06 November 2009

Epistemological Modesty

In response to this great article on Keith Mathison’s Shape of Sola Scriptura over at Called to Communion, an interesting discussion has emerged revolving around the tu quoque—certain folks are arguing back that Catholics are in no way on better ground epistemologically. That is to say, the Catholic position and subsequent argument against the non-Catholic positions can be applied equally to the Catholic making the argument. Slightly related to this issue, in my opinion, is the question of epistemological certitude, which I perceive has deep roots within the Called to Communion crowd. After all, once having swum the Tiber (or any conversion, for that matter), who wouldn’t want to consider those newly held beliefs with 100 percent certainty?

In this modern age, we all face the so-called “heretical imperative.” As Peter Berger put it in his book with the same title (and I paraphrase): Plurality of alternatives is the core of the modern experience. If there are no options, then what is can be interpreted as what must be; in the modern condition, there’s less and less of what must be. Fate becomes choice. Destiny becomes decision. In short, we are all forced to choose.

And this is why, in nuce, the argument proffered in the review of Mathison’s book suffers from the tu quoque fallacy. But it suffers from something else too. A pinch of hubris, or, rather, an overextension of what can be known with certainty, for the sake of cognitive rest. It seems to me all too convenient for the Catholic to suggest that his own private judgment led him to accept the authority of the Magisterium, which authority then grants him the knowledge that “there are no options" (or, in the words of Bryan Cross [comment #46]: "he discovers a living divinely-appointed authority, and that discovery then shapes his theology"). But once that leap has been made “what is can be interpreted as what must be.”

This is tantamount to sticking one’s head in the sand, so far as I can tell.

Now, this line of reasoning might not be useful at all, but for the sake of argument, let’s say I become Catholic in the next five years or so. In no way could I in good faith speak of my journey to Rome in the same manner that those folks (or at least a few of them) over at Called to Communion do (for the very reasons proffered above). It presumes a kind of epistemic certainty that to my mind is impossible to achieve before the return of the King.
Berger sums up nicely what I'm getting at here:
As Christians we believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and in his glorious return. But that glory is not yet. The triumphant Christ is still coming; we are still in the aeon of the kenotic Jesus—the self-emptying Jesus, who humbles himself by taking human form. The church, while it announces the coming triumph (indeed, that is the core of its message), still bears the marks of Jesus’ kenosis.
Epistemological modesty, he suggests, is part and parcel of bearing the marks of Christ's kenosis. I'll conclude with a final thought from Berger in an interview published in The Christian Century (29 October 1997, pp. 972–78):
The basic fault lines today are not between people with different beliefs but between people who hold these beliefs with an element of uncertainty and people who hold these beliefs with a pretense of certitude. There is a middle ground between fanaticism and relativism. I can convey values to my children without pretending a fanatical certitude about them. And you can build a community with people who are neither fanatics nor relativists.
My colleague Adam Seligman uses the term "epistemological modesty." Epistemological modesty means that you believe certain things, but you're modest about these claims. You can be a believer and yet say, I'm not really sure. I think that is a fundamental fault line.
So, here we are: a mellow synthesis of skepticism and faith. I realize the epistemic can of worms this may open for some—Catholics and non-Catholics alike. But this defines the religious affirmations of my journey for most of my life, and yet I believe—more strongly and exclusively Christain than Berger allows for himself. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night otherwise, flailing between the fact of modern pluralism, hyper-rationalistic solipsism and epistemological immodesty.

73 comments:

Teri said...

Chris,

I followed your link from the CTC dialogue.

You will probably moderate this to the delete = trash bin, but ...I'm still want to say it.

You really seem like one of the few Reformed Bloggers who is not only knowledgeable, but who is above ridiculous and childish ad hominem attacks.


I really like your comments at CTC and yes, I am a Catholic Convert.

Chris, this is where you hit delete...but you WILL be Catholic in the next 5 years. Before you delete..I'm not playing "St.Mysic".

I just feel your thoughts and I've seen them in myself and others. Stop struggling while the lifeguard is trying to save you..you really aren't going to drown the two of you. The Lifeguard walks on water :-)

In the peace of Christ and with much respect,
Teri

Evan said...

Thanks for the post, Chris, and for alerting us to this article.

Neal Judisch and Family said...

Hey, Chris.

Thanks for this. You've probably already figured out (maybe? possibly?) that I don't make the same sorts of claims to epistemic certainty that you are (reasonably I think) saddling CTC-converts with here. I mean, just in the interest of honesty: there's lots of stuff I'm still unclear about, and I don't think that I stand above all Reformed Protestants on planet earth, 'epistemically' speaking.

I'll tell you what I told Fr. Kimel (a Catholic priest/convert himself, when he was worrying about CTC for similar reasons): if it were just a matter of comparing things that Aquinas says in the Summa (e.g.) over against what the Westminster divines have said, e.g., then I really can't imagine that I ever would have done something so drastic as to convert to Catholicism. For me, at any rate, it wasn't a matter of finding some or other systematic presentation more compelling than some or other rival systematic presentation, and then deciding that one of these provided me with something called 'epistemic certainty' whereas the other failed to do this. I'm not exactly clear about what epistemic certainty is. But in any event I think it's not obvious that Christians should expect to have it, and I think it's also not obvious that one Christian communion can claim to have it unqualifiedly and across the board whereas no other Christian communion can be said to have any measure of it whatsoever.

I can only speak here for myself, you understand. But speaking for myself, I must say that my own trajectory into the Catholic Church involved a good deal of epistemic disorientation, confusion, humbling; what it didn't involve was a lot of figuring out, finally, thanks to my smarts, what's what theologically speaking. At no point did I say to myself, "Ah, I've arrived; I've finally done it. Ain't I the cat's pajamas?" No doubt at all that I'm quite as susceptible to hubris and pride as anyone else, but I want to say, too, in the spirit of honesty and self disclosure, that (at least I don't *think*) hubris and pride were among the factors contributing decisively to *my* conversion. Indeed, I still worry from time to time whether I've done the right thing, not least because of my interactions with people like you. (It isn't as though I think I know *more* theology than you, or can see things so much more clearly, etc.) And, in that same spirit, I don't think I'm (I *hope* I'm not) motivated by pride or hubris, when I try to explain to others the factors that led to my 'conversion' to Catholicism, expecting that others will do the same if they're smart enough to follow whatever I've said.

The "stuff about the tu quoque" is I think precisely the right thing upon which to focus attention, and as I've said over there I'm not sure I've (I'm sure I haven't) laid the topic to rest. But may I say, as an admirer and would-be friend, that the particular criticisms we've tried to advance against Mathison don't really depend for their plausibility upon prior acceptance of the thesis that we're smarter than Mathison or more certain that him about things. (Maybe 'we' is inappropriate; I am talking here just about myself.) However falteringly we've done it, is seems reasonable and OK if we try, at least, to say why we haven't simply rolled over after having read Mathison (which we'd done in any case when we were Protestants) and decided that there are zero problems with the theses he advances in that book.

I think that some of the (Catholic) comments in that thread have led to a reasonable and justifiable judgment that Catholics think they've got everything sorted out, and that everyone else is epistemically subpar. But for whatever it's worth, *I* don't think this, and I consider myself to be *at best* your colleague, not your superior. The stuff about 'certainty' is I think not exactly the issue; it doesn't reflect my reasoning or my view about the difference between Catholics and Protestants, anyway, and it certainly doesn't have anything to do with what you've called 'cognitive rest'.



Best,

Neal

Tim A. Troutman said...

There is a difference between humility and skepticism.

Chris Donato said...

@ Teri: I delete for egregious comments only. Catholic "prophecy," I suppose, is not one of them. If you were Pentecostal, however…. Thanks also for your kind words.

@ Evan: You're welcome. Wouldn't mind hearing your thoughts on this subject over there, if you're so inclined.

@ Tim: No doubt there is a difference. Yet I'm not speaking of cynicism here. To my mind, a healthy mind employs a healthy does of skepticism, which, (I hope) in turn breeds humility. Thank you for the forum you provide over at Called. It is one of the more engaging places on the internet when thinking through these issues.

Chris Donato said...

Neal, thanks for stopping by. Yes, from what I've read, etc., I wouldn't rack you with the arguments I've posted here.

I didn't want to use the word hubris in this post, because I was afraid folks might think I was imputing a fatally flawed amount of pride to them. I really only meant it in relation to the particular point about epistemology—epistemic hubris, if you will. I hope that makes it more benign than what the word actually implies.

Of course it's your (and who better but you and Cross) prerogative to advance criticisms of Mathison's thesis—I can think of no better (modern) Protestant articulation of it, and so I would think it must be dealt with. I brought the conversation here precisely because I'm sure the issue isn't about epistemological immodesty, but I was and am nonetheless intrigued by its manifestation over at Called. The 'demons' may just be in my head. Ah, well.

