.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  41. Bryan,

    Thanks for letting it through. I think I’m done for now so if you want to take some time to address my questions you can at your leisure. Otherwise I can resume the conversation later at the other place you suggest. Thanks for your hospitality.

  42. Where do theistic “proofs” and evidences fit into the scheme? Are they precursors to the motives of credibility for the Church?

    It seems that a person must first believe that there is a God before he can reasonably acknowledge that God has spoken somewhere in particular. But, if the motives of credibility make it reasonable to assent to specific divine revelation, then it seems they would at the same time be motives of credibility that God exists. And if that is the case, then should people reaching out to unbelievers spend time laying out theistic proofs (which can be difficult and limited in scope) or should they just jump right to the motives of credibility Professor Feingold discusses?

    Bryan (re: #11),

    You said:

    The certainty attainable by the light of reason in this present life concerning the existence of God is metaphysical certitude

    I assume you have the 5 ways in mind here as they provide metaphysical demonstrations of the existence of God (with some of His attributes at least). Regarding those proofs, do you find that they all succeed in showing “God is a metaphysical certitude”? Also, can the attributes often deduced as corollaries to the proofs be known with “metaphysical certitude” or are they less certain?

    Lastly, do you recommend any “proofs” or theistic evidences outside of the 5 ways (e.g. the Kalam argument, the moral argument, Plantinga’s ontological argument, the fine-tuning argument, the argument from desire, argument from consciousness, etc.)

    Peace,
    John D.

  43. John D.,

    I’d like for Bryan to give you his answer to this since he is a professional philosopher and I am not. But I think your mention of the five ways merits a brief observation on my part. When I first encountered the five ways in the summa, I was not all that impressed. I had more sympathy for the Kalam arguments as Craig articulated it, and I used to be hopeful about intelligent design. I now see things in a completely different light. Eventually, I came to realize that Thomas’s 5 ways are merely summaries, not detailed proofs, and that presuppose a very great deal of metaphysical heavy lifting that Thomas does elsewhere – the contra gentiles, the opuscula, the questiones disputatae, etc.

    This is true of all the 5 ways, but particularly evident when you look at something like the 4th way – that is just so manifestly false if you read it prima facie – hence Dawkins’ gab about the being of “maximum smelliness.” But, if you read it in light of Thomas’s doctrine of the transcendental properties of being, and what it means – metaphysically – for a thing to be one, or good, or noble, etc. You realize just how much Thomas was presuming in his statement of the argument.

    No one that I know of has done more to elucidate this reading of the five ways than Edward Feser. If you are not familiar with him, I recommend his blog, and his books on Aquinas, Mind, and the New Atheism.

    In particular, you might want to start with his post “So you think you understand the Cosmological argument.”

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/so-you-think-you-understand.html

    Thanks,

    David

  44. JohnD (re: #42)

    Are they precursors to the motives of credibility for the Church?

    Yes.

    But, if the motives of credibility make it reasonable to assent to specific divine revelation, then it seems they would at the same time be motives of credibility that God exists.

    Yes.

    And if that is the case, then should people reaching out to unbelievers spend time laying out theistic proofs (which can be difficult and limited in scope) or should they just jump right to the motives of credibility Professor Feingold discusses?

    In the order of things, establishing the existence of God precedes establishing God’s having spoken, and having become incarnate, and having established a divine community. But also the whole paradigms (e.g. Catholic, atheist) in their entirety can be compared to the data.

    Regarding those proofs, do you find that they all succeed in showing “God is a metaphysical certitude”?

    ‘Succeed’ is an odd word to use, because it implies successful persuasion of the subject. No, they do not necessarily “succeed” in that sense. But an argument is not rightly evaluated by its “success rate” in that sense, but rather by its soundness. And yes, the five ways are sound.

    Also, can the attributes often deduced as corollaries to the proofs be known with “metaphysical certitude” or are they less certain?

    No, also with “metaphysical certitude.”

    Lastly, do you recommend any “proofs” or theistic evidences outside of the 5 ways (e.g. the Kalam argument, the moral argument, Plantinga’s ontological argument, the fine-tuning argument, the argument from desire, argument from consciousness, etc.)

    “Do you recommend” is open-ended, because it leaves off the “with respect to what.” The better question is whether they are sound, and to answer that I’d have to go through the particular arguments (complete with all their premises included) you have in mind, because there are different variations and formulations of these arguments.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  45. David (re: #43),

    Thanks for your input!

    Eventually, I came to realize that Thomas’s 5 ways are merely summaries, not detailed proofs, and that presuppose a very great deal of metaphysical heavy lifting that Thomas does elsewhere – the contra gentiles, the opuscula, the questiones disputatae, etc.

    I completely agree, and many objectors get away with a lot merely by quoting the summa. That being said, is it worth it (profitable?) to try to persuade unbelievers to adopt Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics before presenting an argument for God’s existence? It seems in our culture today, where people want information so quickly, the arguments need to be short and sweet, not bogged down with all kinds of metaphysical baggage that will require additional argument. Idk if I agree with what I just said; I’m just curious to hear more of your thoughts.

    No one that I know of has done more to elucidate this reading of the five ways than Edward Feser. If you are not familiar with him, I recommend his blog, and his books on Aquinas, Mind, and the New Atheism.

    I have recently discovered his work and am enjoying it. His blog gets into some tough stuff!

    Peace,
    John D.

  46. Bryan (re: #44),

    Thank you for the reply. I appreciate the time and effort you have put into this website and responding to all kinds of questions (even my most ridicuous or off-topic ones). It’s extremely helpful to receive responses from a clear-thinking philosopher that knows the Catholic faith well. I used to come to CtC to argue, but now I come to get educated.

    In the order of things, establishing the existence of God precedes establishing God’s having spoken, and having become incarnate, and having established a divine community. But also the whole paradigms (e.g. Catholic, atheist) in their entirety can be compared to the data.

    Sweet. So, it sounds like from this that a Catholic is acting consistently with Church teaching if he pursues either of these avenues:
    1) Argue from first principles (and/or other established facts) to the existence of a God with various attributes.
    2) Argue that a Catholic Christian worldview best explains particular data.
    Perhaps it will help you to know that what originally prompted my question is utter confusion over the methodology a Catholic ought to pursue in apologetics with unbelievers (i.e. atheists or agnostics). In college, I read Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli’s Handbook and started using their arguments. Later, I read a book by Patrick Madrid advocating a type of presuppositional approach and I used some of those arguments. Later, I discovered Bahnsen, Van Til, Scott Oliphint and other presuppositional apologists and started using their arguments. Then, I discovered Craig’s defenses of Plantinga’s ontological argument and the basicality of belief in God and I found those persuasive as well. Recently, I have tried to understand St. Thomas’s five ways better, but I still have a lot of homework to do. Long story short: I am searching for any tips on how to pursue apologetics with atheists/agnostics in a way that is consistent with Catholic teaching.

    No, also with “metaphysical certitude.”

    Nice. Which (2 or 3 or4?) attributes do you think are easiest to deduce from St. Thomas’ arguments from motion and causality (“easiest” in the sense of more plausible to the layman untrained in philosophy).

    “Do you recommend” is open-ended, because it leaves off the “with respect to what.” The better question is whether they are sound, and to answer that I’d have to go through the particular arguments (complete with all their premises included) you have in mind, because there are different variations and formulations of these arguments.

    I meant what would you recommend with respect to a Catholic who wants to consistently defend his faith. Particularly, in my case, I would like to know what avenues are safe to pursue (“safe” in the sense of being consistent with Church teaching) in interacting with atheists/agnostics, particularly ones who were raised Catholic and no longer believe. As for specific arguments, what is your opinion of the following three:

    A) Craig’s KCA.
    A1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
    A2) The universe began to exist.
    A3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

    B) Craig’s moral argument.
    B1) If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    B2) Objective moral values and duties exist.
    B3) Therefore, God exists.

    C) Plantinga’s ontological argument. Definitions: MGB = Maximally great being = A being that exhibits maximal excellence in all possible worlds. Maximal excellence (at least) entails omnipotence, omniscience, and moral perfection.
    C1) It is possible that a MGB exists.
    C2) If it is possible that a MGB exists, then a MGB exists in some possible world.
    C3) If a MGB exists in some possible world, then it exists in all possible worlds.
    C4) If a MGB exists in all possible worlds, then it exists in the real world.
    C5) Therefore, a MGB exists in the real world.

    I appreciate your patience, and I will not be offended if this is deemed too off-topic.

    Peace,
    John D.

  47. Bryan (re:#44),

    You appropriately said:

    The better question is whether they are sound, and to answer that I’d have to go through the particular arguments (complete with all their premises included) you have in mind, because there are different variations and formulations of these arguments.

    I realize this takes us a bit far from the topic of this thread, but I would be interested if you had any comments on the arguments I mentioned in #46. If too off-topic, then not a problem.

    Peace,
    John D.

  48. 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.

    What precisely does it take (i.e. epistemically) for the act of faith to be reasonable? Is any evidence for a miracle good enough? How good does evidence/argument have to be in order to make it reasonable to hold the conclusion?

    I recall William Lane Craig explaining that he considers a “good argument” to be one in which each of the premises is more plausible than its opposite. Is that what we have in mind (epistemically) as Catholics when we say the act of faith is reasonable?

    Since so many things can be considered “reasonable” is it really such a big deal that the act of faith is reasonable? After all, people can still rationally deny propositions that are reasonable, right?

    Lastly, can a Catholic consistently (i.e. without shunning Church teaching) hold that belief in God is “properly basic” as Alvin Plantinga explains in the sense that it is intrinsically reasonable (i.e. independent of argument/evidence) because of the gifts of grace and testimony of the Holy Spirit?

    Anyway, just some questions I came up with today thinking about these things.

    Peace,
    John D.

  49. JohnD (re: #48),

    I think I can answer your first question. The motives of credibility are of such character that they remove fear of prudent doubt.

    Pax,
    Brian

  50. Brian (#49) – and JohnD (#48)
    Brian said:

    I think I can answer your first question. The motives of credibility are of such character that they remove fear of prudent doubt.

    I might be wrong – would love to know what Bryan Cross has to say about it – but I would put it more strongly than that. I would say that the motives of credibility impose a moral obligation to act on them.

    When I became persuaded, humanly-speaking, that the Catholic Church was what it claimed to be – even though I had fears, worries, etc – I believe I then acquired the obligation to seek to become a Catholic. I don’t think I was then in some sort of limbo – like, “Well, I guess now if I wanted to – if I found it attractive – I could seek to become a Catholic, without fear of being wrong.”

    Probably that’s not what Brian Ortiz means – or possibly I am simply wrong. But that’s what I understand them to mean – if I have understood the motives of credibility but then choose not to act – perhaps for fear of the consequences, or because I didn’t think I would feel ‘fed’ or something in a Catholic Church – that I would be guilty of a serious sin before God.

    Bryan Cross – could you help here?

    jj

  51. Brian Ortiz (re: 49),

    My first questions were: What precisely does it take (i.e. epistemically) for the act of faith to be reasonable? Is any evidence for a miracle good enough? How good does evidence/argument have to be in order to make it reasonable to hold the conclusion?

    You responded

    I think I can answer your first question. The motives of credibility are of such character that they remove fear of prudent doubt.

    So, it sounds like you would say an act of faith is reasonable if it is made without any fear of prudent doubt? But that seems like a quite a tough condition, since it would entail that anyone who experiences fear of prudent doubt (or has what he or she deems to be prudent doubts) could no longer make an act of faith that is reasonable. Perhaps I’m not reading you correctly.

    Peace,
    John D.

  52. JJ (re: #50),

    Thanks for replying. You said:

    I would say that the motives of credibility impose a moral obligation to act on them.
    When I became persuaded, humanly-speaking, that the Catholic Church was what it claimed to be . . .

    One difficulty I see here is that MANY people consider the motives of credibility (even scholars and professional historians who are exposed to them frequently) and are NOT persuaded. Granted, as Bryan has noted, the soundness of an argument is not determined by how many people it persuades. Nevertheless, the motives of credibility only seem to “impose a moral obligation” on those whom they persuade. So, if a person examines them and is unconvinced, it seems that he or she does not culpably reject them. To throw in another wrench, Romans 1 says that all men are “without excuse” if they deny God, so maybe all rejections of the motives are culpable or perhaps I am still being influences by the Reformed interpretation of Romans 1. I don’t know the answers to a lot of these questions, which is why I raised a few to begin with =)

    Peace,
    John D.

  53. JohnD (#52)

    One difficulty I see here is that MANY people consider the motives of credibility (even scholars and professional historians who are exposed to them frequently) and are NOT persuaded.

    Which is why I said that my understanding of the idea of the motives of credibility is that they are morally compelling. My understanding – and, again, I emphasise, I would really like to hear from Bryan as to whether I am full of the usual – my understanding is that if you understand the motives of credibility, you will understand that you have a moral obligation to obey and to become a Catholic – but that you will not have the certainty of faith until you actually act on that moral certainty. A moral certainty is something that makes you know as a matter of conscience that you will be guilty of sin if you do not obey.

    But I am certain that many who consider the motives of credibility are hindered from truly understanding them, by prejudices from upbringing, from culture, from all sorts of reasons. Understanding them requires more than simply reading the arguments.

    And even for those who do understand, the culpability of failure to act may be lessened or even be removed by a person’s situation. Would a Muslim in a country where he was almost certain to be killed if he converted be guilty of serious sin by not converting? I doubt it.

    But … Bryan, comment, please!!

    jj

  54. JohnD (re: #52)

    One difficulty I see here is that MANY people consider the motives of credibility (even scholars and professional historians who are exposed to them frequently) and are NOT persuaded.

    I’ve already answered that here. Also, please refrain from using all caps.

    Nevertheless, the motives of credibility only seem to “impose a moral obligation” on those whom they persuade.

    Let’s disambiguate by filling in the with-respect-to-whatness. If by ‘persuade’ you mean persuade to become Catholic, then your statement is incorrect, because those who perceive the evidential value of the motives of credibility, but choose not to become Catholic, are nevertheless under the moral obligation to follow the truth to which the motives of credibility point. If, however, by ‘persuade’ you mean persuade regarding the evidential value of the motives of credibility, then the motives of credibility impose no moral obligation when they do not ‘persuade,’ because they have not truly been perceived — the person does not understand what he or she is seeing. But these two possibilities are true of any evidence; they are not the result of some unique epistemic situation for Catholicism. Nor is this a “problem” or “difficulty” for the motives of credibility. Merely saying that it is a “problem” or a “difficulty” does not make it a problem or difficulty, or demonstrate that it is a problem or difficulty. And the same ambiguity problem can be found in your term “unconvinced.” My recommendation is to avoid ambiguity, because error and confusion thrive in ambiguity.

    To throw in another wrench, Romans 1 says that all men are “without excuse” if they deny God,

    That’s not a wrench, at least not for the Catholic position. Merely calling it a ‘wrench’ does not make it one. (Nominalism is false, and labels are not arguments.) Just so we’re clear, the evidence for the existence of God (which St. Paul refers to in Rom 1) is not the same as the motives of credibility for the Church. The former is accessible to anyone; the latter is accessible only to those to whom they or testimony about them is brought.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  55. Bryan (re:#54)

    Also, please refrain from using all caps.

    Sorry about that.

    If by ‘persuade’ you mean persuade to become Catholic, then your statement is incorrect, because those who perceive the evidential value of the motives of credibility, but choose not to become Catholic, are nevertheless under the moral obligation to follow the truth to which the motives of credibility point. If, however, by ‘persuade’ you mean persuade regarding the evidential value of the motives of credibility, then the motives of credibility impose no moral obligation when they do not ‘persuade,’ because they have not truly been perceived — the person does not understand what he or she is seeing. But these two possibilities are true of any evidence; they are not the result of some unique epistemic situation for Catholicism.

    Thank you for clearing the ambiguity. I suppose I am still a bit unclear as to what “perceiving their evidential value” entails. I suppose it might vary from person to person, but what level of “evidential value” is needed to “impose moral obligation”. Do the motives of credibility merely make that to which they point more probable than not? Or do they provide moral certainty?

    To return to one of my previous questions: it is said that the motives make the act of faith reasonable, but what does it take (epistemically) for an act of faith to be reasonable? And, if the motives merely make the act of faith reasonable, how can that be enough to impose moral obligation, since people reject reasonable (i.e. plausibly true) beliefs all the time.

    Peace,
    John D.

  56. Bryan,

    What does it take (epistemically?) for something to be considered a motive of credibility?

    The Catholic Encyclopedia has some strong statements about the motives of credibility.

    In the first place, they afford us definite and certain knowledge of Divine revelation

    Nor can the motives of credibility make the mysteries of faith clear in themselves, for, as St. Thomas says, “the arguments which induce us to believe, e.g. miracles, do not prove the faith itself, but only the truthfulness of him who declares it to us, and consequently they do not beget knowledge of faith’s mysteries, but only faith” (in Sent., III, xxiv, Q. i, art. 2, sol. 2, ad 4).

    we must not minimize the real probative force of the motives of credibility within their true sphere—”Reason declares that from the very outset the Gospel teaching was rendered conspicuous by signs and wonders which gave, as it were, definite proof of a definite truth” (Leo XIII, Æterni Patris).

    In the next subsection, the Encyclopedia states:

    the proposition, “The assent of supernatural faith . . is consistent with merely probable knowledge of revelation” was condemned by Innocent XI in 1679 (cf. Denzinger, Enchiridion, 10th ed., no. 1171)

    and

    Newman refers solely to the proof of faith afforded by the motives of credibility, and he rightly concludes that, since these are not demonstrative, this line of proof may be termed “an accumulation of probabilities”.

