Author Topic: Epistemology of Faith  (Read 1049 times)

Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Epistemology of Faith
« on: December 27, 2018, 03:12:28 PM »
Let's see if we can condense the epistemology of faith discussions going on on various threads.

The traditional view is that the will commands the intellect to assent to doctrines of faith (which it does not know to be true beforehand), because the will sees they ought to be believed; the truth of such doctrines is not self-evident (like 2 + 2 = 4) but the intellect nevertheless believes due to having been taught them by an infallible authority.

And this, I say, is hopeless.

The will commands the intellect based on what?  This command is a good command and not an evil one if and only if what is to be believed is in fact true, but that is precisely what is not known.  Or else, this command is a good command because of other things besides the truth of what is to be believed; and this is pragmatism.  (It might be a good thing to believe that you will be audited by the IRS this year, because it will make you get your books in order; but that doesn't make it true.)

It also implicitly assumes the intellect would have the ability to dissent from a given doctrine even knowing that it was taught by an infallible authority.  But even though the doctrine in itself isn't self-evident to the intellect, it is self-evident that a doctrine taught by a infallible authority must be true - that is the meaning of the word "infallible" - it is as self-evident as "there are no married bachelors".

 

Offline John Lamb

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2018, 06:24:26 PM »
I think this question seems more abstract than it is because we're living in an age of such spiritual poverty, and lack the holy preachers & saints that makes the Church's testimony more visibly compelling. Sure, authority does indeed reside in the Pope & the Bishops, but when they are doing such a poor job of preaching & practicing the faith themselves, it takes extraordinary clearsighted-ness to recognise their authority for what it is (viz. divine).

I always bring up the analogy of human faith, like a man from "Australia" (which for the sake of argument let's assume is a place to which you've never been). He claims to be Australian, to have grown up in Australia, that his peculiar accent is authentically Australia: and he tells you all sorts of interesting facts about Australia. You can't prove by reason alone that Australia exists, but based on the testimony of this man who seems to be very credible, you accept its existence and the things he has to say about it. In this case the will does compel the intellect to believe what the purported "Australian" is saying, by motive of wanting to know more about this region of the world and its people. His authority is based on his being a first-hand witness to the place of Australia.

This also applies to most areas of human learning. For example, physics. When you are learning physics, you don't have immediate access to the instruments which are used to reproduce the scientific evidence supporting a particular theorem; rather, you accept the theorem based on the authority of the doctor of physics, your will compelling your intellect to believe because it desires to know more about this science, trusting in the teacher's authority. His experience, his PhD, etc., make him a credible witness.

Now it's essentially the same with the preaching of the faith. The apostles were men who were very holy, who performed supernatural miracles, who taught a sublime doctrine, who were exemplars of charity and good works, who risked the direst persecution and even martyrdom for the sake of their gospel: and they claimed to speak with the authority of God. And they were credible witnesses. God exists, and God sends messengers in the world to tell us about Him, and these messengers live holy lives and perform superhuman feats to prove their authenticity – What's absurd about this? And what's absurd about believing them? How is it any more absurd than believing the Australian or the physics professor? These men seem to know about the things of God as much as the Australian and the physicists know their expertise, so why not believe them for the sake of knowing more about God and what He has to say to us? [note how reason plays an authentic role in faith; God does not ask us to believe anyone who claims to preach in His name, but rather He, and our own reason, warns us against false prophets; this is why before making an act of faith, we ought to assess the credibility of the witness, which involves the use of our reason, i.e. we're not compelled to believe in the founder of Islam or Mormonism just because they claim to be prophets. I believe in Catholic doctrine by divine faith, but the reason I put my faith in the Catholic witness to God's revelation rather than an Orthodox or Protestant witness is because my reason also makes a compelling argument for the authenticity of Catholicism against any other religion claiming to speak in God's Name, in addition to my private religious experience of the truth and benefits of the Catholic faith.] This is the will compelling the intellect to believe what it cannot arrive at or necessarily grasp itself: for the sake of knowing God, in this case. The only difference here is that the Object of knowledge and the One revealing the knowledge is ultimately God Himself, who is intrinsically infallible; therefore, if these apostles really are authentic messengers sent by God, then their message is infallibly true (whereas the Australian could always be lying or blurring the truth, and the physicist's theorems could later turn out to be false or inadequate).

Now our present Bishops are very inferior and inadequate successors to the apostles, but they are indeed authentic successors (history is clear), and so they have the identical authority to preach God's message to mankind. So we should believe them.