And "cognitive rest" was just my stab at what may lie behind the certitude with which some express their beliefs. Each of us is different in this regard, I suspect. I've never needed much certainty to sleep at night—just enough to keep the uncertainty from taking over.

Principium Unitatis said...

Chris,

I have a couple questions about some of your criticisms of our article. You say:

And this is why, in nuce, the argument proffered in the review of Mathison’s book suffers from the tu quoque fallacy.

Which tu quoque are you referring to? If it is "you too use private judgment", then how does that refute our argument? If, on the other hand, the tu quoque you have in mind is "you too retain ultimate interpretive authority", then why do you think that Catholic position is susceptible to this tu quoque?

Next you wrote:

But it suffers from something else too. A pinch of hubris, or, rather, an overextension of what can be known with certainty, for the sake of cognitive rest.

Which premises of our argument are incapable of being known with certainty, and how do you know that they cannot be known with certainty?

Next you wrote:

It seems to me all too convenient for the Catholic to suggest that his own private judgment led him to accept the authority of the Magisterium, which authority then grants him the knowledge that “there are no options" (or, in the words of Bryan Cross [comment #46]: "he discovers a living divinely-appointed authority, and that discovery then shapes his theology").

Why does a claim's being "convenient" show it to be false? But if a truth can be convenient, then why does it matter that the claim is convenient? Isn't the more important question: "Is is true?"

Doctrinal skepticism undermines the justification for remaining in schism from the Catholic Church. If a Protestant comes to a point of not knowing with absolute certainty that Trent was wrong, then that person has no more justification for remaining separate. The Church gets the benefit of the doubt in a toss-up. Justification for being separate requires absolute certainty that the Church is wrong. Surely you agree that schism on a whim is an offense to God.

So the difficulty for your position is that you're going to need to explain how it is possible that you can be absolutely certain that the Church is wrong, but no Catholic can be absolute certain that the Church is right.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Ken said...

Chris,
Excellent response to the Called to communion article.

I posted several times and they apparently don't like any of my posts - they were questions about apostolic succession, mostly.

I don't understand why - the claim of apostolic succession was a major emphasis of the article. Oh well.

I look forward to Keith Matthison's reply.

This is the same argument (the RCC apologetic that thinks they have epistemological certainty and superiority over Protestantism) that Dave Armstrong makes many times at his website.
http://socrates58.blogspot.com/

(he is another former Evangelical) and Rod Bennett, (in my personal friendship debates with him for 8 years) author of Four Witnesses: The Early church in her own words. Ignatius, 2002.

Chris Donato said...

Hi, Bryan. Thanks for your follow-up thoughts in this matter.

Regarding the tu quoque, if indeed we're speaking of your first option, I don't think it undermines the main point of your article. The epistemic certitude with which you hold your view is what interests me in this instance. I don't think you have warrant. But then I'd say the same thing to a fellow Protestant.

If the tu quoque refers to the latter sense you mention, then I think it possibly suffers from a vicious circularity. See Mathison's comment # 106 in the thread over at Called.

You ask further: Which premises of our argument are incapable of being known with certainty…

Oh, I guess the one that relies on the nature of the church (as it relates to ecclesiology), for starters.

…and how do you know that they cannot be known with certainty?

Precisely because I'm not a relativist, I can point you to the (based on empirical study) arguments I've proffered in this post. All you can give me, ulltimately in this modern world, is a plausible argument for your position. The scales only tip in one of two directions—persuaded or not. The choice is mine (and yours). We can't escape that. And thus it seems to me that this relativizes your implicit claim to have been released from epistemological immodesty by discovering "a living divinely-appointed authority, [which discovery] then shapes his theology."

Why does a claim's being "convenient" show it to be false?

In this instance, the focus is on convenience, not truth. It undermines the weight the truth should carry, because it's tautological, weak, and unpersuasive.

Doctrinal skepticism undermines the justification for remaining in schism from the Catholic Church. …So the difficulty for your position is that you're going to need to explain how it is possible that you can be absolutely certain that the Church is wrong, but no Catholic can be absolutely certain that the Church is right.

This is a great point. I can often be heard saying to folks in class or whatever: you must wrestle with the fact that you're not Catholic. You must come to justify why you're not Catholic.

Know also that I feel the full weight of you're saying here. But "here" is really not the place to get into a discussion about why I'm personally not Catholic. Of course, I'm not 100 percent certain Rome's claims are wrong, but isn't this what purgatory is for?

Chris Donato said...

@ Ken: Thanks for taking time to comment. I suppose it's hard to keep up with all the comments over there when it's popping like it is. Rest assured, they have an answer for whatever question you pose. Whether or not it's sastisfactory is another matter.

I hope I haven't given away the farm in my response. I know it would (and does) make some friends of mine uncomfortable, because it tends to undermine all forms of fideism.

Principium Unitatis said...

Chris,

The epistemic certitude with which you hold your view is what interests me in this instance. I don't think you have warrant.

I don't know how you know two things: (1) how much "epistemic certitude" I have, and (2) how much "epistemic certitude" is warranted. How, exactly are you calculating the degree of "epistemic certitude" that is warranted?

If the tu quoque refers to the latter sense you mention, then I think it possibly suffers from a vicious circularity.

Ok, I'll address that concern in my reply on CTC.

Oh, I guess the one that relies on the nature of the church (as it relates to ecclesiology), for starters.

The argument in our article does not rely on the "nature of the church". The gist of the argument is that without apostolic succession, there is no principled difference between sola and solo. So our argument's being sound is compatible with apostolic succession being false, and solo being true.

I then asked you how you know that the premises of our argument cannot be known with certainty, and you replied:

Precisely because I'm not a relativist, I can point you to the (based on empirical study) arguments I've proffered in this post. All you can give me, ultimately in this modern world, is a plausible argument for your position. The scales only tip in one of two directions—persuaded or not. The choice is mine (and yours). We can't escape that. And thus it seems to me that this relativizes your implicit claim to have been released from epistemological immodesty by discovering "a living divinely-appointed authority, [which discovery] then shapes his theology."

You seem to think that evidence and arguments are by their very nature incapable of demonstrating the truth of something. From that premise, and from the premise that I make use of evidence and argumentation in order to reach the conclusion that apostolic succession is true, you conclude that I cannot be certain that apostolic succession is true.

Let me back up to your first premise. How do you know that evidence and arguments can never demonstrate something to be true?

I find it significant that you construe evidence and argumentation as tipping the scales toward "persuaded" or "not persuaded", rather than toward "true" or "not true". You seem to bypass the objective, and go straight to the subjective, as if there is no objectively good evidence or objectively sound argumentation. Your construal suggests that you see evidence and argumentation as only subjectively good, i.e. subjectively persuasive. Am I misunderstanding you?

In this instance, the focus is on convenience, not truth.

I agree that your focus is on convenience. But my focus is on truth. And it seems to me that the question of truth is much more important.

But "here" is really not the place to get into a discussion about why I'm personally not Catholic.

I completely agree and understand.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Teri said...

Thanks for not deleting me, Chris.
No more "St. Mystic" towards you.

You really have been the most honest and arguably the most intelligent of all of the Reformed I've come in contact with on the internet.

You actually listen and then interact...seems logical enough, but it's not the common occurance, unfortunately.

Don't stay away from Called To Communion as far as commenting. You add to the conversation.

Come back to the table.

In the peace of Christ,
Teri

Tim A. Troutman said...

Chris, it has been brought to my attention, and these things need such bringing for someone as stubborn as me, that my one liner was an insufficient and perhaps insulting response to your post. My apologies.

I have turned that one liner into a more thorough offense on the blog at CTC. (Tongue in cheek of course, I hope it's not offensive in the least.)

You're one of my favorite heretics. (Again, tongue in cheek - they tell me I need to add more humor but maybe this isn't what they had in mind. I hope you appreciate it in the spirit in which it was intended.)

Tim A. Troutman said...

Oops - hit post too soon. All I mean to say is that I really enjoy interacting with you.

Teri said...

Does it look like we miss you?

Seriously, it's like a good Theology on Tap group when you participate.

I hope it's ok with everyone that you have Catholics that like what you have to say and actually like interacting with you and yes, we probably like YOU as well :-)

Blessings,

Teri

Randy said...

I do think the idea of epistimological modestry is important for all faith. I would say fundamentalists have the biggest issue with this. They go on about I knew that I knew that I knew... I think the other danger of becoming a doctrinal agnostic is also real. We cannot put a question make in the center of our life. We can only live the faith if we can know it well enough to base major life decisions on what it reveals.

How do we know Jesus is who He claimed to be? We know by faith. We know by reason. But there is a certainty that we get after living the faith and studying the faith and seeing it confirmed again and again. It becomes bedrock after a while. I think that is a good thing.

I see the same thing with the church. There are 1000 ways to argue that the Vicar of Christ is who he claims to be. But living it and studying it just make you so much more sure. It becomes bedrock after a while. It is a good thing.

