Author Topic: Epistemology of Faith  (Read 1044 times)

Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #30 on: December 29, 2018, 12:49:53 PM »
Catholics do and should welcome all converts, knowing the ways of the Good Lord are numerous and wonderful. But converts also have the obligation to learn the Faith by practicing it and to grow wise and mature in Spiritual understanding before trying to overthrow traditional and fairly certain teachings. Since Quare has said he agrees with the last part of John's post above, I have no disagreement with him there.

I just want to show both St. Chrysostom and St. Thomas also demonstrate the fact of the Resurrection - from its known effects in the lives of the Apostles - in a manner that a "Bayesian" approach would indeed consider to be "posterior probabilities". So the Angelic Doctor and the Golden-Tongued Archbishop of Constantinople were certainly aware of this objection of unbelievers and addressed (to put it mildly; soundly refuted and happily laid the basis for centuries that were ages of the greatest and strongest Faith) it. Also in a more recent discussion/debate between Ehrman/Craig which was mentioned in another thread, Prof. Craig takes the Bayesian approach and shows posterior probability would be close to 1 (even if we arbitrarily assume prior probability yo be low) based on four historical facts like the crucifixion, empty tomb etc almost universally taken for granted.

Excuse me, Xavier, but do you really think I'm unfamiliar with all these arguments, or that I'm going to be impressed with the mention of Very Big Names?  Their arguments aren't convincing in the slightest.  Religious movements take place all the time, with many devoted followers, and without (as far as we know) any miracles.  Religious devotion (including desire for invisible instead of visible goods) only shows that the followers earnestly believe, not that what they believe is true.  As for Craig, he pulls numbers out of his hat for priors and likelihoods.

And is there any kind of obligation incumbent on Christian apologetics to ensure its arguments are better than cheap propaganda, I would like to know?  Because I will tell you that is precisely what a lot of it is.  You can say this is because of my lack of wisdom and maturity and lack of spiritual understanding.

 

Offline Arvinger

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #31 on: December 29, 2018, 02:31:20 PM »
Basically, it comes down to this.  In real life, yes we do use (and should use) both the a priori credibility of what is said in addition to the credibility of the witness in order to arrive at a conclusion regarding the credibility of the testimony.  Bayes' Theorem formalizes this, but it's simply what we do in everyday life.  Or do you believe people who claim to have seen Elvis (yes, The King himself) alive?  In a broader sense, it's how inferences are made from data.

But "credibility of what is said" is not only subjective, but also marinated in presuppositions. 1st century Jews and Romans who heard about the Resurrection also used their assessment of "credibility of what is said" to assess the claim of resurrection and reject it, yet they were wrong.

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Now apologists can stomp their feet all they like at this, just like they can and do pretend the Church didn't really get it wrong in the Galileo affair.  Or they can up their game and stop being cheap propagandists.  Up to them.
 

Nobody who claims this has yet produced a magisterial document which declared either geocentrism and heliocentrism to be true, because that did never happen.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
Well, OK, but then it is exactly the "specific detail" of the resurrection which will be questioned, despite the general reliable historical reliability of the Gospels, since this obviously corresponds to the bias of the authors, who had a clear motive to embellish the historical account.

On what basis it will be questioned? What is the counter-evidence which makes us question it? When we question sources which could be biased we don't do it just with mere assertion that is is wrong because of bias, but because we have counter-evidence or reasonable arguments against veracity of the text. In the example I have given, historians don't reject the number of 250.000 strong relief-force for Alesia because "well, Caesar was biased, so we are going to reject it", but because we know that the Gauls are highly unlikely to have been able to coordinate such a mass of people and they usually used much lesser forces in their battles - these are counter-arguments which are valid reasons to doubt what Caesar wrote on this matter. Similar counter-evidence and counter-arguments would have to be produced in case of the resurrection, especially given the fact that the Gospels are likely to be eyewitnesses accounts, are consistent between themselves and supernatural explanation is consistent with historical facts which majority of historians agree upon (empty tomb, post-death sightings of Jesus, etc.), leading to a reasonable conclusion that resurrection indeed happened, and its rejection is based on naturalistic presuppositions rather than honest examination of historical sources. 

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Yes it is.  Because miracles happen so extremely rarely, that is precisely what makes the prior probability of any given miracle very low.  Whereas the rain and sun rising happen so much more frequently, which makes their prior probability much higher.

Prior probability cannot be used to dismiss evidence in favor of a supernatural explanation, which is precisely what naturalists are doing when they employ Bayesian theorem. "In most cases the explanation is not a miracle, therefore in this particular case it is probably not a miracle either, and there is probably some naturalistic explanation for all this evidence" - that is how it generally goes with unbelievers/naturalists.

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It is not a "naturalistic presupposition" that miracles happen rarely.  It is an observable empirical fact.

Which in itself cannot be used as an argument against miracles and reliable historical sources which claim miraculous events.

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The prior probability of any miracle is the probability of such before considering the evidence.  The posterior probability is the probability after considering the evidence, which is what is relevant.  So, yes, each is considered on its own merits.

That is not how unbelievers/sceptics often use Bayesian theorem. They consider low prior probability in itself as an argument against a supernatural explanation, before considering evidence. This is also the approach of vast majority of the New Testament scholarship. Why do so many scholars date the Gospel of Matthew after 70 AD, even though there are strong arguments that it is earlier? Because Jesus predicted destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. For them prior probability of a supernatural prophecy is low, which is why they date the text after destruction of the temple. 

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That statement is false.  Prior probability isn't calculated on the basis of natural explanations, and yes it does have an impact on the final conclusion given the evidence.

