Over the past few weeks, Prejean has been responding, off-and-on, directly and indirectly, to my last reply. I've held off on my own rejoinder because he continues to append codicils to what he originally wrote.
One of Prejean's problems is that he has a habit of staking out extreme positions and making sweeping statements. When challenged, he finds himself in the position of an acrophobic cat on a telephone pole. Going up is far more fun than coming back down. So he keeps posting postscripts to his original post to soothe his vertigo.
He's been getting some assistance from firemen like Apolonio, who are understandably concerned with the public relations repercussions in case their cat goes splat. But is their ladder tall enough to reach the dizzy feline?
For some odd reason, the argument from prophecy has been advanced as sufficient proof for Scriptural inspiration (as opposed to mere confirmation of an existing, justified belief in inspiration).1i) I never said the argument from prophecy was (or was not) a sufficient proof of Biblical inspiration. Rather, I was originally responding to Joseph's claim that the only Evangelical argument he'd every run across for the inspiration of Scripture was the argument that the Scripture is the word of God if Scripture says it's the word of God.
ii) Now, I also happen to think the argument from prophecy is a major argument for the inspiration of Scripture. And I'm hardly alone in this.
It's ironic to see Prejean's dismissive attitude towards the argument from prophecy—since this was fixture of traditional Christian apologetics. Cardinal Dulles has documented the prominence of this argument among NT writers, patristic writers (e.g. Justin, Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian, Lactantius, Eusebius, Athanasius, Chrysostom, Augustine) and medieval writers (Aquinas, Peter Damian, Peter the Venerable.2
Likewise, Robert Bellarmine, who—according to Prejean's own communion is both a canonical saint and a Doctor of the Church—doesn't hesitate to invoke the argument from prophecy.3
Or we might simply point out that the argument from prophecy doesn't actually prove anything absent an explanation of why the prophecy is true, which assumes one's theory of divine revelation from the beginning.No, it doesn't take that for granted. It discusses why an uninspired human speaker couldn't know the future outcome.
In the case of my accurate statement about the future, I had good reason grounded in my knowledge of human habit to think what I did (although I wasn't absolutely certain), and reality proceeded according to those expectations, confirming my previous knowledge and judgment. Likewise with prophecy: the reason it bolsters one's conviction in Scriptural authority is that one already has a reason to accept Scriptural authority.Aside from the fact that Jonathan's "prediction" was inaccurate (should he be stoned?), the argument from prophecy doesn't contend that an uninspired human speaker can never accurately forecast the future. The argument is far more nuanced than that. Predicting that an office-holder who is trailing his opponent by 40 points will lose his reelection bid tomorrow, and predicting that Cyrus will repatriate the Jewish exiles 200 years from now, are hardly equivalent feats of prognostication.
But I don't START with the authority of Scripture, which is logically and ontologically absurd. Rather, I must have certain knowledge of Scripture's authority from some other basis before I can make an argument from Scripture.Instead, Prejean takes the authority of the church as his point of departure. But why isn't that starting-point logically and ontologically absurd? If you can't begin with Scripture, then beginning with the church only pushes the "absurdity" one step back. Postponed absurdity.
That's why I am disinclined to make Scriptural arguments to people who are making pure arguments from authority from Scripture. Given that you don't have a rational basis for faith in Scripture in the first place, it would simply be exploiting a mistake.The more likely explanation is that when he momentarily removes his ecclesiastical training wheels for long enough to take a few baby steps on his own two feet—as in his recent, ill-fated appeal to Is 55:7-9 to prooftext his metaphysical precommitments—he falls flat on his baby fat.
Moreover, most of the exegetical errors result from depending on bad metaphysics anyway, but those are unlikely to be uncovered absent a critical metaphysical evaluation (which is what Perry Robinson keeps trying to get y'all to do).i) This begs the question of whether we should superimpose some off-the-shelf, metaphysical grid on the witness of Scripture.
ii) And, as I recall, Perry Robinson and his brother Jedi don't share Prejean's enthusiasm for natural theology as a praeambula fidei—which may be why they don't include him in their Catholic blogroll.
Ultimately, what I have never seen is a Protestant justification of Scriptural authority from certain knowledge of first principles. Those sorts of proofs abound among the Scholastics and the Fathers, but they are entirely lacking in the viciously circular arguments of anti-Catholics. It's an extremely simple task: state a coherent basis for certainly knowing that the Scripture is the Word of God based on some ontologically valid theory of knowledge. Is that so hard?i) Actually, that would be an exceedingly complicated task, for the first step would require you to prove your theory of knowledge before you could even begin to use your theory of knowledge to prove the Bible.
ii) Moreover, theories of knowledge operate at such a general level that they don't ordinarily implicate specific, concrete truth-claims—except for the subset truth-claims that figure in the theory of knowledge itself.
iii) The appeal to "first principles" is a classic example of foundationalism. But Prejean can't use foundationalism to prove "the Church"—without which he can't use the church to prove anything else—for the church isn't a first principle, or deducible from a first principle.
In traditional foundationalism, you begin with certain indubitable and/or incorrigible first principles, which include "self-evident" truths of reason, along with certain truths of fact, severely limited to self-presenting states like one's current feelings, sensations, and ideas.
But the obvious problem with this framework is that it's far too confining to justify most of what Prejean believes, including his fideistic appeal to "the Church."
iv) And, ironically, foundationalism inclines to idealism—which Prejean vehemently rejects.
It's not a "problem" for my view, because even dreams and hallucinations are veridical reports on reality.Except that dreams and hallucinations are paradigm-cases of inveridical reports.
That's the whole point of Aristotelian epistemology: there is not any knowledge that doesn't come from reality.i) Irrelevant, since I never denied that knowledge "comes from reality."
ii) Moreover, Prejean is equivocating. The fact that dreams and hallucinations are caused by something real hardly makes them veridical reports on reality. If LSD causes me to "see" a pink unicorn in the shower, my hallucination doesn't correspond to a real pink unicorn in the shower.
In the case of dreams, the cognitive suppression of your intellectual faculties due to sleep is being reported.No, that is not what's being "reported" in or by the dream itself. Rather, that's an interpretation of our dream in light of our conscious experience.
The content of the dream is imaginary, but it seems real to the dreamer. And the dreamer is not reporting to himself that his cognitive faculties are being repressed by sleep.
In the case of hallucinations, a real physical imbalance in your biological sensory apparatus is being reported.Once again, that is not what the hallucination is reporting. For that objectifies the hallucination as a hallucination—whereas the subject of the hallucination is unaware of his cognitive impairment. It isn't a hallucination to him. Not at the time.
There is a real cause for these things, and if one has enough knowledge and critical reflection, one can even discern what that cause is (how could doctors use hallucinations to diagnose diseases otherwise?).Which means that you can only identify a hallucination as such if you're either a second party observer who is not hallucinating, or the first party who has since regained his senses.
It's the gratuitous postulate of idealism that knowledge can be a distorted image; the Thomist view is that all knowledge reports on something.To the extent that our perception is distorted, then our misperception doesn't count as knowledge. To say that "all knowledge reports on something" is irrelevant, for the question at issue is whether a dream or hallucination counts as knowledge.
Hays assumes (from his idealist critique) that there is such a thing as an "illusion of reality," and the Aristotelian Thomist is meticulous that there is no such thing. Even dreams and hallucinations are caused by something in reality.4i) On my theory of knowledge, if I trip out on acid and "see" a pink unicorn in the shower, the unicorn is illusory. On Prejean's theory of knowledge, the unicorn is real. I'll leave it to the reader to decide whose theory of knowledge has a firmer grip on reality—Prejean's or mine.
ii) However, his epistemology does go a long way in explaining Prejean's boundless faith in Romanism. If reports of pink unicorns and apostolic successors are equally veridical, then that certainly makes it easier to credit the claims of Rome
Indeed, and all pretheoretical knowledge is a true identity, a real relation between a knower and and what is known. It's the denial of this most basic truth, as if there is any object of knowledge that is not grounded in a real thing, that is the basic error of all idealism. All theories of knowledge that start anywhere but actual identity between the object of knowledge and existing things are radically false.i) To the contrary, it is Berkeley who posits actual identity between the subject of knowledge and the object of knowledge. If reality is mental through-and-through, then that dissolves the subject/object duality. It's Prejean's epistemology that logically conduces to absolute idealism.
ii) To say the object of knowledge is "grounded" in realty in no way entails a point of actual identity between the subject of knowledge and the object of knowledge. My idea of a tree is not, itself, a tree—even if it's a true idea (corresponding to a real tree).