Does that means you can boast? If we can boast we can boast only in Christ. He has given us as much certainty as we have. But modesty comes to. You can come close to getting your mind around Calvinism. You can't with Catholicism. It is just too big and too beautiful. It is something only God could do. Marveling at such beauty may seem like bragging. But I didn't create it. I was simply overwelmed by it.

Dave Armstrong said...

Since my name has been brought up, I thought it only appropriate for me to clarify that what the article presents as the Catholic epistemological position is not the way I myself have argued our side.

I have written several papers on this general topic, but the following addresses it most directly:

Refutation of the Common Protestant Polemical Charge That Catholics Inconsistently & Arbitrarily Apply Private Judgment in Accepting Catholicism

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/10/refutation-of-common-protestant.html

The flip side of this is the Protestant tendency towards what I have called the "cult of uncertainty." It is by no means clear to me at all that making uncertainty a benchmark of exceptional humility is a successful or even sensible endeavor. Nor is it, I think, a biblical outlook (to put it very mildly).

Lots of papers on my site about this subject, too, but here is one for anyone who is interested:

Response to Rev. Michael Pahls on "Theological Humility" & the Protestant "Non-Quest" Regarding Christian Certainty

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/03/response-to-rev-michael-pahls-on.html

I've also interacted in-depth with Mathison's arguments at least twice now.

Not particularly impressed (sorry) . . . Perhaps if he would have ever offered a counter-reply I could have learned why I should be impressed with his argument.

It seems that whenever I get a Protestant to a place where fundamental starting premises are / need to be examined, they have better things to do and the relevant questions continue to be unanswered. 'Tis a pity.

Lastly; for the life of me I swear that I fail to comprehend why simply believing in faith (with reasons and plenty of scriptural back-up) in an authoritative Church and a particular set of Christian doctrines, is outrageous hubris.

Can someone explain this to me? Thanks!

Ken said...

It seems that whenever I get a Protestant to a place where fundamental starting premises are / need to be examined, they have better things to do and the relevant questions continue to be unanswered. 'Tis a pity.

Not true with me, I don't think. You just refuse to interact with me anymore. R. C. Sproul and Ligioner ministries have the same position that I do, the one you claim that renders our side incapable of dialogue and you said you will not waste your time with us anymore. (What you call "anti-Catholic", which is the doctrinal position that when the Council of Trent officially anathematized justification by faith alone, they ceased to be a true church and became a false church. (falling under the condemnation of Galatians 1:6-9)

Lastly; for the life of me I swear that I fail to comprehend why simply believing in faith (with reasons and plenty of scriptural back-up) in an authoritative Church and a particular set of Christian doctrines, is outrageous hubris.

The infallibility claim of the Roman Catholic Church is an incredibly massive and prideful claim. (outrageous hubris) 1302 Boniface VIII statement ("It is necessary for salvation to be submitted to the Roman Pontiff") (a great contradiction to, for example: "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31, John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10; Romans 3:38; 4:1-8; 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-10, etc.) ; 1870 and the pope who said, "I am the tradition", etc.

Ken said...

Dave Armstrong,
Your arguments on Epistemology seemed very close to what they are saying at "Called to communion" and is exactly what Rod Bennett argued with me for 8 years. You all may use different words, but it is basically the same thing.

Ken said...

Romans 3:38

Correction:

Romans 3:28

Principium Unitatis said...

Chris,

But it suffers from something else too. A pinch of hubris, or, rather, an overextension of what can be known with certainty,

The irony is that this claim seems to be self-refuting. The claim is that our argument suffers from hubris, because it is an overextension of what can be known with certainty. But [apparently] there is no way to show that claim to be true, and so that claim is itself an "overextension of what can be known," and thus is self-refuting, insofar as it rejects "overextensions of what can be known." And if that claim is an overextension of what can be known, then, ironically, your objection to our argument commits the same error you charge us with making.

Aristotle tells us in his Metaphysics (1010a14) that Cratylus, who believed that nothing could be truly affirmed, would not speak, but only wagged his finger. In that respect, Cratylus was consistent. He was more consistent than his teacher Heraclitus, who spoke, but (it seems) believed that nothing could be known. The skeptic is fine so long as he does not speak. But as soon as he opens his mouth to communicate a truth (even in criticism of the non-skeptic), he contradicts himself, as Aristotle explains in Metaphysics Book IV.

I don't think you are a skeptic. But it seems to me that your objection to our argument faces a similar problem of self-refutation.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Ken said...

"At the moment the Roman Catholic Church condemned the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone, she denied the gospel and ceased to be a legitimate church, regardless of all the rest of her affirmations of Christian orthodoxy. To embrace her as an authentic church while she continues to repudiate the biblical doctrine of salvation is a fatal attribution. We’re living in a time where theological conflict is considered politically incorrect, but to declare peace when there is no peace is to betray the heart and soul of the gospel."
R. C. Sproul

Is the Reformation Over?

http://new.ligonier.org/learn/articles/reformation-over/

Ken said...

Thanks Chris!

You wrote:

"I hope I haven't given away the farm in my response. I know it would (and does) make some friends of mine uncomfortable, because it tends to undermine all forms of fideism."

Does Reformed theology have a form of fideism?

Is the Presuppositional apologetic method a form of fideism?

Is fideism "just believe" without any evidence or reason, etc.?

Dave Armstrong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ken said...

"Same old same old" = truth never changes

Dave Armstrong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...

Good post, Chris. I think you’re right, but probably only because I agree with you. Protestant joke.

Scott Clark speaks of the “quest of absolute certainty,” and it always seems to me to be the affliction of the Catholic apologists. The modern mind seems to conceive of the opposite of faith as doubt, but it’s actually sight; doubt is a necessary and implicit aspect of faith. The Protestant outlook is at ease with mystery, discomfort, tension and the ability to simply say, “I believe, help me with my unbelief.”

Chris Donato said...

Folks, thanks for making the blog pop. My other three readers are enjoying the conversation.

Thanks too for you newcomers and adding to the conversation. For now, I'll only suggest that Ken and Dave keep their past baggage out of the combox!

I look forward to engaging each of you in turn.

Dave Armstrong said...

Gladly. But be aware that if I comment at all he's gonna jump in.

Chris Donato said...

@ Teri, thanks again. I'll certainly be at the table, time permitting. I too sense the camaraderie of a 'Theology on Tap'—that's why I stopped by in the first place!

@ Tim: I appreciate your humor (as I too "suffer" from sarcasm), and, as I try not to take myself too seriously, I'm not easily offended. I can take at least as much as I give. Thanks also for your post on "Skepticism and Humility." I hope to engage it soon.

@ Randy, I hear you and agree with your sentiments (and you've articulated them well), yet I'd say to be careful not to sound too self-congratulatory. I think I can easily say the same thing about the broad Reformational tradition(s).

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Steve,

Scott Clark speaks of the “quest of absolute certainty,” and it always seems to me to be the affliction of the Catholic apologists.

Are you saying that it is impossible to achieve the certainty of faith, or certitude, in theological / spiritual matters? Are we not certain, e.g., that God exists, or that the Holy Trinity is true, or that we are saved by God's grace alone, or that Jesus died on the cross for our sins?

No one has taken a crack at answering the sincere questions I asked in my first comment above. If it is not hubris and arrogant and triumphalistic, etc., etc. to believe firmly in these things and not doubt them, why does it automatically become so when a Catholic dares to have faith enough to believe that God guides what we believe to be His established Church, protecting her from error? Why is one thing intrinsically different from the other? I don't see it. We can have an honest disagreement, but why do value judgments as to supposed subjective glaring faults have to enter into it? What is possibly accomplished by adopting that opinion?

In effect, the argument is, "if one doesn't accept our own Protestant distinctives, and deny the infallibility of the Church and the pope, then by that very fact they MUST be arrogant and full of hubris. How dare someone assert Catholic truth claims!!" Yet if the Protestant claims that uncertainty has to be espoused in order to save oneself from arrogance, then that itself is a claim of certainty: enough to condemn someone who differs with it. And that is self-defeating, as mentioned above. If uncertainty is such a supreme value, then to consistently hold to it would require one not to condemn another view, because to do so presupposes that there is a truth that can be known; therefore, the condemner is manifestly as arrogant as that whom he condemns as arrogant (and arguably hypocritical too).

The modern mind seems to conceive of the opposite of faith as doubt, but it’s actually sight; doubt is a necessary and implicit aspect of faith.

That's the exact opposite of the truth, according to Jesus, Paul, James, and Jude: all of whom pit doubt against faith as antithetical or opposite things:

Matthew 14:31 (RSV) Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "O man of little faith, why did you doubt?" (cf. 28:17)

Matthew 21:21 And Jesus answered them, "Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and never doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, `Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will be done. (cf. Mk 11:23)

Romans 14:23 But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

Jude 1:20-22 But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; [21] keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. [22] And convince some, who doubt;

The Protestant outlook is at ease with mystery,

No problem there.

discomfort, tension and the ability to simply say, “I believe, help me with my unbelief.”