You misunderstood. I did not say that prior probability is calculated on the basis of natural explanations, but that it indicates the natural explanation as statistically most likely (because most events in this world happen for natural rather than supernatural reasons). Unbelievers take this as an argument against supernatural explanation in itself, before considering any evidence, and therefore approach the evidence with a presupposition that "there must be some naturalistic explanation of this". As a result you get truly absurd attempts to naturally explan the Miracle of the Sun, because naturalists presuppose that there must be a naturalistic explanation - they do not even consider a possibility of supernatural event, precisely on the basis of prior probability in Bayesian theorem.

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That statement is likewise false.  Sufficiently strong evidence ("likelihood" in Bayesian jargon) can and does overcome a low prior probability to end up with a high posterior probability.  Now you may not like that stronger evidence is required to show something with a smaller prior probability.  But it is, whether you like it or not.

Numerous problems:

1) As I wrote, many unbelievers take low prior probability in itself as an argument against supernatural explanation, and therefore dismiss or reinterpret evidence in favor of a miracle so they can conclude that the miracle did not happen, which is question begging. You implied that yourself, by writing that unblievers are not unreasonable in disbelieving the resurrection on the basis of low prior probability.

2) It is a fallacy to claim that stronger evidence is required to show something with a smaller prior probability, because that makes prior probability evidence in itself which allows for a double standard in assessing actual evidence for natural and supernatural events. If we can use common standards of historical research to decide whether it is probable that Hannibal commanded at the battle of Cannae, we can use the same standards to determine whether it is probable that Jesus rose from the dead. Also, it is also about how you frame the criteria - one could say that there is a low prior probability of Hannibal commanding at Cannae, since there were thousands of battles in world history in which he did not command, but there is strong evidence (historical records) that he did in this one, which is sufficient to consider this a historical fact. The main reason it is not in the case of resurrection are naturalistic presuppositions which create a double standard for assessing historical evidence due to assuming naturalism a priori and thus begging a question.

3) What is that "stronger evidence" is subjective, and it is being redefined by naturalists to move the goalposts, as in the example above.

4) Unbelievers often argue that we have a sociological understanding of how religions emerge, and due to low prior probability of any religion to be true, we can consider that Christianity most likely fits these explanations and is a result of social processes rather than supernatural as well. Then they go on ot dismiss the evidence in favor of Christianity or assume a priori that there must be some naturalistic explanation.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
That doesn't answer why you simply don't accept the testimony, if the witnesses otherwise appear reliable, when you would accept their testimony as to what city they lived in, if not for your prior strong belief aliens don't exist.

I trust it less than the Gospels because it is a testimony of a single person (in opposition to testimonies of numerous eyewitnesses in the Gospels, which corroborate each other, and a high number of people who witnessed Jesus after his death). Also, we know that Jesus existed and excercised his ministry (which even secular historians claim), therefore we know independently that there was something to be seen and witnessed, whether the eyewitnesses reports are reliable or not. In case of alien abductions we don't know from independent sources whether anything happened at all. 

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Let's be honest here.  The real evidence that we have in front of us for many of these things is written claims that these things happened, not direct evidence that these things happened.

And these written claims are in themselves evidence, if the source they come from can be assessed as reliable in light of standards of historical research. Eyewitness testimony is certainly evidence. Hardly anyone questions Thucydides account of Peloponessian War, which in many episodes is our only historical source describing certain event and their details, while the same type of evidence is rejected in case of the Resurrection. Why? Let's be honest - naturalism which a priori rules out a possibility of a miracle, so any historical document claiming it is automatically seen with suspicion rather than honestly examined as to its reliability.

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A naturalistic presupposition is unreasonable.  Using Bayes' Theorem is not.

The problem is that Bayesian theorem leads to naturalistic presuppositions in argumentation of many unbelievers, because prior probability of a miracle is low. As I already pointed out, you confirmed this by saying that unbelievers "are not unreasonable" in rejecting Gospels' testimony of the resurrection on the basis of low prior probability of the miracle (i.e. before examining evidence). So, low prior probability of a miracle in Bayesian theorem is considered to be an argument against a miracle and any subsequent evidence in favor of a miracle is either rejected or reinterpretted, because the question has already been begged in favor of naturalism.

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First, Bayes' Theorem doesn't have a naturalistic presupposition; it simply uses the empirical fact that miracles are very rare.

No, but it leads to it.

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It is true that the facts are better explained (e.g. the likelihood is higher) by the Resurrection than by naturalistic explanations.

Exactly, but many unbelievers will not admit it as they are hang upon low prior probability.

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It is false that this demonstrates the Resurrection, or even makes it more likely than not; and that the only reason one would deny the Resurrection given the evidence is due to a naturalistic presupposition.

It does not demonstrate it empirically, as it is impossible after 2000 years. But it makes resurrection the most probable explanation, and to deny that one would need to come up with another eplanation which fits into known minimal facts better than resurrection. Unbelievers fail to do this, yet they still reject historicity of the resurrection, and that is mostly because their a priori rejection of supernatural, which biases their approach to evidence.

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Now, the crux is whether you agree with that last sentence or not.

As to the first part of the sentence - I agree in a sense that it does not empirically (if that is what you mean) demonstrate the resurrection. But if we use this standard, Livy's account likewise does not demonstrate that the battle of Cannae took place, yet we consider it a historical event.

I disagree with the second part. If resurrection fits best into known minimal facts, and the Gospel texts can be established to be reliable on the basis of common standards of historical research (as scholars such as F.F. Bruce and Richard Bauckham did, among others), the resurrection becomes the most probable explanation and can be considered a historical event on the basis of common standards of historical research. To object to this would require to formulate another explanation which would be better fitting the minimal facts, and/or to provide counter-evidence disproving reliability of the Gospels.
 

Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #32 on: December 29, 2018, 06:53:34 PM »
But "credibility of what is said" is not only subjective, but also marinated in presuppositions.

So is the credibility of the witness, and everything else you bring into apologetics, such as the claim of "reliable historical documents" and so on.

