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Augustine’s “Confessions” and the Harmony of Faith and Reason

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Saint Augustine

Pope Benedict XVI dramatically underscored the importance of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) recently. In a series of general audiences dedicated to the Church fathers, Benedict devoted one or two audiences to luminaries such as St. Justin Martyr, St. Basil, and St. Jerome, while dedicating five to Augustine. One of the greatest theologians and Doctors of the Church, Augustine’s influence on Pope Benedict is manifest. "When I read Saint Augustine’s writings," the Holy Father stated in the second of those five audiences (January 16, 2008), "I do not get the impression that he is a man who died more or less 1,600 years ago; I feel he is like a man of today: a friend, a contemporary who speaks to me, who speaks to us with his fresh and timely faith."

The relationship between faith and reason has a significant place in Augustine’s vast corpus. It has been discussed often by Benedict, who identifies it as a central concern for our time and presents Augustine as a guide to apprehending and appreciating more deeply the nature of the relationship. Augustine’s "entire intellectual and spiritual development," Benedict stated in his third audience on the African Doctor (January 30, 2008), "is also a valid model today in the relationship between faith and reason, a subject not only for believers but for every person who seeks the truth, a central theme for the balance and destiny of all men."

This is a key issue and theme in Augustine’s Confessions, his profound and influential account of his search for meaning and conversion to Christianity. Augustine testifies to how reason puts man on the road toward God and how it is faith that informs and elevates reason, taking it beyond its natural limitations while never being tyrannical or confining in any way. He summarized this seemingly paradoxical fact in the famous dictum, "I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe" (Sermo 43:9).

Falsehoods about Faith

 
There are, as we all know, many distorted and shallow concepts of faith, reason, and the differences between the two. For self-described "brights" and other skeptics, reason is objective, scientific, and verifiable, while faith is subjective, personal, and irrational, even bordering on mania or madness. But if we believe that reason is indeed reasonable, it should be admitted this is a belief in itself, and thus requires some sort of faith. There is a certain step of faith required in putting all of one’s intellectual weight on the pedestal of reason. "Secularism," posits philosopher Edward Feser in The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism,

can never truly rest on reason, but only "faith," as secularists themselves understand that term (or rather misunderstand it, as we shall see): an unshakeable commitment grounded not in reason but rather in sheer willfulness, a deeply ingrained desire to want things to be a certain way regardless of whether the evidence shows they are that way. (6)

For many people today the source of reason and object of faith is their own intellectual power. To look outside, or beyond, themselves for a greater source and object of faith is often dismissed as "irrational" or "superstitious." As the Confessions readily document, Augustine had walked with sheer willfulness (to borrow Feser’s excellent descriptive) down this dark intellectual alleyway in his own life and found it to be a dead end. He discovered that belief is only as worthwhile as its object and as strong as its source. For Augustine—a man who had pursued philosophical arguments with intense fervor—both the object andsource of faith is God.

"Belief, in fact" the Thomistic philosopher Etienne Gilson remarked inThe Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine, "is simply thought accompanied by assent" (27). There is not and cannot be tension or conflict between reason and faith; they both flow from the same divine source. Reason should and must, therefore, play a central role in a man’s beliefs about ultimate things. In fact, it is by reason that we come to know and understand what faith and belief are. Reason is the vehicle, which, if driven correctly, takes us to the door of faith. As Augustine observed:

My greatest certainty was that "the invisible things of thine from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even thy eternal power and Godhead." For when I inquired how it was that I could appreciate the beauty of bodies, both celestial and terrestrial; and what it was that supported me in making correct judgments about things mutable; and when I concluded, "This ought to be thus; this ought not"—then when I inquired how it was that I could make such judgments (since I did, in fact, make them), I realized that I had found the unchangeable and true eternity of truth above my changeable mind. (Confessions 7:17)

Get through the Door

 
However, while reason brings us to the threshold of faith—and even informs us that faith is a coherent and logical option—it cannot take us through the door. Part of the problem is that reason has been wounded by the Fall and dimmed by the effects of sin. Reason is, to some degree or another, distorted, limited, and hindered; it is often pulled off the road by our whims, emotions, and passions.

But this is not why natural reason, ultimately, cannot open the door to faith. It is because faith is a gift from the Creator, who is himself inscrutable. In Augustine’s intense quest for God he asked: Can God be understood and known by reason alone? The answer is a clear, "No." "If you understood him," Augustine declares, "it would not be God" (Sermo52:6, Sermo 117:3). The insufficiency of reason in the face of God and true doctrine is also addressed in the Confessions. Writing of an immature Christian who was ill-informed about doctrine, the bishop of Hippo noted:

When I hear of a Christian brother, ignorant of these things, or in error concerning them, I can tolerate his uninformed opinion; and I do not see that any lack of knowledge as to the form or nature of this material creation can do him much harm, as long as he does not hold a belief in anything which is unworthy of thee, O Lord, the Creator of all. But if he thinks that his secular knowledge pertains to the essence of the doctrine of piety, or ventures to assert dogmatic opinions in matters in which he is ignorant—there lies the injury. (Confessions 5:5)

Augustine’s high view of reason rested on his belief that God is the author of all truth and reason. The Incarnate God-man, the second Person of the Trinity, appeals to man’s reason and invites him to seek more deeply, to reflect more thoroughly, and to thirst more intensely for the "eternal Truth":

Why is this, I ask of thee, O Lord my God? I see it after a fashion, but I do not know how to express it, unless I say that everything that begins to be and then ceases to be begins and ceases when it is known in thy eternal reason that it ought to begin or cease—in thy eternal reason where nothing begins or ceases. And this is thy Word, which is also "the Beginning," because it also speaks to us. Thus, in the gospel, he spoke through the flesh; and this sounded in the outward ears of men so that it might be believed and sought for within, and so that it might be found in the eternal Truth, in which the good and only Master teacheth all his disciples. There, O Lord, I hear thy voice, the voice of one speaking to me, since he who teacheth us speaketh to us. (Confessions 11:8)

Another example of Augustine’s high regard for reason and for its central place in his theological convictions is found in his experience with the teachings of Mani. As Augustine learned about the Manichaean view of the physical world, he became increasingly exasperated with its lack of logic and irrational nature. The breaking point came when he was ordered to believe teachings about the heavenly bodies that were in clear contradiction to logic and mathematics: "But still I was ordered to believe, even where the ideas did not correspond with—even when they contradicted—the rational theories established by mathematics and my own eyes, but were very different" (Confessions 5:3). And so Augustine left Manichaeanism in search of a reasonable, intellectually cogent faith.

Know the Limits

 
Reason, based in man’s finitude, cannot comprehend the infinite mysteries of faith, even while pointing towards them, however indistinctly. For Augustine this was especially true when it came to understanding Scripture. Early in his life, reading the Bible had frustrated and irritated him; later, graced with the eyes of faith, he was able to comprehend and embrace its riches:

Thus, since we are too weak by unaided reason to find out truth, and since, because of this, we need the authority of the holy writings, I had now begun to believe that thou wouldst not, under any circumstances, have given such eminent authority to those Scriptures throughout all lands if it had not been that through them thy will may be believed in and that thou might be sought. For, as to those passages in the Scripture which had heretofore appeared incongruous and offensive to me, now that I had heard several of them expounded reasonably, I could see that they were to be resolved by the mysteries of spiritual interpretation. The authority of Scripture seemed to me all the more revered and worthy of devout belief because, although it was visible for all to read, it reserved the full majesty of its secret wisdom within its spiritual profundity. (Confessions 6:5)

The contrast between reading Scripture before and after faith is one Augustine returned to often, for it demonstrated how reason, for all of its goodness and worth, can only comprehend a certain circumscribed amount. While reason is a wonderful and even powerful tool, it is a natural tool providing limited results.

Man, the rational animal, is meant for divine communion, and therefore requires an infusion of divine life and aptitude. Grace, the divine life of God, fills man and gifts him with faith, hope, and love. Faith, then, is first and foremost a gift from God. It is not a natural virtue, but a theological virtue. Its goal is theosis —that is, participation in the divine nature (see CCC 460; 2 Pt 1:4). The Christian, reborn as a divinized being, lives by faith and not by sight, a phrase from St. Paul that Augustine repeated: "But even so, we still live by faith and not by sight, for we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope" (Confessions 13:13).

Recognize Rightful Authority

 
Humble receptivity to faith requires recognizing true and rightful authority. "For, just as among the authorities in human society, the greater authority is obeyed before the lesser, so also must God be above all" (Confessions 3:8). What Augustine could not find in Mani, he discovered in the person of Jesus Christ, his Church, and the Church’s teachings. All three are in evidence in the opening chords of theConfessions:

But "how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe without a preacher?" Now, "they shall praise the Lord who seek him," for "those who seek shall find him," and, finding him, shall praise him. I will seek thee, O Lord, and call upon thee. I call upon thee, O Lord, in my faith which thou hast given me, which thou hast inspired in me through the humanity of thy Son, and through the ministry of thy preacher. (1:1)

For Augustine, there is no conflict between Christ, his Body, and his Word. Christ, through his Body, demonstrates the truthfulness of his Word, as Augustine readily admitted: "But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me" (Contra epistolam Manichaei 5:6; see also Confessions 7:7). Holy Scripture, the Word of God put to paper by men inspired by the Holy Spirit, possesses a certitude and authority coming directly from its divine Author and protected by the Church:

Now who but thee, our God, didst make for us that firmament of the authority of thy divine Scripture to be over us? For "the heaven shall be folded up like a scroll"; but now it is stretched over us like a skin. Thy divine Scripture is of more sublime authority now that those mortal men through whom thou didst dispense it to us have departed this life. (Confessions 13:15)

Humility and Harmony

 
"The harmony between faith and reason," wrote Benedict XVI in his third audience on Augustine, "means above all that God is not remote; he is not far from our reason and life; he is close to every human being, close to our hearts and to our reason, if we truly set out on the journey." Augustine’s life is a dramatic and inspiring witness to this tremendous truth, and it is why his Confessions continue to challenge and move readers today, 16 centuries after being written.

The young Augustine pursued reason, prestige, and pleasure with tremendous energy and refined focus, but could not find peace or satisfaction. It was when he followed reason to the door of faith, humbled himself before God, and gave himself over to Christ that he found Whom he was made by and for. "In its essence," Gilson wrote, "Augustinian faith is both an adherence of the mind to supernatural truth and a humble surrender of the whole man to the grace of Christ" (The Christian Philosophy 31).
 
 
Originally posted at Catholic Answers. Used with author's permission.
((Image credit: Patheos)

Carl Olson

Written by

Carl E. Olson is the editor of Catholic World Report and IgnatiusInsight.com. He is the best-selling author of Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? (Ignatius, 2003), which was selected by the Associated Press as one of the best religious titles of 2003, and co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius, 2004). He's also the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? (Ignatius/Augustine Institute, 2016) and co-editor and contributor to Called To Be the Children of God: The Catholic Theology of Human Deification (Ignatius, 2016). Raised in a Fundamentalist home, Carl attended an Evangelical Bible college, and entered the Catholic Church in 1997. He holds an MTS from the University of Dallas. A well-respected author, Carl writes a weekly Scripture column, "Opening the Word" for Our Sunday Visitor, and has also written for First Things, This Rock/Catholic Answers Magazine, Envoy, Crisis, National Review Online, and National Catholic Register. Find Carl on Twitter @carleolson and visit him online at CarlEOlson.net.

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  • primenumbers

    "But if we believe that reason is indeed reasonable, it should be admitted this is a belief in itself, and thus requires some sort of faith." - no, reason is reasonable because it works. It needs no faith to support it. Or do you mean "faith == trust", if so, then that's an equivocation with the topic of the article which is religious faith, not specifically trust.

    • Randy Gritter

      But reason can produce disagreements. Liberals can reason and conservatives can reason and come to very different opinions. I would say physical experimentation works. If we are in the realm of the physical and experiments can be done and redone then we can purify our reason and make it work. If we are not in the realm of the physical then reason only works so well. We can see some things are unreasonable and know they are false. We can't, in general, know we have arrived at truth. We know which line of reason we like best but we cannot be sure it is correct.

      • primenumbers

        But faith does produce disagreements.

        • Randy Gritter

          Does it really? If you dig into the disagreements in religion most of them are rooted in reason and not in faith. A Pentecostal and a Presbyterian can both have faith in Jesus and the bible but disagree on much. Where does the disagreement come from? Reason. They start with the same scriptures and reason to different conclusions.

          A Muslim and a Christian disagree about much. Once chooses the bible, the other chooses the Koran as an object of faith. Why? It depends on the individual but it is at least partly because of reason. The Christians find the argument for the trustworthiness of the bible more reasonable. The Muslim finds the argument for the trustworthiness of the Koran more reasonable.

          • Rationalist1

            Of course faith produces disagreements. The great schism between The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church was partly over whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father along or from the Father and the Son. That's fath, not reason.

          • Randy Gritter

            Is it? If you look at the discussions about it you will find a lot of reasoning. Yes, the different camps trusted different thinkers but that is a property of reason. Different schools of thought develop. At bottom they both had faith in the same God and the same scriptures and even the same apostolic tradition.

          • Loreen Lee

            I haven't been posting, but couldn't help myself here. I would disagree saying that although it might be considered a matter of faith, the argument itself was centered on which was the most rational alternative. It was an argument of reason on an issue of 'faith'....

          • primenumbers

            Yes, there are reasons why various religious people disagree, but what they're disagreeing on are items of faith, not items of reason. They have rationalizations of why their faith is correct, but that doesn't mean we're talking here about disagreements over reason. The subject of the disagreements still comes back to faith based knowledge.

          • Randy Gritter

            That has not been my experience. Having been in many of these debates it is almost always centered around an interpretation of scripture. They analyze it one way and I analyze it another. Reason.

            When it involves a matter of faith like whether the church is infallible on some matter even that goes back to reason. We disagree on whether the bible and the apostles demand obedience to the church. That deeper disagreement is also based on reason.

            John Paul II has an image of us flying with faith and reason as 2 wings both working together. I like the image. I just think the reason wing has a lot more potential for disagreement.

          • primenumbers

            You're conflating the source of the disagreement with the methods used to argue it. If we're talking about faith and reason we're talking about two epistemologies. Of the two, it's reason that is reliable and demonstrably so, and faith that leads to the chaos of religious belief and the type of argument that you point out.

            From that point of the disagreement the argument will ensure. Some will assert on faith that they are right, and as you see what happens here, that doesn't go over very well....

          • Randy Gritter

            Faith leads to argument? Isn't argument an inherently rational process? Faith is based on motives of credibility. That is we reason about whether it makes sense to believe Jesus in the Son of God. We make different choices based on our reason and end up with different traditions. I would not say different epistemologies. Traditions differ on the premises they accept. Epistemologies are more about how we can know. I think you and I differ mostly on premises. We can discuss rationally and profitably because we don't differ much on epistemology.

          • primenumbers

            Not sure. I think epistemology is the key difference actually.

          • Max Driffill

            Consider the way most evangelicals hate the veneration of Mary. This is a matter of faith. It has produced quite a rift.

          • Max Driffill

            The arguments among the faithful though, while they may use reason, they are starting from their articles of faith.

          • Joe Ser

            Except when atheists convert.

          • Max Driffill

            Atheists don't convert I don't think. They just shed.

          • Joe Ser

            Call it what you want. I found it pretty neat that In a forthcoming paper in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, titled “Atheists Become Emotionally Aroused When Daring God to Do Terrible Things,”

          • Max Driffill

            I don't.

          • Joe Ser

            I didn't think you would. lol

          • Max Driffill

            I get chills watching Jurassic Park. I can still be jolted by supernatural thrillers. What does this prove?Though I don't get any thrills mocking gods. Though I might have once. Its fun to realize something doesn't have a chain on you anymore.

          • epeeist

            Except when atheists convert.

            I can only speak about the UK, but if you check table 12.2 on the 28th British Social Attitudes Survey you can see that only about 6% of those with no religion take up a religion.

            Compare that with the 43% of those who were brought up in the C of E and the 32% of those brought up Catholic who become non-religious.

          • Sid_Collins

            So you argue that a believer chooses a religious tradition--Christian, Islam, Shinto, Hindu or Buddhist--based on reason? Then what role does faith play?

          • Michael Murray

            Funny how all the people born into religion X almost always reason themselves into religion X.

            It seems a little un-reason-able.

      • Joe Ser

        Right - human reasoning is not flawless.

        • primenumbers

          Hence the use of correction mechanisms, the very mechanisms that faith lacks because it actually feeds on the very cognitive biases that make human reasoning less than totally reliable. In faith there is not only no mechanism to correct errors, but nothing in place to deal with the known cognitive biases. When I look at faith, I don't just see these lack of mechanisms, but I see faith actually embracing these biases and exemplifying them.

          • Joe Ser

            Science by definition is always provisional. By that definition it is relative. Revelation tells us that God is absolute truth and without error. When one navigates he wants to know where true north is. Same with our reasoning. Science does not gives us true north, unless north is yesterdays south.

          • Rationalist1

            Science is in no way relative. Do you even know what relative means? A scientists in North American has the same Scientific outlook as one in Indonesian, their science insn't reklative to their country, culture, language, etc., but there's a very good chance their religion is.

          • Joe Ser

            Is you claim it is absolute?

          • Rationalist1

            The current scientific knowledge is agreed upon but never presumed to be absolute, but it is not relative. Religious knowledge is not agreed upon at all and all claim theirs is absolute.

            If you need absolute truth just pick a religion, any religion, and it will claim to give you absolute truth. Science won't.

          • Joe Ser

            When you parse each religions claims only one is left standing.

            Today's science is relative to yesterday's.

          • Max Driffill

            Today's Christianity is relative to yesterdays.

          • Joe Ser

            Exception - Catholicism.

          • Max Driffill

            This simply isn't true. I would urge you to read the book Lost Christianities.

          • Joe Ser

            Catholic creeds were formulated to deal with heresies. They are well documented in Catholic literature.

          • Max Driffill

            We know that Christianity was not nearly uniform (has probably never really been so) during its first 4 centuries. There is no evidence for the RCC's claim that it was founded by Jesus.

          • Joe Ser

            How do you know that? Source?

          • Max Driffill

            There are no historical records that demonstrate that Jesus founded the Church. It is RCC tradition. And there were many different versions of Christianity, with different emphases through out the region of the Roman empire during the first 4 centuries of Christiantity. I'm not saying anything remarkable here. Many other wise orthodox people were still reading, and revering The Gospel of Peter well into the early middle ages.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Christianity

          • Joe Ser

            you are actually using wiki as a source? That is it?

          • Max Driffill

            No,
            I was giving you a link for an overview.
            Also, Wikipedia is generally quite reliable.
            For a better overview of the early history of Christianity, I would suggest you go read Bart Erhman's Lost Christianities. Fascinating stuff.

            That is where I learned about the popularity of the Gospel of Peter, and the Acts of Thecla all incredibly popular (Peter was more cited in antiquity than Mark for instance, which may not have been read in Egypt in the early centuries of Christiantiy).

          • Joe Ser

            One of the reasons for writing the events down was the fact that there were corruptions appearing all over. The Deposit of Faith had to be preserved so all could know it. We saw the same thing in the 1500's. All sorts of groups formed each with their own view.

          • Max Driffill

            Joe,

            When you parse each religions claims only one is left standing.

            Have you actually done this? I doubt it. It is more assertion.

          • epeeist

            It is mere assertion

            Fixed it for you.

          • Joe Ser

            Yes - now you try it.

          • Max Driffill

            Demonstrate to me how you have parsed the beliefs of Shintoism and found them to be be no longer standing.

          • Rationalist1

            We don't need to. A prudent person waits until their is evidence before accepting an assertion. That's why I don't accept astrology, homeopathy, tarot cards and any religion.

          • Joe Ser

            I don't accept any religion either.

          • Rationalist1

            "When you parse each religions claims only one is left standing." The trouble is every religion says that.

          • Joe Ser

            You know better otherwise you would be arguing on the Hindu site.

          • Rationalist1

            Atheists in India are doing that, at least when they're not being charged with blasphemy ( http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/04/14/indian-skeptic-charged-with-blasphemy-for-rationally-explaining-a-miracle/ )

          • Mikegalanx

            Yes,-could the Catholics here please ask their Church to stop trying to get a man thrown in jail for the crime of showing a 'miracle' was actually a leaky pipe?

          • primenumbers

            "Revelation tells us that God is absolute truth and without error" - that is a statement of faith. You are also at odds with other revelations that claim contrary religious knowledge to your own, and it's just mere assertion that makes you think your revealed beliefs are true and others are not. You have no method by which to discriminate revelation from imagination.

          • Joe Ser

            Sure one does. Let us start to go through some of the arguments. While you may still not be convinced of Cahtolciism you should at least understand how we get there.