The problem is that Protestants are also at ease with contradiction, division, and a sort of fetish for uncertainty, as if this is a glorious rather than scandalous thing. Contradiction means someone (by the laws of logic) is believing falsehood, and that is not a good thing. If you think it is, biblically speaking, then please show me where God ever desires that we doubt and believe in falsehood: as if the search for truth (ultimately unattainable, so it seems you are saying) is more important than the truth discovered with the eyes of faith, with the aid of God's grace.

Dave Armstrong said...

Moreover, the NT doesn't offer the slightest hint of doctrinal relativism, permitted differences on anything other than non-doctrinal matters such as what food to eat. It has not the slightest trace of the current (not historic) Protestant fascination with doctrinal diversity and subjective struggle, or the notion of "primary vs. secondary" doctrines that are up for grabs and entirely optional.

Instead, what is in the NT is a constant, unchanging casual assumption (above all in St. Paul) that there is but one truth, one faith, one commandment, one doctrine, on teaching, one message, one gospel, etc.

I have dozens of texts compiled that deal with these things, having included them in my last published book.

Ken said...

Chris - agreed. (no more past stuff with Dave A. here in your combox)

Do you think Protestants have Fideism? If so, what forms were you alluding to?

What is your definition of Fideism?

Dave A. - thanks for the encouraging words. I mean it.

Ken said...

Protestants have lots of certainty; Dave A. points out a lot of verses that speak against doubt, etc.

The issue is that we believe the Scriptures give us certainty,

"These things I write to you who believe in the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life." I John 5:13

We believe the Holy Spirit communicates that certainty directly to the believer through the word of God.

I John 2:18-28
Galatians 4:6-7
Romans 8:16

Not through priests or touching relics or icons or prayers to statues or the bread and wine being transformed into the physical body and blood of Christ and not through Mary and not through an infallible pope or magisterium. (which does not exist in reality)

That is the difference.

The RC claims an extra amount of certainty by a teaching authority who will think for them and tell them the right interpretation. Some people apparently find that attractive.

The RC apologist tries to create doubt in the Evangelical/protestant mind with "how do you know your interpretation is right?"

and "how do you know for certain you are in the church that Jesus founded?"
and

"you are proud because you are relying on your own mind and your own interpretation and in rebellion against the Church that allegedly Christ founded; you are in schism; schism is not what Jesus wanted and prayed for unity in John 17, etc."

Ken said...

This is only interacting with the issue Dave raises.

The problem is that Protestants are also at ease with contradiction,

No; we are not at ease with contradiction; we believe the Bible; we can be sure of many things. Also, that is why it is more consistent that when we believe justification by faith alone is true; then Trent and RCC is false. Ecumenism with RCC is a contradiction unless you repent and change.

division,

There are some divisions that are sinful and wrong; but some are good. To continue to protest against the RCC is a good thing, because it teaches lots of false doctrine. We have a lot of great unity with each other, for example, in "Together for the Gospel" - Baptists, Presbyterians, independents, dispensationalists, etc..

www.t4g.org


and a sort of fetish for uncertainty,

No; only when the RCC pushes for "infallible certainty"; yet that is not a category that God requires from us as humans. Only God is infallible. He has spoken in His word, we are to believe and trust Him. That is enough; we don't need an extra "pope" to give us extra "over the top" certainty.

Chris Donato said...

Ah, Ken, you reminded of the previous question you asked: Yes, I think presuppositionalism is a form of fideism, even the axiomatic variety (which I think applies to certain Catholics too).

There are other forms of course, and it runs in every circle and in every church.

Dave Armstrong said...

Here are many biblical texts that teach assurance, being sure, assured, certain, confident, knowing, etc., in direct contradiction to this glorying over uncertainty as if that is required by a misguided notion of "humility":

Genesis 15:13 Then the LORD said to Abram, "Know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and will be slaves there, and they will be oppressed for four hundred years;

Job 8:6 if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and reward you with a rightful habitation.

Job 11:18 And you will have confidence, because there is hope; you will be protected and take your rest in safety.

Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Psalm 85:9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.

Psalm 119:86 All thy commandments are sure; . . .

Proverbs 11:18 A wicked man earns deceptive wages, but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.

Proverbs 11:21 Be assured, an evil man will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will be delivered. (cf. 16:5)

Daniel 2:45 . . . A great God has made known to the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.

John 21:24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.

Acts 2:36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Acts 12:11 And Peter came to himself, and said, "Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. (cf. 6:3)

Romans 6:9 For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

Romans 8:28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, [39] nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 14:14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

2 Corinthians 1:7 Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (cf. 4:14)

Ephesians 1:9 For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ

Ephesians 1:18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, (cf. 3:3, 10)

Ephesians 5:5 Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:14 and most of the brethren have been made confident in the Lord because of my imprisonment, and are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear. (cf. 1:19)

Dave Armstrong said...

Colossians 1:9 asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

Colossians 2:2 that their hearts may be encouraged as they are knit together in love, to have all the riches of assured understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, of Christ,

Colossians 4:12 . . . that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you;

1 Timothy 1:15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. . . .

1 Timothy 3:13 for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 1:12 . . . But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

2 Timothy 2:11 The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him;

Titus 1:9 he must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it.

Hebrews 3:6 but Christ was faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope.

Hebrews 3:14 For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end, (cf. 4:16)

Hebrews 6:9 . . . we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation.

Hebrews 10:22-23 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. [23] Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful;

Hebrews 10:35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. (cf. 10:19)

Hebrews 13:18 . . . we are sure that we have a clear conscience . . . (cf. 13:6)

2 Peter 1:19 And we have the prophetic word made more sure. . . .

1 John 2:3, 5 And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments.. . . but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him:

1 John 2:28-29 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. [29] If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that every one who does right is born of him. (cf. 4:17)

1 John 3:2 . . . but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life . . .

1 John 3:18-19, 21 Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth. [19] By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before him. . . [21] Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God;

1 John 3:24 All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us. . . . (cf. 4:13, 16; 5:2)

1 John 4:6 . . . By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

1 John 5:14-15 And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. [15] And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. (cf. 5:19-20)

Dave Armstrong said...

The Protestant "cult of uncertainty" or "non-quest for certainty" is well illustrated by the citation from Lutheran sociologist Peter Berger, used in the original post above.

For Berger (I know a little about him; I have six of his books in my library), certainty is the equivalent of "pretense" and "fanaticism." What a nice touch. But Protestants are not, alas, relativists, in attacking certitude. Rather, the more sophisticated among them are moderately uncertain: the golden mean between "fanaticism and relativism": the theological analogical equivalent of wishy-washy political moderates and swing voters, who never seem to be able to make up their mind (thus they were enamored of President Obama in 2008 and now -- jolted by economic reality -- are much less so). I submit that this folly is a very steep, greased, slippery slope.

Of course, if it isn't already obvious, Berger is a theological liberal. He makes this clear himself in the same interview cited above. Note again closely how he regards truth claims:

"I haven't changed my theological position, really, since I wrote A Rumor of Angels. In my early youth I was sort of a neo-orthodox fanatic of a Lutheran variety. I don't think I was a fanatic in a personally disagreeable way, but intellectually I was. And then I got out of that. Since Rumor of Angels the only reasonable way I can describe myself theologically is as part of a liberal Protestant tradition.

"My most recent book--Redeeming Laughter, about the comic in human life--takes up directly from where I ended in A Rumor of Angels, referring to humor as one of the signals of transcendence. I think it's a very important signal. To talk of signals of transcendence betrays a liberal position, for it excludes almost by definition any kind of orthodox certainty. If you are certain in terms of the object of your religious belief, you don't need any signals--you've already got the whole shebang. This is the only position I've found it possible to hold with intellectual honesty, and I doubt that is going to change.

". . . I don't think it follows that what is needed is a return to orthodoxy. . . . The history of Protestantism has shown . . . that you can have real faith without being in some sort of narrow orthodox mold. That is the challenge to liberal Protestantism.

". . . No tradition can be taken for granted any more. To pretend that it can is, in most cases, a self-delusion.

"Schleiermacher was lucky in that he still had a church with a strong religious substance with which he could enter into dialogue. In liberal Protestantism in America we are not so lucky. There is nothing much there to enter into dialogue with."

I've been saying for years that this currently very fashionable fetish for uncertainty is a species of postmodernism or liberalism, and sure enough, here comes Berger to exactly confirm my analysis. The sad thing now is that many thinking evangelical or Calvinist Protestants are now adopting these liberal, skeptical modes of thought without being aware (or so it seems) of where they derive, or how contrary they are not only to Catholicism, but even to their own Protestant traditions (folks like Luther and Wesley).

Ken said...

