Author Topic: Why the Catholic faith must be taken presuppositionally  (Read 285 times)

Offline Arvinger

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Why the Catholic faith must be taken presuppositionally
« on: December 25, 2018, 11:53:38 AM »
What promped me to write this topic are (among other things) Daniel's and QMR's threads and posts about epistemology of faith. My argument is following: truthfulness of the Catholic faith must be taken as a fundamental presupposition which cannot be questioned, judged or subjected to judgment of fallible human reason. It must be an axiom. That means that truthfulness of Catholic doctrine must be epistemologically prior to any doubt, argument against or alleged evidence against it. So, if any arguments questioning whether the Catholic Church is true or not, we can know a priori that they are invalid. This is principally for two reasons:


Reason 1.

Once you subject the truthfulness of the Catholic Church to any sort of judgment on the basis of external authority (be it your reasoning, science, or anything else), the Catholic Church is no longer the final authority, and everything becomes relative. If QMR can licitly reject the doctrine of indefectibility of the Church on the basis of his judgment of events in the Church, why cannot another person licitly question the doctrine of transsubstantiation of the Holy Trinity on the basis of their judgment/reasoning/science?

Furthermore, once the Catholic Church is no longer the final authority, there is no final authority to be held - every other authority is in some way fallible, and as such must be subject to verification, therefore you end up with infinite regress of verifying authorities, none of which can provide an objective standard for truth. You end up with relativism and modernism, and any sort of organized religion ceases to make sense.

Objections to that were raised in various threads, primarily by QMR:

1. "Catholic faith becomes irrational!" - no, not at all. If we know that something is for sure true, it is perfectly rational to conclude a priori that any evidence or argument against that must be in some way flawed, contain error or ruse, because if something is true, it is impossible for valid evidence proving it wrong to exist. If a person tells me "look, I have strong evidence and arguments that 2+2=11!", I don't have to examine what sort of alleged evidence or arguments he presents, I know a priori that this person is wrong (although an atheist can't know that, since without God he cannot account for mathematics and their universality). Of course, I can then proceed to refute his arguments with logical and rational counter-arguments, but I don't need these to know that he is wrong.

2. "But I judge these doctrines only by strict logical reasoning and facts!" - that is hogwash. There is no such thing as "facts alone" or "logic alone" - there is always interpretation. For example, QMR denies that he excercises subjective judgment when he claims that indefectibility of the Church is false due to Francis teaching on death penalty - he just "follows facts and logic". Not true - the fact is that Francis taught what he did. That it allegedly constitutes defection of the Church, is only QMR's judgment based on his application of these facts to the doctrine and evaluating whether the two are compatible according to his personal argumentation. It is the same case as with Protestants who claim that the Catholic Church is wrong and "they just point out what the Bible teaches" to demonstrate their claim. Of course it is not so, it is not "just what the Bible teaches", it is the Bible + their interpretation of what the Bible teaches. An evangelical author Scot McKnight admitted that quite boldly:

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. (Scot McKnight, From Wheaton to Rome: why Evangelicals become Catholics, 2002, p. 468).

Likewise, there is no such thing as "facts alone" - facts need to be interpreted.

3. "But member of any religion can take his religion presuppositionally like you do with Catholicism!" - sure, that does not make that other religion true. If you object to my argument on the basis that evangelization would become impossible because everyone would reject Catholic arguments a priori, thinking their religion is true and therefore Catholic arguments must be considered wrong a priori - yes, that is correct. This is why God's grace is necessary and faith is a gift from God. Without God's sovereign choice to grant grace and faith no amount of apologetics will convert a person (although God can still use apologetics as means to convert a person).

 
Reason 2.