When evaluating data and making inferences it is impossible not for presuppositions and prior knowledge to enter the fray, which is part of the "prior probability" of Bayesians - they've formalized it, but it's there whether you formalize it or not.  You can clearly see this is the case for the natural sciences, but when it comes to apologetics (which is also making inferences from data) you imagine that pure "objectivity" is possible.  It isn't.  Your rejection of evidence for an old earth seems as crazy to scientists as their rejection of evidence of the resurrection seems to you.  Because you are bringing different presuppositions and prior knowledge into the picture.

At some level, everyone who believes believes because he wants to believe, and everyone who doesn't believe, even after Christianity is presented to him, doesn't believe because he doesn't want to believe - his desires are determining the priors that go into the equation.  That's what apologetics needs to come to terms with - there is a certain "voluntarist" aspect to faith that is simply unavoidable - at some level, faith involves a true "leap of faith" - a trust that God would not allow such strong (but not 100% intellectually convincing in themselves) evidences (external and internal) if the faith were in fact false.  And, sorry to say, Descartes scores over the Thomists on this one.


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On what basis it will be questioned? What is the counter-evidence which makes us question it? When we question sources which could be biased we don't do it just with mere assertion that is is wrong because of bias, but because we have counter-evidence or reasonable arguments against veracity of the text. In the example I have given, historians don't reject the number of 250.000 strong relief-force for Alesia because "well, Caesar was biased, so we are going to reject it", but because we know that the Gauls are highly unlikely to have been able to coordinate such a mass of people and they usually used much lesser forces in their battles - these are counter-arguments which are valid reasons to doubt what Caesar wrote on this matter.

But that "highly unlikely" is exactly the type of prior probability that is relevant here!  You're doing this yourself: not finding evidence convincing due to a strong prior probability of the falsity of what is asserted.  Everyone does it.  It can't be avoided.  It's part of how we make inferences from evidence.

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Similar counter-evidence and counter-arguments would have to be produced in case of the resurrection, especially given the fact that the Gospels are likely to be eyewitnesses accounts, are consistent between themselves and supernatural explanation is consistent with historical facts which majority of historians agree upon (empty tomb, post-death sightings of Jesus, etc.), leading to a reasonable conclusion that resurrection indeed happened, and its rejection is based on naturalistic presuppositions rather than honest examination of historical sources. 

There is a very strong prior probability against a resurrection, just like there is against a 250,000 strong military force for Alesia.  This is not an argument against the possibility of miracles.  It is just an empirical fact.  Of the many billions of people who have lived, claims of a resurrection have been made for only a handful, and even then many of those are highly dubious (e.g. Elvis sightings).  And we never see resurrected people in daily life like we see the sun and the rain.

Granted, naturalistic explanations (e.g. the body was stolen away despite the guards, those claiming to see Jesus resurrected were deluded or stories were made up about them after the fact, etc.) are unlikely.  But much more unlikely than a resurrection?

At some level, you find the evidence convincing because you want to see it as such while unbelievers do not because they don't want to.

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Prior probability cannot be used to dismiss evidence in favor of a supernatural explanation, which is precisely what naturalists are doing when they employ Bayesian theorem.

Because naturalists misuse Bayes' Theorem isn't an argument against its proper use.

Now, you can either accept that presuppositions and prior knowledge (under the name of "prior probability") enters the fray, or you can pretend it doesn't, in which case apologetics will be pure nonsense.

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Numerous problems:

1) As I wrote, many unbelievers take low prior probability in itself as an argument against supernatural explanation, and therefore dismiss or reinterpret evidence in favor of a miracle so they can conclude that the miracle did not happen, which is question begging. You implied that yourself, by writing that unblievers are not unreasonable in disbelieving the resurrection on the basis of low prior probability.

Again, that's a problem with misuse.  The right question is what is the posterior probability given the prior and the evidence.

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2) It is a fallacy to claim that stronger evidence is required to show something with a smaller prior probability...

It is not.  In your dismissal of the 250,000 strong force claimed by Caesar this is exactly what you are doing.

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3) What is that "stronger evidence" is subjective, and it is being redefined by naturalists to move the goalposts, as in the example above.

Stronger evidence is evidence with a greater likelihood given the hypothesis, or (more relevant here) with a smaller likelihood given the falsity of the hypothesis.

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Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
That doesn't answer why you simply don't accept the testimony, if the witnesses otherwise appear reliable, when you would accept their testimony as to what city they lived in, if not for your prior strong belief aliens don't exist.

I trust it less than the Gospels...

That wasn't the question.


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I disagree with the second part. If resurrection fits best into known minimal facts, and the Gospel texts can be established to be reliable on the basis of common standards of historical research (as scholars such as F.F. Bruce and Richard Bauckham did, among others), the resurrection becomes the most probable explanation and can be considered a historical event on the basis of common standards of historical research. To object to this would require to formulate another explanation which would be better fitting the minimal facts, and/or to provide counter-evidence disproving reliability of the Gospels.

Well, this is thinking that you need only consider the likelihoods without taking priors into account.  This is not true.  And if apologetics thinks it can neglect priors it has no credibility.

 

Offline Arvinger

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #33 on: January 15, 2019, 12:38:26 PM »
So is the credibility of the witness, and everything else you bring into apologetics, such as the claim of "reliable historical documents" and so on.

When evaluating data and making inferences it is impossible not for presuppositions and prior knowledge to enter the fray, which is part of the "prior probability" of Bayesians - they've formalized it, but it's there whether you formalize it or not.  You can clearly see this is the case for the natural sciences, but when it comes to apologetics (which is also making inferences from data) you imagine that pure "objectivity" is possible.  It isn't.  Your rejection of evidence for an old earth seems as crazy to scientists as their rejection of evidence of the resurrection seems to you.  Because you are bringing different presuppositions and prior knowledge into the picture.