            There are philosophies and there are religions. Presumably we all discussing the Abrahamic religions.

            (religion form its root words means "to bind oneself to God". or to bind oneself to truth or to bind oneself to love.)

          • primenumbers

            Make your argument on the reliability of revelation.

          • epeeist

            There are philosophies and there are religions. Presumably we all discussing the Abrahamic religions.

            Why should we restrict ourselves to those? There are significant numbers of Hindus (over 13% of the world's population according to Wiki) and Buddhists (over 5%).

            And are you really lumping all Christians together and not breaking it down by the number of different denominations?

          • Max Driffill

            Joe,
            Back up.
            Demonstrate that revelation of the divine kind exists. Demonstrate that your god exists and divinely reveals things, and does so without error.

          • Joe Ser

            Catholics accept the oral and written evidence. In addition, archaeology is proving the OT everyday.

          • epeeist

            Catholics accept the oral and written evidence. In addition, archaeology is proving the OT everyday.

            Including the Exodus? Or that Moses was a real person? Or that Jericho actually had walls to fall down at the sound of trumpets...

            Just because history and archaeology confirms some elements of the bible doesn't mean to say that all of it is true.

          • severalspeciesof

            Revelation tells us that God is absolute truth and without error.

            Which revelation, your's, the neighbor's, or the fool on the hill?

          • Michael Murray

            You say you want a revelation
            Well, you know
            We all want to change the world
            You tell me that it's evolution ...

            Sorry it was the reference to the fool on the hill. I came over all Beatles for a minute.

          • ZenDruid

            'S okay. Whenever I get an earworm, I use 'Fixing a Hole' to remedy it. Something about the bass line....

          • Michael Murray

            Science tells us true north is always moving and indeed has been south in the past.

          • ZenDruid

            Plus, the earthquakes and tsunamis that happened in recent years have each registered shifts of the rotational pole of the planet. By no more than meters, but still... ain't science grand?

          • Michael Murray

            Living in the southern hemisphere where there is no pole star I've always wondered why nobody in the north made more out of the "fine-tuning" that got them a very convenient star at the north celestial pole.

          • ZenDruid

            Good point.

          • Don't you have some kind of imaginary line(s) drawn from one constellation to another that does it for you?

          • Michael Murray

            Yes. You extend the major axis of the southern cross and the perpendicular bisector of the "pointers" (alpha and beta centauri) and it's (roughly) where they meet.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celestial_pole#Finding_the_south_celestial_pole

            It's hard to feel "goddit" though ! Mind you it's hard to feel "goddit" ever :-)

          • Oh, okay.

          • Michael Murray

            ZenDruid and I were going to offer you a top job in our new Polarian religion based on the revelation that god created the universe so that there was a star at the north celestial pole. Joining the religion requires donation of 50% of your material goods but leads to great metaphysical riches. Chief Polarian status can be achieved by our Polarian training courses.

            But your skepticism may be blocking our access to your wallet inner spiritual eye.

          • Well, I am in serious need of a job, but not one that actually requires me to do any work, nor one that I have to pay for.

          • ZenDruid

            Join us anyway, and together we can figure out how to acquire free income. Where is the 503(c)(3) website...?

    • Hey Prime - The language that Olson ("some sort of faith," "a certain step of faith") and Feser ("only 'faith'") use shows that this is not in reference to religious faith, but to some "non-reasoned" act of the mind, which is what - as Feser notes - many atheists often take religious faith to be (thus the quotation marks). It's to reiterate, as Chesterton put it, that asserting that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all is somewhat an act of "faith," so understood. Utter skepticism and demand for clear and distinct proof ends in solipsism - a non-starter.

      Faith, as Feser underscores, is something quite different from a "non-reasoned" a priori assumption, but rather, lies at the "far side" of reason - beyond, not before, it's work. Still, the example does suggest that it is not altogether unthinkable that reason should be locked in with and grounded by something that's not itself - in fact, it's only reasonable to have such a guarantor of reason!

      • primenumbers

        "It's to reiterate, as Chesterton put it, that asserting that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all is somewhat an act of "faith," so understood." -that is a misuse of the word faith. The word you're looking for is trust, and it's a trust that is earned through our experiences, and earned well enough that we accept with relatively little question.

        Indeed "Utter skepticism" ends in a logical morass. I'm not so skeptical my brain falls out.

        So you're saying that in this article Faith is "some "non-reasoned" act of the mind". You're going to have to do better than that, and better than this article to explain what you mean here.

        My first problem is what I note about where faith is equivocated with not just trust, but a trust that has been built up through all our combined life experiences to be something so highly trustworthy indeed that it's only in abstract forum discussions like these do we even see it questioned.

    • no, reason is reasonable because it works. It needs no faith to support it.

      It does need. Down vote me, but, In order to do science, you must be sure that the past will resemble the future, in other words, you must be sure that the Laws of Nature will not change arbitrary or randomly through time, but without empiric evidence to sustain this trust, you must rely on faith alone. as Hume may said it: "That the sun will not rise tomorrow is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction, than the affirmation, that it will rise."

      • primenumbers

        Nope. No such assumption is needed. We can assume that assumption relatively safely because the process works and produces good results with that assumption in place, but it's not necessary.

        • But what on earth tells you that such "good results" will be valid tomorrow? C'mon, really!

          • primenumbers

            Very good experience tells us. It's not certain, but it's one thats worked well during our recorded history. Should that change we can revise accordingly.

          • English Catholic

            The materialist has no reason for thinking the experience of yesterday, or the experience of a million yesterdays, will apply tomorrow. He can only project yesterday onto tomorrow, as Hume said.

            For scientific laws to be prescriptive, which is necessary if we are to know rationally that tomorrow is to be like yesterday, objects must behave according to laws (which Hume denied). And the rules, obviously, must exist objectively for the objects to behave according to them.

            The materialist philosophy denies the existence of anything immaterial. The rules are immaterial - assumed by science, rather than discovered by it. (Science can only discover the tendencies - it can't make a rule out of them.) Thus the materialist can't rationally expect tomorrow to be like today.

            He can only shut his eyes and hope for the best - just as he accuses the religious of doing.

          • primenumbers

            "The materialist has no reason for thinking the experience of yesterday, or the experience of a million yesterdays, will apply tomorrow." - other than the experience of a million yesterdays, which vastly more evidence than we've ever had for any religious or supernatural truth.

          • English Catholic

            Yes, but under a materialist philosophy, this is sheer wishful thinking.

            The rules are immaterial. So the rules don't exist if materialism is true. So your assigning the experience of yesterday to tomorrow is only rational if materialism is true.

          • primenumbers

            Not at all. Again, you're mixing up the abstraction of something with what it physically is.

          • But wait.......

            How can an abstraction not be physical, if the physical is all there is?

          • English Catholic

            No; I'm denying your conflation of 'abstract' with 'doesn't exist outside our minds'.

            The logic of materialism could be stated thus:

            1. The rules that govern an object are abstract inasmuch as they are not material.
            2. If we equate 'abstract' with 'in our minds only', as materialism must, and as you explicitly did in another post -- and I have no reason to think you're using it in a different way here -- then the rules that govern an object are in our mind only.
            3. Therefore the rules are not inherent, actually-existing properties of that object, but are in our minds only.
            4. Therefore, our predictions about how an object will behave have no validity outside our own minds.
            5. Therefore, to make any generalisation about how an object behaves is irrational.
            6. Since science consists of such generalisations, science is irrational.
            7. As a further consequence of 4., whatever is in my mind is a valid prediction about how an object will behave.
            8. Therefore, if I think putting crystals in my belly button will cure me of some dreadful disease, that is just as valid a prediction as that of a medical professional who tells me that this is nonsense.

            Please don't reply by saying 'it just works', or 'try putting crystals in your stomach button and see what happens'. I know science is rational and 'works'; I know that crystals are quackery. But by denying point 2, my philosophy gives me a logical reason for knowing these things. With respect, yours does not.

          • Bravo.

            Completely devastating.

          • primenumbers

            Error on line 1. Compile failed.

          • English Catholic

            #include ""

          • primenumbers

            These abstract rules we derive are based on observation of objects. They are not the rules that govern an object, but a math model of how an aspect of the universe works that we have derived from observations. In other words you're conflating the underlying workings of the universe with the math models we derive to understand better how the universe works.

          • English Catholic

            Do the rules exist in reality as something we observe (whatever models we may then use to explain them)? In which case 1 is false and materialism is refuted.

            Or do they exist only in our minds, and hence not in reality? In which case 2 and onwards hold.

          • primenumbers

            Read above - you're confusing our math models with the observed reality used to create the math models. Your case 2 logic doesn't hold as I described way back up in the thread (or in your discussion about apples).

          • English Catholic

            I grant that models are in our mind only.

            But the rules that govern an object's behaviour are
            a) immaterial (and therefore contrary to materialism)

            b) real features of that object, therefore
            c) existing in reality, outside our own mind.

            Right? Otherwise science fails.

            And yet you say (two posts above) that the rules are only something we derive. The models are something we derive, hopefully with greater and greater accuracy as time goes on (eg Newtonian --> Einsteinian physics); but the rules?

            So what does govern the object's behaviour?

          • primenumbers

            "But the rules that govern an object's behaviour are..."? What rules? We only have the behaviour. Rules are something laid down by a ruler, so by saying there's some rules you're saying there's a ruler. All we have access to is behaviour.

          • English Catholic

            Suppose I choose a less troubling word - 'tendency'? 'Inclination'?

            If you s/rule/tendency/ in the post I just made, what then?
            In any case, if there are no rules, only past behaviour, doesn't (at least) 3 onwards of my sequence above apply?

          • primenumbers

            The purpose of the scientific method is to discover how the universe works. Our math models we derive from observation and testing only indeed exist in our mind, but no, your 3 onwards doesn't apply as I have gone through with you above with the apples.

          • English Catholic

            Could you repeat the argument, and state how it applies to the sequence? I'm not being facetious: we're talking about two different things. Previously, we were arguing over the existence of forms; now, we're talking about whether objects' tendencies have real, objective existence.

          • English, the map is not the territory. The models we make in physics to facilitate reliable predictions are not the physical phenomena. Prime has explained this to you. Asking him to type it in again is not going to help you more than you can help yourself by reading it again and thinking about it more carefully.

          • English Catholic

            Talk of models is irrelevant. The models are certainly in our minds only. But they're derived from rules that exist as a property of the object itself. Otherwise we have no way of knowing that something will behave in one way rather than another.

          • But they're derived from rules that exist as a property of the object itself.

            How would you go about demonstrating that is true? Note that making up a rule and showing that the rule is useful in predicting outcomes does not prove the rule exists outside your model. How can you ever show that your rule is not a narrow subcase of a more complex behavior that you can't test for? For example, the model derived from Newtonian mechanics looked fine until cases could be tested at high enough velocities to require the Lorentz correction specified by Einstein.

          • English Catholic

            I apologise for the late reply - I wish I could spend more time doing this, as it's far more interesting than my desk job. Anyway...

            "How would you go about demonstrating that is true?"

            By the fact that an object behaves in regular ways. Without reference to tendencies/rules inherent to that object - viz., tendencies/rules that exist as properties of that object, just as its material structure does - it's senseless to talk of objects behaving in regular ways. But they do behave in regular ways - the scientific method takes it as a working assumption (whatever some people pretend otherwise).

            "Note that making up a rule and showing that the rule is useful in predicting outcomes does not prove the rule exists outside your model."

            Obviously not.

            "How can you ever show that your rule is not a narrow subcase of a more complex behavior that you can't test for?"

            That would show that there's a more complex rule than our model previously accounted for.

            The issue is not over how accurate a description (model) of the rule we posess; it's over whether the rule exists at all. Utterly random, inherently unpredictable behaviour would imply no rules; but we know the universe is not like that (don't we?). Your example talks about the possibility of previously unobserved behaviour. This would demonstrate that our model, our understanding, our simplification, of the rule is wrong; it most certainly does not demonstrate that there is no rule at all.

            A model is a model of something; it assumes the existence of a rule or tendency that governs an object's behaviour.

          • primenumbers

            As noted before point 4 fails because it ignores that the math models in our heads are based on observation and testing and have been empirically verified. We have every reason to be confident of them even though those math models are only in our heads. Our in-head math models don't even have to be "right" for us to be confident in them. For instance the simple Newtonian notion of gravity works well enough for most applications and is more than accurate enough for every-day use unless you're a physicist or engineer.

          • English Catholic

            I don't think we're going to get any further with this.

            If a stone doesn't behave according to inherent rules, we have no way of knowing whether it will fall to earth or leap into the sky when we let go of it. Clearly you disagree.

          • primenumbers

            Thanks.

          • Andrew G.

            You're arguing against a strawman. Materialism doesn't deny that logic or other abstractions exist; it denies that they are things.

          • So.

            Abstractions are no thing, but they exist?

            Something from nothing is always found to lie at the heart of the atheist world view.

          • epeeist

            The materialist has no reason for thinking the experience of yesterday, or the experience of a million yesterdays, will apply tomorrow. He can only project yesterday onto tomorrow, as Hume said.

            But the problem of induction is not specifically bound to the material. Can one extrapolate from an "experience of god" on one day to future experiences of god?

            The materialist philosophy denies the existence of anything immaterial.

            This may be true of some philosophers, it certainly isn't a position espoused by the majority of scientists.

            The rules are immaterial - assumed by science, rather than discovered by it. (Science can only discover the tendencies - it can't make a rule out of them.) Thus the materialist can't rationally expect tomorrow to be like today.

            So, examples of prescriptive scientific laws please. Rather than descriptive scientific theories.

          • English Catholic

            Sorry, this reply is necessarily rushed:

            - The 'problem of induction' only applies if you're a Humean; in other words, if you refuse to grant (as Hume explicitly refused to grant) that objects have specific tendencies of their own. If you follow Hume, the question becomes 'how do we know objects will continue to behave as they are?', because you have no way of knowing this. This doesn't trouble Aristotelian/Thomists like me.

            - Fair enough - we're dealing with ideas here, not with what specific people believe.

            - Any regularity in nature you care to mention is a specific law (though it would be worthwhile defining 'law' very carefully indeed - 'tendency' might be be better - we can only say something will happen with the certainty of a 'law' if we're able to set the conditions - hence the laboratory).

            Science assumes prescriptive laws as part of its method. The irony is that this makes Hume thoroughly anti-science.

          • epeeist

            The 'problem of induction' only applies if you're a Humean; in other words, if you refuse to grant (as Hume explicitly refused to grant) that objects have specific tendencies of their own.

            No, Hume's argument applies to our experiences not to objects.

            If you follow Hume, the question becomes 'how do we know objects will continue to behave as they are?', because you have no way of knowing this.

            Again no, the question is whether we are justified in reasoning from instances of which we have experience to other instances of which we have no experience.

            This doesn't trouble Aristotelian/Thomists like me.

            You mean you don't have experiences?

            Any regularity in nature you care to mention is a specific law (though it would be worthwhile defining 'law' very carefully indeed - 'tendency' might be be better

            So chickens that regularly receive feed from a farmer might regard that as a "law"? Perhaps not.

            How about "No sphere of gold greater than 1km in radius exists in the universe", would that count? Alternatively how about "No sphere of uranium 235 greater than 1km in radius exists in the universe"?

            Science assumes prescriptive laws as part of its method. The irony is that this makes Hume thoroughly anti-science.

            However it doesn't regard those laws as certain. Which rather undermines your second claim.

          • English Catholic

            Apologies for the late reply.

            >> The 'problem of induction' only applies if you're a Humean; in other words, if you refuse to grant (as Hume explicitly refused to grant) that objects have specific tendencies of their own.
            > No, Hume's argument applies to our experiences not to objects.

            Hume did quite specifically deny final causes (rules or tendencies) in objects, even if it was in the context of a discussion about experience. From the Stanford Encyclopedia:

            "While there is indeed nothing added to our external senses by this exercise, something does happen: “after a repetition of similar instances, the mind is carried by habit, upon the appearance of one event, to expect its usual attendant, and to believe that it will exist.” We feel this transition as an impression of reflection, or internal sensation, and it is this feeling of determination that is “the sentiment or impression from which we form the idea of power or necessary connexion. Nothing farther is in the case” (EHU, 75)."

            Happy to discuss experiences if you want though...

            "Again no, the question is whether we are justified in reasoning from instances of which we have experience to other instances of which we have no experience."

            The answer to your question is 'yes' if we admit final causes ('rules'/'tendencies') as properties of an object, and 'no' if we deny them. Therefore, placing faith in the generalities proposed by science is only rational if we admit final causes.

            "You mean you don't have experiences?"

            Misleading. I have experiences, but not only experiences.

            "So chickens that regularly receive feed from a farmer might regard that as a "law"?"

            Chickens aren't intelligent enough to know whether this is a 'law' or 'something that just happened'.

            Now a human being, hopefully, would be intelligent enough to grasp that a farmer is an example of category 'man'; and hence decides to feed the chickens every day, but one day may decide not do; and furthermore, will cease to exist bodily in a few decades' time; and hence will one day cease to feed the chickens.

            The sun doesn't decide to rise every day; it just does; it has, as inherent properties, 'rules' governing its behaviour. Outside of an astronomical event destroying the sun or the earth, or the sun burning itself out (as it will in a few billion years' time, according to its 'rules' as we currently understand them), it will continue to do so.

            Farmer != sun.

            "How about "No sphere of gold greater than 1km in radius exists in the universe", would that count? Alternatively how about "No sphere of uranium 235 greater than 1km in radius exists in the universe"?"

            Irrelevant. You can surely see that these are factual claims about the physical universe for which we have no evidence either way. They have nothing to do with our argument, which is a logical/philosophical one over whether causes exist in reality (Aristotle/Catholics), or whether we make them all up (Hume/materialist-atheists).

            "However it [science] doesn't regard those laws as certain. Which rather undermines your second claim."

            It assumes that the laws exist, even if we can't state them entirely accurately. F = m * a may not be exactly accurate in the light of Einsteinian physics, but that does nothing to undermine my claim that there's an inherent law that the model (however imperfectly) points to. Under Hume's model of the universe, where rules & causes don't really exist outside our brains, F = m * a might suddenly change to F = m * v, or F = bananas / sausages * hash-browns, overnight.

          • English Catholic

            Sorry about my lack of paragraph breaks. Blame Disqus, not me.

          • I just can't agree with you, specially if you commit to circular reasoning to support the idea that reason don't requires faith at all, even if your reasoning involves uncertainty: "Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe" said Saint Augustine. I cannot stop thinking on what Chesterton says on Orthodoxy regarding this issue:

            It might be stated this way. There are certain sequences
            or developments (cases of one thing following another), which are,
            in the true sense of the word, reasonable. They are, in the true
            sense of the word, necessary. Such are mathematical and merely
            logical sequences. We in fairyland (who are the most reasonable
            of all creatures) admit that reason and that necessity. [···] If the three brothers all ride horses,
            there are six animals and eighteen legs involved: that is true
            rationalism, and fairyland is full of it. But as I put my head over
            the hedge of the elves and began to take notice of the natural world,
            I observed an extraordinary thing. I observed that learned men
            in spectacles were talking of the actual things that happened—
            dawn and death and so on—as if THEY were rational and inevitable.
            They talked as if the fact that trees bear fruit were just as NECESSARY
            as the fact that two and one trees make three. But it is not.
            There is an enormous difference by the test of fairyland; which is
            the test of the imagination. You cannot IMAGINE two and one not
            making three. But you can easily imagine trees not growing fruit;
            you can imagine them growing golden candlesticks or tigers hanging
            on by the tail. These men in spectacles spoke much of a man
            named Newton, who was hit by an apple, and who discovered a law.
            But they could not be got to see the distinction between a true law,
            a law of reason, and the mere fact of apples falling. If the apple hit
            Newton's nose, Newton's nose hit the apple. That is a true necessity:
            because we cannot conceive the one occurring without the other.
            But we can quite well conceive the apple not falling on his nose;
            we can fancy it flying ardently through the air to hit some other nose,
            of which it had a more definite dislike. We have always in our fairy
            tales kept this sharp distinction between the science of mental relations,
            in which there really are laws, and the science of physical facts,
            in which there are no laws, but only weird repetitions.
            We believe
            in bodily miracles, but not in mental impossibilities. We believe
            that a Bean-stalk climbed up to Heaven; but that does not at all
            confuse our convictions on the philosophical question of how many beans
            make five. [···] In fairyland we avoid the word "law"; but in the land of science
            they are singularly fond of it. Thus they will call some interesting
            conjecture about how forgotten folks pronounced the alphabet,
            Grimm's Law. But Grimm's Law is far less intellectual than
            Grimm's Fairy Tales. The tales are, at any rate, certainly tales;
            while the law is not a law. A law implies that we know the nature
            of the generalisation and enactment; not merely that we have noticed
            some of the effects. If there is a law that pick-pockets shall go
            to prison, it implies that there is an imaginable mental connection
            between the idea of prison and the idea of picking pockets.
            And we know what the idea is. We can say why we take liberty
            from a man who takes liberties. But we cannot say why an egg can
            turn into a chicken any more than we can say why a bear could turn
            into a fairy prince. [···] When we are asked why eggs turn to birds or fruits fall in autumn,
            we must answer exactly as the fairy godmother would answer
            if Cinderella asked her why mice turned to horses or her clothes
            fell from her at twelve o'clock. We must answer that it is MAGIC.
            It is not a "law," for we do not understand its general formula.
            It is not a necessity, for though we can count on it happening
            practically, we have no right to say that it must always happen.
            It is no argument for unalterable law (as Huxley fancied) that we
            count on the ordinary course of things. We do not count on it;
            we bet on it. We risk the remote possibility of a miracle as we
            do that of a poisoned pancake or a world-destroying comet.
            We leave it out of account, not because it is a miracle, and therefore
            an impossibility, but because it is a miracle, and therefore
            an exception. All the terms used in the science books, "law,"
            "necessity," "order," "tendency," and so on, are really unintellectual,
            because they assume an inner synthesis, which we do not possess.
            The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the
            terms used in the fairy books, "charm," "spell," "enchantment."
            They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery.
            A tree grows fruit because it is a MAGIC tree. Water runs downhill
            because it is bewitched. The sun shines because it is bewitched.

