Over in Crimson country, a commenter by the name of Shane Wilkins has been inflicting some serious damage on Prejean’s epistemology:
I’d advise everyone to read Shane’s comments. Now let’s turn to Prejean’s response.
“The person who witnesses something is said to have knowledge as well. That's kind of the point. We're dealing with matters in which the only knowledge one can have is immediately caused, analogous to actually seeing something. If a blind man asks you to prove there is color, you can't. If someone asks me to prove that the Catholic Church is divine, I can't. He either has the supernatural faculty to see it, or he doesn't.”
“No, because I know from experience that the Church is what She says She is. I'm not exactly sure what is confusing about that. I'm not saying that faith internally witnesses to me; I'm saying that the Church caused that knowledge in me through the faculty of faith.”
“No, it's just because you lack knowledge of the reason. I can't communicate anything to you that is completely outside your experience, and this would be completely outside your experience. What you're asking is every bit as absurd as if you asked me to prove ‘red.’ If someone can see it, I can point to red things, and we can have common experience of reality. But there wouldn't be any way to demonstrate ‘red’ to a blind man. I could come up with an analogy, but it certainly wouldn't prove the existence of ‘red’ to him.”
There are several crippling problems with this response:
i) When Prejean is attacking the Protestant rule of faith, he appeals to natural theology—but when he’s defending Catholicism, he appeals to a “faculty of faith.” And yet the whole point of natural theology is that you aren’t supposed to need a “faculty of faith” to appreciate natural theological arguments. That’s what distinguishes natural theology from revealed theology.
ii) Now he abandons natural theology for religious experience as his last-ditch appeal. He admits he can’t prove that the Catholic church is divine.
iii) The problem with his comparison to color-blindness is that this amounts to an argument from analogy minus the argument. We have objective criteria to diagnose color-blindness. We can prove that someone is color-blind. We can prove to a color-blind observer that he is color-blind.
But by what parallel methodology does Prejean propose to show that a Protestant is spiritually deficient in the supernatural faculty of faith? All he’s done is to posit an analogy. Where’s the supporting argument to actually establish the analogy?
iv) Another problem is the case of cradle Catholics who’ve converted to Evangelicalism. Don’t they still enjoy the faculty of faith, due to their prior, Catholic experience? So why can’t they discern the divinity of the one true church?
For that matter, contemporary Catholic theology doesn’t confine saving grace to Roman Catholics. It doesn’t regard all human beings outside the formal communion of Rome as graceless reprobates. Indeed, even Hindus, Muslims are able to participate in the saving grace of God. So why would the divinity of the Catholic church be incommensurable with Evangelical experience? Why wouldn’t the “separated brethren” enjoy a common faculty of faith? But assuming that we are, indeed, privy to the same experience, why do we fail to discern the divinity of the true church?
v) Yet another problem with his appeal to incommunicable experience is that anyone can incorporate that appeal into his own opposing position. Imagine if Prejean got into a debate with Tinkerbell over the virtues of Fairylandish epistemology:
Tinkerbell: Jonathan, do you believe in pixies?
Tinkerbell: Why not?
Prejean: I’ve never seen a pixy. I have no experience of pixies.
Tinkerbell: You mean you can’t see that pink pixy—sitting right over there on the pixy-stool?
Prejean: There is nothing to see!
Tinkerbell: That’s because you lack the elfin faculty of fairyism. But I myself know from personal experience that the Fairy-Queen is what She says She is. The Fairy-Queen caused that knowledge in me through the elfin faculty of fairyism.
But I can't communicate anything to you that is completely outside your experience, and Fairyland would be completely outside your experience. What you're asking is every bit as absurd as if you asked me to prove that there’s a pink pixy on the pixy-stool. If someone can see it, then I can point to pink pixies, and we can have common experience of reality. But there wouldn't be any way to demonstrate a ”pink pixy” to a sylphishly color-blind man. I could come up with an analogy, but it certainly wouldn't prove the existence of “pink pixies” to him.”
vi) In an earlier reply, I already pointed out to Prejean that, as an empiricist, he has forfeited the right to claim that his church had that effect on him—for there is no sensible evidence that the church was the cause. He can perceive the outward sign, but he cannot perceive the inward grace. He cannot perceive the actual process of transmission.
And even if he had a supernatural faculty of faith, he would still be unable, on empirical grounds, to retrace his state of grace to the sacraments. For he doesn't actually observe or detect the church as the conduit of gracious faith. He can't perceive the cause/effect relation, connecting his "faculty of faith" to the action of the church. Therefore, he has no reason to attribute this effect to the mediation of the church—given his empiricist criteria.
I see that this objection has yet to sink in—even though I’m addressing him on his own grounds.
vii) But his predicament is even worse than that. For his predicament is aggravated by a further factor. Not only can't he establish causality, he can't even establish a correlation—which is the next best thing. A high correlation between one event and another fosters a prima facie presumption of causality, even if the inference isn't demonstrable (and it’s easy to come up with counterexamples).
But many baptized Catholics are lapsed Catholics. Many cradle Catholics, who receive the rite of confirmation, and attended Mass at one time or another, have since defected from the faith. So where is the correlation between sacramental grace and the faculty of faith? There’s nothing close to a one-to-one correspondence. How, then, does he even begin to establish a causal connection?