It is impossible to prove the truthfulness of the Catholic Church apologetically with absolute certainty using reason and empirical experience. And that is reasonable, for if that was possible, the Catholic faith would no longer be faith, it would be merely an observable empirical fact directly demonstrated by God. You can't prove that the Catholic Church is true the same way you can prove that Empire State Building exists - there will always be a certain degree of a leap of faith necessary. Even the best theistic apologists such as William Lane Craig admit that there is no scientific evidence for the existence of God - of course, he also points out that scientific evidence is not all there is, there are plenty of areas of life which cannot be investigated scientifically (morality, beauty, whether the past really existed, etc.), and I agree with that. However, if your opponent chooses empirical evidence as his standard of determining truth, it becomes impossible to prove the truthfulness of the Catholic faith with absolute certainty - you have to first refute his presupposition that rational reasoning and empirical observations are the ultimate standards of determining truth. Besides, no matter what evidence for supernatural you put forward, a non-believer can always claim that there is some sort of naturalistic explanation which has not been discovered yet (like an atheist Michael Shermer and his "Shermer's Last Law" - even if God existed and worked out a miracle, how can we know it was done by God and not aliens or some sort of highly advanced technology?). Any evidence can be brushed off that way, it is a game you cannot win.

Now, personally I do think that some supernatural claims of the Catholic Church can be demonstrated using the common standards of historical research - a perfect example would be Resurrection of Jesus Christ. An analysis of historical documents and what we know about events which surrounded death of Christ and days following it, we can reasonably come to conclusion that Resurrection is indeed the most plausible explanation and should be accepted as a historical event on the basis of same standards of historical investigation as one would use to conclude that the battle of Pharsalus was historical event. Another example would be well-attested Miracle of the Sun, where naturalistic explanations are incredibly stretched and downright absurd. However, that is not sufficient to demonstrate the truthfulness of the whole theological system - even with Resurrection proven, you still have Catholic vs. Protestant vs. Orthodox debate. Or, one could hypothetically say that Resurrection was indeed supernatural but it was not caused by God.

Where am I going with this? Instead of playing on a rationalist playground and accepting his naturalistic presuppositions (which he cannot account for anyway, since without God as a source of knowledge we have only our private judgments and experiences, and knowledge becomes impossible - evidence presupposes truth, truth presupposes God), we must ourselves take the truthfulness of the Catholic faith presuppositionally rather than attempt to arrive to it on the basis of apologetical arguments. Sure, apologetics are useful, I don't deny their value, but they are in themselves insufficient to bring anyone to faith - only God's grace can do that. I'd compare it to a deep ravine, on one side of which there is belief and on the other non-belief. Apologetics are a bridge which can take you, say, through half of the ravine, but the other half you have to jump yourself.   

Note - this is on the level of personal faith. That is not to say that while talking to an unbeliever you must immediately tell him "accept the Catholic faith as a presupposition now, no questions!". Of course not. I accept the Catholic faith presuppositionally, and with it inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, but when an atheist claims that he found a contradiction in the Bible, I cannot merely say to him "but it is not an error because the Bible is inerrant", since he does not grant my presupposition. I have to attempt to harmonzie the passages and logically demonstrate how this is not a contradiction, and use apologetic argumentation until a person is convinced to accept Catholicism presuppositionally. That does not change the fact that I know a priori that an atheist is wrong and that some explanation for the alleged contradiction for sure exists, even if I cannot find it.

Objections can likewise be raised:

1. "But Vatican I taught that existence of God can be known through human reason" - true, but knowing the existence of God is different than knowing that the Catholic faith is true. There are plenty of solid philosophical theistic arguments starting from Aristotle, but they do not prove which religion is God's Revelation. Also, Vatican I does not specify how can man know through reason that God exists - it could well refer to philosophical arguments rather than empirical evidence.

2. "But that is biased!" - everyone is biased, everyone's worldview is fundamentally based on axiomatic presuppositions, except perhaps for hard solipsist (but even a hard solipsist presupposes that something like a mind even exists), so ultimately everyone's epistemology is circular at some level. The worldview of a naturalist rationalist is marinated in axiomatic presuppositions which he can't prove - he has to presuppose that his cognitive faculties are reliable, that past really existed, that inductive reasoning is valid (consistency of results is not an argument - a method can provide consistent, but wrong results), etc. The question is whose presuppositions are better - presupposition of the Catholic faith accounts for things like logic, mathematics, knowledge, objectie truth, reliability of cognitive faculties, morality, etc. A naturalistic worldview cannot account for these things and has to borrow from Christian worldview to sustain itself, which is why it will always be inferior.     