    With all these quotes on the table, I will try to briefly sum up my confusion. It seems from the strong statements of definiteness and certainty in the first few quotes that the motives of credibility ought to be considered demonstrative (i.e. they are the basis for arguments that have the conclusion “God has spoken here” or something close to that). Yet, in the last quote, it says they are not demonstrative. If they are not demonstrative, how can they provide “definite proof” (perhaps an understanding of the context of Leo XIII’s phrasing will clear this up)?

    Moreover, the quote from St. Thomas shows that he believes the motives “prove…the truthfulness of him who declares it to us”. Yet, what is proof if not demonstration? Perhaps it is a probabilistic “proof”, but then that idea (faith rests on an accumulation of probabilities) is condemned by the Church in other places, so that seems wrong as well.

    Anyway, to summarize my main questions:
    1) What does it take (epistemically?, objective-criteria wise) for something to be a motive of credibility?
    2) Are the motives demonstrative, and if not, how do they provide “definite and certain knowledge of divine revelation”?

    Peace,
    John D.

  57. JohnD,

    The most precise evaluation of the questions you are asking has, in my opinion, been taken up by Fr. Garrigou LaGrange in his classic two volume work on the theory and principles of apologetics: De Revelatione per Ecclesiam Catholicam Proposita. While there is not currently (to my knowledge) an English translation of Lagrange’s work, its contents were re-organized and re-presented (with Fr. Lagrange’s permission) circa 1926 in a work by T.J. Walsh titled The Principles of Catholic Apologetics.

    I believe I have read every work on apologetic science (i.e. systematic apologetics) available on the market. Among systematic apologetic approaches or schools, that approach consolidated and organized by the neo-scholastic tradition of the first half of the twentieth century is by far the superior model. Among specific neo-scholastic works on apologetic science, Lagrange’s De Revelatione; as re-structured by Walsh in The Principles of Catholic Apologetics, is the gold standard. The precision and detail are exquisite. The questions you are asking are addressed carefully in section IV of that work titled: “Credibility of the Mysteries of Faith”. The entire work is of like quality. While you cannot currently purchase The Principles of Catholic Apologetics in book format, you can download the full 392 page work for free here.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  58. JohnD,

    I might also add that terms such as “demonstration” and “proof” are sometimes used in a loose, non-technical sense, within the neo-scholastic tradition (the intellectual tradition largely responsible for the phraseology found within Dei Filius at Vatican I, as well within the Catholic Encyclopedia articles). This is possibly a cause of confusion with respect to some of the quotes you have presented.

    Sometimes, neo-scholastic writers use terms such as “demonstration” or “proof” in the technical Aristotelian sense (an argument which can be resolved back to first principles of being and thought). Their intended meaning in such cases is usually clear. However, neo-scholastic writers sometimes use those terms more loosely, as with reference to arguments in areas such as history. Although history is technically a “probable” science in the Aristotelian sense (as neo-scholastic writers were well aware), nevertheless, if after proceeding carefully according to the principles and methods of some probable science, an argument could be established as highly probable within the orbit of that science, neo-scholastic writers would not hesitate to describe such an argument as a “demonstration” or “proof” in the context of that particular science. The key is to recognize that they understood the meaning and epistemic force of terms such as “demonstration” and “proof” according to the principles and methods of the science in which an given argument was forged.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  59. JohnD (re: #56)

    Yet, in the last quote, it says they are not demonstrative. If they are not demonstrative, how can they provide “definite proof” (perhaps an understanding of the context of Leo XIII’s phrasing will clear this up)?

    Because, as Ray explained well, they are not demonstrative in the sense of following by logical necessity from the premises. But following by logical necessity is not the only sort of “proof.”

    Moreover, the quote from St. Thomas shows that he believes the motives “prove…the truthfulness of him who declares it to us”. Yet, what is proof if not demonstration?

    Your question presupposes that there is only one kind of proof, i.e. deductive (demonstrative) proof. But that’s not a safe (or true) assumption. Reasoning from rules and results back to the case is not a deductive argument, and thus not a deductive demonstration. But neither is such reasoning necessarily left only with probabilities. It can provide proof at the level of moral certitude.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  60. Ray and Bryan (re: #57-59),

    Thanks for the replies. I will look into the sources you (Ray) mentioned for further information.

    Reasoning from rules and results back to the case is not a deductive argument, and thus not a deductive demonstration. But neither is such reasoning necessarily left only with probabilities. It can provide proof at the level of moral certitude.

    What is the distinction between highly probable and morally certain? I am failing to see any distinction there and that’s why it seems that “reasoning from rules and results back to the case” can only provide probability.

    Peace,
    John D.

  61. [Replying to comment #644 in the “I Fought the Church” thread]
    Bryan,

    Here you are criticizing a straw man. No motive of credibility says to ignore anything. And holiness as a motive of credibility does not require or depend on ignoring the Crusades, the Inquisition, the priest abuse scandal, etc.

    Sure it does. All of those things prove the church is not holy and thus invalidates that as a motive of credibility. If you honestly take those things into account, a church body that isn’t guilty of such things is holier than Rome is and therefore more credible. You all want to say that evidence of unholy behavior on the part of RCs doesn’t invalidate the fact that the church is holy. I don’t even necessarily disagree with that. The issue is that such will only be convincing to those who have already accepted the RC definition of holiness.

    That’s a form of the philosophical position known as skepticism, namely, that we cannot know the natures of things, and therefore cannot know the powers of things or the limitations of their powers, and therefore cannot know when a miracle occurs, because the event in question could simply be the expression of a hitherto unrealized natural power. Skepticism, however, is a false philosophy; it denies what we already can and do know. We do know the natures of things, which is how we know that cows cannot jump over the Moon, and that if a cow did ‘jump’ over the Moon, something other than the cow was assisting it. A person who does not know the natures or powers of things, is like a blind person; we pity him, unless he by his own choice has freely placed himself in that epistemic position, either by denying what he knows, in the case of the philosophical skeptic, or by gouging his own eyes out, in the case of the blind man,

    If you want to base your objection to the motives of credibility on your skepticism, then the great certainty with which you make all your positive claims is undermined by this very skepticism. If you don’t know the natures or powers of things, then you don’t know for sure that any of the claims you are making here are true, or whether the faculties you used to make them are reliable, or whether you are presently operating beyond the limitations of your rational powers, or whether some other power than yourself made these claims (in a way that you haven’t yet, and may not ever, comprehend) and thus you defeat your own objections. Skepticism, like falsehood, evil, and ugliness, destroys itself.

    No Bryan, its actually more of a radical empiricism. There are any number of cases where an individual has been pronounced dead and then returns to life minutes or hours later, cases in which no prayer is offered but which doctors are able to point to non-supernaturalistic reasons for the recovery:

    http://www.today.com/id/38988444/ns/today-parenting_and_family/t/moms-hug-revives-baby-was-pronounced-dead/

    One could say the same thing about even the resurrection of Jesus. Maybe he just came to life through heretofore undiscovered natural means.

    Note that I don’t believe that is the case. My point is that your motives of credibility aren’t credible apart from accepting the presuppositions of the RCC in your case or the presupposition in the Protestant case that Scripture provides the true interpretation of reality.

    Again, this is a straw man. The nature of the motives of credibility does not depend on a “Roman Catholic interpretation;” they are knowable by the natural light of reason. As I pointed out to you in comment #251 of the “Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium” thread, there is a basic ground rule for dialogue here at CTC, and your repeated and unapologetic construction of straw men, refusing to allow your interlocutor to define his own position, but instead insisting upon attributing to him a position he explicitly denies, indicates that CTC isn’t the place for you.

    You aren’t answering the charge.. That’s fine that the RC claims that these things are known by natural reason. But why does natural reason show us that a Church with the characteristics of the RCC is a witness to its own veracity? Why not an unholy church? Why not a collection of visible churches that affirm the same ecumenical creeds but are not visibly united? It’s not at all self-evident that a visibly united church is more credible than a plurality of churches unless you first believe that unity must look a certain way.

    Each of these six sentences is a mere assertion, and none of them is a conclusion that follows from any combination of the others, and therefore there is no argument there. Assertions are easy. But assertions are not arguments. Anyone can assert anything. If assertions were sufficient to establish the truth of a claim, then I could simply assert that you are mistaken. But CTC is not the place for the mere exchange of contrary assertions, because such an exchange is futile and pointless. If you’re not willing to engage in argumentation, but only wish to engage in mere assertion, then again, CTC is not the right place for you. CTC is for serious dialogue, not for merely gain-saying, question-begging, table-pounding or setting up straw men.

    I said that many other communions can appeal to the same motives of credibility to establish their own veracity.

    As a Presbyterian I can point to miracles in the Bible and fulfilled prophecy. I can point to the beauty and wisdom of revelation and of Jesus Christ. I can point to the OPC or PCA as a church with credible claims to unity and holiness. You won’t accept my pointing to the church because you define the church differently. It’s why I can’t accept your Roman Catholic claims. That’s why the motives of credibility aren’t neutral. The motive of the church only points to Rome if you accept that the church must look like what Rome says it looks like. I don’t accept that the church must look like Rome says it looks like. Thus, I find that motive not credible at all. The Eastern Orthodox would agree with me on that. So would Lutherans. So would Baptists.

    Reason isn’t a realm of neutrality. That’s really all that I’m saying.

  62. Robert, replying to your comment #642 in ‘I Fought the Church’ thread.

    You said:

    Why should prophecy or miracles be a motive of credibility? Rome says they are, but what is inherent to human beings that should make them think that they are proof of anything.
    And then, I can find these “motives” in lots of other religions. Tibetan Buddhism has prophecies, miracles, an apparently beautiful and holy leader, etc.
    My point is simple—these “motives of credibility” are not things that operate on the basis of pure reason. There is a presuppositional commitment that stands behind them. Roman Catholicism is at least as broadly circular and fideistic as any other system.

    And:

    From the perspective of “pure reason” it shows no such thing. It just shows that Christ had some kind of ability that most human beings do not possess. It doesn’t say that said power is divine. That is a conclusion driven by presuppositions. An atheist, assuming he accepts that Jesus did these extraordinary claims, could just as well say to you: “Well, that’s unusual. Perhaps we all have that ability but haven’t been able to access it” or some other such thing.

    On top of being a self defeating argument from a logical perspective as others have enumerated, I find this a bizarre argument coming from a Christian (assuming that you are a Christian…). Does not your argument implicitly accuse God, Jesus and the Apostles of being unreasonable for appealing to miracles as motives of credibility to authenticate their claims?

    God gives signs through Moses to authenticate his message, namely, that he speaks in the name of God. (Exodus 4:1-9). When Elijah contests with the prophets of Baal, does God not use a miracle to prove that He is the Lord (1 Kings 18:20-40)? Jesus appeals to His miracles to the Pharisees as a ‘motive of credibility’ (John 10:37-39, John 14:10-11). When John the Baptist sent word to ask Jesus (the Scripture reading for today) if He is the one to come He does not even assert an answer directly, but rather He tells his disciples to go and tell John of what they see ‘the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear’ (Matthew 11:2-6); obviously He considers the miracles alone enough to prove something. He says the judgment will be harsher for those cities that rejected Him simply because they did not believe despite the mighty works that were done in them (Matthew 11:20-24). Doesn’t Peter appeal to the healing of the beggar (Acts 3:11-16)? Does not Paul appeal to ‘the signs of a true apostle were performed among you in all patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works’ to support his apostleship (2 Corinthians 12:12)? If miracles are not a motive of credibility, were they being unreasonable by appealing to these things? I am, of course, assuming that these things occurred.

    If what you say is true, that miracles are not a motive of credibility, then why do you believe in Jesus; warm fuzzy feelings? That is not the reasons that Christ, the Apostles and the Church since have given for believing; rather it is miracles, prophesy fulfilled, and the over-all reasonableness of our religion. Furthermore, if miracles are not a legitimate motive of credibility, then would God not be unjust to punish (with extra severity no less) those who saw the miracles and rejected Christ (because they would have a valid excuse for not believing)?

    I find your whole line of reasoning strange for a professing Christian. By laboring to attempt to prove that all Christian denominations are ‘fideistic’ and equally unreasonable you fall upon your own sword. While professing to be a Christian you accuse your own Lord of being unreasonable for appealing to that which cannot prove anything as if it could prove something. What do you hope to achieve?

    In Christ,
    –Joshua M

  63. Robert, (re: #61)

    I had written: “Here you are criticizing a straw man. No motive of credibility says to ignore anything. And holiness as a motive of credibility does not require or depend on ignoring the Crusades, the Inquisition, the priest abuse scandal, etc.”

    You replied:

    Sure it does. All of those things prove the church is not holy and thus invalidates that as a motive of credibility. If you honestly take those things into account, a church body that isn’t guilty of such things is holier than Rome is and therefore more credible. You all want to say that evidence of unholy behavior on the part of RCs doesn’t invalidate the fact that the church is holy. I don’t even necessarily disagree with that. The issue is that such will only be convincing to those who have already accepted the RC definition of holiness.

    This too is a straw man depiction of the evidence of holiness (as a motive of credibility). If what you have described were a complete picture of the evidence, I would agree with you. The evidence, however, is not limited to the sins of persons who happen to be Catholics or Catholic leaders. Every time you set up a straw man, you indicate that you are attacking what you don’t understand.

    Responding to my claim that your position is a form of skepticism, you wrote:

    No Bryan, its actually more of a radical empiricism.

    Again, this is just gain-saying. “Radical empiricism” of the sort that denies that we can know the natures or powers of things is a form of philosophical skepticism. If you claim not to be a skeptic, then can a cow, entirely by its own power, possibly jump over the Moon (i.e. achieve escape velocity from Earth, circumnavigate the Moon 240,000 miles away, return to Earth, descend through the atmosphere, and land safely on its surface, fully alive and intact) or not?

    You wrote:

    There are any number of cases where an individual has been pronounced dead and then returns to life minutes or hours later, cases in which no prayer is offered but which doctors are able to point to non-supernaturalistic reasons for the recovery:

    All that is fully compatible with the truth of what I said in my previous comment to you. Moreover, what you are doing here is referring to events possible according to the natural powers of things, as if this shows that things merely by their natural powers can possibly bring about any event whatsoever. But the fact that the heart can restart by its own power, after a short period of time, does not show that the heart can restart by its own power, after three or more days of the person being dead.

    You wrote:

    One could say the same thing about even the resurrection of Jesus.

    One can “say” anything. But to return to life by one’s own power, three days after having died on a cross and having subsequently had a lance thrust into one’s heart, and lain in an unrefrigerated tomb, is not something naturally possible for matter so configured. We know that because we know the natural limitations of things by grasping their essence, in the same way we know that cows cannot jump over the Moon by their own power.

    You wrote:

    Maybe he just came to life through heretofore undiscovered natural means.

    That’s again the sort of skepticism by which one thinks that maybe cows do have the natural ability to jump over the Moon, but just haven’t revealed that ability yet. And again, if you take that skeptical position, then you aren’t in a position to present yourself as knowing anything at all, including all the claims you’ve made here at CTC (for the reasons I’ve explained in my previous comment to you in the other thread).

    You wrote:

    My point is that your motives of credibility aren’t credible apart from accepting the presuppositions of the RCC in your case or the presupposition in the Protestant case that Scripture provides the true interpretation of reality.

    I know that’s your “point” (i.e. claim), but you have not provided any argument for it. You’ve only asserted it.

    You wrote:

    You aren’t answering the charge..

    That’s a statement about me, and leaves untouched the truth of everything I’ve said.

    You wrote:

    That’s fine that the RC claims that these things are known by natural reason.

    Again, this is setting up a straw man, by construing my claim, made as a philosopher, as though it depends on or is based on a declaration by the Catholic Church.

    You wrote:

    But why does natural reason show us that a Church with the characteristics of the RCC is a witness to its own veracity? Why not an unholy church? Why not a collection of visible churches that affirm the same ecumenical creeds but are not visibly united?

    These are questions, not arguments. As such they are fully compatible with the truth of what I said in my previous comment to you.

    You wrote:

    It’s not at all self-evident that a visibly united church is more credible than a plurality of churches unless you first believe that unity must look a certain way.

    No one claimed that a “visibly united church is more credible than a plurality of churches,” so once again you are criticizing a straw man of your own making.

    You wrote:

    I said that many other communions can appeal to the same motives of credibility to establish their own veracity.

    Indeed you did, but whether that’s the case remains to be shown. Again, assertions are not arguments.

    You wrote:

    As a Presbyterian I can point to miracles in the Bible and fulfilled prophecy. I can point to the beauty and wisdom of revelation and of Jesus Christ.

    Of course. But here you’re conflating the with-respect-to-whatness of these particular motives of credibility. The motives of credibility for Christ are not the same as the motives of credibility for the Church. So once again you’re criticizing a straw man, by construing the motives of credibility for Christ as though they are the motives of credibility for the Church as such.

    You wrote:

    I can point to the OPC or PCA as a church with credible claims to unity and holiness.

    Sure, but that does not exhaust the motives of credibility. There are not motives of credibility indicating that either the OPC or the PCA is the Church Christ founded, since I’m older than the PCA, and the OPC was founded in 1936, when my Grandmother (who is still living) was already 19 years old.

    You wrote:

    You won’t accept my pointing to the church because you define the church differently.

    That’s a claim about me. It leaves untouched the truth of everything I’ve said.