Hays is confusing the ontological conditions for knowledge with critical awareness of one's knowledge. My point is that Protestantism doesn't even meet the ontological conditions for knowledge through faith, because it lacks a proximate object.The Bible makes many referential statements about the world. So there are real world objects that correspond to Biblical statements. However, the whole point of testimony is to supply us with information that falls outside the purview of our personal experience.
The point is that first of all, the object of faith must be real and knowable. That's the "faith" part of "rule of faith."Fine. Scripture is real and knowable.
Second, for the object of faith to serve as a normative rule of faith, it must formally adjudicate all disputes of faith, else it's just a suggestion. That's the "rule" part.A question-begging assertion in lieu of an argument. Prejean constantly substitutes prejudicial stipulations for hard evidence. Indeed, he makes many a priori claims in the teeth of the actually evidence.
The statement "we need a divine teaching office to authoritatively interpret Scripture; otherwise, anarchy will ensue" completely misrepresents both arguments.To the contrary, it's a commonplace in Catholic apologetics.
I'm not aware of any Catholic argument that requires interpretation by an infallible Magisterium in the sense of being able to read Scripture and figure out what its authors had in mind. Anybody can do that, provided they remain within the confines of the discipline.Great! I'd advise all Evangelicals to quote Prejean admission when you get into an argument with your run-of-the-mill Catholic apologist. Frame it and nail it to the wall.
My point is rather simple; one can't have faith in meaning, just like one can't have knowledge of what one has not personally sensed. You might believe something through some opinion of trustworthiness, but you don't actually know it. We use "knowledge" rather loosely, but technically, anything you accept on hearsay is not proper knowledge; it is just opinion or probable belief. Opinion or probable belief might be usable for some practical arts, but it is inadequate for certain knowledge in both metaphysics and theology (not to mention mathematics or logic). In law, we routinely make a distinction between "knowledge" and "information and belief," but the distinction has been blurred in most other fields.Several issues:
i) There's no one theory of knowledge that commands the general consent of the philosophical community. So Prejean will need to actually argue for his particular theory of knowledge rather than taking it for granted.
ii) Why should we accept Prejean's stipulative definition of faith? I happen to think that saving faith is a mode of knowledge. But I wouldn't begin with a stipulative definition of either faith or knowledge, and then erect a theological edifice to comport with my armchair stipulations.
Rather, I would ask myself, What kind of faith does God require of me? That, and that alone, is the only condition I need to meet.
Prejean has this tinker-toy theology in which he constructs "the Church" from his aprioristic toy box of plastic legos. And a very pretty "Church" it is—like a Victorian dollhouse. Unfortunately, an architectural model of "the Church" is not the same thing as reality.
iii) It's perfectly obvious that Scripture itself regards divine testimony as a genuine source of knowledge. Indeed, there could be no better source of knowledge.
Even the unregenerate can know many things on the basis of divine testimony. That, of itself, is not a condition of saving faith.
For saving faith, two conditions must be satisfied:
a) A regenerate subject of knowledge;
b) An inspired object of knowledge.
It is possible for the object of faith to be mediated by fallible sources (e.g. preaching). But it must ultimately go back to divine revelation.
Put another way, there's a difference between mere knowledge and saving knowledge. A paradigm-case would be the Devil.
iv) But suppose we answer him on his own grounds. Why wouldn't testimony ever count as knowledge? It would be a form of indirect knowledge.
Prejean says that only what one has personally sensed counts as knowledge. But why should we accept that definition?
v) Perhaps we should begin by defining what knowledge is not. Here's a standard definition: "true belief counts as knowledge only when it is no accident that the belief is true."5
This definition doesn't select for any particular theory of knowledge. Rather, it is stating a condition which any particular theory of knowledge must satisfy for the subject of knowledge to know something.
Now, the immediate point of contention is the noetic status of testimony. In particular, we're discussing divine testimony.
By definition, divine testimony is true. Thus, if you believe divine testimony, your belief is true.
Yet that is a necessary rather than sufficient condition of knowledge inasmuch as there are situations in which you might accidentally form a true testimonial belief.
If we apply Prejean's strictures to this definition, he would have to maintain that belief in testimony never rises to the level of knowledge since no one ever believes in testimony accept by accident.
Is it Prejean's position that all testimonial beliefs are accidental beliefs? If so, then how would he argue for such a daunting claim?
vi) If Alston gives a negative formulation, Plantinga gives a positive formulation:
What is it that distinguishes knowledge from mere true belief? What further quality of quantity must a true belief have, if it is to constitute knowledge?...True belief, while necessary for knowledge, is clearly not sufficient: it is entirely possible to believe something that is true without knowing it.6
Suppose we use the term "warrant" to denote that further quality or quantity (perhaps it comes in degrees), whatever precisely it may be, enough of which distinguishes knowledge from mere true belief?…A belief has warranted only if it is produced by cognitive faculties that are functioning properly, subject to no disorder or dysfunction—construed as including absence of impedance as well as pathology.7
And if we apply Prejean's strictures to this definition, testimonial belief would never count as knowledge because the cognitive faculties of the believer in testimony never function properly.
Is that Prejean's position? If so, then how would he argue for such an ambitious claim?
Remember, too, that divine testimony is just a subgenre of testimony in general. So he would have to say that everyone without exception is in this impaired condition when he credits true testimony—whether the testimony is human or divine.
vii) Perhaps, though, Prejean rejects reliabilism as a sound theory of knowledge. If so, then he must present his arguments against reliabilism, as well as his arguments for his alternative epistemology.
Given his stated commitment to empiricism, it would seem self-defeating for him to reject reliabilism, but we will see.
Hays can't seem to avoid confusing knowledge with knowing that you know.This is one of Prejean's rearguard tactics. He habitually overplays his hand. I then point out some counterexamples to his overstatement. He then incorporates the distinctions that I myself drew his attention to into his new formulation, acts as if this was his own position all along, then accuses me of overlooking a key distinction when I was the one who had to introduce this distinction in the first place because he failed to do so.
Debating with Prejean is like debating with the Red Queen. He constantly resorts to retrocausation to backdate the ex post facto improvements in his argumentation as he retools his latest reply in light of prior criticism from me (and others).
The argument from prophecy and the argument from religious experience (assuming that means one's own internal mental state) are exactly what I have in mind by unjustified assertions of faith.i) At one level, there's nothing more that I need to say. Prejean claims to be an observant Roman Catholic. Yet he dismisses the argument from prophecy as an "unjustified assertion of faith," even though the argument from prophecy is deployed by NT writers, church fathers, and doctors of the church.
I understand why Prejean is such a high churchman After all, Prejean is a one-man church. And when you're a one-man church, it's very flattering to have a high ecclesiology. In that situation, promoting a high-church ecclesiology is a form of self-promotion.
ii) Beyond that, there's nothing for me to respond to, because all we get from Prejean is a bare denial. I'd just say that writers like Alec Motyer, John Sailhamer, R. T. France, O. Palmer Robertson, and T. Desmond Alexander have done excellent work in the field of messianic prophecy, to which Prejean's defiant disbelief is no counterargument, but merely another expression of his deep-seated impiety.
Then you have the weird way he equates the argument from religious experience with "one's own mental state." Where did he come up with that definition?
Is "experience" limited to "one's own mental state"? Religious experience is just a subset of experience in general. As one philosopher explains:
Let us define "experience" as simply an event or occurrence that one consciously lives through (whether as a direct participant or as an observer) and about which one has feelings, opinions, and memories.8Thus, religious experience would simply be the particular subset of those general events or occurrences that happen to be specifically religious in character. Of course, whether a given experience is, indeed, religious, is open to interpretation, but the way we classify any experience is open to interpretation. So this doesn't put a religious experience at any disadvantage.
I have no qualms about the historical content of the New Testament. What I have qualms about is that the historical content of the New Testament can justify faith; it cannot.Once more, where is the argument? All we get is Prejean's egotistical ipse dixit. He says, therefore it is.
Christianity is a revealed religion. God uses word-media and event-media to reveal himself. When you're dealing with a historical revelation, why wouldn't the historical content of that revelation be sufficient to justify faith?
History is the theater in which God chooses to disclose himself. The word is both a record of historical revelation, and the instantiation of historical revelation. For the Bible writers are, themselves, instrumental in redemptive history.
