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The Santa Claus “Proof” for God’s Existence

In my title, the word, “proof,” is in quotation marks, because this article is not intended as a strict proof for God’s existence. Many may well not be impressed by the argument at all. Still, it may have some merit, since it might at least give skeptics, agnostics, and atheists some pause for thought.

Most children are taught in their early years to believe in the fictional character who lives at the North Pole. Indeed, like St. Thomas Aquinas’s own Five Ways to prove God’s existence, a similar such set of arguments has even been posed for proving Santa Claus’s existence, using a “Thomistic” approach.

Most young children come to believe in Santa’s existence, even though the stories of how he operates on Christmas Eve cause some puzzlement on the part of a few believers. After all, they think, “Would their parents actually lie to them?” Nonetheless, over time, an evil skepticism begins to lead some to doubt certain details, and finally, even to doubt the existence of Santa altogether.

His story’s coherence seems increasingly questionable. Can reindeer really fly, when they don’t have wings? Isn’t he just too fat to fit down most chimneys? How could he possibly visit every home with children on the planet in just a few hours? Of course, such doubts ought not be mentioned to younger children, lest their innocence be corrupted!

Finally, the sad truth dawns – at least for older children and adults: Santa simply does not exist. Perhaps, his story is reframed in terms of an ancient bishop, Saint Nicholas, whose exploits seem more credible. Sadly, it is now all too clear that the essential attributes of Santa Claus are simply not coherent. The fantasy of the Jolly Old Elf falls of its own weight in a volley of face-saving ex post facto denials, like, “I always knew that he really could not fit down a chimney and that no one could drink all that hot chocolate and survive.”

The Parallel to God

My thesis is simple. The classical conception of God is often attacked as essentially incoherent, and thus, unbelievable. Just like Santa Claus, God is accused of being merely an incoherent myth that all should abandon upon reaching intellectual maturity. Theistic inconsistencies and absurdities are said to abound. So, let us look at some major divine attributes according to classical theism and raise the typical objections. Possible defenses will be offered as well.

1. Objection: God is claimed to be a pure spirit, but how can a spiritual entity give what it does not have, namely, the positive reality of physical substance?
 

Reply: Being physical is actually a limitation on being. So, God is causing the positive perfections of things, while physical things exist solely with the limitations of time and space.

 

2. Objection: God is supposed to be absolutely simple: not composed of parts, principles, or things. But the more perfect things we experience entail greater complexity. So a simple God would be imperfect.
 

Reply: More complex physical things are more perfect, but among spiritual beings, it is God’s lack of composition, even between essence and existence, that enables him to have the perfection of existence without any limitation, that is, to be the infinitely-perfect Infinite Being.

 

3. Objection: God is supposed to be all good. But he both permits evil to exist and even causes it through punishments. So God must not be all good.
 

Reply: God is so good and so perfect that he permits evil to exist, and brings greater good out of it.1 Besides, even atheist J.L. Mackie finally admits that Alvin Plantinga’s free will defense explains how evil can be logically consistent with God’s goodness.

 

4. Objection: God is the Infinite Being. But other beings than God exist, so he must not possess all possible being.
 

Reply: All perfections of being found in creatures come from God as First Cause. So, this does not limit God’s being, but merely shows his being or perfection includes all that which is found in creatures.

 

5. Objection: Unicity means there is only one God. But how do we know that creation was not made and governed by a committee, as David Hume suggests?
 

Reply: Since God is infinite, if there were two of him, they must differ. If they differ, one lacks what the other has – meaning one is merely another finite being. Logically, there can be solely one Infinite Being. All the rest must be finite and not God.

 

6. Objection: Omniscience means God knows everything. But he cannot know future events caused by free will, since they cannot be predicted by knowing present reality. So he lacks omniscience.
 

Reply: God exists outside of time in his eternal “now.” So, he knows all things – past, present, and future – by his knowledge of vision.2 He need not predict future events, but rather, “sees” even future free choices taking place in his “present.”

 

7. Objection: Omnipotence means God can do or make anything. But he cannot make another God or a rock bigger than he can lift. Nor can he do evil. So he is not all powerful.
 

Reply: Such examples are contradictions in being, which are not real “things,” since a thing is something that can actually exist. Thus, nothing limits God’s omnipotence, since God can do or make any “thing.”

 

8. Objection: God is immutable and eternal. But, if God cannot change, that is a limitation on his infinite being. Besides the world changes through time, so his knowledge of it must change as well.
 

Reply: God already possesses all existential perfections, so he does not need to change to become more perfect. Being eternal, God is outside time and knows creation all at once, even in its temporal progression – which is a limit on creatures, not on God.

 

9. Objection: God is omnipresent, meaning he is present in all things. But that would amount to pantheism, since it would identify God with the world.
 

Reply: God is present in all things, but only as a cause is present to its effects by way of creative power. Since a cause is an extrinsic sufficient reason to its effects, God cannot be identical to his physical creatures. Nor, as a pure spirit, is he physically locatable.

 

10. Objection: God is a person, with intellect and will, who can love his creatures. These are anthropomorphisms, whereby we mistakenly make God into our image. Clearly, a transcendent deity would not be constrained by such humanlike properties.
 

Reply: No, these are perfections found in creatures that must come from the Creator, who possesses them, since he could not give what he does not have. Given the divine simplicity, God not only has these properties, but he is them by his very essence. Thus, in God intellect, will, and all activity are identical with the divine substance itself.  Yes, God really is love.

 

The Trinity

Objection: I will now consider just one central Christian theological concept, not because it is theological, but because (1) it is a major claim about God in human history and (2) it poses a major challenge to the coherence of God’s nature. I refer to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, which appears to conflict with (1) divine simplicity and (2) the belief that there is only one true God.

Christians claim that God is somehow three in one: a single being, yet three distinct persons. Small wonder that both our Jewish and Muslim brethren view this doctrine as little more than placing a thin veil over blatant polytheism! It sounds clearly like belief in three Gods, not one.

Reply: It took about three centuries to settle on proper doctrinal language. By then, Christian theology employed a distinction between “nature” or “substance” and “person” to avoid evident contradiction: God is three distinct persons in one divine substance or nature.
 
As to the Trinity’s metaphysical possibility, it can be illustrated by analogy to our own human consciousness. For, within my single act of consciousness, there is a real relational distinction between (1) myself as knower and (2) myself, as object of a self-reflective cognitive act.
 
Thus, while my act of knowing is a single spiritual act, this distinction between terms within my consciousness shows that there can be really distinct terms within the same spiritual act. Thus it is that the internal divine processions may be compared with human self-knowledge and self-love as spiritual activity having distinct terms which, it is solemnly defined, constitute really distinct Persons that, nonetheless, share the same substantial nature such that they are identical in all other aspects.3
 
Thus, given the above explanation of the metaphysical possibility of the Trinity, God retains absolute simplicity, since he is composed of neither things, nor parts, nor even principles. Not things, since the divine Persons possess the same, unique divine substance; not parts, since, being spiritual, God has no physical parts; and, not even principles, since the terms of the internal divine processions possess an identical nature – a nature which, as First Cause and Pure Act, has not even the essence/existence composition found in every creature. Moreover, since the Trinity of Persons in God entails but a single substance and since, as shown in point five above, there can be but one Infinite Being or God, the charge of polytheism is refuted.

The Point

This article’s aim is not merely to show that it makes more sense to believe in God than in Santa Claus. That would hardly be much of an achievement. Still, very few adults believe in Santa, whereas belief in God is widespread among adults.

Santa has the problem of numerous highly debatable properties, such as flying reindeer – one with an illuminating nose, the ability of the obese to descend chimneys, visiting billions of homes in just a few hours, and a pile of ill-paid elves making toys. But God also suffers highly incredible properties, many needing explanation in early Christianity, since Scripture mentions them without philosophical proof.

My central hypothesis is that, if such an incredible entity as God does not actually exist, his concept ought to readily fall apart under examination as does poor Santa Claus’s. There should be a number of clear, unequivocal, unanswerable paths showing that God’s nature is totally incoherent and self-contradictory.

But God’s concept is at least defensibly coherent.

Now I realize that many skeptics will reject the defenses of this or that or all divine attributes. I will be shocked if they do not instantly claim that the God of classical theism has already been exposed repeatedly as incoherent and self-contradictory.

But, that is not to the point. The point is that intellectually rigorous defenses exist.

There is no way to explore every alleged divine attribute in this short piece, but I have considered the main ones above.

As stated earlier, I do not offer all this is a genuine proof of God’s existence. Still, it is very curious how God’s complex and mind-bending conception is not able to be laughed out of court at first blush, especially in light of all the criticisms that have been launched against belief in such a being.

Skeptics will probably have a field day deconstructing the point and counter-point arguments about divine attributes offered above. They are not intended as complete arguments, since each one could take a complete paper in itself to properly flesh out with scholarly precision and force. That is not my point.

The much broader point I am making is that the classical concept of God’s nature is highly complex and unexpected. Also unexpected would be that such an unbelievable God would be so coherent as to be believable to many, even after scholarly debate.

I leave it to readers to draw their own inevitably radically-diverse conclusions.

Notes:

  1. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3, ad. 1.
  2. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 14, a. 9, c.
  3. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma – 6th ed. (B. Herder Book Company, 1964), 75.
Dr. Dennis Bonnette

Written by

Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. He taught philosophy there for thirty-six years and served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He lives in Youngstown, New York, with his wife, Lois. They have seven adult children and twenty-five grandchildren. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. Dr. Bonnette taught philosophy at the college level for 40 years, and is now teaching free courses at the Aquinas School of Philosophy in Lewiston, New York. He is the author of two books, Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence (The Hague: Martinus-Nijhoff, 1972) and Origin of the Human Species (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press, third edition, 2014), and many scholarly articles.

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  • Jim the Scott

    You have to formulate objections to the God I believe in not the one you wish I believed in. Modern New Atheists arguments are inferior and old Atheists are as rare as an honest man in Congress. No Theistic Personalist "god" exists and I wouldn't sacrifice a field mouse to such a "god" to worship it. Go Classic Theism or go home.

    • David Nickol

      What would you say of the millions (billions?) of people who believe in God and know absolutely nothing about classical theism, theistic personalism, or the differences between the two? Isn't the God of everyday piety a lot closer to the God of theistic personalists than the God of classical theism? Is it the duty of classical theists to look down their noses at theistic personalists or simple, decent folk who think of God as a bearded, wise old man in the clouds?

      • Jim the Scott

        >What would you say of the millions (billions?) of people who believe in God and know absolutely nothing about classical theism, theistic personalism, or the differences between the two?

        I would a) let the merciful God judge their souls. I am not involved and I prefer to stay in my lane. b) do my best to educate as many as I can on the joys of Classic Theism and Catholicism and in everything else refer back to "a".

        > Isn't the God of everyday piety a lot closer to the God of theistic personalists than the God of classical theism?

        No. There is only one God and that is the Classic Theistic One. How people imagine God or think of God either as a placeholder because they know God is incomprehensible and they know their imaginings of Him are not literal or wither they are accidential idolators thinking their erronous anthopomorphic ideas are literally true doesn't change that fact. All True piety is born of Grace and God knows His own. On that I am not involved.

        >Is it the duty of classical theists to look down their noses at theistic personalists or simple, decent folk who think of God as a bearded, wise old man in the clouds?

        I never judge a person's personal piety or the piety of the rabble. If anything their piety is likely several orders of magnitude greater then most educated Classic Theists including moi. God loves the simple more then arrogent twits like me. I accept that. It is just.

        No I look down my noises at Theistic Personalist philosophers with a similar contempt Richard Dawkins has for religion in general because it is absurd.

        It is just bad thinking and that triggers me. But enough of my grave personality defects. ;-)

  • Yes!

    The resiliency of the arguments and concepts remains remarkably intact.

    Some might appreciate an Abelardian approach to Trinitarian logic. Some argue that - not only can logic be applied to the Trinity, but - it is the very same logic that we use in ordinary reasoning (iow, not ad hoc). This is the view of the anonymous author of a logical treatise "De modo predicandi ac syllogizandi." Sara L. Uckelman clarifies that author's logic in "Reasoning about trinity: A modern formalization of a medieval system of trinitarian logic," which one can access here:

    https://pure.uvt.nl/portal/files/1441000/slgr-uckelman2.pdf

    While many philosophers render a Scottish verdict, not proven, to the best, classical God arguments as well as more recent modal ontological arguments, few, nowadays, would suggest that those arguments are not reasonable or that the God-concepts are not coherent!

    So, rather than advancing deductive arguments suggesting that such formulations are unreasonable or even logically incompatible with evil, for example, most resort to inductive formulations and argue evidentially regarding evil. Because such arguments aren't presently and may never become, for all practical purposes, falsifiable, such plausibilist evidential affirmations & refutations variously must resort to reductio-like appeals (such as against solipsism). I eschew such theodicies for a number of reasons. For me, the logical defenses, especially coupled with the existential consolations from a Saviour, God-with-us, Emmanuel, beg for no further explanation, only my trust.

    There are good discussions of this logical vs evidential dynamism in many places:

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil

  • David Nickol

    I suppose this is an old question, but how do those who believe in classical theism and detest (apparently) "theistic personalism" explain the highly anthropomorphic God of the Old Testament? Is he a fictional character, or what? Is every anthropomorphic depiction of God in the Bible (e.g., walking in the garden, having regrets, getting angry, being pleased by the small of burnt sacrifices) to be taken as being in some kind of figurative languages?

    • Rob Abney

      9 For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
      10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
      11 When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.

    • Mark

      I'd say any language regarding God is necessarily figurative because of the limitation of human communication and our ability to describe and understand metaphysical attributes and Being. You'll notice in every place in the OT where God is given anthropomorphic qualities the locution is inexplicit and indefinite.

      From Leo XIII’s encyclical Providentissimus Deus speaking on the authors of the Bible:

      “[The Holy Ghost] who spoke by them did not intend to teach men these things, things in no way profitable to salvation. Hence they described and dealt with things in more or less figurative language or in terms which were commonly used at the time and which, in many instances, are in daily use to this day even by the most eminent men of science. Ordinary speech primarily and properly describes what comes under the senses; and somewhat in the same way the sacred writers "went by what visibly appeared" or put down what God, speaking to men, signified in a way men could understand and were accustomed to."

      So obviously as our understanding of God via Revelation and reason has progressed so has our ability to be more explicit and definite. To the point where comparing , say Dr. B's words above to the unknown author(s) of the Torah there is, on literary face value, the looks of two entirely different metaphysical Being. That may not be an entirely satisfying answer, but that's how this Catholic sees it anyways.

      • David Nickol

        So, for example, did God communicate directly with our two "first parents"? Or was their disobedience merely some kind of wrongdoing on their part? Did God communicate directly with Moses, telling him what to do, step-by-step in dealing with Pharaoh? Did God speak to Abraham? Did he stop the sun in the sky for Joshua? Did God regret making mankind and cause the great flood? Did he tell Noah to build an ark? How does a being "outside of time" communicate with a time-bound being?

        • Mark

          I guess I don't know what "communicate directly" would entail to you David. I don't think there is an answer in the form I think you seek it. Does God appear in a human form, yes, He did in the upper room. Does God open up the skies and produce audible fluent vocabulary; well obviously God is not limited not to. It's likely the case in His baptism and the transfiguration. If you want to believe any one of those ways is how it happened in the OT, I can't argue against it. If you want to think they were inspired by subconscious thought, I can't argue against that either. We don't have the burning bush to submit to inquiry. The RCC doesn't require you believe in the exact manifestation of the Will; what you say is "communicating directly" for most OT Biblical accounts. However, giving God shortcomings like human regret or vindictiveness is simply on the OT writers: either their fallen and child-like understanding of the nature of God, God knowing their child-like and fallen people's comprehension of God, or both. They wrote in varied literary styles, and nearly everything in the OT was first orally communicated. As articulated by Vatican II, the primary purpose and value of the OT is to prepare for the coming of Christ. The problems you express about the God of the OT date back to Marcion in the 2nd century, a heretic who rejected the entire OT. He even made the first recorded Christian canon, parts of Luke and 10 Pauline epistles. Mostly I'd be leery of any Prot-Fundy or JW interpretation of the OT; use your God given intelligence and reason.

    • flan man

      The problem with Santa Claus skeptics is that they don't even realize they're arguing against a being they don't even understand. The popular conception of Santa - flying reindeer – one with an illuminating nose, the ability of the obese to descend chimneys, visiting billions of homes in just a few hours, and a pile of ill-paid elves making toys - is just that, a popular conception, similar to Old Testament stories of God walking in the Garden of Eden and having his hind parts spied upon.
      The nature of the real Santa Claus is much more complex and unexpected. For example, one may say that they are the ones buying presents for their children at Christmas. What they don't realize is that they are merely the vessel through which Santa Claus operates.

      Of course, skeptics will point out problems with the Clausean idea, such as geographical distribution of the children whose parents Santa operates through. Skeptics will probably have a field day deconstructing the point and counter-point arguments about the Clausean attribute offered above.

  • >Just like Santa Claus, God is accused of being merely an incoherent myth that all should abandon upon reaching intellectual maturity.

    This is true, some atheists do that. But others, particularly those on thus site do not. Many are former Catholics that understand very well that this is both a strawman of Christianity and philosophy of religion.

    I do not lack a belief in any gods because they are incoherent, but because they are not justified, and the evidence implies they do not exist .

    >even atheist J.L. Mackie finally admits that Alvin Plantinga’s free will defense explains how evil can be logically consistent with God’s goodness.

    Well this problem if evil has nothing to do with the premise of your article, and you haven't dealt with the evidential POE.

    >Reply: God exists outside of time in his eternal “now.” So, he knows all things – past, present, and future – by his knowledge of vision.2 He need not predict future events, but rather, “sees” even future free choices taking place in his “present.”

    Meaning, god knows already what key I'm a bout to type now. It is impossible for me to choose a different key, so I do not have free will or god did not know which key I would choose. You can't have it both ways.

    • BCE

      Wrong.
      Think more like you video record your child(let's say for 10 min)
      Then show it to other family on a Sunday after supper.
      For them it unfolds sequentially. But you know the entire 10 min simultaneous.
      You didn't orchestrate your child's actions just because you know
      the entire 10 min.
      If that 10 min was your child's entire life, then you have knowledge, not control.

      • David Nickol

        Knowledge (or a record) of something after it happens presents no problems. But God knows what is going to happen "before" it happens. Of course, if God is "outside of time," then before isn't the correct word, but neither is after or while. Still, I can't see any way your example sheds light on the problem.

        I remember (perhaps from grade school) the example of someone standing on the roof of a tall building watching two cars speeding along perpendicular streets toward the same intersection where they are clearly going to crash. The observer can predict it's going to happen, but his "foreknowledge" of the crash won't be the cause. But of course if the observer were God, he could miraculously prevent the crash. So that doesn't help either.

      • I understand. But neither would such a child have the free will to change what he did.

        This is the point. Once the events occur there is no ability to change them.

      • George

        Let's keep going with your analogy. Suppose you saw yourself in the video, performing actions, interacting with the other people in the recording.

        Doesn't seem to make much sense does it? Seems like something from a horror movie. Would you have free will to do other than what you did if everything in the video was a record of real events?

    • Regarding the future, even Fr Norris Clarke did think it would be best for classical theism to make some concessions.

      https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2016/12/30/god-knows-the-future-of-nature-but-just-what-is-the-nature-of-the-future-anthropopathic-projections-or-theopathic-interpretations/

      Regarding incoherency & irrationality, I do believe that atheological approaches, broadly conceived, shouldn't be caricatured and that the best arguments display sufficient epistemic virtue to make them, at least, equiplausible vis a vis the best theological takes. The chief complaint that seems to recur ad nauseum is that atheological approaches lack explanatory adequacy for this, that or the other reality, in particular, or reality as a whole. While there are certain self-described bright atheists who do seem to imagine they've explained it all, those among my personal friends never have. The best theological approaches similarly wouldn't be represented as adding new information to our systems.

      Finally, the evidential problem of evil is a serious one. The logical defenses, it seems, are all we really have, prior to anyone taking a leap in faith to participate in its consolations. The problem is so serious, existentially, I just cannot imagine one bringing forth evidential answers to specific incidents of evil without trivializing the immensity of human pain & enormity of human suffering.

    • George

      Also our timeline supposedly contains effects of God's intervention. Those ripples supposedly changed the contents of our history, its events.

      So its not just a simple matter of our reality being an artifact that God could be free from if he so chose. Are theists willing to accept a Dr. Manhatten type of model of Yahweh?

    • Jim the Scott

      >Well this problem if evil has nothing to do with the premise of your article, and you haven't dealt with the evidential POE.

      The Evidential POE and all POE presupose a God who is a moral agent. God is not a moral agent under Classic Theism so all moder POE arguments are non-starter objections. Like if someone formulated a defeater to the Kalam Cosmological argument it would be a non-starter to a Pantheist or any type of non-creator divinity.

      Alvin Plantinga’s free will defense does explain how evil can be logically consistent with a theistic personalist god’s moral goodness but since such a "god" doesn't exist in the first place the point is moot.

      I prefer Fr. Brian Davies criticisms of the Free Will Defense. The Classic Theistic answer to Theodicy is like the WOPPER COMPUTER's answer to Mathew Brodrick's character in the movie WARGAMES in regards to the game of Thermal Nuclear War. The only wining move is not to play.

      A Classic Theistic God needs a Theodicy like a fish needs a skateboard.

      Cheers.

      • Ok, the POE doesn't apply to amoral gods, correct.

        • Jim the Scott

          Correct except as Brian Davies points out God is only in a sense amoral. God is not unequivocally compared to a human person who is amoral. That is a person who should have morals but doesn't observe or recognize them. Nor is God like an animal which by nature has no connection to morality. God is kind of in the middle. God can be said to be the Moral Law Itself because He is Metaphysically Ultimate is the source of all goodness (including moral goodness) but we all know the moral law itself is not the same as an agent of the moral law. The law doesn't stop me from doing evil only an agent can. Wither that agent is another acting on behalf of the Law or one's own self restraint. An agent of the moral law does moral good because of duty and obligation. God has no obligations to us thus any good God does for us by definition is purely gratuitous. Starting with the act of creation, followed by the act of redemption and God giving all of us sufficient grace for salvation.

          Theistic Personalism sucks. Classic Theism rulez and Theodicy is for chumps.

          Cheers guy.

          • >God can be said to be the Moral Law Itself because He is Metaphysically Ultimate is the source of all goodness (including moral goodness) but we all know the moral law itself is not the same as an agent of the moral law

            Fine god is an abstract law that doesn't care if we suffer or have the ability to stop it.

            Again yes the POE does not apply to a god that is not a personal entity with a duty to make our lives better.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Fine god is an abstract law that doesn't care if we suffer or have the ability to stop it.

            Rather in God there is no real distinction between What He Is vs That He Is. No real distinction between Essence and Being. Thus God isn't "a being" who is maximally good but Goodness Itself which would include the goodness found in morality.

            God cares since He made us and gives us sufficient Grace for salvation. Said Grace is truely sufficient thus salvation is a real posibility to those who recieve it. God however is not obligated to stop our short term suffering.

            >Again yes the POE does not apply to a god that is not a personal entity with a duty to make our lives better.

            When we say God is "personal" in Classic Theism we mean God has Intellect and Will. But we deny God is personal in the unequivocal way we are persons. God is not a person like us only more uber. God has no duties and obligations toward us because given His nature it is incoherent to ascribe them to Him.

          • Sounds to me like you're trying to have your cake and eat it.

          • Jim the Scott

            I am not trying anything. This is God as Classic Theism presents Him. God is metaphysically Good and God is Ontologically Good but God cannot be coherently called morally good in the unequivocal way a human being can be so called.

          • Ok, I just ate a piece of classical cake. I metaphysically ate it, I ontologically ate it, but morally, I still have it.

          • Jim the Scott

            He who would pun would pick a pocket. Unless you are being literal then you have commited the Fallacy of equivocation. That is like saying the tree was covered in bark and it kept you up all night because of how loud it was barking.

            Techincally if you eat your cake you still have it. It has just moved from outside to inside you. You cannot eat your cake and not eat your cake at the same time and in the same relation because that is a contradiction.

            God is not a moral agent unequivocally comparible to a human moral agent. No such "god" exists and is clearly absurd given the POE for such a "god" to exist. But as both Feser and Davies pointed out that concept of "god" is a post enlightenment one. The ancients had no concept of a God who had obligations to us. It is not the God of the Bible or philosophy.

          • The ancients had no concept of a God who had obligations to us. It is not the God of the Bible or philosophy.

            When YHWH tells Moses he wants to wipe out Israel and restart with Moses after the pattern of Noah, Moses pushes back. He pushes back by arguing that YHWH's stated plan is a bad way to accomplish what YHWH previous said he valued: his name being glorified, or at least feared, among the nations. Unlike the other gods, YHWH claims never to break a promise, to never change. We probably find this hard to believe, given humans. Or we think humans don't change nearly as much as they do, and therefore see God as variable. Anyhow, does not God take up obligations to us? Look for example when he made a covenant with Abraham and after Abraham had split the animals in two, only YHWH walked through the pieces. This was absolutely unprecedented, for the meaning of the split animals was: "Let this happen to me if I break the covenant we have just agreed upon." God would take on all the obligations. This was completed in Jesus Christ.

            Now, one does not arrive at these obligations via speculative philosophy. They are concrete happenings in Israel's history, and Christianity's history. There has long been a philosophical animus to such particulars; all that is truly true is supposed to be true universally and that truth is supposed to be accessible via the armchair. Any atheist who claims to value the empirical evidence pushes back against this, and I find compelling Claude Tresmontant's argument that the Jews very much valued the empirical, the particular. (A Study of Hebrew Thought) But then, might we question just how much Thomistic philosophy can say about God's goodness? Responding to concrete pain and suffering with an edifice of definitions and reasoning seems iffy to me.

          • Jim the Scott

            Protestantism is false Luke. Sola Scriptura is false by it's own standard (its not taught anywhere in Holy Writ thus by it's own standard it is unbiblical). Also Luther made that doctrine up. Private interpretation is false. Sola Fide is false as it contradicts James 2:24 and Luther made it up. Rejecting Apostolic Tradition is false. etc...
            Everything you just wrote above Luke presupposes these errors. You have to prove these doctrines true to me because I even consider your argument above.
            The Best Jewish Theology is Classic Theism. No Theistic Personalist God is the Biblical God.
            Luke by definition I must dismiss your interpretation of Moses' relation to YHWH just as I would dismiss your symbolic interpretation of John 6(unless you are a Lutheran who mostly gets that one right).
            I would no more consider Protestantism true then I would Mormonism. That is not to be mean to Protestants. I respect them as Brother in baptism. But I will never be one.

          • If you want to go at the bigger issues with me like I did with @randygritter:disqus I'm game, but I'll want to do so on a mostly dead blog post, as to not hijack the on-topic issues.

          • Jim the Scott

            I'll think about it. thanks.

          • Jim the Scott

            God only has obligations to Himself. If God wills X then He must do X by nessescity and God can will conditionally.

            Moses didn't change God's mind. God's will is immutable. Rather God willed conditionally to do X unless Moses chooses to do Y.

          • I'm sorry; did I state or necessarily entail that God is not immutable, given him allowing Moses to choose an alternative path? I didn't mean to, and am happy with your "willed conditionally" explanation—it is also my explanation.

            Instead, I said that God committed himself to glorifying his name, and this was a commitment which Moses was able to latch on to, like one would latch on to an obligation. In fact, I don't see a problem with saying that God voluntarily created that obligation for himself. Isn't that what it means to promise something?

          • Jim the Scott

            God can obligate Himself but nothing external to God's Will obligates Him.

            Hope that clears it up. Cheers.

          • God has no duties and obligations toward us because given His nature it is incoherent to ascribe them to Him.

            Is that relevant, if he has made promises? If he is described as being "love", does that entail certain empirical correlates? One can construe everything God does as gift instead of duty and still construct an evidential problem of evil.

          • Jim the Scott

            The Bible doesn't teach Sola Scriptura Luke. Protestantism is false across the board. God's love is Him willing the good.
            To say God has a "duty" to anyone but Himself is like when the Psalmist say he will enfold you into his wings that God is a literal chicken.
            It is anthropomorphic idolatry. It is not the God of the One True Church and such a god I hate like I do any idol.

          • It would appear that you didn't really read my comment, Jim. Compare:

            LB: One can construe everything God does as gift instead of duty and still construct an evidential problem of evil.

            JtS: To say God has a "duty" to anyone but Himself is like when the Psalmist say he will enfold you into his wings that God is a literal chicken.

          • Jim the Scott

            Fair enough but in the future just get to the point. I have the patence of one who is not yet a Saint.

            Rowe evidential problem of Evil presuposes a moral agent God as Davies points out is my response.

          • The comment you did not read carefully enough was three sentences long. Are you saying that I did not get to the point fast enough, there? Since you have more directly responded to its content elsewhere, I will respond there.

          • Jim the Scott

            Good. I appreciate you putting up with an old grouch like moi. Good on you ladd.

          • Jim the Scott

            "Evidential Problem of Evil- There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse."

            This presuposes a moral agent who cannot allow certain types of evil under certain conditions. God is not a moral agent ergo God is not obligated to prevent intense suffering. God can bring good out of the suffering but God could give the same or even a greater good without it.

            I am affraid the modern POE cannot be applied to a Classic Theistic concept of God.

          • If God is good, then the evidential problem of evil is essentially a claim that the goodness on display falls far short of goodness we can imagine. I don't see how you can avoid that criticism in the way you have; it's like you're arguing on a technicality. God might not have a priori obligations, but John claims he is love. Christians generally believe he is good. Well, what does that word mean, given the evidence in front of our eyes in addition to philosophy and theology? The rubber really hits the road when we are supposed to be like Jesus and he only did what he saw his father doing. Well, should we care about intense suffering? Were Christians on-track to pursue the kind of medical discoveries which have greatly enhanced human flourishing, or were they ok with suffering in the here and now in exchange for nice things in the next life? I don't see A–T philosophy rescuing you from these questions.

          • Jim the Scott

            You cannot say God is "good" without qualification. Just as you can't say God is Three and God is One and claim the Trinity is a contradiction. God is not one in the same sense He is Three and vice versa.

            You may not make an argument based on Ambiguity & being equivocal. I expect that nonsense from Simple1 or Michael. I expect better from you Luke.

            >If God is good, then the evidential problem of evil is essentially a claim that the goodness on display falls far short of goodness we can imagine.

            I am a Thomist. I conceive of things. I don't imagine them if I can avoid it. Aquinas rejects the idea of the Best of all possible world. God could have created a better world then this and if he did he could create a still better one then that. But God is not obligated to make any world. No world is so Good that God is obligated to make it and none so bad that as long as it partakes in Being He should refrain from making it.

            > I don't see how you can avoid that criticism in the way you have; it's like you're arguing on a technicality.

            I just did avoid it. The only winning move in modern Theodicy is not to play. God is not a moral agent.

            >but John claims he is love.

            John also says you must Eat the Flesh of Jesus, Luke but I suspect you hold Zwingli's false interpretation of that. God is love and love is to Will the Good for something and God wills the good of all things by granting them being. It is not hard.

            >The rubber really hits the road when we are supposed to be like Jesus and he only did what he saw his father doing.

            What makes Theistic Personalism such a foul belief system is if God is already a Human mind unequivocally like us only more uber then that makes the incarnation redundant.

            >Well, should we care about intense suffering?

            We should since God created us as Moral Agents. God is not Himself what we are and to claim otherwise is anthopomorphic idol worship(which is an ironic charge coming from a Catholic to a Protestant. Since you lot are alway kvetching about the statues? ;-) ).

            I don't get this objection?

            > I don't see A–T philosophy rescuing you from these questions.

            Simple, you are making unequivocal comparisons between Deity and Creatures and I am not as that is a big no no for AT. Your whole argument presupposes making unequivocal comparisons & you are doing it in a way that would make a follower of Dun Scotus balk.

            Cheers Luke.

          • You cannot say God is "good" without qualification.

            I am aware that my imperfections and finitude will both distort and limit what I can say about God's goodness. But I'm not quite sure how to map that onto your "without qualification".

            You may not make an argument based on Ambiguity & being equivocal.

            You'll have to spell out how I am necessarily doing that. (I worry you expect poorly of me and then find poorly of me, despite your claims to the contrary, here.)

            I am a Thomist. I conceive of things. I don't imagine them if I can avoid it.

            What is the difference relevant to this context? I'm not sure I meant Thomist-imagine instead of Thomist-conceive.

            Aquinas rejects the idea of the Best of all possible world. God could have created a better world then this and if he did he could create a still better one then that. But God is not obligated to make any world. No world is so Good that God is obligated to make it and none so bad that as long as it partakes in Being He should refrain from making it.

            Based on Matthew Robert Adams' Must God Create the Best?, I'm inclined to agree. But I don't think your argument gets what you want, for God has tethered his actions to our asking: "Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." God has created this obligation out of his own free will. I'm willing to allow quite a lot to be packed into the phrase "in my name", but I doubt enough can be packed in there for you to maintain your position.

            The only winning move in modern Theodicy is not to play. God is not a moral agent.

            I disagree with your first sentence. A mistake in theodicy is to try to explain all apparently gratuitous evils. Try applying the same rubric to science: plenty of things remain to be explained, we don't have much of a clue how they will be explained, therefore they will never be explained. What matters is forward motion, not absolute value. If Christians can demonstrate some sort of extra ability to fight evil, that will be evidence enough for all but the sticks in the mud—and nothing was going to convince them anyway. If God's goodness shows up merely as definitions and arguments rather than actions, why should any atheist find it interesting?

            LB: God might not have a priori obligations, but John claims he is love.

            JtS: John also says you must Eat the Flesh of Jesus, Luke but I suspect you hold Zwingli's false interpretation of that.

            When it comes to transubstantiation, there is a spirit/​flesh dichotomy to be navigated. Where does such a dichotomy show up with "God is love."? If anything, you want to make God being love to be a 100% definitional matter, which would be sorta like spirit-only with zero flesh. I want God being love to show up empirically and I suspect, empirically in the realm of evidence upon which the evidential problem of evil draws.

            LB: The rubber really hits the road when we are supposed to be like Jesus and he only did what he saw his father doing.

            JtS: What makes Theistic Personalism such a foul belief system is if God is already a Human mind unequivocally like us only more uber then that makes the incarnation redundant.

            Sorry, are you saying that we are not to be like Jesus? I can break that down into various scriptures if that would help; perhaps you're getting at some important nuance. As to your objection, I generally agree with David Bentley Hart in Is God a Person?; that's a link to a transcript of the 9-minute video.

            You've also ignored the bit about Jesus only doing what he sees the father doing, or at least whether we are to follow suit in our following Jesus. Surely it is important that we not try to be better than God via different actions?

