Monday, May 01, 2017

By what authority?

In objection to sola Scriptura, a Catholic apologist says, "By what authority do you justify your interpretation?" (or words to that effect). Catholic apologists routinely frame the issue in terms of authority. Unless your interpretation is authoritative, it's just fallible private opinion. 

It's striking how many Catholics find that gambit persuasive. But that's why they're Catholic. 

i) Appeals to authority are used to settle disputes. But for that very reason, an argument from authority can't settle a dispute in the case of competing authorities. If the legitimacy of the authority source is the very issue in dispute, it is viciously circular for one side to appeal to his authority source to trump the opposing side. 

Rather, he must first present an argument for the legitimacy of his authority source. He can't deploy an argument from authority to justify the authority source he's appealing to. 

The dispute between Catholics and Protestants is in part a dispute over legitimate authority. You have two competing claimants: Scripture alone or the Roman Magisterium. It's premature and question-begging at that stage of the argument for the Catholic to mount an argument from authority based on the Magisterium, for that has yet to be established.

ii) Moreover, by attacking unaided reason, a Catholic apologist disarms himself from arguing for his authority source. His objection generates an infinite regress. If you always need some authority source to warrant your beliefs, then by what authority do you belief in the Magisterium? The Catholic objection just pushes the demand back a step, creating a dilemma for the Catholic apologist. By what authority does he trust in his authority source? What authorizes the Magisterium? 

If it's illicit in principle to argue for your position by using unaided reason, then a Catholic apologist has preemptively invalidated any arguments for the Magisterium. If he makes a case for the Magisterium, that's just his fallible private opinion. There's no referee to say which side is right. Unwittingly, Catholic apologists who takes this approach neutralize Catholic apologetics. They can never get started. 

Given the Magisterium, he can appeal to the authority of the Magisterium, yet he needs a preliminary argument independent of the Magisterium to legitimate the Magisterium in the first place. But by his skepticism and relativism concerning unaided reason, he forfeits the ability to give a Protestant compelling reasons to believe in the Magisterium. His apologetic strategy is self-defeating. 

It's funny how many Catholic apologists are blind to the quandary they've made for themselves. They locked themselves in a cage and thrown away the key.

42 comments:

  1. As I said in my reply under your earlier post, you basically use tu quoque argument here.

    First, it is invalid, because it dissolves any authority whatsoever. You argue that I make a fallible argument for the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and thus I'm allegedly in the same boat as you. But, an atheist will say that you make a fallible private judgment regarding the existence of God, and a Jew will tell you that you make a private fallible judgment that the New Testament is the Word of God. Thus, "tu quoque" argument taken to its logical conclusion means that there is no authority which can be verified as actually authoritative with absolute certainty, that includes the Bible and existence of God. Thus, the argument is invalid.

    Second, even if taken your argument to its logical conclusion, the assertion that I rely on my private judgment does not answer the question whether the claims of the Catholic Church are actually true or not. If the claims of the Catholic Church are true, than its Magisterium is indeed infallible whether I used my private judgment and arguments to figure it out or not. Your doctrines and interpretations will always be fallible because you have no higher authority than fallible interpretation of an individual Protestant or a denomination.

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    1. "You argue that I make a fallible argument for the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and thus I'm allegedly in the same boat as you."

      Um, no you're hardly in the same boat as the Protestant because your boat is riddled with holes and already at the bottom of the ocean, as Steve already said: "If it's illicit in principle to argue for your position by using unaided reason, then a Catholic apologist has preemptively invalidated any arguments for the Magisterium." That's a problem Protestants don't have to face.

      "But, an atheist will say that you make a fallible private judgment regarding the existence of God..."

      So? Are you suggesting Protestant just tell atheists, "You should believe in God based on the authority of my private fallible judgment"? If so, you have a lot to learn about apologetics. Catholics (and Mormons) are the only people I've run into who whine on and on about *AUTHORITY*.

      "Second, even if taken your argument to its logical conclusion, the assertion that I rely on my private judgment does not answer the question whether the claims of the Catholic Church are actually true or not."

      So you agree that truth is independent of authority. Now replace "Catholic Church" with "Bible" and refute thyself.

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    2. "As I said in my reply under your earlier post, you basically use tu quoque argument here."

      And if it was, so what? 



      "First, it is invalid, because it dissolves any authority whatsoever. You argue that I make a fallible argument for the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and thus I'm allegedly in the same boat as you. But, an atheist will say that you make a fallible private judgment regarding the existence of God, and a Jew will tell you that you make a private fallible judgment that the New Testament is the Word of God. Thus, 'tu quoque' argument taken to its logical conclusion means that there is no authority which can be verified as actually authoritative with absolute certainty, that includes the Bible and existence of God. Thus, the argument is invalid."

      i) You have an illogical notion of invalidity. Even if (ex hypothesi) my position was subject to problems that parallel your own position, you haven't begun to demonstrate that those consequences don't follow for either position or both positions.

      ii) But your comparison is vitiated by disanalogy, since I don't buy into your assumption that unaided reason must be unreliable. And I don't buy into your assumption that we need an external authority to verify everything we believe. 



      "Second, even if taken your argument to its logical conclusion, the assertion that I rely on my private judgment does not answer the question whether the claims of the Catholic Church are actually true or not. If the claims of the Catholic Church are true, than its Magisterium is indeed infallible whether I used my private judgment and arguments to figure it out or not."

      But that's just hypothetical. How do you demonstrate that the claims of the Catholic church are true? The Magisterium is true because the Magisterium says it's true? According to your own framework, you need a higher authority to verify the claims of Rome.