3. "But you arrived to the conclusion that the Catholic faith is true through reasoning and evidence!" - true, but once I accepted it, it no longer relies on reasoning and evidence, it becomes a presupposition. For example, one of the arguments which convinced me that Purgatory exists is exegesis of specific Biblical passages, such as 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. However, even if a Protestant offered an exegetical counter-argument about this passage which I did not know how to refute, at this point that woud not cause me to abandon my faith in existence of Purgatory, since the Catholic faith became presuppositional for me once I accepted it.

4. "That is fideism and blind faith!" - it is not, since you can still use rational and logical arguments from Scripture, history, philosophy, documented miracles, etc. to support the claims of the Catholic Church. It is just that this evidence is not an essential foundation of faith, it becomes a supplement.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2018, 01:06:01 PM by Arvinger »
 
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Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Why the Catholic faith must be taken presuppositionally
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2018, 02:11:38 PM »
A well-argued post, and one refreshingly devoid of vitriol.

Quote
My argument is following: truthfulness of the Catholic faith must be taken as a fundamental presupposition which cannot be questioned, judged or subjected to judgment of fallible human reason. It must be an axiom. That means that truthfulness of Catholic doctrine must be epistemologically prior to any doubt, argument against or alleged evidence against it.

I distinguish:

That for a Catholic, the essential truth of the Catholic faith cannot be subjected to a judgment of reason, admitted; that this makes Catholic doctrine first in an epistemological chain (axiomatic), denied.  If this were the case it would be impossible for an unbeliever to convert; there must be some epistemological means by which he can come to know the truthfulness of the Catholic faith - and that means (whatever it happens to be) is epistemologically prior to the truth of Catholicism. 

And: that the essential truth of the Catholic faith (e.g. doctrines of faith) cannot be subject to a judgment of reason, admitted; that this applies to Catholic doctrines taught only at a level of "theologically certain" or less, which are themselves arrived at (partially) through reason, denied.  Everything arrived at through reason is subject to a judgment of reason, in the final analysis.  I'm not denying that usually it is sinful for one to question a doctrine taught with this theological note (due to the defects in one's knowledge or one's reason) on his own initiative, nor that Church indefectibility logically entails that such doctrines be infallibly safe, even if not infallible in the absolute sense.  However, in the final analysis, they are subject to the judgment of reason since they were arrived at via reason.

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Once you subject the truthfulness of the Catholic Church to any sort of judgment on the basis of external authority (be it your reasoning, science, or anything else), the Catholic Church is no longer the final authority, and everything becomes relative. If QMR can licitly reject the doctrine of indefectibility of the Church on the basis of his judgment of events in the Church, why cannot another person licitly question the doctrine of transsubstantiation of the Holy Trinity on the basis of their judgment/reasoning/science?

But this is exactly what traditionalists do with regard to Vatican II and the post-Conciliar Magisterium.  They use their reasoning and judgment to compare such teaching with past teaching, conclude a contradiction, and thus reject it.  Of course they deny this with the argument that they aren't using their reason to reject Catholic teaching per se, but rather to reject something as Catholic teaching, but that's a distinction without a real difference.  The Catholic Church is de facto not the final epistemological authority if it is a matter of private judgment by an external authority whether something is actually taught by the Church or not, based on his private judgment whether that something is true and good, or false and evil (which is exactly what the Church is supposed to be deciding, epistemologically).  Traditionalists rant and rave when I bring this up but can't really refute the argument, which puts them in the same boat as the "subjectivists" they are ostensibly opposing.

And it's not true I "reject the doctrine of indefectibility" full stop.  I reject the combination of the doctrine of indefectibility and natural law moral theology as expounded by post-Reformation theologians and insist the understanding of the doctrine needs updating.