The analogy is like a man claiming to be Australian but having an obviously American accent & culture, or a man claiming to be a physics professor but being obviously dreadful at mathematics. It may so happen that they're still authentic, it's just a lot harder to believe. The same with our current Bishops, who are authentic representatives yet poor & inadequate ones.

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It also implicitly assumes the intellect would have the ability to dissent from a given doctrine even knowing that it was taught by an infallible authority.  But even though the doctrine in itself isn't self-evident to the intellect, it is self-evident that a doctrine taught by a infallible authority must be true - that is the meaning of the word "infallible" - it is as self-evident as "there are no married bachelors".

True, but this is why it all rests on believing in the first place in the authentic Magisterium. If you believe that God speaks through the Church, then believing any particular doctrine which the Church proposes becomes relatively straightfoward: it's just a matter of submitting your mind to an authority which you know is superior to you, and infallible. People doubt individual doctrines of the faith when they can't reconcile them with their own understanding, but they don't lose the faith until they set up their minds against the Church's authority and refuse to be taught by it.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2018, 06:41:33 PM by John Lamb »
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Offline Kreuzritter

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2018, 07:23:57 PM »
Hmmm ...

I'm actually with Quare on this one.
 

Offline Kreuzritter

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2018, 07:42:12 PM »
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This also applies to most areas of human learning. For example, physics. When you are learning physics, you don't have immediate access to the instruments which are used to reproduce the scientific evidence supporting a particular theorem; rather, you accept the theorem based on the authority of the doctor of physics, your will compelling your intellect to believe because it desires to know more about this science, trusting in the teacher's authority. His experience, his PhD, etc., make him a credible witness.

No, I do not. Basic equations of dynamics and kinematics are testable using instruments and observations readily available to the modern student and if I hadn't seem them in action, no, I would not have accepted them as describing what they purport to on nothing but the word of someone whose "credibility" depends upon the veracity of the very things under question. In the case of more complex theories that do not simply follow analytically from these fundamentals, I depend firstly on my own understanding of papers and secondly on the system of peer-review by people to persevere in trying to understand how a theoretical proposition accounts for an alleged experimental result, and on the reproducibility of that experiment, tested by peers, to confirm the relevance of that experimental result, and even then, I would not and do not claim certitude as to these things, but more an intellectual interest born of curiosity and the practical application in technologies I can see working. This isn't moral certitude and it isn't dependent on faith.
 

Offline Kreuzritter

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2018, 08:26:54 PM »
Let's see if we can condense the epistemology of faith discussions going on on various threads.

The traditional view is that the will commands the intellect to assent to doctrines of faith (which it does not know to be true beforehand), because the will sees they ought to be believed; the truth of such doctrines is not self-evident (like 2 + 2 = 4) but the intellect nevertheless believes due to having been taught them by an infallible authority.

And this, I say, is hopeless.

And I find this not only hopeless but as sterile and as un-Christian in its conception as I do the Thomistic emphasis upon God as being and the image of God as intellect.

If belief is given to a propositon by virtue of it being taught by an infallible authority, in an epistemological sense, then faith is redundant, for as you already pointed out, if I believe an authority to be infallible I necessarily believe what it teaches to be true.

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The will commands the intellect based on what?

If John Lamb's preceding explanation is anything to go by, based upon judgments of the intellect. Where did grace leading a man to encounter and believe divinely revealed truths disappear to in all of this?

Meh.


Christianity is first and foremost a personal encounter and love affair with Yahweh that transforms the man from within and from which faith and hope are born, and he is illumined by the light of spiritual knowledge to the extent that he participates in the divine nature, a participation that is the ever-increasing bounty of sanctifying grace and exercise of the virtues. I know Jesus Christ, and my faith in him prompts me to trust his word, as my discerment enables me to recognise when grace, so help me God, leads me to it. I would never have become or remained a Christian were it not for my experience of the reality of this relationship and its fruits, not for the historical evidence, testimony of miracles, philosophical arguments and all the tea in China, and it seems to me that one can lay part of the blame for the wholesale abandonment of the Church in the Western world squarely at the feet of the Roman obsession with authority and reason, a game it ultimately lost to atheism and physical science - and one can see this same phenomenon in the various ill-conceived religious reactions to it, from Protestantism to the Charismatic movement to the search for spiritual encounters in the New Age or mysticism of the Far East.