          • primenumbers

            I'm not engaging in circularity. I'm trusting reason based on very very good evidence. That trust is earned. The results of reason are indeed not certain, not least because we're involved in the process and we have a number of cognitive biases to account for, and sometimes they get the better of us and we go down a blind alley, and have to retreat before we move forwards. That is why I say science doesn't lead us forwards monotonically.

            " "Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe"" - sounds very much like an affirmation of confirmation bias to me. And with no proposed method for checking the results of faith or for distinguishing faith from imagination, we can easily see how it has lead to the chaos of belief on this planet.

      • Max Driffill

        No faith required. I don't have faith the sun will rise. I think it probably will based on lots of experience of it doing just that. It might though. But if it doesn't I suspect I won't get to reflect on this failure overlong.

        • However, other people's testimony about the sun rising or not tomorrow isn't good enough, I mean, it is not empirical evidence. Witness aren't good enough.

          So, as with the sun rises issue. you know that you are immortal because you have never died before, cool.

          • Max Driffill

            Shackra, Who ever up-voted this nonsense was probably drunk.

            I have seen a number of people die, have in fact buried a number of people personally (it was an college job between years as a burial vault maker and installer). I have personally performed the experiment of observing the sun day after day after day. We have good, excellent records of the sun's behavior for centuries, millennia. These records comport with modern data on the sun's behavior (or rather more specifically Earth's rotational behavior, and they mostly comport well, there are some subtlies that it took modern science and its instruments to discover).

            So good records, systematic records, plus our daily experience allow us to make the inference that the sun will appear on the horizon tomorrow. This isn't faith, this is reasonable confidence based on highly robust evidence. But here is the thing, It might not rise, there are natural phenomena, highly, highly unlikely, that could affect this. And it would not rock my world, or shatter a faith I don't have in the rotational behavior of the Earth.

            The same kind of robust data is available to me for the concept of death. That you would seek to equivocate in this way doesn't bode well for future discourse.

      • English Catholic

        One quibble: Catholics - at least those who know their religion, and know the scholastic tradition - can know with reason that the universe will behave according to the same laws tomorrow as it did yesterday. Scholasticism says that the behaviour of an object - what it 'does', the rules that apply to it - are an objective feature of that object. ('Final causes' in the jargon.)

        The laws qua laws are objective features of the object, but they're not discoverable by science, or observable in any way. Only the tendencies can be observed. To translate these past tendencies into future laws is properly the job of reason and philosophy. This is impossible by nature for science, which is based on observation of the past and/or present.

        Unfortunately for the materialist, his philosophy makes belief in these laws impossible; the laws, being immaterial (though objective) can't exist in his conception of the universe.

        The fact that materialist scientists have been known to suggest laws shows only that human beings are inconsistent.

      • Shackra, in order to get on with life, you have to have expectations about what is going to happen next. They may be very simple, such as that the Sun is going to appear to come up in the morning, or they may be very complex such as the expectations of those who expected to land a robot on Mars. Now, if your expectation of seeing the Sun come up is based on knowledge of how the Earth rotates, and having a clear weather forecast, then you are not operating on faith (which would be the case if you were expecting good luck, predicted by your horoscope), but rather, is based on prior evidence.

        In order to do science, you don't need faith, you just need reasonable expectations based on prior evidence.

      • Michael Murray

        In order to do science, you must be sure that the past will resemble the future, in other words, you must be sure that the Laws of Nature will not change arbitrary or randomly through time, but without empiric evidence to sustain this trust, you must rely on faith alone.

        We have evidence. They have never changed in the past. So it is reasonable to expect them no to change in the future.

        By the way there are no Laws of Nature just regularities and patterns in the way reality behaves.

    • severalspeciesof

      We trust in reason because it works.

      Yes, it boils down to Q's statement: We have reasonable expectations based on prior experience...

      Glen

    • reader_gl

      yes, good idea. As a hands-on exercise for priests: convert into human faith Brigitte Bardot and go hunting and fishing with her!

    • bbrown

      What is the end point, or goal that you define as "working"? I assume folks must address this in the 499 posts below. This is crucial. Without a well defined goal or end point, to talk about reason that "works" seems an almost meaningless statement.

  • Gail Finke

    I highly recommend the translation by Maria Boulding, which is IMHO the best of all. St. Augustine is one of the smartest people who ever lived and he was very well trained in how to reason -- education at that time was based on philosophy and reasoning, and St. Augustine had a superb classical (pagan) education.

    • epeeist

      St. Augustine is one of the smartest people who ever lived and he was very well trained in how to reason

      What, smarter than Plato, smarter than Aristotle, a greater genius than Shakespeare (according to Walpole and William Quayle few have ever been greater) or Leonardo da Vinci, smarter than Newton or Einstein...

      • Gail Finke

        Read my comment again. I did not say he was smarter than anyone in particular, but that he was one of the smartest people who ever lived, which he was. He is one of the giants of intellectual thought, and yes, I'd put him on par with any of the above.

        • severalspeciesof

          Yes, it takes great smarts to go from a position of rejection of torturing heretics to one of approving torturing of heretics...

          Not to say he couldn't be smart in other areas too...

          Glen

    • Ben

      But if your aim is to believe the truth, not just believe what a smart guy believed, it might be worth considering the opinions of some thinkers from the intervening 1600 years.

      All the God-botherer contributors to this site go on about Augustine. He may have been the smartest guy in the 5th century, but we've moved on. He wasn't smarter than Newton or Darwin or Einstein or Feynman, because they discovered real things about the real world.

      • Gail Finke

        Yeah, why bother with Euclid, Aristotle, or Plato either? We've moved on. And Shakespeare is SO yesterday. For that matter, who cares who's the smartest person alive right now? Tomorrow there'll be someone smarter and we can safely forget him/her/hen, thank God! Oops, I mean, thank no one in particular. If you want to make smart-aleck remarks instead of discuss something, I suppose you've amused at least one person.

        • Ben

          Well, in terms of philosophy and science, we have moved on past all of those guys. Euclid was right so far as it went, but there was a paradigm shift to non-Euclidean geometry in Victorian times, which is important to cosmology.

          Aristotle thought that women have fewer teeth than men, and that everything revolves around the Earth, and all kinds of other wrong stuff. Venerating him held humanity back for centuries.

          Sure, Shakespeare still has legs, because that's art and not philosophy or science.

          But when it comes to understanding the universe, you've got to realise that what people thought in antiquity was pretty much all wrong. Sapere aude!

          • epeeist

            Yeah, why bother with Euclid, Aristotle, or Plato either? We've moved on.

            They were wrong, all of them. As were Newton and Einstein.

            But, we don't esteem them for being correct, we esteem them for advancing human understanding.

          • josh

            "... we esteem them for advancing human understanding."

            A claim we can't make for Augustine, outside of the Christian minority.

  • Joe Ser

    Excellent article.

  • robtish

    Has this site ever posted an article on this question: "How does one get faith if one doesn't have it?"

    I think it's a question that baffles a lot of us here, and exploring it might help clear up what is meant by having faith.

    • TheWhiteRock

      Great suggestion, Robtish!

    • Rationalist1

      Religious people will say it's a gift offered from God you have to accept through faith. But here's the problem. I had an uncle who bought a new Subaru and it worked for a while, but then started to have all sorts of trouble with it, including replacing the clutch twice, rebuilding the engine and transmission problems. And this whole time he kept saying how great Subarus were and I should trade in my Toyota on a new Subaru while I could still bet something for it. I smiled and kept with my Toyota and didn't have the heart to tell him I'd only replaced the radiator (after 12 years).

      Religion is like that, writ large. Once you make the commitment you seek to justify it as best you can as to admit you've been fooled is very hard to do.

    • Vicq_Ruiz

      The oft-quoted Blaise Pascal had a recipe for this.

      ..."I am not released, and am so made that I cannot believe.
      What, then, would you have me do?"

      ........You would like to attain faith and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief and ask the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc. Even
      this will naturally make you believe, and deaden your acuteness.

      The emphasis on the last three words is mine.

  • Rationalist1

    Reason or logic is a tool. like mathematics, that allows you to proceed from a set of initial premises and deduce various conclusions.

    As an example from science one can take the three observations that the speed of light is absolute for all observers, the laws of physics are the same for all inertial reference frames and the laws of physics are the same in the entire universe and deduce special relativity.

    In religion one needs to take "leap of faith" or "assent to faith" or :"submission to faith" and then once over that barrier and then as this author says "recognizing true and rightful authority" reason leads to the appropriate conclusions of the religion one made the assent to.

    Both are reasonable, the difference is the premises. Find a fault with one of the premises of special relativity and the entire edifice crashes to the ground (there almost was one last year with the reported faster than light particle). Faith, however, sets out it's premises so they they can't be tested, can't be disproved and are always supported by authoritarian teachings.

    Choose science and you will never have certainty but never be avoidably wrong. Choose faith and you will have certainty but never know if your are avoidably wrong. Perhaps it just comes done to what one needs or is capable of accepting.

    • Randy Gritter

      The trouble is you can't choose science or choose faith. Science is unavoidable. That is a good thing. Nobody can deny it. Faith addresses questions science does not. So it is not science OR faith. It is science and faith OR science and avoiding non-scientific questions.

      • Rationalist1

        Lots of people reject science, including people on this blog. There are several here who still advocate the geocentric theory."Faith address questions that science can not". But so does astrology, tarot cards and aura readings. The question is can you trust the answers.

        • Randy Gritter

          The geocentric guys are just a fringe. They are well represented on this blog but they are so so small talking about it like it is even a thing is just uninformed. Even they don't really reject science though. They try and make science arguments. Evolution deniers are a better example. There is a ton written on why the scientific evidence for evolution is not is not acceptable as science. Why? Because even fundamentalist Christians don't feel comfortable denying good science.

          • Rationalist1

            Stacy Transcos, a Ph.D. in chemistry and a poster here said she was noncommittal on the issue.

          • Albert Einstein agrees with her:

            "The struggle, so violent in the early days of science, between the views of Ptolemy and Copernicus would then be quite meaningless. Either CS [coordinate system] could be used with equal justification. The two sentences, 'the sun is at rest and the earth moves', or 'the sun moves and the earth is at rest', would simply mean two different conventions concerning two different CS [coordinate systems]."

            ---"The Evolution of Physics: From Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta, Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld, New York, Simon and Schuster 1938, 1966 p.212

          • Rationalist1

            Randy - Is Rick Delano one of the fringe.

          • Rationalist:

            Is Albert Einstein one of the fringe?

          • Rationalist1

            No but you are misrepresenting him. I know you don't think so but your are. In physics one uses co-ordinate systems of convenience. The Cassini probe around Saturn uses Saturn as the center of its CS, GPS satellites use Earth, Mars Orbirer uses Mars , etc. The earth orbits the sun, There is no disputing that.

          • I am quoting him.

            You are misrepresenting him.

            Here is how:

            "In physics one uses co-ordinate systems of convenience."

            >> Yes. That is because, as Einstein is trying to tell you, there are no absolute frames in his physics. He cannot tell you that the Earth is going around the Sun, since his physics requires him to inform you that it is equally vald to treat the Sun as going around the Earth.

            If it were not equally valid, his physics would be wrong.

            "The earth orbits the sun, There is no disputing that."

            >> But Einstein does dispute it:

            ""The struggle, so violent in the early days of science, between the views of Ptolemy and Copernicus would then be quite meaningless. Either CS [coordinate system] could be used with equal justification. The two sentences, 'the sun is at rest and the earth moves', or 'the sun moves and the earth is at rest', would simply mean two different conventions concerning two different CS [coordinate systems]."

            ---"The Evolution of Physics: From Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta, Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld, New York, Simon and Schuster 1938, 1966 p.212

            Your argument is with Einstein, not with me.

            Your statement:

            ""The earth orbits the sun, There is no disputing that."

            Is a statement of faith.

            It is certainly not a statement of science, since, as Einstein and Pauli and Poincare and others have already tried to tell you, there is no experiment that has ever disclosed any motion of Earth around Sun.

          • Rationalist1

            And what is your physics background. Have you ever made a calculation of an orbit and had to choose an appropriate co-ordinate system. Which one did you choose and why? You honestly don't have a clue what you're talking about.

          • To the contrary, sir.

            It is you who does not know what you are talking about.

            This has been conclusively established, above, by my recourse to Einstein, and your recourse to ignorance.

            I have no desire to embarrass you further, but I have no choice but to point out the regrettable truth that my background in physics is, demonstrably, sufficient to wipe the floor with your Master's degree, on the question of the meaning of Einstein's theory.

            The demonstration can continue just so long as you like, but it is already sufficient, for those who can read Einstein's words above.

          • Rationalist1

            Yeah, right.

          • Yes.

            Right.

            I advise any future correspondents on geocentrism to bone up first.

          • Rationalist1

            Agreed. Being a bone head helps understand it. :->

            End of communication forever with you.

            But please, keep commenting, it helps the atheist side.

          • I am happy to keep "helping the atheist side", Rationalist.

            That's exactly what the whole point of the exercise is :-)

            I hope to help your side enough that it will, ultimately, come to recognize that the only possible means of defending atheism, is by first renouncing reason itself.

            Sort of like you did above, here.

          • Randy, the truth or falsehood of a scientific assertion is not established by ad homina such as "fringe" or "uninformed".

            Either you can falsify egocentrism by scientific means, or you can't.

            This would not be a fair fight, since I already know you can't.

            But it would be a useful fight for you, in order that you might learn something.

        • Randy Gritter

          Astrology, tarot cards and aura readings do address some things. Many people do reject them when they see that good experiments have been done and found them wanting.

          I was referring to the typical religious questions about the meaning of life, what is truly good, where did we come from and where do we go when we die, etc.

          • Rationalist1

            There's a horoscope column in practically every newspaper, practically no newspapers have a daily religion column. Alas experimental evidence has very little effect is dissuading belief.

          • primenumbers

            I don't see evidence having much effect on religious belief at all as we still have Jehovahs Witnesses and Mormons, and all manner of sects that have made testable religious claims that have failed. Indeed, we have seen that failed claims have actually made the belief in the followers stronger, not weaker.

          • "I don't see evidence having much effect on religious belief"

            >> We don;t see much evidence, at least in the case of rationalist, of scientific evidence having *any* effect an atheist belief:

            ""The struggle, so violent in the early days of science, between the views of Ptolemy and Copernicus would then be quite meaningless. Either CS [coordinate system] could be used with equal justification. The two sentences, 'the sun is at rest and the earth moves', or 'the sun moves and the earth is at rest', would simply mean two different conventions concerning two different CS [coordinate systems]."

            ---"The Evolution of Physics: From Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta, Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld, New York, Simon and Schuster 1938, 1966 p.212

        • The geocentric theory is completely compatible with all scientific observations, and the argument from personal incredulity is a fallacy.

          Perhaps Rationalist can refute the geocentric theory by valid argument?

          I would be delighted to take the contrary position.

          I have, on several threads, and have prevailed.

          • Andre Boillot

            "I have, on several threads, and have prevailed."

            Relative to your coordinate system, of course.

          • The state of play has gone much further against relativity and toward geocentrism lately, Andre.

            It is true none of the objectors has been able to force the issue this far, but since you bring it up, we now know the cosmological dipole cannot be attributed to Earth's alleged motion, that it is present at five sigma in the radio sky, and this means that the universe is divided in half along the Earth's equator; not an insignificant bit of observational evidence against relativity, and in support of geocentrism, hy the way.....

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2013/07/new-analysis-shows-universe-aligned.html

            Referencing:

            http://arxiv.org/pdf/1307.1947.pdf

            Excerpt:

            “Finally, assuming the presence of an intrinsic dipole contribution in the source counts, we separate it out from the kinematic dipole. The resulting speed of the solar system, however, is still found to be higher than the CMBR expectation. Our results support the hypothesis that the Universe is intrinsically anisotropic with the anisotropy axis pointing towards Virgo”

      • primenumbers

        Science does address those questions, but you dispute it's answers based on your pre-supposed religious beliefs.

        • Randy Gritter

          I don't dispute the answers. I think they are right as far as they go. Science says I came from a random process of a sperm and an egg getting together in one of many possible ways. God says He created me out of love and for a purpose. I don't need to deny one and accept the other. I accept the science and also believe that is not the whole story.

          • primenumbers

            That's a nice rationalization. But science says there's no evidence for the supernatural, so at worst we should be agnostic to it, and given the lack of positive evidence for the supernatural and lots of evidence of the entirely naturalistic universe, it's also reasonable to say there is no supernatural. I presume that's an answer from science you'd disagree with?

          • Joe Ser

            Science by its own definition cannot determine the supernatural. If it could then it would be natural, not supernatural.

          • primenumbers

            Science has and does determine the supernatural, and when it does, and we understand the phenomena, it becomes natural. All science does is look at the evidence. If there's no evidence.....

          • Joe Ser

            not so - if science can observe, repeat and predict it is by definition not supernatural. If you are claiming the gaps argument then if science should close very single gap science would then be god.

          • primenumbers

            I'm not doing a God of the Gaps. I'm claiming that if you have no evidence to believe in the supernatural then it's not rational to believe in the supernatural. I'm also attacking your notion that the science cannot have anything to say on supernatural phenomena. That is not the case unless there is no evidence for supernatural phenomena, and if there's no evidence, there's no reason to believe.

          • Joe Ser

            Science is postulating other dimensions or the multi-verse . Do you accept either?

          • primenumbers

            Science postulates many things - then sets out to falsify them. Over time we move towards (unfortunately not monotonically) a better understanding of reality.

          • The multiverse involves the simultaneous assertions that:

            1. The multiverse domains are causally disconnected;

            2. The multiverse domains are objects of the scientific method.

            Direct contradiction.

            The multiverse, like evolution, is a metaphysical, not a scientific, research program.

          • Randy Gritter

            Science does not say there is no evidence for the supernatural. That is your faith. Science just says the natural is so. If the supernatural was scientific it would be natural.

          • primenumbers

            If there was evidence for the supernatural, science would use it to learn about it. No evidence means no supernatural.

          • Randy Gritter

            That is a statement of faith and not science. Pure scientist does not say that because forgiveness of sins does not produce any scientific data that it cannot exist. That is your creed.

          • primenumbers

            If we had evidence of "forgiveness of sins", we'd have a start. But we don't. It's not about scientific data, it's about evidence of any kind at all. If you don't have evidence, you have faith.

          • Randy Gritter

            There is a ton of evidence. Ask people about their experience of forgiveness. Most will tell you it exists. You might not like that evidence but it is evidence.

          • primenumbers

            So if there's evidence, it's something we can analyze. If it points to something real, then it becomes naturalized, just as lightning and thunder did.

          • Joe Ser

            Nope - by definition the supernatural is beyond detection of empirical means.

          • Rationalist1

            Aren't definitions great and isn't it wonderful we have at best a deistic God that doesn't interfere with the natural world.

          • primenumbers

            So you have no means of knowing the supernatural then? If that's so, on what rational grounds do you claim to know the supernatural?

          • Rationalist1

            Sure you do. Random vs intentional. They don't reconcile. You were one on the millions of possible genetic combinations that could have been concieved in the event.

          • Randy Gritter

            They do reconcile. God is in control even when things look random.

          • primenumbers

            So your God can be a source of true randomness? That would contradict his omniscience, free-will and his perfect reasoning abilities.

          • Randy Gritter

            Not true randomness. Just that which looks random. Think of dice. They seem random. But if we measured all the forces involved and did all the calculations they would not seem random at all.