      "Your doctrines and interpretations will always be fallible because you have no higher authority than fallible interpretation of an individual Protestant or a denomination."

      The important question is not whether an interpretation is fallible, but whether it's correct, and recognizably correct.

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    3. Peter Pike,

      "So? Are you suggesting Protestant just tell atheists, "You should believe in God based on the authority of my private fallible judgment"? If so, you have a lot to learn about apologetics."

      Of course not, that is precisely the point, just like I don't tell you that you have to believe in the claims of the Catholic Church merely on the basis of my private judgment - that is my point. But if you claim that all authority there is in arguing for the claims of the Catholic Church is a private judgment of a Catholic apologist who finds these claims convincing, than the logical conclusion is that a theist arguing for the existence of God is also using only his fallible private judgment and could theoretically be wrong. In other words, tu quoque argument can be used for absolutely anything, and its logical conclusion is that we can't know anything for sure.

      "So you agree that truth is independent of authority. Now replace "Catholic Church" with "Bible" and refute thyself."

      Two points here:
      1) Yes, truth is intependent from authority. But authority is necessary to figure out what is true and what is not. You may have truth on a specific point but without authority you can't verify whether it is actually truth.
      2) I don't question the authority of the Bible and I don't consider the authority of the Bible to be merely a matter of my private judgment, so I don't see a point. It was Steve who questioned my argument under previous article on the basis that I am using my private judgment to arrive to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is true. If so, than his belief in inspiration of the Bible has to be considered a matter of private judgment as well - just following his logic.

      The reality is that there are truths which are just axiomatic, such as existence of God, authority of the Bible and truthfulness of the Catholic Church. Sure, they can be argued for, nevertheless are still axiomatic. If you question any of those on the basis "it is your private judgment", the rest can be questioned on these basis as well. If you don't have any axiomatic truth, you can't know anything with absolute certainty, since any claim or conclusion is relegated to a level of a fallible private judgment. Of course, that does not mean that no rational argument can be provided for the existence of God, authority of the Bible or truthfulness of the Catholic Church.

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    4. Steve,

      "i) You have an illogical notion of invalidity. Even if (ex hypothesi) my position was subject to problems that parallel your own position, you haven't begun to demonstrate that those consequences don't follow for either position or both positions."

      Perhaps I should clarify - when I wrote that your argument is invalid I took as a given that you would never concede (and neither would I) that the authority of the Bible is merely a matter of your private judgment. But in order for your argument from the above post to be consistent, you would have to concede that your belief in the inspiration of the Bible and existence of God is fallible (since you claim that I base my belief in the Magisterium on my private judgment and thus I could be wrong). If you are willing to concede that you could be wrong about the inspiration of the Bible, then your argument against my position is indeed valid.

      "ii) But your comparison is vitiated by disanalogy, since I don't buy into your assumption that unaided reason must be unreliable. And I don't buy into your assumption that we need an external authority to verify everything we believe."

      I did not claim that. I don't believe that we need an external authority to verify the existence of God. But since Protestantism produces a doctrinal chaos where each interpretation of the Bible has exactly the same level of authority (i.e. fallible private judgment) from epistemological point of view, external authority is necessary. If Protestantism had just one denomination with one authoritative doctrine and some sort of authority higher than private judgment which would be able to verify truthfulness of that doctrine with absolute certainty, it would be a different matter.

      "But that's just hypothetical. How do you demonstrate that the claims of the Catholic church are true? The Magisterium is true because the Magisterium says it's true? According to your own framework, you need a higher authority to verify the claims of Rome."

      How do you demonstrate that Bible is the Word of God? Do you need a higher authority to demonstrate inspiration of the Bible? Surely not, but you can certainly provide rational arguments for it (internal consistency, fulfilled prophecy, reliability and preservation of the text etc.). These arguments do not change the fact that inspiration of the Bible is an axiom and neither you nor I look for a higher authority to verify the claim that Bible is the word of God or that God exists. The same way I can provide Biblical and historical arguments for the truthfulness of the Catholic Church, nevertheless it is still an axiomatic belief, just like your belief in the existence of God.

      "The important question is not whether an interpretation is fallible, but whether it's correct, and recognizably correct."

      If a specific interpretation of the Bible is fallible, it means it could be wrong. Therefore, even if it is correct, you have no way of knowing it with absolute certainty.

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    5. Arvinger

"Perhaps I should clarify - when I wrote that your argument is invalid I took as a given that you would never concede (and neither would I) that the authority of the Bible is merely a matter of your private judgment. But in order for your argument from the above post to be consistent, you would have to concede that your belief in the inspiration of the Bible and existence of God is fallible (since you claim that I base my belief in the Magisterium on my private judgment and thus I could be wrong)."

      i) Although you classify my argument as a tu quoque argument, you don't grasp the nature of that argument. In a tu quoque argument, your interlocutor raises that comparison for discussion purposes. He doesn't actually concede your assumptions. He simply adopts them for the sake of argument, as a pressure point for your own position.

      ii) Private fallible judgment is unavoidable. Your Catholicism is based on your personal fallible perception of where the truth lies. Your personal fallible perception of the evidence. Your personal fallible perception of which side has better supporting arguments. What seems to you to be true. You can't eliminate yourself from the evaluation process.

      iii) Whether I could actually be wrong is ultimately up to God.

      "But since Protestantism produces a doctrinal chaos where each interpretation of the Bible has exactly the same level of authority (i.e. fallible private judgment) from epistemological point of view, external authority is necessary."

      i) You have one explanatory category which you repeat ad nauseum: your authoritarian paradigm. Since I don't classify exegetical interpretations on an authoritarian scale in the first place, I don't grant your assumption. Hence, the conclusion won't follow.

      ii) Competing interpretations are not of equal merit unless they have equal evidence. Unless the supporting arguments are equally good.