    You wrote:

    That’s why the motives of credibility aren’t neutral. The motive of the church only points to Rome if you accept that the church must look like what Rome says it looks like.

    That conclusion does not follow from your premises. The evidence can form and reshape our preconceptions of what we might expect to see. We’re not determined entirely by our pre-existing expectations. Otherwise, we could never discover the truth about reality when our expectations about what we would discover differed from what we actually discover. E.g. it would be the case that what we discovered on the recent comet landing would be only what we expected to discover, nothing more. But, obviously that’s false. We’re often surprised by what we discover, and abandon our expectations in the face of such discoveries.

    You wrote:

    I don’t accept that the church must look like Rome says it looks like.

    That’s a statement about yourself. Again, it leaves untouched the truth of everything I’ve said in my previous comments.

    You wrote:

    Reason isn’t a realm of neutrality. That’s really all that I’m saying

    The very appeal to “reality” would be impossible, if what you were saying is true. So your claim is self-refuting. If you were consistent, you wouldn’t claim to be appealing to “reality,” but only to your own reality, not some reality we have in common.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  64. Bryan,

    Again, this is just gain-saying. “Radical empiricism” of the sort that denies that we can know the natures or powers of things is a form of philosophical skepticism. If you claim not to be a skeptic, then can a cow, entirely by its own power, possibly jump over the Moon (i.e. achieve escape velocity from Earth, circumnavigate the Moon 240,000 miles away, return to Earth, descend through the atmosphere, and land safely on its surface, fully alive and intact) or not?

    Why don’t you tell me how we know the powers of things except by empirical observation? Based on all the evidence we have so far, it would seem that the answer to your question would be no.

    Moreover, what you are doing here is referring to events possible according to the natural powers of things, as if this shows that things merely by their natural powers can possibly bring about any event whatsoever. But the fact that the heart can restart by its own power, after a short period of time, does not show that the heart can restart by its own power, after three or more days of the person being dead.

    Perhaps not, but it also doesn’t show that the heart cannot restart by its own power after three or more days of the person being dead. That is something that one believes because one has accepted the biblical or ecclesiastical interpretation of the return of Christ from the grave. No one has done enough research, and probably cannot do enough research to prove conclusively that the heart cannot restart three days after it has stopped.

    One can “say” anything. But to return to life by one’s own power, three days after having died on a cross and having subsequently had a lance thrust into one’s heart, and lain in an unrefrigerated tomb, is not something naturally possible for matter so configured. We know that because we know the natural limitations of things by grasping their essence, in the same way we know that cows cannot jump over the Moon by their own power.

    And how do you “grasp their essence” except by empirical observation? How do we determine natural limitations of something except by natural observation? Have you examined every possible cow? Has anyone? Is that even possible?

    That’s again the sort of skepticism by which one thinks that maybe cows do have the natural ability to jump over the Moon, but just haven’t revealed that ability yet. And again, if you take that skeptical position, then you aren’t in a position to present yourself as knowing anything at all, including all the claims you’ve made here at CTC (for the reasons I’ve explained in my previous comment to you in the other thread).

    No, what I’m in a position to show is that reason is not some neutral ground. If it were, everyone presented with the “facts” would come to the same conclusion. The motives of credibility don’t point everyone who looks at them to Rome precisely because they aren’t neutral. Christ’s resurrection is evidence for Christianity only if you accept the Apostolic interpretation of the event. Otherwise, it’s just an as yet unexplained event.

    I’m in a position to demonstrate that you are acting not in the realm of “pure reason” for there is no such thing but acting according to your more fundamental presuppositional commitments. That’s not a bad thing. That’s how human beings function. We aren’t sophisticated computers.

    No one claimed that a “visibly united church is more credible than a plurality of churches,”

    So you are now denying that Rome’s visible unity doesn’t make it any more credible as the church Christ founded than the Protestant claim that a plurality of non-visibily united churches is the church Christ founded?

    Of course. But here you’re conflating the with-respect-to-whatness of these particular motives of credibility. The motives of credibility for Christ are not the same as the motives of credibility for the Church. So once again you’re criticizing a straw man, by construing the motives of credibility for Christ as though they are the motives of credibility for the Church as such.

    The outline of Feingold’s lectures lists the resurrection and miracles of Jesus as the miracles that make the church credible. So blame him, I guess.

    There are not motives of credibility indicating that either the OPC or the PCA is the Church Christ founded, since I’m older than the PCA, and the OPC was founded in 1936, when my Grandmother (who is still living) was already 19 years old.

    This is only true if you assume that the church Christ founded must be really, really old in terms of its bureaucratic structure and cannot consist of bodies that broke away from earlier bodies that broke away from earlier bodies all the way back to Jesus. It assumes a particular definition of what the church Christ founded would look like, namely, some notion of visible apostolic succession via laying on of hands rather than continuity of biblical doctrine. So the fact that you are older than the PCA does not mean there are not motives of credibility that indicate that the PCA is the church Christ founded. You are presupposing that the church must look a certain way and have a certain history in order to have a motive of credibility supporting its claim to be the church Christ founded. This is the kind of overlooked presuppositionalism on your part that I am talking about.

    That conclusion does not follow from your premises. The evidence can form and reshape our preconceptions of what we might expect to see. We’re not determined entirely by our pre-existing expectations. Otherwise, we could never discover the truth about reality when our expectations about what we would discover differed from what we actually discover. E.g. it would be the case that what we discovered on the recent comet landing would be only what we expected to discover, nothing more. But, obviously that’s false. We’re often surprised by what we discover, and abandon our expectations in the face of such discoveries.

    Indeed this is true to a large extent. But millions of people see the same evidence for Rome that you present and reject it. Does that mean the evidence doesn’t point to Rome in your mind? Of course not. If Rome is indeed the church founded, what it does prove it those individuals have a presuppositional bias against receiving the truth. What I don’t see any awareness of on this site is that you and the others might have a presuppositional bias in favor of Rome that controls your analysis of the evidence. I could be wrong.

    And its more complicated than to say that newly discovered evidence forces us to change. Newly discovered evidence may force us to question our interpretative grid. At that point, the thinking person will do one of two things. He will either work until the grid can explain the evidence or he will choose another grid that he thinks explains the evidence. In such a scenario, the motives of credibility, for example, don’t become credible until you accept Rome’s understanding of itself. Only then does a church of the nature of Rome commend itself to a person as being the church Jesus founded.

    The very appeal to “reality” would be impossible, if what you were saying is true. So your claim is self-refuting. If you were consistent, you wouldn’t claim to be appealing to “reality,” but only to your own reality, not some reality we have in common.

    Jesus had a whole lot to say about how not being for him was against him. There isn’t a middle neutral ground. This is one point where Roman epistemology fails and the presuppositionalists are on to something. A Muslim and a Christian looking at the same evidence for Christ’s death and resurrection will exercise their reason and walk away with far different conclusions. It’s because reason isn’t neutral, not because the evidence is lacking.

  65. Joshua @62

    If what you say is true, that miracles are not a motive of credibility, then why do you believe in Jesus; warm fuzzy feelings? That is not the reasons that Christ, the Apostles and the Church since have given for believing; rather it is miracles, prophesy fulfilled, and the over-all reasonableness of our religion. Furthermore, if miracles are not a legitimate motive of credibility, then would God not be unjust to punish (with extra severity no less) those who saw the miracles and rejected Christ (because they would have a valid excuse for not believing)?

    I’m not saying miracles are not a motive of credibility. I am saying that the only people who accept biblical miracles as evidence for the Christian faith are those who have already committed themselves to the Apostolic interpretation of those miracles, or at the very least that the Apostolic interpretation of them is at least possible.

    I find your whole line of reasoning strange for a professing Christian. By laboring to attempt to prove that all Christian denominations are ‘fideistic’ and equally unreasonable you fall upon your own sword. While professing to be a Christian you accuse your own Lord of being unreasonable for appealing to that which cannot prove anything as if it could prove something. What do you hope to achieve?

    I’m not trying to prove all Christian denominations fideistic. I’m trying to get at least some of you to recognize that you are operating out of fundamental commitments that in large measure determine your reading of the evidence. That’s not a bad thing necessarily. It is how God built us. God didn’t build us to look at things from a position of neutrality. Adam and Eve weren’t permitted to look at the evidence in the world from a neutral position and then, based on motives of credibility, decide to listen to the being who claimed to be their Maker.

    It’s reasonable to appeal to biblical miracles as evidence for Christianity provided that you are honest that you are appealing not to the miracles as bare events but as interpreted events. One could just as well look at Christ’s miracles, believe he actually did them, but reject them as proof of His deity because they reject His and the Apostles interpretation of them. That’s what Muslims do.

    More broadly considered, my point is that the idea that a church that defines itself as Rome does has an inherently more plausible claim to being the church Jesus founded when examined from a neutral position is a false idea.

  66. Robert (re: #64)

    Why don’t you tell me how we know the powers of things except by empirical observation?

    I never said we know the powers of things in some other way. But the human intellect is able through empirical observation to grasp the essence of the things we empirically observe. This is just what it means to know something, to comprehend the essence of that thing.

    Regarding whether cows can jump over the Moon, you replied:

    Based on all the evidence we have so far, it would seem that the answer to your question would be no.

    Your answer is ambiguous between “no” and “maybe,” so I’ll show what’s problematic with either answer. If your answer is “no,” then you know that cows cannot jump over the Moon, in which case you contradict what you previously said, by showing that we can know the powers of things and the limitations of the powers of things. If, however, your answer is “maybe,” (because you don’t yet know whether cows can or cannot jump over the Moon), then you show that the philosophical position you hold is a form of skepticism, even if you don’t call it ‘skepticism.’ Anyone in material science knows that the force needed to accelerate a cow to 7 miles per second (i.e. escape velocity from Earth) would crush the cow into gelatin. And anyone in biochemistry would know that the energy required to accelerate the cow to that velocity in a fraction of a second would require the transformation of hundreds of pounds of fat into directed kinetic energy in less than a second without burning up the cow; this cannot be done biochemically. And anyone in aerodynamics would know that within a few seconds of traveling upward at 7 miles per second, the cow would be completely burned up by the heat generated by air friction, not having a heat shield. And then, of course, in space, the difference between the 14 psi internal pressure, and the vacuum of space would cause the cow to explode instantly. And then, of course, the side of the cow facing the Sum would boil at 250 F, and the side facing away from the Sun would freeze at -185 degrees F. Through the entire journey around the Moon, the cow would have to hold its breath, there being no air or oxygen in space. And then, having circumnavigated the 480,000 miles to the Moon and back, all while holding its breath, the cow would re-enter the earth’s atmosphere at roughly 25,000 mph, survive being burned up again by the 4,000 degree F temperature of air friction, again without a heat shield. Then, after surviving that, the cow would need to survive the impact of landing on the Earth at a terminal velocity of somewhere over 130 mph.

    Yet according to you, we simply do not know whether cows can jump over the Moon on their own powers; we remain in a condition of ignorance about whether they have this capacity. All we know, according to you, is that we’ve never seen one do so.

    As I pointed out in one of my previous comments, if you don’t know whether cows can jump over the Moon, because you think we cannot know the powers of things or the limitations of their powers, then you do not know your own powers, and thus you do not know whether you are (by attempting to reason here), making judgments and inferences that far exceed the limitations of your intellectual capacity. In this way your skepticism is self-defeating, because it undermines the justification you could have for thinking that in the act of defending your skeptical views, you are not exceeding by far the limitations of your intellectual capacities.

    You wrote:

    Perhaps not, but it also doesn’t show that the heart cannot restart by its own power after three or more days of the person being dead. That is something that one believes because one has accepted the biblical or ecclesiastical interpretation of the return of Christ from the grave. No one has done enough research, and probably cannot do enough research to prove conclusively that the heart cannot restart three days after it has stopped.

    Here again your argument is based on skepticism as a premise. Because of your skepticism (which you call radical empiricism) you presume that no one around you knows or can know whether the hearts of persons who have been dead three days can restart by their own natural power. But the people around you (at least some of them) do already know this, just as they know from reason alone that cows cannot jump over the Moon. Again, I’ll just up the ante. Let’s take as our question whether the hearts of persons who have been dead for six months, and left at room temperature, can restart themselves by their own power. From your skeptical notion that the natures and powers of things cannot be known, you can only say that “maybe” the hearts of persons who have been dead for six months can restart on their own. But those of us who are not encumbered by skepticism, know this not to be possible, because we know the nature of muscle tissue and its necessary death and decay when not supplied with an oxygenated blood supply, just as we know that no human can hold his breath, and remain alive, for six months. And so do you, because you would not take the bet of climbing into an airtight water-filled box for six months. (No skeptic lives in a way that is consistent with skepticism.)

    You wrote:

    And how do you “grasp their essence” except by empirical observation? How do we determine natural limitations of something except by natural observation? Have you examined every possible cow? Has anyone? Is that even possible?

    The very nature of what we do by induction is such that we do not have to investigate every individual member of a species, in order to comprehend the nature of that species. That’s what Aristotle is describing in Posterior Analytics II.19.

    You wrote:

    No, what I’m in a position to show is that reason is not some neutral ground. If it were, everyone presented with the “facts” would come to the same conclusion.

    That conclusion does not follow from that premise. And that’s because any individual’s reasoning can be flawed or uninformed, in many different ways. But that does not mean that reason is biased. Disagreement, therefore, does not mean that reason is not neutral, but that at least one of the persons involved is not reasoning correctly.

    You wrote:

    The motives of credibility don’t point everyone who looks at them to Rome precisely because they aren’t neutral.

    That conclusion does not follow from that premise, for the same reason I explained in my previous paragraph. Failure to come to the truth, in the face of evidence pointing to that truth, does not mean that reason is not neutral, because another possible explanation is that some persons’ reasoning is imperfect or defective in some respect.

    You wrote:

    Christ’s resurrection is evidence for Christianity only if you accept the Apostolic interpretation of the event. Otherwise, it’s just an as yet unexplained event.

    That argument is based on the hidden (skeptical) premise that we do not know the powers of things. So that argument begs the question, by presupposing the truth of skepticism.

    You wrote:

    I’m in a position to demonstrate that you are acting not in the realm of “pure reason” for there is no such thing but acting according to your more fundamental presuppositional commitments.

    The problem with that claim is that you have not yet provided the demonstration. You’ve only asserted its conclusion.

    You wrote:

    We aren’t sophisticated computers.

    No one has claimed that we are sophisticated computers. But there is a middle position between reducing humans to sophisticated computers on the one hand, and skepticism on the other hand.

    I had written: “No one claimed that a “visibly united church is more credible than a plurality of churches,””

    To which you replied:

    So you are now denying that Rome’s visible unity doesn’t make it any more credible as the church Christ founded than the Protestant claim that a plurality of non-visibily united churches is the church Christ founded?

    No, I have not denied that. But neither have I affirmed it. Not claiming x is not the same as claiming ~x.

    I had written: “There are not motives of credibility indicating that either the OPC or the PCA is the Church Christ founded, since I’m older than the PCA, and the OPC was founded in 1936, when my Grandmother (who is still living) was already 19 years old.”

    To which you replied:

    This is only true if you assume that the church Christ founded must be really, really old in terms of its bureaucratic structure and cannot consist of bodies that broke away from earlier bodies that broke away from earlier bodies all the way back to Jesus.

    There being no motives of credibility for the PCA being the Church the incarnate Christ founded does not depend on a particular definition of what the Church He founded “would look like.” It depends on the fact that Christ ascended into heaven around AD 33, so that whatever He founded has to be at least that old. There is no evidence that the PCA is older than 1973, because that’s when it was founded. Not even the members of the PCA believe or claim that the PCA is older than 1973.

    You wrote:

    So the fact that you are older than the PCA does not mean there are not motives of credibility that indicate that the PCA is the church Christ founded. You are presupposing that the church must look a certain way and have a certain history in order to have a motive of credibility supporting its claim to be the church Christ founded.

    No, I’m not. The Church that Christ founded could (in theory) look many different ways. But what can’t be true of it is that it was founded only in the twentieth century, when Christ had already ascended 1900 years prior. What we mean when asking whether a body is “the Church Christ founded” is whether it is the one He founded before He ascended into heaven.

    You wrote:

    But millions of people see the same evidence for Rome that you present and reject it. Does that mean the evidence doesn’t point to Rome in your mind? Of course not.

    Millions of people also miss the following question: A bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs one dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

    Just because most people miss the question does not mean that we should change the correct answer to the answer most people give. Likewise, the soundness of argumentation is not determined by the percentage of persons persuaded by that argument. Otherwise the democratic fallacy wouldn’t be a fallacy. Likewise, the quality of evidence is not determined by whether it persuades most people.

    You wrote:

    What I don’t see any awareness of on this site is that you and the others might have a presuppositional bias in favor of Rome that controls your analysis of the evidence.

    Every person has biases and is conceptually and intellectually informed by the paradigm(s) by which he or she understands reality. No one here has denied that. But you are making a much stronger claim, which is also an uncharitable claim. You are claiming that our biases “control” and dictate our analysis of the evidence, such that we cannot rightly evaluate the evidence, or let ourselves be corrected by it. As I pointed out to you before (in comment #617 of the “Christ Founded a Visible Church” thread), that’s a personal attack, because it accuses us of loving an ideology above the truth. Personal attacks, however, are not allowed here. You are free to argue here that something we believe or claim is false, but you are not free to engage in personal attacks. A precondition for entering into dialogue here is the principle of charity, presuming in the other person a love for the truth above all else.

    You wrote:

    … the motives of credibility, for example, don’t become credible until you accept Rome’s understanding of itself. Only then does a church of the nature of Rome commend itself to a person as being the church Jesus founded.