          • primenumbers

            "Not true randomness. Just that which looks random. " -ok, fair enough. I'll let you have that. But that contradicts your God's omnipotence. Sorry.

          • Randy Gritter

            Why? God chooses to remain deniable. So He does things in a way that looks random even when analyzed statistically. That is hard to do. Why does that imply He lacks power?

          • "God chooses to remain deniable"

            >> Not by reason, He doesn't.

            Only by the rejection of reason, can God remain deniable.

          • Randy Gritter

            I would not say that you have to totally reject reason to deny God. I do believe Catholicism is the only completely rationally coherent worldview. Still other world views at rational enough that people who embrace them can convince themselves they are being reasonable.

          • In fact one must totally reject reason to deny God.

            This can be seen empirically in the case of the Thomistically-based Kalaam Cosmological Argument, which has prevailed over every atheist William Craig has debated on the question, and can also be seen in the present development of that argument between myself and Vicq.

            For Catholics, it can also be seen in the dogmatic definition of the First Vatican Council, reproduced as #36 in the current Catechism:

            "Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason."11

          • primenumbers

            You need to explain how your perfect God of total knowledge can produce something purely random.

          • Joe Ser

            Is this an argument for design? lol

          • primenumbers

            It's an argument for the non-existence of God based on contradictory properties.

          • robtish

            Doesn't God's ominpotence and omniscience require Him to be a source of true randomness? If He has no limits or constraints, nothing independent of Him which could guide His choices, doesn't that mean everything He chooses is completely arbitrary and random?

          • God's omnipotence and omniscience require us to recognize that the concept "truly random" is a metaphysical concept, reducible in fact to the gap between our knowledge of a process, and God's knowledge of a process.

            For example.

            It is asserted that quantum processes are truly random.

            It is simultaneously asserted that the Sun will rise at 5:45 AM in Los Angeles tomorrow.

            It is quite clear that God is able to bring forth entirely predictable outcomes from a universe which involves quantum processes.

            Therefore quantum processes are not truly random.

            The concept "truly random" is simply an admission on the part of the one advancing it that he or she does not adequately understand the process.

            God clearly does.

          • primenumbers

            I guess it's have to be completely random, and of course that totally explains quantum uncertainty.

            We also have a notion of nothing, but nothing that exemplifies that notion. It's incoherent to have the concept but not the absolute reference for it. For nothing to be nothing, it must be transcendent and outside of space and time. This perfect nothing I call God.

          • Joe Ser

            This is from the Catechism - "The world, and man, attest that they contain within
            themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather
            that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or
            end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a
            reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality
            "that everyone calls God".

          • primenumbers

            Is that an argument or preaching?

          • Joe Ser

            randomness is perspective

          • Rationalist1

            No, randomness is objective and mathematical.

          • primenumbers

            Argument from poetry is not convincing.

      • Joe Ser

        One can deny the faulty human reasoning of observations. Both sides look at the same evidence but reason differently. One with the light of Revelation, the other with a priori bias that Revelation cannot be so or tell us anything.

        • Randy Gritter

          I would even suggest that atheism has an implicit revelation that the big questions i life must have trivial answers. That is they take it as revealed truth that we were created without purpose and we don't continue to exists after we die. The science does not show that. It is really faith is disguise.

          • Michael Murray

            That is they take it as revealed truth that we were created without purpose and we don't continue to exists after we die. The science does not show that. It is really faith is disguise.

            Choosing the simplest hypothesis that explains the facts is something science borrowed from the good Friar William of Ockham. But it is part of how science iss done. It's not faith.

            Personally I see no evidence of life continuing after death. Just as I see no evidence of reincarnation or aliens moving amongst us on a daily basis. So I live my life on the assumption that none of these these are true.

          • severalspeciesof

            and we don't continue to exists after we die.

            An aside-

            Actually we do, but in a different state than just before we died. Interestingly enough, 7 to 10 years ago everyone of us here had a completely different set of cells...

    • Joe Ser

      Revelation is the information we need to illuminate our reasoning. Without it we flounder as we can see over and over again in these blogs/forums. Revelation gives us information we cannot gather inside our frame of reference, for it comes from outside our frame. Even so, our suspect human reasoning has errors.

      • Joe, how would you show that revelation comes from "outside our frame" and not just from someone's unconscious mind, or willful deception?

        Got evidence?

        • Joe Ser

          We were told. The proof is what we are always arguing about. Rational people have enough evidence to examine history and make a determination. If one chooses not to believe the written history then so much other history can be rejected on the same basis.

          • primenumbers

            If "We were told" is a good answer to you, how about me telling you that you're wrong?

          • We were told by a credible source- the Catholic Church, Whose apostles were eyewitnesses.

            You are not a credible source, since you did not begin to exist until two millenia after the events, and are prepared to deny both the eyewitness accounts, and the subsequent development of history, including the development of European civilization itself, under the guidance of the Catholic Church

          • primenumbers

            As you full well know, you don't have eye-witness accounts, only a long chain of hearsay (with some large un-documented jumps) from fervent believers such as yourself. To say that your Catholic beliefs are correct because the Catholic Church is a credible source is circular.

          • The historical sources are the historical sources, prime.

            Your special pleading fails.

          • primenumbers

            They're not historical sources. They're religious documents for the purpose of conversion. They're not written by eye-wtinesses but by later anonymous authors, they don't document sources, and they're altered after-the-fact.

          • Joe Ser

            In addition there are extra-biblical sources.

            Proof of your assertion of altering. Please don't cite the Da VInci code. lol

          • primenumbers

            There are no extra-biblical sources that demonstrate anything more than that there were believing Christians around the turn of the 1st century believing pretty much as believing Christians do.

          • Joe Ser

            That is a start. They also evidence Jesus as existing. Agreed?

          • primenumbers

            No, they don't evidence an existing Jesus.

          • LOL!

            They evidence a non-existing thing about which they report actually existing historical groups and actions.

            Logic is clearly not a part of your argument here, prime :-)

          • primenumbers

            History isn't your strong point is it. No extra-biblical source gives evidence for a historical Jesus. None of them were in a time or place to document a Jesus first hand, so all are relying on hearsay, and what they tell us is Christians exist and Christians believe. No more. That Christians doctored Jospehus to add in Jesus mentions just goes to show how poor the case for a historical Jesus is....

          • History doesn't exist for you, prime. since we can simply fill in Caesar for Jesus in your above post, and arrive at:

            "No historical source gives evidence for a historical Caesar. None of them were in a time or place to document a Caesar first hand, so all are relying on hearsay, and what they tell us is Romans exist and Romans believe. No more. That Romans doctored Suetonius to add in Caesar mentions just goes to show how poor the case for a historical Caesar is....

          • primenumbers

            For Cesar, we have his own words, a primary source in the form of his war commentaries. We have coins and buildings that have his name and likeness upon them. All contemporary primary sources. Sallust provides us with contemporary documentation, and the letters and speeches of Cicero.

          • We completely agree, prime.

            Same as we have Christ's Own Words, in the Gospels composed by His Apostles, and the scriptures written by His apostles and their comrades.

            We have coins and buildings that have Christ's Name and likeness on them.

            All contemporary primary sources.

            John provides us with contemporary documentation, and the letters and speeches of Peter, John, Jude....

          • primenumbers

            Wow, I never realized we had books written by Jesus himself. Got a copy you can lend me, as a historical find of this significance is fantastic.

            You make me laugh. Do I need to point out to you that modern day buildings and coins (or old, but not contemporary) are not a primary archeological source for Jesus?

            Non of the Gospel authors were eye-witnesses as we've discussed before. There are zero primary sources and zero mention of Jesus in the contemporary historical record.

          • John was an eyewitness and apostle. Matthew was an eyewitness and apostle. Mark was a disciple of Peter, but some traditions passed down hold he was one of the seventy disciples who stopped following Jesus at the teaching of the Eucharist. So possibly he too was also an eyewitness. St Ignatius was an eyewitness, and he and Peter audited John's Gospel.

          • primenumbers

            Tradition isn't enough - we need facts and evidence, which we lack. We don't know who wrote John, we don't know who wrote the rest of the Gospels either. Information of the early Church is passed through some named figures and a chain of unknowns between them. This is not a well documented chain, but extended hearsay of people with a vested interest in promoting their religion.

          • Imagine for a moment that we actually did have the original manuscript of, say, the Gospel of Matthew, signed and attested by him as an eyewitness to the events he described.
            Would such an artifact really convince you that he witnessed what he said he witnessed?

          • primenumbers

            Of course not, any more than the original handwritten and notes for Harry Potter would convince me the events it described actually happened.

            But on the other hand, that Matthew had to copy from Mark lends less weight to it.

            And we have multiple signed eye-witness testimonies of the gold plates that form the basis of the Mormon religion. Does these multiple testimonies make those gold plates and the angel Moroni true?

          • Except that JK Rowling has no intention for you to believe the story she wrote really happened. The Gospel authors are writing their accounts precisely so that you believe them.
            As to Matthew copying from Mark, there are still a good number of scholars and folks like me who see in the texts themselves good reason to think Matthew came first and not Mark.
            As to Mormonism, the irony there, from a theistic perspective, is that the theism of the LDS Church is fundamentally contrary to reason and nature before we ever get to the claims of special revelation....
            And yet the bottom line is this: In at least one important sense, the Church doesn't accept Christianity because of Scripture. Rather, Christians accept Scripture because of the *Church*. The Church gives us the Bible, not the other way around.

          • Michael Murray

            As to Mormonism, the irony there, from a theistic perspective, is that the theism of the LDS Church is fundamentally contrary to reason and nature

            That's a pretty ironic statement from an atheist perspective as well.

          • primenumbers

            "The Gospel authors are writing their accounts precisely so that you believe them. " - exactly. They want is to believe, they're believers themselves and therefore such testimony cannot be thought of as balanced, or independent or skeptical. They were written with the intent to convert. They are apologetic works.

            So you're saying Mark copied from Matthew? The priority of Mark is the current best theory, so you've got a long way to go to prove otherwise. There could be good reasons for things to be the way you suggest, but from my understanding of the debates, there's more and better reason for Mark to have come first. Either way we're still talking about anonymous non-contemporary works written with the aim of conversion in mind.

            I don't care whether you think that Mormonism is "fundamentally contrary to reason and nature" or not. It's not relevant to a discussion on the psychology of believers other than a belief being contrary to reason has never been a reason not to believe, and indeed believers will even become stronger in their beliefs after their beliefs have been conclusively refuted.

          • *Historians* also write their accounts precisely so you believe them. There is no contradiction between writing history and writing the Gospels even if one assumes they are being written to proclaim Jesus Christ...
            Given your strong desire for actual evidence for claims made, I'd presume you also reject the evidence-less inference that some "sayings source" called "Q", pre-existed Matthew and Luke, which is the primary thing that provides cover for the claims of Markan priority.
            Got "Q"? That would be the important question to ask. And we don't. So there's no real need to challenge the traditional claim that Matthew was first, and given Matthew's content and audience, it seems more likely to me that it came first. And since there is no actual evidence to refute the claim that eyewitnesses either wrote or contributed their testimony to these texts, I would see no rational basis for saying these texts aren't based on eyewitness testimony, since they claim to be exactly that and since they corroborate what is also contained in the letters of Paul, which are themselves historical artifacts surviving as a record of their time.

          • BenS

            *Historians* also write their accounts precisely so you believe them.

            Technically, proper historians write their accounts so they're as accurate as they are possible to be.

            Whether anyone actually believes them or not isn't the point.

          • Yes, it's the point, actually--I'm pretty sure no one goes about writing in the genre of non-fiction, particularly history, and even more particularly religious history, not caring about whether anyone believes them. In one sense, you're right, though, people write non-fiction because they believe what they are writing is true.
            But even having said that, we must continue to remember that it is the *Church*--not the Bible--that is the primary and original instrument of the historicity of the root of Christianity that is reflected in the New Testament...

          • BenS

            Yes, it's the point, actually-

            No, you've missed the point completely. The point is that the writers of the gospels had a specific agenda and a specific purpose - they were fully invested in people believing their writing and therefore they are an unreliable source. They will have had an obvious bias and therefore, how can we tell where the history begins and the propaganda ends?

            But even having said that, we must continue to remember that it is the *Church*--not the Bible--that is the primary and original instrument of the historicity of the root of Christianity that is reflected in the New Testament...

            A new testament cherry picked from various bits and bats of writings, things that weren't liked ignored or excluded and even what remains is contradictory.

            Additionally, you're going circular. The church is the instrument of historicity, not the bible - so how do we know the church is right? Well, it says so in the bible.

            In the words of Ace Ventura.... allllllrighty then!

          • epeeist

            Yes, it's the point, actually--I'm pretty sure no one goes about writing in the genre of non-fiction, particularly history, and even more particularly religious history, not caring about whether anyone believes
            them.

            You are getting hung up on this idea of "belief". At best it is a first step.

            In one sense, you're right, though, people write non-fiction because they believe what they are writing is true.

            Again with the "belief".

            You are right, in the days when I was writing scientific papers the thing I was aiming for was to have people accept that the conclusions I was drawing were true (or as near as is possible).

          • epeeist

            *Historians* also write their accounts precisely so you believe them.

            I really do hope that historians are aiming for rather more than belief. Acceptance that they may have accurately, though provisionally, described and explained a particular episode or period in history and justified their thesis would sound closer to the mark.

          • Andrew G.

            Markan priority can be, and is, shown to be overwhelmingly probable without needing to resort to Q. In fact those scholars who reject Q but accept Markan priority (see e.g. Goodacre's The Case Against Q) find themselves having to point this out frequently, because the erroneous belief that Markan priority is impossible without Q leads people to defend the existence of Q far beyond the available evidence.

            There are two possible explanations for the existence of the double tradition: either it comes from a separate source, or it comes from one of the Synoptic authors copying it from another while the third author did not do so. The first position calls this source Q. The second position is shared by both the Farrer hypothesis (Matthew copies from Mark; Luke copies from Mark and Matthew) and the Griesbach hypothesis (Luke copies from Matthew; Mark copies from both).

            Comparing Mark against Mt and Lk without postulating the existence of Q, we notice:

            1. Mark's Greek is often regarded as less formal, less grammatical, a lower register probably closer to spoken vernacular than the literary tradition. This is more understandable in an original composition (whether as a stylistic choice or a lack of literary sophistication) than in a redaction. In particular, if Mt and Lk copied Mark then they made small changes to clean up the grammar, such as removing a lot of Mark's use of "and" (and especially "and immediately"), while the idea that Mark deliberately did the reverse seems rather implausible.

            2. Words commonly used in Mt and Lk (notably nomos, "law") are absent from Mark. It would be somewhat remarkable for Mark to have wanted to strike out or rewrite every passage in which this appeared, whereas in an original composition, he may simply have had no reason to use it.

            3. There are a few, but only a tiny few, passages that appear in Mark but not the other Synoptics. Why would Mark add these if he was compiling an epitome or other deliberately shortened redaction? The idea that Mt and Lk chose to omit them is easily understood since they all present theological difficulties, e.g. why would a naked man run from Jesus' arrest?

            4. There are omissions from Mark which are almost completely inexplicable on the assumption he is copying the others; the most notable being the Lord's Prayer. Why would he omit what must be, theologically, one of the most critical passages of the Gospels?

            4b. Why no virgin birth in Mark? Worse, Mark's recounting of Jesus' visit to his hometown makes clear that even his family don't support him, something which would be completely incomprehensible given Luke's birth and infancy narrative. Mt and Lk significantly downplay this, as expected if they are copying Mark.

            4c. Why no post-resurrection appearances in Mark? The long ending is known not to be original (it's absent from early copies).

            5. There are inconsistencies in Mt and Lk versions of triple-tradition stories that are explicable as editorial fatigue if they are copied from Mark but not the reverse; inconsistent use of Antipas' title in the execution of John; Antipas being "sorry" about executing John when in Mt, he had previously been described as wanting to put John to death; a few passages in Mt and Lk where the implied location of the event isn't consistent between the start and end of the passage, and so on.

            There's more, this is just covering some of the high points. But it should be enough to make clear that the non-existence of Q is not a significant factor in the question of Markan priority.

          • primenumbers

            "*Historians* also write their accounts precisely so you believe them." - that is a complete mis-characterization of proper historical accounts. Historians aim to fairly portray events as they happened, reference their sources, aim for primary sources and clearly state their inferences and their arguments that lead to that inference. The Gospel accounts do none of these. They do aim to convert people to a religious belief. Historians don't aim to convert people to a religious belief.

            We have no actual evidence of a Q document. It's an inference. We should be agnostic on Q. Markan priority is based on vastly more than Q though. Even without a Q theory Markan priority is very strong.

            The traditional claim is just that - tradition. "it seems more likely to me that it came first." - of course, you're a believing Christian who believes in your religions traditions. But that's not a rational reason that would make any outsider to your belief system consider it a valid claim to knowledge though.

            "And since there is no actual evidence to refute the claim that eyewitnesses either wrote or contributed their testimony to these texts, I would see no rational basis for saying these texts aren't based on eyewitness testimony," - oh typical apologetic argument here - you can't prove I'm wrong therefore I'm right. Oh come now, surely you can do better than that. When we lack evidence we don't say therefore I'm right, we say "we don't know". On the other hand, there's no document trail to prove eye-witnesses wrote the Gospels and lot of textual evidence to suggest they didn't, not least there being events in the stories where there were no eye-witnesses.... And events in the stories so large-scale and fantastic that they should have been mentioned in the contemporary historical record, but were not.

            "since they claim to be exactly" - but that's a claim any author of any text can make. You deny eye-witness testimony in the case of the Mormon gold plates. There are the forged letters of Paul. People of all religious persuasions have lied to promote their religion, or to promote their place within that religion. Such claims cannot be taken at face value unless you take all such claims at face value.

            "and since they corroborate what is also contained in the letters of Paul, which are themselves historical artifacts surviving as a record of their time" - there are significant discrepancies between the Gospel accounts and Paul. That Paul has no knowledge of the Gospels or the earthly Jesus stories is rather telling. Paul was not an eye-witness to Jesus either.

          • epeeist

            "*Historians* also write their accounts precisely so you believe them." - that is a complete mis-characterization of proper historical accounts.

            I have the same problem, everything is seen through a lens of belief.

            Writing a history of a period? You want to believe in what you have written and have people believe in it.

            Atheist? Then you must believe in the non-existence of gods.

            Hold to methodical naturalism? Then you believe that there is nothing else but the material.

          • What kind of evidence would be sufficient to say the Gospel of John was written by John the apostle. Please be specific, because I am curious to learn.

          • primenumbers

            I don't know, but you're so sure it was John the Apostle you must have some good evidence to back that up. I read an awful lot of these things are attributed to "tradition", but that's just like saying "I heard it was John..." and neither documents the reasons why, what the chain of evidence is, where the information came from or anything.

          • primenumbers

            John the Apostle is not necessarily who wrote the anonymous Gospel of John. I know tradition assigns it to him, but there's good grounds for bible scholars to believe otherwise. Matthew didn't write the anonymous Gospel of Matthew. Internal evidence says it wasn't written by an eye-witness. I don't see how someone born in 35CE can be an eye-witness to Jesus. Again, this is all "tradition" based.

            It's tradition in our family that eating cheese before bed gives you nightmares.

          • John ministered in Ephesus, before his exile to Patmos and his Gospel stayed in Ephesus for centuries. His authorship is recognized from the earliest days of the Church.

            Who are you asserting was born in 35CE?

          • primenumbers

            Ignatius was born around 35CE yet you said he was an eye-witness.

            With John, we have Papias saying he was slain by the Jews rather than dying of old age in Ephesus. You can pick your tradition if you want, but by what chain do you learn of this tradition and how do you know it's in any way accurate?

          • He was not born in 35CE. Not sure where you got that.

            St. Ignatius was the child written of in the Gospel of Mark that Jesus held in his arms. Hence St. Ignatius was known by his contemporaries as Ho Theophorus, which means carried by God.

          • primenumbers

            WIkipedia says 35CE, here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07644a.htm says 50CE

          • Estimates that aren't really based on anything substantial other than the date of martyrdom and expected life span.

          • primenumbers

            So a guess purporting to be knowledge?

          • His date of birth was never written about as far as I know.

          • What do you mean by "contemporary historical record"?
            How much of the available *written* material from Jesus' time do you think we still have, and how much do you think has been lost?
            Wouldn't it be more accurate to acknowledge that much of the "contemporary historical record" of Jesus' time was captured and remembered by word of mouth and possibly never written down, since writing was such an expense and luxury at the time? But what *was* written down and preserved at such expense was deemed exceptionally important, no?

