Author Topic: Does faith result in an infinite regress?  (Read 1047 times)

Offline Xavier

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Re: Does faith result in an infinite regress?
« Reply #15 on: June 27, 2018, 07:24:59 AM »
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I understand that we believe the revealed truths based on God's inability to deceive

That's correct, Daniel, my friend. So here's a simple test for someone who's not sure if he has the Faith. If he can say, "O my God, I believe all that the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed it, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived." He has faith. Do you believe that, Daniel?

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and that it is faith's job to enable us to know which things are revealed by God and which things are not. (Without faith we hear the Church saying all sorts of things, but we have no way of knowing whether or not we ought to believe these things since we have no way of knowing whether the Church is from God; but faith gives us knowledge that the Church is in fact from God, and, consequently, we know that we ought to believe everything the Church teaches since it is all revealed by God and thus cannot be false.)

What you are saying is a fideistic error. When the Church teaches, God dwells among us in the Holy Eucharist, we know we ought to believe it, because the Church teaches it. Recall how the holy Apostles reacted when Christ first taught them He was the Bread of Life? They said, basically, You have the Words of eternal life, therefore - though we do not understand yet - we believe what you say, because You say it. That is true faith. Faith means believing God in those Whom He has appointed to teach. Note that Jesus had just worked the miracle of the loaves in their sight, so He was entitled to be believed by them in all that He taught.

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Yet it still seems that there needs to be something else to enable us to know whether or not we have the faith. (Unless the faith itself somehow enables us to know that we have the faith...) Because suppose a man believes that the Church is from God and he subsequently believes everything that the Church teaches, yet suppose this man does not know whether or not he has the faith: how can he possibly know whether or not his beliefs are correct?

This is incorrect. A man does not need to know (of an absolute and infallible certainty) he has the faith to have the Faith, anymore than he needs to know he is in the state of grace to be in the state of grace. The question is simply, do you believe all that the Church teaches is revealed by God? If yes, do you believe all that the Church teaches, simply because the Church teaches it, knowing God promised all the Church teaches is taught by Him? If your answer is yes, then you likely have the Faith. If no, you do not.

Faith ultimately is our covenant of fidelity with God. We believe Him Whom we love. We love Him Whom we believe. If a woman refuses to believe her husband, though she knows he is a good and serious man, who has given her many proofs of his love, she would be blameworthy and may lose many of his gifts. If we wish to live with God in heaven, we must believe Him in all He teaches us by His Church.
Mary, our Heavenly Mother, implores those who receive Holy Communion Daily, or at least Weekly, to Offer their Lives. TEXT OF THE LIFE OFFERING: "My dear Jesus, before the Holy Trinity, Our Heavenly Mother, and the whole Heavenly Court, united with Your most Precious Blood and Your Sacrifice on Calvary, I hereby Offer my whole Life to the Intention of Your Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Together with my life, I place at Your disposal all Holy Masses, all my Holy Communions, all Rosaries, all acts of consecration, all my good deeds, all my sacrifices, and the suffering of my entire life for the Adoration and Supplication of the Holy Trinity, for Unity in our Holy Mother Church, for the Holy Father and Priests, for good Priestly vocations, and for all souls until the end of the world. O my Jesus, please accept my life Sacrifice and my offerings and give me Your grace that I may persevere obediently until my death." Amen. https://www.avemariamaternostra.com/life-offering-promises.html It is recommended that you make this Life Offering as soon as you feel ready, and to renew it from time to time.

Please read the Blessed Mother's promises in the link: those who make it seriously will face no Purgatory (promise 5) since they would have completed it here, will have all their loved ones released from Purgatory the day they offer their life with intent to persevere (promise 4), and can save the souls of all their family members in due time by their life offering (promise 3). It will benefit all souls who have ever lived until time's end (promise 2) A simple effective way for thousands of us to save millions of souls. Inflamed in Large Letters of Love, you will have your name written in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary forever (promise 1).
 
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Offline james03

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Re: Does faith result in an infinite regress?
« Reply #16 on: June 27, 2018, 04:20:30 PM »
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I never denied that God gives faith.
  Then you answer your own question.  There can not be an infinite regress because God is the First Cause.  God is the source of Faith and He gives it to people.  Your opinion on whether you have Faith or not does not factor into the equation.  How do you know you have Faith?  Were you baptized? 
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."
 
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Online Daniel

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Re: Does faith result in an infinite regress?
« Reply #17 on: June 27, 2018, 10:36:06 PM »
So here's a simple test for someone who's not sure if he has the Faith. If he can say, "O my God, I believe all that the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed it, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived." He has faith.
That test only proves whether or not a person sincerely thinks that he has the faith, not whether or not he actually has the faith. Such a person could sincerely think he has it yet be mistaken.