That is correct, everyone has presuppositions. You seem to miss the point - I don't criticize unbelievers for the mere fact of holding presuppositions (it is impossible to avoid that). Rather, I point out that their presuppositions are not epistemologically justified (how can you presuppose naturalism to the exclusion of miracles a priori? what is it based on?), and unbelievers cannot account for them - the naturalistic worldview is incapable of providing epistemological basis for morality, reliability of senses, universality of logic and mathematics, conviction that the past in fact existed, etc. On the other hand, Christian presuppositions account for these and create an epistemologically coherent worldview.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
At some level, everyone who believes believes because he wants to believe, and everyone who doesn't believe, even after Christianity is presented to him, doesn't believe because he doesn't want to believe - his desires are determining the priors that go into the equation.  That's what apologetics needs to come to terms with - there is a certain "voluntarist" aspect to faith that is simply unavoidable - at some level, faith involves a true "leap of faith" - a trust that God would not allow such strong (but not 100% intellectually convincing in themselves) evidences (external and internal) if the faith were in fact false.  And, sorry to say, Descartes scores over the Thomists on this one.

What you miss here is that faith is ultimately a gift from God, not a result of human reasoning or our apologetic efforts (although God can certainly use apologetics as means for providing that gift to a person). No amount of apologetics will convert a person in separation from the grace of God - even if you had a video recording of the Resurrection, without God's gift of faith it will do nothing. If is not just a theoretical theological claim, you can see that very clearly with some atheists. A good example is an atheist professor from Oxford, who admitted that no possible evidence could convince him of the existence of God, even if he received a direct personal revelation he would have qualified it as him falling into madness -
Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
But that "highly unlikely" is exactly the type of prior probability that is relevant here!  You're doing this yourself: not finding evidence convincing due to a strong prior probability of the falsity of what is asserted.  Everyone does it.  It can't be avoided.  It's part of how we make inferences from evidence.

No, I make a posteriori judgment on the basis of available evidence - our knowledge about Gaulish warfare of the 1st century BC, other information we have about the siege of Alesia and how it developed, goal of Caesar's works, etc. That is different than rejecting evidence for the resurrection a priori because of "well, miracles just don't happen, you know!" (which, lets be honest, is the line of thinking of many unbelievers).

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
There is a very strong prior probability against a resurrection, just like there is against a 250,000 strong military force for Alesia.  This is not an argument against the possibility of miracles.  It is just an empirical fact.  Of the many billions of people who have lived, claims of a resurrection have been made for only a handful, and even then many of those are highly dubious (e.g. Elvis sightings).  And we never see resurrected people in daily life like we see the sun and the rain.

There is a difference in evidence though - there is no evidence to back up Caesar's claim in question, while there is for the Resurrection.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
Granted, naturalistic explanations (e.g. the body was stolen away despite the guards, those claiming to see Jesus resurrected were deluded or stories were made up about them after the fact, etc.) are unlikely.  But much more unlikely than a resurrection?

Yes, because taken to their logical conclusion they result in complete nonsense, while the Resurrection explains the facts surrounding these events very well.

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At some level, you find the evidence convincing because you want to see it as such while unbelievers do not because they don't want to.

That is not an argument, merely an assertion. If arguments for the Resurrection are so weak that Christians believe them only because they want to (rather than finding them genuinly convincing), they should be easy to refute for unbelievers. Yet, all alternative explanations offered by naturalists fall flat on their face. The reason for this is that naturalists offer those explanations not because those are the most convincing ones, but because unbelievers presuppose naturalism and therefore conclude that "there must be some naturalistic explanation", so they hold to one even if it is weak and easily refutable.

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Because naturalists misuse Bayes' Theorem isn't an argument against its proper use.

You just agreed with that misuse by saying that people are "not unreasonable" to reject the Resurrection on the basis of prior probability. Yes, they are unreasonable, because they don't consider evidence and are hang upon prior probability.

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Now, you can either accept that presuppositions and prior knowledge (under the name of "prior probability") enters the fray, or you can pretend it doesn't, in which case apologetics will be pure nonsense.

Prior probability has little relevance in face of evidence to its contrary.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
Again, that's a problem with misuse.  The right question is what is the posterior probability given the prior and the evidence.

Again, you validated that misuse by saying that people are not unreasonable in rejecting the Resurrection on the basis of prior probability.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
It is not.  In your dismissal of the 250,000 strong force claimed by Caesar this is exactly what you are doing.

No - I simply have counter-evidence to that specific claim of Caesar which is more convincing. No such counter-evidence has been produced in case of Resurrection.

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Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
That doesn't answer why you simply don't accept the testimony, if the witnesses otherwise appear reliable, when you would accept their testimony as to what city they lived in, if not for your prior strong belief aliens don't exist.

I trust it less than the Gospels...

That wasn't the question.

I can accept the testimony in a sense that the person indeed experienced that, at the same time doubting whether the aliens were really responsible for that experience due to lack of corroborative evidence - the kind of corroborative evidence that Resurrection has.

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I disagree with the second part. If resurrection fits best into known minimal facts, and the Gospel texts can be established to be reliable on the basis of common standards of historical research (as scholars such as F.F. Bruce and Richard Bauckham did, among others), the resurrection becomes the most probable explanation and can be considered a historical event on the basis of common standards of historical research. To object to this would require to formulate another explanation which would be better fitting the minimal facts, and/or to provide counter-evidence disproving reliability of the Gospels.

Well, this is thinking that you need only consider the likelihoods without taking priors into account.  This is not true.  And if apologetics thinks it can neglect priors it has no credibility.

