Author Topic: Questions for John Lamb  (Read 1726 times)

Offline John Lamb

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #15 on: December 24, 2018, 07:44:54 AM »
Still, it seems that from the subject's standpoint, there's no awareness of this. So how exactly is there "certainty"? How is the subject to know that his intellect is being moved by Truth and not by something else? This seems to lead into an infinite regress.

How is the subject to know that his intellect is being moved by Truth and not by something else?

He doesn't know it comprehensively, he only believes it wholeheartedly. Faith does not produce certain knowledge in the sense of scientific knowledge ("a logical conclusion flowing infallibly from the premises"). The apparent infinite regress is solved not by the intellect, but by the will compelling the intellect to assent to what it hears concerning the faith through a charitable motive (wanting to know & imitate Christ, wanting union with God).

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What I notice is that e.g. Martin Luther once had the faith but he assented to error and he consequently lost the faith. So there's something I'm still not getting. It seems that the faith did not prevent Luther from assenting to error. (And I highly doubt that Luther willingly traded what-he-knew-to-be-true for what-he-knew-to-be-false. More likely, he probably traded what-he-thought-to-be-false for what-he-thought-to-be-true yet he nevertheless was mistaken.)

The virtuous habit of faith can be weakened or vitiated through a contrary vice, like any good habit. The supernatural virtue of faith which God infuses into the intellect does not absolutely bind the intellect to that knowledge (of revealed truth), but merely gives it the power or disposition which enables it to assent by choosing to cooperate with grace. If one assents to a single doubt without reservation the habit of faith is lost. The reason that Luther and the sectarian Orthodox are heretics comes from the fact that they cling to their own opinions over and above the mind of the Catholic Church, as infallibly declared by the Magisterium whose terrestrial head is the Roman Pontiff. Heresy means to choose; they choose what to believe themselves, not submitting their minds to the Church's declarations. It's not merely a matter of being mistaken, but of substituting one's own mind & opinion for the infallible rule of faith which Christ divinely established in Peter & his Successors.

But don't Catholics choose to believe in the Catholic Church? What makes their choice less heretical than Luther's choice or an Orthodox bishop's choice?

Objectively — the fact that Christ did indeed establish the Petrine Primacy, and the three pillars of sacred doctrine (scripture, tradition, and magisterium), and not merely scripture alone as Luther said, and not whatever the Orthodox say (the Orthodox don't really have a consensus on a rule of faith as far as I'm aware, it seems they're less coherent than Protestants on this subject).

Subjectively — the fact that the Catholic believer obediently submits his intellect to the teaching of a higher authority (e.g. the Pope, or the Bishops at an ecumenical council), whereas the heretic, though he may profess to submit his mind to an authority, is really sifting it according to his own opinion. For example, Luther claimed to be merely submitting his mind to sacred scripture, when in reality he was making sacred scripture submit to his mind; the proof is that when the whole Catholic hierarchy condemned his heresies, he rebelled and clung to his own mind/opinion. Similarly, the synod of Orthodox bishops stand in opposition to the synod of Catholic bishops, with the Catholic bishops having a visible head (the Pope) and the Orthodox having no visible head; with the Bishop of Rome being the only Christian in the entire world with credible claim to primacy, the fact that these set of "Orthodox" bishops will not submit to this primate with such a credible line of succession to the Roman seat of the Apostles Peter &  Paul, whereas the whole set of Catholic bishops is willing to submit: shows that the Orthodox bishops have nobody above them, on a practical and daily level, to submit their minds to. They are "autocephalous", i.e. every Orthodox bishop is his own Pope, and should they contradict or condemn one another there's no canonical way to settle the dispute. This is a scandal & an absurdity.

Now some Christian in good faith might submit his intellect to an authority above him (e.g. a Protestant pastor, or an Orthodox bishop, or the sacred scriptures, or the ecumenical councils) and although this authority may be truly legitimate (as in the latter two examples) or not truly legitimate (as in the former), as long as he does not set up his mind knowingly against the Roman See and her teaching, and accepts the true and authentic doctrines that he happens to glean from these authorities through the motive of faith, then it may be that this Christian is a true believer and not a heretic. This would be St. Columba's example of an old Russian grandmother who has never known anything different and who sincerely believes that in listening to her Orthodox pastor she's listening to Christ, and has no real opposition in her heart to the papacy; or the young Protestant boy who believes that Christ's His Saviour based on what he's read in the bible, but is ready in his heart to submit his mind to a higher authority, and has no formal opposition against Rome. If these souls have been baptised and do not pertinaciously set their minds up against the teaching of the Catholic Church, the supernatural virtue of faith given to them in baptism may still subsist in them.