This command is a good command and not an evil one if and only if what is to be believed is in fact true, but that is precisely what is not known.  Or else, this command is a good command because of other things besides the truth of what is to be believed; and this is pragmatism.  (It might be a good thing to believe that you will be audited by the IRS this year, because it will make you get your books in order; but that doesn't make it true.)

It also implicitly assumes the intellect would have the ability to dissent from a given doctrine even knowing that it was taught by an infallible authority.  But even though the doctrine in itself isn't self-evident to the intellect, it is self-evident that a doctrine taught by a infallible authority must be true - that is the meaning of the word "infallible" - it is as self-evident as "there are no married bachelors".
[/quote]
 

Offline Xavier

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2018, 02:17:00 AM »
Merry Christmas, everybody. :)

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The will commands the intellect based on what?

Well, Quare, it may be helpful to illustrate based on Scriptural examples. Let's take the example we all know of in St. John chapter 6.

Here, the Lord God Jesus Christ spoke of the most profound spiritual Truth, that He Who had become Man for our sake and willed to give His life for our salvation, had wished, in an excess of Infinite Love, to give His flesh for our food and His Blood to be our drink. In brief, He taught them in clear and explicit words His Real Presence in His Eucharist forever.

Some bad disciples walked away from Jesus. The holy Apostles remained with him and believed his Word. What happened here?

In the unbelieving disciples, the loftiness of the doctrine proposed occasioned the open rebellion of their will against the Master Whom a moment before (after seeing the Multiplication of the Loaves miracle) they wanted to take and make King by force. Thus, they showed a carnal attitude that was unwilling to be raised to supernatural life, and did not perceive the Mystery of His Sacramental and Eucharistic Reign in His Church.

But in the Apostles, did they perhaps understand well what was being taught and were they able by themselves to belive such a high truth? Not at all. The Apostles knew only this, "Thou hast the words of eternal life." (Jn 6:69) i.e. to say, they knew that Jesus was the Truth and all that He taught and promised them would come about, even if they didn't understand, or didn't know at this time about the Last Supper. In other words, by the grace of God, they willed to believe all that Jesus taught not because of what He taught but rather because of Who He was. And thus the same Apostle who wrote this Gospel says later on. 1 Jn 5

5:9  If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater. For this is the testimony of God, which is greater, because he hath testified of his Son.
5:10  He that believeth in the Son of God hath the testimony of God in himself. He that believeth not the Son maketh him a liar: because he believeth not in the testimony which God hath testified of his Son.


Would you disagree? Thus, faith is believing the testimony of God in those Whom He has appointed to teach. So it was for the Apostles.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2018, 03:26:02 AM by Xavier »
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Offline John Lamb

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2018, 04:24:54 AM »
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The will commands the intellect based on what?

If John Lamb's preceding explanation is anything to go by, based upon judgments of the intellect. Where did grace leading a man to encounter and believe divinely revealed truths disappear to in all of this?

Grace is right there, in moving the will to move the intellect to "encounter and believe divinely revealed truths."

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Christianity is first and foremost a personal encounter and love affair with Yahweh that transforms the man from within and from which faith and hope are born, and he is illumined by the light of spiritual knowledge to the extent that he participates in the divine nature, a participation that is the ever-increasing bounty of sanctifying grace and exercise of the virtues. I know Jesus Christ, and my faith in him prompts me to trust his word, as my discerment enables me to recognise when grace, so help me God, leads me to it. I would never have become or remained a Christian were it not for my experience of the reality of this relationship and its fruits, not for the historical evidence, testimony of miracles, philosophical arguments and all the tea in China, and it seems to me that one can lay part of the blame for the wholesale abandonment of the Church in the Western world squarely at the feet of the Roman obsession with authority and reason, a game it ultimately lost to atheism and physical science - and one can see this same phenomenon in the various ill-conceived religious reactions to it, from Protestantism to the Charismatic movement to the search for spiritual encounters in the New Age or mysticism of the Far East.

I don't see how what I said is incompatible with any of this. But tell me, how does this "personal encounter and love affair with Yahweh" of itself get you to the doctrine of the Homoouison, as against the Arian lovers of Yahweh? Or the doctrine of free-will and merits, as against the Protestant lovers of Yahweh? Or the doctrine of the death and resurrection of Christ, as against the Muslim lovers of Yahweh? Or the doctrine of the Incarnation, as against the Jewish lovers of Yahweh? Does your love get you to the true doctrine of Yahweh because your love is greater than theirs is? See, all you've done is describe the subjective motive for believing (loving and wanting to know God), which is included in what I said (although you've given a more poetic description of it than I have); but you haven't described the mechanism through which one comes to know what objectively has been revealed, which is what I was describing.