            Simple, you are making unequivocal comparisons between Deity and Creatures and I am not as that is a big no no for AT. Your whole argument presupposes making unequivocal comparisons & you are doing it in a way that would make a follower of Dun Scotus balk.

            I am not convinced I am. I have read Brad S. Gregory's 2008 No Room for God?, in which he argues against univocity of being. I see God as having made himself vulnerable to us and as making promises we can hold him to (in prayer, not by force). His promises seem to provide the kind of empirical "hold" required to make some sort of evidential problem of evil possibly go through. (I think humans end up always being indicted when one tries to make the argument go through, but you're denying the argument altogether.)

          • Jim the Scott

            >I am aware that my imperfections and finitude will both distort and limit what I can say about God's goodness. But I'm not quite sure how to map that onto your "without qualification".

            Well I can say this Root Beer is good but just because it didn't stop the holocaust doesn't make it not good. Without a working definition of "good" in the philosophical and metaphysical sense then goodness becomes relative and discussions on how an all Good God can allow evil becomes meaningless. Good is convertable with Being. That is non-negotiable.

            >You'll have to spell out how I am necessarily doing that.

            It is rationally absurd for you to claim or imply God is morally good in the unequiviocal way a moral human being is morally good & that His Nature mandates this. Confess that God is no such thing or make your philosophical case as to why he should be. I will dismiss your "Biblical" case a-priori since it would be Protestant and I will not hear you. Anymore then I would accept you interpretation that John 6 has to be taken symbolically and "Call no man Father" has to be taken hyper-literally (when the correct view is the other way around). So do some philosophy or we should end the conversation as it would be futile.

            > God has tethered his actions to our asking: "Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."

            You are equivocating between the true proposition that God has no obligations to us with the other Classic Theist Proposition that God must do His own will and will His own good by nessecity. God is obligated to Himself but Theodicy has to do with is alledged obligations to us. God saying he will do X for us if we do Y is not an obligation it is merely fulfilling His Will which is His own Good. There is no question God cannot lie or fail to keep His pomises. God will answer my prayers in response to true Faith He generated in me by Grace but He is not obligated to answer all my prayers or give me such Grace and Faith to move Him which is just Him moving Himself threw me.

            >I disagree with your first sentence.

            Then you are in danger of falling into Atheism when the "god" you invent disapoints you as oppose to loving and worshipping the one that Is. All modern Theodicy fails. All modern Theodicy presuposes God is a moral agent with essential obligations to His Creatures & who is moral in an unequivocal way his rational creature are moral. Bullocks! That is the greatest error of post-enlightement philosophy and Neo-theism/theistic personalism. My hatred for such a false belief system burns hot and is by the True God's grace eternal for me.

            > Try applying the same rubric to science: plenty of things remain to be explained,

            Positivism is false too as you should know by now. Christians as moral agents must fight evil as it is our nature given by God. To go against this nature given us harms us spiritually. It is that simple.

            >If God's goodness shows up merely as definitions and arguments rather than actions, why should any atheist find it interesting?

            Atheists have to give up their idiot fundie belief God is literally a magical Old Man Cosmic Wizard. When Seth McFarland shows God as that in his cartoons the funny thing is he and I would say about 90% of the Atheists who come here actually believe that is what God is suppose to be. Don't believe me? If I had a dime for every Atheist here who appealled to an Anthopomorphism in the Bible to justify their anthopomorphic concept of God I wouldn't post here anymore I would we off investing my capital.

            Cosmic Santa Claus/Wizard/Gennie "god" has to go. He is a twit!

            >When it comes to transubstantiation,

            We are not doing this tangent. I offered it as an example of how in principle you can't argue the Bible here you have to go first to philosophy. We don't interpret the Bible in the same way as I showed above. I have no need at this time to argue against Zwingli's human tradition of men that the Eucharist is a symbol vs the teaching of Our Lord and ALL the Church Fathers without exception.

            > I want God being love to show up empirically.

            We exist/have being. Being is good. God gives us that being. Well that was easy. Let's move on.

            >Sorry, are you saying that we are not to be like Jesus?

            No I am just saying if God is already human then becoming Incarnate was redundant. God is not human thus taking on a human nature so we can see the living Analog of God is awesome. If God is already an invisible magic human mind the incarnation is pointless. Jesus make the incomprehensible more comprehensible. God incarnate as Man. What is God like? Look at Jesus. This all presuposes Classic Theism and fails with Theistic Personalism.

            >You've also ignored the bit about Jesus only doing what he sees the father doing,

            No I presupose it.

            >I see God as having made himself vulnerable to us and as making promises we can hold him to...

            That is rationally and Biblically absurd. At best your statement is correct only as a metaphor.

            Some things God will give me only if I pray for them. That is true. But some things God will never give me no matter how hard I pray. I accept that. His will be done.

            More later I have work to do...

          • Without a working definition of "good" in the philosophical and metaphysical sense then goodness becomes relative and discussions on how an all Good God can allow evil becomes meaningless. Good is convertable with Being.

            Suppose you are correct. Then why did it take so long for Christians to receive/​develop said "working definition"—what did the Israelites and Christians do beforehand? I'm not questioning the utility of intellectual systems; instead I'm questioning the extreme importance you have placed on them to avoid the boogie man of "relative".

            It is rationally absurd for you to claim or imply God is morally good in the unequiviocal way a moral human being is morally good & that His Nature mandates this.

            Do you think I have in fact claimed or implied either of these things? If so, I would ask you to quote what I said which led you to think this. Please be reminded that I've been endeavoring to replace "His Nature mandates this" with "his promises create obligations", with God's covenant with Abram being archetypal. (Gen 15)

            You are equivocating between the true proposition that God has no obligations to us with the other Classic Theist Proposition that God must do His own will and will His own good by nessecity. God is obligated to Himself but Theodicy has to do with is alledged obligations to us.

            I have been asking whether theodicy can be re-framed as God appearing to fail in his promises toward us. I thought I was quite clear on this point:

            LB: One can construe everything God does as gift instead of duty and still construct an evidential problem of evil.

            The core matter seems to me to be an expectation of things being better than they are now: is such an expectation justifiable? Humans have not always thought this way; plenty accepted cycles of civilization and collapse which don't envision anything as glorious as modern science. Humans seem to have a tendency of taking gifts for granted, transforming them into duties. Fail to focus on the prior matter of expectation and I think you will do intellectual violence to others.

            All modern Theodicy fails.

            Perhaps I am not targeting "modern Theodicy". To repeat myself, I question whether things change all that much when one moves from 'duty' to 'gift'. Just how gracious is God? Does he mostly want nice things for the religious elite, in this life? Will everyone else get theirs in the next life? Any intellectual system which does not allow these questions to be asked is suspect, in my book.

            LB: I want God being love to show up empirically.

            JtS: We exist/have being. Being is good. God gives us that being. Well that was easy. Let's move on.

            I am glad the Bible does tremendously more to show what agape is and looks like. I am also 100% convinced that Jesus would never answer me in remotely the way you just have.

            LB: I see God as having made himself vulnerable to us and as making promises we can hold him to...

            JtS: That is rationally and Biblically absurd. At best your statement is correct only as a metaphor.

            I suggest you re-visit what it meant for God to walk between the animals split in half in Genesis 15. Or what it meant for Jesus to learn obedience through what he suffered. I don't mean infinitely vulnerable; children generally cannot kill their parents. But parents can suffer loss without being harmed themselves: when their children are hurt or killed they feel it aplenty. Does anyone believe Jesus' lament over Jerusalem was something not shared by his father, as if the son sometimes does things the father doesn't do?

            Some things God will give me only if I pray for them. That is true. But some things God will never give me no matter how hard I pray. I accept that. His will be done.

            This is true but largely useless in context, which is how much we are warranted in expecting from God in this life. My response to a theodicy framed in this way—on expectation of gift, not obligation—would be that gifts require sufficient character and capacity in the recipient if they are to bring about more good than harm. It is unwise to release the power of fission without a sophisticated reactor design. People who think they can handle more than they can cause a double damage: they grasp for that which would crack the reactor vessel while simultaneously refusing to upgrade the reactor vessel. A wonderful example is social media, which may well be causing humanity more harm than good, because of where humanity is currently at. Wherever the atheist says that God could give more, I suspect I can find enough areas where we are so unwisely using what he has given that more would only worsen the situation.

            The bottom line of theodicy, for me, is that God wants tremendously more than our pathetic situation for us this side of heaven, but stubbornly insists on involving us in the process much more than we would prefer. We prefer to be civilians who screw around rather than soldiers who learn discipline. The attempt to accuse God is intellectually permitted, but defeated with both reason and evidence. You would prevent the accusation from ever being framed, which is not the pattern we see in scripture (most poignantly, in Job).

          • Jim the Scott

            >what did the Israelites and Christians do beforehand? I'm not questioning the utility of intellectual systems; instead I'm questioning the extreme importance you have placed on them to avoid the boogie man of "relative".

            Most likely if one reads the Talmud and other ancient writings they came to a similar rational conclusion as Aristotle. It is absurd to ascribe human moral norms to God.

            >Do you think I have in fact claimed or implied either of these things?

            Why else would you question the claims God is a moral agent or my statement all Theodicy fails or that God doesn't need a Theodicy? If you agree with me then why dispute with me? I am confused?

            >His Nature mandates this" with "his promises create obligations", with God's covenant with Abram being archetypal. (Gen 15).

            In principle there can be no disharmony between God in Philosophy vs the Bible but I would only pay attention to the Bible as interpreted by the Church.

            >I have been asking whether theodicy can be re-framed as God appearing to fail in his promises toward us. I thought I was quite clear on this point:

            No you cannot rescue modern theodicy and it has no place in Classic Theism. The word itself literally mean "justification for God". In Classic Theism a "Theodicy" was any philosophical argument for the existence of God. The five ways where a Theodicy. Modern Theodicy is redefined to refer to God as a Moral Agent yada yada etc. It is incompatible. Like Pantheism is to a Kalam Cosmologicial argument. They have no relation.

            > One can construe everything God does as gift instead of duty and still construct an evidential problem of evil.

            Not at all since the EPOE answers the Free Will Theodicy and Plantenga answer to POE and Plantanga explicitly and unambigiously sees God as a moral agent. It's like trying to formulate a Kalam Cosmological Argument to prove the existence of a Pantheistic God. Incompatable.

            >The core matter seems to me to be an expectation of things being better than they are now: is such an expectation justifiable?

            One can expect salvation from Grace but I have no way of knowing God will make my life now better(by my own desires and standards) then it is and I don't have a problem with that if I know He doesn't owe it to me.

            >Humans seem to have a tendency of taking gifts for granted, transforming them into duties. Fail to focus on the prior matter of expectation and I think you will do intellectual violence to others.

            Humans need to become Atheists toward Theistic Personalist "deities" and confess Classic Theism.

            >Perhaps I am not targeting "modern Theodicy".

            Then we are not discussing anything I find interesting or that pertains to the topic of my original post and I will stop here.

            Well one more bit.

            > The attempt to accuse God is intellectually permitted, but defeated with both reason and evidence.

            No by reason alone. Evidence has no place the way you are thinking of it. If we go by "evidence" then God hates me for giving me Autisitic Kids & I can think of a host of reasons from Fr. Davies why Soul building theodicies are bogus. But reason dictates He doesn't and that casting him in that vain is absurd.etc....

            So it works. We must put away milk and eat the meat of Classic Theism.

          • I will cut to the chase; I wrote up a response to the rest and have saved it.

            JtS: All modern Theodicy fails.

            LB: Perhaps I am not targeting "modern Theodicy". To repeat myself, I question whether things change all that much when one moves from 'duty' to 'gift'. Just how gracious is God? Does he mostly want nice things for the religious elite, in this life? Will everyone else get theirs in the next life? Any intellectual system which does not allow these questions to be asked is suspect, in my book.

            JtS: Then we are not discussing anything I find interesting or that pertains to the topic of my original post and I will stop here.

            Do you have any sense of what you do to a person when [s]he has a possibly legitimate complaint but frame it badly and you just criticize the bad framing without trying to tease out what is possibly legitimate? My own experience is that this does intellectual violence to him/her and [s]he tends to prioritize the essence of the complaint over the rational refutation of the bad framing. In contrast, Jesus seemed always willing to question the framing and go to the heart of the matter. Aren't we called to follow Jesus in this, too?

            LB: The attempt to accuse God is intellectually permitted, but defeated with both reason and evidence.

            JtS: No by reason alone. Evidence has no place the way you are thinking of it. If we go by "evidence" then God hates me for giving me Autisitic Kids & I can think of a host of reasons from Fr. Davies why Soul building theodicies are bogus. But reason dictates He doesn't and that casting him in that vain is absurd.etc....

            Curious; Moses appeals to evidence when he talks about a new prophet which would follow him. (Deut 18:15–22) When John the Baptist asks if Jesus is the Messiah, he cites empirical evidence. Jesus tells us "you will know them by their fruits". Fruit is a kind of evidence: it gives a pretty good indication of whether the plant is healthy or diseased inside.

            I am thankful you gave an example: why on earth would having autistic children be evidence of God hating you? One of the most profound messages of the Bible is that we do not get what we deserve. A life lived by 'deserve' is a terrible life. We believers are ambassadors of reconciliation between this world and the next, between sin and God. Surely we will be called on to metabolize brokenness in this world which we did not cause. And I'm not even sure autism is brokenness; it could be God's way of giving the middle finger to humans thinking they know how society should operate and how people should slot into it. I encountered autistic children who did what doctors said they would never do: hug their parents. The key, apparently, was to give them materials to be creative (diorama materials and basic computer animation tools) and let their desire to create force them to learn to socialize via asking for materials and help.

            Perhaps you're getting at something which tripped up @randygritter:disqus when we went at it for months: evidence is evaluated within an understanding of things and that understanding can be arbitrarily distorted. But 'reason' can be arbitrarily distorted as well, such as with Aristotle's demiurge because the One True God would never touch disgusting matter. Isn't it obvious that matter is something to be escaped? Wrong: God created us with intellects and bodies. You will know them by their fruits: this requires evidence and reason.

          • Ficino

            Aristotle's demiurge because the One True God would never touch disgusting matter

            ?? Do you mean Plato's demiurge?

          • You are correct; I meant 'prime mover'. I'm no expert on Plato or Aristotle, but Aristotle seems to have taken the element I described from Plato. See:

            Likewise, [unmoved movers] must have no sensory perception whatsoever on account of Aristotle's theory of cognition: were any form of sense perception to intrude upon their thoughts, in that instant they would cease to be themselves, because actual self-reflection is their singular essence, their whole being. Like the heavenly bodies in their unadorned pursuit, so the wise look, with affection, toward the star; and hence as a role model, they inspire those who look up to them, and by whom others still, will yet find themselves enthralled, and so on, creating the enduring natural order of aeon, season, animal and plant. (WP: Aristotelian theology)

            What is critical here, for my purposes, is that mind is above matter and does not deign to interact with matter. As far as I can tell, the proposition "Matter is disgusting." helps one understand the attitudes of Plato and Aristotle. I'm getting this from multiple sources, but especially from Claude Tresmontant's A Study of Hebrew Thought, which itself cues off from Henri Bergson.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Do you have any sense of what you do to a person when [s]he has a possibly legitimate complaint but frame it badly and you just criticize the bad framing without trying to tease out what is possibly legitimate?

            I don't care about feelings. Facts don't care about your feelings. The Fact is all modern theodicy fails because it misunderstands God and it lays the groundwork for more non-belief then belief. If you make a bad argument I will point it out and demand it be done to me.

            My own experience is that this does intellectual violence to him/her and [s]he tends to prioritize the essence of the complaint over the rational refutation of the bad framing. In contrast, Jesus seemed always willing to question the framing and go to the heart of the matter. Aren't we called to follow Jesus in this, too?

            >Curious; Moses appeals to evidence when he talks about a new prophet which would follow him. (Deut 18:15–22)

            Fallacy of equivocation. Are we discussing natural theology and the alleged problems of Theodicy or are we discussing revealed Theology? I am talking Natural Theology here and that relies on reason alone and any (mis)interpretation of the Bible that makes God into a moral agent is Protestant heresy which I don't fancy.

            >I am thankful you gave an example: why on earth would having autistic children be evidence of God hating you?

            A "god" who owed me a non-Autistic Child & has the power to grant me one & who doesn't is a vivisectionist and a sadist to paraphrase C.S. Lewis. How can He not be? He is a Moral Being clearly acting in an Immoral fashion. It is far more comforting to know God doesn't owe me Sh....poop.;-) & by nature is not the sort of thing that I could force into debt to me so I am free to love Him. The God who is Ontologically good and Metaphysically good is the only God. The Moral Agent "god" is an idol of Theistic Personalist, Neo-Theists and Process Theologians and it not the God of Abraham. Read Job more closely sometime.

            > And I'm not even sure autism is brokenness;

            You don't have look into my poor wife's face everyday. That God can do X for me, which I greatly fancy, and is not obligated to do X & choose not to do X I have no problem with. A "god" who owes me non-Autistic Kids and hasn't payed up by now? What a bum! You see Richard Dawkins and all the Atheist Critics without exception are right about that "god" being a jerk. Except the "god" they bang on I am an absolute Atheist towards in terms of belief. The God of Abraham and Aquinas alone is God & He has no obligations to His Creatures other then what He wills Himself to do. But God wills all at once timelessly from all eternity. The Theistic Personalist God is more often than not in time. That is bogus. A Timeless Theistic Personalist God leads to contradictions and incoherence.

            > A life lived by 'deserve' is a terrible life. We believers are ambassadors of reconciliation between this world and the next, between sin and God.

            What does that have to do with the fact all Theodicy fails? We have to do God's will as Creatures by obligation. God must do His own will by nature.

            You lost me dude? I am not getting how you think Theodicy is legitimate?

          • I don't care about feelings. Facts don't care about your feelings.

            Who said anything about 'feelings'? Plenty of times my wife will have an intuition which she cannot yet justify with logic and evidence. Sometimes the first way she says it is wrong. Sometimes it turns out she's trying to say it with standard cultural cognitive equipment and that equipment is bad. Oftentimes, there is something to what she is saying, when the framing is bad.

            Fallacy of equivocation. Are we discussing natural theology and the alleged problems of Theodicy or are we discussing revealed Theology? I am talking Natural Theology here and that relies on reason alone and any (mis)interpretation of the Bible that makes God into a moral agent is Protestant heresy which I don't fancy.

            I don't believe that natural theology "relies on reason alone", any more than I believe Descartes truly executed Cartesian doubt. There is a vision of goodness in Plato's Republic which is quite different from Catholic natural theology. Spinoza described creatio ex nihilo as ludicrous based on "reason alone". No, I say we get our understanding of goodness primarily through Jesus Christ of Nazareth, described as "the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature". It is that goodness which can be used to generate an evidential problem of evil.

            A "god" who owed me

            You don't need 'owed' or 'obligation' or 'deserve' to generate an evidential problem of evil. I stand by what I wrote earlier:

            LB: What matters is forward motion, not absolute value. If Christians can demonstrate some sort of extra ability to fight evil, that will be evidence enough for all but the sticks in the mud—and nothing was going to convince them anyway. If God's goodness shows up merely as definitions and arguments rather than actions, why should any atheist find it interesting?

            By the way, the idea that God would use fallible, finite humans to fight evil is an offense to "reason alone". Why would the perfect use the imperfect to accomplish his/her/its will?

            That God can do X for me, which I greatly fancy, and is not obligated to do X & choose not to do X I have no problem with. A "god" who owes me non-Autistic Kids and hasn't payed up by now?

            False dichotomy.

            You lost me dude? I am not getting how you think Theodicy is legitimate?

            If I haven't gotten my point across yet, I may have to ask someone else to step in and help. (Perhaps that person can explain to me how I'm being horribly misguided where you've not managed to make it through my thick skull.)

          • Jim the Scott

            Intuition is not something I would use when formulating scholastic theology or theological propositions. I would use reason alone for natural theology and Church Authority, revelation and Tradition for revealed theology. Sola Scriptura and private interpretation in all forms is out.

            Natural Theology is by reason alone for us Catholics. Christ Nature as far as I know is governed under Revealed Theology not natural theology.

            >You don't need 'owed' or 'obligation' or 'deserve' to generate an evidential problem of evil.

            You absolutely do. Rowe is answering Plantinga's Theistic Personalist "deity" who is a moral agent. The Evidential Problem of Evil cannot refute Classic Theism anymore then refuting the Kalam or any Cosmological Arugment refutes Pantheism.

            It is a category mistake to claim otherwise. You have given me no rational reason to think otherwise & I dismiss intuitions here.

            >If I haven't gotten my point across yet, I may have to ask someone else to step in and help.

            There is no shame in that. Good on you.

          • Jim the Scott

            additional:

            > I see God as having made himself vulnerable to us and as making promises we can hold him to...

            Aslan is not a tame Lion good sir. God will fullfil his promises to us His way and not ours and we have no right to expect otherwise and God has no obligation to do it our way vs His way.....

            I think that sums up my case.

          • I agree with C.S. Lewis. But either God wishes to be known or he does not. He either wishes us to question him like Moses and Abraham questioned him or he does not. You appear to be advocating a very passive approach, which ultimately just accepts things as they are. Or at least, I don't see how you guarantee that won't be the result. In contrast, Revelation contains 7+1 instances of "one who conquers".

            The very name 'Israel' means "wrestles with God", but that just doesn't come through in anything I read from you. As best I can guess, your response to Job 40:6–14 would be to say that Job must grovel before God. I read it as saying that Job's right arm could save himself if he could (i) put the proud in their place; (ii) tread down the wicked. That is, this is a standard humans can strive for, if they accept God's gifts without rejecting God himself. When it comes to being priests and rulers in exerting godly dominion over the earth, the sky is the limit. Yes, plenty of our expectations will be altered in the process. But we don't have to accept the status quo!

            One of my favorite passages for these times is as follows:

            And the Lord said:

            “Because this people draw near with their mouth
                and honor me with their lips,
                while their hearts are far from me,
            and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
            therefore, behold, I will again
                do wonderful things with this people,
                with wonder upon wonder;
            and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
                and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
            (Isaiah 29:13–14)

            Hearts close to God would appear to be hearts which metabolize the evil in the world and spread love and excellence to all as gift. A sister passage is Isaiah 59, where God also takes action when humans utterly fail—when there was no longer anyone to stand in the breach, "for the land".

          • Jim the Scott

            I don't think God wants to be "known" rather I think He wants to be loved and He only wants to be loved for our sake not His. We can only know Him directly by loving him and indirectly with our intellects but only in an apropotic way.

            As the Cloud of Unknowing says (excellent Classic Theism spirituality right there) God cannot be well known only well loved. By the intellect He cannot be captured & held but by the Heart alone.

            I can never "love" a Theistic Personalist God. I can only hate it. I can only love the God of the Ancients. The Classic Theistic God. The God of Abraham and Aquinas.

          • I don't think God wants to be "known" rather I think He wants to be loved …

            So much for Jesus words:

            And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

            BTW, I'm quite well aware of the connection between knowledge and love, e.g. "Adam knew his wife and bore a son." But what you say seems to make a mockery of scripture such as:

            For the earth will be filled
                with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD
                as the waters cover the sea.
            (Habakkuk 2:14)

          • Jim the Scott

            >So much for Jesus words.

            Whose interpretation of Jesus' words? I still shake my head at Luther's Sola Fide view whenever I read James 2:24.

            >And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

            Know in what way? Know as in completely comprehend? That is in fact impossible. Know as in love? The later seems more likely.

            >BTW, I'm quite well aware of the connection between knowledge and love, e.g. "Adam knew his wife and bore a son." But what you say seems to make a mockery of scripture..

            Whose interpretation of Scripture? As I often tell either Green or Nickels I don't confess the perspicuity of Holy Writ. I deny it.

            >For the earth will be filled
            with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD
            as the waters cover the sea.
            (Habakkuk 2:14)

            I can know of God's glory by looking at Him in the Eucharist or looking at his creation but that doesn't mean I comprehend Him or know Him directly under my own power. Any knowledge we might be given of God in the hearafter via our beholding of the Beatific Vision would be intuitive not comprehensive. God by nature is incomprehensible. For us Catholics the divine incomprehensibility is an infallible dogma.

            In the World to Come we shall look upon Divinity and not die but we won't comprehend what we "see" and we shall delight in that greatly.

            I am into it.

          • Whose interpretation of Jesus' words? I still shake my head at Luther's Sola Fide view whenever I read James 2:24.

            Any interpretation which can be investigated with reason and evidence in light of the tradition(s) which have shaped us. I would add the belief that we are not above making the kind of error seen in Jeremiah 7; we may disagree on this point. As to sola fide, you would first have to convince me you have charitably understood Martin Luther.

            Know in what way? Know as in completely comprehend? That is in fact impossible. Know as in love? The later seems more likely.

            I doubt I've said anything which entails "completely comprehend". Arrogance says it can completely comprehend and God abhors arrogance. The fact that humility was not a virtue of the ancient Greeks should give us serious pause.

            As to the connection between 'love' and 'know', I have already said I'm aware of the connection in the Hebrew, in translations where "Adam knew Eve and she bore a son". I am vaguely aware of what Augustine has written on the matter. Working through this stuff has made me extremely suspicious of modern philosophy which thinks that perception happens without action—as if the two can be cleanly distinguished.

            Taking this back to the matter of theodicy, surely a huge part of loving God is to do what he does. The apprentice learns by imitating the master. Jesus only did what he saw the father doing and we are to follow in Jesus' footsteps. But all of a sudden I have given a foothold to those posing an evidential problem of evil, for I am only to fight evil if God fights evil.

            Whose interpretation of Scripture? As I often tell either Green or Nickels I don't confess the perspicuity of Holy Writ. I deny it.

            Scripture is my only defense against the religious elite recapitulating this pattern:

            You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:23–24)

            —and getting caught up in it myself. I suspect Paul issued the worst insult one could possibly issue a Jew, given Deut 4:6–8. Note that it doesn't entail the religious elite had any point of doctrine wrong; indeed Jesus seems to entail the opposite in Mt 23:1–4. But you better believe that the religious elite always want you to think they are practicing as well as preaching. Those who buy this are in danger of becoming proselytes twice the sons of hell as their teachers. How did Jesus know they weren't practicing? How can we know—if we can?

            None of the above means I sunder myself from tradition like naive versions of sola scriptura have it. Jesus himself was a master at practicing the rabbinic arts of his time—see for example his justification for resurrection of the dead. Nevertheless, Jesus embodied a very different understanding of God than existed at the time. The Jews had erred, deeply. Do we have the arrogance to say that we cannot possibly err that deeply?

            Any knowledge we might be given of God in the hearafter via our beholding of the Beatific Vision would be intuitive not comprehensive.

            Do you have good definitions for 'intuitive' and 'comprehensive', as you use them here? I myself have adopted the language of 'formal system' to characterize syntactic explanations which are helpful for some purposes but never fully capture the phenomena. At best they "save the appearances". Perhaps this is what you mean by 'comprehensive'. However, I want to know the nature of this 'intuitive' which is somehow … more complete?

          • David Nickol

            No Bible quote is allowed on Strange Notions unless its meaning has been infallibly defined by the pope.

          • I wonder if the prophets in the OT were criticized for failing to interpret according to established tradition.

          • Sample1

            Perhaps they were, do you know? But if you’re joking it’s in bad taste and if you’re attempting to make an honest query, one doesn’t have to be a Catholic theologian or even a believer to dismiss such a line of thought after a modicum of reading. I’m an atheist but still know that the events of the NT brought about something that didn’t exist for the OT prophets: a church with a promised guide whose intrinsic authority is technically greater than any OT prophet. What the church binds on earth is made real in heaven. Reason enough to not compare apples to oranges.

            I was hoping you were on your way to RCIA classes but I guess not.

            You can do better.

            Mike, excommunicated and still an atheist.

          • I see your Mt 16:17–19 and raise you Mt 18:18–20. As to the idea that the ἐκκλησία—"principal assembly of the democracy of ancient Athens"—would become a hierarchical structure with greater authority than Moses, I side with him over Joshua in Num 11:24–30. I don't see anything in the Sermon on the Mount saying "Blessed are the church authorities, for they shall finally have obedient followers." I do see Jesus saying not to "lord it over" / "exercise authority over". And yet, the RCC would have parishioners call their priests "Father", as if that is the way to embody "let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves". I tremble with anticipation of how the Magisterium explains that one. Surely I don't have to take RCIA classes to find out?

          • Sample1

            Get behind me Satan! You have no power here. -Galadriel.

            PS, you’re sounding like a JW now!

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Mark

            Phil 10; 1Cor4; Phil 2; Act 7: all record apostolic use the term father. Also the full verse includes teacher (doctor in latin) and rabbi in addition to father. Am I to assume you don't condone the use either of those terms "for the Bible tells you so"?

            This problem, like many of the "canned" proof-text against Catholics, is illogical, unreasonable, and contradictory to Protestant tradition. Why would St. Paul tell someone to "call no one father" and then "Indeed, in Jesus Christ I became your father through the gospel"?
            Edit done

          • Why would St. Paul tell someone to "call no one father" and then "Indeed, in Jesus Christ I became your father through the gospel"?

            Describing oneself as a 'father' is very different from requiring that others call you 'Father'. Key to the metaphor of father is that children grow up and change how they relate to their fathers. "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." And so if you look at the chapter before Paul describes himself as 'father', he says: "But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ." You see here a desire to relate to the Corinthians as equals ('brother' ≠ 'father'), but present reality precluded that.

            This problem, like many of the "canned" proof-text against Catholics, is illogical, unreasonable, and contradictory to Protestant tradition.

            The beautiful thing in Protestant tradition is that I'm allowed to question Protestant tradition. And so, I've started questioning whether it is right to say 'Pastor X'. Jesus ends the text I did not use, Mt 23:5–12, in an interesting way:

            The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11–12)

            That appears to be at the heart of the matter; it is what shows up in the two places where the disciples wanted to be in positions of power. (Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–30) Jesus is massively violating his disciples' intuitions and presenting a radically different way to live, worthy of being called The Upside-Down Kingdom. Constant use of titles, as far as I can tell, creates a normal, "right" side-up kingdom.

          • Sample1

            I’ve noticed you don’t ask questions that you already don’t have a canned answer for. One can take as much liberty with brother ≠ father, by saying father = family. What you’ve ignored is that Paul does call himself their father. Full stop. Take it up with the apostle. You don’t have to like the parsimony of this Catholic understanding, just say that instead rather than add, add, add your needs.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Jim the Scott

            Wow Sample! That was a good answer. Who knew?

          • Sample1

            Just trying to give a little back. Don’t get too excited. I don’t actually believe any of this stuff but the information remains in my head and if something is worth rebutting to, why not?

            I’d expect anyone else here to correct me if I said Pippin took the ring to Mordor or if something about atheism was said incorrectly. We all know this stuff, might as well clean up where we can.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Jim the Scott

            Well you are still clueless for the trash you talked about Mother Theresa believing with blind faith the propaganda spouted by that old drunk the Hitchenson.

            But you got one thing right today so that is something.

          • Sample1

            Gee, thanks?

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Jim the Scott

            :D

          • I’ve noticed you don’t ask questions that you already don’t have a canned answer for.

            And … is this something you've settled upon, which nothing could falsify? (I am hoping the answer is "no", but I fear it is "yes".)

            What you’ve ignored is that Paul does call himself their father. Full stop.

            Given that I actually played "I became your father in Christ" in 1 Cor 4:15 against "But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people" in 1 Cor 3:1, your first sentence appears false on its face. I sense you meant something in addition with your second sentence, but I will not guess and instead ask you to elaborate. Perhaps you are disagreeing with "Describing oneself as a 'father' is very different from requiring that others call you 'Father'."?

          • Sample1

            Nope, you are trying to find something that isn’t there. Because brother therefore not father. I’ve addressed my objection.

            Ah Luke, as an outsider you know what my impression here is? You’ve turned the Bible into a Big Book of Spells. Understand the words your way or else what? No Catholic here is going to think Paul would have flogged them for coming to him and saying, my father after what he said! And no Catholic thinks God is calling the Devil to have him sharpen his pitchfork because Lo, my church is communing with one another. This church has fairly regular visitations by Jesus’ own mother. She’s not pissed. She’s always concerned with people not listening to Jesus, the world going to hell, and on and on. Would that her pressing problems only involved a four letter word like papa. Makes me laugh.

            Abracadabra Luke, that’s what you’re doing. Bible by recipe. Good luck with that.

            Mike, atheist and excommunicated, a two-fer! Edit done.

          • Nope, you are trying to find something that isn’t there.

            Quite right. I'm trying to find in claims such as:

            I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Philemon 10)

            For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (1 Corinthians 4:15)

            But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. (Philippians 2:22)

            And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, … (Acts 7:2)

            , anything which would be similar to a tradition of addressing one's priest as 'Father'. I came up with zilch.

            No Catholic here is going to think Paul would have flogged them for coming to him and saying, my father after what he said!

            And yet, a properly educated Catholic will be the first to tell you that tradition strongly colors how one reads scripture. If they were to grow up calling their priest 'Father', it will be natural to continue doing so, and to read scripture as supporting that. The same goes for a culture where that is entirely normal. We're seeing some shifts around the kissing of the Pope's ring in this domain. It's going to be a long road to hoe if it happens. People like outward acts of reverence and obeisance—they're substitutes for the real thing.

            Ah Luke, as an outsider you know what my impression here is? You’ve turned the Bible into a Big Book of Spells. Understand the words your way or else what?

            Or else I will smite you. With my spells.

          • Sample1

            , anything which would be similar to a tradition of addressing one's priest as 'Father'. I came up with zilch.

            Therefore what? You’ve failed to satisfy your own itch and seemingly missed the forest for the trees. Remember where you are. The Bible is not a Book of Spells, a prop, for Catholics.

            And yet, a properly educated Catholic will be the first to tell you that tradition strongly colors how one reads scripture. If they were to grow up calling their priest 'Father', it will be natural to continue doing so, and to read scripture as supporting that.

            Therefore what? You’ve failed to satisfy your own itch and seemingly missed the forest for the trees, again. Tradition is also not used as resource of magical behaviors like a book of spells.

            Or else I will smite you. With my spells

            God smites. As an atheist, not even one neuron contributes to any source of concern for me about that.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Interesting, @dennisbonnette:disqus and @rob_abney:disqus upvoted a comment starting with this:

            I’ve noticed you don’t ask questions that you already don’t have a canned answer for.

            —without responding to it with any clarification.

          • Sample1

            Unless made in error, upvoting or downvoting is willful communication between the giver and the receiver. You are neither.

            Therefore, observations of any kind are indicative only of the psychology of the person making them.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think you are overestimating the meaning of an upvote.

            I went back and found the comment to which you refer and realized that I upvoted it, not for the part you cite, but for this one: "What you’ve ignored is that Paul does call himself their father. Full stop."

            An upvote need not mean one approves of every word or statement in a comment.