      "which would be able to verify truthfulness of that doctrine with absolute certainty"

      By what "higher authority" do you verify the claims of the Roman Magisterium? You've set into motion a steamroller that crushes your own position.

      "The same way I can provide Biblical and historical arguments for the truthfulness of the Catholic Church, nevertheless it is still an axiomatic belief."

      You've indicated that the mere existence of two (or more) sides to a given issue (e.g. Christian v. Muslim v. Jew v. atheist) cancels out the respective arguments which each side presents. Since all they have to offer are "private fallible" arguments, the arguments on each side cancel out the arguments on the other side. But by that logic, your arguments for Rome are canceled out by counterarguments for evangelicalism.

      How do you know with "absolute certainty" that Vatican City isn't a computer simulation in the Matrix?

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    6. "i) Although you classify my argument as a tu quoque argument, you don't grasp the nature of that argument. In a tu quoque argument, your interlocutor raises that comparison for discussion purposes. He doesn't actually concede your assumptions. He simply adopts them for the sake of argument, as a pressure point for your own position.

      ii) Private fallible judgment is unavoidable. Your Catholicism is based on your personal fallible perception of where the truth lies. Your personal fallible perception of the evidence. Your personal fallible perception of which side has better supporting arguments. What seems to you to be true. You can't eliminate yourself from the evaluation process."

      So, is it possible that you are wrong about the existence of God and inspiration of the Bible? Yes or no? You can't consistently say no and at the same time argue that my argument for the Catholic Church is invalid because I use my private judgment, because your argument taken to its logical conclusion works not only against the Catholic Church, but also against your position on the authority of Scripture and existence of God - if my claim that the Catholic Church is true is nothing more than a private judgment, so is your claim that the Bible is inspired and that God exists. All three claims could be wrong. In other words, we can't know anything.

      "iii) Whether I could actually be wrong is ultimately up to God."

      Do you know with absolute certainty that God exists? Could you be wrong about that? Do you need a higher authority to verify the existence of God? Presuppositionalists like Sye Ten Bruggencate answer that with resounding no - they just presuppose existence of God as an axiom which can be argued for rationally, but does not need to be verified by any higher authority (and I agree with that), and in my argument the truthfulness of the Catholic Church falls into the same category. Could I be wrong about the Catholic Church being true? No.

      "i) You have one explanatory category which you repeat ad nauseum: your authoritarian paradigm. Since I don't classify exegetical interpretations on an authoritarian scale in the first place, I don't grant your assumption. Hence, the conclusion won't follow."

      I don't derive it from a paradigm, I clearly indicated that there are beliefs which are axiomatic, such as belief in existence of God, authority of Scripture and truthfulness of the Catholic Church. I derive it from a real life situation - hundreds of Protestant denominations with contradicting interpretations of Scripture (including on salvation issues), and with no way to verify with absolute certainty which interpretation is right. The best assurance you can have is a *hope* that *most* of your doctrines are *likely to be* correct. But, since all of them are based on fallible interpretations, from epistemological viewpoint all of them could be wrong, because a fallible individual is the highest authority, as Scot McKnight put succintly:

      I might as well say this up front: in evangelicalism (and Protestantism in general), the authority of the Church resides in two spheres—the Bible and the specific interpretation of the Bible by the interpreter himself or herself. No one can deny this. There is no such thing as a "Bible alone" idea; that Bible must be "articulated," unless we are only reading it, and that articulation is itself an interpretation. The RCC admits this openly and says that the final arbiter of interpretation is the Magisterium. The evangelical movement hides this openly and says, ever so discreetly, that the individual is the final arbiter. (Why Evangelicals Become Roman Catholic, 2002, p. 468).

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    7. (continued)


      "ii) Competing interpretations are not of equal merit unless they have equal evidence. Unless the supporting arguments are equally good."

      Two points here:
      1) In terms of authority in Protestantism they have equal merit, i.e. they are not binding on the universal Church. James White's interpretation of Romans 1 doesn't have any authority that James Brownson's interpretation of Romans 1 doesn't. Even though we agree that White is right and Brownson is wrong, these are just private opinions which are not binding on anyone. Even if someone denomination accepts one or another, it is just a fallible, non-binding decision of this specific denomination. In modern Protestantism you can't call an Ecumenical Council to excommunicate James Brownson or Matthew Vines authoritatively like Ephesus did with Nestorius, because you have no authority to do so.
      2) In terms of theological argument, it is true that different interpretations do not have the same merit. But all of them are fallible, so all you have is difference in probabilities. If there is no infallible authority declaring that the doctrine of Trinity is true, than automatically that doctrine is fallible (since it is based on private interpretation of Scripture). Yes, there are good arguments to support it, but there is no way to verify it with absolute certainty.

      "By what "higher authority" do you verify the claims of the Roman Magisterium? You've set into motion a steamroller that crushes your own position."

      I don't verify them, because they are infallible (in opposition to yours, which are fallible, and thus need verification). How do I verify they are infallible? I don't, just like I don't verify the existence of God - this is an axiomatic belief which I can argue rationally with Biblical and historical evidence, but which is nevertheless axiomatic.

      "You've indicated that the mere existence of two (or more) sides to a given issue (e.g. Christian v. Muslim v. Jew v. atheist) cancels out the respective arguments which each side presents."

      Not in case of axiomatic beliefs which we presuppose, such as existence of God. I agree with a presuppositionalist who, asked whether he could be wrong about the existence of God, says "no". In other cases, yes - if you don't have an infallible authority to verify claims of each side, they all remains fallible opinions.