The essential habit of faith is to submit one's intellect to Almighty God. Then it follows that the intellect seeks the most authentic and credible witness to God's revelation, and then submits to the preaching of the witness with the obedience of faith. Should anyone obstinately reject the truly authentic witness Christ has sent into the world (the Apostles and their Successors), not from merely being mistaken, but out of sincere malice: he is not truly willing to submit his mind to God, but is a kind of deceptive hypocrite who only claims to follow God. It's difficult to know whether someone is merely mistaken, or whether they are truly and maliciously resisting the preaching of the Apostles and their Successors. This is why the Church doesn't really say that anyone is guilty of the sin of heresy (in the internal forum, within the person's soul), but rather she merely declares that someone in the external forum has proven themselves obstinately unwilling to submit to the Church, and therefore as a matter of public knowledge is declared to be a heretic. So the whole Catholic Church proclaims Martin Luther a heretic, but I suppose there is a very small chance that he was such a mentally ill & insane man that he was really just mistaken and not truly a heretic; however, given the facts of Luther's life it seems we can say, "by their fruits you will know them", and say with near certainty that Luther was indeed a true heretic who in his heart had set up opposition to God & His grace.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2018, 07:57:16 AM by John Lamb »
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Offline John Lamb

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #16 on: December 24, 2018, 08:08:38 AM »
Quote from: Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange
Similarly, as Protestants hold, there would be a vicious circle in our faith if these two propositions were true with the same acceptation of the conjunction “because”: I believe the Church to be infallible because God has revealed this; and, I believe that God has revealed this because it is infallibly proposed to me by the Church. The fact is that in these two statements the word “because” is not used in the same sense: in the first it signifies the formal motive of faith; in the second it expresses only the indispensable condition.

I believe the Church to be infallible because God has revealed this . . . the formal motive of faith.

One believes what the Church teaches because one seeks the union of one's mind with God (divine Truth which can never deceive nor be deceived).

I believe that God has revealed this because it is infallibly proposed to me by the Church . . . the indispensable condition.

One can only believe that God has revealed something on condition that one accepts the proposal of a credible witness. The Church is this witness, and since she is the medium through which the infallible God reveals Himself, she herself is infallible insofar as she does witness to this revelation.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2018, 08:11:26 AM by John Lamb »
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #17 on: December 24, 2018, 11:45:07 AM »
John Lamb - I agree with most of what you said, but here's what I dispute:

The essential habit of faith is to submit one's intellect to Almighty God. Then it follows that the intellect seeks the most authentic and credible witness to God's revelation, and then submits to the preaching of the witness with the obedience of faith.

Yes, we ought to submit our intellect to Almighty God, since if God reveals something it must be true.

But it doesn't follow that we do this by seeking out the most probable authority... since even the authority whom we judge to be the most probable might still not be the true authority. By seeking out the most credible-sounding witness, what we are basically doing is taking a gamble. Maybe we'll get lucky and it'll turn out that our submission to the authority was in fact a submission to God. But what if we get unlucky? By submitting to that witness, we decisively turn our backs on God. We trust the false witness rather than remaining open to God's true witness.

The only way that we can submit ourselves to an authority, and be sure that we're submitting to God and not to some deceiver, is if we already know (100% certainty) that the authority we are submitting to is infallible. Yet seeing as we don't already know which visible authority, if any, is the infallible authority, and seeing as to mistakenly believe in the wrong authority is tantamount not only to heresy but also to idolatry, then the only good/reasonable choice is to remain indecisive--to withhold our assent--until we receive the requisite knowledge. If we go our entire lives without ever receiving the knowledge, and thus without ever submitting to the Church, then at least we have lived our lives in submission to the God whom we never knew, who never gave us the knowledge that the Church was the authority to whom we were supposed to have submitted.


edit - That said, it seems we are still bound to obey the positive commands coming from the questionable authorities... since we have no proof that they are not the true authority. To not follow their commands would be the sin of disobedience. Yet we must do so without assenting.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2018, 12:16:16 PM by Daniel »
 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #18 on: December 24, 2018, 11:50:48 AM »
Thanks Daniel, but no, it is impossible that the premise is true.  Just consider yourself (we only need one counter example).  You were baptized as a baby, and I bet you the farm you never perceived that you had certainty that you had the faith when you were baptized.  I am certain I didn't, and I was also baptized as an infant.
I personally do not recall ever having certainty. However, I can think of other possible explanations. Perhaps my baptism was invalid, in which case I was never certain to begin with. Or, perhaps my memory if faulty... perhaps I did have certainty at one point, though I at this time do not recall ever being certain.
 