You need to consider evidence as the most important and decisive element - that is my point. Low prior probability cannot be used as an argument against evidence. If it were, arriving to truth about events which actually happened but had low prior probability would be impossible. Evidence trumps prior probability. The problem is that many naturalists stop at low prior probability and either fail to examine the evidence or they examine it presupposing that it is false or can be explained in a naturalistic manner (due to low prior probability). That is utterly fallacious.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2019, 12:44:28 PM by Arvinger »
 

Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #34 on: January 15, 2019, 07:50:59 PM »
That is correct, everyone has presuppositions. You seem to miss the point - I don't criticize unbelievers for the mere fact of holding presuppositions (it is impossible to avoid that). Rather, I point out that their presuppositions are not epistemologically justified (how can you presuppose naturalism to the exclusion of miracles a priori? what is it based on?), and unbelievers cannot account for them - the naturalistic worldview is incapable of providing epistemological basis for morality, reliability of senses, universality of logic and mathematics, conviction that the past in fact existed, etc. On the other hand, Christian presuppositions account for these and create an epistemologically coherent worldview.

1.  You've equated "unbelievers" and "naturalism", but non-Christian theism is epistemologically coherent and provides a fine account of all of the above.
2.  The relevant presupposition, or prior knowledge, for a non-Christian theist is not that miracles are impossible, but that they are extremely rare.  This is absolutely epistemologically justified.
3.  The very definition of a presupposition is something which is not subject to further empirical testing, and wasn't arrived at via .  So the only way to explain naturalistic presuppositions is that naturalists want the world to be that way.
4.  It's not true that Christian epistemology is satisfactory and coherent on absolutely everything.  It struggles with issues like free will, predestination, Trinity, Divine simplicity, etc., which philosophers and theologians have to brush under the rug using the magic term "mystery" and claim that the incoherence exists only in our minds and not in God - but it is still epistemological incoherence all the same.


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What you miss here is that faith is ultimately a gift from God, not a result of human reasoning or our apologetic efforts...

Everything is ultimately a gift from God, including reasoning and apologetics.  But the question is to explain exactly how is faith a gift from God without resorting to hand-waving non-explanations and violations of basic principles of epistemology in the process.

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No amount of apologetics will convert a person in separation from the grace of God - even if you had a video recording of the Resurrection, without God's gift of faith it will do nothing.

But why is that the case?  Because the person doesn't want the Resurrection to be true.

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No, I make a posteriori judgment on the basis of available evidence - our knowledge about Gaulish warfare of the 1st century BC, other information we have about the siege of Alesia and how it developed, goal of Caesar's works, etc. That is different than rejecting evidence for the resurrection a priori because of "well, miracles just don't happen, you know!" (which, lets be honest, is the line of thinking of many unbelievers).

There is a difference in evidence though - there is no evidence to back up Caesar's claim in question, while there is for the Resurrection.

Of course there is.  Caesar's claim is itself evidence.  You simply weigh it against your prior knowledge and other evidence.

Unbelievers do the same with their knowledge about the extreme rarity of resurrections, other information about the religious atmosphere of the times, goals of the Evangelists, Scriptural contradictions and errors, and conflicts with science.

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That is not an argument, merely an assertion. If arguments for the Resurrection are so weak that Christians believe them only because they want to (rather than finding them genuinly convincing), they should be easy to refute for unbelievers. Yet, all alternative explanations offered by naturalists fall flat on their face. The reason for this is that naturalists offer those explanations not because those are the most convincing ones, but because unbelievers presuppose naturalism and therefore conclude that "there must be some naturalistic explanation", so they hold to one even if it is weak and easily refutable.

You think all alternative explanations fall flat on their face.  They don't.  Just like they think all alternative explanations for Scriptural contradictions and errors fall flat on their face.  You don't, because you presuppose Christianity and therefore conclude there must be some explanation, even if it's weak.

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Prior probability has little relevance in face of evidence to its contrary.

This is simply false, evidence can trump low prior probability but it must be correspondingly stronger.

 

Offline Arvinger

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #35 on: January 16, 2019, 01:17:35 PM »
1.  You've equated "unbelievers" and "naturalism", but non-Christian theism is epistemologically coherent and provides a fine account of all of the above.
2.  The relevant presupposition, or prior knowledge, for a non-Christian theist is not that miracles are impossible, but that they are extremely rare.  This is absolutely epistemologically justified.

I refer primarily to arguments of atheists/naturalists in this discussion, since those are prevalent in modern apologetics against Christianity. Of course, there are non-Christian religions which deny the Resurrection and other core Christian doctrines (Islam is a prime example), but obviously they use very different arguments than secular naturalists. Those arguments are also easily refutable, but at least they are not made from presupposed naturalistic standpoint.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
3.  The very definition of a presupposition is something which is not subject to further empirical testing, and wasn't arrived at via .  So the only way to explain naturalistic presuppositions is that naturalists want the world to be that way.

It cannot be subject to further empirical testing, but it most certainly can be arrived at via specific arguments of evidence. That is the case with existence of God and truthfulness of Catholic faith - there are specific philosophical arguments and evidence which can allow one to arrive to the conclusion that existence of God and truthfulness of Catholicism must be taken presuppositionally (e.g. without God any knowledge is impossible, thus the necessity of existence of God), at which point these presuppositions no longer rely on these arguments and evidence. However, an atheist/naturalist cannot give account of how he arrived to presuppositions that his senses are reliable or that past existed, because his worldview does not allow to present any kind of arguments or evidence leading to those. Thus, he has to borrow from Christian worldview (which accounts for these things through God) to support his own, and then bite the hand which feeds him.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
4.  It's not true that Christian epistemology is satisfactory and coherent on absolutely everything.  It struggles with issues like free will, predestination, Trinity, Divine simplicity, etc., which philosophers and theologians have to brush under the rug using the magic term "mystery" and claim that the incoherence exists only in our minds and not in God - but it is still epistemological incoherence all the same.

What you talk about here are specific doctrines in case of which we do not fully know how to understand them. That does not impact Christian epistemology (we might not understand some doctrines, but we know why they are true), which is vastly superior to secular/naturalist one, as the latter one cannot account for its basic tenants and results in fideism in regard to such issues as reliability of senses, existence of the past, universality of mathematics etc.