We don't need a pope to interpret those verses for us; you read them, I read them; we understand.

We have more certainty - we know we are justified by faith alone, and that we have peace with God. Romans 5:1

We know God will never forsake us.

We know that we have eternal life.
I John 5:13

It is when the RCC demands more than normal, reasonable, human certainty and starts demanding a a category of "infallible certainty" (which God never lays on our souls) saying things like, "how do you know for sure with 100 % infallible certainty . . . ? and "we have a living voice who can walk into a room and say "thus says the Lord" and solve all disunity problems of interpretation and denomoninations", etc. - It is then that we claim a certain amount of humility on more unclear things or secondary issues that Protestant churches disagree over.

steve said...

Dave,

Are you saying that it is impossible to achieve the certainty of faith, or certitude, in theological / spiritual matters? Are we not certain, e.g., that God exists, or that the Holy Trinity is true, or that we are saved by God's grace alone, or that Jesus died on the cross for our sins?

Well, I think to say “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth” is quite different from, “I know for a fact, beyond any doubt whatsoever that God exists and ain’t nobody gonna tell no different!” True, the fool says in his heart there is no God, but the fanatic says I see something nobody else does.


No one has taken a crack at answering the sincere questions I asked in my first comment above. If it is not hubris and arrogant and triumphalistic, etc., etc. to believe firmly in these things and not doubt them, why does it automatically become so when a Catholic dares to have faith enough to believe that God guides what we believe to be His established Church, protecting her from error?

Fair question. I think the difference may be that the Protestant speaks in short hand when he says “I have infallible assurance”; he doesn’t mean he has absolute certainty. he means he has unshakeable faith (which includes doubt). The Catholic means he has absolute certainty. If it helps, this Protestant finds the Catholic system quite attractive. It must be nice to not have any doubt in the here and now. But the attraction if far outweighed by the fact that I find such hubris more disingenuous to the human condition as I know it.



“The modern mind seems to conceive of the opposite of faith as doubt, but it’s actually sight; doubt is a necessary and implicit aspect of faith.”

That's the exact opposite of the truth, according to Jesus, Paul, James, and Jude: all of whom pit doubt against faith as antithetical or opposite things…

You’re forgetting that Protestants read Scripture in relation to Scripture. Yes, there is a sort of pitting of faith against doubt. But there is also the Pauline view that we live by faith and not by sight. I know you think we have a love affair with doubt, but the posture on doubt is actually in a higher service to faith. Moreover, you realize, of course, that faith will disappear in the next age, to be replaced by sight (marantha!). So it isn’t as if faith is so great anyway. Faith is a facet of this passing age.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Steve,

I think to say “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth” is quite different from, “I know for a fact, beyond any doubt whatsoever that God exists and ain’t nobody gonna tell no different!”

If you draw an extreme contrast for rhetorical purposes, that will impress some folks, but it is not fair argumentation. I still don't see how simply adopting the beliefs of Catholicism amounts to arrogance and hubris.

There are many complexities here. It is not a simple discussion, either epistemologically or in a broader philosophic sense or biblically.

But how is it epistemologically different for the Catholic to say, "I believe in faith in an infallible Church that God set up and that He specially guides and protects." There is such a thing as "the Church" that is presupposed in the NT. It's not just a community club or the Elks or suchlike. It is a thing ordained by God, that has authority.

Now, we understand that Catholics and Protestants look at ecclesiology and authority differently, but what bothers me about this whole discussion, is how Catholics are accused of arrogance, for simply taking the principle of faith further than the Protestant does. You say we are arrogant and triumphalistic. But from our perspective it looks to us that Protestants lack faith in God's promises and provisions for His people. You provide Scripture for all your distinctives; so do we for ours. They all have to be dealt with in some fashion.

“I know for a fact, beyond any doubt whatsoever that God exists and ain’t nobody gonna tell no different!”

Belief in God is a pretty established, solid position for all Christians. It is as close to certain as we get, I think. It depends on how one decides "doubt." Is His existence exceedingly certain? Yes. The Bible teaches us that all know that He exists. It presupposes this. It's most clearly expressed in Romans 1:19-21. Is it arrogant to take that passage at face value, too, and assert that atheists know that God exists? I think not.

Does it mean that a Catholic or any Christian must take a view where there is no conceivable instance where we might be convinced otherwise. No. I have written many times that I can conceive such a scenario, but I have never come remotely close to changing my mind, as a result of many of my own debates with atheists. I'm just not convinced. But that is different from saying that I could never possibly be convinced otherwise. What can we know with absolute certainty? Again, it depends on how the terms are defined. I'm pretty certain that I exist and that the universe exists, and that my computer and my fingers exist as I type this, and that I am having these thoughts (Descartes). Knowing that God exists is a bit less certain than that, but not by much. The certainty comes about by many converging, accumulated evidences.

True, the fool says in his heart there is no God, but the fanatic says I see something nobody else does.

And that is how you view the Catholic position? We're not saying that. We're saying that there is an issue of authority to be reckoned with, and that Scripture, history and reason all have to be taken into account. Both Orthodoxy and Catholicism believe in an authoritative (infallible) Church, but Protestantism doesn't. You guys brought in the new view. The fathers certainly didn't think as you do. I have tons of quotes from Protestant patristics scholars that back me up on that. So the burden of proof is on you to show us all otherwise. And I think it has not been shown and that sola Scriptura is a desperately illogical and unbiblical position.

Dave Armstrong said...

It's not arrogance and unmitigated gall to assert that a particular position is self-defeating or circular or profoundly self-contradictory.

It's just, well . . . logic. Logical critiques have to be overcome by logical argumentation from the advocate of the position being critiqued, that must attempt to demonstrate to the critic that his logic is somehow faulty.

You guys think various things about Catholicism (blind faith and so forth; oftentimes the idolatry or Pelagian or half-pagan charges, too). It is no more arrogant for us to critique your system than it is for you to critique ours.

But in any event, this whole uncertainty business is NOT historic Protestantism. THAT much is certain (pun half-intended). I contend that it is a product of post-Enlightenment theological liberalism. The case of Peter Berger, that was brought up in the original post, illustrates this perfectly.

If someone wants to go that route, that's up to them, but we mustn't pretend that such a view is in the heritage of historic Catholic orthodoxy or the "magisterial Reformation" tradition of Luther and Calvin, or "evangelical" by any reasonable definition of that term. It is not. Francis Schaeffer (a huge influence on me) wrote much about this.

Liberalism doesn't come from that. It comes from merging Enlightenment skepticism and later Higher Criticism with Christianity, to the great detriment of the latter.

It's the same mentality that has led to Episcopalianism accepting practicing homosexual bishops, and the ELCA recently adopting the same thing, and PCUSA voting to remove fornication from the roster of sins, and all the mainline denominations sanctioning childkilling.

That's NOT the way to go. I should think that serious, tradition-minded Catholics and Protestants alike could unite in opposition to destructive theological liberalism, just as C. S. Lewis said that those in the center of their own faith traditions are closer to each other than traditionalists and so-called "progressives" in any given communion are.

Thus I feel far closer in spirit (by far) to a Calvinist who actually believes in that system and rejects theological liberalism than I do to a Catholic "progressive" liberal dissident.

Dave Armstrong said...

I think the difference may be that the Protestant speaks in short hand when he says “I have infallible assurance”; he doesn’t mean he has absolute certainty. he means he has unshakeable faith (which includes doubt).

I don't know what this means. Faith by definition means a thing that falls short of absolute proof. I don't see how Catholics and Protestants differ all that much in this respect. We have faith in things. I think it is a reasonable faith and not contrary to reason, but it is still faith, and faith is not identical to reason (which is the fallacy in much of the Protestant argumentation against Catholic infallibility: it reduces even faith to mere logical propositions, as if it is not distinct and something more, and supernatural, and a mystery of grace as well).

The Catholic means he has absolute certainty.

I don't think we believe it in the manner in which you are presenting it. We have the certitude of faith. As I stated above, it is an exceedingly complex discussion, and folks are at different levels of understanding. If you want to get all intellectual and philosophical to the max about it, then I would HIGHLY recommend that you read Cardinal Newman's An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. It's available online:

http://www.newmanreader.org/works/grammar/index.html

This will explain how a thinking Catholic regards theological truths, and their relation to faith, and help many Protesants to get past the caricature level in seeking to understand our positions.

If it helps, this Protestant finds the Catholic system quite attractive.

I find many elements of Protestantism quite attractive, too, which is why I was a fervent evangelical for 13 years, and retain many great aspects of that faith to this day, insofar as they are not contrary to Catholicism (which is a great deal of stuff).

It must be nice to not have any doubt in the here and now.

We have a reasonable assurance of faith and the certitude of faith. It doesn't follow that there is an utter absence of doubt at all times. People struggle with various truth claims, and in understanding things. That is the human condition: psychologically and subjectively and emotionally.
But we all come to adopt one position over another. Hopefully, we have adequate reasons for doing so, and are always open to discussing those and overthrowing them where necessary.