That you & Quare seem to both rely entirely on subjective lights to know what has been objectively revealed is a poor showing on your part. It's not that I deny the necessity or importance of an interior illumination corresponding to the act of divine faith: the light which precedes the act of faith is presented to the intellect as the motive for believing (i.e. to know the divine Nature of God, to know the Person of Jesus Christ and indeed of the Three Persons of the Trinity), and the light which succeeds the act of faith is a partial knowledge of revealed truths; both of these are extremely luminous in themselves given their divine Object and Source. However, the act of faith itself is a relatively dark and obscure act, like mystics such as St. John of the Cross say, because it only gives the intellect an illumination which itself is surrounded in darkness as in this life the divine truths which faith attains are beyond the reach of the mind. Due to this obscurity one cannot rely solely on one's own interior lights to judge matters of faith, but must rely on an external authority which has been credibly empowered by God with divine authority & power to preach divine revelation. Otherwise, you will end up in the situation of the average New Ager yourself where you are relying on your "spiritual experience" to tell you exactly what to believe, and the fact that your "spiritual experience" corresponds with Catholic doctrine is more or less an accident. Tell me, if you had a spiritual experience telling you that Our Lady's Virginity was not perpetual, on what grounds would you dismiss this false experience other than the authority of the Catholic Church compelling you to do so? And if it's the authority of the Catholic Church which compels you to dismiss such experiences and believe otherwise despite them, then how is your position different from mine? It seems very arrogant to assume that your spiritual experience has lead you to the true doctrine, but the spiritual experience of a Protestant or a Muslim hasn't. I don't trust entirely in my own private holiness to arrive at Catholic doctrine, but more in the holiness of the Catholic Church herself; which isn't to say that my own private spirituality plays no part, just that it does not play the primary one. If I were to trust in my own private lights & spirituality I would probably be a very individualist Protestant working through scripture and the writings of the mystics; and I don't see how you two are arriving at Catholicism, rather than this very individualist (albeit with a Catholic flavour) Protestantism.

If you test your spiritual experiences against the Church – I don't see how our positions differ.
If you test the Church against your spiritual experiences – I don't see how you differ from a Protestant or Modernist heretic which the Church has already condemned.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2018, 05:52:15 AM by John Lamb »
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Offline John Lamb

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2018, 06:33:30 AM »
But in the Apostles, did they perhaps understand well what was being taught and were they able by themselves to belive such a high truth? Not at all. The Apostles knew only this, "Thou hast the words of eternal life." (Jn 6:69) i.e. to say, they knew that Jesus was the Truth and all that He taught and promised them would come about, even if they didn't understand, or didn't know at this time about the Last Supper. In other words, by the grace of God, they willed to believe all that Jesus taught not because of what He taught but rather because of Who He was. And thus the same Apostle who wrote this Gospel says later on. 1 Jn 5

[...]

Would you disagree? Thus, faith is believing the testimony of God in those Whom He has appointed to teach. So it was for the Apostles.



This is correct. The truths which faith teaches us are far above our own understanding, so we do not believe them because of their own intelligibility to us, but because the authority which declares them to us is one in which we can put our trust. As St. Augustine says, "I would not believe the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so." The gospel itself is a light shrouded in darkness – an authentic mystery – like the dark cloud in which God appeared to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It is the apostolic witness which persuades us to believe; it is the Catholic Church which makes the invisible revelation of God to be visible. This is the general signification of the word "sacrament". The Catholic faith is sacramental: it depends on the mediation of visible signs of invisible grace, above all the Church herself considered as the supreme sacrament. To trust entirely in one's interior lights alone is to de-sacramentalise Christianity like the Protestants.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2018, 06:39:14 AM by John Lamb »
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Offline Kreuzritter

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2018, 07:44:55 AM »
Quote
The will commands the intellect based on what?

If John Lamb's preceding explanation is anything to go by, based upon judgments of the intellect. Where did grace leading a man to encounter and believe divinely revealed truths disappear to in all of this?

Grace is right there, in moving the will to move the intellect to "encounter and believe divinely revealed truths."

Fair enough, but it seems that your stated epistemological reasons for the will to choose to move the intellect to submission to an authority, perceived as such, are themselves intellectual.