And yes, some things are and will indeed remain a mystery (at least in this life), and to call it a "magic term" is simply hubris - there are some things about God and His plan of salvation which we will not understand, partly due to our intelectual limitations. That is not enough for you, which once again shows that you are in fact a rationalist in a Christian garb, as the case of indefectibility of the Church has shown (the doctrine needs to agree with your personal asssessment of situation in the Church in order for you to accept it, and since it does not, you reject it).

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
Everything is ultimately a gift from God, including reasoning and apologetics.  But the question is to explain exactly how is faith a gift from God without resorting to hand-waving non-explanations and violations of basic principles of epistemology in the process.

Faith is a gift from God in a sense that God's grace is a necessary precondition for receiving the faith, it is impossible to arrive to the faith on one's own. In terms of how it plays out ontologically - it can differ in case-to-case basis, God can use different means of providing an individual soul with the faith.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
But why is that the case?  Because the person doesn't want the Resurrection to be true.

Because human nature, broken by Original Sin, is evil and hostile to God's truth. Unless God's grace quells this rebellion, a person will remain in that state and cannot arrive to the faith on one's own.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
Of course there is.  Caesar's claim is itself evidence.  You simply weigh it against your prior knowledge and other evidence.

Precisely - other evidence, which is why I make a posteriori judgment on the basis of counter-evidence which contradicts Caesar's claims, rather than rejecting his claim on the basis of low prior probability, as atheists/naturalists fallaciously do with the Resurrection.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
Unbelievers do the same with their knowledge about the extreme rarity of resurrections, other information about the religious atmosphere of the times, goals of the Evangelists, Scriptural contradictions and errors, and conflicts with science.

1. Vast majority of secular naturalists, including key figures of atheism, are extremely ignorant about Scripture, theology and history, and have never considered the evidence on its own merits, without sifting it through their naturalistic presuppositions.

2. "Scriptural contradictions and errors" - that begs the question whether such exist. There are many excellet refutations of so-called "contradictions", most of which are superficial readings of Scripture or misunderstandings based on lack of theological background on the part of unbelievers.

3. "Conflicts with science" - I suppose you refer to historicity of Genesis, but that has no bearing upon the issue of Resurrection. Also, so called conflicts with science are a problem only when you take a naturalistic worldview and reject the supernatural a priori.

Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
You think all alternative explanations fall flat on their face.  They don't.  Just like they think all alternative explanations for Scriptural contradictions and errors fall flat on their face.  You don't, because you presuppose Christianity and therefore conclude there must be some explanation, even if it's weak.

And at the end of the day there is an objective reality - either I'm wrong or they are. They claim that explanations of Scriptural contradictions fall flat on their face, but they are wrong - refutations of so-called "contradictions" have been provided, and they are robust, in contrats to incredibly weak attempts to explain away the events surrounding Jesus death, or Miracle of the Sun. Of course, you can say it is only my claim and deny objective truth, but that results in relativism, in which any organized religion ceases to make any sense.

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This is simply false, evidence can trump low prior probability but it must be correspondingly stronger.

If reliable evidence points towards something, then it should be accepted. Thus, the same standards of historical research which are sufficient to determine whether Julius Caesar was murdered are also sufficient to determine whether Resurrection occured - in both cases we have reliable historical documents based corroborated by other sources, in case of the Gospels based upon eyewitnesses' testimony. Demand for stronger evidence for the Resurrection, going beyond comon standards of historical research, is based primarily on naturalistic presuppositions which are not epistemologically justified.
 

Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #36 on: January 16, 2019, 05:20:07 PM »
I think you're still operating under the idea of the autonomous intellect, operating independently of the will, independently of experience, and especially of the heart.  Humans aren't like that.

I refer primarily to arguments of atheists/naturalists in this discussion, since those are prevalent in modern apologetics against Christianity.

OK.  But to be clear, I'm talking about the type of argument which is made, not specifically who is making it, for people are able to put their presuppositions to the side for the purpose of argument.  For instance, Richard Carrier may be an atheist/naturalist but the following anti-Christian apologetic

https://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/indef/4e.html

doesn't incorporate naturalistic presuppositions against miracles; in fact, it clearly says

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...Certainly, there may have been miracles here, but we are unable to recognize them. Plausible natural explanations remain to account for all of the data...

The Christian apologetic response must attack the arguments and not the person, and thus must say either:

1) Carrier is wrong and plausible (even if unlikely) natural explanations can't account for all the data; or
2) Plausible natural explanations could account for all the data, but miracle is still to be preferred as inference to the best explanation; or
3) While there is a real reason to think a miracle occurred (e.g. some significant evidence in support), nevertheless both natural explanations and miracle can account for the data; thus it is essentially a matter of personal choice, based on other factors, which explanation one prefers.

1) is to argue in essence not only that acceptance of Christianity is rational, but also that rejection of Christianity is not rational.  IOW, a being who acts rationally is forced to accept Christianity, once confronted with the data.  I reject 1) because there is thereby no real difference between reason and faith.

2) at least has the virtue of claiming that a being who acts rationally will, by that fact alone, only accept Christianity as probably true, leaving room for faith.  But it still begs the question regarding exactly how inferences to the best explanation can be or are made, and if there even is such a thing as absolute objectivity in so doing (the answer of the subjective Bayesians is a flat no).  Anyway, regardless of what defenders of 2) may think, it is not merely a matter of estimating likelihoods.  When your friend comes back from the mall claiming to have seen Abraham Lincoln resurrected in the flesh at Macy's, you do not call the news.  You call the psychiatrist.

3) preserves the rationality of faith as well as it being a personal choice.

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It cannot be subject to further empirical testing, but it most certainly can be arrived at via specific arguments of evidence.

Then it isn't a presupposition.  It is a conclusion.  You are correct that of course once the conclusion is arrived at with complete certainty it can be used as the starting point for further epistemology, but that doesn't make it a "presupposition".  You are using "presupposition" in an idiosyncratic way.