          • primenumbers

            So yes, we don't have any mention of Jesus or the other large scale miracle events in the contemporary historical record, and every reason to believe given the size and nature of those events that had they occurred they'd be more documented than only in some of the Gospels.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            If Suetonius had included in his biographical sketch of Caesar some accounts of Caesar reviving dead legionaries, of his feeding the army by miraculous replication of a handful of rations, and of Caesar arising bodily from the grave three days after that little misunderstanding in the Senate portico, it would (very correctly) have put the rest of his account of Caesar's life in scholarly jeopardy.

            When you combine in a biography things that are historically plausible with things that are not, the latter weakens the former. The former does not strengthen the latter.

          • ZenDruid

            Any reporter can get information on Harry Potter fan clubs for a story.

            Ergo, Harry Potter is real.

            Logic. ORLY?

          • Oh my.

            So the Roman historians were in the Harry Potter Fan Club business.....

            Or something,.......

          • ZenDruid

            It may as well be the same thing.

          • Thanks for sharing, Zen, and I am sure you will have great success in convincing everyone that history is just one big Fantasy Novel.

            Good luck with that.

          • ZenDruid

            The novels' plots are quite the same. [Boy wizard does good, establishes a following, sacrifices himself and comes back, happily ever after, the end] The difference is that the fan club of one of them developed a malevolent life of its own, and grew out of all proportion in its greed to accumulate new fans.

            [edit] And the fan club has insisted that it has been part of the original plot all along.

          • In other words, Zen, one was fiction.

            The other is history, which persists in the world to the present day.

            And, if you want to know..........

            Until the end of the world.

          • ZenDruid

            A Dead Messiah fan club until the end of the world?

            In yer dreams, Mac.

          • Joe Ser

            Flavius Josephus (37-97 AD), court historian for Emperor Vespasian:

            "At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders."

          • primenumbers

            You think a highly disputed passage, that everyone agrees at the very least was not as originally written, and for which there's very good evidence wasn't even there in the first place is evidence? Oh my giddy heck. And even at best it only attests to the existence of Christians believing as Christians do, which is hardly in doubt.

          • Joe Ser

            There are 30 or so. Should I quote each one only to have you reply - they are disputed?

          • primenumbers

            Why bother quoting them at all when none of them evidence a real historical Jesus, just Christians believing as Christians do.

          • Joe Ser

            Extra biblical sources are not Christian sources. They are Jewish and Roman.

          • primenumbers

            What's that got to do with it. They mention Christians (and Chrestians) and they mention what they believe. Does a newspaper article today about Mormons and what they believe make those golden tablets and the angel moroni true?

            Reports of believers are evidence of believers, not that their beliefs are true.

          • Joe Ser

            I was challenged about the historical Jesus. It is clear that there are outside references to evidence his existence. And what are Christians. They are believers in the Christ, the Messiah. The one that was prophesied in the OT. The one whose prophesies were manifested in one person. The odds are astounding. Put it all together now. (it gets easier once you see the entire picture)

          • primenumbers

            So if you have reports of believers in a religion, then the religious claims of that religion are true eh? I'll say it again: "Reports of believers are evidence of believers, not that their beliefs are true."

          • Joe Ser

            Are we at the point yet there existed a historical Jesus?

          • primenumbers

            Evidence for such a historical character is pretty poor. I think I'm agnostic on the issue. As should anyone be really. Even if we go with historical consensus he's just a wandering Jewish Rabi who managed to annoy the Jewish hierarchy and the Romans and got himself killed, and would have been nothing of consequence had there not been a religion made with him as the central character.

          • Andrew G.

            And Mormons are believers in the angel Moroni and the golden tablets he revealed... does the existence of Mormons prove the existence of those?

          • epeeist

            I was challenged about the historical Jesus. It is clear that there are outside references to evidence his existence.

            References to Jesus? Or references to Christus or Chrestus?

          • primenumbers

            " It is clear that there are outside references to evidence his existence." - they are references to Christians and what they believe. They are not references to the historicity of Jesus.

          • Andrew G.

            There aren't 30 or so.

            Van Voorst's Jesus Outside the New Testament, probably the best available reference on the topic, lists 17 sources in four categories.

            Two of those categories (hypothetical sources of the Gospels, and early Christian apocrypha) are clearly not useful as evidence. That leaves early Roman writings (7 items), and early Jewish writings (3 items plus one rejected source).

            Of the writings Van Voorst lists in his "Roman" category, not one is evidence for Jesus as opposed to Christians. This is universally accepted for sources such as Pliny and Suetonius; later sources such as Lucian and Celsus are clearly dependent on Christianity itself; any connection between the fragment of Thallos and Jesus is speculative at best. Mara bar Serapion is of uncertain date (certainly late enough to be dependent on Christian tradition) and again is only speculated to be even referring to Jesus at all. Tacitus is the only one of the lot who might have had any independent source; but it is far more probable (and even Van Voorst, who is firmly convinced of Jesus' historicity, concedes this) that Tacitus' only source for mentioning Christ is what he was told directly or indirectly by Christians.

            In the "Jewish" category, there is Josephus, who has been tampered with by Christians to the extent that we have no reason to believe he said anything about Jesus at all (not even in the James reference, since there's another Jesus in that story, Jesus ben Damneus). Everything else in Jewish writing that relates to Jesus is late (Talmudic period, nothing as early as the Mishnah) and most likely dependent on Christian tradition.

            And that's all there is. Nothing more. Zip. Nada. Nul points.

          • Andrew G.

            That is a translation from an Arabic quotation of a Syriac translation of the Greek text of Josephus; we also have both Greek texts and quotations of them from early writers - but only as far back as Eusebius. The Greek text differs somewhat from your quotation; and (contrary to some claims) there is no evidence that the Syriac is independent of Eusebius' copy of the Greek (this is significant, because all surviving Greek copies almost certainly trace back to the one Eusebius had or a very recent ancestor of it).

            Many writers prior to Eusebius quote from other parts of Josephus, but do not quote that passage even when it would have been a decisive, crushing victory for their argument. The only rational explanation for this is that the passage is either an interpolation in toto or a radical modification of the original text.

          • primenumbers

            Correct Andrew. Thanks for the extra details there. And we know that early Christians thought nothing of faking up letters from Paul, or adding bits to the Gospels as they saw fit. If they can't even keep their holy text pure, they'd obviously have no compunction over inserting a passage in a history book.

          • primenumbers

            I realized I missed your comment on altering. There's the long ending of Mark, and the bit about the Trinity inserted into John. Both recognized as later interpolations.

          • "They're not historical sources."

            >> Of course they are. Instead your above assertion reveals that you define historical sources any way that suits you. This is illogical; exactly, it is an example of circulus in probando. Your conclusion is present in your premise.

            No logical thinker can buy that.

            "They're religious documents"

            >> They are also historical reports.

            "for the purpose of conversion."

            >> It is usually the case that historical documents intend to persuade the reader of the truth of the events they recount. Religious or otherwise.

            "They're not written by eye-wtinesses"

            >> They are written by eyewitnesses, as in the case of John's Gospel and Matthew's Gospel and Mark's gospel, or they report the first-hand testimony of eyewitnesses, in the case of Luke's gospel.

            "but by later anonymous authors, they don't document sources, and they're altered after-the-fact."

            >> See Joe's above.

            Remarkable if you can prove these assertions :-)

          • primenumbers

            History books have dates, use documented primary evidence when possible, document all sources, are written by named authors who clearly tell us how they come to their historical conclusions. The Gospels do none of these. They are apologetic works written with the aim to convert people to Christianity.

            The are historical documents in the sense that they're documents from history, but they are not historical works that we can treat as contemporary documented history of actual events.

            That the Gospels are anonymous, written way after the fact by non-eye-witnesses and altered again after that is basic historical fact only denied by the most fervent of believers. When I state historical consensus it's up to you to disprove.

          • Joe Ser

            So you were expecting footnotes? You want footnotes? Read the Catholic Catechism - full of them.

            So the first hand accounts of WWII veterans you discount?

          • primenumbers

            I discount veterans who write anonymously, many years after the fact, reference fantastical large scale events not mentioned in the contemporary historical record. I discount them if they don't use dates and don't document their sources. They get bonus "discount" marks if they write in a completely different language too!

          • Joe Ser

            You won't deny they describe the great event know as WWII do you? Would you deny when a veteran describes Pearl Harbor? How about D-Day? If he told you they happened would you believe him?

          • primenumbers

            There is no contemporary historical record for the Gospel events though, is there? And we do have good sources, motion imagery and sound recordings, archeological evidence, newspapers, original historical documents etc. etc. etc.

          • Joe Ser

            You probably wouldn't consider relics. And every written accounts is bogus. Christians martyred for their faith - rubbish. The tremendous growth of the faith. more rubbish...

            The Holy Sepulchre built on the place of the crcufixion.

            Of course the Shroud is fake and so is the Holy Face of Manoppello.

            I could go on.

          • primenumbers

            Relics? Like Jesus' foreskin? If all you've got is the claim that it's a relic, that's hardly good evidence is it?

            What written accounts - we have no written accounts by eye-witnesses to Jesus. We have written accounts by Paul (who was not an eye-witness), and we also have fake letters from Paul too - so much for honesty and trustworthyness of early Christians.

            Sure, Christians have been martyred, but so have believers of other religions and atheists have been killed and punished for their lack of belief too. What of it?

            "The Holy Sepulchre built on the place of the crcufixion." - says tradition, but what actual evidence....??

            "Of course the Shroud is fake" - yup, again pointing to the lack of honesty in Christians promoting their faith.

            Please do go on.... You're making my case for me.

          • Joe Ser

            Source for Paul's letters being forgeries?

            Matthew is an eyewitness account. So is John.

            "This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has
            written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there
            are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to
            be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books
            that would be written." (John 21:24-25)

          • primenumbers

            No, they're not eye-witness accounts. Why do you keep saying this? Matthew is an eye-witness which explains why he had to copy from Mark (who you admit was not an eye-witness).

          • Joe Ser

            Early on the order of the Books was Matthew, Luke, Mark and John. St Jerome listed the order as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. 1500 years later a few Protestant scholars didn't like it and ala the historical critical method was born.

            Now you are claiming more accuracy as time goes on?

          • Now you are claiming more accuracy as time goes on?

            Yes. It is the scholarly consensus (with a handful of dissenters) nowadays that Mark was written first, and Matthew and Luke used Mark's Gospel as the basis for their own. Anyone who examines a version of the Bible that puts the three side by side is more than likely to come to that conclusion on his or her own.

            1500 years later a few Protestant scholars didn't like it and ala the historical critical method was born.

            I really don't think the historical critical method, which Pope Benedict XVI spoke of as important and necessary, was born because some Protestants wanted to reverse the order of Matthew and Mark!

            A competent Biblical scholar today has an overview of the history, languages, government, social organization, etc., of Ancient Israel, the Hebrew Scripture, and 1st-century Palestine that St. Jerome and the Fathers of the Church did not have.

          • Joe Ser

            Clement of Alexander put it Matthew, Luke, Mark and John.

          • Well, since Clement of Alexandria lived from about 150 to 215 A.D., that puts him roughly a hundred years away from the estimated dates of composition for Mark and Matthew. The theory of Markan priority is largely based on the content of the Gospels, not on traditional beliefs or historical references such as those of Clement of Alexandria. So assuming the texts have been passed along with reasonable fidelity, Clement of Alexandria was in no better position than we are to judge whether Mark came before Matthew or vice versa.

          • David, how would you present evidence that scripture was "passed along with reasonable fidelity" from say, 90 to 180 C.E.? We don't have any early copies, just fragments at best.

          • David, how would you present evidence that scripture was "passed along with reasonable fidelity" . . . .

            I am no expert in textual criticism, so if there are ways of judging whether texts written in the second half of the 1st century were faithfully copied over the next hundred years, I don't know what they are. That is why I said "assuming the texts have been passed along with reasonable fidelity."

            The only thing I would say here is that there is a huge gap between the composition of Euclid's Elements (about 300 B.C.) and the version modern editions are based on (about 900 A.D.). Oedipus Rex was written in 429 B.C., and the oldest copy we have is from about 950 A.D. I think the oldest copies of the writings of Julius Caesar are from about the tenth century. But I think we assume we have reasonably faithful versions of the works of Euclid, Sophocles, and Caesar.

            A tremendous amount of what we have from the ancient world can't be verified against anything close to autograph manuscripts, so we rely on what we have. I doubt that any ancient texts have been scrutinized sentence by sentence, word by word, syllable by syllable, and letter by letter to the extent the Gospels have, so I see no reason to doubt we have as reasonably faithful copies of the Gospels as we do of most other ancient literature.

          • One further thought. Since Matthew and Luke are based on Mark (according to the majority of scholars), Matthew and Luke reproduce most of Mark. So we can compare copied versions of Matthew and Luke to copied versions of Mark. As I said, I am not textual scholar, but it does seem to me that you have three "families" of copied manuscripts to compare to each other. So we can check to see if what appears in all three versions diverges in later copies. (And it doesn't.)

          • The farther we go back looking at copies of the Gospels, the more copy errors or interpolations (in the hundreds of thousands) we find. There is no reason to think that stopped with, say, the Codex Sinaiticus. What did stop is our ability to find the errors and interpolations because we don't have earlier copies.

            Errors in something like Euclid are going to get fixed. There were not as many copies of Sophocles and Caesar made, but more importantly, no one had a political gain or loss riding on what was in those.

            Now, maybe the Gospels we have from the fourth century, are the same as what was written in the late first, to early second. But we don't know. What we do know is that early Christianity was in a period of internal battles over theology and dogma. Plenty was riding on what was put in, or kept in or out of, the scriptures, and with whom those writings could be associated. As a result, we are left with doubt as to who originally wrote them, and how they were modified (and by whom) on the road to the cannon of the fourth century.

          • The farther we go back looking at copies of the Gospels, the more copy errors or interpolations (in the hundreds of thousands) we find.

            This is a rather curious claim. If the further back you go the more errors you find, how can those errors not be in more recent copies? As I will no doubt keep saying, I am no expert in textual criticism, but I believe the vast majority of cases in which there are variant readings in versions of the New Testament text, they are extremely minor. Good translations give significant variants as footnotes, and anyone can buy the very highly respected Novum Testamentum Graece and see for themselves all known variant readings of any significance.

            I have been doing some googling, and found two pieces of significant information. First, there were translations of the New Testament documents made as early as the second century. As with the Greek texts, all we have of the translations are copies of copies of copies, but they still can be used to check the Greek. Second, also as early as the second century, the New Testament documents were extensively quoted. So the works of the Church Fathers, for example, can be used to check the accuracy of the Greek texts.

            What we do know is that early Christianity was in a period of internal battles over theology and dogma. Plenty was riding on what was put in, or kept in or out of, the scriptures, and with whom those writings could be associated.

            The flaw here is that the acceptance as canonical of the documents we have in the New Testament was gradual. Nobody in the first, second, or third centuries was able to say, "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are going to make up the Christian Bible some day, so we better rewrite them to fit with our own views." There were documents that were not accepted as canonical, and they are forgotten or lost. Of course the Church got to pick which documents were considered canonical, so what appears in the New Testament was selected. But I think it is rather fanciful to think what we do have was revised so it would reflect one faction or another. Also, as I pointed out, Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written and copied separately, but they are so similar that they serve as a check against each other. If one faction decided to rewrite Mark, they had to make sure their changes were made to Matthew and Luke as well.

            As a result, we are left with doubt as to who originally wrote them, and how they were modified (and by whom) on the road to the cannon of the fourth century.

            There are some who like the idea of casting as much doubt as possible on the origins of Christianity, but there is a whole field—textual criticism—that is devoted to the study of variant readings, possible errors in transmission, omissions, emendations, etc., of the New Testament text. It is not a new idea that we don't have the evangelists' autograph manuscripts. Anyone who thinks we have exactly what flowed from the pens of the New Testament authors is very naive, but a tremendous amount of work has gone into compiling, comparing, correcting (when possible), and evaluating the text of the New Testament documents. Everything I have ever read indicates we have a high degree of confidence that we have very good copies of the Gospels as they were used in the early Church. And since they are not journalistic or historical accounts, and were not intended to be, I don't worry that they were rewritten to reflect one rival version of the Jesus story over a more accurate one that didn't suit someone's purposes.

          • Here David, watch this lecture by Bart Ehrman to get the big picture:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QPA7hnbTM4

          • Thanks for the video. I am eager to watch it. I am pretty sure I have read Misquoting Jesus, since I tend to read Bart Ehrman's books as soon as they are published. I hope you have read Did Jesus Exist? If we can agree that Bart Ehrman is a very reliable source when it comes to the New Testament, we are on the same wavelength.

          • Yes, he as spent his academic career on the subject, and done the proper digging into the available sources. The video, above, contains the most important points I wish everyone knew about the professional study of Christian texts.

          • The video, above, contains the most important points I wish everyone knew about the professional study of Christian texts.

            This weekend, I had a chance to watch the whole video, and I want to thank you again for pointing it out. It is no doubt true that most Christians would be taken aback to find out much of what Bart Ehrman says. However, for anyone who has taken the time to study the New Testament, to read a good commentary, or even to read a decent Bible translation and pay attention to the footnotes, what Ehrman says comes as no surprise. In fact, his textbook The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings is one of the most widely used college texts for introductory New Testament courses. The book is in it's fifth edition. I have a copy of the fourth edition, and Chapter 30 is titled Epilogue: Do We Have the Original New Testament? Ehrman covers in that chapter the same material he covers in the video.

            Regarding the story of the woman taken in adultery, The New American Bible, Revised Edition, the official Catholic Bible for the United States, puts John 8:1-11 in brackets, with the following footnote:

            The story of the woman caught in adultery is a later insertion here, missing from all early Greek manuscripts. A Western text-type insertion, attested mainly in Old Latin translations, it is found in different places in different manuscripts: here, or after Jn 7:36 or at the end of this gospel, or after Lk 21:38, or at the end of that gospel. There are many non-Johannine features in the language, and there are also many doubtful readings within the passage. The style and motifs are similar to those of Luke, and it fits better with the general situation at the end of Lk 21: but it was probably inserted here because of the allusion to Jer 17:13 (cf. note on Jn 8:6) and the statement, “I do not judge anyone,” in Jn 8:15. The Catholic Church accepts this passage as canonical scripture.

            It is not uncommon the for more conservative Catholics to denounce the New American Bible (generally the notes, not the translation) and even claim it is heretical. Nevertheless, the New American Bible may be found on the web site of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and also on the Vatican web site.

          • I just spent an hour listening to this. It was quite interesting, but I think some of his claims lack merit.

            1) He says the woman caught in adultery first appears in the 10th century. The woman caught in adultery is in the Vulgate from the 4th century.

            2) He says it is problematic that Jesus in Mark is silent on the cross, but Jesus says something on the cross in Luke. This is because Luke, being in the same region, interviewed John and Mary in Ephesus. They were both at the foot of the cross. This is the only way Luke could have wrote about Mary's intimate and private details on the Magnificat. Peter and Mark were not at the foot of the cross, and Mark was writing Peters account from far away in L'Aquila, Italy. This was before he ascended to the episcopate of Alexandria.

            3) He claims the Gospels were only written in Greek. We have evidence of Matthew in Hebrew and mention of Mark in Latin.

            4) He said some of the earliest fragments came from trash heaps. I would expect the discarded papyri from scribes to have errors and weigh them less than ones found in clay pots.

          • Michael Murray

            1) He says the woman caught in adultery first appears in the 10th century. The woman caught in adultery is in the Vulgate from the 4th century.

            No that isn't what he says. I'm not quite clear what he is trying to say at that point but he knows better than that. His point is that it is widely agreed that it wasn't in the original Gospel of John.

            Has anyone got a transcript of that video ?

          • Michael Murray

            It is possible he meant 5th Century as in this discussion

            " does not start appearing in our Greek manuscripts until the fifth century"

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/06/10/bart-ehrman-on-did-jesus-exist-part-six/

          • Ok, that makes more sense to me. BTW, thanks for that link.

          • See some background here.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks. Around about 36.00 in that video Ehrman says something about Greek commentators not mentioning the story of the adulteress until the 10th Century. I'm not sure what point he is trying to make there.

          • It seemed to me he was trying to infer that people comment on things that exist in manuscripts. So if they were not commenting on it, then it did not exist. Which I think is demonstrably false in the case of this pericope that it was not commented on by the Greek early church fathers.

          • He says the woman caught in adultery first appears in the 10th century. The woman caught in adultery is in the Vulgate from the 4th century.

            That is inaccurate. He says, "The Greek authors who wrote commentaries on the Gospel of John over the centuries don't mention this story until the 10th century—a thousand years after the days of Jesus."