I'm quite willing to become a Protestant again if I am persuaded to do so, just as I was persuaded to become a Catholic. It just has never happened in fact. I have found the arguments severely wanting in every head-to-head comparison I have done (and I have over 500 debates posted on my blog).

Just because one has not in fact been convinced of something, it doesn't follow that they believe they never possibly could be convinced in any possible world.

But the attraction is far outweighed by the fact that I find such hubris more disingenuous to the human condition as I know it.

I don't see the hubris. You obviously do, so I am trying to figure out why you and other Protestants do. What I do know for sure, as a result of my work as an apologist, is that Catholicism is often very poorly understood, and that frequently what is being critiqued is a straw man and a caricature.

The same thing often happens to Calvinists as well, and evangelicals, from various quarters.

All the more reason to talk things through and reach a greater mutual understanding, especially those of us who regard each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. It's imperative.

Those who think I am not even a Christian are not worth my time bothering with anymore. Been there done that.

Dave Armstrong said...

You’re forgetting that Protestants read Scripture in relation to Scripture.

So do we. Everyone has to do that. That;s why I produced so much Scripture above. God has spoken.

Yes, there is a sort of pitting of faith against doubt.

And this is your answer to all that (ostensibly perspicuous) Scripture?

But there is also the Pauline view that we live by faith and not by sight.

Yes, of course. Faith is not the equivalent of reason. But Paul (above all others in the NT) was very, very sure of what he believed. He didn't talk at all like Peter Berger and other Protestants today who glory in doubt and uncertainty and existential ambiguity.

I know you think we have a love affair with doubt,

It's more like an intellectual malady. Misguided; the wrong path . . .

but the posture on doubt is actually in a higher service to faith.

Please show that from scripture. And if it isn't there, why should anyone believe it, from Protestant premises? You are providing subjective opinions out of your head. I have provided (along with my own subjective opinions) a lot of objective Scripture that has to be dealt with in some fashion.

Moreover, you realize, of course, that faith will disappear in the next age, to be replaced by sight (marantha!).

Indeed. But then why would doubt be a foretaste of that, rather than a high degree of certitude of faith?

So it isn’t as if faith is so great anyway. Faith is a facet of this passing age.

Because it will pass does not mean it is not important now. We have God's revelation precisely so that we can know the truth, and in turn live the Christian life by God's grace with as much confidence as someone like the Apostle Paul exhibited.

steve said...

Dave,

We clearly have different and important premises driving our conclusions. You juxtapose faith with doubt, I juxtapose faith with sight. (That’s as different as sola ecclesia and sola scriptura, the formal difference between Rome and Geneva.) This may begin to explain why you don’t see the hubris I am contending is inherent in Catholicism. I can understand why you perceive the Prot as “lacking in faith,” but instead of crying foul I think I’m more inclined to say that this is because you have resident within your formula the assumption that faith is the same as certainty. I have an infallible faith that a place called England exists. But I’ve never been there to actually see it, so I can’t say that I have certitude that it exists, only faith. I am certain that I have ten fingers and toes because I have seen them. Certainty requires sight, faith doesn’t. It requires doubt, else it wouldn’t be faith.

It is interesting that Paul, having actually seen the risen Lord, yet defined the Christian life as one of living by faith and not by sight. Pentecostals also tend to forget that on his deathbed he asked for books—this from a man who wrote inspired texts. Paul was assured in a way that neither you nor I are afforded, yet he told us we were to live by faith and not by sight. The taxonomy is faith/sight, not faith/doubt.

I’m not saying “faith isn’t important now,” and I’m not sure how an adherent of sola fide could be construed as being that cynical about faith. It’s the only invisible instrument we have to the Lord (visible being the church). That “it will pass” isn’t the same as “it isn’t important.” The former just means to put even faith, like our very natural lives themselves, into perspective. But I can see (pun intended) why one would think the two are the same if one also thinks faith is the same as sight and juxtaposes faith to doubt.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Steve,

We clearly have different and important premises driving our conclusions. You juxtapose faith with doubt,

That wasn't me; I merely cited Jesus, Paul, James, and Jude. If you don't agree with their conclusions (that seem quite perspicuous to me), then you need to give us an interpretation of those passages that goes toward your direction. I've yet to see that, so I have no reason to not interpret the passages as I have been doing.

You brought up this point, remember, claiming that this perspective was strictly a modern one. I showed, I think, that it was quite ancient and quite biblical!

I juxtapose faith with sight.

Thus far, you have based that on one scriptural passage, as if it trumps all of the scores of passages I have brought to bear on this. It doesn't. They all have to be harmonized somehow, unless you deny that the Bible is inspired and infallible. I would say there is a sense in which you are right here, too, but it isn't the whole ball of wax.

(That’s as different as sola ecclesia and sola scriptura, the formal difference between Rome and Geneva.)

We don't believe in sola ecclesia. We believe in a "three-legged stool" of Bible-Church-Tradition. We think the Bible is infallible just as [some of] you do. So it ain't sola ecclesia. But Protestants do hold to sola scriptura by denying infallibility to the Church (and Tradition).

This may begin to explain why you don’t see the hubris I am contending is inherent in Catholicism.

I don't see it because it doesn't follow from mere belief in an infallible Church, that I must be arrogant and full of triumphalism and hubris.

I can understand why you perceive the Prot as “lacking in faith,” but instead of crying foul I think I’m more inclined to say that this is because you have resident within your formula the assumption that faith is the same as certainty.

It's not absolute certainty, as you are making it out to be, as if this is our position. It is a very high degree of certainty and reasonable enough to allow rational people to accept it in faith.

I have an infallible faith that a place called England exists. But I’ve never been there to actually see it, so I can’t say that I have certitude that it exists, only faith. I am certain that I have ten fingers and toes because I have seen them. Certainty requires sight, faith doesn’t. It requires doubt, else it wouldn’t be faith.

Yet the Bible pits doubt against faith. I will go with Scripture, thank you, if it clashes with your view.

Dave Armstrong said...

[cont.]

It is interesting that Paul, having actually seen the risen Lord, yet defined the Christian life as one of living by faith and not by sight.

He defined it in all kinds of ways. You have focused on 2 Cor 5:7, which in context refers specifically to seeing God in heaven. We don't see THAT now, and have to have faith that we will get there eventually. Paul expresses similar eschatological thoughts in Romans 8:18-25; 1 Cor 2:9 and 13:12; 2 Cor 4:18; and 1 Tim 6:16.

That is but one specific application. It can't be expanded to encompass all shades of meaning of "faith" in every instance. There is more to it than that. So your use of this one passage does not at all wipe out all the passages I have submitted as also relevant to this discussion.

Pentecostals also tend to forget that on his deathbed he asked for books—this from a man who wrote inspired texts.

He liked to read and learn. So what? What does this have to do with Catholic epistemology?

Paul was assured in a way that neither you nor I are afforded, yet he told us we were to live by faith and not by sight. The taxonomy is faith/sight, not faith/doubt.

Dealt with already . . .

I’m not saying “faith isn’t important now,” and I’m not sure how an adherent of sola fide could be construed as being that cynical about faith. It’s the only invisible instrument we have to the Lord (visible being the church). That “it will pass” isn’t the same as “it isn’t important.” The former just means to put even faith, like our very natural lives themselves, into perspective. But I can see (pun intended) why one would think the two are the same if one also thinks faith is the same as sight and juxtaposes faith to doubt.

Whatever. I remain unpersuaded of this view. I don't think you have overcome what I have brought to the table. Nothing personal. I just think it is a woefully inadequate and incomplete viewpoint with lots of problems insofar as Scripture has something to teach us on the subject.

Chris Donato said...

Bryan, thanks for your follow-up comments.

Just a word about the idea that what I've posted is self-referentially absurd: this would be the case, I think, if I were saying that truth does not exist. Yet what I'm saying is that you can only make a plausible case for what is the truth in this time between the times. The reason (and it's empirical via sociological query) you cannot have 100% certainty today has been unpacked in the post—you always have a choice. Period. To suggest otherwise is bad faith. In short, Roman Catholic ecclesiology is no longer what must be; it is merely decision.

And so, in short, to convey your decision on these matters as somehow wholly transcendent, somehow laden with 100% certainty seems kind of funny to me, at best unrealistic, at worst irrational (or maybe hyper-rational?).

As I mentioned in the post, if I were to become Catholic, it'd not be as a result of my coming to 100% certainty with respect to Catholic ecclesiology but because I'd think Catholic ecclesiology made the most sense, was the most plausible structure, in this world.

Thus I do think the problem Heraclitus faced is of a different nature.

Principium Unitatis said...

Chris,

If I claim x, and then you claim y, where y is the claim "x is an overextension of what can be known with certainty", but then you cannot show that y is true, then y is an overextension of what can be known with certainty, and in that case y is self-refuting.