    That’s not true. But again, you’re simply asserting this (repeatedly); you’ve offered no argument demonstrating it.

    I had written: “The very appeal to “reality” would be impossible, if what you were saying is true. So your claim is self-refuting. If you were consistent, you wouldn’t claim to be appealing to “reality,” but only to your own reality, not some reality we have in common.”

    To which you replied:

    Jesus had a whole lot to say about how not being for him was against him. There isn’t a middle neutral ground. This is one point where Roman epistemology fails and the presuppositionalists are on to something. A Muslim and a Christian looking at the same evidence for Christ’s death and resurrection will exercise their reason and walk away with far different conclusions. It’s because reason isn’t neutral, not because the evidence is lacking.

    The mistake in that line of reasoning is that the either/or Jesus is talking about is at the level of the will, either we love Him above all else, or we love something else above Him. But that does not mean or entail that reason itself “isn’t neutral.” The person who, because of disdain for Christ or because of fear or selfishness does not want to believe that Christ rose from the dead, and who looks at the evidence for Christ’s resurrection and nevertheless, because of that bias (that does not want to accept what the evidence points to) concludes that Christ did not rise from the dead, is acting contrary to reason, and is doing so culpably (i.e. being intellectually dishonest). Reason remains what it is, even when persons fail to reason well, or engage in poor reasoning, or abuse reason through rationalizations. If, however, the person has not been sufficiently prepared to evaluate such evidence, his or her reasoning, though flawed, is not necessarily culpably flawed. Either way, failures in reasoning do not entail that reason itself is biased or “non-neutral.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, 2014

  67. Bryan (re: #66)

    Millions of people also miss the following question: A bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs one dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

    The ball costs $0.05! But that actually took me a minute to think. Here’s a crazy one millions more will miss: One family has 2 children. You know one of the children is a boy. Given only what you know, what is the probability that the other child is a girl?

    I hope you don’t mind that, though I realize this is not a forum for trading tricky math problems. However, I like tricky math examples with simple solutions since they provide at least some evidence that many people (even very smart people in the one I offered above) can get the answer wrong.

    I think many in our modern culture evaluate the motives of credibility with a skepticism that is (at least in part) fueled by knowledge that there are so many smart people they know (physicists, doctors, lawyers, etc.) who do not believe. However, as you point out, the soundness of an argument is not determined by how many it persuades, and the value of evidence is not determined by whether the majority of people regard it as good evidence. Just wanted to amplify your point.

    Peace,
    John D.

  68. Bryan,

    The very nature of what we do by induction is such that we do not have to investigate every individual member of a species, in order to comprehend the nature of that species. That’s what Aristotle is describing in Posterior Analytics II.19.

    Surely as professor of philosophy you are familiar with all the of the debates about whether induction can provide true knowledge. But I don’t see any evidence of that in your reply to me. Things just aren’t that simple, and they are especially complicated by discoveries since Aristotle’s time. There is a nigh unto infinite number of cows that could be produced with an nigh unto infinite number of genetic codes. Unless you examine all of these, which you cannot do, you cannot know with certainty that no cow could ever achieve escape velocity. Maybe one day through the right breeding, or maybe even random mutation, one will appear. There are lots of things human beings have thought impossible but then they later achieved.

    BTW, I accept that cows cannot achieve escape velocity. But its not a belief due solely to induction. It involves presuppositional commitments to an orderly universe created by a personal God, etc. Not everyone shares those presuppositions, and until they do or at least admit them as a true and not merely theoretical possibility, they won’t find evidence for God’s existence taken from the natural world to be even plausible, much less neutral criteria. My point is the exact same thing applies to Roman Catholicism or even to Protestantism for that matter.

    Failure to come to the truth, in the face of evidence pointing to that truth, does not mean that reason is not neutral, because another possible explanation is that some persons’ reasoning is imperfect or defective in some respect.

    As a Christian, I have to admit that reason is a reflection of the character of God and therefore cannot be neutral because God Himself is not neutral. A man does not through purely neutral means arrive at any truth. It’s impossible. It’s not the way we are built.

    There being no motives of credibility for the PCA being the Church the incarnate Christ founded does not depend on a particular definition of what the Church He founded “would look like.” It depends on the fact that Christ ascended into heaven around AD 33, so that whatever He founded has to be at least that old. There is no evidence that the PCA is older than 1973, because that’s when it was founded. Not even the members of the PCA believe or claim that the PCA is older than 1973.

    On this you are simply wrong. The PCA was established as the continuing Presbyterian church, which shows that it understands itself as the true continuation of something much older, which in turn saw itself as the true continuation of something much older, all the way back to the Reformers, who saw themselves as the true continuation of something much older all the way back to Christ. We can debate about whether the claim is correct or not, but you cannot deny that the claim exists.

    You don’t find the claim credible because you have a particular understanding of what Christ’s church must look like, namely, that any body that can date the particular instantiation of its governing bureaucratic structure after 50 AD or so can’t possibly be a contender. You just admitted as much, perhaps in ignorance of the PCA’s claim to be a continuing Presbyerian body with roots all the way back to 33 AD, I don’t know. That’s begging the question.

    IOW, you deny that the PCA has a motive of credibility to be the church Christ founded based on an assumption of what the church Christ founded would look like.

  69. Robert #65

    You Said:

    I’m not saying miracles are not a motive of credibility. I am saying that the only people who accept biblical miracles as evidence for the Christian faith are those who have already committed themselves to the Apostolic interpretation of those miracles, or at the very least that the Apostolic interpretation of them is at least possible.

    This may be true, but it does not mean that biblical miracles cease to be valid evidence because someone rejects it, or has presuppositions against such miracles. The validity of the evidence (the motives of credibility) is not relative and does not depend on such and such a person accepting them for them to be valid.

    I’m not trying to prove all Christian denominations fideistic. I’m trying to get at least some of you to recognize that you are operating out of fundamental commitments that in large measure determine your reading of the evidence. That’s not a bad thing necessarily. It is how God built us. God didn’t build us to look at things from a position of neutrality. Adam and Eve weren’t permitted to look at the evidence in the world from a neutral position and then, based on motives of credibility, decide to listen to the being who claimed to be their Maker.

    I know that’s not what you are trying to prove, but that is what you (unwittingly no doubt) are arguing for. You seem to want to say that everyone is equally biased by their own presuppositions, and that bias equally obfuscates the truth, in such a way that we could only, possibly, accidentally stumble on the truth of something by reason. Or, perhaps you are trying to say, in a ‘round about way, that there is no way to truly exercise reason. Either way, if our presuppositions determine how the evidence is read (despite or apart from reason) it boils every decision we make down to a type of fideism, because any system I choose cannot really be objectively measured in any significant way by reason and must be determined solely by my presupposition.

    “It is how God built us” See, now you are treading on dangerous ground, again. If God built us to be presuppositional, and base everything on those presuppositions (to such an extent that the only ‘evidence’ that is evidence is that which one presupposes) then you are, by default, saying that God intentionally designed some people to reject Him. Not such that they reject him culpably, with full knowledge of the truth of the evidence (or at least culpable ignorance) and by full consent of their will, but such that the ‘motives of credibility’ that are provided by God are really invalid (within the realm of reason) except to those that presuppose it, which is what you are saying if you say that ‘Christian miracles are not motives of credibility to Muslims’. If the evidence isn’t valid to those people, then it cannot be held against them, justly. Now, if by saying ‘Christian miracles are not motives of credibility to Muslims’ you mean that ‘Christian miracles are not *accepted as* motives of credibility by Muslims because, *contrary to reason*, they reject them.’ then I could affirm this, but that doesn’t appear to be what you are saying.

    Do Muslims reject the evidence? Sure. Is their rejection of it reasonable? No, nor are the reasons and explanations that they give for rejecting it. There is a difference in there being a reason and some way of explaining everything away and it being a reasonable interpretation of the evidence. Atheists say that the universe just came into existence ‘from nothing, by nothing and for nothing’ and ‘chance’ is their reason for this having happened; is this a reasonable explanation? No, because logic tells us that it is impossible, and they should know this despite their presuppositions. That is why we know that there is a God, and that is why St. Paul says that mankind is without excuse.

    Bryan gave the example of the cow jumping over the moon. We know a cow cannot jump over the moon, because the cow does not have the power to do such a thing. How do I know this? Have I observed every cow? No. Do I need to? No. There is more than sufficient empirical evidence to support the fact that ‘no cow can ever jump over the moon under its own power’ and there is zero evidence to support the contrary. And, if I ever saw a cow jump over the moon, my conclusion would be that the cow had to have been assisted by some outside force (it would not be a reasonable conclusion that the cow somehow did it of its own accord, or, that it happened by ‘chance’). In the same fashion, if I saw a universe pop into existence (I say this in jest somewhat) I would be forced by reason to conclude that it was caused by an outside force greater than, and outside of, the universe itself (namely God), and that it didn’t just happen. Have I observed every moment of space/time to see if things do not just ‘come into existence’? No. However, if such a thing could occur without a cause then it would prove that we live in an absurd and incoherent universe and reason would be utterly pointless. Logic, science, and this debate would all be pointless.

    It’s reasonable to appeal to biblical miracles as evidence for Christianity provided that you are honest that you are appealing not to the miracles as bare events but as interpreted events. One could just as well look at Christ’s miracles, believe he actually did them, but reject them as proof of His deity because they reject His and the Apostles interpretation of them. That’s what Muslims do.

    Also, like the Jews do; they didn’t deny that He did miracles (even centuries later). But, that does not make their rejection of Him reasonable; rather it only shows that their rejection of Him is in the face of the bare evidence (MoC) provided. If their rejection of Jesus was, and is, reasonable, how can they be punished for it (especially punished more severely having witnessed the miracles as is attested to by Jesus Himself)? Could they not say ‘But Lord, we did not know, we were expecting something different and we believed those miracles were the work of a deceiving spirit.’? I don’t think that’s the picture that either the Old or the New Testament paints; it paints a picture of it really being inherently unreasonable to reject the bare miracles presented to them. So, again, I say maintaining this line of reasoning undermines your own arguments, and implicitly accuses God, Jesus and the Apostles of being unreasonable (because the miracles are presented as true unconditional evidence). Your argument seem to be that ‘X is not a motive of credibility unless one presupposes it’ and then indicate that ‘trying to use X as a motive of credibility with those that do not presuppose it is unreasonable’ yet God uses X as a motive of credibility, with the threat of extra punishment, for even those that do not presuppose it (the Jews, for example, that did not presuppose the Apostolic interpretation of the miracles). Do you not see the problem?

    Do people reject the ‘motives of credibility’ such as miracles because of their presuppositions? Sure, I don’t think anyone would deny that. However, that does not make the rejection reasonable at all (let alone equally reasonable with acceptance) because the evidence is still valid regardless of one’s interpretative perspective. An Atheist, for example, could say (and they do) that ‘those hundreds of people that saw the ‘resurrected’ Jesus could have just had a mass hallucination’ but just because he says such a thing does mean that this assertion is equally reasonable simply because it is asserted, or because millions of people believe this, or even because it is theoretically possible for 500 people to hallucinate at the same time. If it were equally reasonable to conclude that it was a hallucination rather than a miraculous resurrection, or that the resurrection, while true, proves nothing of itself then you cannot escape an implicit belief in total fideism (because what would be the deciding factor between the truth claims of various systems of belief? It could not be reason, because rejection of the evidence for one or the other would appear to be equally reasonable. Therefore, I would be compelled to make a blind leap of faith toward one or the other. I.E. Fideism)

    Can people accept the motives of credibility based on their presuppositions also? Sure. I would say that some people are more disposed towards the truth than others; some become Christians quickly after exposure to the Gospel and others take many years of reasoning and conflict before becoming Christians. In the same fashion, some become Catholics quickly when exposed to the MoC and others take decades of reasoning and debate to convert. But, I think the mistake you make is in assuming that the decision is determined by the presupposition as if the evidence is not subject to reason. I may have an erroneous presupposition that makes me bias toward or against something, but I can overcome or eliminate such a presupposition through logical reasoning alone, if I am willing. In addition, my presupposition one way or the other does not change the validity of the motives of credibility; either they are rationally valid or invalid on their own grounds (through reason and logic) completely apart from presuppositions. A bias may influence one’s interpretation to some degree, but it doesn’t vitiate their ability to reason.

    More broadly considered, my point is that the idea that a church that defines itself as Rome does has an inherently more plausible claim to being the church Jesus founded when examined from a neutral position is a false idea.

    This I disagree with. If nothing else Rome has the support of history; the Reformers do not. Even if one were to assume that it were possible for the Church to fail and be overcome by heresy at a very early (and unknown) date, that does not mean that it is equally plausible that this happened, especially when you consider that these ‘corrupted’ traditions have been preserved since the earliest centuries with such continuity. The idea that there was a considerable rupture that has no record of a definitive moment of rupture or a resistance against the rupture in the historical table (during or after the rupture) and then continuity for many, many centuries since then is far fetched. Furthermore, if we were to argue that the Church was not preserved, then it definitely does not seem reasonable, on any level, to conclude that a book that same corrupted Church Canonized, maintained and studied for many centuries was somehow preserved inerrant and unadulterated. Why the book and not the Church that oversaw the book (since, indeed, Christ made promises to the Church, not to the book)? I think, from a ‘neutral’ outsider perspective (one unbiased either way by the Reformation propaganda), it would be more reasonable to side with the historical Church hands down over a fledgling church. What would a new Church have to offer? Some novel interpretations of the writings many centuries after those writings were written and passed on (especially when the already established ancient Church has interpretations that fit as well or better)? Another voice among the tens of thousands of fledgling sects that say they have the true doctrine? That might prove attractive to some, no doubt, but I think it would be quite a stretch to say that it is reasonable.

    In Christ,
    –Joshua M

  70. Robert, (re: #68)

    Surely as professor of philosophy you are familiar with all the of the debates about whether induction can provide true knowledge. But I don’t see any evidence of that in your reply to me.

    This is an example of the fallacy of the argument from silence.

    Things just aren’t that simple,

    If you think something I said is false, you need to provide an argument showing that what I said is false.

    and they are especially complicated by discoveries since Aristotle’s time.

    This is an example of hand-waving. If you have evidence that something I said is false, you need to present it. Anyone can hand-wave, alluding to evidence one does not provide.

    There is a nigh unto infinite number of cows that could be produced with an nigh unto infinite number of genetic codes. Unless you examine all of these, which you cannot do, you cannot know with certainty that no cow could ever achieve escape velocity.

    This is a question-begging assertion. It presupposes that the essence of something cannot be known without examining every instance of its kind. But that’s just the point in question, namely, whether the essence of a thing can be known without examining every member of its type. That’s precisely how we can know what a cow is, without needing to examine every cow. By acting as though you understand what I mean by ‘cow,’ without yourself having examined every cow, you yourself show that you are capable of knowing what cows are, without having examined every cow, and thus contradict your own criticism.

    Maybe one day through the right breeding, or maybe even random mutation, one will appear.

    Given your skepticism, for you, all presently existing cows might presently have the power to jump over the Moon, but are not revealing it, just as your ‘parents’ might be non-human aliens from another galaxy, but haven’t revealed it. Or you might be a mere robot, but have not yet discovered it. For a skeptic, the possibilities are endless, or maybe not.

    BTW, I accept that cows cannot achieve escape velocity. But its not a belief due solely to induction. It involves presuppositional commitments to an orderly universe created by a personal God, etc.

    Where order is defined in terms of the impossibility of the “lots of things human beings have thought impossible”. So you can’t have it both ways. If the order dictates how the world must be, then those “impossible” things can’t later be “achieved.” But if those “impossible” things can later be “achieved,” then you have no basis for presupposing and imposing this preconceived “order” onto reality.

    My point is the exact same thing applies to Roman Catholicism or even to Protestantism for that matter.

    I’m aware that that is your “point,” but “points” are not arguments. Simply repeating your “point,” without providing an argument, is table-pounding. And CTC is not a forum for table-pounding, but for dialogue in which we respectfully exchange and evaluate arguments.

    A man does not through purely neutral means arrive at any truth. It’s impossible. It’s not the way we are built.

    Again, more mere assertions.

    On this you are simply wrong. The PCA was established as the continuing Presbyterian church,

    The PCA is a new institution, established in 1973 with the intention of preserving a previously existing faith tradition and practice that a prior institution (the PCUS) had once held, but from which that institution was departing in certain respects. The PCA does not claim to be the Church Christ founded. It does not even claim to be the PCUS, from which it separated. It claims rather to preach and teach the apostolic doctrine, which it believes to the Presbyterian doctrine held by separate ecclesial institutions that existed prior to itself. That makes it, according to PCA ecclesiology, a branch within the Church Christ founded, not numerically identical to the Church Christ founded or to the PCUS. No PCA document claims that the PCA is the Church Christ founded or is the PCUS. Nor does any PCA document even claim that the PCA is the only Presbyterian church in the US, let alone the world.

    You don’t find the claim credible because you have a particular understanding of what Christ’s church must look like, namely, that any body that can date the particular instantiation of its governing bureaucratic structure after 50 AD or so can’t possibly be a contender. You just admitted as much, perhaps in ignorance of the PCA’s claim to be a continuing Presbyerian body with roots all the way back to 33 AD, I don’t know.

    These are two statements about me. As such, they leave untouched the truth of everything I said above. Nor did I say that a claim wasn’t “credible.”

    IOW, you deny that the PCA has a motive of credibility to be the church Christ founded based on an assumption of what the church Christ founded would look like.