            Indeed, what if you agreed with three-quarters or 90% of a comment, but not part of it? Are you obliged to ignore the part you support?

            Nor should one always expect that the person giving an upvote is thereby obliged to explain his vote -- lest the comments become even more extensive than they now are.

            Sometimes I will upvote a comment just to end a discussion with someone by acknowledging their last comment and not wanting to keep the replies going ad infinitum.

            Usually an upvote means that at least something in the comment struck a responsive chord to me.

            Anyway, that is my use of them. Is there a rule book?

          • Sample1

            My upvotes mean complete disagreement and a swear word. :-) There was a reason I replied only sparsely but factually. With your explanation prepare for the storm.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Should I never upvote you because you always point out in you signature that you are either an atheist or excommunicated or both -- and I don't want any reader to think I agree with you?

            Or, should I upvote your comment, but am then obliged each time to add a reply saying that I disagree with your atheism and whatever you hope to express by saying your are excommunicated?

          • Sample1

            Your explanation is totally fine. What is missed is the original downvote tool where each downvoter could be seen. Was particularly useful in more technical discussions. Upvotes may now include spam so they’ve lost some usefulness from a glance.

            On OTS it’s fairly common, or was, to be stingy with upvotes. All of us have a baseline of cyber-friendship so the upvote version of a simple nod was scarce. Most intra-discussions seemed to not need them. The upvote was often saved for, “hey, this is such a good comment as to be esoterically educational or bitingly clever.”

            I don’t care if I’m upvoted or not. The discussion is more important, imho. But again, I had my reasons for replying sparsely and factually. One might ask if there are those, for whatever personal reason, who would wish to find a way to minimize what they see as problematic for their own position. Talking about upvotes, making public the broad sense in which they are used, could do just that. This will sound odd or a waste of time to you. The intertubes is a strange place though. And with that cryptic reply, I’d suggest we just move on. :-)

            Mike, excommunicated
            Edit done.

          • I went back and found the comment to which you refer and realized that I upvoted it, not for the part you cite, but for this one: "What you’ve ignored is that Paul does call himself their father. Full stop."

            And yet, I did not so-ignore:

            LB: Describing oneself as a 'father' is very different from requiring that others call you 'Father'. Key to the metaphor of father is that children grow up and change how they relate to their fathers. "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." And so if you look at the chapter before Paul describes himself as 'father', he says: "But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ." You see here a desire to relate to the Corinthians as equals ('brother' ≠ 'father'), but present reality precluded that.

            There may be a hidden meaning in "Full stop."; @Sample1:disqus did not deign to clarify upon my request. Perhaps you could indicate what was true in that part of Mike's comment, with which you were agreeing?

            Indeed, what if you agreed with three-quarters or 90% of a comment, but not part of it? Are you obliged to ignore the part you support?

            In my "rule book", it entirely depends on whether a prominent part of the comment was an attack on the person's character, as judged by the person. But my book may be idiosyncratic.

            Nor should one always expect that the person giving an upvote is thereby obliged to explain his vote -- lest the comments become even more extensive than they now are.

            I don't see where said "always" has ever been in effect; nor anything remotely approximating it. Have I missed something? When the hyperbole is stripped away, I'm not sure I see the greatly added burden you have worried about.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I do not claim any scriptural expertise, so I am sure you can overwhelm my truthful response to you here -- but, that said, it just seemed to me that if Paul calls himself "father" in any context whatever, it must not be precluded by anything else he says. Rather, his other statement would seem to have to leave open his usage in the cited text.

            This is a disputation I would rather leave to those of you more familiar with the texts. My concern was more of a logical one than a scriptural-commentary one.

          • … it just seemed to me that if Paul calls himself "father" in any context whatever, it must not be precluded by anything else he says.

            I'm not sure how that logically follows; see @EamusCatuli0771108:disqus saying:

            M: I agree that describing oneself as a father/​teacher(doctor)/​rabbi is very different from (said person) requiring that others call you (that).

            (He goes on to disagree with me on later entailments, but one step at a time.) Jesus' requirement to not be called father/​teacher/​rabbi is 100% logically consistent with Paul describing himself as 'father' to a group of believers. But there's a big reason I went with "let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves" from Lk 22, rather than the somewhat similar bit in Mt 23. I don't understand how requiring others to call you 'father'—aside from biological situations or quasi-biological situations—produces that dynamic. In fact, such a requirement seems to do the opposite!

            So, from a purely logical point of view, I don't see how I "ignored … that Paul does call himself their father. Full stop."

          • Mark

            Jesus' requirement to not be called father/​teacher/​rabbi

            You just jumped off the logical cart on to the question begging cart. You can't reach a conclusion by weaving it into the premise. Nobody is requiring anything; it's literary hyperbole to say "call no man Father". Common sense tells you Jesus was not forbidding the use of the term father. The concept of God the Father would have no meaning if we obliterated the concept of earthly father. I didn't even go into "teacher" and it's uses in the NT. I also didn't even go into Mr. or Mrs. which are forms of the word "master", as doctor is the latin form of teacher. So if you preclude Catholics from calling their priest "father", you not only completely misunderstand the spiritual father relationship of the ordained to the CC and to Her baptized flock but you hold a double standard when calling someone Mr., Mrs., or Dr.. Mt 23 makes it perfectly clear that being in love with the prided seat at banquet or synagogue is not the role of an earthly nor spiritual father. That is not why my priest is a priest and not why I call him Father. Nobody is "required" to kiss anybody's ring nor call (or not call) anyone Father; it's a sign of respect and humility to someone who married (spiritual relationship) and devoted their life to the "bride of Christ" - same as it was in Apostolic times. Edit Done

          • LB: Jesus' requirement to not be called father/​teacher/​rabbi

            M: You just jumped off the logical cart on to the question begging cart. You can't reach a conclusion by weaving it into the premise. Nobody is requiring anything; it's literary hyperbole to say "call no man Father".

            I won't grant that it is necessarily "literary hyperbole", but I will grant that is a possibility. I was employing shorthand previously, because I have been often accused of writing comments which are too long. Damned if I do and damned if I don't, apparently.

            Common sense tells you Jesus was not forbidding the use of the term father. The concept of God the Father would have no meaning if we obliterated the concept of earthly father.

            I never understood that as prohibiting children from calling their immediate male biological progenitors, 'father'. The reason I never understood it as such is because Jesus provides a reason for his command:

            They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:5–12)

            As best I can see—feel free to call this 'prooftexting' if you are willing to provide an alternative interpretation—that reason is that the titles of father/​rabbi/​instructor serve to elevate one person over the others, to create a dominance relation that is the opposite of "The greatest among you shall be your servant." I don't think it's beyond the pale to suggest that inevitably, such titles bring about dominance relations and not just respect. We have seen this with recent scandals in Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church: those "respected" are held to be above much doubt of various immorality, sometimes allowing them to perpetuate immense immorality. It happens in the secular world as well, as we can see with Larry Nassar. Or look at professors who have long gotten away with sexual harassment and even assault, because of the power they wield. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think it's utterly ridiculous to suggest that titles help make that possible. Whether or not there is a way of doing titles which avoids that is in mind an open question, worth exploring, rather than something which is heretical to consider.

            … but you hold a double standard when calling someone Mr., Mrs., or Dr..

            Which is why I said, to you, the following:

            LB: The beautiful thing in Protestant tradition is that I'm allowed to question Protestant tradition. And so, I've started questioning whether it is right to say 'Pastor X'.

            This also applies to "Dr." With regard to "Mr." and "Mrs.", used by children, I think that's worth discussing more. There is also the matter of merely granting people respect & in their anonymity, which doesn't have any of the overtones of calling a priest 'Father', and therefore may not be covered by the spirit of Jesus' words … although I worry I'll be accused of "private interpretation" for thinking that there is a spirit of Jesus' words or that I could possibly know it without reading off from the RCC Catechism.

            Nobody is "required" to kiss anybody's ring nor call (or not call) anyone Father; it's a sign of respect and humility to someone who married (spiritual relationship) and devoted their life to the "bride of Christ" - same as it was in Apostolic times.

            Do you think that is consistent with "let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves"? I don't insist that you accept my interpretation of that text; instead I ask whether you can understand how I might not be a lunatic for taking that interpretation, and whether you're willing to state what you think the proper interpretation is. (Merely reporting how the RCC understands it is fine with me.)

            Edit: Changed quote from Mt 23:4–12 to Mt 23:5–12.

          • David Nickol

            Here's an interesting footnote from the NAB (boldface added by me):

            These verses, warning against the use of various titles, are addressed to the disciples alone. While only the title ‘Rabbi’ has been said to be used in addressing the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 23:7), the implication is that Father and ‘Master’ also were. The prohibition of these titles to the disciples suggests that their use was present in Matthew’s church. The Matthean Jesus forbids not only the titles but the spirit of superiority and pride that is shown by their acceptance. Whoever exalts…will be exalted: cf. Lk 14:11.

            If Jesus is telling his disciples that not to use these titles among themselves, then it is foolish to interpret the Matthew Jesus of banning the use of the word father in all circumstances for the next two thousand years (or more).

            F. F. Bruce, in The Hard Sayings of Jesus, points out that in Matthew, the only one to call Jesus Rabbi is Judas.

          • If Jesus is telling his disciples that not to use these titles among themselves, then it is foolish to interpret the Matthew Jesus of banning the use of the word father in all circumstances for the next two thousand years (or more).

            Thanks for the Catholic commentary reference, but I'm afraid I have made no such argument. It's interesting that @Sample1:disqus described me as providing "canned answer[s]", when in fact I'm getting the same canned answer from Catholics, an agnostic, and an atheist on the 'father' issue, all in spite of the fact that I did not introduce the matter with reference to Mt 23:5–12, but instead the bit in Luke 22 containing "let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves". I asked how the routine calling of priests by the title 'Father' brings about this characteristic—or perhaps how such routine calling actually thwarts this characteristic.

            This is a site where people are quite willing to make logical distinctions when it suits them. But I've had an absolutely terrible time getting anyone to accept the following distinction:

            M: I agree that describing oneself as a father/​teacher(doctor)/​rabbi is very different from (said person) requiring that others call you (that).

            There is the further distinction between children calling their immediate male progenitors 'father' and parishioners calling priests 'Father'. While the former can take the form of a Roman-style paterfamilias, who has incredible power over his family—sometimes the power of life and death with no adverse legal repercussions—I don't think it really permits the behavior Jesus describes: "they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others".

            If in fact "you are all brothers" (Mt 23:8), then if I suspect a priest has been engaged in immoral behavior, I can call him out as a brother†. But if that priest is raised up on a pedestal, all of a sudden his testimony gets to count more than others—this is just how humans operate. The same happens in Protestantism; the sex scandal surrounding Bill Hybels illustrates this quite well. Members of Willow Creek Community Church were worried that if Hybels' reputation were stained, there would be less ability to witness to the Gospel. That seems like worldly reasoning to the core to me, but I can see how it is alluring. I don't see how it would have been permitted if Hybels were truly seen as a "brother", with all that term entails in the NT.

            How could so many of the scandals involving a church official dominating a layperson or other church official of lower rank, among Protestants and Catholics, happen if in fact the church thoroughly practiced "let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves"? The only way I see them being possible is if the testimony of one group is more important than another—something we saw with #MeToo in spades. The kind of respect-by-man which the Pharisees and Sadducees clearly sought accomplishes this disparity in respect towards testimony, and it seems to me that addressing them by titles such as 'Father', 'teacher', and 'rabbi' tend to reinforce such disparity—regardless of whatever else they do. Am I wrong?

             
            † 1 Tim 5:19 says "Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.", but in fact this applies to all charges per Deut 19:15: "A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established."

          • Rob Abney

            How do you conclude that priests/fathers are not servants? In the US judges are considered public servants.

            28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

            Do you consider baptized persons to be ontologically different than those who are not baptized?

          • David Nickol

            How do you conclude that priests/fathers are not servants?

            Well, ideally priests, bishops, and popes are servants, but there is something known as clericalism which Pope Francis has denounced in the strongest terms (see here and here):

            ROME - Pope Francis blamed “clericalism” in the Catholic Church for creating a culture where criminal abuse was widespread and extraordinary efforts were made to keep the crimes hidden.

            Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has targeted clericalism as an illness in the Church, an ailment that pretends “the Church” means “priests and bishops,” that ignores or minimizes the God-given grace and talents of laypeople and that emphasizes the authority of clerics over their obligation of service.

            “To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism,” the pope wrote in a letter Aug. 20 to all Catholics.

            Clericalism, he said, involves trying “to replace or silence or ignore or reduce the people of God to small elites,” generally the clerics. . . .

            Cardinals ("princes of the Church") and bishops are men of wealth and power, and many of them live as if they were rich and powerful. Power corrupts, and bishops and cardinals (and even priests) are very often men of power.

            Just two little examples:

            Cardinal's vast luxury apartment in Vatican angers Pope

            Former Vatican secretary of state is combining two apartments for a 6,500 square foot residence just as Francis urges clergy to adopt a more modest lifestyle

            Cardinal Dolan, Fuming Over Archdiocese’s ‘Rich’ Image, Vacations at Mansion

            SLOATSBURG, N.Y. — The luxurious home, given to the Archdiocese of New York in December 2015, is an eight-bedroom, 10,000-square-foot manor house on seven lakefront acres here, with a private tennis court, outdoor pool and 70-foot indoor lap pool that resembles a Venetian canal.

          • Rob Abney

            I thought that you had a vow to avoid tribalism!
            Priests, even if rich and powerful, still serve Catholics by governing the Church, and even more specifically by making the sacraments available.
            Of course no one is in favor of clericalism but no one is in favor of professorism, of physicianism, or judgeism - all instances of using your position outside of the bounds of it's duties.
            Why didn't you comment about the ontology distinction?

          • David Nickol

            I thought that you had a vow to avoid tribalism!

            I quoted the pope!

          • Donald Trump is, technically, a "public servant". Need I say more?

            As to your baptism question, one of the thieves next to Jesus went to heaven and he was never baptized. So I'd need to know what "ontologically different" means.

          • Rob Abney

            Need I say more?

            Yes, you need to say what constitutes a servant, all I can infer from that statement is that you don't like Trump.
            The good thief became ontologically different when he was granted entrance to paradise, a supernatural intervention had to occur. Do you consider that a supernatural intervention occurs when a person is baptized?

          • David Nickol

            The good thief became ontologically different when he was granted entrance to paradise, a supernatural intervention had to occur.

            Is there an authoritative word on this, or do you just infer that it must be so?

            Do you consider that a supernatural intervention occurs when a person is baptized?

            How can this be known or, in individual cases, confirmed? Some years ago a statement came from the Vatican that anyone who had been baptized with a nonstandard formula (e.g., Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier; rather than Father, Son, Holy Spirit) was not actually baptized and needed to undergo baptism again. And if they had been married, they were not sacramentally married and had to go through a second marriage ceremony after being validly baptized. Yet the advice, as I recall, was to assume your own baptism was valid unless someone who witnessed it remembered an invalid formula was used. So what if an invalid formula had been used in baptizing a given individual, and he or she had no idea such was the case? What if such a person got married? What if it was a man and he became a priest?

          • Rob Abney

            The authority is Frank Sheed, who I've recommended to you before.
            The sacraments are valid with the correct matter and form, but God is not confined by the sacraments, so the good thief receives supernatural intervention and those with the baptism of desire do also.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >“So what if an invalid formula had been used in baptizing a given individual, and he or she had no idea such was the case? What if such a person got married? What if it was a man and he became a priest?”

            A person not validly baptized is not a Christian. If he enters a marriage with a Christian, it would be a valid natural marriage, but not a sacramental one. Should he choose to be baptized, the marriage can then be converted into a sacramental marriage.

            The case with a priest is much more complex. Since a priest must be validly baptized to serve as a minister for Penance, the Eucharist, Annointing of the Sick, and Confirmation, none of these sacraments would be valid for a non-baptized “priest.” Given the care the Church takes in examining the records of a candidate for ordination, such a case is almost unthinkable.

            A non-baptized "priest" could still administer Baptism and witness a marriage, since these sacraments do not require a priest anyway and the Church could and would supply what is needed regarding a factual error concerning jurisdiction.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            That good thief clearly manifested what Catholics call baptism of desire, when he said to Our Lord, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
            And then he heard from Jesus the sweetest promise any human being ever heard.

          • Yes, you need to say what constitutes a servant →

            I'm not sure I can give you a comprehensive definition that is less than Jesus' life and death. I'm too used to terms like 'servant' being infinitely malleable, such that one can fill the letter of the definition with something opposite to the spirit of the definition. In the case of Trump it seems rather simple: "Make America Great Again" is almost certainly more similar to the disciples' understanding of "greatest" in Lk 22:24–30 than any redeemed understanding. I'm sure the disciples would have been happy to technically be "servants" while at Jesus' right and left hand, getting to issue executive orders or at least influence their content. But this would have been antithetical to how the Kingdom of God works.

            ← all I can infer from that statement is that you don't like Trump.

            Non sequitur. (I have long learned that what I like or dislike is 100% irrelevant to almost every one of my interlocutors. I do not expect symmetry on this.)

            The good thief became ontologically different when he was granted entrance to paradise, a supernatural intervention had to occur. Do you consider that a supernatural intervention occurs when a person is baptized?

            After attempting an answer, I'm afraid I don't have an answer good enough for SN standards. I'm already engaged on many other matters; I see no insufficient reason to add this one.

          • Rob Abney

            I'm not sure why you keep saying that certain people don't appear to be servants when you don't express what you are actually criticizing.
            When a person is baptized he/she has a mark or imprint on the soul, I believe that you would agree with this.
            A priest has a second imprint on his soul through ordination, I'm not sure if you've ever considered this.
            Both Christians and priests have a real addition to their souls that prepare them to serve the Lord, many fall short but all have the ontological character to succeed.

          • David Nickol

            I'm not sure why you keep saying that certain people don't appear to be servants when you don't express what you are actually criticizing.

            If a priest, bishop, or pope is in the state of mortal sin when performing certain priestly duties, he is committing a sin of sacrilege. He gets no "credit" for performing those duties, but instead is guilty of performing evil acts. There are lots of technicalities and exceptions, but that's it in a nutshell.

            It should be noted that masses said or sacraments administered by a priest in the state of mortal sin are not invalid or deficient for those receiving them.

            A priest has a second imprint on his soul through ordination, I'm not sure if you've ever considered this.

            The priest himself still must be a good person. Should he turn away from God and die in the state of mortal sin, the alleged mark on his soul from ordination will definitely not be a plus where he's going.

          • I'm not sure why you keep saying that certain people don't appear to be servants when you don't express what you are actually criticizing.

            Please cite what I "keep saying"; here are the two contexts which I recall:

            LB: I do see Jesus saying not to "lord it over" / "exercise authority over". And yet, the RCC would have parishioners call their priests "Father", as if that is the way to embody "let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves". I tremble with anticipation of how the Magisterium explains that one.

            +

            LB: I don't see how it would have been permitted if Hybels were truly seen as a "brother", with all that term entails in the NT.

            How could so many of the scandals involving a church official dominating a layperson or other church official of lower rank, among Protestants and Catholics, happen if in fact the church thoroughly practiced "let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves"? The only way I see them being possible is if the testimony of one group is more important than another—something we saw with #MeToo in spades.

            RA: How do you conclude that priests/fathers are not servants? In the US judges are considered public servants.

            LB: Donald Trump is, technically, a "public servant". Need I say more?

            In both cases, I am dealing with much more of the full meaning of Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–30, perhaps with Mt 23:11–12 thrown in. I haven't been harping on the word 'servant'; I find it is too nonspecific to be very helpful to understand any of those passages. Were I to say: "Prioritizes the poiēma/​God-given telos of others over one's own", you could probably find a way to do this which violates Jesus' requirement to not "lord it over" / "exercise authority over". From the Access Hollywood tape, but also his subsequent bullying, I think we can say that Donald Trump is quite willing to exercise power over others—whether legal or cultural. So, he would appear to stand condemned by the two passages. This is true regardless of whether you can find a technical definition of 'servant' which he fits. Jesus ate technical definitions for breakfast and went to the heart of the matter time and time again. I expect fellow Christians to be willing to do so as well.

          • Rob Abney

            I am specifically defending the role of the bishop and priest in the Church. Do you see their existence as an abuse of power?

          • The mere existence of the roles, as far as I know, is as neutral as the existence of the term 'the temple of the LORD'. Both can draw one closer to God or drive one further away, based on the understanding and practices associated. The first law of sociology is that humans will game any system. That includes any definition. No term is so holy that it is immune to corruption.

          • Rob Abney

            If you say that priesthood is neutral then you must also consider baptism to be neutral, do you consider baptism subject to Christians gaming the system?

          • I don't understand that logic. It seems to presuppose that only priests can baptize. Such a view, combined with the belief that God generally works through ordinary/​ordination means, gives much power to the priestly elite. I am skeptical of such concentrations of power, on empirical and scriptural grounds.

          • Rob Abney

            I don't see how you conclude that I am saying only priests can baptize, I'm not saying that.
            But God does work through ordination and gives special powers to the priests, but those powers are well defined and don't make the priests an elite class but rather a subservient class, they are here to serve at table not recline at table.
            So, baptism and ordination are similar sacraments, and both give the receiver special powers, and/but both can be abused, yet you agree with baptism and reject ordination, why?

          • RA: If you say that priesthood is neutral then you must also consider baptism to be neutral …

            RA: I don't see how you conclude that I am saying only priests can baptize, I'm not saying that.

            My apologies; I was attempting to understand a logical force behind that "must". I was apparently wrong, so please explain why I should accept that "must". Is your only reasoning what you say below, about "similar sacraments"?

            But God does work through ordination and gives special powers to the priests, but those powers are well defined and don't make the priests an elite class but rather a subservient class, they are here to serve at table not recline at table.

            Yes, that is the official line. And yet, recent events have shown that they have gotten some special protections from accusation, protections which have long been associated with the powerful in a "lord it over" / "exercise authority over" sense. The official line can always be subverted; I don't see how Jeremiah 7:1–15 could not make this more clear. If the very understanding of 'the temple of the LORD' can be perverted, what is free from perversion?

            So, baptism and ordination are similar sacraments, and both give the receiver special powers, and/but both can be abused, yet you agree with baptism and reject ordination, why?

            I am not founding my objection upon the possibility of abuse. I am rather founding it on Jesus' "you are all brothers". I wouldn't be surprised if Jesus were also thinking of "that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers", a requirement of Israelite kings. (The twelve tribes split because of disobedience of that requirement.) Brothers can call each other out on their crap. Sons do not call their fathers out like this; to do so would be to dishonor their fathers. Servants do not call their lords out like this; executions could easily follow that in centuries past.

            I haven't really thought about how baptism can be abused in the first place. I worry that baptism before the age of reason defeats a huge part of its purpose, but I haven't investigated that sufficiently. I confess I find it weird to list one's baby's religion as the same as one's own; that doesn't seem like covenant-behavior to me. As far as I can see it, each generation needs to choose anew whether to follow God, and baptism seems meant to mark that choice in each person's life. But I know there are major disagreements on this matter and I just haven't gotten into them with the intensity I want, in order to discuss the matter well online.

          • Sample1

            Hospitals I’m familiar with automatically list a newborn as the same religious preference as the mother, regardless of religion. One manager I knew was against matching a newborn’s designation as atheist though, even if both parents were. Those newborns were listed as “no religious preference” which is not the same thing by a long shot. Oddly, the logical designation for all newborns is atheist, imho, but that’s society for you.

            Continuing with the father theme, what’s your opinion about trans people who identify as males though biologically female? If they have kids are you down with them being called fathers?

            Mike, excommunicated summa cum laude

          • To your questions, I exercise your prerogative.

          • David Nickol

            To your questions, I exercise

            What a disappointment! This fragment was the only thing visible in the Recent Comments listing, and I was hoping you would be detailing your exercise routines. I recently was prescribed some sessions of physical therapy and given two sets of exercises (in addition to my treadmill routine), and now I have a minor obsession with exercise. I watch exercise videos on Youtube, which I must admit I enjoy much more than actually exercising.

          • David, I hope you never leave this place.

          • Ficino

            Even better - videos of cats exercising.

          • Rob Abney

            To receive supernatural grace through baptism does not require reasoning it requires will. I just assumed that you had a better understanding of baptism.
            Your understanding of the supernatural grace conferred on a priest is also confused. You keep referring to natural actions and human weaknesses without considering that the power given through ordination cannot be weakened by human activities.
            Specifically, the power given to a priest is the power to celebrate the mass and the power to perform the sacrament of reconciliation. All other priest roles are to support those powers. Priests are our brothers and the only way that they are superior is the powers I've just referred to. But I also see doctors as our brothers/equals despite their special skills and the same for judges and hedge fund managers and presidents, etc..., it seems as if you don't see people with titles as equals.

          • I know the official line is that priests get special powers; what I'm not aware of is any demonstrable connection between these special powers and embodied reality. In fact it seems there cannot possibly be any such demonstrable connection, because otherwise you would almost certainly see the powers wax and wane. Jesus could only do miraculous healing where there was sufficient faith, but the these priestly powers can happen even when there is utter lack of faith, even on the part of the priest? The logic just seems weird to me. Perhaps I am too influenced by talking to atheists who value empirical evidence.

            I'm afraid I also see the giving of special powers to certain people by a centralized human authority as closer to Joshua's stance than Moses' in Num 11:24–30. It is hard for this 21st century, middle-class white American male to see how such authority structures (and all they entail due to human weakness) as the optimal way to arrange things. As I said above, a son does not call his father out on the father's crap. You might ask questions, but you obey. To do otherwise is to not honor your father and your mother!

            The best response I've seen to the above paragraph is that "authority is not merely the refuge of the weak; its destruction always breeds its burlesque—force." (The End of the Modern World, 26) Pope Francis referenced his mentor Guardini's book seven times in Laudato Si’. My question is whether the authority structure makes the maturity of all of such high priority that the authority structure can decrease while maturity increases. If the answer is "no" or my very question is questioned, I want to know why.

          • Rob Abney

            The embodied reality of a priest exercising his special powers is the same as the embodied reality of a person being baptized.
            I'm not sure what sort of argument you are making toward this, it seems that your argument is against authority in general and against any group of persons having powers that others do not have. Do you consider yourself a priest?

          • Mark

            Luke what is your motive? What are you really trying to prove? I may sound cynical but I doubt it is a problem with titles in general. Do you think a priestly Fr. fancies himself an in persona Christi demi-god the Fr.?

            The "priestly overtones" of a spiritual father that is not God the Father have existed since the dawn of Christianity as represented copiously in th NT. It existed in the OT as well. The authors called some men (non biological/spiritual) sons and some men (non biological/spirtual) fathers both first and third person. None of these men were God the Father. All these men were sinners. If it isn't hyperbole the authors are defying Christ. What's more likely hyperbole or apostolic error?

            BTW this whole debate is evidence of the falsehood of the doctrine of clarity of Scripture.

          • Luke what is your motive? What are you really trying to prove?

            I brought up the title 'Father' in criticism of the following from @Sample1:disqus:

            S1: I’m an atheist but still know that the events of the NT brought about something that didn’t exist for the OT prophets: a church with a promised guide whose intrinsic authority is technically greater than any OT prophet.

            You can read further up in the conversation if you'd like. If I'm trying to prove anything, it is that people have the right to be heard and understood, instead of merely be told they're wrong and that they must delete their understandings and replace them with those from the Correct Authorities. This doesn't mean one cannot argue that they are wrong; it just means that grappling with their understanding is the better way to demonstrate the error. A beauty of this strategy is that both sides can think they're right, engage in this process, and then find out that zero, one, or both were wrong.

            If you think that you have special access to the truth and others are irredeemably broken, then it actually makes no sense to really listen—in Edward Feser's meaning of the term in his blog post The road from atheism. They have nothing to teach you in their brokenness, so it's best to just erase the hard drive and reinstall the Roman Catholic Operating System™ anew. I happen to believe this is not how God acts throughout scripture, but I no longer have any confidence that said viewpoint of mine will receive any respect in this comment section, whether from atheist, agnostic, skeptic, or theist. Because you see, I'm irredeemably broken.

            Do you think a priestly Fr. fancies himself an in persona Christi demi-god the Fr.?

            I don't think any scribe or Pharisee fancied himself that way (or the analogous Jewish version—say, Moses), so I think your question is a straw man. Were you to delete the hyperbole from your question, perhaps we could talk about Jesus' reasoning in Lk 22:24–30 and in particular, the Roman Catholic understanding of it. So far, I have found nobody willing to do so. If that is the case, perhaps the title tangent terminates here.

            The "priestly overtones" of a spiritual father that is not God the Father have existed since the dawn of Christianity as represented copiously in th NT.

            I have never denied this, neither outright nor by logical implication. We all start out as suckling infants, then toddlers, … My question is whether we ever make it to Jesus' "you are all brothers". See even in the OT, Israelite kings were to be as brothers: Deut 17:14–20. The cultural norm of calling priests "Father" does match up quite well with something @randygritter:disqus told me: "I do think your focus on maturity is odd. … It is not a dominant theme of scripture …" I just don't see how this is at all scriptural (my response to Randy on this point)—but perhaps in saying that, I am "prooftexting"†.

            BTW this whole debate is evidence of the falsehood of the doctrine of clarity of Scripture.

            I don't know what you mean by "the doctrine of clarify of Scripture" with enough precision to respond. Here's how I responded to @Jimthescott:disqus:

            JS: … we reject Luther's perspicuity heresy.

            LB: Assuming you mean by this that nothing in the Bible is remotely perspicuous, then I say you're handing virtually all of the determining power to the RCC—that allowing atheists and skeptics and me to play around with "philosophical arguments" is like giving a child approved toys to play in a sanitized sandbox surrounded by an electric fence.

            If instead some aspects of the Bible are more perspicuous than others, the matter could get more complex. We could ask whether Jesus is the only person post-OT who could say that the practice of religious elites does not match their teaching, or whether future persons could conclude the same. If future persons could conclude the same, then they would appear to be deviating from authority in ways I haven't seen permitted in any discussion on SN.

            I'll leave you with something from Protestant Stanely Hauerwas, who I'm guessing would agree with you for quite a ways:

                Most North American Christians assume that they have a right, if not an obligation, to read the Bible. I challenge that assumption. No task is more important than for the Church to take the Bible out of the hands of individual Christians in North America. Let us no longer give the Bible to all children when they enter the third grade or whenever their assumed rise to Christian maturity is marked, such as eighth-grade commencements. Let us rather tell them and their parents that they are possessed by habits far too corrupt for them to be encouraged to read the Bible on their own.
                North American Christians are trained to believe that they are capable of reading the Bible without spiritual and moral transformation. They read the Bible not as Christians, not as a people set apart, but as democratic citizens who think their “common sense” is sufficient for “understanding” the Scripture. They feel no need to stand under the authority of a truthful community to be told how to read. Instead they assume that they have all the “religious experience” necessary to know what the Bible is about. As a result the Bible inherently becomes the ideology for a politics quite different from the politics of the Church. (Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America, 15)

            [I think] I see what he's saying, but I diagnose the problem rather differently. I don't see authority structures as necessarily any less corrupt than the laity. Tithing dill and mint and cumin while neglecting the weightier matters of the law, execution of heretics‡, protection of sexual abusers (which happens among Catholics, Protestants, and the secular world), and asymmetry of trust in testimony of men vs. women as revealed by #MeToo are all examples of the authorities being deeply corrupt. There are many issues to be explored here, some of which I explored with @randygritter:disqus on the difference between fallible and infallible teaching. I would say that Protestants in America tend to be hyper-individualistic, and that hyper-individualistic interpretations of scripture are anti-community and in fact open them up to incredible amounts of influence by their culture and traditions which they are blinded from understanding.

             
            † @Jimthescott:disqus defined "prooftexting" this way:

            JtS: "Proof-texting" is citing any Bible text and interpreting it in such a way as to contradict the establish doctrine of the One True Church & or the conclusions of natural theology vs interpreting it in harmony.

            ‡ Directly or indirectly—Jesus was a "heretic" executed indirectly via threatening the State with anarchy should he not be executed in the most humiliating way known to exist. Anarchy, of course, is a kind of treason.

          • Mark

            I'll circle back to keep this conversation from derailing again by you continuously trying to reassert the conclusions you reached on false premises.

            If I'm trying to prove anything, it is that people have the right to be heard and understood, instead of merely be told they're wrong and that they must delete their understandings and replace them with those from the Correct Authorities.

            I'm assuming you mean the CC and it's authority of Catholics/Christians. Neither Jim nor I are not telling you you're merely wrong and must delete your understanding. The question of Authority is central. All choose an authority figure, "the according to whom". I choose the visible Church Christ founded in Mat 16. The "one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic" (four tenets of the visible Church) confessed in Nicea. The historical Church which has and continues to exist in apostolic succession since Pentecost. You choose a canon of books as authorized by Luther(ish) and the interpretation of those books as authorized by yourself. When you and I disagree with the other's interpretation you appeal to yourself and I appeal to the Magisterial teachings. The Magisterium may not have an opinion on said Scripture, but it may have an imperative opinion, an "essential to the faith". If my personal interpretation is in opposition I yield to the authority of the Church. If your personal interpretation is in opposition you yield to yourself and start another church and declare it's particular essentials to the faith. The beauty you see in protestant doctrine is only in the beholder. I see dis-unity. I see it as a watering down of the essentials of Christianity (Eucharist). There is no way to objectively convince you your interpretation on "essentials of the faith" are "merely wrong" because you are your own authority. So again I question the premise of the argument: Sola Scriptura is ahistorical and unbiblical and illogical. Apostolic succession is historical and biblical. Where does Christ direct the writing of the NT? Where does Christ direct reading or writing of Scripture for passing on the essentials of faith? What provisions did Christ give for the handing on of the faith?

            We could ask whether Jesus is the only person post-OT who could say that the practice of religious elites does not match their teaching, or whether future persons could conclude the same.

            That question was asked and answered in Acts 15. Peter, the Vicor of Christ was corrected by Apostolic authority. Also Jesus is not "a person post-OT", unless you question his begotten divinity, which many Christians have and were corrected by Apostolic Tradition. Edit Done.

          • I'll circle back to keep this conversation from derailing again by you continuously trying to reassert the conclusions you reached on false premises.

            I know of one other example where you claimed I was begging the question; I replied that "I was employing shorthand". Anyone who looks at my total engagement of the issue of using the title 'Father' in these comments will find it easy to believe that I was using shorthand. Apparently you think I have done this more than two times, given your "continuously"; may I assume that term was not hyperbole? May I assume you always support such accusations with the requisite evidence, at least upon request?

            Neither Jim nor I are not telling you you're merely wrong and must delete your understanding.

            I will assume you did not mean the "not" I put in strikethrough.