      "But by that logic, your arguments for Rome are canceled out by counterarguments for evangelicalism"

      No, because I don't verify the teachings of the Magisterium, just like I don't verify the existence of God. It falls into the category of beliefs which are axiomatic. If there are no axioms, there is no way you can know anything about the world - hard solipsism is all that remains.

      "How do you know with "absolute certainty" that Vatican City isn't a computer simulation in the Matrix?"

      Because there are certain things which I presuppose and don't verify by any higher authority, such as existence of God and reality of the world which surrounds me.

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    8. Arvinger

"So, is it possible that you are wrong about the existence of God and inspiration of the Bible? Yes or no?"

      You need to redirect that question to yourself inasmuch as you're the one who claims we need an authority source to verify our beliefs. So how do you verify the authority you use to verify your beliefs?

      That's you're regress, not mine.

      "You can't consistently say no and at the same time argue that my argument for the Catholic Church is invalid because I use my private judgment, because your argument taken to its logical conclusion works not only against the Catholic Church, but also against your position on the authority of Scripture and existence of God - if my claim that the Catholic Church is true is nothing more than a private judgment, so is your claim that the Bible is inspired and that God exists. All three claims could be wrong. In other words, we can't know anything."

      You're the one who's indulges in Cartesian skepticism about private judgment, not me. The "logical conclusion" isn't derived from my premise, but your self-refuting skepticism about private judgment. You keep imputing to me a gratuitous assumption about the logical consequences of private judgment that I explicitly repudiate.

      Since I don't accept your authoritarian paradigm as the standard of comparison, it's fallacious of you to keep acting as if my position will be parallel to yours. Minimally, if you're going to use an authoritarian paradigm as the standard of comparison, then as a preliminary step you need to present an argument for your standard of comparison. You're not entitled to foist that gratuitous assertion onto me.

      "Do you know with absolute certainty that God exists? Could you be wrong about that? Do you need a higher authority to verify the existence of God?"

      One of your problems is that you arbitrarily exempt some beliefs from your general requirement that beliefs must be verified by an authority source. So where do you draw the line?

      "Presuppositionalists like Sye Ten Bruggencate…"

      He's incompetent.

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    9. "and in my argument the truthfulness of the Catholic Church falls into the same category. Could I be wrong about the Catholic Church being true? No."

      That's very convenient and very ad hoc. And unfortunately for you, you've forfeited the right to argue for the Catholic church since any arguments you offer are merely private fallible arguments which, by your own admission, are neutralized by private fallible arguments to the contrary.

      "I clearly indicated that there are beliefs which are axiomatic, such as belief in existence of God, authority of Scripture and truthfulness of the Catholic Church."

      You have an arbitrary stipulation that you compartmentalize from your general demand that beliefs must be warranted by a higher authority. Why should anyone take that seriously?

      "I derive it from a real life situation - hundreds of Protestant denominations with contradicting interpretations of Scripture (including on salvation issues)…"

      And the Catholic church adds yet another contradictory package of interpretations. Another denomination with another set of contradictory interpretations.

      "and with no way to verify with absolute certainty which interpretation is right. The best assurance you can have is a *hope* that *most* of your doctrines are *likely to be* correct. But, since all of them are based on fallible interpretations, from epistemological viewpoint all of them could be wrong, because a fallible individual is the highest authority…"

      i) You have no solution to what you find so unacceptable. Your alternative is to declare that your own position is axiomatically true. That's not a philosophically serious contention.

      ii) If you really want to play the Cartesian skeptic, let's go all the way. I'll raise you the Cartesian demon. How do you know with "absolute certainty" that your belief in the Catholic church isn't caused by the Cartesian demon? You don't.

      iii) I don't erect an inhumane, artificial standard of demonstrative certainty that no one can satisfy, least of all Catholic apologists. I'm not scandalized by probabilities. That's the world God has put us in.

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    10. "1) In terms of authority in Protestantism they have equal merit, i.e. they are not binding on the universal Church. James White's interpretation of Romans 1 doesn't have any authority that James Brownson's interpretation of Romans 1 doesn't. Even though we agree that White is right and Brownson is wrong, these are just private opinions which are not binding on anyone. Even if someone denomination accepts one or another, it is just a fallible, non-binding decision of this specific denomination. In modern Protestantism you can't call an Ecumenical Council to excommunicate James Brownson or Matthew Vines authoritatively like Ephesus did with Nestorius, because you have no authority to do so."

      i) You keep recasting the issue in terms of "authority", which begs the question.

      ii) Truth is binding. The salient distinction isn't between private and official or fallible and infallible, but true and false.

      "But all of them are fallible, so all you have is difference in probabilities."

      And a probable interpretation trumps an improbable interpretation.

      "If there is no infallible authority declaring that the doctrine of Trinity is true, than automatically that doctrine is fallible (since it is based on private interpretation of Scripture). Yes, there are good arguments to support it, but there is no way to verify it with absolute certainty."

      i) You're demanding an authority higher than divine revelation.

      ii) God gave us a "privately" or individually interpretable Bible. That's not a defect. That's the way it's supposed to be.

      iii) By what infallible authority do you verify that the Roman Magisterium is an infallible authority? What's the higher authority that certifies the Roman Magisterium?

      "I don't verify them, because they are infallible"

      You merely assert that they are infallible.

      "this is an axiomatic belief "

      Slapping an "axiomatic" label onto your cherished beliefs doesn't make them true, much less infallible. That's you positing that they are axiomatic, based on your "private fallible" judgment.

      "Not in case of axiomatic beliefs which we presuppose, such as existence of God. I agree with a presuppositionalist who, asked whether he could be wrong about the existence of God, says 'no.'"