    This too is a statement about me. Once again, the non-existence of a motive of credibility for the PCA being the Church Christ founded does not depend on any “assumption” about what the Church Christ founded “would look like.” As I explained in the previous comment, to be the Church Christ founded means to be founded by Christ while He was here on earth. From that fact, it follows that to be the Church that Christ founded, the entity in question must have existed from the time Christ ascended, i.e. roughly AD 33. Your simply re-asserting that my claim is based on an assumption of what the church Christ founded “must look like” is an ungrounded assertion, supported by no argumentation and no evidence. I have made no claim about what the Church Christ founded must “look like.” Rather, in order to be the Church Christ founded, the entity in question must have been present before He ascended, and thus have been present around AD 33. Otherwise, the entity in question will be a ‘church’ founded after the Church Christ Himself founded while He was on earth.

    Here’s the bottom-line from our conversation, going back to #639 in the other thread. The reason you think the motives of credibility are circular, is because you think all reasoning is governed by fideistic presuppositions, and thus that all reasoning is circular. And your fideism (like that of almost all fideists) is built on philosophical skepticism, as I explained in my post at the first link in the “Wilson vs. Hitchens” post. The underlying problem, then, is your philosophical skepticism, by which you do not even know whether a cow can jump over the Moon. Wherever you picked up that skepticism in your philosophical formation, you were deeply misled. And we cannot make any headway on the non-circularity of the motives of credibility question, until we resolve that underlying philosophical disagreement.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  71. Bryan,

    This is a question-begging assertion. It presupposes that the essence of something cannot be known without examining every instance of its kind. But that’s just the point in question, namely, whether the essence of a thing can be known without examining every member of its type. That’s precisely how we can know what a cow is, without needing to examine every cow. By acting as though you understand what I mean by ‘cow,’ without yourself having examined every cow, you yourself show that you are capable of knowing what cows are, without having examined every cow, and thus contradict your own criticism.

    The reason why I don’t have to examine every cow is because of my prior commitment to Scripture’s teaching on a great many things, including the fact that I can know truly but not exhaustively. You can’t know the essence of the cow like God can know the essence of the cow, which means your knowledge of the essence of a cow is always provisional and fallible. This is one reason why induction cannot produce certitude.

    If you present the evidence for the resurrection to someone who is convinced that induction is the exclusive means by which we know the essence of something, he’s just going to look at the evidence and say “that’s interesting.” In order for the evidence to be convincing, he’s going to have to accept the apostolic interpretation of the event. There’s no such thing as an uninterpreted fact. This is why the motives of credibility are not convincing until you first accept the Roman Catholic position on what the church should look like and on so many other matters. The Church isn’t a motive of credibility for the Church unless you first accept that the only way a church can be the church Christ founded is if it has an unbroken lineage of laying on of hands. If you accept that the church can be the church Christ founded as long as it has continuity of doctrine with the Apostles, then the Church will never ever be a convincing RC motive of credibility to the non-RC. It depends on upon a certain notion of what the church must be. I specifically deny that the church Christ founded must be visible in the sense Rome teaches. That’s why I find the motives of credibility thoroughly unpersuasive. They aren’t neutral.

    This too is a statement about me. Once again, the non-existence of a motive of credibility for the PCA being the Church Christ founded does not depend on any “assumption” about what the Church Christ founded “would look like.” As I explained in the previous comment, to be the Church Christ founded means to be founded by Christ while He was here on earth. From that fact, it follows that to be the Church that Christ founded, the entity in question must have existed from the time Christ ascended, i.e. roughly AD 33. Your simply re-asserting that my claim is based on an assumption of what the church Christ founded “must look like” is an ungrounded assertion, supported by no argumentation and no evidence. I have made no claim about what the Church Christ founded must “look like.” Rather, in order to be the Church Christ founded, the entity in question must have been present before He ascended, and thus have been present around AD 33. Otherwise, the entity in question will be a ‘church’ founded after the Church Christ Himself founded while He was on earth.

    All of this depends entirely on your defining the church in a particular way. You are saying that because the bureaucratic structure of the PCA did not exist until 1973, it can’t be the church Christ founded. Meanwhile, you are ignoring all the claims of any body that goes back to the magisterial Reformation to be the continuation of the true church Christ founded. Those claims may all be wrong, but they are certainly made. There’s a reason why church history is taught at Protestant seminaries—its because Protestants believe themselves to be members of the church Christ founded. Thus, the history of the church prior to the Reformation is their history. Continuity is defined doctrinally primarily and only secondarily by other means.

    If the church Christ founded is identified chiefly by its fidelity to what Christ taught, then the PCA has a “motive of credibility.” You don’t think it’s credible because that’s not how you define the church. As a good Roman Catholic, it’s all about a particular definition of Apostolic Succession for you. Do you deny that? Is not an essential tenet of Roman Catholicism that the true church Christ founded must be identifiable visibly by apostolic succession? I mean, I could be a part of a church that believes everything you believe as a Roman Catholic but that just sprung up on its own without the benefit of the laying on of hands of a bishop. Would I then be a part of the church Christ founded? It seems to me that the answer would have to be no.

  72. Joshua,

    I know that’s not what you are trying to prove, but that is what you (unwittingly no doubt) are arguing for. You seem to want to say that everyone is equally biased by their own presuppositions, and that bias equally obfuscates the truth, in such a way that we could only, possibly, accidentally stumble on the truth of something by reason. Or, perhaps you are trying to say, in a ‘round about way, that there is no way to truly exercise reason. Either way, if our presuppositions determine how the evidence is read (despite or apart from reason) it boils every decision we make down to a type of fideism, because any system I choose cannot really be objectively measured in any significant way by reason and must be determined solely by my presupposition.

    That’s not what I’m saying at all. People truly exercise reason all the time. What is the reason for that. Well, to put it simply, only the God of the Bible can account for why reality operates the way it does. So all presuppositions are not equal. And to the extent that a non-Christian exercises his reason rightly, he is being inconsistent with His non-Christian position.

    The problem with the motives of credibility is that you all seem to treat them as if they exist in a vacuum. They are meaningless without interpretation and chiefly without God’s interpretation of them. If it were just a matter of them being self-evidently obvious, everyone would accept them and become RC.

    By no means am I a full-on presuppositionalist. But the quasi-evidentialism that the motives of credibilty represent is a failure as well.

  73. Perhaps one of the main differences in the impasse between the Presuppositional and the Catholic/Thomist approach to the “motives of credibility” is their different understandings of what constitutes “nature.” As someone who once identified rather strongly with the Presuppositionalist camp (a decade ago my arguments would have echoed Robert’s here), I was helped greatly by a comment by a Dominican friar on a blog thread concerning the “Nature and Grace” debate. (I would link to it but the blog has since disappeared). In explaining the rejection of the old Thomist understanding of nature and grace by De Lubac and others, he explicated the change in the concept of nature in the 16th century from one that was sapiential and teleological (ie. nature really could lead one, at least in part, to God) to the modern notion of nature (inert, random, purposeless, revealing nothing beyond itself). De Lubac and his disciples mistakenly read this modernist definition of nature back onto Cajetan and other Reformation era Thomists, and naturally rejected it. I believe a similar misreading of nature may be behind the Presuppositional critique presented by Robert here, but perhaps Dr. Cross will be able comment more intelligently on the matter.

  74. Robert, (re: #71)

    The reason why I don’t have to examine every cow is because of my prior commitment to Scripture’s teaching on a great many things, including the fact that I can know truly but not exhaustively. You can’t know the essence of the cow like God can know the essence of the cow, which means your knowledge of the essence of a cow is always provisional and fallible. This is one reason why induction cannot produce certitude.

    For you, given your skepticism, you might possibly have a commitment to Scripture (or you might discover that you actually don’t), and it might possibly be the case that you can’t know the essence of a cow like God can (or you might possibly discover that you can). So, your conclusion can at best be that induction might possibly be unable to produce certitude, or maybe it can.

    The philosophical mistake in your argument is making God’s way of knowing something, the standard for what counts as knowledge in humans. Hence, since we cannot know the way God knows, then (according to your reasoning) we humans cannot know anything at all. Thus skepticism. The mistake there is in the very first premise. Humans can and do attain knowledge, even if they do not know in the way God does. Our inability to know as God knows does not mean that we cannot attain knowledge, including the knowledge of the essences of things, or that we cannot attain certainty, or that our knowledge is always “provisional and fallible.” Skepticism does not justifiably follow from the truth that humans cannot know just as God knows.

    If you present the evidence for the resurrection to someone who is convinced that induction is the exclusive means by which we know the essence of something, he’s just going to look at the evidence and say “that’s interesting.” In order for the evidence to be convincing, he’s going to have to accept the apostolic interpretation of the event. There’s no such thing as an uninterpreted fact. This is why the motives of credibility are not convincing until you first accept the Roman Catholic position on what the church should look like and on so many other matters.

    As I explained in comment #66 above, the question is not how “convincing” the motives of credibility are, or how convincing they are to some percentage of people. For reasons already explained, the soundness of an argument, and the evidential character of the motives of credibility do not depend on the percentage of people convinced by them.

    The Church isn’t a motive of credibility for the Church unless you first accept that the only way a church can be the church Christ founded is if it has an unbroken lineage of laying on of hands.

    That is a mere assertion, but without supporting argumentation. Not only is it a mere assertion, it is not true. The Church can be a motive of credibility for the Church even if a person does not know whether the Church Christ founded must have an unbroken lineage of ordinations in succession from the Apostles. The Church can be a motive of credibility precisely in weighing and deciding between different ecclesial paradigms.

    If you accept that the church can be the church Christ founded as long as it has continuity of doctrine with the Apostles, then the Church will never ever be a convincing RC motive of credibility to the non-RC.

    Again, the evidential character of the motives of credibility does not depend on how “convincing” they are to any particular group of people. To shift to the question of what percentage of people are convinced by them is to change the subject.

    I specifically deny that the church Christ founded must be visible in the sense Rome teaches. That’s why I find the motives of credibility thoroughly unpersuasive.

    Again, persuasiveness is a different question.

    You are saying that because the bureaucratic structure of the PCA did not exist until 1973, it can’t be the church Christ founded.

    Not exactly. Institutions are differentiated in part by their different leadership offices. Even if the same person served simultaneously as the head of two different institutions, each composed of all the same members, they would be two institutions, and not one, because (in part) there were two leadership offices. And hence the difference between the leadership office of the PCA and PCUS show them to be different institutions. Similarly, if some of the molecules of a cow are eaten by a second cow, this does not turn the second cow into the first cow, even though these two cows have the very same nature. That’s because what differentiates the cows is not the identity of the composing particles, but the distinct metabolic activity of each cow, and the activities are differentiated by being each in a different body. So likewise, even when some members of a denomination leave that denomination to form a new denomination, that does not make the new denomination a continuation of the old denomination. The new denomination only continues, at best, the doctrines and practices of that older denomination. The new denomination is, still a *new* denomination.

    Meanwhile, you are ignoring all the claims ….

    This is a statement about me, and is therefore compatible with the truth of everything I’ve said above.

    There’s a reason why church history is taught at Protestant seminaries—its because Protestants believe themselves to be members of the church Christ founded.

    Of course, as members of a subsequently formed branch.

    Thus, the history of the church prior to the Reformation is their history. Continuity is defined doctrinally primarily and only secondarily by other means.

    I agree that this is how they see it.

    If the church Christ founded is identified chiefly by its fidelity to what Christ taught, then the PCA has a “motive of credibility.”

    Again, I agree. In no place have I said that the PCA has no motive of credibility.

    You don’t think it’s credible because that’s not how you define the church.

    That’s a statement about me, and thus changes the subject from the motives of credibility, to me.

    As a good Roman Catholic, it’s all about a particular definition of Apostolic Succession for you. Do you deny that?

    Of course I deny that. I’ve been denying it throughout this whole conversation, as you repeatedly keep constructing straw men of what are the motives of credibility for the Catholic Church. The motives of credibility do not presuppose anything. You keep construing them (without any argumentation) as though they do presuppose things. And that’s a straw man.

    Is not an essential tenet of Roman Catholicism that the true church Christ founded must be identifiable visibly by apostolic succession?

    The motives of credibility come *before* faith, because they are accessible to reason by the natural light of reason. Once again, the motives of credibility are not based on or built on anything from faith. You’re attempting to impose on the motives of credibility criteria that derive from the stance of faith. But that’s just to set up a straw man of the what the motives of credibility are.

    I mean, I could be a part of a church that believes everything you believe as a Roman Catholic but that just sprung up on its own without the benefit of the laying on of hands of a bishop. Would I then be a part of the church Christ founded? It seems to me that the answer would have to be no.

    First, one doctrine of the Catholic Church is that she was founded by the incarnate Christ while He was on earth. So this “just sprung up” ‘church,’ if it knew that it was “just sprung up” could not at the same time believe that it was founded by the incarnate Christ while He was on earth, without positing that Christ returned to earth during the time this new ‘church’ “sprung up,’ something the Catholic Church does not believe. So they couldn’t “believe everything you believe.”

    Setting that problem aside, no, you wouldn’t be part of (at least in the visible union with sense) the Church Christ founded. But that’s something that could be known in both ways, i.e. through the motives of credibility accessible to reason, and through faith.

    Finally, again, I think the crux of our disagreement is accurately summarized in the last paragraph of comment #70 above. There’s no point discussing secondary points of disagreement, until the underlying point of disagreement is addressed.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  75. Robert (re: #72),

    The problem with the motives of credibility is that you all seem to treat them as if they exist in a vacuum.

    What do you mean by “treat[ing] them as if they exist in a vacuum”? From what I have read of your convo with Bryan, you mean “treating them as if they can be grasped by natural reason” but perhaps you can clarify?

    They are meaningless without interpretation and chiefly without God’s interpretation of them. If it were just a matter of them being self-evidently obvious, everyone would accept them and become RC.

    Interestingly enough, skeptics don’t accept what is “self-evidently obvious” (e.g. that cows can’t jump over the moon). Arguments are not judged by how “obvious” they are or how many people they persuade. (Note: The correct answer to the probability question I posed in comment #67 is 2/3)

    By no means am I a full-on presuppositionalist. But the quasi-evidentialism that the motives of credibilty represent is a failure as well.

    What type of presuppositionalist are you? What do you mean by quasi-evidentialism? And from this conversation, it seems as though your criterion of failure is a percentage of people not being persuaded, but Bryan has pointed out repeatedly that this is not a good criterion.

    Peace,
    John D.

  76. Robert (re: #72)

    People truly exercise reason all the time. What is the reason for that. Well, to put it simply, only the God of the Bible can account for why reality operates the way it does. So all presuppositions are not equal. And to the extent that a non-Christian exercises his reason rightly, he is being inconsistent with His non-Christian position.

    Again, as I explained at the post at the first link in the “Hitchens vs. Wilson” post, this conflates the order of knowing and the order of being. This distinction (between the order of knowing and the order of being) is like the distinction between the order of intention, and the order of execution. Because of the distinction between the order of knowing and the order of being, the first principles in the order of knowledge are not the first principles in the order of being. The presuppositionalist will say things like “only the God of the Bible can account for why reality operates the way it does.” This claim itself is derived from a process of reasoning that begins with first principles that do not include the claim itself (i.e. that only the God of the Bible can account for why reality operates the way it does). So the presuppositionalist himself reasons to this claim, without being “inconsistent” in this very reasoning. But then he turns around and accuses non-Christians of being inconsistent whenever the non-Christian “exercises his reason rightly.” Not only is the presuppositionalist therefore engaged in special pleading (by not allowing the non-Christian to exercise his reason rightly without being guilty of “inconsistency,” while the presuppositionalist allows himself to have exercised his own reason rightly without inconsistency in order to reach the conclusion that “only the God of the Bible can account for why reality operates the way it does”), but by reasoning to his claim without being “inconsistent” in this very reasoning, he shows that doing so is possible, and therefore refutes his own accusation against the non-Christian.

    This distinction between the order of knowing and the order of being is precisely why there is a distinction between the following two intellectual virtues: understanding and wisdom. Understanding concerns the first principles in the order of knowing. Wisdom concerns the first principles in the order of being. By conflating these two orders, the presuppositionalist mistakenly treats what is arrived at in the pursuit of wisdom, as necessarily what must already be understood in order to set out in that pursuit.

    The problem with the motives of credibility is that you all seem to treat them as if they exist in a vacuum.

    Notice that you begin your sentence by indicating that you intend to point out a problem with the motives of credibility, but then you complete your sentence by criticizing persons (“you all”). The motives of credibility are not persons. So criticisms of persons (i.e. “you all”) is not a criticism of the motives of credibility.

    They are meaningless without interpretation and chiefly without God’s interpretation of them.

    Yet somehow the presuppositionalist is able to reach this very “interpretation,” (i.e. that things are meaningless without interpretation) without presupposing “God’s interpretation.” The presuppositionalist first, without the God’s eye point of view, reasons to the conclusion that there can be no authentic reasoning without having the God’s eye point of view, and then promulgates his conclusion as though it is the result of authentic reasoning.

    If it were just a matter of them being self-evidently obvious, everyone would accept them and become RC.