            Jim has been quite clear that if I really want to wrangle with Protestant vs. Catholic understanding of doctrine—or even understand the Catholic understanding(s)—he doesn't want to be the one and he recommends Catholic Answers. I accept that; others like Randy Gritter are rather quite willing to wrangle here on SN and the mods seem fine with it as well. But my primary purpose here is to demonstrate that the evidential problem of evil can be constructed based on expectations of God that come not from duty & obligation, but promise & gift. Apparently—I can't be sure because of an incredible resistance to face this issue square-on—Catholic doctrine precludes any such expectations. God will do what he will do and (i) we must accept it without expecting more; (ii) any falling short of expectations cannot possibly put Catholicism in any interesting question. But I'd wager plenty of atheists, skeptics, and agnostics coming to these boards have been significantly impacted by Protestantism and its interpretations of God's goodness.

            The fundamental presupposition at play—explicitly with Jim but I suspect with others as well—is that the only way to generate an evidential problem of evil is to construe God as a moral agent. The Catholic strategy is a slam-dunk at that point: use classical theism to condemn such a move. Apparently—I still don't have clarity on this—Catholic doctrine does not allow one to justifiably expect that God wants terrifically more than we have now. (Wants, not is obligated to.) Or, the only/​best way to achieve such a "more" is to be an obedient Catholic.

            The above presupposition has the effect of "[telling people] they're wrong and that they must delete their understandings and replace them with those from the Correct Authorities". But it isn't an explicit telling; it is much more subtle. It is insidious because it means anyone employing that presupposition doesn't have to explain to atheists and agnostics and skeptics how they might be expecting too much from God.

            There is no way to objectively convince you your interpretation on "essentials of the faith" are "merely wrong" because you are your own authority.

            How is that not tautological? By "objectively", don't you just mean "according to a common authority"? If so, then all I have to do is not share that authority (a much broader condition than being my own authority) and you cannot "objectively" convince me.

            Furthermore, how is that not false without presuppositions such as [one of]:

                 (1) "essentials of the faith" have no empirical referents
                 (2) Regardless of what future evidence reveals, Luke will always rationalize it as fitting his extant beliefs.

            ? Jeremiah told the Israelites to no longer use the 'false words' of "temple of the LORD" because those words had become utterly corrupted. (Jer 7:1–15) There, we see an expectation that word and reality will match, but the [realized] possibility that they might not. Or see Deut 18:15–22, where a prophet's predictions coming true or false is rather important. Per most understandings of 'objective', one doesn't have to share the same authority to agree that a prediction was falsified or verified given some set of empirical evidence. You do need enough overlap and you do need to have brittle enough predictions such that they can be falsified. But you don't need to have precisely the same authority.

            Sola Scriptura is ahistorical and unbiblical and illogical.

            Disagreeing with the religious elite (religious authorities) is utterly biblical. It is also utterly biblical for the religious elite to execute such "heretics".

            What provisions did Christ give for the handing on of the faith?

            He said to follow in his footsteps and those included having the capability to point out when the religious elite's practice was horribly far from their teaching. I still haven't gotten an answer, on SN, as to how the RCC trains its members to do the same, to walk in Jesus' footsteps in this fashion. If the NAB is correct in translating sunergos as "co-workers", then perhaps there is so much evil / so little flourishing because Christians are flubbing their jobs rather severely. Then the evidential problem of evil would have a very human target. I guess I'm just being disloyal to the RCC "prooftexting" in thinking that when Jesus worried that he might not find faith on earth when he returns, that he might not find faith on earth when he returns. Faith in what/​who? Faith in "the God in whom [Abraham] believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist." Maybe atheists and agnostics and skeptics who think there is an evidential problem of evil would think differently if they saw life being given to the dead (whether physically or spiritually dead) and things called into existence which do not exist (i.e. creatio ex nihilo).

            LB: We could ask whether Jesus is the only person post-OT who could say that the practice of religious elites does not match their teaching, or whether future persons could conclude the same.

            M: That question was asked and answered in Acts 15. Peter, the Vicor of Christ was corrected by Apostolic authority.

            But … is there any apostolic authority other than the Pope alive these days?

            Also Jesus is not "a person post-OT", unless you question his begotten divinity, which many Christians have and were corrected by Apostolic Tradition.

            I doubt many would read my words and see a denial of Jesus' timeless divinity. If you wish, I shall endeavor to be more technical with you in the future, probably at the cost of length and comprehensibility.

          • Sample1

            It is insidious because it means anyone employing that presupposition doesn't have to explain to atheists and agnostics and skeptics how they might be expecting too much from God.

            You’re open to correction, so I’ll correct you. This statement is nonsensical for the atheist (YMMV w/skeptics and agnostics). It’s nonsensical because the atheist holds that theistic claims have not met their burden of proof so the null hypothesis remains. If I don’t believe in leprechauns, can I reasonably be told that I am expecting too much from them? Presumably you don’t believe in leprechauns either. Are you expecting too much from them? The answer is no. It’s a nonsensical claim. Change your mind on this, that’s my request.

            I’m only addressing this blockquote from your post.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • LB: It is insidious because it means anyone employing that presupposition doesn't have to explain to atheists and agnostics and skeptics how they might be expecting too much from God.

            S1: This statement is nonsensical for the atheist (YMMV w/skeptics and agnostics). It’s nonsensical because the atheist holds that theistic claims have not met their burden of proof so the null hypothesis remains. If I don’t believe in leprechauns, can I reasonably be told that I am expecting too much from them?

            Erm, the whole point of the evidential problem of evil is that it is argued by counterfactual: if God existed, then things would look more like X and less like Y. You can understand "expecting too much from God" according to the same counterfactual mode. But if you insist, with you, I can replace "expecting too much from God" with "believing more goodness and less evil is entailed by God's existence than Catholicism". The Catholic can of course object that "more goodness" and "less evil" are being argued according to a contentious standard—God's ways are not our ways! That's fine; my point here is to open up what our expectations/​entailments are, how we came to hold them, and whether they are justified—instead of let them be presupposed.

          • Sample1

            Ok, I understand your reasoning. Good explanation. This is precisely why, however, I’ve recently decided to refrain from allowing “if” claims just to get theism conversations off the ground. So count me out of that audience and my objection remains.

            What I’d rather see, for a change, is the theist offering “what if not” counterfactuals. And when that “if not” is offered, what do we observe? We observe nature, where otherwise perceived godly allowances for evil are replaced with hard-to-vary explanations such as plate tectonics for natural disasters and evolution for violence and suffering.

            Sean Carroll attempts your “if” counterfactual in talks like God Is Not A Good Theory. And while I largely appreciate his insights, still cringe when he chooses to try show what one should expect if an Omni-Max deity exists. Though, I understand why he attempts to. Because he’s an overall decent dude.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Mark

            Sean had a pretty a awesome interview with Marsalis last fall. Knowing your love of QM, the two parallel jazz and physics, the concept of random creativity at the point of impact. Waves, interference, decontructs/fluctuations of time, sympathetic vibrations of jazz are compared to QFT. Most people don't "get" jazz; the whole interview was fascinating.

          • Mark

            Hey Luke, First off. I appreciate your engagement. While this is so far off the topic of the thread, it is important to you. At the end of the day I assure you all Catholics here see you as a brother in Christ. I see you are getting "it" from all sides so I'll try to clean up my arguments so as to not talk past each other and not let other tangential arguments steep into the conversation.

            The false premise I "continuously" draw your attention to is Sola Scriptura. Any argument in which you reference Scripture (theodicy/POE or titles etc) is made with this assumption, which I reject. I reject the assumption because it is ahistorical, unbiblical, and illogical. When I say "essentials of faith" I am referencing the Protestant, specifically the Reformed Protestant, claim that the Bible references all the essentials of faith and it is self revealing. I think you know this. I think you are a Reformed Protestant, but you haven't specifically said so. I'm making that assumption based on the understood sola/solo Mathison reference and the dates you reference where the CC went into errancy seems consistent with Reformed. You need not affirm nor deny this, but I'll go forward with that assumption because it is helpful in understanding your POV for me.

            By "objectively", don't you just mean "according to a common authority"? If so, then all I have to do is not share that authority (a much broader condition than being my own authority) and you cannot "objectively" convince me.

            Correct. There is no common authority in Biblical interpretation outside of the CC Magesterium. Continuing in Mt 23:34-7 (which you used to argue against Catholic Apostolic Tradition) is the promise of Christ for exactly what you argue against: the Catholic Apostolic Traditon and succession: "Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon earth, from the righteous blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Amen, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation."

            Disagreeing with the religious elite (religious authorities) is utterly biblical. It is also utterly biblical for the religious elite to execute such "heretics".

            Correct. But neither is a valid argument for the historicity, biblicity, nor logic of Sola Scriptura, nor a valid argument against Apostolic Tradtion, Apostolic succession, and the living Magesterium.

            He said to follow in his footsteps and those included having the capability to point out when the religious elite's practice was horribly far from their teaching.

            That's weak. If you were trying to convince a non-Chrstian of the truth of Scripture and Christendom over the last 2k years that would be a face-plant. Don't answer the question if you don't want to.

            ...Christians are flubbing their jobs rather severely. Then the evidential problem of evil would have a very human target.

            Correct. Especially lukewarm Catholics who thumb their noses at the martyrs of their Tradition with their moral relativism. I was one of them. Embarrassing.

            But … is there any apostolic authority other than the Pope alive these days?

            Yes. Catholics believe in a living Magesterium, the living bishops and Pope in Apostolic communion with the historical holders of that authority and Tradition. Christ didn't a leave a book for us to interpret, but he authorized a visible hierarchical ecclesia that he promised he would protect from the gates of hell until His return. Apostolic succession is historically verifiable from the 2nd century until today. I'm happy to quote relevant passages of Justin the Martyr, Irenaeus, or Clement. If you want a more in depth understanding of what exactly Catholics mean by Magesterium and it's relationship to Scripture and Tradition:

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15006b.htm

          • Thanks for the kind words; I've also appreciated our interactions. Getting it from all sides just seems to be my lot in life; SN is by far the most civilized place I've experienced it.

            I would like to split the conversation in two, with one half being what I believe, and the other half being what many atheists, skeptics, and agnostics are likely to believe. The former is clearly off-topic (par for the course for SN), while the other is quite on-topic, if one is willing to allow that some of the motivation/​justification for the evidential problem of evil, at least for some, is predicated upon special revelation. What's really obnoxious is that I have hardly been permitted to say this, without the focus shifting from "special revelation upon which the atheist/​skeptic/​agnostic is basing expectations of God's goodness" to "how Luke interprets special revelation".

            I am quite willing to get into it with my own beliefs and interpretation of scripture; @randygritter:disqus and I did for hundreds of comments over at A Defense of Apatheism (Sort Of). But I worry that this is the easier target, because Catholics have a better "grip" on me than atheists, when it comes to arguing that I should change how I understand special revelation. I'm also more willing to discuss my beliefs more intensely and openly attribute them to special revelation—not something non-Christian interlocutors are always willing to do. But if some base the evidential problem of evil upon an understanding of 'goodness' which comes from how they have been taught to understand special revelation, then it seems the only intellectually responsible response is to engage this understanding and explain how it is wrong. And I suspect that explanation will seem problematic, because it will probably involve saying that God doesn't want as much goodness for us as the non-Christian interlocutor thinks. Yes the Catholic can argue for a different understanding of 'goodness', but there are examples like children with brain cancer that seem to survive such redefinitions.

            Skipping a few steps, I think the Catholic response to a special-revelation-based evidential problem of evil must be that the Roman Catholic Church is not making any … top-tier errors, while every other group of humans is making at least one such error. Therefore, Catholics are fighting evil and promoting goodness in a fashion superior to all other humans, at least when one measures over a long enough time period. Or, "fighting evil and promoting goodness" is not a priority for Catholics—at least, in any way that an atheist/​skeptic/​agnostic understands the terms. For a secular example of a need to adjust one's understanding of human thriving, I refer interested readers to Missing Persons: A Critique of the Personhood in the Social Sciences. There, Mary Douglas and Steven Ney describe how anti-poverty efforts were originally aimed at merely providing things and neglected relationships. This had rather bad effects; a serious redefinition was required. For an example of pushing against a Catholic model, see WP: Mother Teresa § Criticism. Christopher Hitchens thought that Teresa did not actually fight poverty through known successful means, preferring to address purely spiritual concerns. (I'm not endorsing Hitchens' analysis; I'm just providing some concrete fodder.)

            At stake, I think, is how one understands 'goodness'. I don't think one can ultimately separate that understanding from the fullness of God, because it seems critical that God pursues goodness in some ways not others (Jesus was not the Messiah expected and that seems important). But there is a belief in the air that the Enlightenment promoted a concern with the here and now which accelerated the pursuit of mundane human flourishing—instead of resting in the belief that suffering is good for our souls. (caricature?) I myself think one cannot truly be concerned with one without including the other, but I might be weird in this. Roman Catholics can certainly push against what the Enlightenment accomplished and I think there is plenty to push against. (I would call on Charles Taylor's analysis of instrumental rationality and what happens to us when no other rationality is permitted; see also Alasdair MacIntyre.)

            To really address the evidential problem of evil, I claim, one must show some group of Christians who have a special "edge" in fighting evil and promoting flourishing. Maybe this doesn't apply to those who are lodging a purely philosophical objection, one truly based on 'pure reason' alone. But I suspect that the vast majority have a much more embodied objection, where they were taught to expect that things could be better than they are or are tending. What does it look like for the Roman Catholic to correct those expectations or convince the person that the Roman Catholic Church is the best place to bring those expectations a little closer to reality?

            Mike, I would like to know how the above reasoning depends on sola scriptura—if you think it does. All I think I'm depending on is the belief that general revelation/​philosophy/​natural theology/​pure reason tell us virtually nothing about reality or God; virtually all of our understanding of 'goodness' comes from concrete particulars. Many of the concrete particulars which inform Western understandings of 'goodness' seem to trace back to Christianity—some Catholic, some Protestant. I don't see how I must be Protestant (or worse) in order to write anything in this comment.

          • Mark

            It can see how it seems obnoxious, sure. Embracing the perspicuity of special revelation/Scripture gives everyone a key to the guest house. My response is to ask why you see it as obnoxious to find the guest house toilet clogged? There is a burden and blessing that goes with the keys. Jesus didn't give the keys to the gate to everyone, neither should you.

            Generally when I've seen Atheists or seculars using Scripture as evidence for POE they anthropomorphize the God of the OT to make him a strawman god. It's convincing. If they can write eloquently, like say Dawkins, they can even make a bunch of money while droves of half-wits swallow up their ignorance. What would be intellectually honest is to address their ignorance, not participate in their follies.

            When you say "God pursues goodness in some ways and not others", as a classical Theist I question that wording. Not sure at what you're getting at, but it sounds like something other than the simple classic God and moral agentish.

            It seems you seek a way to quantify goodness. This sounds a little Sam Harris-like to me. (not intended as an insult) It's an intriguing concept, but philosophical hacks like Harris have tried the same techniques against theists. I'm skeptical; if you could quantify goodness it would seem a way to make moral claims for or against something like Christianity. I think "goodness" for most people is hyper-subjective, and that makes it like aesthetics or art. You'll never find consensus without a "goodness" authority.

          • Is the following an instance of anthropomorphizing God:

            “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7–11)

            ? Here, God is being compared to human fathers. He is made out to care for mundane things about life. You talk of atheists making straw men of YHWH, but surely plenty draw much of their understanding of 'goodness' from Jesus himself. I do find it hard to understand what Jesus says here along the lines of any "ground of being". Can natural theology say anything remotely close to what Jesus is saying, here? (I'm trying to do exceedingly little interpretive work; do let me know if you still think I've got it wrong.)

          • Here's a second response, more focused on what I believe. (first response)

            The false premise I "continuously" draw your attention to is Sola Scriptura.

            In 1977, Alasdair MacIntyre wrote an essay I see as quite relevant to this issue: Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative and the Philosophy of Science. This is at least five years before he converted to Catholicism, for what that's worth. Anyhow, MacIntyre's focus is on epistemological shifts, such as from Ptolemaic astronomy to Copernican astronomy. Better understandings, he claims, accomplish two things: (i) they explain more than what came before; (ii) they explain the nature of the error of the previous way of understanding things. When a Catholic claims that Catholicism is superior to Protestantism, I'm looking for him/her to demonstrate both (i) and (ii). In my experience, people are best convinced when you provide them with a good (i) and (ii). That means, among other things, not purely scorning their way of viewing things. Humans rarely latch on to pure evil in my experience; instead they are often drawn by goodness, but polluted, distorted, corrupted goodness. The mature believer has long practice in discerning what is καλός and what is κακός. (Feel free to counter with a Catholic understanding of Heb 5:14.)

            So for example, it seems reasonable for me to expect that you will explain how the Catholic can understand God as tremendously more good than I can. This will inevitably involve some change to my very understanding of 'goodness', but I'm not sure it should exterminate my understanding of 'goodness'. For example, I hope we can agree that God does not want children to have brain cancer; we almost certainly disagree on how God chooses to fight such evil and how he wishes us to be involved. But if you're right, surely I have some bad ideas on one or both of these aspects, and I would be blessed to have those bad ideas corrected.

            A concrete example where Catholics have told me God is more good than I believe is that Catholics have the Pope, while Protestants do not. That is, God is more directly available to humans according to Catholics, than according to Protestants. Protestants might claim God is available to them, but their disagreement and disunity provides strong evidence against this. My response to this line of reasoning is to investigate just what the Pope's ostensible superior access to God (or God's choice to interact specially with the Pope) obtains for Catholicism. An example I chose in talking to @randygritter:disqus was the Thirty Years' War: did Catholics behave in a more Christlike fashion than Protestants, on average? It seems that they were about the same as Protestants, which makes me question just what the Pope's special relationship with God is supposed to yield, in the empirical flesh-and-blood realm.

            Does this make any sense? I am interested in whether you think any of the above paragraphs presupposes sola scriptura.

            I think you are a Reformed Protestant, but you haven't specifically said so.

            I'm probably closest to whatever Roger Olson is; we have disagreed very little in our many interactions in the comments of his blog. I would describe Olson as the "John Piper of Arminianism"; make what you will of that response to "Reformed Protestant". One way I am very similar to Olson is in an experience he relayed of being invited to a conference run by Roman Catholics. He thought they wanted to hear what he, a Protestant, had to say about the issues at hand. But when he tried, he was shut down. That has been my experience in so many places: in any way I differ from the social group, I'm wrong. Take that for what it's worth; maybe I'm just one of the broken creatures God should have never created. (I exaggerate and reassert "Getting it from all sides just seems to be my lot in life; SN is by far the most civilized place I've experienced it.")

            M: What provisions did Christ give for the handing on of the faith?

            LB: He said to follow in his footsteps and those included having the capability to point out when the religious elite's practice was horribly far from their teaching. …

            M: That's weak. If you were trying to convince a non-Chrstian of the truth of Scripture and Christendom over the last 2k years that would be a face-plant. Don't answer the question if you don't want to.

            If that is weak, then I will ask you to explicate the RCC understanding of "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." My understanding of Paul's argument in 1 Cor 1:18–2:10 is that there are some profoundly counter-intuitive aspects to Christianity. The idea is that Satan has long had much influence over the world and has taught people to operate in a way antithetical to the Kingdom of God. The fundamentalist rendering would be "the world's way vs. God's way", but I think there's something which can be rescued from that rendering. However, I'll stop at this level of abstraction/​generality/​vagueness and ask you to indicate what you (or the Magisterium) thinks Paul meant in speaking so strongly about "the wisdom of the wise" in contrast to God's wisdom.

            I myself don't see my response as weak; indeed it seems the strongest possible response. Judaism and Christianity have resources for penetrating self-critique and that seems to be humanity's preeminent weakness: pride, arrogance, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency. A consistent theme throughout scripture is a corrupt religious and political elite. The exceptions are few and far between. Challenging them is not for the feint of heart, as they can destroy reputations if not lives. We see blind hubris in spades when it comes to the world fairs leading up to WWI, in which Western Enlightened humans gloried in their excellence. That the most Enlightened nation in the world would commit genocide against God's chosen people is a testament to this hubris.

            Paul said that if Christ is not [bodily] raised from the dead, "we are of all people most to be pitied". I welcome an explication of the Roman Catholic understanding; for my part that indicates at least that most non-Christians should indeed think me pitiable. We can discuss whether that changed with Christendom, but I'm inclined to think that if somehow I don't depend thoroughly on "the God in whom [Abraham] believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist", I'm doing something quite wrong. But surely the one who must depend on such a God will often appear quite weak.

            LB: But … is there any apostolic authority other than the Pope alive these days?

            M: Yes. Catholics believe in a living Magesterium, the living bishops and Pope in Apostolic communion with the historical holders of that authority and Tradition. Christ didn't a leave a book for us to interpret, but he authorized a visible hierarchical ecclesia that he promised he would protect from the gates of hell until His return.

            In that case, I would like an explanation for how this "visible hierarchical ecclesia" is not a recapitulation of the thing the Israelites asked for in Deut 5:22–33, a move which seems reversed by Jer 31:31–34 and Ezek 36:22–32. My reading of scripture—I invite corrections—is that God wishes to be with us intimately and in all aspects—mind, heart, spirit, soul, strength. So few of us, however, respond to God as Isaiah did. We want to contain God, like the Holy of Holies contained him. God asks too much of us, reveals too much about us. Better to restrict God's activity to the approved areas, like Joshua wanted in Num 11:24–30.

            I can say all of the above paragraph without any scripture references, if you prefer. The implicit invitation I offer whenever I cite scripture is for the other person to offer a different interpretation which [s]he believes is better. See the (i) and (ii) in the beginning of my comment. By connecting scripture to what I understand, I intend to give my interlocutors more of a grip on me. I have done some amount of systematizing and recognize this has strengths and weaknesses: it makes it harder to pick & choose cafeteria-style, but also makes it harder to falsify because one part can be adjusted in the light of others. My experience is that progress is made when people work hard to develop coherent and complete systems, and then for others to find contradictions, incompleteness, and poor matches to reality.

          • Mark

            Better understandings, he claims, accomplish two things: (i) they explain more than what came before; (ii) they explain the nature of the error of the previous way of understanding things. When a Catholic claims that Catholicism is superior to Protestantism, I'm looking for him/her to demonstrate both (i) and (ii).

            If you're applying what MacIntyre suggests by looking for a historical epistemological shift in knowledge/understanding and how to guage the superiority of it, that applies to theological novum of Sola Scriptura, not to the CC. If SS is is a better understanding it should accomplish i and ii and it actually does neither. In fact the evidence of 500 years of SS is a complete fragmentation of Christendom.

            A concrete example where Catholics have told me God is more good than I believe is that Catholics have the Pope, while Protestants do not. That is, God is more directly available to humans according to Catholics, than according to Protestants.

            Just having a Pope I don't think that is a "concrete" example. First I would suggest the simplest understanding of God, the classic God of AT, is pure Good and that is untenable with any anthropomorphic analogy. Second, if you're trying to express human "goodness" (Pure Good's grace working through us) I'd prefer the word piety. The most concrete example of superiority of the CC to Prots is the heroic piety of Her saints/Saints. You'll never ever ever see a Protestant version of Francis of Assisi. The CC has cornered the market on heroic piety. In the country of origin of my oldest adopted son, Korea, there were 8-10k martyrs that died for practicing Catholic Christianity most of whom never laid eyes on a Bible nor a priest.

            If that is weak, then I will ask you to explicate the RCC understanding of "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness ofGod is stronger than men."

            If you want a CC understanding just get a Catholic concordance. Scott Hahn's is my fav. What you're reading into the text is that St. Paul is giving a prescription for anti-hierarchical paradoxical structure for the Church. (If this has then become your prescription for dismissing the Aposolic Tradition and succession which is quite biblical and historical, then yes it is weak at best) Rather it's just a letter to the church in Corinth for a specific purpose at a specific time and Paul is pointing out the paradoxical nature of early Church. The crucifixion is paradoxically a sign of power to Christians and a sign of impotence to non-believers (Jews/Gentiles). Using similar rhetoric he then parallels the paradoxical wisdom of Christians against the wise and learned non-believers who had earthly power. This is all secondary to the primary reason he wrote the letter: (vs 10) there was division in the community. He is writing to promote Christian communion. What you're positing is the opposite.

            I can say all of the above paragraph without any scripture references, if you prefer.

            I would. I may need a rubric to understand exactly where and how you're reading Prot theology into every verse of the Bible and how you use that to support continued schism as I "think" you were above. You're somewhat cryptic in exactly what you're trying to say the verses say to you. That doesn't help in dialogue. Also please be true to MacIntyre's purpose for epistemological shifts; the new knowledge (from old) should be able to demonstrate i and ii. Using his own valid reasoning skills made him Catholic? yay. I'll no longer assume your Calvin inclinded. That helps, I didn't want to have to get into TULIP garbage. If I have time I'll read some of Olson's "musings".

          • David Nickol

            The most concrete example of superiority of the CC to Prots is the heroic piety of Her saints/Saints. You'll never ever ever see a Protestant version of Francis of Assisi. The CC has cornered the market on heroic piety.

            The strikes me as "Catholic triumphalism" of a most unfortunate kind. I don't think there is anything in any of the world's major non-Catholic religions that limits members in the degree of "piety" they may achieve. A Protestant, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim can achieve "sainthood." It is a poor attempt at evangelization to claim the adherents of Catholicism are literally superior to those of other religions.

          • Mark

            You might be taking the comment out of context David. He inquired for "concrete" ways the CC understands Goodness or has access to understanding Goodness/God that is superior to Protestantism. The communion of saints is an obvious answer. I'm unapologetic about my awe of their piety. Last I checked this is a Catholic blog David. I also kinda don't appreciate the cross contamination of religions that believe in ishtishad, reincarnation, or samsara with Catholic Sainthood. That strikes me as odd. Lastly why should I be Catholic if I didn't believe it is literally superior to other religions? I literally expect Luke to believe Evangelicals understanding of God is superior to mine. Also, I'm here to reason not evangelize.

          • David Nickol

            Lastly why should I be Catholic if I didn't believe it is literally superior to other religions?

            It is one thing to believe Catholicism (or any other religion) is "superior" to other religions. It is another thing to make claims that Catholics are superior in some ways to members of other religions. While St. Francis is a beloved figure among Catholics, many Protestants, and probably many of other religions of no religion, it is arrogant to say (in effect) that no Protestant could ever ever ever be as good as St. Francis.

            Catholicism sees itself as having "the fullness of truth" in comparison to other religions, but it doesn't pretend to have a monopoly on virtuous adherents. I'll go out on a limb here and state that the Catholic Church does not claim that the best Catholics are better than the best Protestants. It would be an unverifiable and basically meaningless claim anyway. It's up to God to judge hearts.

            There have been huge numbers of Protestant missionaries, not a few of whom have been martyred. Protestants died resisting the Nazis. Some Protestant sects like the Amish live austere lives and shun "this world" much more than the average Catholic. It is of interest to me how Catholics interpret the saying of Jesus about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. How many Catholics practice what St. Francis preached?

            Also, I'm here to reason not evangelize.

            Someone who proclaims him- or herself a Catholic in a public setting should, in my opinion, be evangelizing at least to the extent of giving good example. ("He who does not gather with me scatters.") Dr. Bonnette has said something about winning arguments but losing souls. Catholic triumphalism is in general not attractive to anyone other than Catholic triumphalists themselves. Catholics who drive others away from Catholicism are doing the Church no favors.

          • Mark

            Luke is a proud Christian. I respect that as I am one too. I honor the Protestant beliefs even if they are "in protest." What divides us is so little in comparison to what makes us brothers. I pray everyday for unity in Christendom. Having said that I'm not taking Christianity lessons from an agnostic. You have no flipping clue what Luke or I do for our faith outside this combox. We both have a vibrant living faith in our own traditions in our own communities in our unique ways. You don't. No offense. If Luke feels offended by my comments and veneration of Francis; well he's already shown a very thick skin, let him speak for himself. As for going out on a limb about claiming the best Catholic is better than the best Protestant: The immaculate virgin Mary. Meaningless and unverifiable right?

            Btw I just liked your Kettle Logic comment David. Good stuff.

          • David Nickol

            As for going out on a limb about claiming the best Catholic is better than the best Protestant: The immaculate virgin Mary. Meaningless and unverifiable right?

            I think it is bizarre to claim Mary the Mother of Jesus as Catholic. She was a Jew, as was Jesus, and as were the Apostles. And of course all Christian denominations trace their origins back to Jesus and believe the true path that leads from the first century to the present leads to their own beliefs.

            But to avoid unnecessary and pointless argument, I will rephrase as follows: I'll go out on a limb here and state that the Catholic Church does not claim that the best Catholics—with the exception of Jesus, Joseph, Mary, and the Apostles—are better than the best Protestants. The point is that although the Catholic Church believes it has the fullness of truth, and believes it has the ultimate "tools" (e.g., the sacraments) for Christian perfection, it does not claim that its most pious adherents are more pious than those of other religions.

          • Luke is a proud Christian.

            I am not sure that is true and I'm pretty sure I don't want it to be true. I get that 'pride' is equivocal in usage, but that makes me nervous. Furthermore, I have experienced plenty of self-hatred and much self-doubt has been generated via how Christians and non-Christians have treated me. Where I draw the most confidence is that I seem to have made a kind of beachhead in understanding the Bible (more accurately, Phil 3:12), and I won't let it go without someone following the rules MacIntyre sets forth in his 1977 article Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative and the Philosophy of Science.

            And so, whenever the other person insults or denigrates me, I first check to see whether I can do anything productive with it. After all, sometimes an insult might be just the ticket, like it apparently was in Amos 4:4–5. If I fail, I get a bit of evidence† that [s]he might not be able to fight on a rational plane, and that perhaps wherever I'm at, it's better than that person. After all: "the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere." That's part of the beachhead; I hold quite strongly to the "open to reason".

            † With multiple possible interpretations; one buried in the "might" and "perhaps" is that I was just too dunderheaded to properly process the insult.

            You have no flipping clue what Luke or I do for our faith outside this combox.

            Given the exchanges I've had with @davidnickol:disqus and what I've seen him write in general, I bet he actually could do a bit of speaking for me. Would you like to see a demonstration, Mike? Actually David's citation of the second half of Mt 12:30 surprised me in the best of possible ways; I feel the tiniest tinge of shame that it hadn't popped into my head automatically. But that's actually a silly feeling; all I have to is reject "I'm not taking Christianity lessons from an agnostic". If Jesus marveled at the Centurion's faith, I can marvel at David's command of scripture. I just got taught by an agnostic and it makes me happy. Thanks, David!

          • Chris Morris

            While not wishing to derail an interesting conversation here, may I throw in a couple of comments.
            It's nice to see these two strands of Christianity having a respectful dialogue in contrast to the everyday experience we have in this part of the world:
            https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-47906223
            Also, as Luke mentions his affinity with Roger Olson, I've answered the challenge Luke published on Olson's blog and would be interested in reading any response he might care to give.

          • I agree that SN has provided a pretty excellent place for dialogue, despite the warts which some like to point out. I have tried to have intense conversations on other sites and they generally get too intense, with me getting ejected (banned). SN manages to avoid that without making conversation so "nice" that only banal discussions occur. It gives me quite a lot of respect for Roman Catholicism, and yes I know this is a sample size of one and that I'm closer to the in-group than atheists and thus probably have some benefits of the dominant group.

            As to the Roger Olson comment, I don't get email notifications when a comment has been stuck in a moderation queue [for too long? like more than a few minutes]. If you're referring to this comment, I left a reply, but it's in moderation and Olson may decide to remove it like he did one other comment. He prefers the blog to be a discussion with him. (He prefers to moderate every comment and wants to keep the workload manageable.) My email is in my Disqus profile if you'd like to follow up; since Olson moderates only once a day, that means a two-day turnaround for each back-and-forth.

            Given that this comment is "10 days ago", you can't mean this comment. But when I get the guest blog post written (you're welcome to help collaborate via email), I will be permitted to respond to the comments on that particular blog post, and we can have (rather slow) conversations.

          • OMG

            No Protestant could be as good as St. Francis. St. Francis is a saint, and very few are granted that title. No Protestant is capable of it by definition. It is just as it is. There is nothing arrogant about a family excluding a neighbor from a place of honor at its dinner table.

          • David Nickol

            No Protestant could be as good as St. Francis. St. Francis is a saint, and very few are granted that title.

            St. Francis is not recognized as good because he was made a saint. He was made a saint because he was recognized as having been good. In Catholic thought, St. Francis was everything he was and could ever be at the moment of his death. Canonizing him made him no more pious or holy or beloved of God.

            Being canonized as a saint after death is not for the person canonized. It is for those who live afterwards, that they may follow the example of the saint.

            Interestingly, here's how canonization evolved over the course of more than a thousand years:

            In the early church there was no formal canonization, but the cult of local martyrs was widespread and was regulated by the bishop of the diocese. The translation of the martyr’s remains from the place of burial to a church was equivalent to canonization. Gradually, ecclesiastical authorities intervened more directly in the process of canonization. By the 10th century appeals were made to the pope. The first saint canonized by a pope was Ulrich, bishop of Augsburg, who died in 973 and was canonized by Pope John XV at the Lateran Council of 993. Pope Alexander III (1159–81) began to reserve the cases of canonization to the Holy See, and this became general law under Gregory IX (1227–41).

            I would be amazed (and saddened) if anyone is able to come up with an official teaching that no Protestant, Jew, person of another religion, or person of no religion could possibly have been a better person than St. Francis or any other canonized saint. The Catechism says the following:

            828 By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God's grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors. "The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church's history." Indeed, "holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal."

            I read no claim in there that nobody (Catholic or otherwise) could be holier than a canonized saint. The old online Catholic Encyclopedia says

            The chief difference [between canonization and apotheosis], however, lies in the meaning of the term canonization, the Church seeing in the saints nothing more than friends and servants of God whose holy lives have made them worthy of His special love. She does not pretend to make gods.

            There is no guarantee that all of the Catholics who live lives of heroic virtue come to the attention of those who would support their cause for canonization. There is also no rule that says those who are not Catholic cannot live lives of heroic virtue.

            No Protestant is capable of it by definition. It is just as it is. There is nothing arrogant about a family excluding a neighbor from a place of honor at its dinner table.

            There is certainly no need for the Catholic Church to canonize people of heroic virtue as Catholic saints! Obviously those canonized as saints will be Catholics. However, if saints are "nothing more than friends and servants of God whose holy lives have made them worthy of His special love," there are clearly many saints in heaven who are not Catholic (unless you interpret heretically "outside the Church there is no salvation").

            It is up to God to judge who are the most holy humans. The Church doesn't pretend to substitute its own judgment for God's. The Church doesn't say that in heaven Catholics will outrank everyone else, or that the holiest of Catholic saints will be holier than the holiest of Protestant saints (the latter being Protestants who have been saved and are hence part of the Communion of Saints). If you believe the Church does say this, then show me where.