Actually, I think (i) is the case with respect to bodily anthropomorphism and (ii) with respect to mental anthropomorphism. I don't believe that they actually thought of God as having a body, although some might have. But it does seem that they thought of God as making decisions, having mental states, etc., in a human way that would be absurd upon rigorous metaphysical consideration. Normatively, we can give effect to the literal meaning by reading it as a true image, but not a literal affirmation (IOW, we deny that God has "thoughts" or "mental states," but we affirm the statements in the sense that they are analogously true, whether or not the author rigorously knew the philosophical bounds of metaphysical predication). By taking into account human limitations and divine properties, each known from natural theology, we know in what respect such affirmations are true (as descriptions of the human experience of God) and yet false if taken as if God Himself had made the statement. Our concept of inspiration, divine-human synergy, is therefore informed by natural theology; we distinguish the human and divine parts.This is a roundabout way of admitting that Scripture is errant. The OT authors really thought of God as making decisions, having mental states, &c., and so they really intended to predicate these properties to God in what they wrote, but we know better, so we don't have to literally affirm what they were literally affirming.
And if a Catholic can do this with Scriptural affirmations, he can do the same thing with Magisterium affirmations. He isn't bound by what a Pope or council intended to teach.
I call that an aside because ISTM that Hays is using the analogy in a far more basic way: just as stoplights don't ensure that people don't run them, so sola scriptura does not ensure the right conclusions. But that wasn't my objection in the first place. My objection was that sola scriptura can't say that conclusions are "right" without vicious circularity, self-justifying normative authority. Sola scriptura fails not only to ensure the right outcome but also to provide any rational justification for the normativity of any conclusion. Basically, it can't even say whether to stop or go, because its statements have no normative force. It's as if someone put up a stoplight without there being any laws on the books concerning stoplights.This is a string of assertions and denials absent a single supporting argument.
If "rule of faith" means "normative authority," then Scripture would have to specify what interpretive questions can be resolved and resolve all of the ones that can.i) Once again, Prejean is trying to impose one of his canned definitions of what something is supposed to mean or to do.
Is Scripture a "normative authority"? Yes. But that form of words is so generic that it can be developed in either a true or false direction.
ii) Does God ever tell us that a Scriptural rule of faith would have to specify what interpretive questions can be resolved and resolve all of the ones that can? No.
You notice that God is the very last person whom Prejean ever consults on theological questions. Instead, Prejean simply dictates what faith must be. Prejean simply dictates what a rule of faith must be. Prejean simply dictates what knowledge must be.
This isn't God speaking, but Prejean speaking. This isn't God telling us how things must be, but Prejean.
iii) Why is Scripture our rule of faith? Is it because Scripture specifies what interpretive questions can be resolved and resolves all of the resolvable questions? No. That's a made-up definition. A man-made definition. It lacks any revelatory force.
Rather, Scripture is the rule of faith for the straightforward reason that in Scripture alone God has definitively revealed our duties to him and to our fellow man. This includes our epistemic duties (i.e. what we are to believe or disbelieve) as well as our practical duties (i.e. what we are to do or refrain from doing).
Throughout Bible history, God holds his people answerable to his revealed Word. They are accountable to him through his Word. That is how God defines and delimits the scope of our religious rights and responsibilities.9
Moreover, the rational justification of normative authority can't be viciously circular. If you don't require these things of Scripture, then you are simply denying that it is rational for Scripture to be treated as a normative authority. Of course, you can give normative authority to whatever you want by a sheer act of will, but absent a rational basis, it's just as sensible as making your decisions based on the daily horoscope.Once more, Prejean is merely asserting that sola Scriptura is viciously circular. He is merely asserting that sola Scriptura lacks a rational basis. Ironically, Prejean offers no reasoned argument for his insistence on reason. He talks about Protestantism the way Hitchens or Dawkins talk about Christianity. All three wrap themselves in the cloak of rationalistic rhetoric, but the supporting arguments are missing in action.
Not to the extent they simply reflected the authors' philosophical limitations. Natural theology determines how we accept the intent of the author as normative.Why in the world should we accept this stipulation? And observe that this is all it is—just another one of Prejean's Olympian stipulations.
Does natural theology determine authorial intent? How could that possibly be? You don't invoke natural theology to determine the authorial intent of Willa Cather or Cordwainer-Smith, do you?
So if natural theology can't determine authorial intent, then in what respect can it determine how we accept authorial intent as normative? Does Prejean mean that natural theology determines whether authorial intent is true or false?
Put another way, is he distinguishing between the true intent of the author, and whether the authorial intent is true? An author may truly intend to say something that isn't true. He may think it's true, but we know it's false. And what is true is normative, while what is false is not.
But in application to Scripture, that would only be feasible if Scripture is errant, and the function of natural theology would then be to sort out the true affirmations of Scripture from the false affirmations of Scripture.
If that is Prejean's position, then his problem is not with sola Scriptura, but with Scripture, period.
If what natural theology determines is not true intent, but the truth (or falsity) of the intent (i.e. what the author intended to assert or deny by his words), then the function of natural theology is not to distinguish between a true or false interpretation of Scripture, but between a true or false assertion of Scripture. Rightly construed, the statement may be wrong.
His power to do otherwise clearly doesn't depend on choosing, for choosing requires objects, and the only object of God's choice is Himself, which is identical with His will and His knowledge. Indeed, it is precisely because of that property that He can create, meaning that it contradicts God's omnipotence to view God as "choosing" or exercising some power as between alternatives before Him.A couple of problems:
i) Prejean is invoking a particular (Thomististic) model of divine simplicity to determine that certain OT authors wrongly thought of God as making decisions, having mental states, etc.
But is Prejean's version of divine simplistic coherent? Does natural theology furnish us with enough specific information to formulate a detailed model of divine simplicity? To judge by both the traditional and contemporary debates,10 there is no revelation of divine simplicity that is simply given in nature—as if you can read if off of general revelation like a neon sign in the sky. Rather, the traditional versions (e.g. Aquinas) involve a highly speculative philosophical construct, which is very difficult to work out in detail consistent with a number of other things which Christian theologians want to affirm (or deny) with reference to God.11
If a promise is simply a verbal assurance about a future event, then surely there is something rather different about God's actual knowledge of the future versus ours.True, but irrelevant.
My point is that if one views a covenant as a promise TO DO something, then God clearly doesn't make promises in that sense.How is that clearly not the case? God issues a verbal assurance about a future event, and God effects the futurition of his verbal assurance. This is literally true.
They are promises only in the sense that God is entirely independent of creation and creation is entirely dependent on Him.While that's a decent definition of aseity, it is in no sense a definition of a promise.
What the covenant of Abraham literally translates to is that God as perfect goodness does not destroy the goodness that He produces. As a omnipotent promissor, God could be the ultimate cheater, because He could annihilate what He has created in some respect (like changing the past) without anyone knowing but Him (and even then, how can one break a promise to a nonexistent entity?). But we know as a matter of natural theology that God is good, and indeed, if He were not all-good, nothing would exist. Only infinite goodness can be a Creator, so we know that He will not negate the good He has created; He will respect His creation for the (finite) good intrinsically within it.Let's compare Prejean's gloss with the actual terms of the Abrahamic covenant:
Genesis 17:1-14 (NIV)Notice that Prejean's "translation" doesn't correspond in any respect to the specific terms of the Abrahamic covenant. You cannot even begin to extract his abstract gloss from the specifics of the text.
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. 2 I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers."
3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God."
9 Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."
This is a textbook example of what is wrong with Prejean's metaphysical filter. He simply uses the Bible as a cipher to swap in whatever natural theology—as he construes it—allows the text to say. And since natural theology is more generic than revealed theology, revealed theology is reduced to the generic level of natural theology when you filter it through the screen of natural theology. All of the historical details are skimmed off the top and washed down the drain.
Prejean's trifling treatment of the Abrahamic covenant is a perfect illustration of how his Catholicism leads to an utter contempt for God's word. He doesn't even make a gesture in the direction of exegeting this foundational text.
Literally, if it isn't obvious that God does not have an intellect in the sense that humans have an intellect or a will in the sense that humans have a will, I'm not sure how I can explain it.A straw man argument. "Obviously" we made allowance for the difference between God and man. I never said otherwise. Indeed, in this very thread, I've drawn various distinctions.
But that general consideration doesn't, of itself, justify Prejean in denying certain mental attributes to God without offering arguments specific to the attributes at issue—and then use that denial to negate God's self-revelation in Scripture.
For one thing, it's not possible for our will to be identical to our intellects and that to be identical to ourselves.Depends on what you mean by identity. What about the discarnate soul in the intermediate state?
But you've phrased it as an intention toward some scenario, and that clearly isn't possible.You keep using adjectives to do the work of arguments. You say that something is "clearly impossible," but you don't show it. Adjectives bake no bread.