Offline St. Columba

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #19 on: December 24, 2018, 12:26:17 PM »
Thanks Daniel, but no, it is impossible that the premise is true.  Just consider yourself (we only need one counter example).  You were baptized as a baby, and I bet you the farm you never perceived that you had certainty that you had the faith when you were baptized.  I am certain I didn't, and I was also baptized as an infant.
I personally do not recall ever having certainty. However, I can think of other possible explanations. Perhaps my baptism was invalid, in which case I was never certain to begin with. Or, perhaps my memory if faulty... perhaps I did have certainty at one point, though I at this time do not recall ever being certain.
.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2018, 12:35:42 PM by St. Columba »
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Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #20 on: December 24, 2018, 03:11:36 PM »
All this reminds me of a chapter in "The Cosmic Code" by Heinz Pagels where different solutions were being proposed to the difficulties raised by quantum mechanics (e.g. many-worlds, Copenhagen interpretation, etc.).  One was adoption of a non-Boolean "quantum logic" where things could be true and false at the same time - which, in order to accept, one would have to have one's head rewired.  As Pagels noted, the salesman of quantum logic didn't have his head rewired - he had to use ordinary logic in order to attempt to convince people.

That is, essentially, what manualist Thomists are doing in response to critiques from analytic philosophy - with respect to predestination, and here with respect to faith.  We have here the contradictory propositions "the intellect can know doctrines of faith to absolute certainty" and "the intellect cannot know doctrines of faith to absolute certainty", advanced in turn dependent on the particular critique advanced, together with a big dose of circular reasoning.

Before you mock my answer as "manualist" you ought to define your own terms and elaborate clearly how they produce a different understanding to my own. How is an "epistemological faculty" different from a "(infused) virtue in the intellect"?

Epistemological = relating to the intellect.
Faculty = virtue (power).

So I don't see how you're coming up with anything new; but it seems typical of you to invent novel terms, to withhold a clear definition of them and leave them ambiguous, and then to act as if you've arrived at some new understanding that the previous terms were simply inadequate to grasp.

These are hardly novel terms, and the definitions are well-known by everyone.  An epistemological faculty is a means of knowing, which may or may not be an intellectual faculty, and may or may not be a virtue, although it certainly is a power.  IOW, an epistemological faculty is a broader term than an infused virtue in the intellect.

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Nobody doubts that the human intellect has a power (or "epistemological faculty") given to it by the supernatural virtue of faith enabling it to know with certainty revealed truths. The question is how it arrives at this knowledge and its essential relation to it. The traditional ("manualist") understanding is that the intellect, moved by divine grace, submits to the authority of the witness or preacher (the "rule of faith": scripture, tradition, magisterium) and assents to their teaching on faith, i.e. based, not on the intrinsic clarity or reasonableness of what is taught, but on the undeniable credibility of the witness.

And the response from analytic philosophy is as follows.

1.  This is circular.  One attains to faith by means of faith.
2.  This is only human faith.  No matter how credible he may be, you are still only believing a man, whether it be a Pope, a Doctor, or an author of Scripture, or whoever else.
3.  The believer must somehow come to knowledge of the credibility of the witness.  If this is done via the intellect, as a conclusion derived from premises and data, then at the end of the epistemological chain you have human reason and not faith or authority.  If this is not done via the intellect, but is also accepted on "faith", then you have an infinite regress.

Thomism really doesn't have any answer to the above except to attempt to shift the terms of the argument and engage in circular arguments.

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This leaves the intellect in a certain obscurity (which is different to doubt), because the intellect does not fully grasp or understand, and cannot wholly prove or demonstrate to itself, what is being taught: it accepts it on faith.

But either the intellect must be able to wholly prove or demonstrate to itself the authority it relies on is infallible, or the information concerning infallibility must be available via some other infallible means.

If it can't attain to this information then there is objective doubt - the possibility that what is believed on faith is in fact false.

Typically Thomism here takes the intellectually dishonest move of saying that of course that authority is infallible because that authority is God revealing - which is just an exercise in question begging and circular reasoning.