    A mind darkened by false philosophies (e.g. skepticism, cynicism, nihilism, etc.) may be incapable of seeing their evidential character, but such a mind is incapable of seeing many other truths about reality as well (e.g. that a certain bovine species is incapable of leaping over a certain orbiting body). The evidential character of the motives of character for Christ and the Church is not contingent on its persuading everyone. Some level of intellectual and moral virtue is a necessary condition for thinking rightly about the motives of credibility, as about many other things as well. But the necessity of some level of intellectual and moral virtue in order to observe and reason rightly about the world around us, does not require or entail the embrace of presuppositionalism.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  77. Robert,

    With respect to the fundamental disagreement Bryan pointed out at the end of comment #70, perhaps something can be gained in terms of mutual understanding with respect to our differing epistemological positions, by zeroing in on one of your recent comments and fleshing out some important distinctions.

    You wrote:

    “If you present the evidence for the resurrection to someone who is convinced that induction is the exclusive means by which we know the essence of something, he’s just going to look at the evidence and say “that’s interesting.” . . . In order for the evidence to be convincing, he’s going to have to accept the apostolic interpretation of the event”

    First, some clarifications are in order. By “evidence for the resurrection” you could mean either (a) the historical evidence which comes down to us attesting to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead in 1st century Palestine, or (b) you could be referring to the physical evidence which the eyewitnesses to that event (such as St. Thomas the apostle) would have had. As to the former, I think no on denies that persons in the 21st century are limited to “moral certainty” with respect to the historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead, for our epistemic access to that event depends upon the handing on of trustworthy testimony. Secondly, one must define what is meant by “resurrection”. In what I have to say, I am assuming a traditional account whereby a resurrection is the reuniting of the soul and body of a human being whose soul and body had been previously separated (as opposed to a mere resuscitation where certain vital signs indicate the failure of one or more organs without necessarily indicating the separation of the soul and body).

    With those distinctions in place, one can successfully argue that those persons who were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection (and we ourselves insofar as we accept their testimony as true); were able to know that Jesus’ resurrection was brought about by a supernatural (transcendent cause) without accepting the “apostolic interpretation of the event”. More to the point, the resurrection of Jesus (or Lazarus, or any other resurrection) can be shown as modally supernatural on strictly metaphysical grounds rooted in self-evident first principles available to all men at all times – without requiring recourse to unshared presuppositions. A resurrection can be known through reason alone as modally supernatural since a resurrection requires a universal cause transcending the vast network of secondary causes. More on this claim in a moment, but first a further clarification is required.

    There is, however, a dimension of Jesus’ resurrection which does require acceptance of the “apostolic interpretation of the event”. That dimension concerns the role of the resurrection as a motive of credibility for the claim that Jesus’ of Nazareth was a divine person. For from the fact that a resurrection has occurred (a modally supernatural event requiring a transcendent cause), it does not follow that the person resurrected was a divine person. To accept the evidence of the resurrection as a motive of credibility for the claim that Jesus of Nazareth was a divine person does indeed require an act of faith (based upon the interpretation of the resurrection given by Jesus and the apostles). Christ’s divinity is thus an intrinsically supernatural truth which exceeds the power of natural reason alone to discover.

    For example, in the case of St. Thomas the apostle, he could know that Jesus’ resurrection was not just “interesting”, but was evidence of supernatural agency through (a) his understanding of what a resurrection is (as defined above), and (b) his knowledge of the active and passive capacities of human nature and other natural causes; which is to say, an intellectual grasp of “universals” initiated and enriched by way of repeated empirical experience with (and historical testimony concerning) the capacities of human nature and other natural causes in relation to human nature. In particular; Thomas could know that a completed crucifixion entails the separation of the body and soul, and that no natural agency or constellation of agencies, human or otherwise, has the capacity to reunite body and soul immediately, especially three days hence. In other words, St. Thomas’ knowledge that Jesus’ resurrection was modally supernatural could be gained through reason alone without reference to the interpretative meaning of the resurrection provided by Jesus or the other apostles.

    However, when St. Thomas placed his fingers in Christ’s wounds (and thereby verified the modally supernatural fact of Jesus’ resurrection), went on to exclaim “My Lord and my God”, he made an act of faith which went beyond what logically follows from the verified fact of resurrection (consider, no one declared Lazarus to be a divine person even though he was resurrected). Nevertheless, St. Thomas’ confession concerning Jesus’ divinity remained an eminently “reasonable” act of faith. Reasonable, because in conjunction with Jesus’ teachings and predictions prior to His passion; the verified fact of His resurrection grounded a reasonable inference to the truth of His claims concerning His own divinity. On the other hand, St. Thomas’ confession remained an act of faith because acceptance of Jesus’ divinity, strictly speaking, exceeded what reason could know and required the addition of an act of faith in Jesus’ prior testimony concerning Himself. In short, while knowledge that the resurrection of Jesus is a modally supernatural event requiring a transcendent cause is open to reason alone; belief that Jesus of Nazareth is a divine person is an intrinsically supernatural claim requiring an act of faith.

    Returning then to the specific claim that “apostolic interpretation” is not needed to verify that a resurrection requires a transcendent cause and that reason alone can recognize a resurrection as modally supernatural, the question turns ultimately upon the age old question of whether or not the mind grasps “universals” (universals here understood as the intellect’s abstract grasp of the substantial natures of things existing outside the mind). I do not think that epistemological stances which deny that the intellect grasps universals, or deny that there are substantial natures existing outside the mind for the intellect to grasp, can be coherently defended whether in their Ockhamist, Humean, Kantian, or modern conceptualist forms. However, I have no intention of making that case is a blog post, and besides, I think Bryan has effectively drawn out the prima facie absurdity of such a position by considering the difficulties facing “astro-cow”. Still, if you are interested in exploring the topic further I would recommend Etienne Gilson’s The Unity of Philosophical Experience and Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition (especially, chapter 2).

    My point for now is that if the denial of the mind’s grasp of universals results in incoherence and self-refutation (either a logical or performative violation of the law of non-contradiction), then one has rational grounds for holding that the human mind does, in fact, grasp the essential properties and capacities of human nature and other related natural causes vis-à-vis the question of a resurrection. Moreover, such grounds are ultimately rooted in self-evident principals that all men (whether theists, atheists, agnostics, etc) must accept (on pain of shutting down the possibility of human communication).

    In particular, the grasp of universals entails that no secondary, contingent cause (or group of causes) has the power to immediately give rise to a substance without a series of intervening accidental changes – as is the case with normative corruption and generation throughout the natural order. That means that the only causal power which could immediately produce a substantial change (and a resurrection is the immediate re-formation of a substantial being) is a cause which is immediately present to all contingent being (including the matter which individuates human bodies and the soul which is the substantial form of the body). The only cause that fits that bill is the First Cause which continually and universally conserves all things in existence.

    More broadly, it is on similar grounds that the traditional Catholic apologetic enterprise has maintained that the fact of a divine revelation vouchsafed to mankind can be established by reason alone, since reason alone can establish the modally supernatural character of many of the motives of credibility (especially in the case of first and second order miracles) which underwrite the claim that a divine revelation has occurred. However, that same apologetic enterprise is careful to point out that the content of divine revelation generally concerns intrinsically supernatural truths concerning the intimate nature of God and His intentions for man and the cosmos (such as the Trinitarian nature of God, the divinity of Christ, the order of grace, truths about the Eschaton, etc). Such intrinsically supernatural truths reason alone cannot grasp, and therefore an act of faith is required.

    Even so, an act of faith in the intrinsically supernatural content of divine revelation remains itself reasonable since the fact of a modally supernatural revelation having been given can be known through reason alone, and that fact itself serves as a broad-spectrum motive of credibility for accepting the interpretation or meaning of revelatory events (the content of revelation) offered by the very human beings through whose instrumental agency God produced the motives of credibility which established the fact of revelation itself.

    These distinctions are important for clarifying where reason stops and divine faith starts, as well as the relation between the two. Such considerations are also important because the position that a Christian takes with respect to the faith/reason/revelation nexus directly determines the scope and depth of evangelistic efforts. Given the above account, which I believe to be rationally defensible down to the level of universally self-evident first principles, I think it is a serious mistake to insert presuppositions of faith (such as belief in the inspiration of the bible) into the apologetic enterprise prematurely. God has revealed Himself in such a way that faith builds upon, and utilizes, nature. Therefore, with patience Christians can peel back presuppositional layers in dialogue with their fellow human beings until reaching baselines such as the law of non-contradiction which all men, in every place and time, must affirm (or least cannot coherently deny). From such universally shared principles Christians can work forward in an effort to show through reason that God exists, that He has revealed Himself within the context of human history, and finally that an act of faith in the content of that which He has revealed is itself a reasonable act.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  78. Robert # 72

    Apologies for the delay in my response…

    That’s not what I’m saying at all. People truly exercise reason all the time. What is the reason for that. Well, to put it simply, only the God of the Bible can account for why reality operates the way it does. So all presuppositions are not equal. And to the extent that a non-Christian exercises his reason rightly, he is being inconsistent with His non-Christian position.

    If you maintain your previous skeptical approach how can you know this?

    The problem with the motives of credibility is that you all seem to treat them as if they exist in a vacuum. They are meaningless without interpretation and chiefly without God’s interpretation of them.

    Of course a bit of evidence is not much use without interpretation; it is the interpretation that explains what something means (the very definition of the word ‘interpretation’). But, that begs the question of what can give us a valid interpretation. You seem to say that the only way that one can ever arrive at an interpretation is presupposing that a certain interpretation is correct. This reasoning is itself circular because you have to presuppose the answer to discover the answer. Furthermore, how did you arrive at this conclusion about presuppositions? Did you presuppose it or did you conclude this through reason alone?

    It is possible to provide a reasonable interpretation of any given evidence through reason alone. We do this by weighing the information available and by grasping, through reason, the logical implications of such information. We can also weigh the logical implications of our presuppositions. As a Theist, I can weigh the logical implications of belief in an Omnipotent Creator God against the implications of Atheism (to see that Atheism is incoherent). As a Monotheist, I can weigh the logical implications of belief in one God versus the belief in many gods. As a Christian, I can weigh the logical implications of my Christian faith with those of say Islam, or Judaism. As a Catholic, I can weigh the implications of the Catholic faith against those of the Protestants. All of this can be done by reason alone without presupposing that any one system is more correct than the other. This is simply how we function as rational creatures.

    Is it possible that we make decisions based on presuppositions apart from reason, or that we can have our presuppositions obscure a proper grasp of the evidence? Sure, but I would argue that such a use of presuppositions are intellectual defects and not how we always function. I could presuppose anything; I could just assume that there is no God and no miracles and that the universe is simply incoherent or unknowable, but I do not make a reasonable argument in doing so; I only succeed in destroying my capabilities of reasoning (the very capabilities I claim to use).

    If it were just a matter of them being self-evidently obvious, everyone would accept them and become RC.

    This is false because it assumes that no one can, through disordered desire or a defect of reasoning, make an unreasonable decision.

    I don’t think anyone here is saying that we do not exercise faith in accepting Christ or the Church, but neither do we make a blind leap of faith in doing so. Our faith is based on reasonable arguments that in turn are based on the bare evidence and on basic principals of rational thought. From my perspective, many centuries after it occurred, I cannot prove with 2+2=4 certainty that the Second Person of the Trinity became flesh as the man Jesus Christ, that He did miracles and then rose from the dead. However, I can appeal to basic principals of logic to demonstrate that God *must* exist; I can appeal to the eye witness testimony and other evidence that has come down to us to conclude with reasonable certainty that Christ did rise from the dead and do miracles. I can also argue from this and other things, that if Christ did these things then whatever He says must be true (even if that entails that He claims to be God Incarnate). When these things are considered, by reason alone, it is unreasonable to reject them. However, I must still exercise faith in choosing to accept that it is true and revealed by God.

    In Christ,
    –Joshua M

  79. Bryan,

    The Church can be a motive of credibility for the Church even if a person does not know whether the Church Christ founded must have an unbroken lineage of ordinations in succession from the Apostles. The Church can be a motive of credibility precisely in weighing and deciding between different ecclesial paradigms.

    So in assessing the church as a motive of credibility, you ignore the Apostolic succession? How is the Roman Church a motive of credibility for itself if Apostolic succession is not essential to identifying the church Christ founded? Or is Apostolic succession not essential to identifying the church Christ founded?

    IOW, why can’t the PCA have a motive of credibility to be the church Christ founded if Apostolic succession is irrelevant? Because what it seems to me is that you are treating Aposotolic succession as irrelevant in determining whether or not the church of Rome is the church Christ founded.

    Yet somehow the presuppositionalist is able to reach this very “interpretation,” (i.e. that things are meaningless without interpretation) without presupposing “God’s interpretation.”

    Actually, from what I understand of presuppositionalism, they are presuming God’ interpretation in reaching that interpretation that things are meaningless without interpretation.

  80. Robert, (re: #79)

    You wrote:

    So in assessing the church as a motive of credibility, you ignore the Apostolic succession?

    No, you don’t ignore anything, just as when examining and comparing different theories advanced to explain a crime scene, you don’t ignore any of the evidence.

    How is the Roman Church a motive of credibility for itself if Apostolic succession is not essential to identifying the church Christ founded?

    Apostolic succession being essential for identifying the Church founded is part of one of the paradigms available for making sense of the evidence. But an inquirer does not need to presume the truth of that paradigm in order to compare the paradigms against each other, to see which is a better paradigm.

    Or is Apostolic succession not essential to identifying the church Christ founded? IOW, why can’t the PCA have a motive of credibility to be the church Christ founded if Apostolic succession is irrelevant?

    Apostolic succession is not “irrelevant” to the determination of the question “where is the Church Christ founded,” because in one of the available paradigms by which to understand the data, apostolic succession is essential to the Church.

    Because what it seems to me is that you are treating Aposotolic succession as irrelevant in determining whether or not the church of Rome is the church Christ founded.

    No, just because I say that one need not know whether apostolic succession is true (or presuppose the truth of apostolic succession) in order for the existence of the Catholic Church to be a motive of credibility for the Catholic Church being the Church Christ founded, this does not entail that apostolic succession is irrelevant to the question “where is the Church Christ founded?” or the question “is the existence of the Catholic Church a motive of credibility for her being the Church Christ founded?”

    You had said in comment #72:

    The problem with the motives of credibility is that you all seem to treat them as if they exist in a vacuum. They are meaningless without interpretation and chiefly without God’s interpretation of them.

    In comment #76 I replied to that latter sentence by saying:

    “Yet somehow the presuppositionalist is able to reach this very “interpretation,” (i.e. that things are meaningless without interpretation) without presupposing “God’s interpretation.” The presuppositionalist first, without the God’s eye point of view, reasons to the conclusion that there can be no authentic reasoning without having the God’s eye point of view, and then promulgates his conclusion as though it is the result of authentic reasoning.”

    And then in #79 you replied to my first sentence by saying:

    Actually, from what I understand of presuppositionalism, they are presuming God’ interpretation in reaching that interpretation that things are meaningless without interpretation.

    In order to know both what “God’s interpretation” is, and that he ought to presume it, the presuppositionalist must first reason to those conclusions. He does this reasoning, however, without knowing what God’s interpretation is, and that he ought to presume it. And from this, everything I said in comment #76 goes through.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  81. Bryan,

    Okay, then it seems to me that a church such as the PCA has all the motives of credibility as well. You said it doesn’t. The LCMS likewise has all the motives of credibility. So does the Anglican Church. And on it goes. All of those communions claim to be the church Christ founded. Nobody says, “we’re part of the church of Christ, but not the church Christ founded.” That’s a nonsensical claim.

  82. Robert, (re: #81)

    Okay, then it seems to me that a church such as the PCA has all the motives of credibility as well.

    You would need to show how that conclusion follows. Otherwise it remains a mere assertion, about how things seem like to you. However, this forum is not for exchanging mere assertions, but for exchanging and evaluating argumentation.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  83. Bryan,

    The PCA, for example, can claim all of this

    (1) miracles, (5′)
    (2) prophecies (6′)

    Check, we have the Bible.

    (3) the Church (7′)

    Check. The PCA comes from the PCUS which goes back to Scotland to Calvin to Bernard to Anselm to Augustine to Athanasius to Irenaeus to Christ, to simplify things.

    (4) the wisdom and beauty of revelation itself, and Christ Himself (7′)

    PCA can point to the wisdom and beauty of Scripture and to Christ.

    Check. All 4 motives of credibility.

  84. Robert, (re: #83)

    You began this conversation on December 7, (in comment #639 of the “I Fought the Church” thread) arguing that:

    The “motives of credibility” are in themselves at least broadly circular. On what basis should a nonbeliever think

    miracles
    prophecies
    the Church
    the wisdom and beauty of revelation itself, and Christ Himself

    are proofs or evidences for anything, …. Why should prophecy or miracles be a motive of credibility? Rome says they are, but what is inherent to human beings that should make them think that they are proof of anything.

    Now, nine days later, in comment #83 above, you are claiming that the PCA has all the motives of credibility.

    One problem with your latest claim, among a number of others, is that although the Church Christ founded has all four marks specified in the Creed, including the mark of catholicity, the PCA does not. The PCA is composed of about 370,000 people, only about .4% of whom are located outside North America. Only about 1% of the PCA congregations are outside the USA. The Catholic Church does, however, bear the mark of catholicity, for the reasons I’ve explained in comments #17 and #21 of the “A Reflection on PCA Pastor Terry Johnson’s “Our Collapsing Ecclesiology” thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  85. Robert,

    Pardon my ignorance but I wonder, how does Protestants claim that they are from the lineage of early fathers like St Augustine and St Irenaeus who are clearly Catholics?

  86. Bryan,

    What I said is that the motives of credibility are broadly circular and that no one accepts them as proof of Rome until they accept Rome’s definition of them. I didn’t say they were entirely irrelevant. What I am objecting to is this notion that these evidences are somehow neutral or in themselves point to anything apart from interpretation.