            I just quoted this footnote (from the New American Bible, Revised Edition) to John 8: 1-11 in another message, but I will reproduce it here, too:

            The story of the woman caught in adultery is a later insertion here, missing from all early Greek manuscripts. A Western text-type insertion, attested mainly in Old Latin translations, it is found in different places in different manuscripts: here, or after Jn 7:36 or at the end of this gospel, or after Lk 21:38, or at the end of that gospel. There are many non-Johannine features in the language, and there are also many doubtful readings within the passage. The style and motifs are similar to those of Luke, and it fits better with the general situation at the end of Lk 21: but it was probably inserted here because of the allusion to Jer 17:13 (cf. note on Jn 8:6) and the statement, “I do not judge anyone,” in Jn 8:15. The Catholic Church accepts this passage as canonical scripture.

            This is because Luke, being in the same region, interviewed John and Mary in Ephesus. They were both at the foot of the cross. This is the only way Luke could have wrote about Mary's intimate and private details on the Magnificat.

            Of course, this is pure conjecture. There is no evidence that Mary was interviewed by any of the authors of the gospels. The Magnificat is generally considered to be a hymn that was incorporated by Luke. The New American Bible says:

            Because there is no specific connection of the canticle to the context of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth, the Magnificat (with the possible exception of v 48) may have been a Jewish Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story. Even if not composed by Luke, it fits in well with themes found elsewhere in Luke: joy and exultation in the Lord; the lowly being singled out for God’s favor; the reversal of human fortunes; the fulfillment of Old Testament promises. The loose connection between the hymn and the context is further seen in the fact that a few Old Latin manuscripts identify the speaker of the hymn as Elizabeth, even though the overwhelming textual evidence makes Mary the speaker.

          • In the 4th century Jerome had access to works by Greek authors that did include it. So what he said was false.

            The NAB commentary is written anonymously, and has been much criticized by faithful Catholics. It does not carry any more weight than any other anonymous assertions.

          • The arc of his argument was that nobody wrote about it [the Gospel of John] because it did not exist.

            No, his argument was that it was not written about by Greek commentators, presumably because it was not in Greek manuscripts.

            The NAB commentary is written anonymously, and has been much criticized by faithful Catholics.

            No, it was not written "anonymously." It was written by a team of scholars, and their names are all listed in the front of any printed version of the New American Bible.

            The New American Bible was approved by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Don't you consider them "faithful Catholics"? Do you think they approved the NAB without knowing what was in it? Do you think the Vatican puts the text of a "heretical" Bible on its web site?

            It is as if these people never had access to the writings of the church fathers.

            It would be one thing if I were quoting some obscure publication or even a Protestant study Bible, but it never ceases to amaze me that some Catholics don't trust the Bible created under and approved by the Vatican and the American Bishops by a team of scholars all of whom hold advanced degrees in theology and scripture and who can read the Bible in Greek and Latin, which I suspect few if any critics of the NAB can do.

            I would hate to live in a world where I thought that scientists could not be trusted to get scientific issues right and biblical scholars did not understand the Bible.

          • David said
            [---
            "No, it was not written "anonymously." It was written by a team of scholars, and their names are all listed in the front of any printed version of the New American Bible."
            ---]

            None of the comments have attribution to a particular person. Some of those on the "team" you mention are not even Catholic. So its strange to call it a team when they are not even all on the same team.

          • Some of those on the "team" you mention are not even Catholic. So its strange to call it a team when they are not even all on the same team.

            When I was a kid, my father, who was not a Catholic, had a copy of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. At that time, Catholics were not permitted to read Protestant Bibles. I remember my sister and I being careful not even to touch my father's Bible. Now, many more conservative Catholics prefer the RSV. It was prepared entirely by Protestants!

            In real Biblical scholarship nowadays, it does not matter whether you are a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, or an atheist. The Bible is a text, and it says what it says. There should be no difference between a Catholic translation of Hebrew or Greek to English than an atheist translation of Greek or Hebrew to English.

            It is true that if the notes get into Catholic beliefs, or traditional Catholic interpretations of certain passages, those notes would be written differently, or not written at all, by Protestants, Jews, or atheists. But if a note says something about the original text or the translation, it should not make a difference who writes the note. If the story of the woman taken in adultery is not in the earliest Greek manuscripts, that is simply an empirical fact. Being a believing Catholic doesn't enable Catholic biblical scholars to see the story in ancient manuscripts that Protestants or atheists don't see it in.

          • David said
            [---
            No, his argument was that it was not written about by Greek commentators, presumably because it was not in Greek manuscripts.
            ---]

            But it was demonstrably false.

            As I have already pointed out. Ehrman misspoke or mislead. I think he completely misspoke because another person gave me a link to another of his talks where he says 5th century. Although I think he should have said 4th because Chrysostom only lived his last few years in the 5th century.

          • David said
            [---
            Now, many more conservative Catholics preferthe RSV. It was prepared entirely by Protestants!

            ---]

            No. You are thinking of the RSV-CE which is a repaired version of the RSV.

          • No. You are thinking of the RSV-CE which is a repaired version of the RSV.

            Repaired version made me smile!

            According to Wikipedia, the RSV-CE has the complete text of the RSV Old Testament with no changes, and the text of the RSV New Testament with very minor changes. There is a chart. By my quick count, there were 67 alterations to the RSV text, 17 of which were instances of changing brothers to brethren!

            The idea of a "Catholic Bible" is really rather quaint nowadays. Even Catholic Answers, not known for being a hotbed of liberals, gives a nod to the RSV-CE but concludes:

            In the end, there may not be a need to select only one translation of the Bible to use. There is no reason why a Catholic cannot collect several versions of the Bible, aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each. It is often possible to get a better sense of what is being said in a passage by comparing several different translations.

            So, which Bible is the best? Perhaps the best answer is this: The one you’ll read.

          • David said
            [---
            No, his argument was that it was not written about by Greek commentators, presumably because it was not in Greek manuscripts.
            ---]
            Again, his argument is false. Chrysostom has a commentary on the pericope in question. He is Greek and from the 4th century.

          • The issue is very simple. The earliest extant Greek manuscripts do not contain the story of the woman taken in adultery. The Gospel of John dates from the 1st century. There is no text of the story in extant Greek manuscripts prior to the 4th century, and no mention of it by the Church Fathers until the 4th century. And in the 4th century, it was in only some manuscripts. This means that there is no trace of the story in any extant manuscript from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and no mention of it by any Christian writers from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It also is not in the same style of Greek as the Gospel of John. It also appears in some manuscripts in different places in the Gospel of John, and in some manuscripts it appears in the Gospel of Luke. In the face of all of that evidence, if you want to believe that it was written by the same person who wrote the Gospel of John, and was placed by that person where it appears in modern translations, you are welcome to believe it. But it doesn't make you a more virtuous Catholic than people who believe otherwise, because there is nothing in the Catholic faith that requires you to believe who wrote it, when it was written, or how it got there. The only issue is whether it is canonical or not, and the Catholic Church definitely considers it canonical.

          • David,

            But we were arguing Erhman's claim of 10th century, and you have yet to admit he was wrong.

          • David said-
            [---
            I would hate to live in a world where I thought that scientists could not be trusted to get scientific issues right and biblical scholars did not understand the Bible.
            ---]

            I don't live in that world. I trust science in areas that are precise disciplines, and I am more skeptical in areas that are not, like textual criticism which would deny a great many truths about history because of its limitations.

          • Joe Ser

            The point I made is that the early tradition put it at Matthew, Luke, Mark and John. If orally you were told WWII started in Europe and America was attacked by Japan even after a few generations would hold up. Oral tradition in the past was very accurate.

          • The point I made is that the early tradition put it at Matthew, Luke, Mark and John.

            It's fine if you want to believe in tradition, but the vast majority of modern scholars conclude that Mark's gospel was the first to be written, and both Matthew and Luke based their gospels on Mark. If you take a look at the three gospels placed side by side, it is easy to see for yourself why scholars believe Matthew and Luke are based on Mark.

          • primenumbers

            I don't see how someone writing at the end of the 4th century has any better idea on the order of books written at the end of the 1st century than we do.

          • The Shroud is not fake. C14 testing is good science if you take a good and clean sample. The lead scientist(and atheist) of the STURP team already admitted, on tape, that the idiots who took the shroud sample, took it from a spot that had dyed medieval cotton re-weaved in with the linen. He confirmed this in a lab since he still had a portion of the shroud from his earlier c14 test. Unfortunately, it did not receive any notice from the news because they prefer it to be thought of as fake.

          • The original Gospel of John existed in Ephesus up until the 700's. St Jerome had access to the original Hebrew Matthew in the 400's. Just because the originals are not around now is of no consequence. We have overall a very accurate set of translations with only minor discrepancies.

          • primenumbers

            I see no evidence that an original gospel of John existed in Ephesus until 700s. St Jerome was confused, and made a mistake in this matter, not least our copies of Matthew show no signs of being translated from Hebrew.

          • [---
            I see no evidence that an original gospel of John existed in Ephesus until 700s.
            ---]

            Thats probably because you don't read the church fathers.

            St. Peter of Alexandria cites the original Gospel of John in the 4th century.

          • primenumbers

            He cites from the Gospel of John. How does that show that there's the original in Ephesus until 700s?

          • Confirming it was there in the 4th century is rather important if you want to say it was there the whole time.

            Secondly, he does not merely cite from the gospel, he confirms the existence of the original. The Gospel was written in Ephesus by John, and the Church there had possession of it.

            I misunderstood what what "seventh age" meant when reading up on this. It meant the 7th century, and not the 700s. My bad. The city was destroyed in the 7th century. There is no reason to think the Church of Ephesus would allow its greatest treasure to be removed before then when it already resided there for several centuries.

            The city met disaster with earthquake and invasion and for all intensive purposes was destroyed. Only a village remained afterwards of what was a city.

          • primenumbers

            His quoting of John doesn't demonstrate he had access to the very original copy though, does it? What evidence are you showing for that it was the original manuscript?

          • What kind of evidence would be sufficient to say a book resided in a city a long time ago?

          • primenumbers

            We're not just talking about "a book" but the original manuscript, right? If you can't think of what evidence would prove such a thing, how can you so confidently state that it's true that he had access to the original manuscript?

          • I am being serious. What kind of evidence? Don't try to assume my motives.

          • primenumbers

            Usually for showing original works for authors we have letters from them to show their handwriting and style (for hand-written books or other notes we wish to authenticate), the paper would be forensically dated to the correct location and period.

          • Today we cant do handwriting analysis that much with the advent typeset printed works. And in the ancient past there was wide use of scribes. So if your asking for handwriting samples, I don't think that would be a reasonable requirement.

          • primenumbers

            But it's an example of what could be used to show an original. The other way is through documentation of the provenance of the article.

            In this case, we don't even have the article in question. I'm still wondering where there's the documents from Peter of Alexandria that says he had access to the original.

          • Yes it is an example, so does this mean that in cases where scribes are used, and where we don't have the original today for testing, that this claim (of the original being at a location in the past) cannot even be hypothetically verified with evidentiary claims.

          • primenumbers

            Indeed I think the circumstances are such that this particular claim cannot be verified today, however, I think have an idea of the methods that could have been used in principle to verify it, should events have worked in our favour.

          • So in re-reading up on St Peter of Alexandria it turns out that John the Evangelist actually wrote it with his own hand, and did not use a scribe. But I am glad we explored the alternative to show that there are boundaries to what can be verified even hypothetically.

            BTW, this is an excerpt from St Peter of Alexandria

            "Now it was the preparation, about the third hour, as the accurate books have it, and the autograph copy itself of the Evangelist John, which up to this day has by divine grace been preserved in the most holy church of Ephesus, and is there adored by the faithful."
            St Peter of Alexandria A.D. ~300

          • primenumbers

            That quote is from some fragments: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0621.htm that they put under pseudo-peter. I looked up PoA http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11771a.htm and it appears there's some doubtful fragments. Got any more info?

          • Even the spurious fragments are earlier than the destruction of Ephesus. What contemporary living in Ephesus would be fooled by a claim that said a whole metropolitan diocese adored the relic of Johns Gospel, if it were not true. It doesn't really matter if a heretic wrote it under a false name.

          • primenumbers

            Religious people hardly ever fact check claims that support their religious beliefs. Not that they could have checked the claim, and not that believers would have any real motivation to do so.

            " It doesn't really matter if a heretic wrote it under a false name.", well yes it rather does. Or do we trust liars? This whole exercise we've gone through just demonstrates the way that such ideas as "tradition" in religion feed on confirmation bias, and why we should not be so trusting on such little evidence. Early Christianity is full of such frauds, like the fake letters of Paul for instance. Going under a more famous person's name was a common fraud.

          • Do the insults make you feel better?

            Not all of his writings and fragments are spurious, but it is not surprising that there are some documents where his authorship is in dispute as many things are from a more than a 100 years ago. Why even many of Shakespeares works are now considered spurious too. But in many cases the detraction is an opinion that raises questions, and hardly a complete refutation of the authenticity.

            I was taking a position to the extreme and saying it wasn't just edited, but rather a complete forgery to examine it from that angle. If a person forged it, they would have done so for doctrinal reasons (competing heresies), but we are debating the authors historical observations of another city's customs. The other cities customs were contemporary to the writer. So why would the writer undermine the document with false observations accessible to the reader who could immediately discern it to be invalid? A forger would have wanted to build trust on things that are accessible to the reader in order to push issues of doctrine and faith.

          • primenumbers

            The issue of confirmation bias is a very important one here though. We need to look at the psychology of belief to answer your question. So yes, they would be "fooled", they would take the diocese on their word, and they wouldn't check into it lacking both motivation and ability to do so. And even if strong disconfirming evidence was brought directly to their attention they would ignore that and keep believing, probably with a stronger belief too!

            "But in many cases the detraction is an opinion that raises questions, and hardly a complete refutation of the authenticity." - so when you above state in discussion the quote, you're stating it as a factual response to my questions, but when I find out it has a doubtful history, that's just "opinion'? I'd say that yes, there's more an enough doubt here to refute your claim to a significant enough degree.

            Our unknown forger is a liar, and hence anything that comes from his is suspect. We know not his motivations or his desires, just his lack of honesty and that should be enough for us to discount words that come to us.

          • Prime said
            [---
            Our unknown forger is a liar, and hence anything that comes from his is suspect.
            ---]
            Isn't everything supposed to be suspect in the first place? Adding an emotional aspect of personality flaws does not seem like scientific approach to me.

          • primenumbers

            We should have a degree of skepticism on all things, but not so much we fall foul of the fallacy of skepticism.

            Calling someone who produces documents under the name of another for deceptive purposes a liar is not an emotional attack on the character, but a description of the character as the evidence shows us, and hence why we should not be treating such evidence as a matter of fact as described. We must weigh the evidence, and the trustworthiness of the author is a vital aspect in the calculation of that weight.

          • Not just any, the original, Exactly! I am being serious. You must have a bar that can be breached with evidentiary claims. Give me some examples of what would constitute evidence in this specific case.

          • primenumbers

            As I note elsewhere, we'd want documented samples of the author's handwriting to match to the handwritten book. The paper (or whatever) used would be dated to the correct period and location. We'd have articles of provenance, showing how the original artifact came to be there, documenting the route it came from the original author (just like if you were to purchase an item from a moon astronaut today, it would come with documents to prove it's provenance).

          • The wide use of scribes makes handwriting useless for this task. Provenance is demonstrated to some degree with the writings of the early church fathers who overwhelmingly agree that it was authored by John at Ephesus where he ministered for a time, and that is where it met its final end with the destruction of the city in the 7th century.

          • primenumbers

            Early Church fathers telling us what tradition says is not really good provenance though, just hearsay. What we'd require for provenance is a good document trail and of course, access to the original ourselves.

          • No, the early church fathers are the tradition. I am talking of the apostolic and post apostolic age.

          • primenumbers

            You're going to have to be a bit more clear for me here on exactly what you're saying.

          • Right, but we are talking about an original that does not exist today to do C14 on. Is it possible to scientifically verify someone had access to the original Gospel of John?

          • primenumbers

            Exactly, we don't have the original. Yes, it would be possible for us to be fairly certain that someone had access to an original document, but it's clear that here we don't actually have enough evidence to be certain of it. But it also sounds like PoA, living when he did, wouldn't have had good provenance either, or at least nothing that we would count as documents of provenance today.

          • I am asking an honest question, and you immediately attack my motives. If you have a bar for evidentiary claims, tell me what kind of evidence would be sufficient in this specific case.

          • ... tell me what kind of evidence would be sufficient in this specific case.

            It is not a miracle claim, so I would want a reasonable evidence bar. There is no real way to authenticate when the originals were lost so long ago. What writings or testimony could you present to make you case stronger? If the answer is "none" then I would think you are best off saying so and moving on.

          • Q Quine,
            I have no problem with anyone wanting evidence. I was curious what meets the bar. Prime gave some good examples.

          • primenumbers

            I'm attacking because you're making the positive claim to knowledge. I have also given you examples as you have asked for.

          • Randy Gritter

            We don't have large undocumented jumps. We have apostolic succession. There are no gaps. It goes back to the apostles.

          • primenumbers

            There are gaps indeed. Look again. Or should I say that there are gaps in the chain of documents that document your evidence for apostolic succession.

          • Randy Gritter

            You don't understand the word succession. Start with a list of popes.

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12272b.htm

            But every generation has one pope and many bishops. We have a few examples of apostolic succession for each generation and also a more general affirmation that it was in place everywhere in the church.

          • primenumbers

            The early links are more attested on tradition and faith than actual evidence though, certainly not evidence that stands up to skeptical scrutiny.

          • Joe Ser

            Oh yes we do. Matthew, John. Mark was Peter's recorder. After the resurrection He appeared to thousands. From these testimonies of eyewitnesses Christianity grew. At the time tradition was passed orally.

          • Max Driffill

            You cannot be serious.

          • Joe Ser

            Very.

          • primenumbers

            That's a statement of faith, that lacks historical evidence to even begin to demonstrate it's true. The authors of the Gospels are anonymous with no documented links to the actual events they describe, and they describe large-scale events not evidenced in the contemporary historical record such that it's vastly more probable that such events are invented than actually occurred.

          • Joe Ser

            Why is any Biblical literature rejected as history?

          • primenumbers

            It's not rejected as a source, it's rejected as plainly factual. The Gospels must carry little weight because they're anonymous, not by eye-witnesses, don't document sources, don't date, copy and alter, original text not preserved but altered, and what they talk about is not documented in the contemporary historical record.

          • Joe Ser

            Prove they are anonymous. If you are going to cite the historical critical method be ware that the Bible was not dug up just a few years ago and we are looking at it the very first time and trying to figure it out. Catholics understand Tradition and Scripture together. (protestants are sola scriptura remember?)

            It is remarkable that the dead sea scrolls contain fragments of every book except Esther and are 98% accurate.

            As early as the second century we have the witness
            of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the
            Eucharistic celebration. They have stayed the same until our own day for
            all the great liturgical families. St. Justin wrote to the pagan
            emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) around the year 155, explaining what
            Christians did:

            On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.

            The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits.

            When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered
            admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.

            Then we all rise together and offer prayers* for ourselves . . .and for
            all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by
            our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain
            eternal salvation.

            When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.

            Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.

            He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe,
            through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a
            considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.

            When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: 'Amen.'

            When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded,
            those whom we call deacons give to those present the "eucharisted"
            bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.

          • primenumbers

            No, the consensus of historical and bible scholars is that they're anonymous. You prove otherwise.

          • Joe Ser

            I need your sources.

          • primenumbers

            Try reading Bart Ehrman. He's not perfect but when he says he's representing historical consensus (rather than his own theories) that's just what he's doing.

          • Joe Ser

            just give me a few of his claims with sources.

          • primenumbers

            You'll need to try your local library.

          • Joe Ser

            I thought so.

          • primenumbers

            Or you can seek him out online. I think he has a forum where you could discuss this.

          • Here Joe, listen to Ehrman, himself, explain the sources:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLbmDee7VDI

          • Joe Ser

            He convinced himself to become agnostic - good job - lol

            You may have a case of confirmation bias. I hope his writings didn't cause you to lose your faith.
            refuted

            Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus

            By: Timothy Paul Jones

            The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman & Daniel Wallace in Dialogue

            Edited By: Robert B. Stewart

            What Have They Done with Jesus? Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History

            Ben Witherington III

            Scholars Distort the Gospels

            Craig A. Evans

            If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil, Audio CD

            Randy Alcorn

          • Joe, are you going by titles, or have you read those books? I have read most of Ehrman's books. For good solid and well referenced scholarship I recommend to you a university level text book he wrote specifically for a course of study of the New Testament (his special academic field).

          • Interesting talk by Erhman but I find some of his claims lacking merit.