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1. "Catholic faith becomes irrational!" - no, not at all. If we know that something is for sure true, it is perfectly rational to conclude a priori that any evidence or argument against that must be in some way flawed, contain error or ruse, because if something is true, it is impossible for valid evidence proving it wrong to exist.

That if we know something is for sure true, it is rational to conclude a priori any argument against it must be in some way flawed, admitted; that this means it is rational to conclude a priori any and all counter arguments made against the original argument will be sound, denied.  If you insist an unsound counter-argument be used to defend the Catholic faith, then yes, you are making the Catholic faith irrational.  It is not because the Catholic faith is irrational per se.

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2. "But I judge these doctrines only by strict logical reasoning and facts!" - that is hogwash. There is no such thing as "facts alone" or "logic alone" - there is always interpretation.

And do you know that by facts alone or logic alone, or is that also just your interpretation?

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For example, QMR denies that he excercises subjective judgment when he claims that indefectibility of the Church is false due to Francis teaching on death penalty - he just "follows facts and logic". Not true - the fact is that Francis taught what he did. That it allegedly constitutes defection of the Church, is only QMR's judgment based on his application of these facts to the doctrine and evaluating whether the two are compatible according to his personal argumentation.

And do you know this (that it is my judgment according to personal argumentation) by facts and logic alone, or is this just your interpretation?  If it is never possible to come down to just facts and logic alone, but there is always some interpretation necessary, then reason doesn't exist, truth is subjective, and you might as well just go home and start condemning traditionalism SJW-style as one of the last "bastions of white male hegemony", Newton's Principia as a "rape manual", and physics and math in general as mere "patriarchal constructions".

So, that it is my judgment based on reason, I admit; that there is any subjectivism whatsoever in concluding the Church now condemns as evil what she formerly permitted, I deny.  That it is my judgment based on reason, I admit; that there is any subjectivism whatsoever in concluding that a Church which formally permits a grave evil is a defected Church, according to the post-Reformation understanding of the term, I deny; that's exactly what post-Reformation theologians maintain is impossible due to indefectibility of the Church.

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It is the same case as with Protestants who claim that the Catholic Church is wrong and "they just point out what the Bible teaches" to demonstrate their claim. Of course it is not so, it is not "just what the Bible teaches", it is the Bible + their interpretation of what the Bible teaches.

It is not the same case, because there are multiple possible interpretations of the Bible, and they are choosing one which contradicts the Church, but they could have chosen one in harmony with it, and thus they don't prove the Church wrong.  Whereas there are not multiple possible interpretations about what was said about the death penalty.

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3. "But member of any religion can take his religion presuppositionally like you do with Catholicism!" - sure, that does not make that other religion true. If you object to my argument on the basis that evangelization would become impossible because everyone would reject Catholic arguments a priori, thinking his religion is true and therefore Catholic arguments must be wrong - yes, that is correct. This is why God's grace is necessary and faith is a gift from God. Without God's sovereign choice to grant grace and faith no amount of apologetics will convert a person (although God can still use apologetics as means to convert a person).

You can't just appeal to God's grace and sovereignty to get yourself out of this dilemma.  How can epistemological presuppositions be challenged, and how are epistemological presuppositions of Catholicism immune from the challenge?

I'll respond to 2 later.  In the meantime, Merry Christmas.
 

Offline Arvinger

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Re: Why the Catholic faith must be taken presuppositionally
« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2018, 04:03:03 PM »
Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
A well-argued post, and one refreshingly devoid of vitriol.
Although we often disagree, I hope I did not come off as vitriolic in any of my previous posts - I try to stick to arguments.

That for a Catholic, the essential truth of the Catholic faith cannot be subjected to a judgment of reason, admitted; that this makes Catholic doctrine first in an epistemological chain (axiomatic), denied.  If this were the case it would be impossible for an unbeliever to convert; there must be some epistemological means by which he can come to know the truthfulness of the Catholic faith - and that means (whatever it happens to be) is epistemologically prior to the truth of Catholicism. 