    You’re proving my point. You are saying that the PCA is not catholic because it isn’t large enough and because most of its members are located in North America. Rome, on the other hand is catholic because it is found in every nation (while you essentially ignore the fact that if Rome is indeed the church Christ founded, this wasn’t true on Pentecost. There weren’t any Native American Christians, for example, on that day. The world maps you show were not true on that). It’s an argument of size, and you have to resort to an argument that the church’s catholicity is fulfilled as it grows. The PCA can make the exact same argument. As more people come into the PCA from different backgrounds, it becomes ever more catholic.

    I specifically mentioned the PCA, but you are begging the question by assuming that the PCA sees itself as the only visible church Christ founded. It doesn’t. There is at least the NAPARC denominations that are included as the church Christ founded, if not all of Protestantism.

    I could point to the motives of credibility and prove the OPC, the LCMS, and many other denominations is the church Christ founded.

    In other words, the motives of credibility don’t point to Rome unless you first assume Rome’s definition of the church and what its marks mean. Rome could be right, but assuming that said motives are neutral evidence of Rome’s claims is false.

    So back to my original point—if one accepts Rome’s definition of what the church is and what it should look like, then the motives of credibility point there. If one doesn’t, they don’t point there at all. This isn’t some neutral evidence that is obvious to anyone who is reasoning correctly, which is the assumption of this site.

  87. Robert (re: #86)

    You’re proving my point. You are saying that the PCA is not catholic because it isn’t large enough and because most of its members are located in North America.

    No, I didn’t say the PCA is not catholic because it is not large enough. But the two comments I linked to in #84 explain why universality is related both to geography and history in conjunction. An institution that is almost an entirely located in the US, and almost entirely made up of US citizens, cannot justifiably claim to be ‘catholic.’ That’s not based on some “Roman” definition of the term ‘catholic,’ but on what we see in the Church Fathers (again, see the comments I linked to in #84 above), as knowable by reason alone (see the first link in comment #74 of “Mary’s Immaculate Conception”).

    (while you essentially ignore the fact that if Rome is indeed the church Christ founded, this wasn’t true on Pentecost. There weren’t any Native American Christians, for example, on that day. The world maps you show were not true on that).

    That objection is already thoroughly addressed in the two comments I directed you to in comment #84 above.

    It’s an argument of size, …

    No, you’ve misunderstood. It is not an argument from size.

    The PCA can make the exact same argument. As more people come into the PCA from different backgrounds, it becomes ever more catholic.

    If you read the two comments I pointed you to in #84, you’ll see that catholicity is also intrinsically connected to history. This is why a modern institution (e.g. Mormonism) cannot gain the mark of catholicity by converting people from every place in the world, because it does not have universality through history from the time of Christ. The LDS institution was founded in the 1800s, and therefore from its start it is already separate from the existing Christians (and thus non-catholic).

    I specifically mentioned the PCA, but you are begging the question by assuming that the PCA sees itself as the only visible church Christ founded.

    I am not assuming, and do not assume, that the PCA sees itself as the only visible church Christ founded. I’ve argued exactly the opposite about the PCA in comment #70 above.

    I could point to the motives of credibility and prove the OPC, the LCMS, and many other denominations is the church Christ founded.

    Claims about what one could do are easy.

    In other words, the motives of credibility don’t point to Rome unless you first assume Rome’s definition of the church and what its marks mean. Rome could be right, but assuming that said motives are neutral evidence of Rome’s claims is false.

    You’ve made that claim many times now, but you still haven’t provided an argument from it.

    So back to my original point—if one accepts Rome’s definition of what the church is and what it should look like, then the motives of credibility point there. If one doesn’t, they don’t point there at all. This isn’t some neutral evidence that is obvious to anyone who is reasoning correctly, which is the assumption of this site.

    Again, you’ve made that claim many times now, but you have not provided any argument for it. Anyone can assert anything, but assertions establish nothing, and are therefore unhelpful for resolving disagreements.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  88. John,

    Reformed theology is essentially Augustinian in its doctrine of predestination, and we affirm with him the concept of human beings being a “damned multitude” apart from grace. We hold to apostolic tradition as Irenaeus gives its content (which is essentially the Apostles Creed). I would also say that Reformed federal theology is basically a more biblically refined and precise version of Irenaeus’ recapitulation theory. Those are just a few things off hand.

    I agree that Augustine and Irenaeus were catholics. So was Calvin, Luther, Anselm, et al. So are confessional Protestants. What I would deny is that Augustine and Irenaeus were Roman Catholics. A church that holds to ecumenical creeds but says that it is the only church Christ founded is by definition not catholic, or at least not catholic enough.

  89. Bryan,

    I’m sorry, but I don’t find where you extensively deal with the fact that the church was not catholic on Pentecost. There’s a quote from Augustine to the effect that one day the church will encompass all tribes and tongues (I agree), and you link to your article on Pentecost being a reversal of Babel, which I agree with. Other than that I find this quote:

    Catholicity means that the Church embraces all peoples, of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and has been in mission to the whole world since her inception at Pentecost, and extends unbroken through the whole of Christian history

    (i.e. did not come into existence as a schism from the Church at some point after the birth of the Church on Pentecost). Thus the Church is universal with respect to all peoples, and with respect to the whole of Christian history, and with respect to the same faith taught through all those times among all those peoples. Only the Catholic Church has this mark; it is the same Catholic Church that came into being on the day of Pentecost and was never formed by any mere man starting a schism or starting a denomination. This fulfills the prophecy given in Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan 2:44) that through a stone cut out from a mountain by no human hand, God would “set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.

    Here is where you are presuming Roman Catholicism. It’s not self-evident that the catholicity of the church depends on what you say it is. You are defining the church as primarily a visible institution, and you are assuming that other bodies broke away from the bishop of Rome. The East does not agree with you, at least on the point that they broke away. Protestants certainly don’t agree with you on the church being primarily visible or that they broke away. Luther, Calvin, et all certainly saw themselves as continuing the faith of what came before them.

    If by definition the PCA isn’t catholic because the vast majority of its members are North Americans, then that rules out the early church as well. If you take the position of Augustine on the eventual catholicity of the church, then any Protestant can say that as well.

    So again, you are presuming a RC definition of the church in citing the church as a motive of credibility for Rome. If the church’s catholicity and nature is not what Rome says it is, the church is not credible evidence. This is what I’m talking about. The motives of credibility don’t persuade anybody of any church’s claims unless one accepts the definition of the church that any body holds, etc., etc. The resurrection doesn’t prove anything apart from the actual Apostolic interpretation of it. In the first place, we don’t even know about the resurrection without the New Testament. In the second place, the empty tomb in itself only proves that the body is not there. It doesn’t prove what happened to it. The reported appearances could have all been mass hallucinations.

    Now mind you, I don’t think those explanations are likely in the least. But it just goes to show that unless you accept the apostolic interpretation of such things as the miracles and resurrection, they don’t prove anything. Same with the church. If you don’t accept Rome’s definition of catholicity, the nature of its visibility, the fact that the Roman Church is really big and may be able to claim some kind of presence anywhere in the world, etc., the church is not a motive of credibility for Roman claims.

  90. Robert, (re: #88)

    We hold to apostolic tradition as Irenaeus gives its content (which is essentially the Apostles Creed).

    Except what he writes about justification, about baptismal regeneration, and the existence of bishops as distinct from presbyters, about apostolic succession of the bishops, about ordination imparting a grace and an authority received in succession from the Apostles (see comment #38 of the “Apostolic Succession and Historical Inquiry” thread), about the sacrificial priesthood, about Mary as the Second Eve (see comment #30 in the “Mary’s Immaculate Conception” thread), about praying the Lord’s Prayer (see comment #18 in the “Reformed Imputation and the Lord’s Prayer” thread) though it contradicts Reformed theology’s claim that all our future sins are already forgiven, and about the Catholic/Orthodox doctrine of deification, when he writes that “the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.” (AH V. Pref.)

    You wrote:

    I agree that Augustine and Irenaeus were catholics. So was Calvin, Luther, Anselm, et al. So are confessional Protestants. What I would deny is that Augustine and Irenaeus were Roman Catholics.

    Except St. Irenaeus says “For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church [of Rome], on account of its preeminent authority,” (AH III.3.2), and St. Augustine’s statements about the authority of the bishop of Rome can be found here. Nor is the Reformed doctrine of justification by extra nos imputation compatible with what St. Augustine teaches about justification by infusion.

    You wrote:

    A church that holds to ecumenical creeds but says that it is the only church Christ founded is by definition not catholic, or at least not catholic enough.

    The problem with that claim is that it is self-contradictory. The ecumenical creeds themselves (a) say that Christ founded only one Church (that’s what “one” means when they “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”) and (b) claim to be the faith of that one Church Christ founded. Moreover, St. Irenaeus and St. Augustine, whom you want to affirm as your own, claimed repeatedly to belong to and speak for that one Church Christ founded.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  91. Robert, (re: #89)

    I’m sorry, but I don’t find where you extensively deal with the fact that the church was not catholic on Pentecost.

    The Church had all four marks from her birth on Pentecost. There was never a time when the Church existed, and lacked any of her four marks. So it is not a “fact” that the Church was not catholic on Pentecost.

    I had written:

    “(i.e. did not come into existence as a schism from the Church at some point after the birth of the Church on Pentecost). Thus the Church is universal with respect to all peoples, and with respect to the whole of Christian history, and with respect to the same faith taught through all those times among all those peoples. Only the Catholic Church has this mark; it is the same Catholic Church that came into being on the day of Pentecost and was never formed by any mere man starting a schism or starting a denomination. This fulfills the prophecy given in Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan 2:44) that through a stone cut out from a mountain by no human hand, God would “set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.”

    To this you replied:

    Here is where you are presuming Roman Catholicism. It’s not self-evident that the catholicity of the church depends on what you say it is. You are defining the church as primarily a visible institution, and you are assuming that other bodies broke away from the bishop of Rome.

    I’m not presuming “Roman Catholicism” in saying what I said above. As I showed in the two comments I linked to in comment #84, catholicity as a mark of the Church is consistently understood throughout the Church Fathers as universality with respect to all the peoples who have embraced the teaching of the Apostles, universality with respect to the whole of Christian history, and universality with respect to the same faith taught through all those times among all those peoples.

    The East does not agree with you, at least on the point that they broke away.

    True, but that is no support whatsoever for your notion that the PCA has the mark of catholicity. Otherwise, I could point to people who disagree with you (e.g. myself) as evidence that you are mistaken.

    Protestants certainly don’t agree with you on the church being primarily visible or that they broke away.

    I agree. But the existence of persons who do not accept x does not establish the truth of ~x.

    Luther, Calvin, et all certainly saw themselves as continuing the faith of what came before them.

    Of course. But so have many heretics in Church history who preceded them. It is not enough to see oneself as right, in order to show or establish that one is right. Nor does their opinion provide any reason to believe that the PCA has the mark of catholicity.

    If by definition the PCA isn’t catholic because the vast majority of its members are North Americans, then that rules out the early church as well.

    The early Church was catholic from her beginning; St. Ignatius is already using the term at the beginning of the second century. And as I’ve already explained (by way of the Mormon example), catholicity includes universality with respect to the whole of Church history from the time of Christ. The early Church met that criterion of catholicity, because, having been born on Pentecost, there was no Church history prior to her.

    But the PCA does not meet that criterion of catholicity, because (a) while you want to affirm pre-1973 Church history as the PCA’s own, the PCA came into existence in 1973, which therefore shows that pre-1973 history to be the history of something prior to itself, not her history, and (b) the PCA does not encompass the whole visible Church, as you yourself acknowledge when you speak of NAPARC in comment #86 above. By definition, a branch as such cannot be “catholic,” which is precisely why a schism from the Church cannot be catholic, as St. Augustine argued to the Donatists.

    Catholicity as a mark of the Church is consistently understood throughout the Fathers as universality with respect to all the peoples who have embraced the teaching of the Apostles as that teaching has spread around the world, universality with respect to the whole of Christian history extending all the way back to Christ Himself, and universality with respect to the same faith taught through all those times among all those peoples.

    If you take the position of Augustine on the eventual catholicity of the church, then any Protestant can say that as well.

    St. Augustine never held to the “eventual catholicity” of the Church in the sense that she has ever existed without catholicity. For St. Augustine the Church was already catholic, and had always been catholic.

    So again, you are presuming a RC definition of the church in citing the church as a motive of credibility for Rome.

    You’ve asserted this many times, but have not provided an argument for it.

    If the church’s catholicity and nature is not what Rome says it is, the church is not credible evidence.

    Of course. But that doesn’t entail that one must presume a “RC definition” of catholicity. Rather, this is the conception of catholicity found throughout the Church Fathers, which one can approach purely from a standpoint of rational inquiry, without presupposing anything as a matter of [Roman] Catholic faith, as I explained at the beginning of comment #87 above.

    The motives of credibility don’t persuade anybody of any church’s claims unless one accepts the definition of the church that any body holds, etc., etc.

    In comment #66 above I addressed the notion that the evidential character of the motives of credibility is rightly determined by the percentage of persons it persuades.

    The resurrection doesn’t prove anything apart from the actual Apostolic interpretation of it. In the first place, we don’t even know about the resurrection without the New Testament. In the second place, the empty tomb in itself only proves that the body is not there. It doesn’t prove what happened to it. The reported appearances could have all been mass hallucinations. Now mind you, I don’t think those explanations are likely in the least. But it just goes to show that unless you accept the apostolic interpretation of such things as the miracles and resurrection, they don’t prove anything.

    One problem with that notion is that it would make entirely arbitrary and fideistic the decision whether or not to accept the Apostolic testimony. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim without contradiction that those alternative explanations are not “likely in the least,” and at the same time claim that the evidential value of all evidence depends on prior interpretations, because then there is no non-arbitrary (and non-fideistic) way to determine likelihoods between prior interpretations.

    Same with the church. If you don’t accept Rome’s definition of catholicity, the nature of its visibility, the fact that the Roman Church is really big and may be able to claim some kind of presence anywhere in the world, etc., the church is not a motive of credibility for Roman claims

    Once again, you’ve asserted this many times, but have not yet provided an argument for it.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  92. Robert #88

    I agree that Augustine and Irenaeus were catholics. So was Calvin, Luther, Anselm, et al. So are confessional Protestants. What I would deny is that Augustine and Irenaeus were Roman Catholics.

    May I ask if you have ever read the Church Fathers? If so, which ones? When I ask this question, I mean have you actually read their works (not second hand opinions of what they taught). Because this sounds exactly like something I would have said a year+ ago before I really started delving into their writings.

    –Joshua M

  93. Robert,

    I usually just lurk rather than commenting, so I apologize for butting into the conversation, but when I saw your statement, “I’m sorry, but I don’t find where you extensively deal with the fact that the church was not catholic on Pentecost”, this passage immediately came to mind:

    Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians–we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” …

    Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” … So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:5-11,37-38,41)

    Sounds to me like the Church was catholic (both geographically and ethnically) from day one.

  94. Bryan,

    But the PCA does not meet that criterion of catholicity, because (a) while you want to affirm pre-1973 Church history as the PCA’s own, the PCA came into existence in 1973, which therefore shows that pre-1973 history to be the history of something prior to itself, not her history, and (b) the PCA does not encompass the whole visible Church, as you yourself acknowledge when you speak of NAPARC in comment #86 above. By definition, a branch as such cannot be “catholic,” which is precisely why a schism from the Church cannot be catholic, as St. Augustine argued to the Donatists.

    Point (a) does not follow. My family, for example, has a particular history in America but it goes much further back than that. When families came through Ellis island and had name changes, they didn’t become brand-new families with no prior history. And (b) No church body does. If it did, there would be no denominational division, and Rome would not recognize other churches as true churches with valid sacraments.

    Of course. But that doesn’t entail that one must presume a “RC definition” of catholicity. Rather, this is the conception of catholicity found throughout the Church Fathers, which one can approach purely from a standpoint of rational inquiry, without presupposing anything as a matter of [Roman] Catholic faith, as I explained at the beginning of comment #87 above.

    Sure it does. You are assuming that catholicity equals one very large visible denomination with parishes in every country on the planet. If you accept that RC understanding of catholicity, then yes, Rome is a motive of credibility for Rome. In any case, you aren’t approaching this purely from a standpoint of rational inquiry. You must assume at the very least:

    1. That the church fathers define what catholicity means
    2. That the only church fathers are those whom Rome recognizes as church fathers
    3. That the RC interpretation of what the church fathers meant by catholicity is what catholicity is. The East would not share this assumption. Neither would Protestants.

    Your motives of credibility remain inherently circular.

    One problem with that notion is that it would make entirely arbitrary and fideistic the decision whether or not to accept the Apostolic testimony. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim without contradiction that those alternative explanations are not “likely in the least,” and at the same time claim that the evidential value of all evidence depends on prior interpretations, because then there is no non-arbitrary (and non-fideistic) way to determine likelihoods between prior interpretations.

    But my claim is not that evidential value depends entirely on prior interpretation. My claim is that one is essentially kidding oneself by imagining that one is starting from a neutral starting point and weighing the evidence apart from any influence of presuppositions. That is the (often unspoken) assumption about how one approaches the motives of credibility.

    My secondary claim is that particular motives of credibility don’t point anyone to Rome unless you first accept Rome’s definition of what those motives mean. As I said, the PCA has all the motives of credibility that Rome has. It has the biblical miracles and other such evidences. It is catholic and becoming ever more catholic. Only by defining catholicity in a certain way can you deny the PCA’s catholicity. And if you apply that definition consistently, Rome doesn’t meet the criteria either. There’s no single visible head (the pope) around which catholicity can be defined in the first century, so there goes catholicity across history for Rome. Rome has reversed itself on dogma more than once across history, so there goes catholicity with regard to the faith confessed in all times. And on it goes.