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...However, an atheist/naturalist cannot give account of how he arrived to presuppositions that his senses are reliable or that past existed...

Again, let me be clear.  I am talking about epistemological consistency, not necessarily ontological consistency.

So, neither you, nor any Thomist can give the account you demand from the atheist/naturalist.  You cannot appeal to God for, in your system, reliability of the senses is epistemologically prior to knowledge of existence of God; and thus, arguing that we know the senses are reliable because God exists is epistemologically circular.  Likewise for knowledge that the past existed and Last Thursdayism is false, which is epistemologically prior to recognition of historicity of the Gospels.

Only the Cartesian can give a step-by-step analysis as to why reliability of the senses and existence of the past can be concluded.

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What you talk about here are specific doctrines in case of which we do not fully know how to understand them.

Exactly, which is why the epistemology isn't fully coherent.  We end up in contradictions which we cannot resolve when we do try to understand them better using our reason.  A fully coherent epistemology doesn't come with signs saying "STOP - Dangerous Cliffs Ahead" included.

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That does not impact Christian epistemology (we might not understand some doctrines, but we know why they are true),...

No, we don't.  We only know why we know they are true.

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...which is vastly superior to secular/naturalist one

Fine, but Christian epistemology still has its own set of limitations.

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And yes, some things are and will indeed remain a mystery (at least in this life), and to call it a "magic term" is simply hubris - there are some things about God and His plan of salvation which we will not understand, partly due to our intelectual limitations.

It's a "magic term" because theologians use it at precisely the point when things get uncomfortable, due to the use of reason being applied to exactly those things about God and His plan of salvation they do claim to understand.

By analogy, the atheist will reply that how the universe came to be without God is a "mystery" (possibly with copious equations from quantum mechanics), and to call that "magic" is simply hubris - there are simply some things about the world which we will not understand, due to our intellectual limitations.


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That is not enough for you, which once again shows that you are in fact a rationalist in a Christian garb...

That is the last refuge of the scoundrel for theologians argued into a corner - claim their opponents are "rationalists" for using the very same reason that theologians do.

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Quote from: Quaremerepulisti
But why is that the case?  Because the person doesn't want the Resurrection to be true.

Faith is a gift from God in a sense that God's grace is a necessary precondition for receiving the faith..

Because human nature, broken by Original Sin, is evil and hostile to God's truth. Unless God's grace quells this rebellion, a person will remain in that state and cannot arrive to the faith on one's own.

How, may I ask, is being "hostile to God's truth" any different from what I said about not wanting the Resurrection to be true?

Now, everything you say below is due to your own Christian presuppositions.  I'm saying it's perfectly OK to own that, and not pretend to some idea of "objectivity".

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1. Vast majority of secular naturalists, including key figures of atheism, are extremely ignorant about Scripture, theology and history, and have never considered the evidence on its own merits, without sifting it through their naturalistic presuppositions.

You know this how?  Because obviously, had they been more knowledgeable and considered evidence on its own merits, they would have come to a different conclusion.  Circular argument. 

Actually, many of them know quite a bit about these topics.  What it is true to say that they are studying these topics with a predetermined conclusion in mind.  So are you.

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2. "Scriptural contradictions and errors" - that begs the question whether such exist. There are many excellet refutations of so-called "contradictions", most of which are superficial readings of Scripture or misunderstandings based on lack of theological background on the part of unbelievers.

And then there are refutations of the refutations, and so on.  Do you really believe in Scriptural inerrancy because you have personally satisfied yourself that none of these are valid, and none could be valid?

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3. "Conflicts with science" - I suppose you refer to historicity of Genesis, but that has no bearing upon the issue of Resurrection.

But it has bearing on the issue of original sin.

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Also, so called conflicts with science are a problem only when you take a naturalistic worldview and reject the supernatural a priori.

Not true.  One can oppose a claimed revelation of God to conclusions from natural science and therefore reject the claimed revelation.  That doesn't mean God doesn't exist.

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And at the end of the day there is an objective reality - either I'm wrong or they are. They claim that explanations of Scriptural contradictions fall flat on their face, but they are wrong - refutations of so-called "contradictions" have been provided, and they are robust, in contrats to incredibly weak attempts to explain away the events surrounding Jesus death, or Miracle of the Sun. Of course, you can say it is only my claim and deny objective truth, but that results in relativism, in which any organized religion ceases to make any sense.

Epistemology and ontology are always confounded in these types of discussions.  Always, always.  Whenever the question of objective validity of epistemological judgments is made, the response is always "you are denying objective truth".

Now, it is only your claim that your refutations of contradictions in Scripture are robust, while their refutations of the Resurrection or the Miracle of the Sun are not, which is based on your Christian presuppositions.  They will of course claim that your refutations are weak, whereas theirs are robust, based on their naturalistic ones.

That doesn't deny objective truth - either there are or there are not contradictions in Scripture, and either the Resurrection happened or it did not.  But the question is what is the objective standard by which you judge robustness and weakness, in the absence of any presuppositions?  You haven't got one, because one doesn't exist.

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If reliable evidence points towards something, then it should be accepted...

And what is the definition of "reliable" evidence, but that which we should use in order to accept a conclusion.  Circular.

There is eye-witness testimony that Joseph Smith performed miracles.  How more "reliable" can you get?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracles_of_Joseph_Smith

You'll find some other reason to deny the miracle claim, but the real reason is that you have a priori rejected them.
 

Offline bigbadtrad

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #37 on: January 24, 2019, 05:07:05 PM »
That raises an obvious question - why is a reliable historical document insufficient to establish an occurence of a supernatural event? We use ancient historical documents to establish events which did take place and did not involve supernatural, and accept them as historical on the basis of these sources. Why then reject a source (if it can be judged as reliable on the basis of common standards of historical research) if it speaks about supernatural events? The only reason can be naturalistic presuppositions which rule out a priori that a miracle could have happened. Many will say "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", but this claim smuggles a presupposition that a claim of supernatural event is "extraordinary", which begs the question in favor of naturalism and justifies using double standards in treating natural and supernatural claims in historical sources.