I addressed that later, discussing reason 2. I distinguish between two separate "phases" (no better word comes to my mind at the moment): 1) arriving to the faith and 2) after having accepted faith. Reason, arguments and evidence are part of the process of arriving to the faith, for sure. However, once one is convinced of the truthfulness of the faith, from that point on it must be taken presuppositionally, not merely because the evidence is convincing enough. So, arguments and evidence are epistemologically prior in phase 1, but not in phase 2. I know the following analogy is not perfect, but I would compare it to visiting a city: I travel there by bus, but once I arrive to the city, I no longer need a bus to be there. Even if the bus breaks down later, I am still at the city. Bus = evidence/argumentation, city = faith.

What I am getting at is this - do you accept the Catholic teaching because:
1) Because truthfulness of the Catholic Church is your fundamental presupposition, and any evidence which is claimed to prove to the contrary must necessarily be wrong (in which case the Catholic faith is epistemologically prior to evidence)
2) Because you currently judge the evidence to be convincing enough (in which case evidence is epistemologically prior to the Catholic faith).

The problem with 2) is that it is essentially rationalism in a Christian garb. A person accepts Catholicism only as long as the evidence and apologetic arguments are sufficient to convince him/her, and should new evidence emerge, which in the judgment of a person refutes Catholicism or disproves the evidence for Catholicism, the Catholic faith is abandoned. In other words, if apologetic arguments and their strength are the condition and basis for one's adherence to Catholicism, then the faith has no solid epistemological basis at all, it becomes a mere personal judgment which makes a person the final authority rather than the Catholic Church. This results in relativism. 

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
And: that the essential truth of the Catholic faith (e.g. doctrines of faith) cannot be subject to a judgment of reason, admitted; that this applies to Catholic doctrines taught only at a level of "theologically certain" or less, which are themselves arrived at (partially) through reason, denied.  Everything arrived at through reason is subject to a judgment of reason, in the final analysis.  I'm not denying that usually it is sinful for one to question a doctrine taught with this theological note (due to the defects in one's knowledge or one's reason) on his own initiative, nor that Church indefectibility logically entails that such doctrines be infallibly safe, even if not infallible in the absolute sense.  However, in the final analysis, they are subject to the judgment of reason since they were arrived at via reason.

I'm not sure if I understand you correctly here - are you arguing that indefectibility of the Church in the Catholic understanding was not defined solemnly enough and therefore it is licit to question it, in a manner which is not licit for, say, Immaculate Conception or Papal infallibility?

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
But this is exactly what traditionalists do with regard to Vatican II and the post-Conciliar Magisterium.  They use their reasoning and judgment to compare such teaching with past teaching, conclude a contradiction, and thus reject it.  Of course they deny this with the argument that they aren't using their reason to reject Catholic teaching per se, but rather to reject something as Catholic teaching, but that's a distinction without a real difference.  The Catholic Church is de facto not the final epistemological authority if it is a matter of private judgment by an external authority whether something is actually taught by the Church or not, based on his private judgment whether that something is true and good, or false and evil (which is exactly what the Church is supposed to be deciding, epistemologically).  Traditionalists rant and rave when I bring this up but can't really refute the argument, which puts them in the same boat as the "subjectivists" they are ostensibly opposing.

Yes, I conceded that the argument is sound, at least in my judgment (but, coming back to presuppositionalism, I know that what the Church teaches is true, therefore some explanation which preserves indefectibility of the Church must exist - I admit I don't have a fully satisfying one now). The only thing I can say against this is that the Catholic doctrine of membership in the Church permits a situation when an anti-Pope sits in the Chair of Peter and teaches as a putative Pope. We know that a Pope can fall into heresy, lose membership in the Church (as numerous Popes taught, heresy and apostasy separate one from the Church) and become an anti-Pope, and there is no guarantee that he will be deposed immediately. So, in that case by using their reason Catholics would not be judging teaching of the Church, but rather teaching of an apostate non-Catholic. Of course, that he is an anti-Pope can be at this point concluded only on the basis of private judgment. That could be resolved by an imperfect council declaring a heretic to be anti-Pope, but currently that is not realistic. My point is that if you accept the Catholic teaching on membership in the Church and losing it through heresy, you accept that a Pope can fall into heresy to, and implicitly accept that the current situation is within the boundaries of Catholic teaching.