          • OMG

            Protestants are not eligible for goodness because they do not accept the definition of goodness as it was handed onto them by Jesus through the Apostles and promised against error by the protection of the Holy Spirit. Sainthood = goodness, as defined by Revelation and entrusted to the apostles and their successors. Of course you are free to disregard the truth.

          • David Nickol

            It is not clear to me what you are saying.

            Do you mean that no Protestant can be canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church? Such a thing doesn't seem absolutely impossible to me, but I wouldn't bother to challenge it.

            Or do you mean that no Protestant could be viewed as good by God? Or no Protestant could be saved? Or that there are no Protestants who have gone to heaven?

            The entry for Communion of Saints in the old online Catholic Encyclopedia says

            The communion of saints is the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven in the organic unity of the same mystical body under Christ its head, and in a constant interchange of supernatural offices. The participants in that solidarity are called saints by reason of their destination and of their partaking of the fruits of the Redemption (1 Corinthians 1:2 — Greek Text). The damned are thus excluded from the communion of saints. The living, even if they do not belong to the body of the true Church, share in it according to the measure of their union with Christ and with the soul of the Church.

            Do you mean to say that a Protestant can't be a saint in the sense of belonging to the communion of saints?

            Of course you are free to disregard the truth.

            It is not at all clear to me that what you have said so far is the truth. It does not seem to be in conformity with Catholic teaching. Protestants, after all, receive the same sacrament of baptism as Catholics. Why should the unbaptized be save through baptism of blood or baptism of desire, but those who are actually baptized be excluded from salvation because they are Protestant?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            There are many times when it seems to me that your understanding of Church teaching is not only quite accurate but also carefully researched. It leaves me puzzled and regretful as to exactly why you no longer assent to the substance of the revelation itself. Of course, I must admit that I have not read all your posts, and so, do not have a complete understanding of your position on all the relevant questions.

            I was always struck by what an atheist friend of mine told me in college once. He had given me reasons not to believe in God and to be an atheist for some two years, when he astonished me finally by saying, "Sometime I will tell you the real reason why I am an atheist." He never did.

          • Sample1

            Apologies for jumping in, you’ve mentioned that college story before. I’m not sure at all what you’re trying to say or imply with it. Want to elaborate? It’s obviously important to you in some way.

            Mike, excommunicant emeritus

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Frankly, yes, it did concern me that someone would put forth many arguments against God's existence, but was never forthcoming enough to tell us his real reason for being an atheist. It is fine to give reinforcing reasons to one's position, but I would think that intellectual honesty requires giving at least some indication of what basically motivates one's major intellectual or personal stance on such an important question. And he never gave even a hint previously that his arguments were not central to his personal position.

            Of course, I cannot judge anyone else by my friend's actions, but I would hope that all of us, theist and atheist alike, would freely reveal what centrally motivates our stance.

            Having said that, I think we need to distinguish between a major intellectual position, such as regarding God's existence, and perhaps a religious commitment that is not fully based on something like philosophical arguments. People make religious commitments for all sorts of reasons -- rational, emotional, personal, private revelation, and so forth. But a general philosophical issue, such as God's existence, if rationally proposed, should be rationally defended -- either way -- by one's most sincere argument, I would think.

            Just my personal reaction. to two years of what I inferred was "being misled."

          • Sample1

            Being misled sucks. Being intentionally misled sucks Donkey Kongs. Your experience seems similar, but in reverse, to what skeptics encounter. Whether it’s homeopathy or some dogma, we are often led with the understanding evidence will be forthcoming only later to be told it’s ultimately a faith choice (personal experience) or some kind of logical fallacy (appeal to ignorance).

            Something tells me, and maybe I’m wrong, that you haven’t been fully transparent about what you have speculated about your college friend’s behavior. Does it involve demonic trickery? Or are you thinking your friend copped out with his promise because he didn’t have a so-called real reason? Have you ever considered your friend left it ambiguous because he respected you? I have a friend who is a fundamentalist evangelical Army chaplain. I’ve chosen to leave him alone with his beliefs because my questions were visibly bothering him. I don’t want to make my friend uncomfortable. I thought we could draw boxes around claims and address them impersonally. I was wrong. Perhaps this was the same for your college friend?

            As to motivation, that’s easy. Humans are social animals and in the case of believers and atheists, both think their own positions are more tenable than the other’s. Naturally we are going to talk about it.

            But I can’t speak further from there regarding religious motivations. Everyone is going to have their own opinions. Of course, some are easy to predict. Feel free to share yours.

            As for me, simply put, I want to believe as few false things as possible. Being less wrong. False notions from one area can trickle into other areas where real world choices are made, be it politics, medicine or education. And so I guess I’m motivated to help others be less wrong so we can get on with having less strife in the world. Because I was once an educated Catholic (never mind a Trad forum that claims I’m still “under the Church”!) it’s only natural that I’d find an invitation to a Catholic-Atheist site interesting.

            Mike, excommunicant emeritus

          • Dennis Bonnette

            No, I really don't know what his "real" reason was -- although I suspect it was more a personal one than his "speculative" atheist objections to classical theism. Unfortunately, that one remark by him made me less impressed with all the prior arguments against God he had offered in the previous two years.

          • Sample1

            There is nothing arrogant about a family excluding a neighbor from a place of honor at its dinner table. My bolding.

            This is an interesting comment. Pick any honors system from knighthoods to Nobels to dog shows. When an individual is honored, isn’t the bestowing agency also implicitly honored? For every honorific there is a fount of honor.

            Scientology has medals. Pretty sure Tom Cruise has a shiny one. Does anyone but a Scientologist care about the claim that those honors indicate human progress? When a car crash happens and a Scientologist drives by, they literally believe only they can help. Not the first responders, not the police, not bystanders performing CPR. Scientologists essentially bring their metaphysics to any given tragedy and only they can truly help. Ask Tom, really. Does Tom’s medal honor achievement or his Church?

            One might therefore ask, when someone can be excluded from an honors system because of who they are (Catholic, Protestant, Scientologist) is that a system that makes the world a better place? We should maybe ask ourselves just what are people valuing when achievements are recognized? The fount of honor or the achievement?

            It seems to me that exclusionary religious honors systems have it backwards when it comes to keeping the eye on the ball for a better world. The achievements do matter and honoring them highlights what a society wishes to see perpetuated. The honoring agency itself is not as important or more important than the achievement; some would say not important at all. But good luck convincing a Scientologist of that.

            Every time I watch the Medal of Honor bestowed upon a soldier, I perceive him/her wincing. Rightfully, I think. The achievement is enough. Medals or Sainthoods that are used to also glorify the fount are indicative of something very base and perverse about human behavior. We should always be on guard about what we are trying to communicate with an honorific. Its table.

            Mike, excommunicant emeritus
            Edit done

          • Michael Murray

            I don't understand the disagreement here. Surely it goes without saying that Catholic pinheads have more angels dancing on them than Protestant ones ? :-)

            It does seem sometimes thought that the site has departed from the lofty aims back in the heady days of its founding back when I showed up in 2013:

            StrangeNotions.com is the central place of dialogue between Catholics and atheists. It's built around three things: reason, faith, and dialogue.

            Now we have one group of Christians picking on another. But don't stop on my account. As a Catholic raised atheist I love having my prejudices about religion reinforced.

          • Rob Abney

            If the site requires Catholic and atheist dialogue then you're comment to mike your fellow atheist doesn't meet the lofty status either!

          • If you're applying what MacIntyre suggests by looking for a historical epistemological shift in knowledge/understanding and how to guage the superiority of it, that applies to theological novum of Sola Scriptura, not to the CC.

            I was applying MacIntyre's thought to individuals and their histories—myself included. Everyone starts from where they're at. MacIntyre's strategy is how you avoid doing violence to people's intellect; it is how you respond to lack of being with creation instead of [pure] destruction and overwriting. My own stance is that when one measures by empirical evidence and takes into account available resources, neither Protestants nor Catholics are appreciably better than the other. Therefore, I have to demonstrate/​prove far less than you are trying to demonstrate/​prove.

            LB: A concrete example where Catholics have told me God is more good than I believe is that Catholics have the Pope, while Protestants do not. That is, God is more directly available to humans according to Catholics, than according to Protestants.

            M: Just having a Pope I don't think that is a "concrete" example.

            Ok, here is what I actually said to @randygritter:disqus:

            LB: But if you're going to say that "[The RCC] has taught a consistent doctrine.", we need to know what that means. God certainly could have communicated (II) to Pope Leo X (1513–1521) in an infallible manner. Is it so unreasonable to think that the number dead in the Thirty Years' War would have been appreciably smaller as a result? Is it so unreasonable to think that it would have been harder for people to say the Thirty Years' War was about religion, making the damage done to Christianity less?

            Additional context is #33 from Exsurge Domine (1520), which condemns "That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit." This leaves open the door for more execution of heretics at the behest of the RCC. As I said later in the paragraph you're quoting here, one would expect superior access to God to yield superior behavior in trying circumstances—such as the Thirty Years' War. And yet, I know of no interesting difference between Protestant and Catholic behavior, there. I'm not sure how much one should make of there being < 10 "saints" out of every 1,000,000 Catholics.

            M: What provisions did Christ give for the handing on of the faith?

            LB: He said to follow in his footsteps and those included having the capability to point out when the religious elite's practice was horribly far from their teaching. …

            M: That's weak. If you were trying to convince a non-Chrstian of the truth of Scripture and Christendom over the last 2k years that would be a face-plant. Don't answer the question if you don't want to.

            LB: If that is weak, then I will ask you to explicate the RCC understanding of "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." My understanding of Paul's argument in 1 Cor 1:18–2:10 is that there are some profoundly counter-intuitive aspects to Christianity.

            M: If you want a CC understanding just get a Catholic concordance. Scott Hahn's is my fav. What you're reading into the text is that St. Paul is giving a prescription for anti-hierarchical paradoxical structure for the Church.

            The Catholic Bible Concordance for the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition starts at $120 and is not available from my interlibrary loan system, so how about you take me through his reasoning at least once? I'm not saying that Paul is promoting something "anti-hierarchical"; what I wrote (which you excluded; I put it in strikethrough) is rather more vague. I want to know how Roman Catholicism understands what Paul is talking about, here. You called my response to your question "weak", and yet Paul uses the term "weakness of God" and contrasts that to "men" who are clearly men of "the world". And so when you say that a response of mine is weak to those who are of the world, I wonder whether that is necessarily a bad thing. I read the NT as saying that things in the kingdom of God ought to operate very differently from the way the world does things; just what that difference ought to be has of course been explored and argued by Christians for a long time. I expect there to be some sort of interesting difference; the one who cannot generate an interesting difference is in danger of conforming to the world—or am I in error?

            The crucifixion is paradoxically a sign of power to Christians and a sign of impotence to non-believers (Jews/Gentiles). Using similar rhetoric he then parallels the paradoxical wisdom of Christians against the wise and learned non-believers who had earthly power. This is all secondary to the primary reason he wrote the letter: (vs 10) there was division in the community. He is writing to promote Christian communion. What you're positing is the opposite.

            It seems to me that the enormous difference between God's ways and wisdom from the world's is rather crucial to the rest of the letter. If one fails to understand this, one is in extreme danger of seeking unhealthy unity. If you want an example of that, just look at the actions of Cardinal Humbert which brought about the East–West Schism. Schism was in Martin Luther's spiritual DNA. Take a look at Humbert's handling of the Filioque and contrast it to Paul's "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." You can say I'm misusing scripture if you want, but I think most will see Humbert as making a very worldly power-play, with façade of religion.

            What I take from this is that we Christians are missing something absolutely major about what God intended for his ἐκκλησία. That means I will simply recapitulate the error if I give you a complete hermeneutic which makes scripture perspicuous on every point. The kind of hubris which led Lord Kelvin to declare physics virtually accomplished (see his "Two Clouds" speech) is a hubris I wish to steer far from.

            LB: I can say all of the above paragraph without any scripture references, if you prefer.

            M: I would. I may need a rubric to understand exactly where and how you're reading Prot theology into every verse of the Bible and how you use that to support continued schism as I "think" you were above. You're somewhat cryptic in exactly what you're trying to say the verses say to you. That doesn't help in dialogue.

            I'm afraid you are not going to get an exact rubric; you seem to be asking for the equivalent of a scientific method and there is no scientific method. (Against Method) The reason I'm "somewhat cryptic" is that I don't think I have everything figured out! Far from it. But I have observed aspects of humanity most identify as problems, and seen that proposed solutions seem unable to solve them in any long-term way. My conclusion is that we humans lack the requisite understanding and instead of asking God for wisdom and respecting the wisdom he has already given, are instead repeating history over and over.

            However, I would be happy to start by exploring the questions: "Does the perfect mix with the imperfect? If so, how?" One answer to this is that the perfect is so above the perfect that one needs an extensive mediating hierarchy to transmit and translate orders. The idea that imperfection cannot touch the perfect lest the perfect be tainted is helpful in imagining this scenario. The imperfect must fix themselves on their own power, at best being inspired by the perfect in a rather indirect way.

            A very different answer is that the perfect is quite happy to dwell with the imperfect. The problem of continuing, unchanging imperfection is then viewed in a very different light: it is not that the imperfect are lazy and evil. Instead, they are unwilling to accept grace and mercy. The perfect continuing to dwell amongst the imperfect becomes very irritating, for their imperfections are constantly made known to them. So they demand a separation, by insertion of imperfect intermediaries who will only imperfectly transmit/​translate the perfect to them. This lowers expectations; the ideal might be there but few ever appreciably approach it. The mismatch between ideal and resources available to approach that ideal is eerily close to the first answer.

            While I am not aware of anyone who develops such a difference, I am aware of many influences. Perhaps the chief is a Bible study I did on 2 Cor 3–4, in which a young man I'm mentoring asked how one could possibly relate to someone who had traveled very far on the road of "being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another". That question resonated deeply with me, because I have encountered many understandings of God or the divine which matches that concern to a T. And yet, Jesus is a shining counterexample to that. Simultaneously, "he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, / and no beauty that we should desire him". But if Jesus is truly "the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature", then either Marcion is right or we need to read the OT very differently than he did—and than so many do today. God in the OT was acting in the same spirit as Jesus in the NT. We might note that Eve was not the only one called a "helper": that same word is used of God in relationship to Israel. Why then are we so tempted to see God as far off, as unwilling to be tainted by our imperfections?

            As best I understand, Satan cannot draw on God's grace and mercy and thus must rule without them. That means he must take from creation more than he ever gives. The same goes for any human who does not want to be in active relationship with God. I think the result is false legitimacy of the elite combined with a system of choosing a very small portion of the population for elevation to prominence, fed and provided for by the rest. The only way to expose such a system for what it is, is to look at it empirically, to compare promises and rhetoric with hard, cold reality.

            What makes this so complex is a principle I believe deeply: anything can be perverted. We see that with the very understanding of 'the temple of the LORD' in Jeremiah 7:1–15. Furthermore, apparently God is ok with a priestly mediating caste being a temporary stage. This is quite understandable in the rise and fall of nations: when the many become incompetent enough, they turn to strong leaders who can rescue them and rebuild. See the book of Judges. But is the end result that the many are raised up to maturity, or do they rather stay children, demanding to be taken care of? What I'm looking for is a way to escape this cycle. I think the Bible provides it, but I think the answer is offensive to everyone. Truly being like Jesus is exceedingly hard. See with Jesus, the sky is the limit for maturity, for repentance and for growth. One cannot complain that he is too harsh or that he doesn't provide what is necessary or that he won't lift us up as many times as we fall. One can lodge such complaints against humans, and then one can expect less of oneself. I think every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that "Jesus is lord" not due to some sort of domineering power, but due to all our excuses and rationalizations being shattered by his person.

            Ok, that is rather enough rambling from me. Much of the above is rather abstract, but it's the only way I could see to get the idea out in such limited space. I think one needs something more like the length of the Bible to get anywhere close to explicating such a thing. Satan is excellent at masquerading as an angel of light and revealing that for what it is is no simple thing. I refuse to accept that the matter is as simple as following the correct human authorities. The Bible is rather more sanguine: God promises and delivers, while Satan promises and disappoints. And now we're back at expectations of God.

            Also please be true to MacIntyre's purpose for epistemological shifts; the new knowledge (from old) should be able to demonstrate i and ii.

            I'm not claiming that sola scriptura is superior. I'm simply not convinced that what came before was superior. If anything, I would broad-brush and say that [conservative] Catholics are too attached to the old while Protestants are too attached to the new. My own thinking draws more heavily on Catholic scholars than I suspect most Protestants. But in general, it seems that Catholics and Protestants say to each other, "I have no need of you"—except to bolster numbers after utter conversion. I cannot take anyone seriously when [s]he says, "If only everyone would be like us, we'd have wonderful unity!" I know of no group of humans which, if all other humans would were to conform themselves to that group, we would see the prophecy fulfilled that "the earth will be filled / with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD / as the waters cover the sea." But perhaps I expect too much from God.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Please don't draw any inferences from my not replying to you on a Scriptural matter. My "thing" is philosophy, not Scripture. I am sure there are a dozen Catholics who comment on this blog who know far more about Scripture than do I. The only thing I am sure of is that Catholicism does not base itself on Sola Scriptura. There are simply too many ways to read the text, which is why we also have Tradition and a Magisteriuim. I do have a few texts that I have a strong opinion on, but this "father" one isn't one of them!

          • I don't see how our particular conversation needed to draw on scriptural expertise. It involved a factual claim about what I did or did not say, and a mysterious phrase which could have been explicated with logic but was not. All I inferred was that you did not wish to make the logical distinction—

                 (1) calling oneself 'father'
            vs.
                 (2) requiring others to call one 'Father'

            —that I and Mark understand quite apart from any scripture whatsoever. Nor did you wish to deny that there is such a distinction. I thought you might [edit: wish to state a position] based on your saying "My concern was more of a logical one than a scriptural-commentary one.", but apparently I misunderstood.

            I know you have many people to respond to and if atheists are a priority, I celebrate it. The most I could expect from your affirming a logical distinction between (1) and (2)—one that is not merely "a distinction without a difference"—is less arguing in circles with Jim.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are quite right about philosophical arguments for and against God are by far more my concern on these threads.

            So, I do not wish to pursue this argument between you and Mark in its Scriptural context. I am not convinced that any such arguments can easily be reduced to purely logical form, since the moment you add a term like, "requiring," it seems to me you enter a realm more like the language games of Wittgenstein than pure logic.

            Even if I introduce myself to you as "Judge Smith" and you reply by calling me "Mr. Smith," some element of societal implications arises beyond the mere fact that both terms are technically licit.

            When Christ gives Peter the "keys," the univocal logic of the term, "keys," is immediately superceded by the historical significance of the term. But that is precisely the kind of knowledge of Scripture that I declare beyond my expertise.

            But the main fact is that you and I are both Christians, and, in a world hostile to theism, not to mention Christianity, my far greater concern is with rational disputes between the most opposed groups. I would rather we both expend our main efforts on bringing some light to those who see none than to illuminating our real, but far lesser, differences.

          • I agree with your "language games" comment; there are indeed many ways to "require" which do not need to show up in doctrine. Let's take this issue of … ambiguous application, and apply it to God's goodness. Do you have a sense how much can be said about God being "good" when any and all special revelation is banned from discussion? I worry that this is as impossible to do as it was for Descartes to execute his radical doubt; my layperson's sense of philosophy is that the realm of pure reason, of the a priori, has been shrinking for quite some time. And then if one can fully sunder one's thinking from all special revelation and work on formalisms, how does one then apply them to empirical reality without ever drawing on special revelation?

            The context is a more abstract version of the evidential problem of evil, whereby people expect more goodness and less evil than they see. Kant epitomized the replacement of goodness with duty and obligation and I know that several forms of the evidential problem of evil make use of this non-gift, law-based rubric. But I'm not sure many laypersons who feel pulled by the evidential problem of evil are so willing to pack all of their understanding of goodness into duty and obligation. I will bet many see and admire Jesus†, but see very little Jesus around them. @Jimthescott:disqus is quite set on some very strict definitions‡ which exclude any and all special revelation coming into play—perhaps because of "language games" concerns. But I'm not sure this is a valid move for much of any one, apart from those philosophers who have essentially been colonized by Kant.

            I'm not sure how propositions like "Good is convertable with Being." help anyone connect theory/​formalism with lived reality. And yet, for the non-philosophers, surely a major part of what motivates the evidential problem of evil is lived reality. So what does it do to the conversation when one insist that only pure reason / general revelation / natural theology / philosophy are permitted? I have a sense in programming of the distance between what people want the program to do and what one can make it do; mapping from the rich domain of human needs to the impoverished domain of logical operations is an art. But I don't know what happens when you throw out all special revelation from thought and try to press forward from there. I'm not even convinced that it can be done, but I'm willing to suspend that disbelief. Could you talk about what it is like to do this thing, to do pure natural theology?

             
            † Probably just part of Jesus, conveniently ignoring other bits—a behavior which sadly, is not infrequently learned from Christians.
            ‡ Here are Jim's definitions:

            JS: Classic Theodicy is merely the philosophical arguments by which we arive at the natural knowledge of God's existence. Modern Theodicy is an attempt to offer moral justification for an alledgidly moral agent God (i.e moral agent in the unieqivocal way rational creatures are moral agents) inaction or delayed action in the face of evil.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I just found this comment in Disqus and cannot yet find where it is in the thread itself. For some reason, I feel more comfortable replying when I can see it in the actual thread. But I will do my best -- given some personal time restraints.

            >"Could you talk about what it is like to do this thing, to do pure natural theology?"

            You are right to suspect that "pure natural theology" is had to find. Let me try to explain how I think this all works -- not that I have worked it all out myself anyway.

            Yes, in theory, there is "pure philosophy," which would mean to me what the human mind can know by the unaided use of reason.

            Does it really exist? Well, yes and no. I suppose even Aristotle was affected to some extent by belief systems of Greece in his day, despite attempting a valiant effort at doing pure reasoning.

            By the time we come to the Church Fathers and scholastics, it is obvious that Christian revelation permeated their speculative work.

            And then we have Pope Leo XIII encouraging the work of "Christian philosophy," which gave rise to disputes as to whether such a thing was even possible.

            I think you have to go back and look at what we did when studying philosophy in the writings of St. Thomas. His works entailed some commentaries on secular writers, such as Aristotle -- and there one could expect essentially "pure reason" being applied to the subject matter. But his greatest works, the Summas, were theological in nature.

            What were we to do? Well, all one could do was to try to extract the purely rational material from its theological context. By and large, with great care, I think that was possible. The result would be "Christian philosophy," but in the form of pure reason.

            Well, that is where many Thomists dissented, since they insisted that the Christian influence, if real, would make the work not philosophy, but a form of theology. Others insisted that this "extracted Thomism" was pure philosophy, but was NOT Christian philosophy, since they viewed the very concept of "Christian philosophy" as a contradiction in terms.

            My own view is that there is a Christian philosophy, but solely if you understand it as a rational exploration of reality guided by Christian revelation. This does not make it theology or pervert its nature as pure reason, but it does mean that revelation guides the rational philosopher just like a road map guides a traveler. It saves a lot of time and toil to know where you are going and where the dead ends will be found. Does the map pervert the rational process? Not necessarily.

            When I was a young man, I was on a trip using a AAA road map as a guide. It worked just fine until it directed us to cross a river at a given point -- but there was NO BRIDGE! Well, we did not drown. We took another route. So, too, the guidance of revelation need not pervert the rational nature of Christian philosophy -- provided one is rational enough to know when reason cannot get as far as revelation directs. Thus, we believe in the Trinity, but we cannot prove it.

            So, can one have natural theology that is pure reason? Sure. But its purest form is attained solely with the guidance of revelation, which is just what St. Thomas tells us just prior to the Five Ways in the Summa Theologiae, where he points out the need for revelation because left on its own, reason takes longer to find the truth, will entail many errors, and will lose the truth over time even when reached.

            I have gone on too long already. Hope this helps.

          • That was really informative; thank you! I do wonder though whether pure reason can ever find the truth, if key aspects of the truth are particulars instead of universals. For example, Jim tells me that Aquinas thought creatio ex nihilo cannot be known by pure reason.

            I also wonder whether too much focus on pure reason is itself a theological position, whereby thought is more important than embodied reality. Think of a tempered form of gnosticism, which says that whenever embodied reality seems to mismatch theory, embodied reality is wrong. Or think of a philosopher-king who knows the Forms and whenever embodied reality disagrees with that philosopher-king's understanding, it is wrong and he is right. I think one can demonstrate the problem logically: if one understands how pure reason should interface with embodied reality via pure reason, then how is embodied reality not purely instrumental? Then YHWH should have called his creation "useful", not "good".

            By the way, I don't mean to invert the focus and raise embodied reality above pure reason. I find that a lot of atheists who like to argue about atheism, religion, and science do this and the result seems to be imprisonment within philosophical systems; one submits to a cage with bars one cannot taste, touch, hear, smell, or see, and then one declares that the only thing that counts is evidence. In contrast, Galileo wrote that "reason must do violence to the sense". Galileo! (The Reality of the Unobservable, 1; no in-text citation)

            I just found this comment in Disqus and cannot yet find where it is in the thread itself.

            If you found it via something like disqus.com/home/comments/, you can click "View in discussion" at the bottom of a comment instead of "Reply". That will take you to the thread and if Disqus is operating quickly, scroll you to the comment in question. If it won't always scroll to the comment in question, I have found that I can add a character to the end of the URL (e.g. …#comment-4425909401x), hit enter, and then my browser (Chrome on Windows) will jump to the relevant comment.

          • Mark

            I agreed with the sentence Luke in a pragmatic, non-scriptural sense. I did not agree with connotation you implied. I said as much and used illustration with my doctor and priest. "required" is an authoritarian interpretation of the use of Father. The people I call Mister, Doctor, or Father do not require me to call them that because they have no authority over me as an adult outside of in personi christi. My free will grants them that authority as I grant the authority of Her interpretation of Scripture over mine. It don't see it required in the authoritarian sense you imply that circumvents my free will and subordinates me to them.

          • I took your agreement for precisely what it was; hence my "(He goes on to disagree with me on later entailments, but one step at a time.)".

            As to 'require', I agree with @dennisbonnette:disqus: the term is complex. Here is what you and I said previously:

            M: "Requiring" a title be given is a misunderstanding of the CC, they are given it based upon my respect of their position and knowledge.

            LB: I don't see a meaningful, relevant difference between a doctrinal or canon requirement and a social custom so strong it is basically a requirement. What I think is relevant is whether doing so results in the increasing existence of characteristics the Bible praises, and/or decreasing existence of characteristics the Bible condemns. (Or vice versa.)

            I'm happy to use a different term than 'require'. For example:

                 (1) calling oneself 'father'
            vs.
                 (2′) expecting others to call one 'Father'

            or:

                 (1) calling oneself 'father'
            vs.
                 (2″) giving preferential treatment to those who call you 'Father'

            or:

                 (1) calling oneself 'father'
            vs.
                 (2‴) causing those who do not call you 'Father' to feel guilt

            I have been on the earth for a decent amount of time; I'm aware that much is done without a legal formalism requiring it. Much good, and much bad. I think Jesus was rather more concerned with the heart than legal formalisms and I try to imitate that.

            It don't see it required in the authoritarian sense you imply that circumvents my free will and subordinates me to them.

            Actually, I don't see free will running nearly as deeply as you seem to. My understanding of Augustine vs. Pelagius is that Augustine knew that when you land the Millennium Falcon, you might be inside a giant monster's maw; Pelagius believed that you are always on firm ground. That is, Augustine knew that our most fundamental understanding of good vs. evil could be arbitrarily distorted and we would exercise our will on top of that understanding, not knowing that we are operating on a distortion. When we grow up, we take cultural forms for granted; oftentimes we never think twice about them. That was almost certainly the case with the disciples understanding of what makes for greatness, requiring Jesus to pound on that word time and time again.

            A modern predicament of Christianity—the rise of plausible atheism—is causing at least some of us to more deeply examine how power is deployed. In a comment on Roger Olson's blog I just argued that the choice to epitomize physics as the most 'scientific' is itself a power-play, serving to obscure all sorts of order and patterns which are not [to our knowledge] needed to do physics—order and patterns created by humans in relationship with other humans. American citizens are thereby raised drinking the Kool-Aid and deprived of the tools to understand what is going on in society. They accept the status quo; this is no more authoritarian than the inevitable shaping parents do to their children.

          • Mark

            I call myself a father because my wife and I adopted babies and raised them. I'm an adoptive father. That has clear relationship meaning everyone reading this can understand. So does the RCC priestly/spiritual F/father if you care to break down your preconceived notions of it. Every redress of "required" fails to accurately portray the relationship of the RCC priestly/spiritual F/father. It also inaccurately portrays the Apostolic relationship to the Church and Aposotolic succession where authority is conferred through generations as it was originally in the locked upper room.

            I can only make sense of what you're saying if you take it to the extreme of "call no man Presbyter, Bishop, Father, Grandfather, Godmother, Judge, Officer, King, Doctor, Pastor etc." That would be the literal meaning of "you have no authority over me unless it is given from above" or "all authority have been given to me in heaven and earth". I agree Jesus was more concerned with the heart, but does He really literally mean any ecclesial or secular authority should be completely nullified because Authority is God alone's? Maybe we should at full initiation into Christianity call everyone "Brother". I have a friend who does this. But alas there is a difference between calling someone brother and requiring them to call you Brother. So we're back to square 1.

            The point is this: Authority is given and/or conferred. It is always authorized. It is not required.

            From Shakespeare's King Lear:
            "But you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master." -Kent
            "What's that?" - King Lear
            "Authority" - Kent

          • I call myself a father because my wife and I adopted babies and raised them. I'm an adoptive father.

            Hence my including "biological situations or quasi-biological situations".

            That has clear relationship meaning everyone reading this can understand. So does the RCC priestly/spiritual F/father if you care to break down your preconceived notions of it.

            Y'all keep harping on "my preconceived notions"; it'd be interesting to see if you can find such notions in what I've actually said, or whether you're actually drawing on stereotypes of Protestants who make the matter more about Mt 23:5–12 than Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–30. I have repeatedly asked for the Magisterium's understanding of Jesus' way of serving vs. the Gentile (and disciple!) conception of "greatest" and the Gentile ways of "lord it over" / "exercise authority over". Given how unjust the scribes and Pharisees were in having Jesus executed, perhaps the disciples' understanding of how authority works was terribly muddled as well! I think it is extraordinarily suspicious that nobody here wants to sketch firm distinctions between these two very different forms of societal organization.

            Every redress of "required" fails to accurately portray the relationship of the RCC priestly/spiritual F/father.

            You seem stuck on (2), instead of paying attention to (2′), (2″), or (2‴). Edit: upon re-reading, I am insufficiently certain to say what I put in strikethrough.

            I can only make sense of what you're saying if you take it to the extreme of "call no man Presbyter, Bishop, Father, Grandfather, Godmother, Judge, Officer, King, Doctor, Pastor etc."

            I am actively working through whether it is acceptable to say "Pastor X", if that helps. As to the rest, I think I've rather exhaustively talked about the dangers I see in repeated use of titles, and how a son does not call his father out on the father's crap but a brother is rather entitled to do it to a fellow brother. I've carved out what I think is a reasonable exception for fathers of children who are not yet mature. Although there are certainly paterfamilias dangers, I doubt that my calling my father "dad" promotes the dynamic "they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others". Nor is it a way of my father exercising authority over me or lording it over me—although I know that's a danger for fathers. Perhaps the biggest danger is that calling my father "dad" might preclude the following dynamic from ever taking place between us: "let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves". But with my particular father, I wonder if that has indeed happened. He certainly has done scutwork for me when I was lazy, while I did much more mentally stimulating tasks. I'll bet that offends plenty of cultural sensibilities. :-D

            I agree Jesus was more concerned with the heart, but does He really literally mean any ecclesial or secular authority should be completely nullified because Authority is God alone's?

            I'm inclined to agree with Guardini: "authority is not merely the refuge of the weak; its destruction always breeds its burlesque—force." (The End of the Modern World, 26) But I take from Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–30 that there are profoundly different ways to exercise authority, almost making the term 'authority' equivocal between the two ways. Likewise, the term 'temple of the LORD' is presented as equivocal in Jeremiah 7:1–15—leading Jeremiah to call term 'deceptive'. It pretends to be one thing while being a kind of opposite. Surely the same thing can happen with 'authority'. How does one fight such perversion of the most basic terms? Not with more definitions.

            I came to a realization some time ago: so much of the fight of good vs. evil seems presented in the sense of the two forces being roughly equal. This is very Zoroastrian and I suspect, Manichean. Look at the OT and the forces seem imbalanced: there were many more evil kings than good things. If the solution were authority used in a worldly style, God would have been much more dominantly present, like he was for a very short time during the Exodus & Conquest and at precious few other points. His primary mode of operation, however, seems to be through inaction—or perhaps, that "weakness" and "foolishness" Paul talks about in 1 Cor 1:18–2:10. There's something radically different in how God operates and it seems he wants us to follow suit. And yet, I rarely see such a radical difference discussed by any Christians; it is generally about Obedience to Right Authorities™ or something anarchic. It's a wonderful false dichotomy which I see so often assumed as an exclusive dichotomy. One should always ask who benefits from excluding any middle.

            The point is this: Authority is given and/or conferred. It is always authorized. It is not required.

            I appreciate at least something about the difference, but not nearly enough to generate the kind of sharp distinction I attempted to get at in the above two paragraphs and which I've attempted to get at elsewhere on this page.

            From Shakespeare's King Lear:
            "But you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master." -Kent
            "What's that?" - King Lear
            "Authority" - Kent

            I know something about the art of command; the question is whether that art makes use of fallen aspects of human nature or regenerate aspects. Words can be so deceptive. Satan is absolutely fantastic at slowly perverting them. Like evolution can accomplish much by accumulating many small changes over great periods of time, I think the meanings of words can change. This isn't all bad—it's not like our present understandings are pristine. But any given use is open to question and I believe this is a key part of God judging by the heart while we default to judging by appearances.

          • Mark

            "Y'all keep harping on "my preconceived notions"; it'd be interesting to see if you can find such notions in what I've actually said,"

            >"I don't see a meaningful, relevant difference between a doctrinal or canon requirement and a social custom so strong it is basically a requirement."

            I'm spiritually bound in Christ as a Catholic to cannon and the Authority He appointed Her and the other (including 2', 2", 2"') is clericalism and ecclesiolotry which is a sin according to the CC. I confess I see it often in the CC. Sadly when clericalism is what you've built your faith upon sinners like McCarrick can extripate your faith.

            I'm inclined to agree with Guardini: "authority is not merely the refuge of the weak; its destruction always breeds its burlesque—force."

            Is that a yes?