      And how would you respond to a Muslim who posits the Koran as axiomatic?

      It's not enough to *say* he can't be wrong: the question is whether he can *show* it.

      "It falls into the category of beliefs which are axiomatic."

      That's just your buzzword.

      "If there are no axioms, there is no way you can know anything about the world - hard solipsism is all that remains."

      That doesn't mean you're entitled to stipulate "axioms" willy nilly.

      "Because there are certain things which I presuppose and don't verify by any higher authority, , such as existence of God and reality of the world which surrounds me."

      To say you *presuppose* something to be the case hardly entails that you *know* it to be true. You careen between Cartesian skepticism and fideism.

      You have an idiosyncratic position that isn't even representative of standard Catholic apologetics, viz. Aquinas, Bellarmine, Newman.

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    11. OK, I don't have time to answer everything now, so just quickly, since it is one of the things it comes down to:

      "One of your problems is that you arbitrarily exempt some beliefs from your general requirement that beliefs must be verified by an authority source."

      We have three options:

      1) We verify every belief by an authority source
      2) We verify no belief by authority source
      3) We verify some beliefs by authority source

      The problem with no 1. is that it is impossible and leads to hard solipsism. We don't verify whether the world which surrounds us is real or whether God exists by higher authority.

      The problem with no. 2 is that if we don't verify any belief by authority, all beliefs remain on the level of private opinion/private judgment and they could all be wrong.

      The only possible approach is no 3. - there are certain things which are exempt from verification by authority source, such as existence of God or reality of the world which surrounds us. Again, that does not mean that we can't rationally argue for them (there are plent of good arguments for the existence of God), but there is only as far as human can go in verifying beliefs by higher authority - some claims necessarily remain axioms.

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  2. "But authority is necessary to figure out what is true and what is not." -- Do you know that because of an authority? If so, please feel free to quote it. Then when you're done, feel free to demonstrate why I should care.

    "You may have truth on a specific point but without authority you can't verify whether it is actually truth." -- What authority verified this statement? Quote it. Then explain why I should care what it says again.

    Please do not stop quoting your authority and telling me why I should care while quoting your authority and telling me why I should care, lest you refute your house of cards when you hit infinity.

    Or you can learn to meta and reject your system when you recognize how you don't even believe it, since it's impossible to actually follow. I'll wait for you here.

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    2. "Do you know that because of an authority? If so, please feel free to quote it. Then when you're done, feel free to demonstrate why I should care."

      No, I know this because of the fact that if something (in this case your interpretation of the Bible) is fallible, it could be wrong. It could be that all your interpretations of the Bible are wrong. If they can be wrong, you have no way of verifying their truthfulness other than your private opinion. If that suffices for you, fine, but it does not change the fact that from epistemological viewpoint you don't known anything about the Biblical teaching with absolute certainty, and whatever doctrine you believe that doctrine is not binding upon anyone anywhere. All you have is, as Devin Rose correctly says, "fallible opinion about infallible books". This is also why the alleged difference between "solo scriptura" and "sola scriptura" is just smoke and mirrors - at the end, a fallible individual remains the final authority.

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    3. "No, I know this because of the fact that if something (in this case your interpretation of the Bible) is fallible, it could be wrong."

      That statement is made by a fallible person. Therefore it could be wrong. Therefore, I have no way of verifying the truthfulness of what you say. Therefore, from an epistemological viewpoint, I don't know anything about what you've said with absolute certainty. Therefore, the Magisterium is infallible.

      I can see why logic isn't your strong suit.

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    4. Also, try this:

      "I know this because of the fact that if something (in this case your interpretation of the Magisterium) is fallible, it could be wrong."

      Are you sure you heard the Magisterium correctly when it claimed to be infallible? Your senses are fallible. People have had visual and audible hallucinations. They have had fugues and delusions. Some people even believe themselves to be Napoleon. Nothing that we gain by our senses is infallible. Every single thing is subject to personal interpretation and flaws in thinking.

      Congratulations. You know nothing and are proud of it. Go you!

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    5. Thank you Peter, you are making point for me. What you write is exactly the logical conclusion of Steve's argument that I rely on my private judgment arguing for the truthfulness of the Catholic Church. If you take it to its logical conclusion it means that existence of God and authority of the Bible, or even reality of the world which surrounds us also rely on private judgment of the individual. The ultimate result of Steve's objection is hard solipsism. This is why tu quoque argument in this context is fallacious.

      As I already wrote, there are things which we presuppose as axioms - existence of God, authority of the Bible, truthfulness of the Catholic Church. Could I be wrong about existence of God? No. Could I be wrong about truthfulness of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church? No.

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    6. Of course you could be be wrong about the truthfulness of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. They are not infallible i.e. incapable of erring. No human being is except the Lord Christ.

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    7. All right, I presuppose as axiom that I am infallible. I don`t need to argue why I am infallible just as you don`t argue why the Roman Magisterium is infallible. All that I say is infallible by definition. The Roman Magisterium is a hoax. Could I be wrong? No. Remember I am infallible, you don`t. :)

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    8. 1) Steve hasn't couched anything in terms of private interpretation--that's your horse that you're flogging. Steve's merely pointed out that *IF* a Protestant only has private interpretation of Scripture, the RCC is on *NO BETTER GROUND*. Thus, if you claim that Protestants have only private interpretation, it is *YOU* who are reduced to mere solipsism.