Also, I would argue that the solution which is epistemologically most consistent with my argument is to suspend judgment regarding Vatican II claimans to the Papacy and their teachings due to common doubts regarding their legitimacy in accordance with papa dubius, papa nullus rule. I think it is as far as I can get at the moment in maintaining normative Catholic epistemology in current situation.
 
Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
that this means it is rational to conclude a priori any and all counter arguments made against the original argument will be sound, denied.  If you insist an unsound counter-argument be used to defend the Catholic faith, then yes, you are making the Catholic faith irrational.  It is not because the Catholic faith is irrational per se.

I agree. I never made a claim that any counter-argument against the original argument which we know a priori to be false can be used as sound (I've seen a number of terribly bad arguments made by Catholic apologists in debates with Protestants). My point here was that an argument against something I know for sure to be true can be known to be wrong a priori, which you agreed with.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
And do you know that by facts alone or logic alone, or is that also just your interpretation?

Yes, it is my interpretation, which demonstrates my point - every argument involves interpretation.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
And do you know this (that it is my judgment according to personal argumentation) by facts and logic alone, or is this just your interpretation?  If it is never possible to come down to just facts and logic alone, but there is always some interpretation necessary, then reason doesn't exist, truth is subjective, and you might as well just go home and start condemning traditionalism SJW-style as one of the last "bastions of white male hegemony", Newton's Principia as a "rape manual", and physics and math in general as mere "patriarchal constructions".

So, that it is my judgment based on reason, I admit; that there is any subjectivism whatsoever in concluding the Church now condemns as evil what she formerly permitted, I deny.  That it is my judgment based on reason, I admit; that there is any subjectivism whatsoever in concluding that a Church which formally permits a grave evil is a defected Church, according to the post-Reformation understanding of the term, I deny; that's exactly what post-Reformation theologians maintain is impossible due to indefectibility of the Church.

Yes, it is my interpretation, because it is an argument (and, as I pointed out above, it demonstrates my point). However, I never implied that it is not possible to get down just to facts. When I wrote "there is no such thing as facts alone or logic alone" I refered to making a reasoned argument. Obviously, you can state facts alone without forming any argument involving interpretation (just like a Protestant can read the Bible without making any interpretation of it). It is when you try to make a reasoned argument on the basis of facts is when interpretation comes in. Continuing with the example of indefectibility of the Church - compare these two statements:

1) "Francis taught X about death penalty. The Catholic Church teaches indefectibility of the Church." - this is a statement of facts without interpretation involved.
2) "Francis taught X about death penalty, which undermines the doctrine of indefectibility of the Church" - that is a statement which involves interpretation, as you apply your subjective judgment of whether the current situation in the Church is compatible with the doctrine of indefectibility. You evaluate whether you can square the situation in the Church with the doctrine, and since you find yourself unable to do that, you conclude that the doctrine is wrong. Of course, that is contrary to Catholic epistemology. The correct approach is: "because the Church teaches indefectibility, and I know that Church's teaching is true, Francis' teaching on death penalty cannot and does not constitute defection of the Church. There must be some explanation, even if I can't find it now".

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
It is not the same case, because there are multiple possible interpretations of the Bible, and they are choosing one which contradicts the Church, but they could have chosen one in harmony with it, and thus they don't prove the Church wrong.  Whereas there are not multiple possible interpretations about what was said about the death penalty.

You miss the point. It is not about interpretation of what Francis taught about the death penalty (although some have argued that he taught that death penalty is only wrong now, with current social and economical situation - admittably, I find this defence really feeble) but about interpretation of what does the fact that he taught it mean in context of indefectibility of the Church, and that is wheter your interpretation and private judgment comes in:

1) That Francis became a formal heretic, is an anti-Pope and his teachings are null and void, the Church did not defect (most plausible);
2) That Siri theory could be true and there is a true parallel hierarchy, the Church did not defect;
3) That election of Francis could not have been valid and Benedict probably remains a Pope, the Church did not defect (although I find that least helpful, since Benedict is a modernist heretic too);
4) That there is another solution which preserves indefectibility of the Church, but we have not figured it out yet, the Church did not defect;
5) That the Church indeed defected.