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But these are only credible motives, they do not absolutely prove beyond all doubt that the teaching of the Catholic Church is true. What if the most credible religion still happens to be false? What if Jesus Christ isn't truly God, or the Apostles were not true preachers, or they never founded an institutional church, etc.?
There is always room for doubt. Faith does not exclude the possibility of doubt, it only excludes assenting to doubt. Although many doubts or objections may be made against my faith, I cling to faith because I have greater trust in Jesus Christ, the Apostles, the scriptures, the Church: than I have in my own fallible reason.

1.  You must use your "own fallible reason" to determine that you should trust Jesus Christ, the Apostles, etc., or even to determine they even actually existed in the first place, or did what they are supposed to have done, etc.
2.  To say "It is possible Catholicism is false, based on the information I have" is incompatible with "I have absolute certainty Catholicism is true".


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Therefore, my faith in Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church is not something I can ever demonstrate to myself is true beyond all doubt; I must simply cling to it in faith. This is why faith is said to be an "imperfect knowledge", because it rests ultimately not on the intellect, but on the will which must will to believe, based on what it's seen & heard.

But what you've seen and heard don't give you absolute certainty Catholicism is true, as you admit, so therefore your claim to be "clinging to it on faith" might be false.  Your intellect is telling you there isn't absolute certainty, and your will is, essentially, telling your intellect to shut up about it.

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I'm not reducing the faith to a mere pragmatism ("I believe because it's useful"), but I'm saying that the fact that my faith leads me to be more fully human, and also more divine, is as much external evidence as can be asked for that what I believe is the truth about humanity & about God. Objectively speaking, the supernatural virtue of faith is empowering me to believe the mysteries taught by Christ & the Church. I know that, but only by faith. Subjectively speaking, I am in obscurity (not doubt) as to whether or not what I believe is true, but faith itself moves me to believe with absolute certainty that it is.

Which is of course a circular argument: I know by faith that faith exists.

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Quare, from what I can gather, is unsatisfied with this obscurity which faith leaves our minds in. In place of faith, it seems to me he wants to substitute some kind of real gnosis, an illumination of the intellect which produces clear knowledge such that it cannot even possibly be doubted. I think this is contrary to the very notion/definition of faith, and such gnosis or illumination of the intellect which leaves it in no obscurity as to the nature and veracity of the divine mysteries is a grace reserved solely to the next life: the human intellect in this life is not able to bear such powerful an illumination; even the saints which reached the highest degrees of mystical contemplation in this life, were still left in some (however small) obscurity as to whether what they had experienced was divine truth and not an illusion, and had to rely on faith to believe that God (and not say, a demon) was communicating with them.

Not quite.  I'd argue that we have sufficient epistemological faculties to "see" the holiness of Catholicism, including, but not limited to, becoming more fully human and more divine, and that THAT is how we can know it to be true.

 

Offline St.Justin

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #21 on: December 24, 2018, 03:40:33 PM »
Hers is how it all works. You have a Good Angel on your right shoulder and a bad angel on your left. If you listen to the bad angel you go to hell. If you listen to the Good Angel you go to Heave.
 

Offline St. Columba

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #22 on: December 24, 2018, 07:10:42 PM »
Quare, how do you handle the critique that the Easterners give the sacraments to babies, who do not have certainty that the faith is true?

If one says, well, the requirement to believe only kicks in when they are able, we should realize that no one is ever able, regardless of age, to have supernatural faith and absolute certainty, as these are unmerited gifts from above.

If one says, well, the church is wrong to give sacraments to those who do not believe, then the Church endorses sacrilege.  Impossible.

If one says, babies do indeed have certainty, then I am a living counter-example.

The only viable answer seems to be that the Catholic Church does indeed condone the practice of giving the sacraments to those who do not have absolute certainty, and yet do not doubt....and this is consistent with John Lamb's overall "program" of faith.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2018, 07:32:52 PM by St. Columba »
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Offline TheReturnofLive

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #23 on: December 25, 2018, 08:45:10 PM »
I've never heard of the requirement of absolute certainty for Roman Catholicism, and I'm quite honestly flabbergasted that this conversation is even happening.

I can't believe that there are people who are so intellectually dishonest that they really do pretend they have absolute, 100% certainty with not one instance of doubt in the history of their lives in taking the Eucharist in what they believe in.

You may be able to put on your smiling Pharisee mask and say "well, sucks to be you you can't comprehend what I think. You just lack Faith and are a reprobate, you wouldn't understand."

Not once has the question of whether or not the fact that you were born Roman Catholic influences what you believe in? Not once has the question of Evolutionary evidence bothered you? Not once have the past 5 popes really made you doubt your Faith?