That's not at all what St. Thomas had in mind with the divine ideas, which were modes of participation in the divine essence, not free-standing "scenarios."i) I'm more concerned with exegeting Scripture than Aquinas. To refer to what Aquinas had in mind is not argument for your position. It is merely a description of what Aquinas believed.
Alexander Pruss is a Catholic philosopher who subscribes to possible worlds. He combines elements of Leibniz and Aristotle in his philosophical synthesis.12 De Molina also believed in possible worlds. Catholic philosophical theology allows for possible worlds.
ii) You're also indulging in a straw man argument. I've already explained what I mean by possible worlds. Here I agree with Peter Geach—another Catholic philosopher—that a possible world is a synonym for divine omnipotence: for what God could possibly do.
That is far from being a "free-standing" scenario. Rather, it's an application of divine omniscience to divine omnipotence. This world doesn't exhaust what God is capable of doing. God knows what God can do. There is more than one thing that God can do.
When you keep ducking my actual position, as well as evincing your ignorance of Catholic philosophy, it doesn't bode well for you own position.
God's "idea" of us is relative to Him.Which does nothing to render passages like Num 23:19 and 1 Sam 15:29 anthropomorphic—especially when the explicit point of such passages is to accentuate the difference between God and man.
God doesn't need "beings of reason" for His knowledge either.Irrelevant since I never said otherwise.
Why? And in what sense are these things causes? It seems to me that they cause nothing, that ordinary providence is the only cause.Is Prejean an occasionalist? Why are seed-bearing trees not a cause of other seed-bearing trees? That's the very purpose of seed-bearing trees. By seeding the ground, they cause other seed-bearing trees to exist.
No, the problem is that you HAVEN'T given an account. Why is Scripture authoritative?Prejean is changing the subject. His original objection was to the very idea of divine speech. Whether or not divine speech (i.e. Scripture) is authoritative is a separate question from whether or not divine speech is anthropomorphic. Prejean can't keep track of his own argument.
I gave an account of how the concept of divine speech is literal rather than anthropomorphic, and I did that because that is how Prejean chose to frame the issue. So my answer was directly responsive to his original challenge.
And why is Scripture's description normative?i) Once again, Prejean keeps losing his own train of thought. His original objection was that the very idea of divine speech as inherently anthropomorphic.
I responding by showing the various ways in which Scripture describes the concrete modes and circumstances of divine speech. And there's nothing inherently anthropomorphic in the scriptural modalities of divine communication.
Indeed, the fact that Prejean keeps changing the subject is a tactic admission that my explanation was a successful reply to his original objection.
Whether he regards the Scriptural descriptions as normative or not is irrelevant to the question—which, remember, was his question—of whether the very idea of divine speech is intrinsically anthropomorphic. Prejean is now trying to shift the question from the definition of divine speech—whether literal or anthropomorphic—to the truth of the definition: Is the definition normative?
ii) That's a different question. He's welcome to ask that question, but when he uses a new question as a decoy to deflect attention away from the failure of his original objection, I reserve the right to hold him to his words until he does the honorable thing and withdraws his original objection.
It's got nothing to do with my position. Everybody's got to start from the ground up in justification, and to the extent that the justification is incompatible, everybody's got to make an argument for his. I believe in angels, prophets, and visions because I believe the authority of the Church, and the Church says that there are. Period. Finito. I've never seen an angel, a prophet, or a vision myself. If the Church didn't tell me that Scripture was inspired, I wouldn't know it.This raises more questions than it answers.
i) Is he saying that there's absolutely no internal evidence for the inspiration of Scripture? Or is he saying the internal evidence is less than compelling?
ii) How does he know that what the Church tells him is true? Why does he believe the Church?
Is it because he believes in the inspiration of the Church? But inspiration is not a sensible property.
Prejean has never seen the Holy Spirit. He may believe the Holy Spirit is guiding his church into all truth, but he has never seen the Holy Spirit guiding the church of Rome. He may believe in baptismal regeneration, but he has never seen the Holy Spirit in the font. He may believe in the real presence, but he has never seen Jesus in a wafer. He has never seen the unction of the Nicene Fathers or the Tridentine Fathers or the charism of a pope speaking ex cathedra.
Nope. I think those things by and large happened, but only because the Church says that they did. If the Church didn't say so, I certainly wouldn't.i) So he "by and large" agrees with Scripture.
ii) Notice that this denial is far stronger than the previous one. He previously said that he wouldn't know if Scripture is true unless the Church vouched for Scripture.
Now, however, he admits that he wouldn't even believe it (i.e. "think" it's true). Indeed, that he would most certainly disbelieve it. He wouldn't "know" it's true, and he wouldn't even "think" it's true. Rather, he'd deem it to be false.
So Prejean's denomination is the only thing standing between him and rank infidelity. Indeed, Prejean already has far less faith in Scripture than a heretic like Isaac Newton.
Prejean has no faith in Scripture. None whatsoever. He puts all his faith in his particular denomination. His attitude towards Scripture in and of itself is openly and frankly faithless.
This corroborates the point I've been making all along: for Prejean, the Word of God has no inherent authority or even inherent credibility. Rather, this is artificially conferred on Scripture by an outside body.
Compare this to the attitude of the OT prophet, who recalls Israel to the Mosaic covenant. Compare this to the attitude of Christ and the apostles, who constantly invoke the OT scriptures to prove a point.
Imagine John the Baptist telling his audience: "Hey, unless a pope or ecumenical council vouches for the Old Testament, there's no reason to think those stories are true. Heck, apart from the papacy, you and I would certainly think they never took place!"
If there is some identity being asserted between the speech itself and some conceptual content in God's "mind," then it surely is anthropomorphic.As usual, Prejean is using an adjective ("surely") in lieu of an argument. With Prejean, adjectives to all the heavy-lifting.
Whether or not it's anthropomorphic depends on the nature of the identity. For example, a prophet, under divine inspiration, is speaking those words, and only those words, that God intends him to speak and causes him to speak. That's the point of identity.
If the term is being used analogously, so that it isn't "speech" in the sense that we "speak," then it's not. The question is whether the idea preserves divine transcendence in the sense that God "speaks" or "acts" only in an analogous sense.He speaks by inspiring speakers. Their words are the words he inspired them to speak. So he speaks indirectly, via the medium of the human speaker.
That is not analogous to speech. Rather, it's the distinction between direct and indirect action, cause and effect. God is effecting speech in the person of the speaker which exactly corresponds to what God intends the speaker to say. The speaker is speaking on behalf of God, and he says just what God inspires him to say. He is God's mouthpiece.
In Catholicism, the proximate object of faith is the Church. We perceive by faith that the Church actually DOES something in consecrating the Eucharist, ordaining Her priests, and the like."Perceive by faith"? What does that actually mean?
i) Does it merely mean you take it on faith? But you presumably mean something strong than that.
ii) Do you mean "perceive" in the sense of some altered state of consciousness, like a mystical rapture? But that can't be what you mean, since most Catholics aren't contemplatives.
iii) Do you mean some spiritual form of ESP? Define your terms.
iv) Yes, you can physically perceive your church perform sacramental rites. But while you can hear the priest utter the words of consecration, you don't perceive transubstantiation. And you don't perceive holy orders conferring an indelible mark on the soul of the ordinand. All you actually perceive is the sensible action, and not the spiritual dynamic which you attribute to those actions.
It is that knowledge from which we draw other conclusions. Where do you get the knowledge from which you evaluate theological truths? The only way that you could give normative authority to Scripture in that way is if you actually witnessed it being inspired. Now, it might be that you were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, meaning that you have the supernatural gift of faith and that it is possible that you could have perceived something or another at some point. But because you have no rational epistemology, you could never make such beliefs explicit or rationally justify them.i) If you think that's the basis of a rational epistemology, then we're both in the same sinking boat—for just as I don't "actually witness inspiration," you don't actually witness the real presence or transubstantiation or baptismal regeneration or the charism of the Nicene Fathers. All you yourself actually witness are words and rituals. Externals.
ii) How does your appeal to a "spiritual faculty of perception" differ from the Protestant appeal to the inner witness of the Spirit?
On the contrary, they testify of the same sort of direct experience of the apostolic succession. They have the same basis I do: the Church.You don't have a "direct experience" of apostolic succession. Not even close.
i) Assuming for the sake of argument that apostolic succession is true, it's being going on for 2000 years. That's long before you were born. For you to have a direct experience of apostolic succession, you would have to be an eyewitness, in time and place, to every link in the chain.
Remember, Prejean is an empiricist. For him, all knowledge comes from the five senses.