Your interpetation is just one of many subjective interpretations among many.

I know a priori that any interpretation of the fact that Francis taught what he taught must result in a conclusion that the Church did not defect, because the Church is indefectible.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
You can't just appeal to God's grace and sovereignty to get yourself out of this dilemma.  How can epistemological presuppositions be challenged, and how are epistemological presuppositions of Catholicism immune from the challenge?

I think it just shows limitation of apologetics and reasoning. At the end of the day, faith is a gift from God - you can't arrive to the faith merely following a certain model of epistemology step-by-step. Maybe there is no way of challenging epistemological presuppositions other than simply counting on presenting enough evidence to convince a person to abandon his epistemological presupposition (at which point it is no longer epistemological presupposition at all). I can present tons of evidence that the Quran is not inspired by God, but if a Muslim will remain steadfast in his epistemological presupposition that he knows that the Quran is inerrant and therefore all of my arguments must be wrong a priori, it is the limit of what an apologist can do. As I said, everyone's epistemology is circular at some level, there are always some axioms at the bottom, so it seems logical that there are limitations in possibilities of challenging one's epistemological presuppositions.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
In the meantime, Merry Christmas.
Merry Christmas to you too.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2018, 05:42:41 PM by Arvinger »
 

Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Why the Catholic faith must be taken presuppositionally
« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2018, 04:39:58 PM »
I addressed that later, discussing reason 2. I distinguish between two separate "phases" (no better word comes to my mind at the moment): 1) arriving to the faith and 2) after having accepted faith. Reason, arguments and evidence are part of the process of arriving to the faith, for sure. However, once one is convinced of the truthfulness of the faith, from that point on it must be taken presuppositionally, not merely because the evidence is convincing enough. So, arguments and evidence are epistemologically prior in phase 1, but not in phase 2. I know the following analogy is not perfect, but I would compare it to visiting a city: I travel there by bus, but once I arrive to the city, I no longer need a bus to be there. Even if the bus breaks down later, I am still at the city. Bus = evidence/argumentation, city = faith.

I can only sort of agree with this.  I agree that once you've arrived at knowledge of something (via whatever means), you don't need to keep going over and reviewing how you got there in order to know that you know it - and such knowledge can still be had even if you completely forget how you got there.  That doesn't mean that knowledge of that something is axiomatic or a presupposition.  There were epistemological steps involved in order to get there, and that something was not first in the chain.  Moreover, epistemological axioms are things which are necessarily true (e.g. law of non-contradiction) and not things only contingently true (e.g. Catholicism).

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What I am getting at is this - do you accept the Catholic teaching because:
1) Because truthfulness of the Catholic Church is your fundamental presupposition, and any evidence which is claimed to prove to the contrary must necessarily be wrong (in which case the Catholic faith is epistemologically prior to evidence)
2) Because you currently judge the evidence to be convincing enough (in which case evidence is epistemologically prior to the Catholic faith).

3)  None of the above.  I arrived (in the past) at certain knowledge that Catholicism is true, due to both exterior and interior evidence; therefore, I accept the teaching today.  Since I have certain knowledge that it is true, any evidence claiming to prove the contrary must necessarily be wrong.  Nevertheless, evidence is still epistemologically prior to the Catholic faith, because that's what came first in the chain.

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The problem with 2) is that it is essentially rationalism in a Christian garb. A person accepts Catholicism only as long as the evidence and apologetic arguments are sufficient to convince him/her, and should new evidence emerge, which in the judgment of a person refutes Catholicism or disproves the evidence for Catholicism, the Catholic faith is abandoned. In other words, if apologetic arguments and their strength are the condition and basis for one's adherence to Catholicism, then the faith has no solid epistemological basis at all, it becomes a mere personal judgment which makes a person the final authority rather than the Catholic Church. This results in relativism. 