The reason (and it's empirical via sociological query) you cannot have 100% certainty today has been unpacked in the post—you always have a choice. Period. To suggest otherwise is bad faith. In short, Roman Catholic ecclesiology is no longer what must be; it is merely decision.

That's simply a non sequitur. Just because we retain the power of choice about x, it does not follow that we cannot be certain about the truth of x. So long as we live in this life, we retain the choice to believe (or disbelieve) that the Bible is the Word of God, that Jesus is the Christ, that we exist, etc. But we can be certain that the Bible is the Word of God, that Jesus is the Christ, and that we exist. The Apostles didn't give up their lives to martyrdom on the basis of plausible arguments or probabilistic calculations; they were certain, not only that God exists, but that Christ is God, and that death is not the end. But nevertheless they could have disbelieved these things by evil choices, i.e. by "suppressing the truth in unrighteousness." This is why St. Paul says, "lest I myself be disqualified". (1 Cor 9:27)

You've gotten some bad epistemology somewhere that's tripping you up. The error in this bad epistemology is that intellect and will must be separated, in order for intellect to truly know. In other words, will cannot remain involved, if intellect is to have certainty. But that is simply not true. The will has the power to reject that which is known. The fundamental human problem is not one of ignorance, but pride. When Adam and Eve rejected God, this was not due to ignorance. They rejected the truth that they already knew. They retained choice regarding what they knew with certainty to be true. So this notion that one cannot know something to be true so long as one retains a choice about it, is contrary to Christianity.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Chris,

. . . if I were to become Catholic, it'd not be as a result of my coming to 100% certainty with respect to Catholic ecclesiology but because I'd think Catholic ecclesiology made the most sense, was the most plausible structure, in this world.

Exactly. That was how I looked at it: it made far more sense and was more plausible (once both sides were heard) than any other system I knew of, based on numerous cumulative evidences.

Bryan and other Catholics may feel differently about that, but this is my own take. Faith is not a matter of absolute, 100% certainty anyway. It's not philosophy. That's why this whole discussion of epistemology might be fun and interesting, but again, it overlooks the fact that faith (including Catholic faith) is not philosophy (as I pointed out years ago in dealing with these same objections from folks like Eric Svendsen and Tim Enloe).

Principium Unitatis said...

Dave,

Of course faith is not philosophy. But that does not mean that our discussion of epistemology in relation to this point is merely "fun and interesting." An error in philosophy leads to an error in faith, because grace builds on nature. The Church has said this numerous times. What is known by faith is known with more certainty than what is known by natural science, because of the authority of the divine source of that which is given to us by faith, even though the object of faith is not presently seen, which allows faith to be subject to doubt. The greater certainty of that which is known by faith is precisely why it is rational [and not irrational] to walk by faith and not by sight.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Bryan,

I hold to the certitude of faith, of the sort advocated and explained by Cardinal Newman in his Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, and his notion of the "Ilative Sense."

I wouldn't say that this is "100%, absolute certainty" in a philosophically "airtight" sense, but it is exceedingly, exceptionally certain and excludes doubt of the sort that our Protestant friends seem to glorify and pride themselves (?)in possessing over against us arrogant Catholics. :-)

The certitude of faith is of a different nature than mere scientific or logical knowledge, which is one of the difficulties in this discussion, because the Protestants who argue in this fashion appear to be reducing the knowledge that comes by faith and the work of the Holy Spirit in us to mere philosophy.

With the eyes of faith, this is certain knowledge, as Cardinal Newman states, that Christianity must be "positively acknowledged, embraced, and maintained as true, on the ground of its being divine, not as true on intrinsic grounds, not as probably true, or partially true, but as absolutely certain knowledge, certain in a sense in which nothing else can be certain, because it comes from Him who can neither deceive nor be deceived."

(Ch. 10: "Inference and Assent in the Matter of Religion")

There is a large sense in which this thinking is similar to Calvinist presuppositionalism: knowledge of the things of God are innate and supra-rational. They transcend reason and are more worthy of assent than scientific knowledge, as you say.

Dave Armstrong said...

In other words, when Chris refers to "100% certainty" I think he means it in a different sense than I mean by the certitude of faith and Cardinal Newman's take on the whole thing.

He probably means it in a different sense than Bryan does, too, though I can't speak for him.

My position, in any event (that I have argued countless times now) is that Protestant ecclesiology and epistemology is always self-defeating in the end, when its premises are closely examined, and that the Catholic notions of authority and belief are not logically circular at all. They require faith -- much faith -- but they are not logically circular or practically impossible to implement and live out, as Protestant systems always are in the end.

This doesn't mean that a Protestant can't live out a profoundly Christian life in service to God: only that their system (especially the rule of faith: sola Scriptura) is ultimately incoherent and inconsistent.

Principium Unitatis said...

Dave,

There is a large sense in which this thinking is similar to Calvinist presuppositionalism: knowledge of the things of God are innate...

I beg to differ. Having once been a "Calvinist presuppositionalist," influenced by the works of Van Til, Bahnsen, Frame, etc., I can tell you that the Catholic position (and Newman's) is not at all like Calvinist presuppositionalism. Calvinist presuppositionalism is fideism based on philosophical skepticism, as I argued here. In matters of faith, the notion that knowledge of the things of God is innate would be both rationalistic (denying our animality) and reduce faith from a supernatural virtue to a natural virtue.

I don't want to sidetrack the discussion on Chris's blog of our CTC article, so I'll just leave it at that.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Dave Armstrong said...

I said it was similar in a sense, not identical.

The Bible assumes that men know that God exists, which is why it never bothers to make theistic proofs. The closest it comes, I think, is Romans 1, which might be construed as a primitive teleological argument.

Dave Armstrong said...

Moreover, when I say "innate" I am not saying it is merely natural. It is innate via God's supernatural power. God puts the knowledge of Himself in us.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Bryan,

I don't think we disagree all that much. I followed the link to your article on fideism. You stated the following in the combox:

"The same power (i.e. intellect) by which we reason discursively from premises to a conclusion is the same power by which we apprehend or understand intelligible truths, including the truth of the first principles in the order of knowing. These first principles are not obtained by fideistic leaps in the dark; they are naturally known to be true by all humans (through the intellect), even when they can’t be consciously articulated."

This is what I believe is the case with regard to knowledge of God. Belief in God is what Alvin Plantinga calls a "properly basic" belief. I believe that knowledge of God is supernaturally infused in us even before we set out to do theistic proofs. And that is essentially consistent with Newman's argument in Grammar of Assent and (I believe) also with Pascal.

Dave Armstrong said...

I agree again with what you say about Alvin Plantinga (I'm rather fond of him) in the same thread:

"There are some important differences between Plantinga’s position and that of the Thomistic tradition, but there is plenty of common ground. Plantinga seems to use this term “deliverances of reason” for beliefs that are prior to experience or independent of experience (Cf. WCB, p. 146), or deduced from them. Aristotle and Aquinas argued that all our knowledge, including first principles, comes from experience, through our senses. But Plantinga does grant that “perception” (as another rational power) gives us knowledge, and that “perceptual beliefs” are “basic”. (See WPF, 5) That’s sufficiently close (for my purposes) to what I’m arguing in this post, concerning the falsity of fideism. In other words, with respect to the basicality of perceptual beliefs and “deliverances of reason”, Plantinga is on the side of Aristotle and Aquinas, and not on the side of fideism."

So see, we're not far apart at all. I just don't articulate these matters as well as you, since I am not studying for a doctorate in philosophy as you are. :-)

But I'm no fideist anymore than Plantinga or Cardinal Newman are. You said it, and I agree with you that there is much common ground between all these great thinkers.

Ken said...

What is known by faith is known with more certainty than what is known by natural science, because of the authority of the divine source of that which is given to us by faith, even though the object of faith is not presently seen, which allows faith to be subject to doubt. The greater certainty of that which is known by faith is precisely why it is rational [and not irrational] to walk by faith and not by sight.

This sounds like conservative Protestants; as does much of your post about faith in God and Adam and Eve and creation, etc.

Protestants in the Calvinistic traditions tend to have more certainty about their personal salvation than RCs do - Romans 5:1 - "having been justified by faith, we have peace with God"

I John 5:13 - "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life."

RCs, because of the possibility of loosing their justification and faith by mortal sin, cannot really say, "I know for sure that I am going to heaven when I die."

It is only the RC apologetic of questioning of "how do you know for certain"
--

1. that your view of baptism is right
or
2. your view of the eucharist is right, for example,

that makes Protestants uneasy and uncertain on some things - Evangelicals who want to leave room for (humility, uncertainty, undogmatic claims)the other Protestants who have a different position on baptism or the eucharist --

This is what the RC apologetic is attacking, the development of doctrine over "secondary issues" and Christians no longer killing each other over those "secondary issues" ( eucharist, baptism, eschatological views, church government, Calvinism vs. Arminianism)

The RCs are more dogmatic on baptism and eucharist, and they say that is "relativistic thinking" to have secondary issues and have humility on those until Christ comes back.