Or does it? He talks out of both sides of his mouth on that question. He's an empiricist when he's attacking the Protestant rule of faith, but he's a mystic when he's defending the Catholic rule of faith.
ii) The distant past is not an object of "direct experience." At best, it's only an object of indirect experience. What you know about the past, or think you know about the past, is mediated by its present effects, or testimonial evidence about the past.
iii) And even if, for the sake of argument, Prejean were an eyewitness to every link in the chain, that would be a necessary, rather than insufficient condition. At most, Prejean would only be an eyewitness to papal elections, priestly ordinations, episcopal investitures, and so on.
He would witness the outward phenomenon of apostolic succession. But what he wouldn't observe is the grace of holy orders. He wouldn't observe the spiritual transfer of apostolic prerogatives from one incumbent to another. He could see the means of grace, but he couldn't see the grace of the means. The charism is invisible, inaudible, and intangible.
iv) Perhaps Prejean would claim that he can, in fact, experience the charism. Or experience the effect of the charism. Or experience sacramental grace.
But how does he connect cause and effect? It's not like watching one billiard ball strike another billiard ball and move it into a side pocket.
Prejean may attribute an inward grace to an outward sign, but how does he perceive that connection? What tangible evidence does he have to identify one with the other?
A Lutheran, on a Lutheran interpretation, would simply invoke his prooftexts for baptismal regeneration or the real presence. God, in his Word, has assigned this value to the sacraments.
But for Prejean, that appeal is "groundless," "irrational," and "viciously circular" since it lacks a "proximate object" to "ground" it. For Prejean, the church is the proximate object. For Prejean, the church is grounding this connection.
But this assumes the sacraments are means of grace. And it also assumes that the church (e.g. his denomination) has valid sacraments to dispense.
How does he avoid vicious circularity in establishing that claim? He can't appeal to the authority of the church, for this assumes that the church already has valid means of grace. What is grounding that assumption?
v) Going back to (i), how does Prejean deal with Simoniacal papal elections? Are Simoniacal elections valid or invalid? If invalid, do they invalidate apostolic succession? I could broach a number of related questions, but let's stick with that one for now.
It's a pretty simple claim in the end: (1) Jesus commissioned people to act as He Himself, members of His own Body, and to commission other people to do so; (2) there are still people today so commissioned acting as Christ Himself in their respective capacities; and (3) we know that they are acting in this manner by the supernatural faculty of faith, that allows us to perceive and know spiritual things. You might accept that claim; you might reject it. But it is at least a coherent claim regarding how one knows revelation. My point would be that we can readily discard any Christian claims that don't provide such a basis, including at least your version of Protestantism, and restrict ourselves to those claims that at least make a colorable claim of divine action actually traceable to Jesus.i) With respect to (1), let us grant Prejean's interpretation for the sake of argument.
a) How does he know that Jesus commissioned people to act on his behalf, and to commission successors? What is his source of information?
It can't very well be the Bible, because he has already scotched a direct appeal to Scripture at this preliminary stage of the argument. It would be "absurd" to start with Scripture. Rather, unless the church vouches for Scripture, he wouldn't believe the Biblical witness to the church.
b) And it can't be patristic testimony, because that would only be a probable argument ("probable opinion"), which, according to Prejean, is insufficient to warrant either faith or knowledge.
Moreover, the very classification of a "church father" presumes the authority of the church.
ii) With reference to (2), how does he establish that continuity?
iii) Notice how he abandons his empiricism when he gets to (3). He doesn't need to see an angel or a vision. He doesn't need to hear God speaking to Moses. For he has a "spiritual faculty" which enables him to "perceive" "spiritual things." Sounds a lot like the "idealism" he falsely imputes me and then proceeds to scorn.
iv) How does he "trace" divine action all the way back to Jesus? What is the trace evidence for divine action? And since Prejean wasn't there, every step of the way, how does his "spiritual faculty" "perceive" the past? How does it perceive every link in the chain?
No, I have faith in Scripture. I just don't have faith in Scripture inherently, as if my faith in Scripture were not dependent on my faith in the Church.The reason the law "works" is that a judicial interpretation can be wrong, and still be legally binding. The authority of a judicial opinion doesn't depend on whether the interpretation is correct. A judicial misinterpretation is just as authoritative as a correct judicial interpretation. Indeed, a higher court can overrule a correct interpretation, and impose a misinterpretation. Yet that is still the law of the land in terms of case law.
Difference of opinion is not anarchy. People have differences of opinion over how exactly to interpret some or another law, particularly in certain applications, and the law still works. If there were no law but what each person considered to be the law, it would be a different situation entirely.
But that is quite inadequate in faith and morals. Whether a dogma is true or false makes all the difference. So Prejean's judicial comparison falls far short of what is needed to prove the point.
The only basis for knowing the Scripture is the Word of God is the Church.You're evading my original question. To repeat: Why does Catholicism appeal to Biblical prooftexts like Mt 16:18 or 1 Tim 3:15 if the Bible has no authority outside the church? Isn't the point of this appeal to validate the claims of Rome? But if the Bible has no authority outside the church, then the appeal is viciously circular.
You lied about both what I said and what Geach said, and you're continuing to do it with the statement that I "fell into the popular fallacy of treating all tu quoque arguments as fallacious." First, tu quoque arguments are just plain fallacious as a defense unless the positions being held are identical. Second, Geach did not license all tu quoque or ad hominem arguments or even deny that they were fallacious; he licensed tu quoque or ad hominem arguments that were directed to demonstrating the inconsistency of the person's belief.i) Geach says:
Ad hominem arguments are not just a way of wining a dispute: a logically sound ad hominem argument does a service, even if an unwelcome one, to its victim.13i) If, according to Geach, some ad hominem arguments are "logically sound arguments," then he does deny that ad hominem arguments fallacies. Some are, some aren't.
You, however, didn't draw that distinction in your original denial. Instead, you've been trying to cover your tracks every since, and every time you try, you lay down a new set of tracks.
ii) You're also trying recast the original issue, which is another backdoor admission that you were wrong, and continue to flail about in hopes of saving face. I never said that Geach was licensing all ad hominem arguments. And given a choice, I prefer saving faith to saving face.
It's actually the whole idea of the rule of faith from the Catholic perspective; that's the point of this whole thing. Considering that Aristotelico-Thomism is the only philosophical system given official papal endorsement and considering that this is what practically every Catholic I know has in mind with respect to the vicious circularity of sola scriptura, one would think that you might actually want to answer Catholic objections stemming from this philosophy.Fine. Show me a text in Aristotle where he says that sola Scriptura is viciously circular, and I'll be happy to respond. I never knew that Aristotle was that prescient. I'm mightily impressed that he could foresee the Reformation.
From that perspective, the people you cited are all wrong and irrational in their beliefs; Maritain goes after Leibniz and Poincare specifically. More to the point, perhaps, I'm not sure that any of them held your view on Scriptural authority.Once again, you can't follow your own argument. The question at issue wasn't sola Scriptura, but empiricism.
Yes, and Hume was obviously wrong about this.Observe, once again, what passes for argument in Prejean. Hume was "obviously wrong"—end of story.
I cite Hume because Prejean is an empiricist while Hume himself was a paradigmatic empiricist who draws attention to the sceptical consequences of empiricism. There's nothing for me to respond to since Prejean offers no argument to the contrary.
You're simply begging the question on whether knowledge is knowledge of reality.Since I never denied that knowledge is knowledge of reality, I'm begging no question. The question at issue was whether something like a hallucination counts as veridical perception of reality—which I deny, but Prejean affirms.
I consider the statement that natural revelation is distinct from natural theology to be senseless. What is your argument for their distinction?My you're muddleheaded. Natural revelation is mute. Inarticulate. It doesn't come to us in prefabricated propositions. Rather, what we take to be natural revelation must be analyzed and verbalized. It's like the difference between scientific evidence and a scientific theory. The raw evidence is not a theory. Rather, a theory is an interpretation of the evidence.
Non sequitur. This is the gratuitous assumption of idealism. Competing models of science simply mean that someone has erred, and this error will in turn be detected based on our direct knowledge of reality.i) What's the source of scientific error in the first place? Well, aside from agenda-driven science (e.g. naturalistic evolution), our lack of direct access to reality is the source of scientific error. The scientist can only observe a thin slice of reality. He cannot directly observe the past. He cannot observe the future at all. Some objects are too small to directly observe while other objects are too small to even indirectly observe. Some objects are too far away to direct observe, while other objects are too far away to even indirectly observe.
Apart from ESP, we can only perceive what we can sense, and our senses are limited. Even though it's possible to technologically enhance our natural senses, this information must ultimately be fed back into our natural sensory relays.