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I don't see how what I said is incompatible with any of this. But tell me, how does this "personal encounter and love affair with Yahweh" of itself get you to the doctrine of the Homoouison, as against the Arian lovers of Yahweh? Or the doctrine of free-will and merits, as against the Protestant lovers of Yahweh? Or the doctrine of the death and resurrection of Christ, as against the Muslim lovers of Yahweh? Or the doctrine of the Incarnation, as against the Jewish lovers of Yahweh?

So you understand where I'm coming from here: Yahweh, the God of Israel, is specifically the name of the second hypostasis of the Trinity and was clearly revealed and recognised as such before the Second Temple period, as the Son of the Most High. The Israelites were not unitarians like the Pharisees of Jesus' time and Jews of today but knew and worshipped the Father and the Son before his human incarnation, just as they knew the ruach hakodesh in the Shekinah and its operation in man, even if these had not been theologically fleshed out by a people with but little interest in the intellectual bickerings of systematic philosophy. But this is not a point I need to belabour, so if you want to, just replace "Yahweh" with "Jesus Christ" and it works to some extent. I also need to emphasise what you dropped in your questions, namely, the existence of an actual encounter with this personal being.

1. The Allah of Islam is not Yahweh any more than Bonnie Prince Charlie was George II of Hanover by virtue of claim to the same title of "creator" and "God of Abraham". If the Muslim actually encountered and loved Yahweh, he wouldn't be a Muslim anymore but would drop to his knees and worship.
2. The "Jew" specifically and deliberately rejects Yahweh as Son, and with him the whole Trinity. Scripture is clear on this. I don't know how you think that same Jew could have encountered and loved him, though he worships some being he implictly calls "Yahweh", although never actually by name, which is itself telling!

So much for them. But I bring the same sentiment to the Arian. Firstly, the question for me is not whether the non-Arian or Arian has a nominal belief in the homoouison of Father and Son, a matter for the theologians which most don't understand anyway, but how his beliefs play out in whether he worships the latter as divine, with the adoration due to both. If not, there is either a lack of true encounter or a deficiency in love, and ignorance is the result.

Lastly, to the Protestants with such beliefs, that encounter and love, in good will, should inform his conscience and pull him toward contrition for sin and the doing of good works, whether or not he knows the theology, and if invincibly ignorant, one hopes eventually to a conscious undrstanding of the truth.

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Does your love get you to the true doctrine of Yahweh because your love is greater than theirs is?

It gets me to the "true doctrine", hopefully, by grace and the mystery of predestination, but faith without works is dead, and works may often imply a belief that is unexpressed or even nominally rejected. But as to core doctrines, like the divinity of Jesus or the nature of justification, I think these can be experienced clearly and directly, even if they aren't "understood" in an intellectual sense.

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See, all you've done is describe the subjective motive for believing (loving and wanting to know God), which is included in what I said (although you've given a more poetic description of it than I have); but you haven't described the mechanism through which one comes to know what objectively has been revealed, which is what I was describing.

I have. "Jesus said unto him, Have I been so long a time with you, and yet have you not known me, Philip? He that has seen me has seen the Father; and how say you then, Show us the Father?" Ontologically, faith in the baptised leads to grace which leads to discovery and recognition of truth, and epistemologically, that faith leads to trust in what is known to be revealed, but both of them proceed from and depend upon an indubitable spiritual knowledge, however incomplete, of Jesus Christ obtained through a real encounter with him and the mutual love that ensues, a knowledge that enables the spirit to recognise the presence and operation of the divine so that faith can actually operate.

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That you & Quare seem to both rely entirely on subjective lights to know what has been objectively revealed is a poor showing on your part.

I think you're just shifting the point at which "subjectivity" comes into play, namely, in your convication in the trustworthiness, to the point of infallibility, of the magisterium. I also think you're jumping from epistemological to ontological reasons for belief and back again without articulating any clear dividing line  between the two.

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It's not that I deny the necessity or importance of an interior illumination corresponding to the act of divine faith: the light which precedes the act of faith is presented to the intellect as the motive for believing (i.e. to know the divine Nature of God, to know the Person of Jesus Christ and indeed of the Three Persons of the Trinity), and the light which succeeds the act of faith is a partial knowledge of revealed truths; both of these are extremely luminous in themselves given their divine Object and Source. However, the act of faith itself is a relatively dark and obscure act, like mystics such as St. John of the Cross say, because it only gives the intellect an illumination which itself is surrounded in darkness as in this life the divine truths which faith attains are beyond the reach of the mind. Due to this obscurity one cannot rely solely on one's own interior lights to judge matters of faith, but must rely on an external authority which has been credibly empowered by God with divine authority & power to preach divine revelation.