Such a person hasn't really accepted Catholicism in the way the Church insists it must be accepted, for he has accepted it as only probably true, but not certainly true. 

But he cannot be expected to accept it as certainly true without 100% evidence of some sort; Bayes' theorem tells us that.  THIS is where Thomism/manualism fails: it hems and haws, and ends by making an act of "faith" an act of belief in something that could be possibly false but it is "faith" because we simply will ourselves to not admit that possibility.  That's why some kind of spiritual illumination is necessary for faith, which Thomists are loathe to admit because it seems to make faith "subjective".

But I cannot accept that if Catholicism weren't true, there would be relativism.  There is a possible world in which God does not, in fact, reveal a religion; that does not mean discovering truths of reason would be "relativism"; they can be known as certainly true.

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I'm not sure if I understand you correctly here - are you arguing that indefectibility of the Church in the Catholic understanding was not defined solemnly enough and therefore it is licit to question it, in a manner which is not licit for, say, Immaculate Conception or Papal infallibility?

No.

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Yes, I conceded that the argument is sound, at least in my judgment (but, coming back to presuppositionalism, I know that what the Church teaches is true, therefore some explanation which preserves indefectibility of the Church must exist - I admit I don't have a fully satisfying one now). The only thing I can say against this is that the Catholic doctrine of membership in the Church permits a situation when an anti-Pope sits in the Chair of Peter and teaches as a putative Pope...

Yes, but once you admit that where the Church is (or who the Pope is) is a matter of private judgment, your entire framework about presuppositionalism comes tumbling down, for the person of the Pope must also be presupposed and not a matter for private judgment, if the truth of his teaching is to be presupposed (not just in the general sense that the truth of Papal teaching is presupposed, but the specific sense that the truth of teaching X is presupposed).

And you don't know that the Catholic doctrine of membership in the Church permits a situation where an anti-Pope teaches as putative Pope.  There is no Magisterium that says this, no theologian that says this.  Theologians do indeed say that a Pope can lose membership in the Church.  They don't say anything about what might happen after that, except for pseudo-deposition by a general Council.

Why don't you simply accept Vatican II presuppositionally as a legitimate development of Catholic doctrine?  It's what the Church teaches; therefore, it's true.  Any claim that it contradicts previous teaching should be rejected a priori, as something impossible, and additionally as your mere "interpretation" of the facts.

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Yes, it is my interpretation, which demonstrates my point - every argument involves interpretation.

How does showing that the derivative of x^2 = 2x involve "interpretation"?

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However, I never implied that it is not possible to get down just to facts. ... It is when you try to make a reasoned argument on the basis of facts is when interpretation comes in.

This is simply to deny the faculty of reason, to insist that any and all use of it is necessarily "subjective" and "interpretation".

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I know a priori that any interpretation of the fact that Francis taught what he taught must result in a conclusion that the Church did not defect, because the Church is indefectible.

So do I.  However, I also know that Francis' teaching is a contradiction of what was taught before.  That is not an interpretation.  That is a fact.

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I think it just shows limitation of apologetics and reasoning. At the end of the day, faith is a gift from God - you can't arrive to the faith merely following a certain model of epistemology step-by-step. Maybe there is no way of challenging epistemological presuppositions other than simply counting on presenting enough evidence to convince a person to abandon his epistemological presupposition (at which point it is no longer epistemological presupposition at all). I can present tons of evidence that the Quran is not inspired by God, but if a Muslim will remain steadfast in his epistemological presupposition that he knows that the Quran is inerrant and therefore all of my arguments must be wrong a priori, it is the limit of what an apologist can do. As I said, everyone's epistemology is circular at some level, there are always some axioms at the bottom, so it seems logical that there are limitations in possibilities of challenging one's epistemological presuppositions.

But that's the nature of epistemological presuppositions; their very status as presuppositions makes them immune from challenge, and once challenged, they are no longer presuppositions.