First of all, the Gospels are not exactly a "reliable historical document" as the term is commonly understood - their stated goal is not to provide a disinterested historical record of what went on in Palestine at the time, but to convince people that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and that thus Christianity is true.  No historian worth his salt would only rely upon sources known to be biased.

But more importantly, there are in fact very good reasons to accept the history in historical sources, while remaining skeptical about miracle claims, that doesn't involve an a priori naturalistic presupposition involving an impossibility for miracles.  Anyone with a basic knowledge of Bayes' Theorem will realize this.  Yes, I know some apologists claim "naturalistic presuppositions" when others claim ordinary evidences don't establish miracle claims the way they do for ordinary claims, but this is false - the prior probability of miracles is much, much, much lower than ordinary things, such that ordinary evidences lead to a very high posterior probability for ordinary things, while the posterior probability is still low for the miracles (although nevertheless substantially higher than the prior).

If you don't understand all the Bayesian jargon, I'll ask you this.  Why do you not accept the testimony of people who insist they were abducted by or otherwise had direct contact with space aliens, when you would accept their testimony as to which city they live in.  I mean, they're reliable people based on common standards; they've even passed lie detector tests, even sophisticated fMRI techniques designed to detect lies.  Why reject a source judged as reliable based on common standards if it talks about aliens?  Is the only reason an anti-alien presupposition?  But how is such a presupposition justified - existence of aliens isn't contrary to reason nor does it contradict faith.  If you say an alien visitation is an "extraordinary" claim that would require extraordinary evidence, that is just begging the question against aliens and justifying using double standards between alien and non-alien claims in human testimonies.  The answer is that you (sensibly) regard the likelihood that the witnesses are lying or delusional (even despite the evidence showing them to be generally reliable people) as much higher than the prior probability of an alien visitation.

So, standard apologetics doesn't take into account the prior probability of a resurrection, which is obviously infinitesimally low.  Unbelievers therefore regard the likelihood that the Gospel writers were lying, delusional, or simply misinformed as much higher than the prior probability of a resurrection.  They are not unreasonable in so doing.

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Translating it into an example. The analysis of historical documents according to common standards of historical research leads to conclusion that Hannibal commanded in the battle of Cannae. Everybody accepts that, historical records are considered sufficient to establish that. If the same standards of historical research and analysis of ancient sources (in this case the Gospels) lead to conclusion that Jesus Christ most likely rose from the dead (a historical case for resurrection on the basis of "minimal facts" is very strong), why insistence that these records are insufficient? Seems to me like a double standard based on naturalistic presuppositions which consider miracles to be "extraordinary" a priori and thus requiring "extraordinary evidence".

But that's just it.  The "common standards of historical research" don't suffice for miracle claims, for which the prior is much, much lower than ordinary historical events.

Spoken like a non-believer. You've inverted faith and reason. Why anyone pays attention to you is beyond me. First you preach following Vatican II now Eastern Catholicism while arguing against faith in position to reason. It's astounding why anyone pays you an ounce of attention.

Epistemological proofs of the Gospels is not what faith is. Epistemology would be the handmaid of the faith, not the guide. Something that serves cannot lead.

Many conversations are had like this in Hell. Probably in a higher pitch and tone than mere quiet typing. Arvinger is spot on. You claim people who propose you're a rationalist a scoundrel but you are in fact a scoundrel to invert the nature of faith to reason and pretend you do it to illuminate. Lucifer was also an angel of light and reason. Since you love such logic I'll lay it on thick for you. You don't understand the Catholic faith, and never did.

What I found most ironic is you claim the solution is Eastern Catholicism but did it ever occur to you that they find your arguments repulsive? Go to any Eastern Catholic priest and try this, or the Russicum. They will find your argumentation against the faith in principle. But please, tell us more how us Latins are all in error and why Eastern Catholicism is the answer while they would find your arguments contrary to the faith point blank. Show us proof that Easterners would ever use your logic about epistemology or stop using such argumentation and just be consistent. 
« Last Edit: January 24, 2019, 05:09:34 PM by bigbadtrad »
"God has proved his love to us by laying down his life for our sakes; we too must be ready to lay down our lives for the sake of our brethren." 1 John 3:16
 

Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Epistemology of Faith
« Reply #38 on: January 24, 2019, 05:50:44 PM »
Spoken like a non-believer. You've inverted faith and reason. Why anyone pays attention to you is beyond me. First you preach following Vatican II now Eastern Catholicism while arguing against faith in position to reason. It's astounding why anyone pays you an ounce of attention.

Epistemological proofs of the Gospels is not what faith is. Epistemology would be the handmaid of the faith, not the guide. Something that serves cannot lead.

Many conversations are had like this in Hell. Probably in a higher pitch and tone than mere quiet typing. Arvinger is spot on. You claim people who propose you're a rationalist a scoundrel but you are in fact a scoundrel to invert the nature of faith to reason and pretend you do it to illuminate. Lucifer was also an angel of light and reason. Since you love such logic I'll lay it on thick for you. You don't understand the Catholic faith, and never did.

What I found most ironic is you claim the solution is Eastern Catholicism but did it ever occur to you that they find your arguments repulsive? Go to any Eastern Catholic priest and try this, or the Russicum. They will find your argumentation against the faith in principle. But please, tell us more how us Latins are all in error and why Eastern Catholicism is the answer while they would find your arguments contrary to the faith point blank. Show us proof that Easterners would ever use your logic about epistemology or stop using such argumentation and just be consistent.

This is just bullying, an all-too-typical characteristic of trads online, and something for which I have better things to do with my time than respond to.

Have a nice day.