            Erhman says

            [---
            Did Jesus die on the day before the meal was eaten as John says, or after as Mark says?
            ---]

            This just shows how textual criticism is sometimes devoid of any due diligence with regard to research. There is no discrepancy here because that is not what the Gospels say. In John, the "Parasceve of the Pasch" is the day before the paschal sabbath not the meal. The eve of every weekly sabbath was called the Parasceve, or day of preparation. Even today in Greek every Friday is still called Parasceve. The crucifixion was the eve of a high Sabbath, which is called high because it fell within the Paschal week just as the crucifixion did.

          • From Jesus of Nazareth—Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, by Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI:

            The problem of dating Jesus' Last Supper arises from the contradiction on this point between the Synoptic Gospels, on the one hand, and Saint John's Gospel, on the other. Mark, whom Matthew and Luke follow in essentials, gives us a precise dating: "On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, 'Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?' . . . And when it was evening he came with the Twelve" (14:12, 17). The evening of the first dat of Unleavened Bread, on which the Paschal lambs are slaughtered in the Temple, is the vigil of the Passover feast. According to the chronology of the Synoptics, this was a Thursday. . . .

            Let us now turn to John's chronology. John goes to great lengths to indicate that the Last Supper was not a Passover meal. On the contrary: the Jewish authorities who led Jesus before Pilate's court avoided entering the praetorium, "so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover" (18:28). The Passover, therefore, began only in the evening, and at the time of the trial the Passover meal had not yet taken place; the trial and crucifixion took place on the day before the Passover, on the "day of preparation", not on the feast day itself. The Passover feast in the year in question accordingly ran from Friday evening until saturday evening, not from Thursday evening until Friday evening. . . .

            So what are we to say? The most meticulous evaluation I have come across of all the solutions so far is found in the book A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, by John P. Meier, who at the end of his first volume presents a comprehensive study of the chronology of Jesus' life. He concludes that one has to choose between the Synoptic and Johannine chronologies, and he argues, on the basis of the whole range of source material, that the weight of evidence favors John.

            John is right . . .

            Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI clearly sees a contradiction between the Synoptics and John, and he decides in favor of John. He points out that the description of the Last Supper in all four Gospels has no indication of the ritual of a Passover meal, and concludes that the Synoptics correctly do not describe a Passover meal, but incorrectly place the meal on Passover itself, not the day before Passover.

            I don't see that any of this has to do with textual criticism, which concerns itself with discovering what, as near as possible, was the original text. I have never heard anyone argue that it is a textual problem that creates an apparent discrepancy between the Synoptics and John.

          • I read the first in the series. His books are his own personal opinion as he lays out in the beginning. He also says anyone has a right to contradict these opinions. In any case, he should have read the Mishna instead of Meier's book.

          • The theologian who wrote this book as a private expression of his theological opinions on the matter explicitly invites us to disagree with him.

            There are many other solutions, and of course to posit a contradiction in Scripture is unacceptable to those Catholics who hold the Traditional Faith, that the Scriptures are entirely inerrant.

            No theologian expressing an opinion involving a contradiction in Scripture is in any way binding on any Catholic whatsoever.

            Among the solutions available to those who hold to the Faith of the Church concerning the inerrancy of Scripture:

            1. Navarre Study Bible (imprimatur granted) states that the Pharisees and Sadducees assigned different dates to various feast days (as the Orthodox and Catholic do today); the synoptics report the Pharisee observance, John the Sadducee.

            2. It has been suggested that John reports time according to a sunrise to sunrise day, while the Synoptics report time according to a sunset-to-sunset day.

            3. The following link resolves the contradictions by proposing a Last Supper on the evening of 14th of Nisan, and a crucifixion later the same day (our Friday, still Thursday in the reckoning of the Pharisees):

            "The correct explanation for the apparent contradiction between John and the Synoptics is very simple. In Jesus' time, many Jews regarded the fourteenth of Nisan as the first day of Unleavened Bread. The meaning of Mark 14:12 and of the corresponding passages in Matthew and Luke is that the Last Supper was prepared and eaten in the evening at the beginning of the fourteenth. Thus, by implication, the Synoptics place the Crucifixion on Nisan the fourteenth, not the fifteenth.

            Technically, as the law prescribed, Passover fell on the fourteenth, and the seven days of Unleavened Bread spanned the fifteenth to the twenty-first. But it was natural and inevitable that consecutive feasts celebrated by the nation during the same break from daily life would have become known by a single name. In the Babylonian Talmud, for instance, the last seven days are called Passover, and the preceding day, when the sacrifices were made, is called Passover eve (20)."

            http://www.themoorings.org/apologetics/69weeks/weeks4.html

            There are other possibilities.

          • Erhman says
            [---
            Did Jesus die 9am like Mark or after noon like John?
            ---]

            There is no discrepancy here because time was divided into sections. St. Mark says it was at the third hour that Jesus was crucified. If all took place between the third hour and the sixth hour of day, it would have been said to have happened in the third hour: their days being divided into four parts of three hours each. In the same manner, the nights were divided into four watches of three hours each. St. Mark can say that the crucifixion took place in the third hour, though it was towards the conclusion of this general division of the day. Therefore, St. John could with a reason equally as good, says that it happened about the sixth hour.

          • There is no discrepancy here because time was divided into sections.

            Could you please document these assertions?

          • Andrew G.

            Timeline per Mark:

            3rd hour: Jesus is up on the cross and soldiers are drawing lots for his stuff.
            6th hour: darkness covers the land.
            9th hour: Jesus croaks.

            Timeline per John:

            6th hour: Jesus is presented by Pilate to the Jews, who demand that he be crucified; Pilate hands him over.

            So in John's version, not only is he not yet up on the cross at (around) noon, but he hasn't been taken there yet. John gives no other times.

          • Ehrman said
            [---
            Did Jesus carry the cross or did Simon carry the cross?
            ---]
            They both did. He carried it by himself until the Romans saw that he was not able to do it himself. Enter Simon carried it with him the rest of the way. John probably did not mention Simon because St. John was with Mary at Calvary. I doubt he would be escorting Mary in the midst of a hostile crowd where the cross was being carried. The fact that he does not write it shows that he is being true to his experience of the events. And Peter and Ignatius who audited Johns Gospel did not alter it.

          • He carried it by himself until the Romans saw that he was not able to do it himself. Enter Simon carried it with him the rest of the way.

            Where in Matthew, Mark, or Luke does it say that? Can you quote me anything from the Gospels that says Jesus carried the cross until he was unable to carry it any further, and Simon was then forced to carry it from that point on?

          • "And after they had mocked him, they took off the cloak from him, and put on him his own garments, and led him away to crucify him. And going out, they found a man of Cyrene, named Simon: him they forced to take up his cross." Mt 27:31-32

            "and led him away" - This is within the city for a time before Simon appears

            "And going out" - Exiting the gated City of Jerusalem.

            Then comes Simon.

            So Jesus had already carried it the distance within the walls of the city.

          • So your faith is in the consensus of historical scholars. Not very different than the faith in the consensus of ancient biblical scholars.

            You put faith in their opinion because you believe they can produce evidence for their claims.

            We put faith in our ancient church fathers because we believe they had evidence for their claims whilst they lived.

          • primenumbers

            Trust in experts who name their sources and arguments, who put them up for peer review.... or trust in apologists promoting their religion who base their knowledge on rather undocumented tradition.

          • Yes we have peer reviews too. They are called Synods and Councils.

          • Michael Murray

            What's their rejection rate for dogma ? Do they use double-blind refereeing ?

          • Every council but one rejected one or more competing dogma.

          • primenumbers

            Like the synod of 355?

            But seriously, you get the point I'm making. You may trust fellow co-religionists without much doubt, but I don't see reason to give them that level of trust especially on issues that they seek to promote (rather than deny).

          • Joe Ser

            It doesn't work.

          • primenumbers

            Exactly.... Being told something is just argument from authority. You cannot rationally us the argument "being told" to tell us that it is the ultimate authority telling you that. It's rather circular....

          • We were told.

            Children who grow up in Mormon homes are told about direct revelation from an angel to Joesph Smith. Jim Jones told people to follow him into the jungle; George W. Bush said he was told to invade Iraq. The neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran writes about people with brain damage that causes those people to write tall stacks of religious revelation or attest to supernatural contact (see here). So, what are we to do when "told," to know if what we are told is true?

          • Joe Ser

            Exactly.

  • Max Driffill

    The fundamental problem is this. People can reason about many things. It doesn't tell us much about the starting premises from which a person reasons. Augustine is reasoning from his articles of faith. These are not premises justified by sound evidence, so Augustine's ship of reason is of course from the moment he disembarks. Smart, clever he may be but that is of no help if he isn't given better starting points.

    • Joe Ser

      Your starting point is truth does not exist.

      • Max Driffill

        Joe,
        That is not my starting point. Explain how you got that.

        • Joe Ser

          I stand corrected. But it is for many. So you believe truth exists. Will you describe truth for me?

    • Thanks, Max. You bring up the starting point for Augustine, and that prompts me to ask what Augustine would conclude if his starting point were what we know today? He writes well of rejecting dogma that does not match known reality. What further dogma would he reject if he knew that our ancestors evolved from simple life forms over a billion years? What if he knew that the Biblical story of Adam and Eve and the associated "fall" could not have happened as written? What if he knew that brain disease can cause people to experience voices in their heads? Well, we can't say what Augustine would have made of all we have learned after his time, we can only make an honest effort to think through the evidence, ourselves.

      • Joe Ser

        Here is a good read on Augustine and Evolution. (the church has been fighting evolution since the beginning - it is not new) http://www.earlychurch.org.uk/pdf/book_wood.pdf

        • Thanks for the link, Joe. My question was not about how the scriptures can be made sufficiently metaphorical to try to avoid conflicts with facts, but rather, what Augustine would conclude if he knew what we know today (including all we have learned post 1924 when your ref was written)?

          • Joe Ser

            1924 - was pretty strongly evolutionary. I would say know we know less as we peer deeper into the cell. These new observations have design written all over them.

          • Well, no, all we have found out about DNA and population genetics has been in the latter part of the 20th century and early 21st century. Knowing that the breeding population of our ancestors was never below a couple of thousand individuals is a recent finding and goes with a vast body of factual evidence indicating a natural origin of humanity. What would Augustine have concluded if he saw that the need to postulate divine intervention was gone and that our brains can make us hear voices that aren't really there? How could he have concluded more justification for Christian theology than the pagan mythology it had just replaced in his time?

            These new observations have design written all over them.

            Got evidence?

          • Joe Ser

            The breeding population is full of assumptions. Do you know those assumptions?

          • Joe Ser

            Dawkins even sees it. He calls it an illusion though. It just cannot be.......

          • Sees what?

          • Joe Ser

            Design in biology - “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose” Blind Watchmaker - Dawkins

          • Joe, have you read "The Blind Watchmaker"? If so, you should have seen that the illusion of design characterization was in regard to Paley's watch argument. The Intelligent Design branch of Creationists are desperately trying to find evidence of intentional design in living cells, but are still coming up empty.

            Computer simulated evolution can produce things that also may looked "designed" to the untrained observer. Here is a great video of simulated evolution producing clocks (in honor of Paley):

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcAq9bmCeR0

          • Joe Ser

            Dawkins again - a major concession - “It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization
            evolved by probably some kind of Darwinian means to a very, very high level of technology— and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. …
            And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry, molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer.”

          • Ben

            How is this a major concession, and to what? Yes, it''s possible that life on Earth was seeded by alien designers, and that we might find evidence for that in biology, dna, etc. That's very different from saying that there actually is any such evidence.

          • Joe Ser

            ID opponents (most) will adamantly deny ID is even possible.

          • Ben

            Oh, of course it's possible. But almost anything is. It's just not supported by evidence, and not something reasonable to believe.

          • It's just not supported by evidence, and not something reasonable to believe.

            And Prof. Dawkins did not say that it was.

          • The important thing that is denied is that ID has any evidence that forces away from natural causes. Otherwise, it amounts to a god-of-the-gaps bogus argument.

          • ID correctly predicted that junk DNA wasn't.

            But falsified predictions only count in scientific research programs, and Darwinism is not a scientific research program.

            One hundred per cent certain:

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/02/marys-bones-part-iii-is-evolution.html

          • Oh no, not the Ben Stein ambush cherry picker! Richard was asked for an alternate "possibility" no matter how unlikely, not about his view of what actually happened. I guess Stein got you, on that one.

          • It was a brilliant and devastating interview, and no one who witnessed it will ever look at Richard Dawkins the same way.

            His star has faded since then, and deservedly so.

            His alliance with Krauss in the "Universe From Nothing" disaster has pretty much sealed the deal, and as can be seen from the development of arguments on this site, the New Atheists are already in decline.

            They simply do not have a consistent world view.

          • Joe Ser

            Now have you read Signature in the Cell? or Darwin's Doubt - best seller?

          • So, I take that as no, you have not read "The Blind Watchmaker."

          • No, I have not, but I am familiar with Stephen Meyer's work at the Discovery Institute. From what I have seen in reviews, "Signature in the Cell" is a expanded popularized version of his "DNA and Other Designs" article at DI. As far as I can tell, it's a bunch of Irrefutable Perplexity in there based on the current lack of a complete theory of abiogenesis. However, abiogenesis is coming along, as you can see in this very nice video (also by cdk007).

            In his other book, "Darwin's Doubt" he trots out the canard that somehow the rate of evolution during the "Cambrian Explosion" is evidence against Darwin or even neo-Darwinian Evolution. It's a bogus argument because the "explosion" took as much as 30 million years, a time period over which we have no way to bound the possible rate of change. Try some real books on the subject like "On the Origin of Phyla" or "The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity" where you might learn some actual science.

            Here is a quick video while you wait:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bvqgXZvJ5s

          • Joe Ser

            Really?- a complex computer code that produces a purposeful clock? Evolution has no purpose or direction. Remember?

          • Really?- a complex computer code that produces a purposeful clock?

            No, a simulation of the mechanism of Evolution, without regard to teleology.

          • VelikaBuna

            Is this a joke? Computer simulation proves exactly what here?

          • epeeist

            Is this a joke?

            Tongue in cheek certainly.

            Computer simulation proves exactly what here?

            That if you model a system that has three attributes:

            1. It periodically replicates

            2. The replication is not flawless, there is variability between generations

            3. There is a fitness measure which ensures that the fitter variants are more likely to replicate than those that are less fit.

            Then you get the appearance of design.

            You may recognise those three attributes...

          • Is this a joke? Computer simulation proves exactly what here?

            It shows how a blind undirected genetic algorithm can produce results that give the impression of the hand of an intelligent designer, when there is none. That was what Joe's question was about.

          • VelikaBuna

            This is a computer simulation designed by an intelligent being with a purpose in mind. See logic flaws involved in the conclusions.

            http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/02/a_bit_unpreposs056161.html

            http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/12/me_thinks_hes_like_a_dawkins053651.html

          • Michael Murray

            Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research. - See more at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/02/a_bit_unpreposs056161.html#sthash.IFR9zvtv.dpuf

            They think there is a debate ? 'nuff said.

          • What point are you trying to make?

          • VelikaBuna

            What are the reasons intermediate stages in the simulation that led to something meaningful were preserved? Do you see the problem with the simulation. Each time the right letter was hit in the sequence, the letter was then preserved for no apparent reason. Why? How does that reflect the reality?

          • epeeist

            Each time the right letter was hit in the sequence, the letter was then preserved for no apparent reason.

            Letter? The genetic algorithm above has nothing to do with letters.

            Nice attempt to weasel a different issue in though...

          • Andrew G.

            If you're referring to Dawkins' "Weasel" program, then that is simply a lie - there is no such preservation of individual letters.

          • VelikaBuna

            All these computer simulations suffer from the same problems. The goals are predetermined and the program is front loaded to reach this goal. Weasel is a great example of this logical fallacy.

          • Andrew G.

            Evolutionary algorithms are routinely used these days to solve problems for which the solution is not known in advance.

            For example, suppose you are designing a satellite and you need a radio antenna which meets certain criteria - e.g. physically small, circular polarization, appropriate beam width for the task; by programming an evolutionary algorithm with a "fitness" criterion that reflects how closely the result meets the design goals, you end up with something that looks like a randomly bent piece of wire but performs the task better than anything a human could design by conventional means.

            In such practical cases there can be no possibility of "front-loading".

          • VelikaBuna

            I disagree.

          • Andrew G.

            With what exactly?

            And if I don't know how to solve a problem, but I write an evolutionary algorithm to solve it for me, how exactly did I "front-load" the solution?

          • epeeist

            The goals are predetermined and the program is front loaded to reach
            this goal. Weasel is a great example of this logical fallacy.

            Assertion after assertion, when a simple search will point you to a GA application with source code that shows you are wrong.

          • VelikaBuna
          • epeeist

            Oh boy.

            Read the code that I linked to. Tell me where it is locked. Dembski is wrong.

          • VelikaBuna

            Every time the target letter is hit, it becomes immune to change...why? If it were not so, the correct letter would again be replaced at some point by an incorrect one. Don't answer until the coin drops.

          • epeeist

            Every time the target letter is hit, it becomes immune to change...why?

            Does it? The program is available in a number of places on the net and is a fairly simple GA, all I am asking is for you to read the code and show me where it locks letters into place.

            All you seem to be doing is evading the issue.

          • Andrew G.

            You really don't know how any of this code works, do you?

            Yes, the correct letter is sometimes replaced by an incorrect one.

          • VelikaBuna

            I never said I was a programer and that I could read code. I am saying the program has little or nothing to do with the reality.

            http://www.uncommondescent.com/evolution/dawkins-weasel-proximity-search-with-or-without-locking/

          • I am not clear about exactly what you are asking. If you are referring to the the letter simulation I think you are, that one is about the probability of getting to the target, not about what the target is. It is done to get people to understand that natural selection preserves some mutations that work in a given survival context while letting other gene mutation sites to continue to change. The result is to change the probability from what would be the case if all the changes had to happen at the same time by random chance, a false position that has been put forth in objection to the Theory of Evolution.

          • English Catholic

            This site might be helpful in understanding the difference between Paley's arguments, and the 'fifth way' of St Thomas with which it's sometimes equated.

            They are worlds apart.

            http://theosophical.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/why-some-catholic-thinkers-keep-an-arm%E2%80%99s-distance-from-intelligent-design/

  • jajaja, oh Lord, these comment box :)...

  • I emailed Brandon this morning and requested that he post this article at some point, and he was kind enough to make it happen - and wasted no time!

    It's become clear to me through discussions here that there is a lot of confusion about the relationship between faith and reason - and it's such a crucial issue! The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. I think we need to do a better job clearly explaining here, from our perspective, what faith is, what reason is, and how the two relate to each other. If we don't define the terms right there at the top of the page, what hope is there of ever understanding each other? I hope this is a start in working toward that understanding, and honing in on where precisely the disagreement lies.

    A challenge to all: Define a) faith, b) reason, and c) their relationship in three clear, simple sentences.

    • FAITH: A supernatural virtue infused by God which allows the human being to assent to whatever God asserts, on grounds of the Truthfulness of Him asserting.

      REASON: The faculties of human cognition: (a) creative hypothesis (b) deduction (c) induction

      RELATIONSHIP: Faith, while above reason, is never in contradiction to right reason.

      • primenumbers

        "FAITH: A supernatural virtue infused by God which allows the human being to assent to whatever God asserts, on grounds of the Truthfulness of Him asserting." and utterly indistinguishable from imagination.

        • Quite distinguishable from imagination, prime, and in this precise way.

          One can imagine a religion, perhaps, where some guy tells his twenty or thirty or five hundred or five thousand followers that they are going to take down the Roman Empire and establish some kind of kingdom on earth that is going to last forever.

          In fact there were quite a number of guys who did exactly that in Judaea, all within a couple of centuries of one another.

          Only one of these guys was reported to have risen from the dead.

          That would be the one whose Church spread throughout the world, in fact overcame the Roman Empire, civilized the tribes of the European forests, created European civilization, and now persists as the oldest continuously operating institution of the human species.

          I'm sure it's just a coincidence........

          • primenumbers

            I notice how you don't answer the question. You claim this super-natural sense called "faith" that gives you knowledge. I'm asking how you distinguish said knowledge from imagination.

          • By taking God at His Word, prime.

            Go back and read it.

            It's right there.

          • primenumbers

            Again, I notice how you don't give a substantive response to the question that is asked.

          • But I did.

            Clearly, Christ rose from the dead.

            Nothing else explains why He, alone, of all the riffraff and dimestore counterfeit Messiahs running around Judaea, actually *fulfilled* the prophecies concerning Messiah, founded the Church, told us it would overcome Rome, would spread throughout the world, would exist until the end of the world......

            So we take Him at His word when He says:

            "Thou art Peter ("Rock") and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

            And I give to you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven."

            That gives us the Church, the Pope, infallibility, and voila!

            The Catholic Faith, which cannot be extinguished by any human or demon forever.

          • primenumbers

            And nothing explains Mormonism other than the angel Moroni actually delivering those gold plates to Joseph Smith. Everyone knew JS was a con-man, so it must have been the truth of those gold plates as they document in first-hand eye-witness signed testimony that made them believe.