Which brings us to the process of sensory perception itself—whereby the scientific object of knowledge is removed from the subject of knowledge by several steps, viz. distal stimulus>proximal stimulus>percept.
ii) Indeed, the very notion of modeling reality presumes that reality is not directly accessible, for if you have the real deal, then a model is superfluous.
Moreover, the category "special revelation" must itself be grounded in some knowledge of reality.That's true up to a point, but it's also simplistic and reversible. Since special revelation is referential, you need to know something about the world it refers to to know what it's referring to.
But by the same token, you also need know special revelation to know some things about the world. The world isn't self-interpreting.
Meaning that natural theology regulates this definition as well.
i) Due to your theological ignorance, you're committing a level-confusion. Natural revelation is to special revelation as natural theology is to revealed theology.
ii) Apropos (i), natural theology isn't prior to special revelation. Natural theology is, itself, an uninspired interpretation of that slice of reality which falls under its purview (i.e. natural revelation). Natural theology attempts to form propositions about natural theology from the natural evidence.
By contrast, special revelation is generally a form of verbal revelation. It already comes to us in propositional form. So we can use special revelation in the interpretation of natural revelation. In that respect, special revelation is prior to natural revelation.
Say "certain knowledge" in place of "preconception," and you have grasped the argument. Revelation is muzzled by the law of non-contradiction; if it contradicts reality, it is not revelation.There's a grain of truth to this, but it's terribly naïve.
The distinction between reality and perception of reality is spurious; there are no differences between the two.So, according to Prejean, mountains and hills really are smaller at a distance. As I get closer to a hill, it actually grows. After all, I can "see" it getting bigger, and the distinction between appearance and reality is "spurious."
EVERY perception reports on reality. Hallucinatory experiences certainly DO map onto reality; it's not a "problem" for anyone.If a man who's tripping out on acid leaps from a skyscraper because he thinks he can fly, then it seems to me that that's a looming problem for him. He will map his brains right onto the reality of the pavement.
Speaking for myself, I generally avoid falling objects, and I guess it's the "idealist" in me that dons a hard hat when I hear about someone mapping his hallucinatory experience onto reality.
I cheerfully concede "radical empiricism," and I consider it the only possible rational position.Fine, I'll meet you downstairs when you join your fellow "realist" on the sidewalk. And before the splatter-fest begins, what stain-remover would you recommend to get the red of the concrete?
Being precedes knowing.Which I never denied. But this doesn't mean that the order of knowing mirrors the order of being.
Hays's attempt to escape the consequences of his idealism by resort to nonsense (innate ideas) or unjustified appeals to special revelation won't do.Once again, this is what passes for argument in Prejean. I have made a case for both positions. To say that one is "nonsense" while the other is "unjustified" is not a counterargument. An adjective is not an argument. A denial is not a disproof.
That's what Hays apparently just doesn't grasp; most Thomists would dismiss all of these appeals to idealism out of hand.Once again, that is not an argument. Rather, it's a tendentious appeal to authority. If Prejean wants to treat Aquinas as an authority-figure whose epistemology demands instant submission, then he needs to makes a case for his operating assumption.
Thomism 101: all abstract knowledge comes from knowing concrete particulars in an immaterial mode. The grasp of quantity isn't innate; it's the most basic aspect of any existing thing that we might encounter, and we know quantity immediately upon knowing anything else.Summarizing Thomism is not an argument. It's merely a description. You would still need a supporting argument to show how the position you summarize is, indeed, correct. Aquinas was a great philosophical theologian, so he's always entitled to a respectful hearing, but merely citing his opinion on this or that is not the same thing as reproducing his argument. Prejean is a very lazy debater.
The relation between those tones is perceived by mathematical reasoning coming straight from having abstracted quantity from the things that you perceive. In effect, mathematics is immaterially knowable in everything that exists. To deny this is to deny certain knowledge; it's that simple.Throughout this thread, Prejean says a lot of things are "simple." Well, the issues are simple of you have a shallow grasp of the issues.
Prejean continues to miss the point of my original illustration. The process of abstraction generalizes from a sampling of concrete instances. But by the same token, the generalization is not something over and above the concrete evidence on which it is based. You can't get more out of a sensation than you can detect in the original signal.
In terms of sheer sensation, we do not hear a clock strike four. All we hear are discrete tonal particulars. You cannot abstract a set or series of tones from what you hear, because that relation isn't given in what you actually hear. You can only abstract what is given in the raw experience. You don't hear four of something. Four isn't given in the tones. All you hear is sound. And the sense of continuity between one sound and another isn't given in the auditory stimulus itself.
Many lower animals have acute hearing. Many insects can hear a grandfather clock. But an insect will never register that a timepiece is striking four o'clock. That's because the percipient must be able to bring something to the sensation. Otherwise, the percipient would be unable to recognize that discrete emissions of sound exemplify a mathematical pattern.
Both a man and a dog can hear a message in Morse code, but only a man can apprehend the discrete auditory units as a coded message.
But yes, it's true that one can't know anything by reading about it. You might believe it, but you don't know it. On the other hand, I am not skeptical about the Church. I know it; I don't just think that I do.So how does Prejean know anything about "the Church"? Not by reading papal encyclicals or church fathers or Aquinas or the Catechism. For Prejean, none of that rises to the level of knowledge. Just opinion.
I think the people described in the Bible had good reasons for thinking that Scripture was the Word of God. I think that anyone who has faith in the Church since then does as well. What I have trouble understanding is how one could have faith in what someone says about something else without having some concrete knowledge to back it up. That doesn't strike me as a "logical extreme" so much as a basic consequence of what knowledge is. Ultimately, we actually know only what we verify through our own experience; nothing on which we take anyone's word is knowledge. If that's skepticism, then I hardly know why; it seems like exactly the opposite: confidence in one's knowledge to the point that one need not trust another without justification.i) The whole point of testimonial evidence is that you and I aren't eyewitnesses to everything we believe. If we could corroborate everything a witness says, we wouldn't need his testimony in the first place.
Even where corroboration is concerned, it is generally reasonable to believe a witness in areas where you can't verify his testimony if he's proven himself to be reliable in areas where you can verify his testimony. Prejean wouldn't have any friends left if he demanded corroboration for everything they say.
And even apart from corroboration, there are some basic principles of human psychology. Although a witness may lie, he will lie if he has a motive to lie. Likewise, although a witness may make an honest mistake, there are specific conditions that trigger his error. So even apart from corroboration, it is reasonable to believe a witness unless we have evidence to the contrary. Put another way, it's unreasonable to go around doubting everything everyone says absent corroboration.
Let's take a personal anecdote that comes to mind. A while back, Victor Reppert said on his blog that Robert Adams was a universalist. Now, I knew that his wife is a universalist, but I didn't know that Robert was. So I emailed Reppert. He mailed me back and said that Robert personally told him that he was a universalist.
Now, I haven't emailed Robert Adams to confirm Reppert's story. I simply believe Reppert's account. Why shouldn't I? I have no reason to think that Reppert is either a liar or mistaken. If Reppert tells me that Bob Adams told him that, then that's good enough for me.
Prejean, by contrast, espouses a philosophy of presumptive scepticism. Yet it's impossible to live that way.
ii) It also makes a difference whether you operate with a theistic worldview or an atheistic worldview. We couldn't function in a world where we were systematically distrustful of what everyone tells us. But if God is our Creator, then it must be possible for human beings, as social creatures, to function.
If, on the other hand, you're an atheist, then there's no guarantee that your fellow primates can ever be trusted. Prejean acts as if he's living in a Kafkaesque world where everyone is under suspicion. I pity his paranoia.
How many locks does he have on his door? And does he also suspect the locksmith? Does he trust his local butcher to sell him uncontaminated meat? Or does he hire a food taster? And does he also suspect the food taster? Perhaps the butcher and the food taster are in collusion to poison poor old Jonathan.
I have faith that the Church does divine acts. I've been present when they were worked. It's that simple.The problem with your "simple" explanation is that you never actually see the church do divine acts: you only see the church performing acts which you ascribe to divine agency. You see the church doing a lot of things, but you never see the church doing divine acts. You're confounding perception with interpretation.
If the Church doesn't do divine acts, and indeed, if anyone doesn't do divine acts, then you shouldn't accept his testimony of divine revelation. Simple, logical rule.This is akin to the traditional argument from miracles. Up to a point, I have no problem with that argument. However, there are some problems with his appeal:
i) The argument from miracles is a probabilistic argument. Yet Prejean rejects probabilities as sufficient to underwrite faith or knowledge.
ii) The evidence for God's existence or presence or approval isn't limited to miracles. There's a sense in which everything that happens is ultimately an act of God, whether mediate or immediate. So Prejean's appeal is too indiscriminate.