Case in point: I was baptized as an infant. And up until a short time ago I used to sincerely pray that prayer, thinking that I knew that the Church's teachings were revealed by God. But then I began to become more and more aware that whether those teachings came from God is not something I knew at all, and that I was mistaken in thinking that I knew it. So I can now no longer pray that prayer with sincerity, since I now know that I do not know that the Church's teachings come from God.
Still, I am pretty sure that my beliefs themselves did not change at all during this time. The only thing that seems to have changed is that I became more aware of my ignorance. So if my beliefs did not change, and I do not have the faith now, then that seems to indicate that I never had the faith.
(That, or, perhaps my beliefs did change though I am unaware of it. Perhaps I did have the faith at one point but then later lost it. Still, I cannot recall ever knowing that I had the faith. But then again, maybe I've just forgotten.)


What you are saying is a fideistic error. When the Church teaches, God dwells among us in the Holy Eucharist, we know we ought to believe it, because the Church teaches it. Recall how the holy Apostles reacted when Christ first taught them He was the Bread of Life? They said, basically, You have the Words of eternal life, therefore - though we do not understand yet - we believe what you say, because You say it. That is true faith. Faith means believing God in those Whom He has appointed to teach. Note that Jesus had just worked the miracle of the loaves in their sight, so He was entitled to be believed by them in all that He taught.
Ok, I suppose I took that part too far. Still, faith's job at the very least must be to enable us to know that "the Church and her teachings are from God". If we know that "the Church and her teachings are from God" then all of the Church's teachings follow since it is impossible for God to deceive, but if we don't know that the Church is from God then we have no way of knowing whether the Church's teachings are true. Since people with faith know that the Church's teachings are true, they must also somehow know that the Church is from God. But the teaching that says that "the Church and her teachings are from God" cannot be simply accepted based on God's infallibility since that would be begging the question, so I am guessing that the sole means of knowing that "the Church and her teachings are from God" is faith.

I'm not seeing how a miracle can ever be taken as 100%-reliable proof. I mean, it is possible that Christ performed a miracle. Yet it's also possible that this apparent "miracle" was performed through the power of the devil. Or through mere human trickery. It is also possible that it was all a dream or a hallucination--maybe Christ's disciples all just happened to have the exact same dream/hallucination at the exact same time. (More likely it was a real-world event, though there's no way of proving that it wasn't a dream.) Whatever may be the case, my point is that his disciples had no way of knowing whether or not he performed a miracle. You need to start with the knowledge that Christ is God, and from that knowledge you can conclude that anything he teaches is true and that any miracle he performs is true. But you can't start with the miracle and conclude certainly that he is God, because the miracle is uncertain.


Then you answer your own question.  There can not be an infinite regress because God is the First Cause.  God is the source of Faith and He gives it to people.  Your opinion on whether you have Faith or not does not factor into the equation.  How do you know you have Faith?  Were you baptized?
Yes, I was baptized as an infant.
But by that I mean that I am pretty sure that I was baptized, not that I know that I was baptized. (Because it's impossible for me to know that I was baptized: I can say "I was baptized" because my parents tell me I was baptized and because the parish has it on record. So there's some pretty strong evidence pointing in that direction. Still, I can't say for sure that I know that I was baptized, since none of this evidence is 100% certain. It is conceivable that testimony and records of my "baptism" are all one huge conspiracy and that the baptism never even took place. Historical events are inherently unknowable except to the people who witness them.
On top of that, (granting that the baptism did in fact take place,) it is also conceivable that the baptism was invalid due to some defect in form or in the baptizer's intention. Whether or not the form was correct is a question of history (which, again, is unknowable), and whether or not the intention was correct is something which was in the mind of the baptizer (which is unknowable except to God and perhaps to the baptizer).
(Besides that, this all presupposes that there's such a thing as baptism which in turn presupposes that the Church is from God. If the Church is not from God then "baptism" most probably does not give us faith. Further, if the Church is not from God then there might not even be such a thing as "faith". It could be the case that the Church is a mere human institution who has just been making all this stuff up.))