          • I'm spiritually bound in Christ as a Catholic to cannon and the Authority He appointed Her and the other (including 2', 2", 2"') is clericalism and ecclesiolotry which is a sin according to the CC.

            Sure. My father taught me that a good way to stay out of sin was to stay away from sin—that is, away from situations where the temptation to sin is great and the benefits from being that close to sin are comparably small. I believe that there is a formal system under which calling a priest 'Father' results in none of the problems Jesus identifies in Mt 20:20–28, Lk 22:24–30, and Mt 23:5–12. Where I grow suspicious is how often that formal system gets corrupted when implemented in embodied reality with human beings as they are, not as they ought to be. And one concrete consequence of using titles which reinforce relational asymmetries is that the more powerful person can get away with more evil; the less powerful person has fewer resources and privileges to object.

            M: I agree Jesus was more concerned with the heart, but does He really literally mean any ecclesial or secular authority should be completely nullified because Authority is God alone's?

            LB: I'm inclined to agree with Guardini: "authority is not merely the refuge of the weak; its destruction always breeds its burlesque—force." …

            M: Is that a yes?

            No. Surely it is clear that "force" is simply the most obvious, the most blatant form of "lord it over" / "exercise authority over"? When Pope Boniface VII bragged that previous popes had deposed three French kings, this was not done through holding a knife to the king's throat. I also want to make clear that God acceded to the people's demands in both Deut 5:22–33 and 1 Sam 8. So highly developed, hierarchical authority structures exist within Israel's history, with a kind of divine sanction. (Reminds me of God giving divorce certificates due to the hardness of people's hearts.) But are such structures meant to be permanent? If so, I would expect them to be refined and lead to better and better fruit over time. If not, I would expect all sorts of failure modes. I worry that the Roman Catholic Church has done very well to train its followers to say things like: "I do think your focus on maturity is odd. … It is not a dominant theme of scripture …" That is a perfect match for a permanent hierarchical authority structure.

          • Mark

            And one concrete consequence of using titles which reinforce relational asymmetries is that the more powerful person can get away with more evil; the less powerful person has fewer resources and privileges to object.

            Sure. However, a concrete consequence of giving authority to a human activity system such as an ecclesia is that abundantly more Good can come from doing so given all of our intrinsic propensity to be self-righteous. I whole-heartily believe the sinful person that has an authority has a more efficient path to His grace. Let me explain:

            The most successful human systems have authority built into it; someone to answer to. Do some abuse the power? Yes. There is 1000 fold examples of authority being efficiently good over bad. Tiger Woods just won another green jacket because he "lorded over" his golf game to a coach. This works in business systems. Business consultants are handsomely overpaid just to employ universal systems of accountability. I happen to own multiple businesses, I've paid their fees, it's asinine, it works and it has a positive ROI. This works in education systems. This works in health delivery systems. This works in family systems. This works in judicial systems. Most importantly it works in ecclesial systems. You can always point to a small percentage of teachers, doctors, clerics, bosses, guardians, or parents that abuse their authority. This is sin of the personhood not an indictment on authority.

            Let me be honest. I hated Catholic ecclesia and felt even more violently anti-authoritarian towards the Magisterium than you. I didn't always drink the Kool-Aid. I honestly feel as though you have a desired outcome (non-authoritarian ecclesial system) and you're willing to ignore the copious amount of good, ignore the ECFs that handed both of us our T(t)raditions, and proof text your presuppositions into premises to reach the conclusion. I did the something similar, but a much much less intellectually and morally honest way than how you're going about it. My 180 came with a spiritual rebirth necessary to repair a very broken man and an honest, "if I'm wrong about this" then what else? A modern St. Augustine, without his intellect or saintlyhood. I read a great deal of ECFs. They don't sound Evangelical for a reason, a reason I denied most of my adult life. I'm exactly the opposite of a RCC trained follower. I read myself into this by reading the ECFs and converted apologists like my fellow Iowan Brian Cross.

            Have a blessed Holy Thursday and Easter. I'm going to go have my spiritual Father literally wash my feet. :D

          • Hmmm, you seem to have a rather rosy view of things. Brad S. Gregory writes in The Unintended Reformation that today there is much less belief in academia in "rosy evaluations of an onward-and-upward, progressive view of Western history". (10) Given various challenges facing us, including the prospect of hundreds of millions of climate refugees, how can I be confident that you're not saying "Peace, Peace!" when there is no peace? After all, everyone saying that in 1913 was wrong, as well as those saying it in 1938. I'm not saying we are facing another World War; humans like a little variety in their recapitulation of history. I have relatives who own software businesses and they aren't as positive as you, either. Your statement on judicial systems is especially egregious; at least in America it is seriously problematic. We're not talking small percentages there; would it help the present discussion if I got you some hard data?

            I personally don't hate authority systems. What I suspect is that God simply did not create reality such that appreciable power differentials between people and classes of people can be maintained for generations without pathology after pathology cropping up. That is, we are given power to build others up; if we do not use it this way then the power becomes rotten—like manna kept for too long. This is one way I make sense of the upside-downness of God's power in Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–30, as well as 1 Cor 1:18–2:10. I'm open to other interpretations that make those distinctions robust and meaningful; so far I have heard none.

            I've used authority well, myself. A recent PhD recipient was struggling with academic trauma inflicted on him and he was in danger of accepting many lies which eased the pain temporarily, but would be increasingly harmful the rest of his life. I was able to help destroy them—maybe this is part of what 2 Cor 10:3–6 is talking about. A long-tenured faculty member thought that I might have shaved a few months off of this person's recovery time, making it easier for him to enter the work force. There is an incredible power in wielding such authority well; Satan is ready to tell insidious lies which often show their destructive force decades later. I myself benefit from such authority: when people give me wisdom and they have enough of a track record that I need to do less due diligence, I can focus more of my efforts elsewhere.

            Now a tired refrain of mine: if Right Human Authority is so valuable, can I see Roman Catholics behaving noticeably better en masse in the Thirty Years' War, as compared to Protestants? The rubber really hits the road in that conflict. From what I see, Exsurge Domine #33 held open the door for further executions of "heretics". (Indeed, I can't quite tell if Dignitatis Humanae shuts it or not.) We know that the rank and file won't obey the authorities precisely; the authorities therefore must act according to the reality of this imprecision instead of pretending otherwise. Was it in any way wise to keep open the possibility that the Holy Spirit is ok with the execution of "heretics"? We know that the Crusades authorized mass killing of "heretics", we know the Jews had a special exemption, and we know some fuzzed that over to horrific ends. So there was hard data for Pope Leo X to reason from, as well as God's prerogative of speaking infallibly into his ear. The Thirty Years' War was atrocious for Christian witness, so surely it would have been exceedingly valuable for (i) God to say the right thing; (ii) Pope Leo X with his Cardinals to exercise wisdom. Well, what happened? I'm pretty sure we're not talking "a small percentage", here.

            Happy (Joyful?) Easter to you as well!

            P.S. One of my active projects is to understand how the West closes itself to "transcendence"; I'm keying off of Charles Taylor's A Secular Age and to a lesser extent, Alan Noble's Disruptive Witness. I suspect a key part is to realize the reality of Augustine's incurvatus in se. We are not self-sufficient; we need God's mercy and grace. We were designed for God's mercy and grace, not an infinitely high standard which we have no hope of satisfying on our own resources. This is one reason I scour sources from atheist to Catholic to Protestant, less so other religious because I'm a single person. I am not self-sufficient; I'm pathetic all by myself. What I am [overly? massively overly?] sensitive to is others' attempts to reprogram me, to discard anything in what I say which disagrees with their understanding. That seems to me to be the opposite error of rejecting transcendence—when it is done to any human.

          • Mark

            I might ask for hard data on whatever non-authoritarian system you believe ecclesia should be based on. Is there a "everyone is equal in power" system of governance that you'd like to enter into evidence outside the obvious one of communism or socialism? This utopia ecclesial society you seem to be hinting at I think is made up.

          • Did you miss the paragraph starting with "I've used authority well, myself."? I merely think the term 'authority' is as stable as the term 'the temple of the LORD'. I have nothing like a utopia in mind; that would be to commit the very error of arrogance that I routinely criticize. I am a finite being and at best have only the smallest of pieces to a very large puzzle. But I'm not yet willing to admit to having zero pieces to the puzzle, nor pieces which are purely instrumental (that is, merely aid the will of other humans, like homework help where you are discardable but your expertise is nice to have).

          • Mark

            Okay. Well I can't seem to parse out exactly what it is that Authority has that makes it intrinsically evil to you. Well there are specific events around the 30 years that have really nothing to do with the promise Christ left us about Her and Her ability to remain true to His teachings. I understand the Crusades to be a defensive war that saved at least the southern half Europe from Muslim rule. Rome would likely have gone the route of Hippo. I see the analagy you put forward as if someone would evidence internment camps or Roe v Wade as specific reasons the US should be discredited. They were bad decisions made with an unconstitutional (unMagisterial) interpretation.

            You can't seem to clearly define the brotherly ecclesia you support, exactly how that pragmatically works or examples of such in practice today. So unless you think I'm missing something I think this conversation has probably run it's course. I do wish you and yours a Blessed Easter Luke. May this pascal mystery of Christ fill your heart with grace.

          • M: I might ask for hard data on whatever non-authoritarian system you believe ecclesia should be based on.

            LB: Did you miss the paragraph starting with "I've used authority well, myself."?

            M: Well I can't seem to parse out exactly what it is that Authority has that makes it intrinsically evil to you.

            You didn't answer my question and you seemed to contradict it. Furthermore, I haven't gotten you to explicitly accept or reject that "the term 'authority' is as stable as the term 'the temple of the LORD'". You seem to want to stay much more simplistic than the Bible itself is. (I don't think I need to push against the Magisterium to say this; feel free to show what in the present argument is in contradiction to the Magisterium.)

            You can't seem to clearly define the brotherly ecclesia you support, exactly how that pragmatically works or examples of such in practice today.

            Correct: I say no Christian can and that unless Catholics want to say that I am not a follower of Jesus and am going to hell†, then Jesus' words are biting criticism of all Christians and all "Christianity" currently present on this earth:

            “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20–23)

            A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35)

            I understand that plenty of Catholics disagree, that they say the Roman Catholic Church is the ἐκκλησία, and that non-Christians can look at the RCC and find Jesus' words fulfilled to the point where they are the evidence he claims. I think, quite frankly, that said line of reasoning is hogwash. I am so confident about that, that I'm willing to be damned to hell (or executed as a "heretic") if it's wrong. I say that no Christian alive knows how to do either of the above. We are all—all—still so incredibly self-righteous. And that self-righteousness perverts the intellect just as much as every other part of our being.

             
            † I'm not an expert on this, but I think that's something which could be easily believed before Vatican II. It certainly showed up in the mass killings in the Thirty Years' War. And it shows up from Pope Boniface VIII: "Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." (Unam sanctam)

          • Sample1

            And here is the storm.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • I fear you will be disappointed, as this is SN, not EN nor CE nor DC.

          • Rob Abney

            I upvoted to agree with that sentence. I'll be glad when you start engaging in philosophical arguments rather than proof-texting. I agree with Mike that that is the best way to get you to RCIA.

          • Thanks for responding. Would you be willing to give me an instance of scriptural interpretation which is:

                 (1) Not taking directly from the Magisterium.
                 (2) Not done by an obedient Catholic.
                 (3) Not proof-texting.

            ?

            My issue with diving too quickly into philosophical arguments is that philosophical 'reason' seems radically under-determined. Here's a tidbit from my exchange with @Jimthescott:disqus:

            LB: As to 'reason', I would look at the 'reason' which makes matter and creation out to be evil, or the 'reason' which denies the possibility of creatio ex nihilo. As it turns out, 'reason' can do many different things; just feed it the right axioms & rules of inference. There is good reason to think that more is going on than just 'reason'.

            JtS: That is an open question. Aquinas believe we can only know creatio ex nihilo is true via divine revelation. I believe Boniventure disagreed? One can take either opinion. As a pratical matter I assume Aquinas' view.

            I'm drawing a lot on Claude Tresmontant's A Study of Hebrew Thought (nihil obstat, imprimatur) in talking about whether creatio ex nihilo is seen as possible and how one's stance on that has radical philosophical implications. Spinoza, for example, wrote that "... if anyone affirmed that substance is created, it would be the same as saying that a false idea was true — in short, the height of absurdity." (Ethics, Prob VII, Schol. II; quoted on 10) The particulars matter, and I'm rather convinced they don't come from "pure reason". I fear that a pure focus on philosophy will preclude discussion of those influential particulars.

            Another example of an "influential particular" is Jesus upside-down logic—upside-down in comparison to the Jewish, Greek, and Roman virtues of his day, and upside-down in comparison to the virtues exercised by many in the West today (especially those with appreciable power). An example I've been discussing in these comments is Jesus saying the following:

            And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. (Luke 22:25–27)

            (Feel free to argue that Jesus isn't arguing for something upside-down; I need not do any more interpretive work for the moment, for this discussion.) I suspect that any philosophy will either take a stance on the above, or leave it open and thereby have no power to critique belief and behavior contrary to Jesus on this matter. Does this make any sense to you?

          • Jim the Scott

            DUDE! Oh for Pete's sake Luke not all theology can be known by reason alone. Only natural theology! The POE & the EPOE are species of natural theology not revealed theology. So the Incarnate God Man has nothing to do with it! Do ye not get that?

            Oy vey!

            Jesus telling people to be personally humble has nothing to do with the Church being given objective authority from God or wither a philosophical system is true or not.

            I too will be glad when you start engaging in philosophical arguments rather than proof-texting. This is not the place for it. Catholic Answers is down the road over there. Have at it with them. There are a host of ex=-Evengelicals turned Catholics who would love to share with you the fullness of the Gospel.

            I am automatically skeptical when you tell me what you think Jesus "means" in terms of philosophy.

          • RA: I'll be glad when you start engaging in philosophical arguments rather than proof-texting.

            LB: My issue with diving too quickly into philosophical arguments is that philosophical 'reason' seems radically under-determined.

            JtS: Oh for Pete's sake Luke not all theology can be known by reason alone. Only natural theology!

            Sorry, but @rob_abney:disqus used the term 'philosophical arguments', not 'theology'. He was juxtaposing that to what I'm doing, which is using scripture in a way @Sample1:disqus has characterized as "canned answer", @EamusCatuli0771108:disqus as ""canned" proof-text", and Rob as "proof-texting". I await Rob's answer to my request for clarification on just what constitutes "proof-texting". In the meantime, I'm assuming he wants scripture to stay well away from the discussion, or at least buried and perhaps even silent, within "philosophical arguments". He is welcome to clarify. I was pushing back against the legitimacy of the latter, "buried" option; I think one ends up burying much of what is of crucial importance.

            Do you disagree with the above? I'm especially curious about how I can apparently handle philosophizing safely, but will just do prooftexting upon prooftexting if I'm allowed Holy Writ. If that were actually true, why didn't God give us philosophy, directly? I'm not sure whether that question is philosophical, theological, both, or neither.

            Jesus telling people to be personally humble has nothing to do with the Church being given objective authority from God or wither a philosophical system is true or not.

            I don't see why philosophy is relevant unless it touches on such mundane matters, through however many layers of abstraction. I don't see how you can read the OT or NT and not see God as very willing to get down in the muck. I think Claude Tresmontant's A Study of Hebrew Thought (nihil obstat, imprimatur) makes a good case for this, as well as explaining strong philosophical animus toward it, ancient and modern. Why should I fail to be deeply skeptical philosophy which does not bear on mundane life?

            I too will be glad when you start engaging in philosophical arguments rather than proof-texting.

            I request you answer the same thing I asked of @rob_abney:disqus:

            LB: Would you be willing to give me an instance of scriptural interpretation which is:

                 (1) Not taking directly from the Magisterium.
                 (2) Not done by an obedient Catholic.
                 (3) Not proof-texting.

            ?

            In reading what you, Rob, and Mike have written, I cannot come up with an understanding of 'prooftexting' which comes anywhere close to a natural kind. Feel free to decline or deny the concept of a natural kind or deny its applicability. Being a rather rule-bound person, I have a hard time not doing bad thing X without it being spelled out somewhat articulately. Sometimes that is done and I learn to stop doing it; sometimes what is being described is not a natural kind but loyalty to a group.

            I am automatically skeptical when you tell me what you think Jesus "means" in terms of philosophy.

            Please explain. Surely we are to imitate Jesus? If so, why is philosophy important of it does not help us imitate Jesus? (I can see it being somewhat important, but it is being given prime importance in the discussions, here.)

          • Jim the Scott

            >Sorry, but Rob Abney used the term 'philosophical arguments', not 'theology'.

            Good grief Luke do you not know by now Philosophical arguments are related to Natural Theology? Sample1 sans his astute observation Paul calls himself and other religious leaders "Father" like most Atheists here is just frustrated Catholics are neither Fundamentalists nor Evangelicals because we reject Luther's perspicuity heresy. Thus he can't use the Bible in his contra religious polemics on us. Cry me a river.......

            "Proof-texting" is citing any Bible text and interpreting it in such a way as to contradict the establish doctrine of the One True Church & or the conclusions of natural theology vs interpreting it in harmony.

            It is a Catholic website that addresses Atheism & religious skeptics. Catholicism will be assumed by us to be the default Christianity. You wish to dispute this? Hey Catholic Answers is over there? My Buddy Dave Armstrong is over there. Have at them.

            > I don't see how you can read the OT or NT and not see God as very willing to get down in the muck.

            I don't deny God willed from all eternity to become man to redeem us. I might claim we can't know that with natural theology only by divine revelation. So they are seperate species of theology. You are conflating them. We don't do that. That is not good Catholicism sir. That is naughty Protestantism sir and we dinna do that ladd.

            > I think Claude Tresmontant's

            I have a host of books on Jewish Theology and Jewish Christian Theology but they are not relevant here anymore then sub-atomic processes are relevant to natural selection just because both are physical sciences.

            >Please explain. Surely we are to imitate Jesus?

            Yes we should try to be good people by his flawless example but we can't be all knowing like he is in his divine nature.

            I don't get you Luke?

          • Sample1

            I have a host of books on Jewish Theology and Jewish Christian Theology but they are not relevant here anymore then sub-atomic processes are relevant to natural selection just because both are physical sciences.

            +5

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Jim the Scott

            Thanks? I think? I am so paranoid in my old age........

          • RA: I'll be glad when you start engaging in philosophical arguments rather than proof-texting.

            LB: My issue with diving too quickly into philosophical arguments is that philosophical 'reason' seems radically under-determined.

            JtS: Oh for Pete's sake Luke not all theology can be known by reason alone. Only natural theology!

            LB: Sorry, but Rob Abney used the term 'philosophical arguments', not 'theology'.

            JtS: Good grief Luke do you not know by now Philosophical arguments are related to Natural Theology?

            I'm questioning how much of natural theology can be known by 'reason alone'. Another way to put it is that I'm questioning how much special revelation, or particulars via another route, are smuggled in to natural theology. I'm suggesting that we might not realize we're doing the smuggling, like Descartes didn't realize he was leaning heavily on tradition to do his radical doubt.

            You are conflating [natural theology and divine revelation].

            Given what I wrote in the previous paragraph, I do not see how this is true. I suspect you are treating 'natural theology' like Hume treated 'morality': because his exposure was parochial even though less parochial than many of his peers, he thought he had happened upon universal morality. He was wrong. I suspect the same has happened with the 'pure reason' that supposedly gives rise to 'natural theology'. So, how have I conflated 'natural theology' and 'divine revelation'?

            … we reject Luther's perspicuity heresy.

            Assuming you mean by this that nothing in the Bible is remotely perspicuous, then I say you're handing virtually all of the determining power to the RCC—that allowing atheists and skeptics and me to play around with "philosophical arguments" is like giving a child approved toys to play in a sanitized sandbox surrounded by an electric fence.

            "Proof-texting" is citing any Bible text and interpreting it in such a way as to contradict the establish doctrine of the One True Church & or the conclusions of natural theology vs interpreting it in harmony.

            Ok, so according to you there is no distinction between "prooftexting" and disloyalty? We're really talking disloyalty to humans, as no office speaks apart from the humans occupying them; no office has ever executed a heretic (directly or indirectly) apart from the human occupying it. It's always a human determining what is loyal and what is disloyal.

            It is a Catholic website that addresses Atheism & religious skeptics. Catholicism will be assumed by us to be the default Christianity. You wish to dispute this? Hey Catholic Answers is over there? My Buddy Dave Armstrong is over there. Have at them.

            I don't wish to so much dispute this as say you will have a huge impedance mismatch with a good number of skeptics and atheists, who are more influenced by Protestantism than Catholicism. I think it would be wise for you to be more clear on difference between the two on issues relevant to the evidential problem of evil. I say this extends well past the presupposition that God is a moral agent with primordial obligations to us; I say it extends to any and all expectations that a widespread interpretation of scripture has generated. It is indisputable that God has promised things to humans and it is indisputable that God follows through on his promises. Beyond that, there are many differences, some of which you and I have explored.

            So, I suggest you be clear on how Protestants are wrong, in expecting more from God than Catholics. You can of course dispute whatever standard is being used to say "more". But you might be in the unenviable position of saying that Catholics are more ok with God permitting brain cancer in children than Protestants. You might be in the unenviable position of recapitulating @randygritter:disqus's "I do think your focus on maturity is odd. … It is not a dominant theme of scripture …" After all, mature Christians are more effective at fighting evil and promoting flourishing than immature Christians, but if the RCC truly doesn't focus on the maturity of all believers …

            I have a host of books on Jewish Theology and Jewish Christian Theology but they are not relevant here anymore then sub-atomic processes are relevant to natural selection just because both are physical sciences.

            In A Study of Hebrew Thought (nihil obstat, imprimatur), Tresmontant deals primarily with philosophy, contrasting the philosophy of the ancient Greeks (and more) with the philosophy of the ancient Hebrews. One of his key findings/​reportings from Henri Bergson is that only the ancient Hebrews allowed creatio ex nihilo; only the Hebrews saw created reality ("matter") as good. Such basic philosophical differences seem to me to demonstrate how little one can conclude via 'pure reason'.

            Now, I can see how you were confused on this matter; I did use Tresmontant's book as supporting the theological (special revelation) view that "God [is] very willing to get down in the muck". But the point is that this property is deeply tied to one's philosophy. Plato's 'God' would never get down in the muck because of Plato's philosophical commitments. Aristotle's unmoved movers might inspire the muck, but they don't actually offer any real help. Given the tremendous amount of philosophical variety, I just don't see how we can place much trust in 'natural theology'. And so, I deeply suspect that people's expectations that God wants a better world for us than this one come from rather more than 'pure reason'.

            JtS: I am automatically skeptical when you tell me what you think Jesus "means" in terms of philosophy.

            LB: Please explain. Surely we are to imitate Jesus? If so, why is philosophy important of it does not help us imitate Jesus? (I can see it being somewhat important, but it is being given prime importance in the discussions, here.)

            JtS: Yes we should try to be good people by his flawless example but we can't be all knowing like he is in his divine nature.

            I don't get you Luke?

            If Jesus is "the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature", then thinking about God in terms of Jesus doesn't seem beyond the pale. (Am I being disloyal to the RCC prooftexting, again?) Jesus seemed quite interested in physical and spiritual flourishing. He did so in a way that is not how any of us would do it, but in a way we can increasingly understand. Thinking which "anthropomorphizes God" might be distorted ways of understanding Jesus, where if you remove the distortions, you get expectations of goodness which seem violated by life today. I know I'm in danger of "prooftexting" some more, but when Jesus ascended it seems to me he handed over the job to us, and the basics in the following seem pretty clear to me:

            “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:12–14)

            We again have the problem of what constitutes "greater"; the world's idea of "greater" seems very tied to instrumental reason, with a result well-described by Roman Guardini: "While gaining infinite scope for movement man lost his own position in the realm of being." (The End of the Modern World, 33) But it seems to me that one of the reasons that the evidential problem of evil is convincing to many is that Jesus gave us the expectation that things would be much better than they currently are! If you think that this is High Protestant Fantasy™ that is fine, but your atheist and agnostic interlocutors might have bought into such Fantasy. How do you dial that back, explaining to them that God isn't that good, or his goodness takes a rather different form? I can easily understand why you would want to stay as far away as you can from such an explanation. Requiring that all discussion take place in terms of 'natural theology' is a convenient way to keep away from such uncomfortable issues.

            The rub here is that maybe there is so much evil and so little flourishing (as against expectations) because Christians are being gratuitously irresponsible. @randygritter:disqus actually allowed that, but IIRC placed the bulk of the blame on non-Catholics, or at least Catholics outside of that "smaller, purer church". It seems to me that you just don't want to let the conversation ever get to this point. Maybe I'm wrong—I hope I am—but you seem to want to dispatch any and all evidential problem of evil arguments by saying that "God is not a moral agent", full stop. Having to investigate the issue any more might reveal culpable weakness on the part of Christians, and perhaps even culpable weakness on the part of obedient Catholics.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I'm questioning how much of natural theology can be known by 'reason alone'.

            By definition if we can know it by reason alone it falls under the species of natural theology. If we can't know it unless God tells us then it is revealed.
            That is rather straight forward and we can know that we don't know something and we can know what we know.

            >I'm suggesting that we might not realize we're doing the smuggling, like Descartes didn't realize he was leaning heavily on tradition to do his radical doubt.

            Thomist care nothing for Descartes fuzzy thinking anymore then a lion cares for the opinions of sheep.
            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2019/04/can-you-doubt-that-2-3-5.html

            You are conflating the two because you are not using the correct definitions. I bag on scientism all the time but I can tell what is a scientific question if I can verify or falsify via a scientific experiment and I can tell what is a philosophical supposition too. So I don't get your problem?

            >Assuming you mean by this that nothing in the Bible is remotely perspicuous,

            Not at all but even "clear" things are problematic. "Baptism now saves you" & "You must eat my flesh" & "whose sins you forgive are forgiven" "I have become a Father to you" &"harken unto the Tradition" etc seem clear to us but you lot ignore it & you seem to think "call no man Father" & other verses you use contradict our understandings. Then there is the Jehovah's Witnesses and their tendency to downplay "and the Word was God" but over emphasize "the Father is greater then I". We both acknowledge "if they right eye offend thee etc" does not endorse literal self -mutilation.

            So you need a God appointed authority to sort this all out. It can in some cases take centuries for us to sort it out with the help of the Holy Spirit but you lot will divide and rebel forever til you realize the futility of it.

            > then I say you're handing virtually all of the determining power to the RCC—

            On matters of Scriptural interpretation and revelation in general yes and I will never apologize for it. You don't need the Church to see the validity of a philosophical argument which is why we don't need Church authority to the max.

            >that allowing atheists and skeptics and me to play around with "philosophical arguments" is like giving a child approved toys to play in a sanitized sandbox surrounded by an electric fence.

            This is a Catholic blog with Catholic sensibilities. The Presbyterians are over there. I won't pretend I am not Catholic among my own kind and in the houses of my brothers.

            >Ok, so according to you there is no distinction between "prooftexting" and disloyalty?

            I don't expect loyalty from non-Catholics. I expect accuracy & I demand it. You can expound on Protestant doctrine all you like but be clear you are doing that and don't allow it to be conflated with the Catholic one.
            Don't follow the Pope Luke if you don't want to but don't confuse people as to what is the Catholic view vs the Protestant when they contradict.

            >If Jesus is "the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature", then thinking about God in terms of Jesus doesn't seem beyond the pale.

            He is the living God as told to us by divine revelation I agree. We can know much about God from him that natural theology cannot tell us but He can't contradict it and any interpretation of him that does is automatically wrong for us Catholics. Truth cannot contradict Truth.

            >I don't wish to so much dispute this as say you will have a huge impedance mismatch with a good number of skeptics and atheists, who are more influenced by Protestantism than Catholicism.

            In case you didn't notice (I do this to Greene and Nickols as often as I can) I spend my time disabusing them of Protestant influence as I think it to be erroneous like their Skepticism and or Atheism. Error is Error.

            I won't change.

            >But you might be in the unenviable position of saying that Catholics are more ok with God permitting brain cancer in children than Protestants.

            Well we are more Ok with it in the sense that we know God is not obligated to stop it and can passively permit it.

            I don't think I would be against Henri Bergson's views but I doubt they are relavent and I would think as a Catholic he would not understand his views to be at odds with Scholasticism.

            Anyway you post is overly long so I am going to stop here. Not that I am not enjoying it but my middle daughter is begging for a walk on this lovely day and I wish to oblige her.

          • Jim, you seem to trust in definitions much more than I do. My experience is that people frequently use definitions which violate natural kind boundaries, whether by including elements which don't belong, or omitting/​excluding elements which do belong. For example, David Hume thought he had discovered "universal morality", but did so by excluding plenty of extant human moralities. You yourself said "Aquinas believe we can only know creatio ex nihilo is true via divine revelation. I believe Boniventure disagreed?" So we can have a dandy definition of 'natural theology', but then the question is: What properly falls under that definition? How much can really be said about God based on 'pure reason'?

            In accepting your contention that "God is not a moral agent", I argued that one could predicate expectations of more flourishing and less evil on God's promises which are predicated upon gift—that is, God creating ex nihilo instead of merely giving us good things when we do good things. Now, if 'natural theology' cannot actually take a stance on creatio ex nihilo, then it cannot "see" this possibility when it comes to the problem of evil. To restrict your interlocutors to natural theology would then be to hamstring them, and probably in ways they cannot understand because I needed to bring a lot of intellectual machinery to bear to say what I have said to you.

            If all you want is to defend Catholicism, then requiring your interlocutors work within an impoverished system might "work". But I suspect it will leave [many of] your interlocutors less satisfied, and thereby less inclined toward Catholicism after the fact. Do you not care if this happens? Or do you think my analysis is incorrect?

            … you seem to think "call no man Father" …

            I'll let others reading this conversation look for any reference to Mt 23:5–12 in the comment where I initially raised the issue.

            So you need a God appointed authority to sort this all out.

            Care to support this with 'pure reason'? I wonder whether one can support this claim with philosophy—not theology. (I except 'natural theology', but caveat that with the above—how much reasoning really is part of the natural kind, 'natural theology'?)

            This is a Catholic blog with Catholic sensibilities.

            If you aren't interested in meeting many atheists, agnostics, and skeptics relatively close to where they're at, then have at it. (I doubt your version of "disabusing them of Protestant influence" constitutes "meet them where they're at".) I think your witness will be greatly damaged, but perhaps you disagree, and/or perhaps you just don't care.

            I won't pretend I am not Catholic among my own kind and in the houses of my brothers.

            Just how have I asked for that, e.g. when I say "I tremble with anticipation of how the Magisterium explains that one."? I can find multiple other places where I ask for the RCC's perspective. You've erected another straw man, Jim.

            Don't follow the Pope Luke if you don't want to but don't confuse people as to what is the Catholic view vs the Protestant when they contradict.

            If you can show where I've done this, then I will apologize and attempt to repent. But you'll have to demonstrate that I was actually portraying something as "the Catholic view", and given that I have very little confidence I understand anything about it, I doubt I've done what you seem to suggest I've already done. If I have been ambiguous and need to add more protocol-words, I'm happy to have that pointed out and suggestions made.

            We can know much about God from [Jesus] that natural theology cannot tell us but He can't contradict it …

            Probably I agree. I just think 'natural theology' is too limited to justify expectations many atheists and skeptics have of God's goodness. You need special revelation for that. You need grace, and grace as far as I understand is predicated upon creatio ex nihilo.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Jim, you seem to trust in definitions much more than I do.

            Which is why discussions with your are proving difficult. Definitions are by definition "givens". For example the Lutheran Definition of Justification vs the Reformed vs Catholic/Orthodox version etc. If we don't take them as givens the result will be discussions will devolve into equivocations.

            > My experience is that people frequently use definitions which violate natural kind boundaries, whether by including elements which don't belong, or omitting/​excluding elements which do belong.

            Rather people have different understandings of things and it is good to flesh them out so we don't talk past each other. If if we fail to reach consensus we can at least know where we disagree.

            > For example, David Hume thought he had discovered "universal morality", but did so by excluding plenty of extant human moralities.

            Aristotle beat him to the punch via natural law.

            >You yourself said "Aquinas believe we can only know creatio ex nihilo is true via divine revelation. I believe Boniventure disagreed?"

            Boniventure thought you could prove it is impossible to have an infinite past which is a common argument used by many Christians today. I tend to side with Aquinas criticism of that view and for practical reasons I find many an Atheist polemicist doesn't have a pat answer to Aquinas first cause (other then to get it wrong) but has one for Boniventure.

            The Church teaches as infallible Dogma God created the Universe ex nihilo as far as I know She has not taken Aquinas side against Boniventure anymore then she side with Molina over Banez? The Church hasn't solved every philosophical view. Thought most scholastics stand with Aquinas.

            >So we can have a dandy definition of 'natural theology', but then the question is: What properly falls under that definition? How much can really be said about God based on 'pure reason'?

            I don't get it? I fail to see how the validity or non-validity of the philosophical argument for the impossibility of an infinite past invalidates the definition of natural theology? Is the general definition of Evolution invalid because Darwin seems more plausible than Lemark?

            >What properly falls under that definition?

            There is a general consensus on some things and a liberty of conflicting opinions on others.

            > How much can really be said about God based on 'pure reason'?

            Not enough for Salvation otherwise divine revelation would not be needed. But enough to know there is an Ultimate Reality and Source of all Being.

            >In accepting your contention that "God is not a moral agent", I argued that one could predicate expectations of more flourishing and less evil on God's promises which are predicated upon gift—that is, God creating ex nihilo instead of merely giving us good things when we do good things.

            Natural Theology tells me all of God's good acts toward us are gratuitous in nature. It starts with God not needing to create us and his act of creation being a gratuitous act thus are predicated upon gift.

            >Now, if 'natural theology' cannot actually take a stance on creatio ex nihilo, then it cannot "see" this possibility when it comes to the problem of evil.

            An orthodox Christian theologian would still believe creatio ex nihilo wither he believes he can know it by natural theology or only revealed theology. Aristotle who denied there was a creation event still said to ascribe moral agency to Divinity was absurd.

            >To restrict your interlocutors to natural theology would then be to hamstring them, and probably in ways they cannot understand because I needed to bring a lot of intellectual machinery to bear to say what I have said to you.

            I am a simple man so I need to start with A and you want to jump to T. But most arguments from evil (especially the Evidential one) are philosophical ones only.

            >If all you want is to defend Catholicism, then requiring your interlocutors work within an impoverished system might "work". But I suspect it will leave [many of] your interlocutors less satisfied, and thereby less inclined toward Catholicism after the fact.

            Grace will make people Catholic. But I can tell the truth as I understand it and I can point out the POE is as Feser and Davies said is a pseudo problem. I strongly agree with them and so far nobody has offered any good reasons for me to think differently.

            >I wonder whether one can support this claim with philosophy—not theology.