          • Get back to me when the Mormons claim Joe Smith rose from the dead, or when they establish a global civilization on the ruins of this one.

          • primenumbers

            Get back to me when you'll answer a straight question on how you distinguish faith from imagination. And while your on, was Jesus a Jew or not?

          • LOL!

            I see you're fresh out of pizza again, prime.

            All the best, 'til next time :-)

          • Vuyo

            ....was Jesus a Jew or not?
            >>I'm curious as to the point of this question.

          • primenumbers

            As you can see when asked some rather pertinent questions in relation to his religious ideas he will make some silly comments and end the conversation. That particular question was another one he refused to give a straight an unequivocal answer to.

          • Vuyo

            Is it a question you had asked before and Rick didn't answer? I'm a layman's layman. Many of you are too deep for me but this one seems easy. Jesus was born of a Jewish mom so he was a Jew. How's that?

          • primenumbers

            Well, I gotta say I agree with you. He was a Jew, and he was also Jewish too (in the religious sense).

          • Vuyo

            Sure. He observed Passover, Hannukah and other Holy days the Jews celebrated.
            However, He wasn't a Pharisee, Sadducee, or any other cee. There is no indication He belonged to any Jewish sect. He came to do the will of the Father and He did it as a Jewish man.
            By the way, I'm not Catholic, I'm Evangelical. So I agree with Rick on many things and disagree on others.

          • primenumbers

            Thanks. Your understanding fits near enough with mine with regards to the Jewishness of Jesus.

          • Mikegalanx

            Absolutely. Jesus was a Jew who wished to reform Judaism. He specifically said he had no mission to those who were not Jewish,who he referred to as dogs

            "And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, "Have
            mercy on me, Lord, Son
            of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed."
            23But
            He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying,
            "Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us."
            24But
            He answered and said, "I was sent only to the
            lost sheep of the house of Israel."
            25But
            she came and began
            to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!"
            26And
            He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it
            to the dogs."
            27But
            she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their
            masters' table."
            Matthew15:26

            So I guess Christianity is the crumb thrown to the dogs after the Jews have been fed at the table by Jesus?

          • He asked it at least three times so far, and he will always get the same answer from me should he ask it again :-)

            Your answer is correct, of course.

            Jesus could not be the Messiah if He were not a Jew.

            primenumbers can't seem to get his head around this, but Jesus is trying to help him:

            "Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servantsto the tenants to collect his fruit. 35 "The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said. 38 "But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" 41 "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." 42Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: " 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes' ? 43 "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet."

            All of prime's questions are answered here.

            But has he eyes to see?

            Ears to hear?

          • Mikegalanx

            What global civilisation? You've got

            -Europe (though that's rapidly diminishing)

            ,-The Western Hemisphere, thanks largely to God's plan in using smallpox to wipe out the natives.

            -The southern half of Africa because, as a Catholic writer once said
            "Whatever happens, we have got
            The Maxim gun, and they have not"

            Largely through guns, germs, and steel (to coin a phrase) you managed to get a third of the world.

          • epeeist

            Largely through guns, germs, and steel (to coin a phrase) you managed to get a third of the world.

            According to the figures on this page the Vatican claims 1.2 billion members world wide. However the world population is (according to the US Census Bureau) is now above 7 billion. Which would mean that rather than a "third of the world" the number of Catholics is some 17.1% of the world.

            And the "global civilisation" thing is a nonsense too. I can only think of one Catholic state in the world, though some states may have a high Catholic population.

          • Michael Murray

            Plus they claim me and all the other ex Catholics. In Australia regular attendance at mass is around 10% of Catholics. To say nothing of the recent massive rise in out of wedlock births in traditionally Catholic countries. They're leaking all over the place.

          • BenS

            I particularly dislike the fundamentally dishonest way they do this with regards to their numbers. I've seen it on this site as well; people will tout about the 1.2 billion Catholics when they want to big up how established the Catholic faith is... and yet in another thread they're saying how Catholics who use contraceptives 'aren't true Catholics'.

            There's no other way of describing this than 'dishonest'.

          • epeeist

            I particularly dislike the fundamentally dishonest way they do this with regards to their numbers. I've seen it on this site as well; people will tout about the 1.2 billion Catholics when they want to big up how established the Catholic faith is

            There was a discussion some while back on this in the UK, again with regard to the difference between the number the church claims and the number who actually attend services. The 4.2 million figure for church membership apparently comes from baptismal records (which would make me a member).

            and yet in another thread they're saying how Catholics who use contraceptives 'aren't true Catholics'.

            They don't wear kilts either.

            And to go back to the discussion above, is someone a Catholic simply because they have been baptised, or do they have to regularly take the sacrament? This led to a rather vituperative debate when it was pointed out that:

            1. If one takes the first position, that all you need is to have been baptised, then indeed the church membership is 4.2 million. But it does mean that you have to accept that Hitler was a Catholic since he was baptised so.

            2. If you want to claim that Hitler wasn't a true Catholic since he didn't take the sacrament after he was 16 then you have to accept that all the others who do not take the sacrament are not Catholics.

            You really can't eat your cake and have it.

          • BenS

            They don't wear kilts either.

            Exactly.

            You really can't eat your cake and have it.

            *I* can. One of the many benefits of being a filthy atheist is, whilst everyone else is saying grace and thanking god for all the starving children in Africa, I'm eating the cake.

          • epeeist

            *I* can. One of the many benefits of being a filthy atheist is, whilst everyone else is saying grace and thanking god for all the starving children in Africa, I'm eating the cake.

            You are obviously one of these people

          • Michael Murray

            So I wonder what they think of Catholic's who have children without entering the holy sacrament of marriage ?

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimacy_(law)#Extramarital_births

            It is notable that traditionally-conservative Catholic countries now also have substantial proportions of extramarital births: e.g., Portugal, 45.6% (in 2012);[21] Spain, 37.4% (in 2011); Ireland, 33.7% (in 2011); Italy, 23.4% (in 2011).[22]

            [deletion]

            Latin America has the highest rates of non-marital childbearing in the world (55–74% of all children in this region are born to unmarried parents).[23] In most countries in this traditionally Catholic region, children born outside marriage are now the norm. Even in the early 1990s, the phenomenon was very common: in 1993, out-of-wedlock births in Mexico were 41.5%, in Chile 43.6%, in Puerto Rico45.8%, in Costa Rica 48.2%. In other countries, they were the majority: in Argentina 52.7%, in Belize 58.1%, in El Salvador 73%, in Panama 80%.[24][25]

            Other traditionally Catholic countries have also been experiencing majority extramarital births: in 2007, Paraguay 70%, Dominican Republic 63%.[25]

          • BenS

            So I wonder what they think of Catholic's who have children without entering the holy sacrament of marriage ?

            Same as all the others, I imagine. They'll count them when they want to show how big the church is and discount them when they want to show how all Catholics are united.

            Par for the course.

          • I do not understand. The question of the membership of the Church is an objective one: how many baptized.

            The question of fidelity to the Church is a fairly objective one: how many attend weekly Mass.

            The gap between the two is so vast as to explain why the global civilization created by the Catholic Church is now collapsing rapidly.

            It has lost its soul.

          • epeeist

            Plus they claim me and all the other ex Catholics. In Australia regular attendance at mass is around 10% of Catholics.

            Well yes, the claim in the UK is that there are some 4.2 million Catholics in England and Wales, but mass attendance is around about 860,000.

            Even the recent increase in the number of Poles in the UK has only managed to slow the rate of decline slightly.

            Interesting isn't it that what we are discussing is the second derivative of the numbers attending church WRT time ;-)

          • epeeist

            They're leaking all over the place.

            I saw a report from the Vatican saying that the number of Catholics had increased during the Benedict papacy. However when one divided the numbers at the start of his papacy by the estimated population at that time and repeated the exercise for the numbers and population at the end of his papacy the percentage of Catholics actually fell during Benedict's reign.

          • "What global civilisation?"

            >> The one that is presently in a fairly advanced state of collapse.

            "You've got

            -Europe (though that's rapidly diminishing)

            ,-The Western Hemisphere, thanks largely to God's plan in using smallpox to wipe out the natives.

            -The southern half of Africa because, as a Catholic writer once said
            "Whatever happens, we have got
            The Maxim gun, and they have not"

            >> I don't think we have Europe at all at this stage, although the recent million and a half demonstrationing against the tyrant imposition of same sex pseudo-marriage in the streets of Paris is hopeful-but that is not relevant.

            Europe *is* a project of the Catholic Church. It exists as a result of the Catholic Church having created it.

            "Largely through guns, germs, and steel (to coin a phrase) you managed to get a third of the world."

            >> It is quite true that European civilization conquered the world.

            It is also true that it conquered the last bit of it, unfortunately, as a post-Christian nightmare of usury and fascism.

            But there is exactly one Faith which has fulfilled the prophecies of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, one Faith which begins as the smallest of seeds and grows into the greatest of bushes.

            We also know that the time will come when this magnificent Church will, somehow, undergo a catastrophe so complete that it is possible for the Lord to simultaneously affirm that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against Her, and yet:

            "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?"

          • All knowledge you possess is held in the imagination.

          • All knowledge you possess is held in the imagination.

            Would that include my knowledge of how to swim, or ride my bicycle, or play my violin?

          • Yes, because you are not an automaton.

          • Knowing how to swim or how to ride a bike starts with knowing how.

            That sounds oddly circular. Before I could swim or ride a bike I imagined being able to do so, but although that was in my imagination, I could not actually do so until I learned by practice to do so. That knowledge seems to have gone somewhere else.

          • Knowledge is not an action.

          • primenumbers

            So you can't distinguish faith from imagination then?

          • Mikegalanx

            Or, imagine an illiterate camel dealer telling a bunch of ragtag oasis-dwellers they're going to take down two of the three most powerful empires on Earth and establish a religion that will cover a reasonable portion of the Earth and eventually contain a fairly large minority of the world's population.

            But I'll grant your Church does have a great bureaucracy, and ,after a couple of thousand years, you do represent 17.3% of the world's population.

          • The camel dealer simply imposed an heretical twist on the same religion, a tactic which is consistent with the power of the religion from which he extracted his heresy.

            There is no comparison between the civilization of Islam, and the civilization of Christ.

            Those civilizations met in mortal combat to determine the future of the world, and the outcome was decisive.

            The victor having apostatized, it is lawful that the scourge be applied in the form of that which was defeated by the Faith, as punishment for the apostatization from the Faith, so as to being about, ultimately, a return to the Faith.

            This will, of course result in a greater good than had the scourge never arisen in the first place.

            We simply have to suffer through the intermediate consequences, which will be grave.

    • a) One person's faith is another person's superstition.

      b) Reason can be tested against evidence and recognized independant of source.

      c) Faith may hold truth, but only by chance and not subject to test; reason finds truth that can be tested.

      • Hey Quine - Given definition a, would you distinguish between a faith/superstition that comports with well-established scientific knowledge, and a faith/superstition whose beliefs/teachings directly contradict it? In other words, would you agree with this distinction between the two from Fides et Ratio: "Superstitions were recognized for what they were and religion was, at least in part, purified by rational analysis...it is an illusion to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition." Would you use other language to describe such a difference, or to you, is there still no difference?

        Thanks!

        • Given definition a, would you distinguish between a faith/superstition that comports with well-established scientific knowledge, and a faith/superstition whose beliefs/teachings directly contradict it?

          Yes, as a subset, some people have faith in things that are not testable and have no measurable consequence, and as a result don't contradict or even conflict with established scientific knowledge (some physicists put string theory in that category).

          As far as religion "purified by rational analysis" goes, the history is that people have attributed phenomena they have experienced to the intentional actions of deities for thousands of years. As we found out more and more about the principles of operation of the natural world, religions have had to retrench the divine attribution to that which was still unknown (thus, a kind of "purification").

          Would you use other language to describe such a difference, or to you, is there still no difference?

          I did not go into that with the comment you reference, but will at this point, state that I do see a difference between faith in something that can be shown to conflict with objective evidence, and faith in something that, so far, does not. Creationism from Biblical literalism is a clear example of a theology that just can't be true, whereas most forms of deism don't conflict with anything we know at this time.

          • I do see a difference between faith in something that can be shown to conflict with objective evidence, and faith in something that, so far, does not.

            Quine - Wouldn't you say this is an objective difference of degree (e.g., it has greater value, strength, or clarity) or kind (faith, as opposed to ____)? In either case, isn't it true that the statement "one person's faith is another person's superstition," which assumes that all faiths are on equal footing (subjective opinion), contradicts citing an objective difference between a faith that comports with modern science and one that doesn't?

          • Thanks Matthew. I had not originally intended to go into the whole subject of relative footing (if you will) in a "clear simple sentence." I presume you did not ask for such expecting the thoroughness to result at the level of writing an essay on each question.

            On the question of footing, I'm sure you will see that some things people hold on faith can be more directly shown to be in conflict with know facts, than others. For example, the Mormon revelation about the ancestors of Native Americans, is now easy to discount, whereas, faiths that hold supernatural agents exist, but that the actions of such are identical to natural processes, are not going to run afoul of observed evidence.

          • I'm sure you will see that some things people hold on faith can be more directly shown to be in conflict with know facts, than others.

            I do see that, and completely agree! This is why I'm reading your original definition of faith in light of this point of agreement.

            I understand it was only supposed to be one sentence, and that is extremely difficult; but the sentence you gave centers on the idea that all religions are equally subjective - that a faith for the adherents is unfounded superstition for everyone else. But "one person's faith is another person's superstition" crumbles as a definition if some faiths evidently rise far above superstition (defined as "irrational belief") by comporting with rational discoveries about the world. And we agree: some faiths do not conflict with known scientific and historical facts. In short, I'm wondering whether your definition of faith as superstition-seen-from-the-inside may need revisiting!

          • Again, I am not making an equivalence statement re testability against known facts, nor am I stating that something being superstition makes it necessarily false. I am making a statement about the "lens of faith." Through the lens of faith something can look reasonable to the believer, while it meets the definition of superstition for someone of another faith, or no faith at all. For those of us who are not persons of faith, all religions look like superstition (i.e. belief in something you can't justify), although some may be more obviously so than others.

          • Thanks for clarifying Quine. So the only difference you see between a faith that is harmonized with science and a faith that contradicts it is that the second is "more obviously" superstitious than the first, though both look reasonable to the believer?

            If that's so, I guess I would challenge your definition of superstition, which you've broadened to merge with the ambit of faith, and then made utterly relative. But I would argue that there is a real, objective difference between faith and superstition. Superstition, I would argue, is not just "not my beliefs," but quite clearly bad faith with bad fruit, as evidently anti-reason as bad science (woo-woo science) or bad philosophy (sophistry). Whether or not it "looks" reasonable to the believer, we have (thank God) a treasure chest of empirical sciences and human sciences (philosophy, history, etc.) to bring to bear on and "purify" claims that go beyond science. If a "faith" contradicts, flouts, and fears that public knowledge and appeals only to itself, it borders on (perhaps is) superstition. But if a faith harmonizes with and can even be strengthened or justified by that knowledge, then to place it on a continuum of superstition is, I think, a contradiction.

    • ZenDruid

      Faith: Feeling that something is "right".

      Reason: Attempting to understand a phenomenon by observing real-world effects, and applying tested methodologies.

      Relationship: none, really.

    • BenS

      This is a good challenge. I think the definitions are clear to most scientific atheists. I'm most intrigued to see the religiously minded answers.

      Will you be posting your definitions?

    • Joe Ser

      I like: Atheists -disregard the God part if you wish but look at information flow. Arrow indicate information flow.

      • ZenDruid

        "Garbage in, garbage out" seems to be the salient message here.

  • Loreen Lee

    I have just read the comment that called for a definition of what is at issue in the controversy regarding reason and faith. If this quest is based on a sincerity of discovering just 'what the issues' are may I suggest.
    l. From the atheist perspective: (atheist philosopher Jurgen Habermas) Between Naturalism and Religion. The English Edition Polity Press 2008, 65 Bridge Street, Cambridge, CB2 IUR UK. Topics such as: Freedom and Determinism. The Boundary between Faith and Reason, On the Reception and Contemporary Importance of Kant's Philosophy of Religion, etc.
    2. Aquinas: On Faith and Reason 1999 Hackett Publishing Company P>O> Box 44937, Indianapolis, Indiana.
    3. For the Irrationality of Faith: the works of Soren Kirkegaarde, particularly 'In Fear and Trembling': the question of the irrationality of Father Abraham- a preliminary to his support for Living in Faith.

  • 42Oolon

    "There is not and cannot be tension or conflict between reason and faith; they both flow from the same divine source."

    Asserting these two concepts flow from the same source suggests nothing about whether or not they conflict of course. Does not everything flow from this same divine force?

    If faith is logical, how is if different from logic?

    • It differs from logic in terms of its source, and in terms of its comprehensiveness.

      That is, nothing from Faith can contradict logic.

      But much that is of Faith cannot be derived from logic.

      And logic can never be employed to falsify any datum of Faith, since:

      Nothing from Faith can contradict logic.

      Or, as the Catholic Church has taught from the beginning, faith is above reason, but never in contradiction to right reason.

      • 42Oolon

        You're you're going to have to be a little more specific than "source and comprehensiveness" that could apply to the difference between an encyclopedia and Wikipedia, but this tells me nothing about either.

        • Sure.

          Logic can arrive at the necessary existence of God.

          Logic cannot arrive at His Being a Trinity of Persons.

          The first is completely accessible as a matter of logic, entirely apart from Faith.

          In fact it is impossible to arrive at any contrary conclusion, unless one departs from, or refuses the valid conclusions of, logic.

          The second is only accessible to Faith; that is, it must be accepted based on the One Who reveals it, or rejected based on a rejection of that One.

          But there is no logical objection to the dogma of the Trinity, which cannot be logically refuted.

  • reader_gl

    The Church of St.Augustine is the awating church. Today's depths and darkness may be much more deeper and complex than those of the times of Pelagians.

    • Sample1

      May I ask what metrics you are looking at to arrive at that assumption?

      In reply to:

      Today's depths and darkness may be much deeper and more complex than those of the times of Pelagians.

      Mike

      • reader_gl

        Golden cage can be reliable ruler

  • Since we are talking of faith and reason, here is some of St. Augustine's beautiful prose on his reception of faith.

    "Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace."
    -Confessions, St. Augustine of Hippo

  • Martin Snigg

    I hope my paraphrase of an excellent essay by an excellent writer is helpful.

    Sacred theology, the critical study of the revelation of the Word of God requires an act of faith, a free act of the will. For this reason, as Augustine says, belief is meritorious – it is not forced on the mind by truth itself as in philosophy. Still, in philosophy alone the Greeks got an enormous distance – they got to 'the unmoved mover'.

    To get a feel again for the Biblical treatment of faith: it might help to contrast 1) the crowds who followed Jesus after feeding the five thousand, for a free feed; Jesus' silence before Herod who only wanted a show; the religio-political powers who sought His execution because he raised Lazarus (John 11:47); with Judas' supperating envy; the fall of the created intelligences'- concerned only about their own prestige; with 2) those willing to remove a roof to get to Jesus; a woman who only wanted to touch the hem of his cloak; a Roman Centurion who knew authority when he saw it and through a messenger simply asked for a word from Jesus; or Bartimaeus, fallen from great success, - calling out, expressly asked by Jesus "what do you want me to do for you?", his blindness cured Jesus said "your faith has saved you".

    Jesus finally, re: on human freedom and the mystery of the human heart: "When the Son of Man returns will He find faith on earth?"

    And lastly GKC on the strange sensibility that does not have the taste for awe at the givenness of things, and chooses instead prison in the microcosmos of self worship.

    "Chesterton contrasts looking at the sun with looking at the moon,
    which is a dead, clearly outlined circle in the sky (akin to the
    tidy naturalist enterprise, which Chesterton likens to the psychological
    narrowness of the madman, to a “lunacy”):

    "The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one
    thing in the light of which we look at everything. Like the sun at
    noonday, mysticism explains everything else by the blaze of its own
    victorious invisibility. Detached intellectualism is (in the exact sense
    of a popular phrase) all moonshine ; for it is light without heat, and
    it is secondary light, reflected from a dead world. But the Greeks
    were right when they made Apollo the god both of imagination and of
    sanity; for he was both the patron of poetry and the patron of healing. .
    . . [T]ranscendentalism . . . has . . . the position of the sun in the
    sky. We are conscious of it as of a kind of splendid confusion; it is
    something both shining and shapeless, at once a blaze and a blur. But
    the circle of the moon is as clear and unmistakable, as recurrent and
    inevitable, as the circle of Euclid on a blackboard. For the moon is
    utterly reasonable; and the moon is the mother of lunatics and has
    given to them all her name."