But we are more sure that the RC position on justification is wrong and the dogmas of Mary and Papal Infallibility is wrong.

Ken said...

The knowledge of God in the Calvinist Presuppositional Apologetic approach is from Romans 1:18-21, which shows that unbelievers suppress and "push down" the knowledge of God from creation and conscience; but it is not faith or trust. Knowledge that God exists is not Biblical faith. Biblical faith includes it, but faith is much more.

Atheists are mostly angry at God for allowing evil and sin and injustice and things like wars and genocide and rape and birth defects and the Holocaust.

I don't think Presuppostional Apologetics in Calvinism is "Fideism" - it can be mis-understood as that, but the good ones use evidence and history and science, it is just that those are "extra helps", and not the main argument.

The main argument is that everyone's minds are corrupted to some degree by sin; and the rebellious heart cannot see; and they use the goodness of God and creation and logic to make their arguments against God and creation, etc. They use God to argue against God. They have to presuppose God in order to argue against Him.

Ken said...

What Dave A. and Bryan say about faith and certainty are mostly the same things Protestants say about God and the Bible; (we have full faith and certainty about God and Christ and the Scriptures as God's word and the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

the difference is about the church on earth; the RCs believe the Roman Catholic Church on earth is worthy of the same kind of faith and trust as the final authority on what Christianity is.

They have extended "faith in God and Christ" to "faith in the infallible church" also, it seems to me.

Since the church is made up of humans and they made mistakes; and sins and horrible things; (and false doctrines like indulgences, penances, Marian dogmas, purgatory, treasury of merit, priesthood, ex opere operato sacerdotal power, etc.) that is what conservative Protestants are very hesitant about - trusting a man made institution like the RCC with its massive claims of infallibility.

It cannot be infallible, because only God is infallible (and His word); Infallibility comes from Impeccability. God is perfect and without sin and without fault and without error. He is without error because He is perfect.

You cannot claim the RC church is infallible, but at the same time admit it is peccable (sins), because infallibility comes from impeccability (Perfection) in God.

Dave Armstrong said...

You cannot claim the RC church is infallible, but at the same time admit it is peccable (sins), because infallibility comes from impeccability (Perfection) in God.

How can the Bible be infallible, then, since it was written by fallible and sinful men?

Ken said...

How can the Bible be infallible, then, since it was written by fallible and sinful men?

Because God said it is, "Thy word is truth" - John 17:17

"The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul . . . " Psalm 19:7

Psalm 119:160 "The sum of Thy word is truth. . . "

Scripture = Revelation - the prophets could not disobey or ignore God's working in them to write Scripture.

Church = guidance here on earth - but humans disobey and / or ignore the guidance

By nature, these are two different different things - God's word is perfect, without error, infallible, because it is God's word. God Himself cannot lie or sin or make a mistake, therefore His word cannot.

But the church is people, sinful, struggling, history shows leaders made many mistakes, sins, sometimes promoting false doctrines.

The church is made up of people.

Invalid analogy and comparison. You are comparing two different things. God guided and moved the prophets and apostles to write the Scriptures (2 Peter 1:20-21) so that there is no mistake; but there is no evidence that the church is history has not made mistakes; in fact we know it has made mistakes.

Infallible means without error, or incapable of making a mistake or error; so, since the church is people on earth struggling in this life, it is a different nature than the word of God; not really a valid comparison.

Revelation is by nature a different nature than the guidance of the church by the Holy Spirit; the people in the church are not always led by the Holy Spirit; but the men writing Scripture could not disobey the Spirit and write a mistake in Scripture.

Dave Armstrong said...

Right Ken.

Have a great day!

Dave Armstrong said...

Revelation is by nature a different nature than the guidance of the church by the Holy Spirit . . .

Exactly.One day perhaps you will get Catholic ecclesiology. That day doesn't appear to be in the near future, though.

Ken said...

Doesn't the RCC also teach that Revelation ceased with the apostles?

So the nature of Scripture, being perfect revelation of God that men wrote down; is a different product that His guidance in the church.

Dave Armstrong said...

Know your opponent's position almost as well as your own: Rule #1 in good dialogue or criticism.

Ken said...

Know your opponent's position . . .

That is why I asked you the question.

Please answer.

My understanding is that, yes, Revelation ceased with the death of the apostles.

But, in the RCC position, oral traditions were still there, unwritten(not in Scripture), but came out later in the liturgy and history of the church. (that is the RC claim, I think I understand, right?)

From RCC perspective, the guidance or interpretation of the church is the power to "develop doctrine" as situations arrive and heresies come. You believe that the Holy Spirit infallibly guides the RCC so that no heresy will be allowed to corrupt it.

Right?

So, the guidance/interpretation is a different thing by nature than the revelation that ceased with the apostles, right?

Ken said...

Paragraph 66 of the Catechism of the Catholic church says:

". . . no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries."

then later is says that revelation continues through
the apostolic Tradition
and
continued in apostolic succession

(summarizing now) and through the church gives "growth in understanding" - paragraph 94

So, I think I am pretty close in understanding the RCC position;

there is a difference between the actual Revelation and the interpretation/understanding/development of it; it is just that the RCC claims that the guidance/interpretation/development is parallel with God using sinful humans to write Scripture.

For me and other Protestants, the parallel breaks down because the two things are different by nature; and we both agree that there are no mistakes in the Scriptures.

Dave Armstrong said...

That is why I asked you the question.

Please answer.


You know I no longer attempt dialogue with anti-Catholics, per my policy. You referred to that above. So why do you try to goad me into it now?

If you want to espouse a ridiculous, self-defeating position, then don't expect that many will want to waste their time interacting with it. This is the price you pay. As I stated before: you're a much better person than your recently adopted anti-Catholicism.

My opinions are fully on display in my nearly 2500 blog papers.

Besides, Chris has asked that we refrain from our old disputes on this blog.

Randy said...

there is a difference between the actual Revelation and the interpretation/understanding/development of it; it is just that the RCC claims that the guidance/interpretation/development is parallel with God using sinful humans to write Scripture.

For me and other Protestants, the parallel breaks down because the two things are different by nature; and we both agree that there are no mistakes in the Scriptures.


I don't think protestants can escape developing doctrine. In fact, protestants have a lot more innovations than Catholics. The big difference is Catholics have a basis for their answers.

Somebody asks for the intercession of a saint. The church has to answer. Is that OK or is it not? Scripture is not that clear either way. Saying Yes or No to that practice is a development of doctrine. Saying we don't know is also a development. Any answer adds something to what the apostles have given us.

The question is not to add or not to add but how to figure out which additions are right and which ones are wrong.

Now I know Ken well enough to know this will zoom over his head and he will declare that he knows the answer to the intercession of saints question. He is unable to step outside of his own immodest opinions and ask himself what makes him so sure.

The point is that Sola Scriptura runs out when you get past the clear teachings of scripture. After that you are just running on pure human opinion. That is mostly OK. But we need guidance from the magisterium once in a while.

Ken said...

I don't think protestants can escape developing doctrine.

I agree that doctrines are developed and defined and articulated and clarified. Tri-unity and homo-ousias, eternal Sonship, (ones that we agree on); and justification by faith alone, Sola Scriptura; penal substitution of Christ as satisfying the wrath of God are developed and made more explicit; but they are not additions to Scritpure.

The RCC stuff like Papacy and Marian dogmas, transubstantiation, treasure of merit, indulgences are additions and corruptions.

The different is how and on what basis we each develop doctrine.



In fact, protestants have a lot more innovations than Catholics.

Some do; but not the historic Reformed groups; they are the closest to the Bible.

The big difference is Catholics have a basis for their answers.

It is just a claim and an arrogant (Stephen, 255 AD; Pope - Boniface VIII - Unam Sanctum 1302; Pius XII - 1950, etc. Pius IX 1870; Urban 2 - Crusades, Leo X, etc.) one at that. No real basis.

Somebody asks for the intercession of a saint. The church has to answer. Is that OK or is it not? Scripture is not that clear either way.

Yes it is. I Timothy 2:5. boom. Your view falls flat.


Now I know Ken well enough to know this will zoom over his head

?

and he will declare that he knows the answer to the intercession of saints question. He is unable to step outside of his own immodest opinions and ask himself what makes him so sure.

Why is confidence always "immodest" or "prideful" or "hubris" ??

Those statements by those Popes seem much more prideful.



The point is that Sola Scriptura runs out when you get past the clear teachings of scripture. After that you are just running on pure human opinion. That is mostly OK. But we need guidance from the magisterium once in a while.

No; we don't need that kind of guidance. The Scriptures are plain enough. People don't follow the Scriptures is when they get into trouble.

 
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