Fine. Can we please distinguish:

  • Articulation and reception of a truth.
  • Recognition of it as true.

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Otherwise, you will end up in the situation of the average New Ager yourself where you are relying on your "spiritual experience" to tell you exactly what to believe, and the fact that your "spiritual experience" corresponds with Catholic doctrine is more or less an accident.

No, it's not accident: it's the operation of Yahweh's grace and my acceptance of it in faith, by free choice. How do I know that Yahweh is who he says he is and will fulfill his promises?  Despite the evidences, I don't, with absolute certainty, but to the degree that I know him: that is itself an act of faith. And from that faith comes at least a trust in what he leads me to, and  it has been not to the New Age but to the Catholic Church. I don't in principle need "better grounds" than the "average New Ager" for myself to believe what I in fact do, as if this were a competition and I were keeping score to reach a final judgment.

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Tell me, if you had a spiritual experience telling you that Our Lady's Virginity was not perpetual, on what grounds would you dismiss this false experience other than the authority of the Catholic Church compelling you to do so?

I haven't had such an experience, and if my experience is anything to go by, discernment of spirits in a real thing and confusion and straying from what is accepted Apostolic teaching inevitably the result of personal sin.

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And if it's the authority of the Catholic Church which compels you to dismiss such experiences and believe otherwise despite them, then how is your position different from mine?

I don't know if it's essentially different. Firstly, I recognise, by some faculty of spiritual sight and discernment, in the Catholic Church and its sacraments the operation of the same spirit with whom I have a personal, life-transforming encounter in Jesus Christ, and from faith in him I have the trust that he will not lead me and the faithful astray through the institution he apparently founded, hence the hope that it teaches correctly. Secondly, the perpetual virginity of Mary has a basis in the lex orandi and universal Apostolic tradition with which any claim to the contrary has to contend and thus contend with my intellect. Simply put, John, I doubt that I would ever receive such a contradictory experience from Jesus Christ himself and trust that the light of divine grace has and will continue to lead me to truth and to discern the work of evil, as long as I remain in friendship with God. I realise this is possibly not the answer you're looking for, but maybe I just don't think in your terms.

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It seems very arrogant to assume that your spiritual experience has lead you to the true doctrine, but the spiritual experience of a Protestant or a Muslim hasn't.

I don't mind being "arrogant" on this issue. My faith is born of love for him whom I know and the reality of what he has done in my life, including through the Catholic Church. I couldn't care about the rest. I love Jesus. In my spirit. As he is. To the end. If the Muslim does the same for Allah, that is his choice, but it is not mine and never will be, even if he descended from the sky and offered me an everlasting romp with 40 virgins.

My reasoning is not so much

Concept of God -> encoutner with Jesus -> judgment that Jesus is God

as it is

Encounter with Jesus -> God is what I encounter in Jesus -> concept of God

if that makes sense.

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I don't trust entirely in my own private holiness to arrive at Catholic doctrine, but more in the holiness of the Catholic Church herself; which isn't to say that my own private spirituality plays no part, just that it does not play the primary one. If I were to trust in my own private lights & spirituality I would probably be a very individualist Protestant working through scripture and the writings of the mystics, and I don't see how you two are arriving at Catholicism rather than this very individualist Protestantism albeit with a Catholic flavour.

But ultimately you trust that you have found God in the Catholic Church, for whatever reason, which is why you give her your credence, as do I. There is no escaping what you call "subjectivity" in this, but what matters is the nature of that subjectivity.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2018, 08:02:13 AM by Kreuzritter »
 
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Offline Kreuzritter

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2018, 07:59:53 AM »
As St. Augustine says, "I would not believe the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so."

And this is the farthest thing from my own sentiment nor does it even make sense to me. Why would I even believe in the authority of the Catholic Church were it not for the spiritual recognition of the divine truth of the Gospel it preaches, that true myth of all myths as Tolkien characterised it, as it speaks directly to me? Not all its powers and accomplishments and good works and claims of lineage would convince me if the substance of its saving message itself did not convince me, nor if I did not recognise in its liturgy and sacraments the person of Jesus Christ.

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The gospel itself is a light shrouded in darkness – an authentic mystery – like the dark cloud in which God appeared to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It is the apostolic witness which persuades us to believe; it is the Catholic Church which makes the invisible revelation of God to be visible.