Since you like Hume so much, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.Several issues:
i) I never said I was a big fan of Hume. I was merely answering you on your own grounds. Since you're an empiricist, I'm drawing attention to the sceptical consequences of empiricism according to Hume, who was a paradigmatic empiricist.
I, by contrast, am not an empiricist—although I affirm the possibility of sense knowledge. But if all knowledge must come through the senses, then we can't know anything—including sense knowledge.
ii) As I've explained on many occasions, such as my review of TET, and my exchanges with Jon Curry, I reject the facile, rhetorical slogan that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.
I believe that God has made His divine acts accessible to people today, knowable by faith, to prove His Son's claims. If He didn't, I wouldn't believe them. It's that simple.What is Prejean referring to? Sacraments? Miracles?
ii) And notice the weasel words "knowable by faith." But, presumably, an empiricist doesn't need any faith to know something. Rather, seeing is believing. Isn't that what Prejean has been telling us all along?
It doesn't take any faith to see something or hear something. So if the evidence is sensible evidence, then faith is superfluous.
Conversely, if you need faith, then you don't know it. Not as Prejean has defined faith and knowledge. You would only need an act of faith if you couldn't see it or hear it or taste it or touch it. You would only need an act of faith if the evidence were supersensible rather than sensible.
Witnessing the concrete results of divine acts.You can witness the concrete results, but how do you know that these are the results of divine acts? You're not going to get that from empiricism.
They do so by starting from certain knowledge, actually knowing by faith that the Church does divine acts. There's no "weak link;" they actually know this even if they don't know that they know.i) Here's that question-begging phrase again: they "know by faith." But how do they know by faith that the church does divine acts? And how can Prejean make this abrupt jump from hardnosed empiricism to sheer subjectivism?
ii) I'd also reiterate my earlier question: If Catholics can know something "by faith," then why can't a Protestant invoke the inner witness of the Spirit?
If the Church supplies the "proximate object" of "knowledge by faith," then why can't Scripture supply the proximate object of the inner witness?
Objective identity between knower and known establishes a certain ontological connection. There aren't any weak links either in object or subject; people know it even if they don't know that they know.Everything except an argument. Someone needs to dispatch a bloodhound to locate all of Prejean's missing arguments.
I beg to differ on several grounds. First, the conflict is over the normative status of the meaning of Scripture. The truth of Scripture is simply a conclusion on its normativity, because it isn't ordinarily being independently verified in every proposition.Wrong. Truth doesn't follow from meaning. False statements can be meaningful. Indeed, it's only because they're meaningful that we can tell if they're false.
But if Scripture is true, then whatever it means is true. Hence, normativity follows from truth. If it's true, then whatever it means is true, in which case, whatever it means is normative. So you have things exactly backwards.
One knows that Alice in Wonderland is fiction by juxtaposing felinity and invisibility and making a judgment that there is no conformity between the two concepts as known in real things.i) A straw man argument since my argument wasn't predicated on how one knows that Alice in Wonderland is fictitious. I merely cited a fictitious work to illustrate the difference between a true statement and a true interpretation of a statement, whether or not the statement itself is true (or false).
ii) Someone who regards hallucinations as veridical reports is in no position to question the reality of the White Rabbit or the Cheshire Cat. Indeed, if I were the White Rabbit, I'd sue Jonathan for defamation of character.
On second thought, this assumes that Jonathan Prejean is a real person. From the White Rabbit's point of view, Prejean is a pulp fictional storybook character. After all, the White Rabbit has no personal experience of Prejean. He has never seen Prejean. Perhaps, though, the White Rabbit has a "spiritual faculty" that enables him to know Prejean "by faith."
Third, this notion of natural theology as a "prism" begs the question on idealism. On Thomist grounds, there is no "prism" between knowledge and reality; knowledge of reality is immediate. If it's knowledge of reality, then all judgments about reality must conform to it.i) And appealing to Thomism begs the question in favor of Thomism.
ii) Moreover, I'm obviously not begging the question since I've actually argued for my distinction.
There's no abandonment of the GHM inherent in the acceptance of allegorical substitutions and anachronistic reinterpretation (all typology with respect to future events is inherently anachronistic, for example). I will freely concede that the inspired meaning is not limited to the author's intent.Prejean's remark about typology confuses sense and reference. Typology is future-oriented, but what the fulfillment supplies is not new meaning, but the historical referent. Indeed, it's precisely because the meaning is fixed in the past that we can identify the future referent when it comes to pass.
I know it by faith, so I know of no way to convey that knowledge to you. It's a spiritual faculty, and just as I can't give a blind man eyesight, I can't give you the power to know spiritual things.Is Jonathan a Catholic or a Quaker? How is his appeal to a "spiritual faculty" different from the Quaker appeal to the "inner light," or Benny Hinn's appeal to spiritual discernment?
Prejean the "empiricist" goes on and on about "grounding" faith and knowledge in a "proximate object" to avoid "idealism," but at the end of the day he retreats into his "spiritual faculty," which enables him to "know by faith" what he cannot see or hear.
Now I myself don't have any particular objection to the idea of a "spiritual faculty" or "knowledge by faith." But it's special pleading when Prejean affirms for himself what he denies to me. And it's compounded by the fact that he puts on a strong, empiricist front—only to take refuge into subjectivism as soon as his empiricism comes under fire.
Patristic testimony can at best support probable opinion that the proximate object of their faith was the same as the one today. There's nothing wrong with probable opinion, but it can't provide certain knowledge.To say that Patristic testimony is, "at best," "probable opinion," is far more problematic for a Catholic apologist than it is for me, as a Protestant.
I have actual knowledge by faith that Christ actually subsists in the Catholic Church, and since I know Christ, I can rationally accept His testimony.This is a profession of faith, not a reasoned argument.
Except that I didn't attack the inerrancy of Scripture. What I attacked was any construction of Scriptural inerrancy in which the intent of Biblical authors is allowed to conflict with reality in any way.i) No, he did more than that. He imputed a false authorial intent to the OT writers.
ii) But even if we accept his disclaimer, he denies the authority of God's word, for he will not permit the word of God to speak to the nature of reality.
If a literal assertion on the part of a Biblical author conflicts with reality, then we are compelled to limit the assertion of that author to what he himself was capable of asserting, some description of his own experience or knowledge, for example.Notice how Kantian this is. The Bible is no longer descriptive of the real world. Although it apparently refers to the external world, this is merely a psychological description of the author's introspective experience.
And absent some grounding in one's real knowledge of nature and sorts of activity, it would be just as unreasonable to take such a claim at face value. If Hemingway claims he is God, then it isn't reasonable for me to accept that claim absent some basis in certain knowledge for that claim. Moreover, it wouldn't be irrational to withhold judgment even now, precisely because one doesn't know for a fact. By admitting that the argument isn't compelling, Hays shows the rationality of his own position by licensing agnosticism. Lastly, is Hays claiming that he believes Scripture is the Word of God or that he knows it? Because quite frankly, I would think it ridiculous to accept anyone's word that God authored something if even the person making the claim didn't know it for a fact.Now Prejean is being obtuse. On the other hand, I didn't say the self-witness of Scripture was a sufficient argument. What I said, rather, it that the self-witness of Scripture is an element in the overall argument. If something doesn't even claim to be divine revelation, we would have no occasion to consider its revelatory claims.
For example, if the Koran or the Book of Mormon didn't claim to be inspired, it wouldn't even be a contender.
On the other hand, I also didn't say the self-witness of Scripture was the only argument for the inspiration of Scripture. Since it isn't the sole argument, it needn't be sufficient all by itself.
And Hays accuses me of a priorism? Personally, I would expect God to give me more than a probable opinion if He actually expected me to believe that it was God's own communication.i) Prejean's expectation is a textbook example of apriorism.
ii) There is also a difference between probable evidence and a probable argument. Due to human limitations, it's often impossible to exhaustively capture all the evidence for something in a compact argument.
If I had to figure it out by authorship claims and reading through ever self-proclaimed work of divine origin, I would certainly be inclined to draw the counter-inference that God didn't intend to communicate through ANY of them. The simpler explanation is to expect that God doesn't communicate in this fashion at all absent some certain knowledge to the contrary.i) There are two kinds of self-proclaimed works of divine origin:
a) The Bible
b) The sacred literature of Christian cults and Christian heresies that imitate the Bible (e.g. the Gospel of Thomas, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, Arcana Coelestia).
So it isn't all that difficult to sort out.
ii) Why wouldn't we expect false prophets?