You can chalk it up to mysticism which guarantees you absolute certainty, but there's no certainty to tell you that the mysticism you experience is true or not, or a deceit of the devil.

How do you know that the devil isn't whispering into your eye, that you are under delusion and falsehood? How do you know that the ideas of absolute certainty aren't merely a product of simple emotion, nothing spiritual at all but one's own mental images that are spun from emotion?

People can't even be absolutely certain if they exist or not, if all of their encompassing reality is just that of a computer simulation, or you are a brain in a vat, or you are in a coma - if Descartes's demon is fooling you.

Give me a break.

I don't deny Supernatural Faith, but Faith is Faith. It's Faith, not certain knowledge or mysteries or secrets that the other person can't get - that's the literal definition Gnosticism. It's Faith because you put your own will and submit it to God, trusting in Him.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2018, 08:51:46 PM by TheReturnofLive »
 

Offline TheReturnofLive

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #24 on: December 25, 2018, 08:48:28 PM »
Let me ask you something - what's the point of Eucharist being a medicine to forgive sins and progress in one's Spiritual relationship with God when one has to be near perfect to receive it?

It's incredibly selfish, narcissistic, and delusional to assume that anybody is perfect to receive the Eucharist but Christ Himself. And it's shocking that one can assume they are ever worthy to receive the Eucharist in a theological system whose sole basis is Satisfaction and Reparation.
 

Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #25 on: December 26, 2018, 05:36:06 PM »
I've never heard of the requirement of absolute certainty for Roman Catholicism, and I'm quite honestly flabbergasted that this conversation is even happening.

Well break open a Catechism book, which will tell you that doubting an article of faith (just one) is not only a mortal sin but also makes you not a Catholic.


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I don't deny Supernatural Faith, but Faith is Faith. It's Faith, not certain knowledge or mysteries or secrets that the other person can't get - that's the literal definition Gnosticism. It's Faith because you put your own will and submit it to God, trusting in Him.

And how do you know you are doing that, Mr. Skeptic?  How do you know you aren't really submitting your own will to an evil demon who arranged evidences of Christianity just to mess with us?
 

Offline St. Columba

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #26 on: December 26, 2018, 07:23:46 PM »
Well break open a Catechism book, which will tell you that doubting an article of faith (just one) is not only a mortal sin but also makes you not a Catholic.

But lack of doubt and certainty are not necessarily the same thing.  Again, how do you account, Quare, for Eastern Catholic babies being allowed to receive the sacraments without certainty?

I suppose you were in the state of mortal sin then for all of those years you were a "catholic", before you received the claimed charism of absolute certainty?

Furthermore, AFAIK, the Catholic Church has never officially taught that those who move their wills to believe are to be ranked among the unbelievers.   Pius X's decree "Lamentabili sane" n. 25,  the assent of faith is ultimately based on a sum of probabilities, won't cut it.  Arvinger's epistemology and attendant assent of faith, for example, would not come under this censure, despite his lack of certainty.

Could you be a little less searing during Christmastide?
« Last Edit: December 26, 2018, 07:47:26 PM by St. Columba »
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Offline St. Columba

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #27 on: December 26, 2018, 08:22:21 PM »
...is one's marriage even sacramental, if one of the parties did not have absolute epistemic certainty beforehand?
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #28 on: December 26, 2018, 09:51:28 PM »
From what I've heard, marriage has nothing to do with faith. The way marriage works is: so long as both persons have been validly baptized, the marriage is sacramental. Even if neither party believes in the sacraments, it's still sacramental (assuming it's contracted validly).

Confession, on the other hand, depends on faith. Because confession is invalid without contrition, and it's impossible to have contrition if you don't have faith.
 
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Offline TheReturnofLive

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Re: Questions for John Lamb
« Reply #29 on: December 26, 2018, 10:52:27 PM »


And how do you know you are doing that, Mr. Skeptic?  How do you know you aren't really submitting your own will to an evil demon who arranged evidences of Christianity just to mess with us?

Because that's the very definition of "Faith." I could believe I'm in a coma, I could believe I'm not awake, I could believe that Descartes's demon is causing my reality and belief system to be malicious.

But I don't see any pragmatic value in believing in any of these scenarios, even if they were true, nor would I see pragmatic value in not having Faith.

And you must have some nerve calling me "Mr. Skeptic." After all the stuff you've posted, you make me tame in comparison. I'm not the one here over generalizing adherents to a specific worldview as "childish" or "narcissistic."
 
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