It is not what persuades me. Apostolic witness provided me an intellectual motive to investigate and a support for times of doubt, but it is absolutely not the essential core of my faith.

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This is the general signification of the word "sacrament". The Catholic faith is sacramental: it depends on the mediation of visible signs of invisible grace, above all the Church herself considered as the supreme sacrament. To trust entirely in one's interior lights alone is to de-sacramentalise Christianity like the Protestants.

As if the reality of those sacraments didn't have to be encountered by the subject, illumined by the interior light of grace, to be believed. Or maybe it doesn't have to be, for some people.
 

Offline John Lamb

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2018, 08:11:39 AM »
Kreuzritter, I don't think our positions essentially differ, but only in emphasis.

In epistemology there's two things mainly to consider: the object of knowledge, and the mode or means through which it is known. I'm speaking more about the object of faith itself and its specific form, and you are speaking more about the vital subjective impression which this object leaves in the mind and through which it attains said object. Both are equally necessary, and their importance is relative to which area of epistemology you wish to focus: the objective or the subjective, the known or the knower. You're right that the ultimate object of our faith is God revealing Himself through the Person of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and its effect is a personal and spiritual love for & relationship with Him; but this final object of our belief comes to us through the mediation of another object, which is the doctrine of the Catholic Church proposing to us that very Person of Jesus Christ and all the truths associated with His life, His being, & His mission. Now the guarantee that what the Catholic Church teaches about Jesus Christ is authentic and infallibly certain, is that it is Jesus Christ Himself who has established it with the authority to "teach all nations" until the end of time. If the Church does not have the divine & apostolic authority, and if there is in fact no divinely established authority to teach us about the Person of Christ and His gospel, then there is in fact no medium, no mediate object, through which we can arrive at a knowledge of Jesus Christ with the certitude of divine faith. Without this apostolic-ecclesiastical authority, which preserves in the world until the end of time the visible manifestation of the Incarnate Word, we would be left solely with the subjective impressions which our private spiritual experiences have left upon us, leaving us with no means to determine the objective content of divine revelation when any dispute between two purported believers arises, i.e. the more or less Protestant situation. As I've said before, private experience is no foundation for public religion; there needs be a public authority to declare divine revelation with infallible certitude, to exclude errors and give clear access for all believers to that divine revelation and the Trinity of Persons revealing it.
As many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. (John 1:12)
 
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Offline John Lamb

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2018, 08:21:06 AM »
As St. Augustine says, "I would not believe the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so."

And this is the farthest thing from my own sentiment nor does it even make sense to me. Why would I even believe in the authority of the Catholic Church were it not for the spiritual recognition of the divine truth of the Gospel it preaches, that true myth of all myths as Tolkien characterised it, as it speaks directly to me? Not all its powers and accomplishments and good works and claims of lineage would convince me if the substance of its saving message itself did not convince me, nor if I did not recognise in its liturgy and sacraments the person of Jesus Christ.


You & Augustine are both right. He wouldn't have doubted the need for a subjective illumination brought about through an operation of grace, especially seeing as a very powerful instance of that effected his own conversion. What he's stressing is the necessity of the Church's divine authority in bringing this illumination about.

It's like the faculty of sight. In order to see the object, you need the vital power of sight immanent in the eye & the visual faculties of the brain; but you also need the light itself bringing the form & colour to the eye. This latter is what "moves" your eye to see, the object which elicits the act of sight. Similarly, nobody doubts a spiritual/intellectual faculty which is activated by grace so as to receive the light of the gospel; what I, and I suppose Augustine as well, am emphasising: is that the light of the gospel proceeds to our minds through the mediation of the Church, with her divine authority preserving the vitality of this light, making it sufficient to enlighten the mind with an act of divine faith. If the Church's preaching was not of divine authority, it could not elicit an act of divine faith; any more than the eye can see an object without visible light being reflected from it. Divine light can only proceed through the mirror of divine preaching; if we did not have the Church's divine authority to mirror the Light "which came into the world," we would have no means to receive it. Without divine faith, we would be left in a position like the ancient philosophers, feeling about in the dark, arriving at the truth about God through mere fallible human opinion. But the Church doesn't give us opinions about God or about Jesus Christ, she gives us infallible certitudes: dogmas. I'm sure there are academics today who profess a kind of "Christianity" based on what they've understood through their own private studies & understanding, but as long as their minds are not submissive to the Catholic Church, they lack the light of divine faith and are left with a mere "philosophical" Christianity, devoid of supernatural belief.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2018, 08:27:52 AM by John Lamb »
As many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. (John 1:12)
 
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Offline John Lamb

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2018, 08:39:55 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). [This is Kreuzritter's: "Why would I even believe in the authority of the Catholic Church were it not for the spiritual recognition of the divine truth of the Gospel it preaches . . . and . . . the Person of Jesus Christ."]