      2) You can't logically assert the Magisterium as an axiom. For one thing, axioms have to be logically *necessary*, and the Magisterium is not. How do we know? Because the Magisterium did not exist until Rome invented it. This is radically different from the axiom, "God exists", which is necessarily true and cannot be otherwise. There was never a time when "God exists" was false; but there were THOUSANDS of years when "The Magisterium does not exist" was true. So to assert the Magisterium as an axiom is boneheaded and foolish, not logical at all.

      3) If the Magisterium was an axiom, at bare minimum it would be *useful*. Tell me where the Magisterium has interpreted whether Genesis 1:1 is talking about six-day creationism or what it says on Darwinism. Tell me where the Magisterium helps us to interpret whether or not Revelation is speaking of postmillenialism or amillinialism? Show me where the Magisterium has ruled on how we are to interpret the conquest of Canaan.

      What's that? It doesn't? Well, what purpose does it serve to have a neutered infallible interpreter who says nothing and makes you use your own private judgement to figure out how to understand the Bible?

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    9. Arvinger



      "We have a living Church authority which can do that and clarify things, you just have the Bible which cannot interpret itself."

      Test case: what's the infallible interpretation of Amoris Laetitia on the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to communion?

      Bonus point: what's the infallible interpretation of Rome's position on capital punishment?

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    10. Arvinger's apologetic suffers from multiple-personality disorder. When attacking evangelicalism, the Cartesian skeptic surfaces. When defending Rome, the fideist surfaces. He needs to see a psychiatrist to get that sorted out.

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    11. Coheceris a verdade,

      "All right, I presuppose as axiom that I am infallible. I don`t need to argue why I am infallible just as you don`t argue why the Roman Magisterium is infallible. All that I say is infallible by definition. The Roman Magisterium is a hoax. Could I be wrong? No. Remember I am infallible, you don`t. :)"

      Great, now can you please provide arguments supporting your clam to infallibility? The fact that I put the truthfulness of the Catholic Church among the axiomatic beliefs such as existence of God does not change the fact that I can argue for it rationally from the Bible, Church history etc. (contrary to your misrepresentation of my position), while you can produce no evidence supporting your claim to infallibility. Presupposing something is not equal to fideism.

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    12. Peter,

      "1) Steve hasn't couched anything in terms of private interpretation--that's your horse that you're flogging. Steve's merely pointed out that *IF* a Protestant only has private interpretation of Scripture, the RCC is on *NO BETTER GROUND*. Thus, if you claim that Protestants have only private interpretation, it is *YOU* who are reduced to mere solipsism."

      Yes, Protestant has only private, fallible interpretation of the Bible, I have infallible interpretation of the Catholic Church. If you now say "but your claim that the Catholic Magisteroum is infallible is just a fallible private judgment!", then so is your claim that Bible is the Word of God and that God exists.

      "For one thing, axioms have to be logically *necessary*, and the Magisterium is not."

      Inspiration of the Bible is not logically necessary from epistemological viewpoint - does that mean that we could be wrong about it?

      " How do we know? Because the Magisterium did not exist until Rome invented it."

      Of course I don't agree with it, I believe that we see infallible Magisterium in the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), but here is where discussion moves away from epistemology onto Biblical ground, which we have not touched upon so far.

      "This is radically different from the axiom, "God exists", which is necessarily true and cannot be otherwise. There was never a time when "God exists" was false"

      The New Testament did not exist for thousands of years - does it mean that the belief in its inspiration is not axiomatic and that we could be wrong about it?

      It is very telling that nobody can answer a simple question "could you be wrong about inspiration of the Bible?". If you argue that I have just fallible private opinion about truthfulness of the Magisterium, then you are in the same boat with your belief about inspiration of the Bible - its just your private opinion.

      "Tell me where the Magisterium has interpreted whether Genesis 1:1 is talking about six-day creationism or what it says on Darwinism. Tell me where the Magisterium helps us to interpret whether or not Revelation is speaking of postmillenialism or amillinialism? Show me where the Magisterium has ruled on how we are to interpret the conquest of Canaan."

      Why would the Magisterium need to interpret everything in order to be authoritative? None of the things you mentioned above are foundational for the Christian faith and the Magisterium simply did not interpret them infallibly, because there is no need to.

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    13. Steve,

      "Arvinger's apologetic suffers from multiple-personality disorder. When attacking evangelicalism, the Cartesian skeptic surfaces. When defending Rome, the fideist surfaces."

      Absolutely not. The fact that I presuppose something to be true does not mean it is fideism - we can discuss the claims of the Catholic Church on Biblical and historical ground.

      I am the one who presses you for consistency. Your tu quoque argument claims that I'm on no better ground than you because I have just a fallible, private opinion than the Catholic Church is true. If that is the case, epistemologically you are on no better ground than a Muslim which your belief in inspiration of the Bible vs. his belief in inspiration of the Quran (two private opinions), and you are on no better ground than an atheist regarding existence of God (two private opinions). Of course we don't consider inspiration of the Bible and existence of God to be just private opinions, but it is a logical conclusion of your tu quoque argument against my belief in the truthfulness of the Catholic Church.

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    14. Arvinger

      "Of course I don't agree with it, I believe that we see infallible Magisterium in the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), but here is where discussion moves away from epistemology onto Biblical ground, which we have not touched upon so far."

      1. I'd like to see you make a case for the Magisterium in Acts 15.

      2. In fact, I'd like to see you make a case for the Magisterium in the Old Testament (OT).

      "It is very telling that nobody can answer a simple question "could you be wrong about inspiration of the Bible?". If you argue that I have just fallible private opinion about truthfulness of the Magisterium, then you are in the same boat with your belief about inspiration of the Bible - its just your private opinion."

      1. No, these claims do not parallel one another. For one, the inspiration of the Bible is ultimately based on objective qualities of the Bible itself, not on personal experience or private judgment. Although that's not to say Jesus' sheep do not hear his voice and follow him (John 10:27).

