Friday, August 10, 2012

Is certainty a bad thing?

David Anders has done a rather strange post:

I’ll make a few comments:

i) Anders is presenting a specious choice between certainty and uncertainty. Protestants don’t concede that Catholicism offers more than Protestantism. Rome offers less. It’s not a choice between Catholic certainty and Protestant uncertainty, for that’s not a genuine choice. Rome can’t make good on its offer. You might as well say it’s a choice between believing in Jesus and believing in the Tooth Fairy. Well, that’s not a real choice, is it?

Keep in mind that many cults claim to offer their followers certainty. Indeed, a common theme in both the OT and the NT is the danger of false prophets.

ii) Anders also contradicts himself. On the one hand says:

Why did some Reformed Protestants take the reductionistic path? Scripture does not call for theological reductionism. Paul could exhort the Corinthians “to agree on everything.”

But then he turns right around and says:

What the Catholic Church promises, then, is not an answer to every question, but a principled way, established by divine authority, to differentiate dogma from mere opinion, and to do so in a way that allows for certainty in our act of faith.

So his Pauline prooftext notwithstanding, he doesn’t think Catholics are required “to agree on everything.” Indeed, it’s not even possible for Catholics to agree on everything since, by his own admission, Rome has only defined a core of formal dogmas.

So that's the classic bait-n-switch you get from Catholic salesmen. There's the come-on, then there's what they really have in stock. 

iii) Notice that having censured Protestants for their (alleged) theological reductionism, his Catholic alternative is reductionistic. Certainty is limited to formal dogmas.

iv) He also erects a false dichotomy between “ mere opinion” and “certain in our act of faith.” But that interjects a false dichotomy between opinion and knowledge. Yet some opinions count as knowledge. To put it a bit technically, nonaccidental true belief counts as knowledge.

v) Even if our interpretation of Scripture is fallible, Biblical teaching is often redundant. You don’t have to interpret every verse correctly to have a correct understanding of a Biblical doctrine.

vi) Even if, for the sake of argument, we said Protestantism can’t offer certainty, the same holds true for Catholicism. Remember, we don’t concede that Rome has something we don’t. Therefore, at most, it would reduce to a choice between competing uncertainties.

vii) Apropos (vi), a probable interpretation is still preferable to an improbable one. I’ll take my probable interpretation of Scripture over your improbable interpretation.

viii) The fact that Christians are fallible doesn’t create the presumption that Christians are wrong. This overlooks the special providence of God. If it’s God’s will that his people come to a saving knowledge of the truth, then God is both able and willing to guide them into a saving knowledge of the truth.

The process of divine guidance can operate at a purely subconscious level. God can arrange circumstances so that we will believe whatever he intends us to believe.

ix) We should defer to the level of certainty that God has promised.

x) Luke (Lk 1:3-4) and John (Jn 20:31) contain purpose statements assuring the reader that these gospels contain information sufficient to know who Jesus is and what he did-or will do. And, by parity of argument, that’s also the function of Matthew and Luke.

Catholics defiantly refuse to believe in the adequacy of Scripture to accomplish what Scripture explicitly claims for itself.


  1. Thanks for responding to David's "heady" essay on trying to show Reformed theology is wrong, and Catholicism is right.

    I'm not up there with the brains that Mr. Anderson has aquired.

    Thanks again. Have a blessed day, and weekend, and especially peaceful Lord's day in His truth and presence.

  2. "When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith."

    Thought this Scripture verse was appropriate.