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 [a particular doctrine] 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. [This is Augustine's: "I would not believe the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so."]
« Last Edit: December 28, 2018, 08:43:27 AM by John Lamb »
As many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. (John 1:12)
 

Offline Kreuzritter

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2018, 09:52:54 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). [This is Kreuzritter's: "Why would I even believe in the authority of the Catholic Church were it not for the spiritual recognition of the divine truth of the Gospel it preaches . . . and . . . the Person of Jesus Christ."]

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 [a particular doctrine] 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. [This is Augustine's: "I would not believe the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so."]

Fair enough, but specifically regarding the Gospel, I would and do believe it with or without the authority of the Church, be it as it may that we know of it through her promulgation, and therefore that authority does not even come into play regarding this object of faith, though it may do so with others. My opinion of this statement of Augustine’s and the sentiment behind it, unsurprising as it is from a legal professional, is unchanged, and that’s not just a matter of emphasis.
 

Offline Kreuzritter

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2018, 12:33:36 PM »
You're right that the ultimate object of our faith is God revealing Himself through the Person of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and its effect is a personal and spiritual love for & relationship with Him; but this final object of our belief comes to us through the mediation of another object, which is the doctrine of the Catholic Church proposing to us that very Person of Jesus Christ and all the truths associated with His life, His being, & His mission.

I have to depart from you on this point. The final object of my faith is, indeed, the divine ousia, but the first, and in this life immediate, object of my faith is the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, through whom I see the divinity. I trust the Church and believe what she proposes because of this and Christ's introducing me to it as a means through which to reveal truths, not vice versa. I am not dismissing the mediatorship of the Church or nature of the sacraments, but I experience these as gateways to an immediate encounter more so than as mediums, an encounter with the one mediator of 1 Timothy 2:5.

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Now the guarantee that what the Catholic Church teaches about Jesus Christ is authentic and infallibly certain, is that it is Jesus Christ Himself who has established it with the authority to "teach all nations" until the end of time.

This is true, but first one has to establish that it is indeed of Christ, and this is not proved by the Church making that claim, for that leaves us stuck in a logical circle.

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If the Church does not have the divine & apostolic authority, and if there is in fact no divinely established authority to teach us about the Person of Christ and His gospel, then there is in fact no medium, no mediate object, through which we can arrive at a knowledge of Jesus Christ with the certitude of divine faith.

There is Jesus Christ himself, and only through him do I know of that authority - my deeply inadequate personal faith and holiness grants me at least that much before I must leave the rest to the Church.

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Without this apostolic-ecclesiastical authority, which preserves in the world until the end of time the visible manifestation of the Incarnate Word, we would be left solely with the subjective impressions which our private spiritual experiences have left upon us, leaving us with no means to determine the objective content of divine revelation when any dispute between two purported believers arises, i.e. the more or less Protestant situation.

The unsettled dispute persists anyway, otherwise Protestantism wouldn't exist, and the proposed objective deciding factor, the authority of the magisterium, first needs to be accepted as such by the subject, for whatever personal reasons adduced for his judgment. After all, at the end of the day it is in every case the subject who, "subjectively", knows and knows that he knows, but it is not right to characterise the personal encounter with Christ as a "subjective impression" - in fact, I thouroughly dislike this supposed distinction between objectivity and subjectivity in this sense, for it is a subject's experience of a reality of which I am talking, not a mere subjective impression that is an interpretation and value judgment of a reality. I also want to clarify and emphasise that my invocation of knowledge of Christ depending on the subject's encoutner with his reality is not meant to imply a relativisation of truth but far more the subjects ability to encounter objective reality in himself and recognise absolute truths about it.

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As I've said before, private experience is no foundation for public religion; there needs be a public authority to declare divine revelation with infallible certitude, to exclude errors and give clear access for all believers to that divine revelation and the Trinity of Persons revealing it.

All experience is ultimately private, and no less so the experience and acceptance of such a public authority itself, but, yes, in the sense you intend it I don't disagree.

 
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