  95. Steven R,

    Luke is speaking of the known world. There were not any Native Americans, for example, in Jerusalem at Pentecost. If catholicity means members from every tribe, then nobody is catholic even now, for there are many people groups that have no professing Christians of any stripe in them.

    This is my point: Bryan wants to deny catholicity to the PCA based, at least in part, in the fact that the majority of its members are North American. If you apply that same measurement consistently, however, no church body is catholic because no church body has representatives from every tribe and tongue under heaven among its membership.

  96. Joshua M,

    My most extensive reading in the fathers has been in Augustine, Athanasius, and Chrysostom, with some lengthy reading in Gregory of Nazianzus and Irenaeus as well. I’ve also read 1 Clement, the Epistle to Diogenetus, a good portion of the Didache

  97. Robert, (re: #94)

    Point (a) does not follow.

    Point (a) is an explanation, not a conclusion. Of course it does not follow from the explanandum.

    My family, for example, has a particular history in America but it goes much further back than that. When families came through Ellis island and had name changes, they didn’t become brand-new families with no prior history.

    All that is compatible with the truth of what I said. The problem with your family analogy is that it makes schism impossible, because the whole human race is one family from Adam. Hence schism from the human family is impossible. But schism from the Church is possible, as the Church Fathers teach. This is why the Donatists could not respond to St. Augustine’s arguments by claiming to be part of the same family as the Catholic Church from which they had separated, on the basis of their shared history prior to AD 311. Otherwise, even the Nestorians and Eunomians and the Sabellians and the Arians, etc. could claim to be members of the same family as the Catholic Church, because of their shared history, because not only every schism, but every heresy that “went out from us” shares the Catholic Church’s history prior to the time of its going out.

    And (b) No church body does. If it did, there would be no denominational division, and Rome would not recognize other churches as true churches with valid sacraments.

    This presupposes that there is no such thing as schism from the one universal Church Christ founded, and that there is no such thing as a distinction between the one universal Church Christ founded and particular Churches. And thus your reply begs the question, by presupposing precisely what is in question.

    Sure it does. You are assuming that catholicity equals one very large visible denomination with parishes in every country on the planet.

    That’s a statement about me, when the point in question is about what is catholicity. I’m not “assuming” anything about catholicity. I’ve showed (in the links referred to) that these various aspects of catholicity were believed and taught by the Church Fathers. If you want to refute that case, then you need to show that the Church Fathers believed and held a different notion of catholicity.

    If you accept that RC understanding of catholicity, then yes, Rome is a motive of credibility for Rome.

    That’s your claim, but you have not provided an argument for it. You’ve only asserted it.

    In any case, you aren’t approaching this purely from a standpoint of rational inquiry. You must assume at the very least:
    1. That the church fathers define what catholicity means
    2. That the only church fathers are those whom Rome recognizes as church fathers
    3. That the RC interpretation of what the church fathers meant by catholicity is what catholicity is.

    The standpoint of rational inquiry (again see the links in comment #87) does not require presuming any one of these three. The stance of rational inquiry considers the available paradigms, including the paradigm in which ecclesial deism is not presumed to be true, and thus in which the massive, immediate apostasy theory is not presumed to be true, and thus in which the early Church leaders provide evidence of apostolic doctrine, including that which ends up in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, including the term ‘catholic’ and its meaning. If you think the Church Fathers present a different conception of catholicity, or if you think the Church Fathers’ conception of catholicity is incorrect, you are free to make that argument. But in distancing your position from that of the Church Fathers and the Creeds, you implicitly embrace the “solo scriptura” biblicism Keith Mathison argues against, as Neal and I have discussed here. To deny what the Church Fathers meant by a line in the Creed, is to deny that line of the Creed. And the result is biblicism, whether or not one constructs or chooses a modern confession or ‘statement of faith’ that matches one’s personal interpretation of Scripture.

    Your motives of credibility remain inherently circular.

    That’s the assertion you’ve made many times now. But you’ve not yet provided an argument supporting it.

    (re: #95)

    This is my point: Bryan wants to deny catholicity to the PCA based, at least in part, in the fact that the majority of its members are North American. If you apply that same measurement consistently, however, no church body is catholic because no church body has representatives from every tribe and tongue under heaven among its membership.

    Needing now to have more than merely North Americans as its members in order to be ‘catholic’ is not the same thing is needing to have members of every tribe and tongue under heaven in order to be ‘catholic.’ I’ve explained this in comment #87 above. What you’re leaving out of the concept of ‘catholicity’ is its necessarily relation to the past, as if ‘catholicity’ has no intrinsic relation to the time between the first Pentecost after Christ’s Ascension, and the present. This is why a group cannot start today, and be aimed at the whole world, and justifiably claim to be ‘catholic’ in the sense of the term as it is used in the Creeds.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  98. Bryan,

    Must not the Catholic admit the perspicuity of various historical documents in order to show the credibility of certain motives, specifically miracles and prophecies? Since if the accounts are not clearly understood for what they are, they cannot serve as motives of credibility, since the person presented with the motives can merely reject the interpretation of the documents put forth.

    And if this is accurate, does it place the Catholic in an awkward position when he or she critiques the Protestant doctrine of the perspicuity of the essentials?

    Peace,
    John D.

  99. JohnD, (re: #98)

    Must not the Catholic admit …

    There is no need to load the question, as if this is a debate and you’re trying to expose or trap your interlocutor into an admission or concession. More important than the content of ecumenical dialogue is the form it takes. (See “Virtue and Dialogue: Ecumenism and the Heart.”)

    The motives of credibility are accessible to the mind by the natural light of reason. But the text of Scripture is divinely inspired, and requires the supernatural light of the Holy Spirit to be both understood rightly as a whole, and to fulfill its purpose with respect to the unity of the faith. So yes there is a principled difference between their epistemic accessibilities.

    And if this is accurate, does it place the Catholic in an awkward position when he or she critiques the Protestant doctrine of the perspicuity of the essentials?

    No. Again, there is no need to ask loaded questions, as if this is about shaming or embarrassing persons, rather than about discovering and agreeing upon the truth of claims and positions, the quality of evidence, and the soundness of arguments. Geraldo Rivera, Piers Morgan, etc. are not the standards for good faith ecumenical dialogue. No dialogue at all is better than imitation dialogue. And CTC is not the forum for that sort of engagement; participating here requires putting away that sort of interaction, and committing oneself only to authentic, good faith dialogue.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  100. Bryan,

    But schism from the Church is possible, as the Church Fathers teach. This is why the Donatists could not respond to St. Augustine’s arguments by claiming to be part of the same family as the Catholic Church from which they had separated, on the basis of their shared history prior to AD 311. Otherwise, even the Nestorians and Eunomians and the Sabellians and the Arians, etc. could claim to be members of the same family as the Catholic Church, because of their shared history, because not only every schism, but every heresy that “went out from us” shares the Catholic Church’s history prior to the time of its going out.

    But again, you are assuming that the Roman Catholic use of the church fathers is legitimate to determine what is schism and what isn’t. So you have to accept 1. That Rome’s reading of the fathers on this is correct (and the East does not agree that it is. According to the East, you are the schismatics) 2. That the Fathers would have the same response at the time of the Reformation that they did in the early church period. 3. That the fathers are our surest guide to determining such things. All of those are presuppositions, particularly 2. and 3.

    I’m not presuming “Roman Catholicism” in saying what I said above. As I showed in the two comments I linked to in comment #84, catholicity as a mark of the Church is consistently understood throughout the Church Fathers as universality with respect to all the peoples who have embraced the teaching of the Apostles, universality with respect to the whole of Christian history, and universality with respect to the same faith taught through all those times among all those peoples.

    Sure you are. You are presupposing that catholicity means X, a premise that I reject but that Roman Catholicism accepts. It’s a Roman Catholic belief that the church fathers are determinative for theology in a manner that they simply aren’t determinative for Protestants. So I have to first accept that premise, which to be fair is not unique to Rome but is also shared by the East, in order to say the PCA isn’t catholic AND therefore it is not a motive of credibility for the PCA. So in theory, I could grant your argument about the fathers’ view of catholicity, but for that catholicity to become a motive of credibility for the Roman Church, I have to accept the assumption that the church father’s definition of catholicity is determinative. So I have to accept Roman Catholic presuppositions. There goes catholicity as an impartial motive of credibility.

    The problem with that claim is that it is self-contradictory. The ecumenical creeds themselves (a) say that Christ founded only one Church (that’s what “one” means when they “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”) and (b) claim to be the faith of that one Church Christ founded. Moreover, St. Irenaeus and St. Augustine, whom you want to affirm as your own, claimed repeatedly to belong to and speak for that one Church Christ founded.

    The ecumenical creed doesn’t address what should happen if the one institutional church becomes irreparably theologically and institutionally corrupt. And sure on Irenaeus and Augustine, but Luther, Calvin, et all also claimed repeatedly to belong to and speak for that one church Christ founded. So it’s unclear why I should reject Luther and Calvin’s claims unless I first accept Rome’s belief (or the East’s) that the church fathers are determinative for theology in every case and every doctrine. Again, I have to grant Roman (or even Eastern) presuppositions in order for unity to be a mark of credibility for Rome.

  101. Robert, (re: #100)

    But again, you are assuming that the Roman Catholic use of the church fathers is legitimate to determine what is schism and what isn’t. So you have to accept 1. That Rome’s reading of the fathers on this is correct (and the East does not agree that it is. According to the East, you are the schismatics) 2. That the Fathers would have the same response at the time of the Reformation that they did in the early church period. 3. That the fathers are our surest guide to determining such things. All of those are presuppositions, …

    No, they are not “presuppositions” or assumptions. I already explained why, in multiple comments above. See the paragraph that begins “The standpoint of rational inquiry …” in comment #97. You are creating a straw man, by construing what is the rational comparison of paradigms, as if it is a syllogism that presupposes one of the competing paradigms.

    Sure you are.

    Merely gainsaying your interlocutor, especially about his own position (in violation of the basic ground rule of ecumenical dialogue) is not authentic dialogue, and is not what this forum is for.

    The ecumenical creed doesn’t address what should happen if the one institutional church becomes irreparably theologically and institutionally corrupt.

    Whether the theological corruption of the Church is a possibility is not itself a theologically neutral presupposition, but already presupposes that the patristic teaching on the indefectibility of the Church is false. Their teaching is part of the evidence on this very question, part of the evidence that must be included in the overall consideration of the motives of credibility.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  102. Bryan,

    The stance of rational inquiry considers the available paradigms, including the paradigm in which ecclesial deism is not presumed to be true, and thus in which the massive, immediate apostasy theory is not presumed to be true, and thus in which the early Church leaders provide evidence of apostolic doctrine, including that which ends up in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, including the term ‘catholic’ and its meaning.

    Ecclesial deism doesn’t have a content apart from your particular RC reading of Protestantism. You start with RC assumptions, look at where Protestantism disagrees, and conclude “ecclesiastical deism.” So again, you are importing assumptions, including the one about an “immediate apostasy theory.”

    The stance of rational inquiry considers the available paradigms, sure. But one only becomes RC if one first accepts that the RC use of the fathers is legitimate.

    If you think the Church Fathers present a different conception of catholicity, or if you think the Church Fathers’ conception of catholicity is incorrect, you are free to make that argument. But in distancing your position from that of the Church Fathers and the Creeds, you implicitly embrace the “solo scriptura” biblicism Keith Mathison argues against, as Neal and I have discussed here. To deny what the Church Fathers meant by a line in the Creed, is to deny that line of the Creed. And the result is biblicism, whether or not one constructs or chooses a modern confession or ‘statement of faith’ that matches one’s personal interpretation of Scripture.

    Well, for starters, since the Fathers don’t have any concept of the papacy as Rome now understands it, I suppose you are just as guilty of denying the creed. Only your error is Romanism, where you choose your confession based on your personal interpretation of that Magisterium.

    But more importantly, for the Fathers, it seems that Apostolic dogma trumps all. Thus you can have such statements as:

    “God will comfort you,” he wrote to his people in Alexandria on hearing that the churches were in the hands of the Arians. “If they have the temples, you have the Faith of the Apostles. If they are in the place, they are far from the Faith; but you, even if you are cast out from the churches, possess the Faith in your hearts. Which is the greater, the place or the Faith? The place is good only when the Faith of the Apostles is taught there; it is holy only when it is the home of holiness.”
    Cited in F.A. Forbes, Saint Athanasius (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd, 1919), p. 34.

    And also Kruger’s point on the radical distinction made between the inspiration of the fathers and the inspiration of the Apostles in the writings of the fathers themselves:

    http://michaeljkruger.com/did-the-early-church-fathers-think-that-they-were-inspired-like-the-apostles/

    So if the Apostles teach a different thing about catholicity—and my contention is that they do—than Rome does, then the right use of the fathers is to go with the exegetical conclusion even if it should disagree with what they taught, for they set the Apostles above themselves.

    So your argument is based on a particular RC (and EO) reading of the Fathers and what it means to rightly appropriate them and their authority.

    But the broader point if you are arguing the motives of credibility “Church fathers say x about catholicity” meets with the rejoinder, “So what?” You have to assume certain principles shared in common by RC, EO, and even Protestants to even begin to think that one should care about what the church fathers have to say. Welcome back to broad circularity.

  103. Robert, (re: #102)

    Ecclesial deism doesn’t have a content apart from your particular RC reading of Protestantism. …

    I never said that ecclesial deism has “a content,” nor does anything I’ve said require that ecclesial deism has a “content.” Ecclesial deism is a stance that systematically distrusts the Church Fathers.

    You start with RC assumptions, look at where Protestantism disagrees, and conclude “ecclesiastical deism.” So again, you are importing assumptions, including the one about an “immediate apostasy theory.”

    One does not need to start with Catholic assumptions to arrive at ecclesial deism. One can grow up from childhood with the basic stance of ecclesial deism. So comparing paradigms, including one that involves ecclesial deism, does not require “importing assumptions.” It is simply part of one of the paradigms to be compared, as seen from the other paradigm.

    But one only becomes RC if one first accepts that the RC use of the fathers is legitimate.

    That acceptance can be a priori (and fideistic), or it can be the result of a rational process of comparing the two paradigms. Your critical assertion makes use of the ambiguity between those two senses, and is thus an equivocation.

    since the Fathers don’t have any concept of the papacy as Rome now understands it, I suppose you are just as guilty of denying the creed.

    That’s an example of a non sequitur. From accepting development in the Church’s understanding of the role of the bishop of Rome, it does not follow that anyone is denying the Creed.

    Only your error is Romanism, where you choose your confession based on your personal interpretation of that Magisterium.

    This claim is problematic in two ways. First it begs the question, by asserting without demonstrating, that “Romanism” is an error. Second, it falsely and without any substantiation mischaracterizes the way that a person rightly arrives at the Catholic faith, as not the result of rationally following the motives of credibility, but merely as drawing the magisterial target around one’s interpretative arrow. CTC is not a forum for mere table-pounding, gain-saying, and straw-manning. It is for authentic dialogue in which claims are supported with evidence and argumentation.

    As for the St. Athanasius quotation, and the distinction between the authority of the Apostles and the authority of the Church Fathers, those are fully compatible with what I’ve said above, and with the truth of the Catholic faith.

    So if the Apostles teach a different thing about catholicity—and my contention is that they do—than Rome does, then the right use of the fathers is to go with the exegetical conclusion even if it should disagree with what they taught, for they set the Apostles above themselves.

    First, mere “contentions” are not arguments. And mere contentions are not what CTC is for. Contentions must be supported with evidence and argumentation. Second, it would be ad hoc to use the Fathers as authoritative in their claim that the Apostles are greater in authority than themselves, while rejecting the consensus of the Fathers on other theological questions. Either the consensus of the Fathers has no theological authority, or it does. If the latter, then the patristic consensus on other theological matters also has authority, but if the former then the patristic consensus about the authority of the Apostles has no theological authority. (The problem with claiming that the Fathers have authority wherever they agree with one’s own interpretation of Scripture, can be found here.)

    So your argument is based on a particular RC (and EO) reading of the Fathers and what it means to rightly appropriate them and their authority.

    There’s the non sequitur. Just because I’m comparing two paradigms, one of which involves treating the consensus of the Fathers as having theological authority, and the other of which does not recognize (or does not consistently recognize) the consensus of the Fathers as having theological authority, it does not follow that my “argument” is “based on” a particular reading of the Fathers.

    But the broader point if you are arguing the motives of credibility “Church fathers say x about catholicity” meets with the rejoinder, “So what?” You have to assume certain principles shared in common by RC, EO, and even Protestants to even begin to think that one should care about what the church fathers have to say. Welcome back to broad circularity.

    One does not need to presuppose an answer to the question “Should I care about what the Church Fathers have to say” in order rationally to determine what is the correct answer to that question. Nor have you shown that one must presume an answer to that question in order to determine the correct answer to the question. So, your claim of circularity is, again, unsubstantiated.

    This form of dialogue, in which you continually make unsubstantiated and question-begging criticisms, especially of straw men, is unhelpful, and unfruitful for leading to mutual understanding and mutual agreement. Nor is it in keeping with our comment guidelines. I recommend taking a break, for a year, before continuing. A blessed Christmas to you.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

Leave Comment

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Subscribe without commenting