            I specialize and I am not the only physician.

            >I'll let others reading this conversation look for any reference to Mt 23:5–12 in the comment where I initially raised the issue.

            Except every ancient Church( Catholic, Orthodox, Oriental, Church of the East etc)calls their clergy "Father". The view that it contradicts Mt 23 is a post 16th century novelty.

            >Care to support this with 'pure reason'?

            A government is more orderly than anarchy. It is self evident.

            I wonder whether one can support this claim with philosophy—not theology. (I except 'natural theology', but caveat that with the above—how much reasoning really is part of the natural kind, 'natural theology'?)

            >If you aren't interested in meeting many atheists, agnostics, and skeptics relatively close to where they're at, then have at it.

            I am going to correct any erroneous baggage they have. That would include latent Protestant presuppositions. I can't do otherwise. It is what I believe.

            >Just how have I asked for that, e.g. when I say "I tremble with anticipation of how the Magisterium explains that one."?

            I followed that link to answer it. Thanks for the brevity. That helped.

            >If you can show where I've done this, then I will apologize and attempt to repent. But you'll have to demonstrate that I was actually portraying something as "the Catholic view",

            I don't see any sin here? But follow your own conscience if it is bothered.

            >Probably I agree. I just think 'natural theology' is too limited to justify expectations many atheists and skeptics have of God's goodness.

            Rather they need to be disabused of the error that God's Goodness is that of a Moral Agent uneqivocally comparable to a human moral agent only being God it is more Uber.

            It's rather easy to see God as the metaphysical and ontological source of all goodness. You just have to let go of the Idols. Dave Bentley Hart said as much.

            >You need special revelation for that. You need grace, and grace as far as I understand is predicated upon creatio ex nihilo.

            Well an Atheist can come to a natural knowledge God isn't evil & can't be in principle and he can like Aristotle come to the conclusion a Moral Agent "god" is absurd in Classic Theism. He might even develop a merely natural veneration and worship of said God. God would be pleased by that but natural graces convey no salutary life to the soul and they don't save you from sin or Hell. OTOH they do create fertile ground to plant those additional seeds.

          • I'm going to selectively respond, to what I see as the heart of the matter. It is not that I am unwilling to accept your definitions, Jim. Instead, I am unwilling to uncritically accept that exactly what you say and appear to presuppose falls under those definitions, in fact does. What I sense in your argumentation is a recapitulation of Descartes: where he thought he had sundered himself from tradition, you think you've sundered yourself from special revelation. Either that, or you are modeling your interlocutors as working purely off of general revelation when I suspect they are smuggling in rather a lot of special revelation. If you, as the expert in 'natural theology' (compared to your interlocutor), fail to note this, then you may mislead your interlocutor into thinking [s]he is operating solely in the realm of 'pure reason'.

            But most arguments from evil (especially the Evidential one) are philosophical ones only.

            Are you just defining yourself to be correct, or have you surveyed … the evidence and found this to be the case? Let's restrict ourselves to the evidential problem of evil.

            See, I just don't believe that people who advanced the evidential problem of evil have restricted all of their thinking about it to 'pure reason', to 'natural theology'. The absolute inability of humanity to predict the nature and behavior of Jesus indicates how unable we are to reason about 'good' without special revelation. Yeah, we can say some exceedingly abstract things such as:

            LB: How much can really be said about God based on 'pure reason'?

            JtS: Not enough for Salvation otherwise divine revelation would not be needed. But enough to know there is an Ultimate Reality and Source of all Being.

            And yet, at this level you can have Plato coming up with a demiurge because the One True God would never stoop to engage with the muck of embodied reality. When Michelangelo painted God touching (about to touch? just touched?) Adam, he offended Plato to the core. Aristotle isn't much better: his unmoved movers would not interact with embodied reality either, except to "inspire" it. Jesus had things to say about such "refined" behavior at the end of Mt 23:1–4.

            Based on 'pure reason' alone, can one even disagree with Aristotle when he writes the following?: "All change is by its nature an undoing. It is in time that all is engendered and destroyed.... One can see that time itself is the cause of destruction rather than of generation.... For change itself is an undoing; it is indeed only by accident a cause of generation and existence." (Physics IV, 222b., quoted in A Study of Hebrew Thought, 25) On this view, what is 'good' is anything but creatio ex nihilo! Surely Genesis 1 is an offense to Aristotle and Plato.

            Were you to truly abide by 'natural theology' and never exceed its bounds when dealing with the logical problem of evil, I suspect you would have to eviscerate the very understanding of 'good' which shows up there. This, I have not seen you do. So there is a danger that you are importing an understanding of 'good' with crucial determining inputs from special revelation as interpreted by the Magisterium, into your criticism of the evidential problem of evil. Were you to instead chasten your interlocutor's understanding of 'good', I'll bet you [s]he would realize that [s]he needs to fall back on special revelation—and thus show that all along, the evidential problem of evil had critical non-philosophical roots.

            It's rather easy to see God as the metaphysical and ontological source of all goodness. You just have to let go of the Idols. Dave Bentley Hart said as much.

            I just don't see this in Aristotle and Plato. Is there an accounting for their errors in terms of 'pure reason'? Or is a particular interpretation of special revelation being smuggled in? I worry that your very use of 'goodness' here is an equivocation, for surely most people will understand the term in light of an incredible amount of special revelation. Strip all that away and what is left? Saying that "goodness is convertible with being" hardly elucidates much, because 'being' is utterly different with and without creatio ex nihilo.

            My apologies Jim, but I'm not convinced you are being rigorously consistent in your claim to restrict discussion to 'natural theology'.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I'm going to selectively respond,

            Me too. Let's get back to Theodicy.

            >What I sense in your argumentation is a recapitulation of Descartes:

            I reject Descartes. To Theistic Personalist bordering on irrationalist. Also his Ontological Argument was bogus. St Anselm's was better even if wrong.

            > Either that, or you are modeling your interlocutors as working purely off of general revelation when I suspect they are smuggling in rather a lot of special revelation. If you, as the expert in 'natural theology' (compared to your interlocutor), fail to note this, then you may mislead your interlocutor into thinking [s]he is operating solely in the realm of 'pure reason'.

            Luke why is this so hard? I am making a philosophical argument about God and Evil and I am not appealing to Holy Writ. Only philosophy which is governed by reason. I am assuming the two cannot contradict. Catholic Doctrine certainly sees a "god" who has moral obligations to his creatures to be an absurdity.

            >Based on 'pure reason' alone, can one even disagree with Aristotle when he writes the following?: "All change is by its nature an undoing. It is in time that all is engendered and destroyed.... One can see that time itself is the cause of destruction rather than of generation.... For change itself is an undoing; it is indeed only by accident a cause of generation and existence." (Physics IV, 222b., quoted in A Study of Hebrew Thought, 25) On this view, what is 'good' is anything but creatio ex nihilo!

            I don't see how? When God creates He is causing something to be from nothing. He is not turning some substance called "nothing" into something. He is causing there to be beings which by definition are good since they possess being.

            >Surely Genesis 1 is an offense to Aristotle and Plato.

            I can't speak for their subjective beliefs which where only known to them and God. But I don't see how change is at odds with God causing something to be?

            >Were you to truly abide by 'natural theology' and never exceed its bounds when dealing with the logical problem of evil, I suspect you would have to eviscerate the very understanding of 'good' which shows up there. This, I have not seen you do.

            Epicurus offers a philosophical problem called the logical problem of evil & one might argue he saw the gods in anthropomorphic terms and thus a moral agents. Of course if you study myth the gods where never omnipotent. Aristotle however didn't see God as Omnibonevolent in the sense of being a moral being like lesser creatures.

            > So there is a danger that you are importing an understanding of 'good' with crucial determining inputs from special revelation as interpreted by the Magisterium, into your criticism of the evidential problem of evil.

            No I am giving pure Aquinas and he is giving us Aristotle. Good is interchangeable with being. The evidential problem of evil is an inductive argument that refers to specific evils and answers Plantinga that there are certain types of Good that cannot be given unless God allows evil. It cites examples of evil that don't appear to be pointless. But this all predicates a moral agent "god". Take away that "God" and you take away the problem.

            >My apologies Jim, but I'm not convinced you are being rigorously consistent in your claim to restrict discussion to 'natural theology'.

            I do my best.

          • Luke why is this so hard? I a m making a philosophical argument about God and Evil and I am not appealing to Holy Writ.

            I am skeptical that every single person who brings the evidential problem of evil to bear has an understanding of God's goodness derived solely from:

                 (1) general revelation / pure reason
                 (2) anthropomorphism

            Instead, I think plenty get an understanding of God's goodness based on:

                 (3) special revelation, variously interpreted

            Jesus healed people, and simultaneously claimed to only do what he saw the Father doing. It's a concrete example of goodness which I doubt can be derived from pure reason. Neither Plato's demiurge nor Aristotle's unmoved mover would deign interact with flesh and blood like Jesus did. And so an atheist can easily look at just this aspect of Jesus and ask where God is acting now, to fight evil and promote flourishing. They don't have to predicate this expectation on 'duty' or 'obligation'.

            If you want, we can create a new category for any evidential problem of evil argument which draws on (3), and call responses something other than 'theodicy'. But then we have a classification problem: when a given atheist brings something which looks like the evidential problem of evil to bear, is [s]he going by what you have defined as "Modern Theodicy", or are there (3)-type matters involved? (Yes, I can work with definitions quite nicely, but I don't automatically accept that they refer to the empirical correlates as claimed.)

            Good is interchangeable with being.

            Exactly what does this mean when one gets down to brass tacks? The problem with pure reason is that it is woefully underdetermined when it comes to empirical matters. Even Euclid's parallel postulate was contingent; as it turns out you can get elliptical and hyperbolic geometries in addition to Euclidean. And yet when you start getting down to brass tacks, I'll bet you'll have to pull in crucial determining inputs from (3) to get any sense of 'goodness' recognizable to your average person. And then we're at square one, if a person is reasoning from God's goodness to the belief that one should expect there to be less evil and more flourishing.

            I don't see how? When God creates He is causing something to be from nothing. He is not turning some substance called "nothing" into something. He is causing there to be beings which by definition are good since they possess being.

            I'm glad you hold to this, but I doubt you can if you restrict yourself to general revelation / pure reason. Surely you and I see God's creative acts as awesome, but Aristotle would have seen them as "an undoing". Spinoza thought that creatio ex nihilo was absurd. And so I'm not sure what one can understand about God's goodness based on general revelation alone. The proposition "Good is interchangeable with being." communicates nothing without massive elaboration, and yet will that elaboration stay within the bounds of pure reason? I'm willing to give it a shot, and see if I see violations.

            Here's what I imagine doing. Take someone who has just offered up the evidential problem of evil, and tell her to wait for a moment. Say that we first need to purge all argumentation of everything which cannot be known based on pure reason. Well, exactly what is left and how can we possibly connect the result back to lived, empirical reality? My guess is "not much" and "you really can't". I would like to be shown to be wrong because I find this matter curious, but you seem to have no interest to make such a demonstration, despite previous requests and your claims that you'll talk natural theology on SN but are much less interested in explicating the Magisterium's stance on a few bits of special revelation.

          • LB: How much can really be said about God based on 'pure reason'?

            JtS: Not enough for Salvation otherwise divine revelation would not be needed. But enough to know there is an Ultimate Reality and Source of all Being.

            LB: ⋮
            Based on 'pure reason' alone, can one even disagree with Aristotle when he writes the following?: "All change is by its nature an undoing. It is in time that all is engendered and destroyed.... One can see that time itself is the cause of destruction rather than of generation.... For change itself is an undoing; it is indeed only by accident a cause of generation and existence." (Physics IV, 222b., quoted in A Study of Hebrew Thought, 25) On this view, what is 'good' is anything but creatio ex nihilo!

            JtS: I don't see how? When God creates He is causing something to be from nothing. He is not turning some substance called "nothing" into something. He is causing there to be beings which by definition are good since they possess being.

            When I put your reply here through the 'pure reason' filter, do I get anything out? Can you even say that God is the source of being without creatio ex nihilo?

            LB: Surely Genesis 1 is an offense to Aristotle and Plato.

            JtS: I can't speak for their subjective beliefs which where only known to them and God. But I don't see how change is at odds with God causing something to be?

            If Plato and Aristotle came up with a different understanding of how God might possibly have caused embodied reality to exist than you, then either (i) they were wrong and this can be demonstrated by pure reason, with no allusions or inferences drawn from special revelation; or (ii) you cannot establish even that much based on 'pure reason'. (My rough understanding: Plato only allows the lesser demiurge to have anything to do with embodied reality; Aristotle allows unmoved movers to "inspire" embodied reality.)

            Aristotle however didn't see God as Omnibonevolent in the sense of being a moral being like lesser creatures.

            Correct. His unmoved movers would never ever show up like Jesus and interact in the muck of reality, getting dirt under their fingernails and excreting what humans routinely excrete. I say that from this, we can see how radically different God's 'goodness' is as revealed by Jesus, compared to any notion of 'goodness' Aristotle could construct.

            Epicurus offers a philosophical problem called the logical problem of evil & one might argue he saw the gods in anthropomorphic terms and thus a moral agents.

            And you would say that he imported something that wasn't 'pure reason' into his argumentation, right? He violated the rules of what is passing for 'philosophy' in this conversation, right?

            No I am giving pure Aquinas →

            I find it hard to believe you, given that you also said "Aquinas believe we can only know creatio ex nihilo is true via divine revelation." Maybe I'm wrong, but I see you as depending on creatio ex nihilo a lot in your 'philosophy'.

            ← and he is giving us Aristotle.

            Kind of. I highly doubt Aquinas would agree with Aristotle's "All change is by its nature an undoing." But perhaps I am mistaken? Was Jesus' embodiment "an undoing"? Was the change somehow technically (in an A–T sense) an 'accident'?

            But this all predicates a moral agent "god". Take away that "God" and you take away the problem.

            So once you don't have a moral agent "god", any and all empirical evidence is consistent with whatever "god" is substituted? That is, language like this—

            “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7–11)

            —has no predictable empirical correlates? Could it literally mean anything whatsoever? This goes back to whether God can be known at all. (I will be rather frustrated if you presuppose that I am suggesting anything like "we cannot have absolute knowledge of God".) If God can be known at all apart from the Magisterium, then all of a sudden there is the possibility that it can (i) preach what is correct; (ii) fail to practice; and (iii) the Holy Spirit can contradict the Magisterium's teaching on what proper practice looks like.

            Philosophy has long been exceedingly weak on the connection between theory / formalism / definition and implementation in embodied reality. I suspect this traces back to the Greek antipathy toward technê. If what is truly important is contemplating divine thoughts, then a doctor's work in treating sickness is quite literally "below" the most developed humans. Technê becomes the work of servants/​slaves, which is exactly the position that plenty of doctors had in the Roman Empire. This attitude has not gone away; it is pervasive in modern physics as relayed by Nobel laureate Robert B. Laughlin in A Different Universe. Now there is a political advantage to being weak on implementation: it gets the intellectuals in less hot water with the ruling elite. There is also an intellectual laziness: if you don't have to check your theories against reality, you don't have to leave the armchair. And there is a religious advantage: you can tell people what to do without being held accountable. If you are purveyor of both doctrine and how to practice that doctrine, you can always define yourself to be doing it correctly—or as correctly as this broken world will allow. You thereby immunize yourself from appreciable criticism. You can always say that no matter how badly you're behaving, the rest are worse. I suspect God thinks rather poorly of such "logic". Too much hypocrisy blasphemes the name of God among the nations—beauty of doctrine becomes irrelevant.

            Maybe God wants us to see something deeply wrong with broken reality. Maybe God wants us to understand that this is not how he intended things to be. Maybe God wants us to be part of the solution. Maybe God knows that we are prone to deny our own agency and instead blame others, including him. And maybe he's willing to temporarily tolerate the blame, like Jesus was temporarily dead, in order to demonstrate our hypocrisy. Then when we admit we were trying to do things on our own power and under the illusion of self-righteousness, we can return to God and become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. But no, it is only Protestant hubris or atheist nonsense which can generate such reasoning. The proper Catholic says ____. (Feel free to insert the counter-response, the correction to the heresy I have undoubtedly spewed.)

          • Jim the Scott

            >When I put your reply here through the 'pure reason' filter, do I get anything out? Can you even say that God is the source of being without creatio ex nihilo?

            What does this even mean?

            >If Plato and Aristotle came up with a different understanding of how God might possibly have caused embodied reality to exist than you,

            Stupid question. If my grandmother had wheels she would be a wagon.

            >Correct. His unmoved movers would never ever show up like Jesus and interact in the muck of reality, getting dirt under their fingernails and excreting what humans routinely excrete. I say that from this, we can see how radically different God's 'goodness' is as revealed by Jesus, compared to any notion of 'goodness' Aristotle could construct.

            This doesn't make any sense either?

            >I find it hard to believe you, given that you also said "Aquinas believe we can only know creatio ex nihilo is true via divine revelation." Maybe I'm wrong, but I see you as depending on creatio ex nihilo a lot in your 'philosophy'.

            So Aquinas wasn't a Thomist? At this point Luke you are blathering.

            >So once you don't have a moral agent "god", any and all empirical evidence is consistent with whatever "god" is substituted? That is, language like this—

            If someone asked me what is Luke's objection to God not being a moral agent I couldn't tell them. Say something coherent and straightforward.

            Your steams of conscienence are getting very tedious.

            >Matthew 7:7–11

            Don't see how that verse is relavent to the simple straight forward claim God is not a moral agent in the unequivocal sense a morally good human is a moral agent. Or the simple proposition the EPOE presuposes a moral agent God and cannot in principle be applied to a Classic Theistic version of God.

            At this point Luke you are just writing incoherent blather.

            >So once you don't have a moral agent "god", any and all empirical evidence is consistent with whatever "god" is substituted?

            Luke how do you empirically prove the principle of non-contradiction without begging the question? You don't because it is not relavent. In a like manner empiricism has nothing to do with Classic Theism anymore then particle accelarators have anything to do with biology and evolution.

            >Philosophy has long been exceedingly weak on the connection between theory / formalism / definition and implementation in embodied reality. I suspect this traces back to the Greek antipathy toward technê. If what is truly important is contemplating divine thoughts, then a doctor's work in treating sickness is quite literally "below" the most developed humans.

            Such a claim is itself a philosopohical one.

            At this point Luke you have dropped a gallon of verbosity and I can't figure any of it out?

          • LB: When I put your reply here through the 'pure reason' filter, do I get anything out? Can you even say that God is the source of being without creatio ex nihilo?

            JtS: What does this even mean?

            See @dennisbonnette:disqus's reply to me. He just confirmed many of my intuitions about how little 'pure reason' can get you, over against your own claims. You're acting just like Hume: thinking that what you see as 'pure reason' is what everyone does, when in fact there's a ton you're taking for granted without even knowing it. Hume did it with morality, you're doing it with 'pure reason'. It's like you're presupposing the parallel postulate and thereby concluding that all geometry is Euclidean, when in fact there are elliptical and hyperbolic geometries. 'Pure reason' simply cannot tell you much at all. I doubt it can tell you what 'goodness' looks like in embodied reality; "Good is convertable with Being." seems pretty useless as any sort of empirical guide.

            If you see the above as insulting, it is only insulting to someone arrogant enough to think he has canvassed all possibilities and can make absolutely true general statements from On High. Those of us who know we have finite perspectives and know we can only get less parochial but never eliminate all parochiality don't have a problem with it.

            LB: Surely Genesis 1 is an offense to Aristotle and Plato.

            JtS: I can't speak for their subjective beliefs which where only known to them and God. But I don't see how change is at odds with God causing something to be?

            LB: If Plato and Aristotle came up with a different understanding of how God might possibly have caused embodied reality to exist than you, then either (i) they were wrong and this can be demonstrated by pure reason, with no allusions or inferences drawn from special revelation; or (ii) you cannot establish even that much based on 'pure reason'. (My rough understanding: Plato only allows the lesser demiurge to have anything to do with embodied reality; Aristotle allows unmoved movers to "inspire" embodied reality.)

            JtS: Stupid question. If my grandmother had wheels she would be a wagon.

            How about we pause here and ask @dennisbonnette:disqus to comment on whether it is a "stupid question"? (Admiral Patrick, anyone?) If I can't see how it is in fact stupid, or I cannot convince you that it is not in fact stupid, I'm inclined to immediately end all tangents with you which I judge are predicated upon it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            @Jimthescott:disqus

            Frankly, I don't know how this fits into your dialogue with Jim, but I was trying to give you an honest answer to how pure reason works in philosophy for me. I gave you this summary:

            "So, can one have natural theology that is pure reason? Sure. But its purest form is attained solely with the guidance of revelation, which is just what St. Thomas tells us just prior to the Five Ways in the Summa Theologiae, where he points out the need for revelation because left on its own, reason takes longer to find the truth, will entail many errors, and will lose the truth over time even when reached."

            The key to pure reason is that it does not depend directly in its premises on revealed truth. I gave you loads of examples down through history where Christian revelation inspired, guided, directed, illumined, and otherwise aided philosophical wisdom. But I did NOT say that present Thomism DEPENDS on any of this for its truth value.

            If I show you how to solve the quadratic equation and you now do it for yourself, does your knowledge of its correctness depend on my telling you how to do it?

            Well, yes and no. Yes, in that you might never have figured it out for yourself. But no, in that now you see how to do it, you understand it for yourself. Period.

            That is the point of Christian philosophy, as I hope I explained it to you previously. That was the point of the road map example. Christian revelation guided philosophers to insights they would never have reached on their own. BUT, once it got understood by reason, it did not depend on revelation for its truth.

            Just to set the record straight. There is an immense body of Thomistic philosophy that stands on its own without depending on premises taken from divine revelation.

            How we got it is the point of "Christian" philosophy, since we had guidance from revelation that Plato and Aristotle did not benefit from. And thus, there now exists whole rational purely philosophical Thomistic sciences of philosophical psychology, cosmology, metaphysics, natural theology, general and special ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, and others. We have major works of pure philosophy by all the Thomistic commentators down through the centuries, classical, like Ferrara, Capreolus, Cajetan, Suarez, Banes, and others; modern, like Sertillanges, Lagrange, Maritain, Gilson, and many others.

            This is an immense body of knowledge that relies in no way on premises derived from Christian revelation. But at the same time, it is a body of knowledge that would never have developed but for the inspiration and guidance of Christian revelation.

            I hope that is more clear. And you and Jim can sort out its implications between you.

          • Jim the Scott

            I'll like too but I can't figure out Luke's point?

          • Thanks again. The image you've given me of natural philosophy (emphasizing the 'pure reason' aspect) is a structure which is both assembled with the help of a special revelation scaffolding, and which will start teetering if that special revelation scaffolding is taken away for too long. This is indeed a very peculiar kind of dependency, one that cannot be called "logical"; I'm not sure if "psychological" is correct either. Perhaps an example of this is creatio ex nihilo? It's not just Plato and Aristotle who denied it; Spinoza did as well. I pick this for a reason: I suspect much of God's goodness cannot be understood outside of creatio ex nihilo. But perhaps it is really just special revelation; Jim tells me there is debate.

            There is an immense body of Thomistic philosophy that stands on its own without depending on premises taken from divine revelation.

            How does this function "on the ground", given that plenty of philosophy does not employ Thomistic philosophy and is indeed somehow opposed to Thomistic philosophy? I know that aspects of Aristotelian philosophy are making a reappearance ("causal powers" and "essences", for example), but it's hard to see your "stands on its own" out there in the great wide world of philosophy. It is almost as if the key to finding Thomistic philosophy compelling is not 'pure reason', unless you really want to posit irrationality on the part of many, many philosophers.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The relevant text in St. Thomas is Summa Theologiae, I, q. 1, a. 1, c, where he writes: "Even as regards those truths about God which reason can investigate, it was necessary that man be taught by a divine revelation. For the truth about God, such as reason can know it, would only be known by a few, and that after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors; ... "

            Contrary to my faulty memory, there is no reference whatever to men possibly losing this knowledge once attained. Moreover, in today's technological age, short of a memory-wiping EMP, whatever we now know is stored virtually forever.

            I can see where creatio ex nihilo might cause confusion, since today's young earth creationists and some others seem to think that it is true only with creation in time.

            But that is not St. Thomas' teaching. For him, even if the world had no beginning, it would still forever be being created from nothing, even as it is at this moment in time.

            For creation from nothing does not equate to creation with a beginning in time, but refers primarily to the fact that God is constantly holding in creation all creatures -- His causal power keeping us from falling back into the abyss of nothingness at ever passing moment.

            Once understood as a metaphysical truth, I do not see how this has any further need for divine revelation to sustain it -- even though our initial "discovery" of this truth doubtless was occasioned by the divine revelation that the world began in time.

            It is hardly surprising that the world is ever-filled with conflicting philosophies. This does not undermine the solidity and scientific edifice of Thomism (as representative of the best among scholasticism), since the rational structure of the true philosophical sciences stands on its own. Still, as St. Thomas points out, without divine revelation, these scientific truths would "only be known by a few."

            Having spent my entire life studying and teaching Thomistic philosophy, I know it is a solid body of knowledge that can withstand close rational scrutiny. But it is hardly surprising that most people do not know it, even among the faithful, since it requires careful study and guidance from those familiar with its genuine tradition.

            You know well the secular influences that abound in our society today. Our universities are dominated by secular agendas that strongly tend to hire secular thinkers as philosophical faculty, specifically, in English speaking countries, those in the analytic tradition. Small wonder Thomism is known by relatively few!

            More than that, even in Catholic colleges, following Vatican II, there was a reaction against traditional authority which witnessed an essentially political movement to reduce the number of required philosophy courses, convert them from the Thomistic sciences into historicist survey courses, and replace Thomists on the faculties with people committed neither to Thomism nor even the Magisterium.

            None of this is caused by a lack of rationality on the part of Thomists, but rather by an ascendency of political power which is secularist and, if anything, anti-rational in many of its tendencies -- as witnessed by the feminist and trans-sexual agendas today.

            Sweeping social changes often have little to do with rationality, as you well know. None of this undermines the basic rationality and scientific philosophical attainments of scholastic philosophy and the essential rational content of the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.

          • Jim the Scott

            >See Dennis Bonnette's reply to me. He just confirmed many of my intuitions about how little 'pure reason' can get you..

            Luke you are all over the place. I never claimed reason can tell you everything about God. Nor do I believe we should only use natural theology across the board. I made the modest claim you can use Natural Theology to conclude God is not a moral agent & that the EPOE doesn't apply to a Classic concept of God and you keep dragging me down rabbit holes and it is getting tedious.

            > You're acting just like Hume

            I reject Hume like any good scholastic.

            >'Pure reason' simply cannot tell you much at all.

            Well there goes western civilization, science, philosophy and thought. God gave us the ability to reason. It is sad to reject that gift.

            >I doubt it can tell you what 'goodness' looks like in embodied reality; "Good is convertable with Being." seems pretty useless as any sort of empirical guide.

            Luke what is the point of your pointless posts? If you reject reason or subordinate it somehow there is no reason to have a discussion. Against those who reject first principles dispute not for rational discussion is impossible.

            What does empiricism have to do with metaphysics or philosophy of being?
            Other than as Aristotle said what is in the intellect is first in the senses.

            >If you see the above as insulting, it is only insulting to someone arrogant enough to think he has canvassed all possibilities and can make absolutely true general statements from On High.

            Luke I never claimed to know everything? That I don't and you don't is trivial and doesn't explain to me how the evidentialist problem of evil can be applied to a Classic Theistic God?

            >How about we pause here and ask Dennis Bonnette to comment on whether it is a "stupid question"?

            I'll talk to him.

          • You might be in the unenviable position of recapitulating Randy Gritter's "I do think your focus on maturity is odd. … It is not a dominant theme of scripture …" After all, mature Christians are more effective at fighting evil and promoting flourishing than immature Christians, but if the RCC truly doesn't focus on the maturity of all believers …

            I would not say the RCC does not focus on maturity. It was an odd thing for you to bring up because it is not the center of the differences between Protestants and Catholics. Both say maturity is good and important but their definition of maturity flows from their respective doctrines which are quite different.

            So the maturity line was more a dodge because you could not defend Protestantism. I kept pointing out the logical and historical problems with Protestantism and you would reply with a totally non-responsive statement about maturity. Whatever.

            I do think the modern, western Catholic church has some serious problems. Many faithful Catholics have some serious deficiencies in their faith. The church has made some mistakes in the past few decades that led to a bad situation. It needs to get fixed. Still that does not mean that Catholicism is unconcerned with "maturity" (just to use that word to describe these problems). It means the recent leadership of the Western RCC has made some errors.

            Again, this is not a reason not to become Catholic. In fact, it is a another reason to become Catholic because you have wisdom that can help fix the problem. I know Protestant converts have been doing that and it has been a very good thing.

          • You've now used three different phrasings:

                 (1) "not a dominant theme of scripture"
                 (2) "does not focus on maturity"
                 (3) "unconcerned with "maturity""

            As far as I can tell, (1) is entirely consistent with ¬(2) and ¬(3). And yet, anyone familiar with organizations know that if something is too far down the priority list, it gets the dregs. If in fact spiritual maturity is important in fighting evil and promoting human flourishing—because God insists on using us obnoxious humans to do much of what he wants accomplished—then insufficient focus on maturity would create the perfect conditions for the evidential problem of evil.

          • Mark

            Describing oneself as a 'father' is very different from requiring that others call you 'Father'.

            I agree that describing oneself as a father/teacher(doctor)/rabbi is very different from (said person) requiring that others call you (that). I also call my priest Rick when he's at my supper table and Father when I'm in the confessional. I call my MD Art when we play golf together and Doctor (Art) when I'm in his office. However, my wife requires the students to call her Mrs. (teacher) in her classroom. That is precisely the point of the Scripture because the Pharisees were a bunch of so-and-sos. "Requiring" a title be given is a misunderstanding of the CC, they are given it based upon my respect of their position and knowledge. If they are children, they are required to respect their elder. When they are adults the requirement is lifted. This is "proof-texting" the CC out of authority over you. I get it, but I also shake my head at the logic because you wouldn't have the Scripture to proof-text without Her. You bite the hand that fed you.

          • Feel free to ignore the digressions; I include them to possibly short-circuit possible tangents and to give additional information on where I'm going from and going.

            I agree that describing oneself as a father/​teacher(doctor)/​rabbi is very different from (said person) requiring that others call you (that).

            Good, glad to see that if I'm insane, I'm not the only one. My argument requires rather more than what you've said here, but it is a critical part and getting others to agree with it has been difficult.

            I also call my priest Rick when he's at my supper table and Father when I'm in the confessional. I call my MD Art when we play golf together and Doctor (Art) when I'm in his office. However, my wife requires the students to call her Mrs. (teacher) in her classroom.

            I don't see why appealing to what currently is, is any justification for anything. Such appeals in Jesus' time would be wrong in plenty of ways, per his words. (Surely it isn't proof-texting to say that?) The stage of childhood is perhaps an exception; I've become convinced that modern philosophy is a travesty when it comes to dependency and development. Perhaps more than just modern philosophy.

            "Requiring" a title be given is a misunderstanding of the CC, they are given it based upon my respect of their position and knowledge.

            I don't see a meaningful, relevant difference between a doctrinal or canon requirement and a social custom so strong it is basically a requirement. What I think is relevant is whether doing so results in the increasing existence of characteristics the Bible praises, and/or decreasing existence of characteristics the Bible condemns. (Or vice versa.) I am particularly concerned with what Jesus meant by "let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves". I don't have a very good understanding of what that means; I suspect that is because it is practiced very little by most humans. (Christian or not.) I do know that God abhors pride and arrogance; I don't think that can be called 'proof-texting'.

            Digression: I am well-aware of the Catholic criticism that the idea one could think better on some issue than the Magisterium is itself "pride" and "arrogance". I believe this criticism was lobbed at the Reformers on many an occasion? I say a falsifying example of that is the execution of heretics: I think it is neither pride nor arrogance to state with confidence that nothing about Jesus' life favors such behavior (whether directly or via pressuring the state), and much about Jesus' life which militates against it. His death was the execution of a "heretic", and it was done by pressuring the state. And I think it is rather obvious that one is engaged in "lord it over" / "exercise authority over" when one directly or indirectly effects the execution of a heretic.

            If they are children, they are required to respect their elder. When they are adults the requirement is lifted.

            That is not my understanding of who calls priests 'Father'. Was I mistaken?

            This is "proof-texting" the CC out of authority over you. I get it, but I also shake my head at the logic because you wouldn't have the Scripture to proof-text without Her. You bite the hand that fed you.

            This is predicated on the RCC being sufficiently similar between the egalitarian decision on canon and unilaterial declarations, between 325 AD and 1302 AD. The very term ἐκκλησία originally meant "the principal assembly of the democracy of ancient Athens". For it to be transformed into the antithesis of a democracy seems problematic to me, but we can stay at a purely descriptive level for starters. I don't see how anyone could understand "Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." as related to the original meaning of ἐκκλησία without a negative sign. You're welcome to say that democracies are terrible along with Aristotle and Plato; I am saying that there is a crucial change in kind when it comes to the RCC and I am contending that this change in kind is rather relevant to the topic at hand. I therefore claim that you are engaged in equivocation between the RCC of 325 and the RCC of 1302.

            Digression: At issue, I claim, is a fundamental question of how God wants to relate to his people. I have framed the matter before by talking of Deut 5:22–33 & 1 Sam 8 as the Israelites choosing increased distance from God via demanding intermediaries, and Jer 31:31–34 & Ezek 36:22–32 as the collapsing of this distance and removing the intermediaries. I am happy to hear the Roman Catholic understanding of all these passages and hammering out a compare and contrast. Or we can talk philosophically about whether e.g. the perfect mixes with the imperfect and how. But I think it is very important to understand what kind of relationship God wants with his people. I think it matters theologically, psychologically, and socially. And I think I can demonstrate that I'm not just assembling random passages together. I also challenge anyone to show how I'm just parroting some well-known position (I am most certainly stealing bits and pieces from people, such as from John Milbank's Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue, and Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self.)

          • Jim the Scott

            You asked for it Luke. @Sample1:disqus

            >I see your Mt 16:17–19 and raise you Mt 18:18–20.

            Well the Pope does act with the Bishops in Councils and Synods and had done so for 2000 years? That bishops can bind and loose is a given.

            >As to the idea that the ἐκκλησία—"principal assembly of the democracy of ancient Athens"—would become a hierarchical structure with greater authority than Moses,

            So you are not going to tell me what that word meant to the Greek Speaking Jews who created the Septuagint but how it was understood by Pagan Greeks? Gee and I thought we Romanists mixed Paganism with Christianity? Still the Bishops are all co-equal to each other so I am not getting your rebuttal here?

            >, I side with him over Joshua in Num 11:24–30.