      2. You could say the Magisterium is ultimately based on the objective qualities of the Magisterium itself, not on personal experience or private judgment. We presumably agree the Bible is God's word and therefore don't further arguments about the Bible as such. So the question is, does the Magisterium have objective qualities on par with the Bible? For example, how internally consistent is the Magisterium with itself and how externally consistent is the Magisterium with the Bible? It seems to me the Magisterium is riddled with tension and conflict in ways the Bible is not.

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    15. "I have infallible interpretation of the Catholic Church" -- Ipse dixit.

      "Inspiration of the Bible is not logically necessary from epistemological viewpoint - does that mean that we could be wrong about it?" -- So you are claiming that only logically necessary things are infallible? Because *I* haven't made that claim.

      "The New Testament did not exist for thousands of years - does it mean that the belief in its inspiration is not axiomatic and that we could be wrong about it?" -- Yes, the inspiration of the New Testament is *NOT* axiomatic. No, that doesn't mean it's not infallible.

      "Why would the Magisterium need to interpret everything in order to be authoritative?" -- EVERYTHING? How about *ANYTHING*?

      Look, Arvinger, it's obvious that you don't have a clue about philosophy or logic. Someone needs to knock you off your pedestal before you die of hypoxia, so I'll explain this as easily as I can (although honestly I wish you were part of the Magisterium because fewer people would fall for the lies of Catholicism after hearing you, which frankly will save more children from abuse).

      God's existence can be established as an axiom. All it takes is perception, which you have direct access to already. If you perceive anything, then necessarily you are not perceiving its contradiction. This establishes the law of non-contradiction and the basis for logic. The validity of logic presupposes the existence of a self-existent, eternal, omnipotent, personal being, all the attributes of classical theism.

      Notice what's missing from the above? Any requirement of infallibility! You can imagine your perceptions, and the rest of the chain still follows. You can be oppressed by the Cartesian demon, and the rest of the chain still follows. You can be high on pot and think that your priest really does have the authority to touch you there, and the rest of this chain still follows.

      Ergo, your desire for some kind of "authority" to salve your fears that you might be mistaken is just stupid. Grow up.

      While you're at it, please tell me why I should give up my golden foundation that is true no matter what (hey, look, a definition of an axiom) for some claims of a group of guys too busy playing "hide the pedophile in another diocese before we get sued" to answer questions about the Bible? You said it yourself: "[T]he Magisterium simply did not interpret them infallibly, because there is no need to."

      Exactly. THERE IS NO NEED FOR THE MAGISTERIUM.

      Repeat that until it sinks in. There is no need for the Magisterium because it's not axiomatic, it's not logically necessary, it's useless, it serves no purpose. While you're at it, reject ANY system that is based on "authority" instead of truth, because every system based on authority inevitably results in abuse. Just like Catholicism has.

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    16. Arvinger

"I am the one who presses you for consistency. Your tu quoque argument claims that I'm on no better ground than you because I have just a fallible, private opinion than the Catholic Church is true. If that is the case, epistemologically you are on no better ground than a Muslim which your belief in inspiration of the Bible vs. his belief in inspiration of the Quran (two private opinions), and you are on no better ground than an atheist regarding existence of God (two private opinions). Of course we don't consider inspiration of the Bible and existence of God to be just private opinions, but it is a logical conclusion of your tu quoque argument against my belief in the truthfulness of the Catholic Church."

      You keep swinging and you keep missing the ball because you keep imputing your assumptions and conclusions to me. I don't concede that if two people have "fallible private" options, then each is on no better ground than the other. That's hopelessly simplistic. It's not reducible to the generic comparison between "fallible private" opinions, but the specific comparison between the quality of evidence and reasoning. If a conspiracy theorist and I disagree on whether the lunar landings were fake, it doesn't imply that I'm on no better ground than he just because we both have "fallible private" opinions on the matter.

      I'm responding to you on your own terms. Given your assumptions, it follows that your belief in Catholicism is on no better ground than belief in evangelicalism. A tu quoque argument doesn't commit me to your assumptions and your conclusions.

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  3. Arvinger,

    Didn't Jesus, during his earthly ministry, hold men accountable for knowing (i) the extent of Scripture and (ii) the meaning of certain passages therein?

    (1) What evidence is there that they knew these things *only* by means of an infallible teaching authority?

    (2) What infallible authority provided you the answer to that question such that you know beyond mere opinion?

    Having an alleged infallible starting point hardly means you're immune to defeaters. To the extent that you insist on the necessity of an infallible authority to know anything, it seems that you supply your own defeater. Scripture claims to be the very words of God with full authority therefrom. Do you believe the same of RC Magisterium (RCM)?

    Suppose RCM is, in fact, an infallible teaching authority. Suppose also that the extent of the NT canon is limited to the 27 books you and I accept. Presumably, you would say that I only know that to be the case by means of an infallible declaration. So at this point, would you agree that a book's *being* canonical and my *knowing* it to be canonical are distinct issues?

    My point thus far is that the RCM could *be* infallible without your *knowing* it to be infallible. So, how do you *know* it to be infallible? Isn't this the same maneuver that RC apologists pull often when it comes to *knowing* the canon of the NT? Some say it's self-authenticating, and in some bizarre way, I suspect (after reading your comments) you would say that it is both (i) self-authenticating and (ii) requires validation from an independent authority. I don't think you can have it both ways.

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    1. You beat me to the dilemma :-)

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  4. So, I don't understand at least two things about you:

    (1) Why are you allowed to stipulate two axiomatic authorities (scripture and RCM), but I can't stipulate just one of them?