Regardless, it is evident that right now I do not possess the faith. So even if a person could know for sure that at some point in the past he was validly baptized, that fact alone does not allow him to know that he now has the faith. At the very least, he must also somehow know that he never lost the faith after his baptism.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2018, 09:17:52 AM by Daniel »
 

Offline John Lamb

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Re: Does faith result in an infinite regress?
« Reply #18 on: June 28, 2018, 05:31:53 PM »
Daniel, you're reasoning yourself into unreason. You've followed that trend that Descartes started, of criticising every one of your thoughts with reason. You'll end up by questioning the validity of reason itself, and end up a nihilist.
Read Plato. Socrates questioned his own thoughts with reason all the time, but he knew the limits of such questioning. He never went so far as to doubt or subvert first principles, like Descartes did. You seem to think you've reached some higher level of thought/understanding, but all you've managed to do is confuse your thought/understanding in the name of reason.

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Case in point: I was baptized as an infant. And up until a short time ago I used to sincerely pray that prayer, thinking that I knew that the Church's teachings were revealed by God. But then I began to become more and more aware that whether those teachings came from God is not something I knew at all, and that I was mistaken in thinking that I knew it. So I can now no longer pray that prayer with sincerity, since I now know that I do not know that the Church's teachings come from God.

This is nonsense. I don't "know" if the Church's teachings come from God in the same way I "know" I have two hands. The knowledge that faith gives is not the same kind of "knowing" that the senses give or that reason gives.

Let me ask you a question. You say that you don't know if you have/had the faith. But how do you know that you know you don't know if you have/had the faith? How do you know that what you are thinking now is not just an illusion? How do you know that your reasoning/questioning of faith is not itself an illusion? How do you know that you are thinking right now and not just dreaming or deluding yourself? How do you know that you exist or that you have ever thought about anything?
OK let's assume that you don't know any of this, and for all you know, you don't exist and you are just an illusion. If that's the case, there's no more reason for you to reject the faith than there is for you to question it. If your mind and this world is just an illusion, then the most real thing in it must be Christ's suffering on the cross, so if you're going to believe in any thing, you might as well believe in that. In the end, it will be easier for you to deny your own existence than to reject the reality of Christ's suffering and sacrifice. If the world is just a dream then the point where the world is waking up, is Christ pouring out His blood on the cross:

Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst. Now there was a vessel set there full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar and hyssop, put it to his mouth. Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.

If you think that your reason has more reality than Christ's death on the cross then you really are deluding yourself.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2018, 05:35:58 PM by John Lamb »
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Offline james03

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Re: Does faith result in an infinite regress?
« Reply #19 on: June 28, 2018, 11:55:13 PM »
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Regardless, it is evident that right now I do not possess the faith.
  The demons have faith.  That's why they are working on you.

There's a guide service up in Idaho.  Pay some money and they'll teach you to base jump off a bridge.  It would do you a world of good.  I'm also prescribing a minimum of 5 dips of Copenhagen a day.  It will do you some good.

Lack of faith is the most inconsequential thing to worry about.  There's all sorts of sins that are much better to worry about.

Pick a virtue and work on improving it.  I suggest magnanimity.  Research it then fast and pray to be given graces to grow in it.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."
 

Online Daniel

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Re: Does faith result in an infinite regress?
« Reply #20 on: June 29, 2018, 08:57:30 AM »
Lack of faith is the most inconsequential thing to worry about.  There's all sorts of sins that are much better to worry about.

Pick a virtue and work on improving it.  I suggest magnanimity.  Research it then fast and pray to be given graces to grow in it.

I get what you're saying. However, God commands us that we should seek after Wisdom. We can't just go blindly following potentially-unreliable philosophers, and go pretending that we know things which we know not, and go praying to gods who may or may not be God. That's not seeking Wisdom--that's abandoning Wisdom.

edit - But thanks, I will work on magnanimity.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2018, 10:15:20 AM by Daniel »
 

Offline Arvinger

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Re: Does faith result in an infinite regress?
« Reply #21 on: July 05, 2018, 03:49:25 PM »
But my question is this: If man needs faith in order to know whether the articles of faith be true, i.e. to know that he knows, then doesn't he also need something else in order to know whether his faith be true? It seems he needs some sort of "faith of faith", otherwise he has no way of knowing that he knows he knows. But even a "faith of faith" cannot suffice, for he needs a "faith of faith of faith" in order to know that he knows that he knows that he knows. And so on, ad infinitum.

How do we escape from this regress?

Yes, that is the epistemological problem I pointed out several times on this forum. The answer is - the final authority (in this case the Catholic Church) is always axiomatic and is a fundamental presupposition which cannot be verified any further (it it was subject to verification, it would not be the final authority and we would face an infinite regress of verifying authorities, as you point out). Of course, that does not mean that we cannot put forward arguments to support our belief in truthfulness of our final authority, but it means that its truthfulness is not open to question.