This is doubly false, in that divine self-ascription is neither necessary nor sufficient to make a document "a candidate for divine revelation."I never said it was strictly necessary—much less sufficient. Yet it would seem to be a practical necessity. If Isaiah never called himself a prophet, and if he never told us that he was delivering a message from God, then we would have precious little reason to even consider him a divinely-chosen spokesman.
In principle, something could be inspired, and never say so, but what would be the point of an inspired document if no one knew about it? If God is going to communicate a message to the human race, wouldn't we expect him to identify himself as the speaker, whether in his own person or via a spokesman?
What does Prejean find so objectionable about this utterly common sense argument? Prejean is so blinded by his reflexive dislike of the Protestant faith that he takes leave of his senses and attacks anything, however reasonable and undeniable, if it's tainted by association with the Protestant faith.
Hays's approach is illogical from the start. The logical way to start is to first identify what is known about God (i.e., natural theology) and judge claims of divine revelation based on their consistency with that knowledge.i) And how do we judge claims of divine revelation if no such claims are made in the first place?
ii) Notice that, for him, natural theology is the only source of knowledge about God. This is why Prejean is a deist at heart. He has the same epistemology as Tindal. Begin with "Natural Religion." Only accept the Bible to the degree that the Bible replicates the tenets of "Natural Religion."
Hays has made some outrageous claims in his day, but this is probably the most gratuitous I have ever heard. It's just as plausible to accept claims of divine authorship as that Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms? There's nothing less reasonable about a claim of divine authorship than human authorship, despite everyone's overwhelming personal experience with human authorship and complete lack of experience with divine authorship?Prejean's persistent density does nothing to further his cause. Did I ever say: It's just as plausible to accept claims of divine authorship as that Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms? No. This is what I said:
So the self-witness of Scripture is quite germane to the overall case for the inspiration of Scripture. The self-witness of Scripture is not a sufficient reason to believe that Scripture is what it says it is, but it's no more unreasonable to take that claim as your starting point than it is to begin with Hemingway as the stated author of A Farewell to Arms.So I said it's a preliminary step ("starting point") in an "overall" argument. If, at a garage sale, I bought an unfinished manuscript of a novel with Hemingway's name on it, that would be a starting point to verify or falsify the attribution. If it were an anonymous manuscript, I'd ignore it. Given the ascription, the next step is to take the manuscript to a Hemingway scholar.
The "traditional argument from prophecy" doesn't actually prove that Scripture is inspired. It could only, at best, prove that particular statements were inspired. It's not a proof of inspiration; it's a confirmation that one's existing belief in inspiration is not unreasonable. It doesn't provide a reason to believe in inspiration in the first place.Prejean has a very atomistic notion of what the argument from prophecy amounts to—reflecting his self-imposed ignorance of the exegetical literature. And he's also at odds with practice of the church fathers, medieval theologians, and Counter-Reformation theologians who don't share his scepticism.
Except that one ordinarily judges the veracity of historical claims based on experience (indeed, there is no other way to judge veracity), so one has no basis for the judgment of reliability with respect to these sorts of claims.What is that supposed to mean, anyway? You judge the veracity of historical claims about Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great by your personal experience? Experience of what? Certainly not your personal experience of Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great.
Suppose we applied Prejean's strictures to the papacy. How many of the popes did he personally experience? How does he judge the reliability of the record (of papal history) absent personal experience?
Indeed, the judgment that they are "generally in a position to know what they're talking about" is based on your common knowledge of experience and one's knowledge of the universality of human nature. And the judgment that "they generally have no motive to deceive" is purely probable, and it would be completely rational to withhold judgment on that point absent a compelling demonstration to the contrary.So it would be "completely rational" for me to assume that Prejean is a liar, that every Pope is a liar, that every Nicene Father or Tridentine Father is a liar. After all, the presumption that they have no motive to deceive is a "purely probable" judgment, and it would be "completely rational to withhold judgment on that point absent a compelling demonstration to the contrary."
At this point, Prejean can't very well fallback on the "proximate object" of the church, for the church is inseparable from the popes and bishops who allegedly embody apostolic succession and allegedly administer valid sacraments.
If it's "completely rational" to assume that they're all a bunch of liars, then it's completely rational to assume their claims to apostolic succession are fraudulent and their sacraments are invalid—at which point you no longer have access to divine deeds, traceable all the way back to Jesus.
Yes, and people who believe in astrology simply believe that it's true. And Muslims simply believe the words of the prophet Mohammed are true. That's not an argument; indeed, it's not even a coherent knowledge claim because it doesn't reference anything external to the person (it would be asserting self-created knowledge). It's simply biography.Notice that Prejean isn't even attempting to respond to my entire argument. Did I merely say they "simply believe it"? No, I went on to say they also find the Bible true to their own experience. As they live according to Scripture, year in and year out, it comes true (so to speak) in their own life-experience—and the experience of fellow believers.
And who is he to knock "biography" when he is the one who keeps telling us that we don't know anything unless it happens to be an object of our personal experience. This is yet another example of special pleading: he affirms for himself what he denies to me.
Warfield? Is that a joke? People actually believe his argument? I suppose people will believe anything, but it's clearly not rational. The gratuitous assertions regarding Scripture as an "inspired record" are noted and denied until Hays actually proves them.This is yet another obtuse objection. Did I cite Warfield to prove that Scripture is inspired? No. I specifically cited him to document a point of usage: the Word of God is not merely a Christological title, for it also denotes the Bible. Prejean's commenter (Joseph) was equivocating.
Prejean keeps making one dumb mistake after another because his contempt for the opposing position incapacitates his critical judgment.
On the Catholic interpretation, the contrast between divine and human informs the interpretation of the passage, so this contrast has that meaning. Begging the question as between the rules of interpretation doesn't actually show that the passage doesn't mean that. Moreover, I made the statement as a Catholic to another Catholic, so we already have a common interpretive rule in this regard.Here's a little challenge: I invite Prejean to email a number of Catholic OT scholars, and run his interpretation of Isaiah by them. Then he can post their replies on his blog.
And while he's at it, he can do the same thing with respect to his explanation of the Abrahamic covenant. Let's see how many Catholic Bible scholars agree with his interpretive rules and results.
Except that I know the arguments of Warfield, Leibniz, Descartes, Kant, and Hume, but Hays does not appear to know the arguments of Maritain and Garrigou-Lagrange, else he would not have made the ridiculous parade of question-begging arguments that he has.i) For the record, I've read quite a few Catholic scholars on Thomism. But unlike Prejean, I also know the dangers of becoming an instant expert on something as complicated as Thomism after having read a few popular, dated, English-language expositions of Thomism. Thomism is a lifelong study, with many competing and conflicting interpretations.14 It requires a knowledge of the primary sources in the original languages (e.g. Greek, Latin, Arabic), along with a command of the multilingual secondary literature.
Prejean is a dilettante. First he pretends to be a patrologist, then he pretends to be a Thomist. This is in addition to other affectations, like his parenthetical reference to Suarez. How many of the 20+ folio Latin volumes of the Doctor Eximius do you suppose he has read? Hmm.
ii) Since I also disagree with Prejean on the primacy of natural theology, I can be conversant in natural theology without making that a priority.
I begin to wonder what Hays's point in continuing this is. If he is never going to bother to present an argument for the authority of Scripture that is valid and sound, that is not viciously circular and that doesn't appeal to impossible forms of knowledge (like innate ideas, the magical ability to judge the reliability of claims on subjects with which has no experience in the same way that one judges mundane authorship, etc.), then why is he even in this business?Of course, what Prejean has done is to rig the game, the way an atheist will invoke methodological naturalism as a rule of evidence. Prejean doesn't argue for anything. Instead, he concocts stipulative definitions which disqualify any evidence that would count against his position. His method is tendentious from start to finish. And in order to peremptorily dismiss any lines of evidence which would support the Protestant position, he must also undercut many traditional lines of evidence that have always been used to support Catholicism.
2 A. Dulles, A History of Apologetics (Wipf & Stock 1999).
3 "Our Faith has been foretold by so many predictions of the prophets," R. Bellarmine, Hell And Its Torments (Tan 1990), 1.
5 W. Alston, Beyond "Justification" (Cornell 2005), 34.
6 A. Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford 2000), 153.
7 Ibid. 153-54.
8 S. Davis, God, Reason, & Theistic Proofs (Eerdmans 1997), 122.
11 Speaking for myself, I happen to think that Scripture warrants a low budge version of divine simplicity, but I don't pretend to derive this from natural theology alone, and I don't attempt to go into the kind of detail that someone like Aquinas does.
13 P. Geach, Reason and Argument (University of California Press 1976), 27.