    (2) Would you not press the Protestant for an account of how he knows the NT canon? If you would, why does the "axiomatic" knowledge of the authority of RCM get a pass but the "axiomatic" knowledge of the authority of a *specific set of scriptures* NOT get a pass?

    (You're the one who said that "...there are beliefs which are axiomatic, such as belief in the existence of God, the authority of scripture, and...")

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    1. "(1) Why are you allowed to stipulate two axiomatic authorities (scripture and RCM), but I can't stipulate just one of them?"

      But you are not doing that. When you say "Scripture", what you really mean is your private interpretation of Scripture (or that of your denomination), which makes you or your denomination the final authority, which is fallible. There is no such thing as Scripture alone, it is always Scripture + interpretation.

      "(2) Would you not press the Protestant for an account of how he knows the NT canon? If you would, why does the "axiomatic" knowledge of the authority of RCM get a pass but the "axiomatic" knowledge of the authority of a *specific set of scriptures* NOT get a pass?"

      The fact that I say that the knowledge of the truth of the Catholic Magisterium is axiomatic does not mean that I will not provide arguments to support that claim (I have not done it in this discussion since we focused on epistemology rather than Biblical evidence). We can go to Acts 15, Matthews 16:18-19, Church history etc., regardless of axiomatic nature of the fact that the Catholic Magisterium is true (just like you can rationally argue for the existence of God despite the fact that we presuppose it). When it comes to Canon, I would simply demand to know by what authority does Protestant know that his canon of Scripture is correct. Does he know this by infallible authority, like I do? A Protestant has to say no - which automatically makes his Canon of Scripture fallible.

      "(You're the one who said that "...there are beliefs which are axiomatic, such as belief in the existence of God, the authority of scripture, and...")"

      Do you disagree with this? Would you concede that you could be wrong about the existence of God or inspiration of Scripture?

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  5. Arvinger said, "If Protestantism had just one denomination with one authoritative doctrine and some sort of authority higher than private judgment which would be able to verify truthfulness of that doctrine with absolute certainty, it would be a different matter."

    So if Protestantism just so happened to be whittled down to a uniform view with a uniform set of ruling elders, would you be in trouble as to how to adjudicate the claims of RCM and uniform-Protestantism? Would it become a contender for infallible authority merely by becoming uniform?

    What about the Mormon church? What about Watchtower Society? Are either of them approaching sufficient uniformity?

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    1. "So if Protestantism just so happened to be whittled down to a uniform view with a uniform set of ruling elders, would you be in trouble as to how to adjudicate the claims of RCM and uniform-Protestantism? Would it become a contender for infallible authority merely by becoming uniform?

      What about the Mormon church? What about Watchtower Society? Are either of them approaching sufficient uniformity?"

      No, because uniformity and existence of central authority is an important, but not the only criteria - there are others, such as historical continuity and Biblical truthfulness, which the Catholic Church fulfills, but Protestants, Mormons and JW's don't.

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  6. BTW, what authority gave you permission to go off and bastardize presupp material? Do you know if you're in safe waters?

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    1. It is not my intention to follow Van Tillian or any other sort of defined presuppositional approach, I simply recognize the fact that we will always have to presuppose some things as axiomatic - such as existence of God, reality of the world which surrounds us, inspiration of the Bible etc. There is only as far as human being can go in verifying things by higher authority, certain truths are necessarily axioms (which of course does not mean we can't provide rational arguments for it).

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    2. To merely stipulate that the Roman Magisterium is "axiomatic" hardly confers "absolute certainty" on your posit. It's just your assertion that that's axiomatic. So it doesn't begin to satisfy your own criterion of "absolute certainty". Your claim that x is axiomatic doesn't make the claim absolutely certain. Not even close.

      Now, it's possible to *argue* for certain axioms or presuppositions, but you relegate that to mere "fallible private" opinion, where (according to you) one side is on no better ground than the other. So your position dissolves into alethic relativism, which is self-referentially incoherent.

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  7. "But you are not doing that. When you say "Scripture", what you really mean is your private interpretation of Scripture (or that of your denomination), which makes you or your denomination the final authority, which is fallible. There is no such thing as Scripture alone, it is always Scripture + interpretation."

    There's no such thing as RCM alone, it is always RCM + interpretation.

    "When it comes to canon, I would simply demand to know by what authority does Protestant know that his canon is correct..."

    Ok, so Scripture is "axiomatic" and RCM is "axiomatic", but knowledge of any claim *about* Scripture must be validated from an independent and infallible authority (viz., RCM) whereas knowledge of any claim *about* RCM does not... got it. Sola Ecclesia.

    Just be honest with everyone and quit including Scripture in your axiom. The best interpretation of you I can see here is, again, some bastardized presupp stuff. I'm all for being eclectic, but you don't have that luxury with your restrictive and self-defeating criterion for knowledge.

    "...such as historical continuity and biblical truthfulness..."

    That's rich. And you know this how? By appeal to RCM? So, RCM can make claims for itself that don't require independent and infallible validation, but scriputure *can't*? Got it. Sola Ecclesia.

    Or, maybe you think you can investigate those claims of historical continuity and biblical fidelity on your own, apart from the RCM., so you don't look like a dupe, just blindly accepting RCM claims without the slightest bit of independent, infallible authorization... got it, "axiomatic" + private interpretation.

    Just to recap: some axioms need independent and infallible validation (e.g., Scripture), and some axioms do NOT need independent and infallible validation (e.g., RCM).

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  8. I find the Tu Quoque charge interesting. The argument presented against the Catholic apologists seems to be more like a reductio ad absurdum.

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