One might say that this is circular argumentation and thus begging the question fallacy. However, every argument and every worldview is eventually circular - it is impossible to avoid circularity in epistemology, since any attempt to do so results in the infinite regress you rightly note. There is always a final authority which is taken presuppositionally as an axiom, the question is whose presupposition is the best one. This necessity of axiomatic presupposition occurs is not only in religion, but in every worldview - for example, an atheist must presuppose that his cognitive faculties are reliable (he has no God to account for their functioning, and no way to verify their reliability, since every attempt of such verification necessarily includes using them, rendering the argument circular).
 
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Offline John Lamb

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Re: Does faith result in an infinite regress?
« Reply #22 on: July 12, 2018, 12:35:39 PM »
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The answer is - the final authority (in this case the Catholic Church) is always axiomatic and is a fundamental presupposition which cannot be verified any further (it it was subject to verification, it would not be the final authority and we would face an infinite regress of verifying authorities, as you point out). Of course, that does not mean that we cannot put forward arguments to support our belief in truthfulness of our final authority, but it means that its truthfulness is not open to question.

I think we can escape this problem by pointing out that the Catholic Church is not the final authority for our faith.
St. Thomas says: ". . . faith adheres to all the articles of faith by reason of one mean, viz. on account of the First Truth proposed to us in Scriptures, according to the teaching of the Church who has the right understanding of them. Hence whoever abandons this mean is altogether lacking in faith."

The final authority is the "First Truth", i.e. God.
Sacred scripture and the Church are the means by which we come to know the revelation of this First Truth, but they are not the ultimate end or object of our belief. The end or object of our belief is God revealing [Himself].

"If there is a God who is the Unmoved Mover, the First Truth, then whatever He reveals to be true must be true" - this is really the axiom upon which the faith rests. That's why the classical expression of faith is, "I believe . . . because God has revealed it, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived," i.e. I believe because God is Perfect Truth Itself, and if He has revealed something, it must for that very reason be true.

This "if God has revealed it, it must be true" really is something which can be known a priori, and can legitimately serve as an axiom for belief. This is why there is no infinite regress involved in faith; this truth is axiomatically true, a first principle.

"The Catholic Church is the means which God has chosen to reveal Himself" is not an a priori truth and cannot serve as an axiom for belief; it is known a posteriori, that is to say, by the weight of the evidence.

The way a typical adult comes to faith is:
(1) I believe that there is a God who is the First Truth Itself, and whatever He reveals must be true.
(2) I believe that the Holy Bible is the authentic revelation of this First Truth, God, that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, and therefore whatever it proposes is worthy of belief.
(3) Given that there is widespread disagreement on what the Holy Bible teaches (its meaning), and seeing as I myself (contra Protestantism) do not have the authority to decide what it teaches: therefore, I must look for some external authority which can discern its true meaning; but given the evidence, the only such authority in the world that is credible is the Roman Catholic Church.

The object, the final authority, of faith remains the "First Truth"; the Catholic Church is merely the (infallible) means by which we come to know what the First Truth, God, has revealed in particular, but generally speaking our faith clings to the First Truth as its final object.

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3005.htm
« Last Edit: July 12, 2018, 12:37:12 PM by John Lamb »
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Offline Vetus Ordo

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Re: Does faith result in an infinite regress?
« Reply #23 on: July 12, 2018, 02:39:35 PM »
(2) I believe that the Holy Bible is the authentic revelation of this First Truth, God, that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, and therefore whatever it proposes is worthy of belief.
(3) Given that there is widespread disagreement on what the Holy Bible teaches (its meaning), and seeing as I myself (contra Protestantism) do not have the authority to decide what it teaches: therefore, I must look for some external authority which can discern its true meaning; but given the evidence, the only such authority in the world that is credible is the Roman Catholic Church.

This does not follow.

You cannot believe that the Holy Bible is the authentic revelation of God when you can't decide what it teaches or its meaning.
ΠΙΣΤΟΣ Ο ΛΟΓΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΠΑΣΗΣ ΑΠΟΔΟΧΗΣ ΑΞΙΟΣ, ΟΤΙ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΙΗΣΟΥΣ ΗΛΘΕΝ ΕΙΣ ΤΟΝ ΚΟΣΜΟΝ ΑΜΑΡΤΩΛΟΥΣ ΣΩΣΑΙ: ΩΝ ΠΡΩΤΟΣ ΕΙΜΙ ΕΓΩ
 

Offline Arvinger

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Re: Does faith result in an infinite regress?
« Reply #24 on: July 12, 2018, 03:00:08 PM »
I think we can escape this problem by pointing out that the Catholic Church is not the final authority for our faith.
St. Thomas says: ". . . faith adheres to all the articles of faith by reason of one mean, viz. on account of the First Truth proposed to us in Scriptures, according to the teaching of the Church who has the right understanding of them. Hence whoever abandons this mean is altogether lacking in faith."

The final authority is the "First Truth", i.e. God.

Sacred scripture and the Church are the means by which we come to know the revelation of this First Truth, but they are not the ultimate end or object of our belief. The end or object of our belief is God revealing [Himself].

That is true, although I meant the final *teaching* authority. Of course God is our final authority, but there are many religions which claim to come from God and represent His revelation, therefore we need a final authority teaching us truth about God. If the truthfulness of that authority can be questioned, it is no longer the final authority, and we face the infinite regress.

Quote from: John Lamb
"If there is a God who is the Unmoved Mover, the First Truth, then whatever He reveals to be true must be true" - this is really the axiom upon which the faith rests. That's why the classical expression of faith is, "I believe . . . because God has revealed it, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived," i.e. I believe because God is Perfect Truth Itself, and if He has revealed something, it must for that very reason be true.

This "if God has revealed it, it must be true" really is something which can be known a priori, and can legitimately serve as an axiom for belief. This is why there is no infinite regress involved in faith; this truth is axiomatically true, a first principle.

Sure, but what you describe here is an answer to ontological question, while the problem is epistemological. I believe, because God revealed it - true, it is an ontological reality that God has revealed X, Y and Z and therefore these things are true. But how do we know what God has revealed? Only a teaching authority which is epistemologically axiomatic and not a subject to further verification can answer this.

Quote from: John Lamb
"The Catholic Church is the means which God has chosen to reveal Himself" is not an a priori truth and cannot serve as an axiom for belief; it is known a posteriori, that is to say, by the weight of the evidence.

The way a typical adult comes to faith is:
(1) I believe that there is a God who is the First Truth Itself, and whatever He reveals must be true.
(2) I believe that the Holy Bible is the authentic revelation of this First Truth, God, that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, and therefore whatever it proposes is worthy of belief.
(3) Given that there is widespread disagreement on what the Holy Bible teaches (its meaning), and seeing as I myself (contra Protestantism) do not have the authority to decide what it teaches: therefore, I must look for some external authority which can discern its true meaning; but given the evidence, the only such authority in the world that is credible is the Roman Catholic Church.

The object, the final authority, of faith remains the "First Truth"; the Catholic Church is merely the (infallible) means by which we come to know what the First Truth, God, has revealed in particular, but generally speaking our faith clings to the First Truth as its final object.

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3005.htm

I cannot 100% agree with this. I'm sure that three steps which you describe are indeed how many people arrive to faith (indeed, it correctly describes my reversion from Protestantism), but they are lacking.

Regarding (2) - how do we know that Bible is God's revelation? How do we even know which books belong to the Bible (there is no inspired list of Scriptural books)? We need the Church. On the other hand, the evidence that the Church is true comes from the Bible and Tradition. That evidence can and should lead one to believe that the Catholic Church is true. However, once one arrives to that conclusions, the belief that the Catholic Church is true becomes an axiomatic presupposition. Why? If we believe in the Catholic Church only because weight of evidence convinced us, it means that our judgment of evidence is really the final authority which is epistemologically above the Catholic Church. In that case, should new evidence emerge which convinces us that the Catholic Church is not true, we'd be forced to question Church's truthfulness, which is of course not the case.

Take the Holy Scripture. We know that the Bible is infallible and inerrant, and these truths are not open to question. When an atheist points out alleged "errors" and "contradictions" in the Bible, we never even consider a possibility that he might be correct. We know that Scripture is infallible and inerrant, therefore we know a priori that an atheist is wrong and whatever he points out, there is for sure some explanation, even if we don't know it at the moment. If I were merely "convinced by evidence" that the Bible is true, I'd have to be open to alleged evidence to the contrary and thus consider the possibility that an atheist is correct and there are errors in the Bible and therefore Christianity is false. Of course, I will never do that. Same thing with the Catholic Church - if I were merely "convinced by evidence" that the Catholic Church is true, I'd have to be open to alleged evidence to the contrary and to the possibility I'm wrong (since my faith would rely on my judgment of evidence as final authority). I'm not, because my belief that the Catholic Church is true is a fundamental presupposition which is not open to question. Of course, that does not mean fideism, as we have good arguments and evidence to support a claim that the Catholic Church is true, but this evidence is not what the faith hinges upon.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2018, 03:07:48 PM by Arvinger »
 
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