            I would too since Moses and Joshua set up an authority and didn't make copies of the Torah to give to individual Israelites to interpret for themselves and start their own sub-nations of Israel and keep dividing from each other infinitely.

            >I don't see anything in the Sermon on the Mount saying "Blessed are the church authorities, for they shall finally have obedient followers." I do see Jesus saying not to "lord it over" / "exercise authority over".

            Don't see them saying anything about Holy Writ being formally sufficient or the sole rule of Faith either...

            >And yet, the RCC would have parishioners call their priests "Father",

            Like Mike said "Your argument is with St. Paul" and the entire Christian world prior to the 16th century.

          • That bishops can bind and loose is a given.

            Oh interesting, I hadn't read the following in the light of only the church leadership:

            Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:18–20)

            I've long had an affinity for the previous three verses; in fact they are probably part of what saved my faith. See, people have a tendency to not resolve relationship issues according to the "grain of reality" which I was taught to see in Mt 5:23–24, Eph 4:25–27, and Mt 18:15–18. I sometimes call those "anti-Voldemort verses", for they fight his strongest weapon of divide & conquer. Well after I had come to love those verses, the Mark Driscoll affair happened. I saw that "tell it to the church" actually meant "tell it to the church leaders". That, or the church is only the leaders. Followers seemed to want their leaders to take care of everything, out of sight. I did a bit of probing on Warren Throckmorton's blog and nobody was willing to engage on that issue—voicing any position. I became very suspicious.

            Jim, I'm afraid that I read Mt 18:15–20 as applying to everyone, including the rank and file. It doesn't say "if two of you leaders agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven". And so what I wrote to @Sample1:disqus I repeat:

            LB: As to the idea that the ἐκκλησία—"principal assembly of the democracy of ancient Athens"—would become a hierarchical structure with greater authority than Moses, I side with him over Joshua in Num 11:24–30.

            JtS: So you are not going to tell me what that word meant to the Greek Speaking Jews who created the Septuagint but how it was understood by Pagan Greeks? Gee and I thought we Romanists mixed Paganism with Christianity? Still the Bishops are all co-equal to each other so I am not getting your rebuttal here?

            WP: Septuagint claims the LXX was started in the 3rd century BC. WP: Ecclesia (ancient Athens) has the first time the 'popular assembly' was "open to all male citizens as soon as they qualified for citizenship" in 594 BC. If the Jewish translators of the LXX had an understanding of ἐκκλησία which is closer to Joshua's view than Moses', then we need to ask some questions. What I know with absolute certainty is that terms can come to mean their opposites, such as 'the temple of the LORD' in Jeremiah 7:1–15.

            As to bishops being co-equal, Deut 17:14–20 is the spell I choose to cast. Humanity loves to develop class boundaries where equality only exists within a class. YHWH was working against that long long ago, in a place far far away.

            LB: I side with him over Joshua in Num 11:24–30

            JtS: I would too since Moses and Joshua set up an authority →

            Why do you side with Moses over Joshua? Joshua is the one who wanted a more contained, more exclusive leadership structure. Speech inspired by God was to be kept strictly within the temple complex—or the substitute at the time, the tent of meeting.

            ← and didn't make copies of the Torah to give to individual Israelites to interpret for themselves and start their own sub-nations of Israel and keep dividing from each other infinitely.

            Have you not read Deut 6 recently? Torah was supposed to be available to, no ingrained in, all. It was not the kind of thing which permanently required a priestly caste to interpret; that is surely the message of Deut 30:11–14. You do need fathers to teach their children but the children grow up. Israel was to be a nation of brothers! They found this fantastically difficult: the book of Judges ends with a recapitulation of Sodom. Their solution was more authority structure: 1 Sam 8. What did God have to say about their demand for a king?

            It's actually a truism among Jews that they are able to have more heated discussions than Christians and yet still dine together afterward. It's no wonder, as persecution does tend to drive one inwards, toward tighter bonds with one's own community. When Jesus says that following him means hating one's family, I take that [in part] to mean those bonds can be too tight, such that they trump any substantial change toward something closer to Kingdom of God-type existence. Loyalty to anyone but God is always mixed, because anyone but God is mixed.

            Don't see them saying anything about Holy Writ being formally sufficient or the sole rule of Faith either...

            Would you please quote a Reformer whose words, in context, mean what you require them to mean for your words to not be a caricature? If you want to say that disciples of those Reformers, maybe a few generations later, bastardized the original views, I will be unsurprised. I see in the OT a pattern of wisdom being lost by the fourth generation, if not after the first. I call it the "Wisdom Propagation Problem" and suspect it is one of the least studied but most important topics to humanity.

            LB: And yet, the RCC would have parishioners call their priests "Father", as if that is the way to embody "let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves".

            JS: Like Mike said "Your argument is with St. Paul" and the entire Christian world prior to the 16th century.

            You want this exchange:

            M: Why would St. Paul tell someone to "call no one father" and then "Indeed, in Jesus Christ I became your father through the gospel"?

            LB: Describing oneself as a 'father' is very different from requiring that others call you 'Father'.

            M: I agree that describing oneself as a father/​teacher(doctor)/​rabbi is very different from (said person) requiring that others call you (that).

            IIRC, @EamusCatuli0771108:disqus is the only one here who has acknowledged the difference I have been pounding on. Even @dennisbonnette:disqus doesn't seem to want to deal with that head on; this reply to him has gone unanswered.

          • Sample1

            Hey Luke, I noticed when looking through Disqus that a comment of yours that I replied to is now labeled as Guest, rather than your name.

            https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/the_santa_claus_8220proof8221_for_god8217s_existence/#comment-4416284613

            Any ideas why that may be?

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Yes; I had replied to the wrong thread and attempted to delete the comment. I then replied to the correct thread.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Oh interesting, I hadn't read the following in the light of only the church leadership:

            Why not? He was talking to the Apostles who became the Church leadership. He is not in context talking to everyone or too all believers.

            >Jim, I'm afraid that I read Mt 18:15–20 as applying to everyone, including the rank and file.

            Why should I accept your interpretation over the Catholic Church's? It's just your fallible opinion against Her's? No reason to prefer one over the other. OTOH if the Catholic Church has authority from God then going with yours is like favoring Korah's interpretation of "You are a Royal Priesthood" over Moses which ended badly for him as I recall.

            >That, or the church is only the leaders.

            I am just as much a part of America as the Congress but it doesn't logically follow I personally have the power to make my own laws. Your objection is silly.

            > It doesn't say "if two of you leaders agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven".

            You are confusing agreement in prayer with formation of doctrine. So two or three people can "agree" and declare John 1:1 doesn't teach the Trinity or divinity of Christ? This is nuts Luke.

            > And so what I wrote to Sample1 I repeat:

            Your objection is meaningless since you are giving me the Pagan meaning of the word and not that of the Greek Speaking Jew. The majority of OT quotes come from the Greek OT The Seventy.

            >would become a hierarchical structure with greater authority than Moses, I side with him over Joshua

            Protestants set Paul against James and Evangelicals set Paul against Jesus. Catholicism harmonizes it all which is a practical reason why it is better. That and Christ founded the Catholic Church.

            >. If the Jewish translators of the LXX had an understanding of ἐκκλησία which is closer to Joshua's view than Moses', then we need to ask some questions. What I know with absolute certainty is that terms can come to mean their opposites, such as 'the temple of the LORD' in Jeremiah 7:1–15.

            Since Biblical terms change their meaning from Era to Era and book to book this automatically invalidate's Luther' s perspicuity/private interpretation concept/error.

            > Why do you side with Moses over Joshua?

            At this point I forgot what I thought you meant at the time. Unless before making Joshua leader and his successor I would side with Moses the leader. The Bible has religious authority. Not private intepretation and sola scriptura.

          • 1/2 (2/2)

            He was talking to the Apostles who became the Church leadership. He is not in context talking to everyone or too all believers.

            Wait a second:

            Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:18–20)

            Are you saying that Jesus means "where two or three apostles are gathered in my name, there am I among them"? There is of course a question of whether the instructions are to the disciples because they are then to disciple others, vs. privileges only handed to the original 12 (modulo substitute). After all, Jesus also says this just to the twelve:

            And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20)

            How can the twelve teach others to observe Mt 18:18–20? Note that the word translated 'observe' is τηρέω, which means "keep, observe". It shows up in Mt 23:3: "so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do …"

            Why should I accept your interpretation over the Catholic Church's? It's just your fallible opinion against Her's?

            It's curious that me telling you what I believe is something you take as having normative force against you. Another way to interpret such things is that it gives you a kind of handle on me; you can use it against me if my stated stance leads to contradiction or presents worse empirical consequences than known, practiced alternatives.

            As to your second question, that all depends on whether doctrine is understood as having necessary empirical correlates. If word is expected to match reality, then you can do much more than pit opinion against opinion. I think the most helpful concept here is the rigidity of a good scientific hypothesis which prevents one from rationalizing any and all available evidence to fit it. If doctrine does not have such rigidity, it can be used to justify rather more than I think God wants it to justify.

            LB: I've long had an affinity for the previous three verses … That, or the church is only the leaders.

            JtS: I am just as much a part of America as the Congress but it doesn't logically follow I personally have the power to make my own laws. Your objection is silly.

            It would appear you misread what I wrote; the non-strikethrough is with regard to "the previous three verses". Perhaps you are in too much of a rush to find what I say "silly", "blathering", etc. For comparison see @dennisbonnette:disqus's response, where I've gotten further with him in two single back-and-forths than I have with you after sixty seven.

            You are confusing agreement in prayer with formation of doctrine.

            Wait, are you contrasting Mt 18:18 with 18:19? I confess I don't have much understanding of binding and loosing, but it seems like they are rather closer to Adam naming an animal and that being its name, than trying to figure out what is true. I've always viewed 'doctrine' as that which is true, not humans deciding on how to architect the ἐκκλησία.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Are you saying that Jesus means "where two or three apostles are gathered in my name, there am I among them"?

            Given your Protestant relativism Luke how is this argument any less valid than your claim "Call no man Father" is an omni-Prohibition against calling clergy "Father"? There is no reason to prefer one interpretation over the other unless the Catholic Church has authority or you are a true Prophet so I might know definitively one over the other.

            >After all, Jesus also says this just to the twelve:

            They are the Church authority and that is their primary mission. So what? I have no authority as a laymen to baptize anyone in ordinary circumstances only in emergencies by the leave of the Church.

            >How can the twelve teach others to observe Mt 18:18–20? Note that the word translated 'observe' is τηρέω, which means "keep, observe".

            So you are equivocating between the general vs the specific? By that reasoning because God commanded Samuel to anoint David as King & Jesus is the God of the OT he then wants us all to be anointed the Kings of Israel?

            Your sophistry is tedious Luke.

            >It shows up in Mt 23:3: "so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do …"

            So you are saying there are no commands in the OT specific to Apostles and Bishops and Church authority vs Laymen? Not following a bad clergyman's bad moral example is unremarkable. Pope Alexander VI dogmatically condemned chattel slavery & I must submit but that doesn't mean I must copy his loathsome personal life and fornicating ways.

            >It's curious that me telling you what I believe is something you take as having normative force against you.

            No what is curious is why you keep giving me your personal interpretations of Holy Writ that contradict Catholic ones and think I should be interested?
            You have no authority from God. Why should I be interested? You claim "call no man Father" should be taken hyper-literally & I don't take it such.

            >How can the twelve teach others to observe Mt 18:18–20?

            The Gospel of Matthew was not written when he told them this so you don't make a lick of sense here? Jesus telling the Apostle to teach others his doctrine is unremarkable.

            >Another way to interpret such things

            That is the problem Luke. I don't accept any interpretation or presupposition that goes against the Church anymore then I would accept a Soviet Communist's interpretation of the US Constitution over Jefferson or the SCOTUS.

            >As to your second question, that all depends on whether doctrine is understood as having necessary empirical correlates.

            I cannot fathom what empiricism has to do with anything? I interpret verse A to mean B and You interpret it to mean Not B. Protestants solve this by dividing into different Churches & keep making more to create a more pure "biblical Church". Catholics simply listen to the Church and if they don't they are outcast. It's that simple.

            >I think the most helpful concept here is the rigidity of a good scientific hypothesis which prevents one from rationalizing any and all available evidence to fit it.

            Which science are you taking about? Everything you say violates the science of Catholic Theology. I want no part of it.

            Luke I would be an Atheist before being a Protestant or a Mormon. Why? Well technically it would be objectively better to be a Mormon & by an order of magnitude better to be a Protestant then an Atheist. But in terms of reason to both of those religious systems in my eyes are intrinsically irrational so I can't believe them if I loose my Catholic Faith. I might be Eastern Orthodox but Protestant is off the table like Mormonism.

            >It would appear you misread what I wrote;

            You have that problem too. Especially with Scripture. Which is why I need a Church.

            >I've gotten further with him in two single back-and-forths

            Trying being straight forward. There are things you can say in five words but for some reason you choose fifty (ps that is rhetorical not literal).

            >Wait, are you contrasting Mt 18:18 with 18:19?

            Well perspicuity is a false doctrine invented by Luther. The first Pope warned us unstable people can misunderstand St Paul's teaching and twist them to their own destruction. Fifteen hundred years later Luther came alone and did just that. Why not?

            >I've always viewed 'doctrine' as that which is true, not humans deciding on how to architect the ἐκκλησία.

            But you are begging the question. How do we know what is true doctrine? For 1500 years nobody thought "Call no man Father" was a ban on that title for clergy. Then a group of European Christian Rebels thought they knew better then all who came before? I can never believe that.

            Ever.

          • 2/2 (1/2)

            Your objection is meaningless since you are giving me the Pagan meaning of the word and not that of the Greek Speaking Jew.

            If you aren't interested in how a word which meant the very essence of democracy came to mean an authoritarian structure that some might see as indistinguishable from how "the rulers of the Gentiles" do things, that's your prerogative. I for one am interested in how 'the temple of the LORD' came to mean its opposite in Jeremiah 7:1–15, and take Paul seriously when he said the OT was given to us so that we would not make the same mistakes. If you are right, then you could make quite the anti-democracy polemic, paralleling the fact that Genesis 1–3 was a polemic against contemporary creation myths which saw only some people as imago Dei. (The rest were slaves of the gods, to be commanded by divinely appointed image-bearers.)

            LB: As to the idea that the ἐκκλησία—"principal assembly of the democracy of ancient Athens"—would become a hierarchical structure with greater authority than Moses, I side with him over Joshua in Num 11:24–30.

            JtS: Protestants set Paul against James and Evangelicals set Paul against Jesus. Catholicism harmonizes it all which is a practical reason why it is better. That and Christ founded the Catholic Church.

            False analogy: Joshua's view is not authoritative. There is no need to harmonize.

            Since Biblical terms change their meaning from Era to Era and book to book this automatically invalidate's Luther' s perspicuity/​private interpretation concept/​error.

            I don't see how I'm depending on whatever it is you think Luther advanced. Why would I then rely on scholars such as Alasdair MacIntyre, Romano Guardini, Charles Taylor, and Claude Tresmontant? (I name Catholics for your benefit.) Even the Reformers made repeated reference to Augustine et al. By the way, 'private interpretation' appears to be an abuse of language: you defined it as "Any interpretation you offer in theory which contradicts the Catholic Church." That does not well-match dictionary.com: private. Perhaps the word 'private' has also changed in meaning since 1517? It cannot possibly mean "pertaining to or affecting a particular person or a small group of persons", because the growth of Protestantism would make it no longer 'private' in that sense. :-)

            LB: I side with him over Joshua in Num 11:24–30

            JtS: I would too since Moses and Joshua set up an authority →

            LB: Why do you side with Moses over Joshua? Joshua is the one who wanted a more contained, more exclusive leadership structure. Speech inspired by God was to be kept strictly within the temple complex—or the substitute at the time, the tent of meeting.

            JtS: At this point I forgot what I thought you meant at the time. Unless before making Joshua leader and his successor I would side with Moses the leader. The Bible has religious authority. Not private intepretation and sola scriptura.

            Just read the text, it's not long:

                Then the LORD said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. …
                So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it.
                Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp. (Numbers 11:16, 24–30)

            Why did Joshua want the prophesying-among-the-rank-and-file stopped? Why did Moses contradict him in the strongest possible terms?

          • Jim the Scott

            I am ignoring everything else since your scattershot is becoming tedious Luke. Here is one big error.

            >If you aren't interested in how a word which meant the very essence of democracy came to mean an authoritarian structure...

            So you are equivocating between the modern ideals of American Democracy and confusing them with the Democracies of the ancient Greeks which if you didn't notice had authoritarian structures & yes even hierarchies. Slaves, women, non-citizens, non-land owners could not vote in the democracy. Also words change their meaning over time. When the Greek speaking Jews used the term "ecclesia" they used it to translate an ancient Hebrew Term. In the OT the oriental King of the Middle east had governor who ruled on their behalf. In Judah they had a Queen Mother called "Geveriah/The Lady". That seems a more plausible interpretation scheme.

            Protestant democracy might be good for western civilization but it has not place in True Religion. God is a King not a President.

            >Joshua's view is not authoritative.

            In Protestantism no view is authoritative.

            >Just read the text, it's not long:
            " Then the LORD said to Moses, ....etc"

            Looks more like a Catholic Church to me then a Protestant with Moses as a leader/Pope/Headman figure & the elders as Bishops and none of this "democracy" nonsense.

            >Why did Joshua want the prophesying-among-the-rank-and-file stopped? Why did Moses contradict him in the strongest possible terms?

            Who cares? Besides at this point Moses is still in charge and they follow his lead not Joshua. The Torah also says any Prophet who speaks presumptuously or preach's false teaching is to be put to death. We allow Seers in Catholicism but if they go against the Church they are false & condemned.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Have you not read Deut 6 recently? Torah was supposed to be available to, no ingrained in, all.

            But it was taught to people by the God appointed authority. The Priests and later the Rabbis and in the NT the Apostles and the Bishop. Bible Onlyism never existed.

            >It was not the kind of thing which permanently required a priestly caste to interpret;

            Deut 17:9 just saying.

            > What did God have to say about their demand for a king?

            The same God that made the Throne of Judah the seat on which he would crown the God Man?

            >It's actually a truism among Jews that they are able to have more heated discussions than Christians and yet still dine together afterward. It's no wonder, as persecution does tend to drive one inwards, toward tighter bonds with one's own community.

            But even modern Orthodox Jews have Halakah rulings from their Rabbis because they reject Sola Scriptura. The only Sola Scriptura sects where the Karraites post 10th century AD.

            > When Jesus says that following him means hating one's family, I take that [in part] to mean those bonds can be too tight, such that they trump any substantial change toward something closer to Kingdom of God-type existence. Loyalty to anyone but God is always mixed, because anyone but God is mixed.

            No doubt.

            >Would you please quote a Reformer whose words, in context, mean what you require them to mean for your words to not be a caricature?

            You are the typical Protestant Luke. You demand Catholics have to spell out everything with a Bible verse to back it up. Complain when we make arguments from inference but exempt yourself from those standards.

            "Blessed are the church authorities, for they shall finally have obedient followers." That verse is not in the Bible but neither are verses that claim Scripture is formally sufficient or the sole rule of Faith or are to be interpreted by layman above the rest of the Church including the God appointed authorities.

            > I see in the OT a pattern of wisdom being lost by the fourth generation, if not after the first.

            Which explains why Protestantism has to keep reforming itself. 100 years ago we didn't have Assemblies of God or other modern Evangelicals. They where called Methodists & 100 years from now when the Assemblies of God are ordaining polyamorus lesbian ministers we Catholics will still have an all male Priesthood. Divine Providence and all that plus the Promise of the Holy Spirit.

            >You want this exchange:

            Describing oneself as a Father & calling yourself one is a distinction without a difference. Sample1 like a stopped clock got one thing right.

            >IIRC, Mark is the only one here who has acknowledged the difference I have been pounding on.

            I don't. There is no difference between calling yourself one and describing yourself as one. My Son has to call me by a paternal title or he dishonors me contrary to the command to honor your father and mother. One reason he has too is the brute fact I am his Father. St Paul has said God has made him a Father therefore to call him Father is only to acknowledge reality. The Pharisees Jesus was yelling at where plotting to kill him out of malice. So they are unworthy of the title. But if this is an omni-command to not call people Father my son sins when he calls me that and I do to toward Jim the Scott III (I am 4th BTW).

            As for Dr. B not answering you. He is doing Natural Theology. If you want a back and forth in Catholic vs Protestant polemics/apologetics. I am sure my friend David Armstrong can hook you up. Go visit his blog.

            https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/

          • Bible Onlyism never existed.

            I am not sure where "Bible Onlyism" exists post-1517. You almost certainly have a very specific idea of what "Bible Onlyism" means, a very nice comprehensive definition. And I'm sure it refers to some Protestantism. But you surely think it applies to all Protestantism. I question that 'some' ⇒ 'all' reasoning. To say that one must choose "Bible Onlyism" or "obedience to the Magisterium" is to falsely exclude a middle. The Holy Spirit is perfectly able to bring about ecumenical agreement with not a hint of "lord it over" / "exercise authority over" present.

            JtS: and didn't make copies of the Torah to give to individual Israelites to interpret for themselves and start their own sub-nations of Israel and keep dividing from each other infinitely.

            LB: Have you not read Deut 6 recently? Torah was supposed to be available to, no ingrained in, all. It was not the kind of thing which permanently required a priestly caste to interpret; that is surely the message of Deut 30:11–14. You do need fathers to teach their children but the children grow up.

            JtS: Deut 17:9 just saying.

            Were Torahs not given or given to individual Israelites? Let's find exactly where our disagreement lies. So for example, Deut 17:8–13 involves legal decisions where the local authorities could not decide. There is direct symmetry between this and Moses taking Jethro's advice to spread the judging load in Ex 18. This follows on the people's refusal to interact directly with God in Deut 5:22–33. What does Peter say in his first sermon? "And in the last days it shall be, God declares, / that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh". Surely this indwelling of the Spirit in everyone will result in some sort of monumental change from how things worked post-Deut 5. Maybe Jer 31:31–34 and Ezek 36:22–32 testifies to this? And yet if we have the dynamic @randygritter:disqus observed—"Strong, holy people who disagree will produce bigger fights if they are not submitting to a common authority."—then they are merely 'infants' per 1 Cor 3:1–4; infants do need human authorities to form them.

            Would you please quote a Reformer whose words, in context, mean what you require them to mean for your words to not be a caricature?

            LB: Would you please quote a Reformer whose words, in context, mean what you require them to mean for your words to not be a caricature? If you want to say that disciples of those Reformers, maybe a few generations later, bastardized the original views, I will be unsurprised.

            JtS: You are the typical Protestant Luke. You demand Catholics have to spell out everything with a Bible verse to back it up. Complain when we make arguments from inference but exempt yourself from those standards.

            I require evidence that I have ever exempted myself from those standards. And if you're not going to show actual textual instances where your model of sola scriptura or perspicuity of scripture well-matches reality, I will treat it accordingly—as perhaps just a thought-castle or at best, as describing some Protestantism.

            That verse is not in the Bible but neither are verses that claim Scripture is formally sufficient or the sole rule of Faith or are to be interpreted by layman above the rest of the Church including the God appointed authorities.

            When Jesus discerned that the scribes and Pharisees "preach, but do not practice", do you think the scribes and Pharisees taught that they did not practice, or do you think they taught that their practice was indeed correct practice? By the way, this can include them falling short of the standard; what is important is the idea communicated to people of what correct practice is.

            Which explains why Protestantism has to keep reforming itself.

            I think we should ask what would have happened if secular powers had not stood up to the RCC in the past several decades. What you seem to want would seem to result in an even more powerful Church, which can depose presidents just like Pope Boniface VII bragged that previous popes had deposed three French kings. The principle, by the way, is that asymmetry in power leads to all sorts of nasty. A "maturity for all" approach, which is what the NT seems to obviously teach, is the only long-term antidote to asymmetry of power. Self-limitation can be practiced for a time, but it never seems to last. It's almost as if God never meant it to last.

            LB: Describing oneself as a 'father' is very different from requiring that others call you 'Father'.

            JtS: Describing oneself as a Father & calling yourself one is a distinction without a difference.

            Good thing that's not the distinction I stated.

            As for Dr. B not answering you. He is doing Natural Theology.

            Actually, he gave me a fantastic answer on issues where you have been utterly intransigent. His understanding of 'natural theology' seems to have something awfully close to the nuance I've been pushing, which you've rejected out of hand, time after time.

          • Jim the Scott

            >And I'm sure it refers to some Protestantism.

            Sola Sciptura is a moving target. All Protestantism is at best semi-controlled anarchy. At worst out of control anarchy. But at it's heart it is anarchy.

            >The Holy Spirit is perfectly able to bring about ecumenical agreement with not a hint of "lord it over" / "exercise authority over" present.

            Why not save a step and admit the Holy Spirit has already done so in the ecumenical councils and the teaching of Peter's successors? If you created your omni-Federation of different Churches who hammer out a set of spirit lead "agreements" what do you do with the "Protestants" who rebel against that? Declare them excommunicated?

            It is not "Lording over it" to submit to a God appointed authority. True those in that authority should not abuse their power or face divine justice (Which would apply to every bad Pope).

            >Were Torahs not given or given to individual Israelites?

            No because they are hand written and it took years to make just one book. Practically speaking God could never have had Sola Scriptura in mind when He inspired Scripture.

          • Jim the Scott

            @LukeBreuer:disqus

            Rather you cannot assume your sect's presuppositions on what the Bible means & how it should be used when arguing with Catholics.

            Catholics are neither Protestants, Evangelicals nor Fundamentalists & using the Bible the way they do begs the question more than anything.

            I don't why none of you get that? Especially the Atheists, skeptics and agnostics.

          • David Nickol

            Catholics are neither Protestants, Evangelicals nor Fundamentalists & using the Bible the way they do begs the question more than anything.

            There are many different approaches to the Old Testament and the New Testament, and certainly it can be very unproductive for two members of different religions to cite (or argue over) a particular passage when their respective two religions have clearly differing interpretations. But it seems to me that Catholics, Protestants (of all stripes), and Jews can (and do) still profitably discuss a great deal that is in the Bible without significant problems. No Protestant, for example, is going to be convinced to accept the authority of the pope because Jesus said, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church." And no Jew is going to read Genesis 3:15 as a prediction of the coming of Jesus. But there is a lot Catholics, Protestants, and Jews can agree on. And of course not every discussion about the Bible must be about religious doctrine.

            The Bible is a big book (or collection of books), and there are many things that people of all religions (or even no religion) can profitably discuss. I smile every time I remember that my sister and I dared not even touch my Protestant father's "Protestant" Bible (the Revised Standard Version) which has for years now been widely used by even very conservative Catholics and even exists in a Catholic version which is just the RSV with a handful of insignificant changes.

            And suppose a Fundamentalist or an Evangelical or a Mormon quotes the Bible on Strange Notions in a way that is very particular to their own interpretation. That is no reason to panic or grow angry. It's easy enough to say, "That's a fundamentalist (or whatever) approach, Catholics are not fundamentalists, and this is how we see it."

            This site was created for the purpose of dialogue between Catholics and atheists, and it has been the case that members of other religions (or no religion) have been welcome both as contributors and commenters. Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and even Protestants(!) are not the enemy. There is no reason to panic or attack when someone writes from a viewpoint other than that of orthodox Catholicism (as understood by Thomists, of course). There is no reason to attempt shutting down discussion because someone expresses an opinion about the Bible (or anything) that has not been approved by the pope or the magisterium. If, however, the powers that be want to make this a Catholics-only site, they can just ban atheists, skeptics, agnostics, and (of course) Protestants.

          • Jim the Scott

            >There are many different approaches to the Old Testament and the New Testament, and certainly it can be very unproductive for two members of different religions to cite (or argue over) a particular passage when their respective two religions have clearly differing interpretations.

            At best for Catholics we can at least show the Protestants the Church can justify Her beliefs from Holy Writ with our interpretation and muster polemics against theirs. Ultimately the dispute between us is Authority.

            If is very futile for Atheists & religious skeptics to use the Bible against us and in my experience more often then not its just the recycled polemics they use against Fundies and Evangelicals most of which beg the question for us.

            > But it seems to me that Catholics, Protestants (of all stripes), and Jews can (and do) still profitably discuss a great deal that is in the Bible without significant problems.

            Agreed I would be a fool to say there are not points of common agreement.

            >No Protestant, for example, is going to be convinced to accept the authority of the pope because Jesus said, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church."

            You've never seen me shake a few up to the core when I pul Isaiah 22:20-23.
            There you have the justification for calling Peter the Pope(Father) and everything. The Kings of Judah had a "Master of the Household" who ruled their Kingdom on their behalf. Back in the day the Jesuits used it against the Calvinist in Geneva with great affect.

            >And no Jew is going to read Genesis 3:15 as a prediction of the coming of Jesus. But there is a lot Catholics, Protestants, and Jews can agree on. And of course not every discussion about the Bible must be about religious doctrine.

            I start with natural theology and historic Protestants, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Jews (& we could put Muslims in there as well) have similar Natural Theology. Pre-enlightenment anyway.

            >And suppose a Fundamentalist or an Evangelical or a Mormon quotes the Bible on Strange Notions in a way that is very particular to their own interpretation. That is no reason to panic or grow angry. It's easy enough to say, "That's a fundamentalist (or whatever) approach, Catholics are not fundamentalists, and this is how we see it."

            I am an old grouch these days. I just tire over having to deal with the same old same old.

            >This site was created for the purpose of dialogue between Catholics and atheists, and it has been the case that members of other religions (or no religion) have been welcome both as contributors and commenters. Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and even Protestants(!) are not the enemy. There is no reason to panic or attack when someone writes from a viewpoint other than that of orthodox Catholicism (as understood by Thomists, of course).

            I just want to clear away the muck and get to the heart of the manner. It is a fault of mine. I bore easy.

            There is no reason to attempt shutting down discussion because someone expresses an opinion about the Bible (or anything) that has not been approved by the pope or the magisterium. If, however, the powers that be want to make this a Catholics-only site, they can just ban atheists, skeptics, agnostics, and (of course) Protestants.

            >There is no reason to attempt shutting down discussion because someone expresses an opinion about the Bible (or anything) that has not been approved by the pope or the magisterium.

            It just a waste of time & I usually want to get to the heart of the matter. Such as my assertions all Modern Theodicy fails and that a Classic Theistic God needs a Theodicy like a fish needs an Ipad. Quoting a Bible verse to answer that puts me off like a scientist who hears the 2nd Law of thermodynamics invoked to attack evolution. It just becomes tedious.

            >If, however, the powers that be want to make this a Catholics-only site, they can just ban atheists, skeptics, agnostics, and (of course) Protestants.

            It should never be Catholics only. Rather it is clearly a Catholic site designed to answer specifically religious skeptics from a Catholic view point. There are other sites dedicated to addressing Protestantism . But here at least in this thread I was addressing the POE and taking issue with Luke on his what I believe to be false claim the EPOE can be applied to Classic Theism. I say that is impossible. It is by nature a philosophical discussion so citing the bible is off topic IMHO.

            When I see William Lane Craig argue against Divine Timelessness post creation I see him argue philosophically(& I don't agree with him). I believe the Bible is out of place in that particular discussion. Obviously the Bible is relavant elsewhere.

            Thanks for the Input Dave. You skeptics are on fire today. First Simple1 makes an minor good argument and you lay some decent truth down here. I am impressed. Well done.

          • You've never seen me shake a few up to the core when I pul Isaiah 22:20-23.
            There you have the justification for calling Peter the Pope(Father) and everything. The Kings of Judah had a "Master of the Household" who ruled their Kingdom on their behalf. Back in the day the Jesuits used it against the Calvinist in Geneva with great affect.

            I'm confused at what v25 means; is it referring to the peg in v23? Or is it a shifting of pegs to go along with the shifting of robe, sash, and authority of v21? Something else?

          • Jim the Scott

            The OT Kingdom was overthrown by the Babylonians as a judgement from God. It is an uprooted Peg. The destruction of the 2nd Temple is in that vain too.

            Of course the New Covenant is a better covenant as per Letter to the Hebrews built on better promises. The Gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Peter's Faith specifically the power of His office will never fail and it never has.

          • David Nickol

            The OT Kingdom was overthrown by the Babylonians as a judgement from God.

            I think nowadays it is Evangelical Christians who see God's punishment in famine, hurricanes, wars, and so on. Did God really punish nations in Old Testament times and does he still do so today?

            Of course the New Covenant is a better covenant

            As I understand him, Pope Benedict says God does not back out of covenants, and Judaism is the appropriate religion for Jews. As I have often observed, Jesus said, "“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus seemed to be calling upon Jews to be better Jews, not to convert to a new religion. Also see Matthew 10:5-6:

            5 Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.
            6 Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

          • Jim the Scott

            >I think nowadays it is Evangelical Christians who see God's punishment in famine, hurricanes, wars, and so on. Did God really punish nations in Old Testament times and does he still do so today?

            He could but if Job teaches me anything it is God can allow the innocent to suffer so it is presumptous to make such speculations about individual desasters. Apart from being informed by divine revelation I don't think we can know.

            >As I understand him, Pope Benedict says God does not back out of covenants, and Judaism is the appropriate religion for Jews.

            Well Benedict once told the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem while he was still CDF chief under STJP2 that a proposed joint declaration between the Church and Rabbinarate that said the Church and Judaism where equal paths to salvation would be heresy and that it could not be done. Benedict has said rather clearly everybody including Jews and Muslims had an objective obgligation before God to confess Jesus and the Church.
            So I think you might be missing something here. Naturally Benedict confesses the potential salvation of the invincibly ignorant under the usual circumstances.

            Pope Francis himself recently affirmed only Catholicism and Judaism are divinely revealed & that God merely allows Islam.

            >As I have often observed, Jesus said, "“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus seemed to be calling upon Jews to be better Jews, not to convert to a new religion. Also see Matthew 10:5-6:

            So called Two Covenent theology is a heresy(Ratzinger cared not for it). Rather we see the Old Covenent as valid in the sense God's promise of salvation will not be revoked & in some sense the Jews are still His People. In some time in the future the Jews will convert. There have been in the last 2000 year occational waves of it.

          • This site was created for the purpose of dialogue between Catholics and atheists, and it has been the case that members of other religions (or no religion) have been welcome both as contributors and commenters. Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and even Protestants(!) are not the enemy. There is no reason to panic or attack when someone writes from a viewpoint other than that of orthodox Catholicism (as understood by Thomists, of course). There is no reason to attempt shutting down discussion because someone expresses an opinion about the Bible (or anything) that has not been approved by the pope or the magisterium. If, however, the powers that be want to make this a Catholics-only site, they can just ban atheists, skeptics, agnostics, and (of course) Protestants.

            I can see a lot of wiggle room (such as @Jimthescott:disqus rejecting descriptions such as 'panic' or 'attack'), but I am otherwise 100% with you. One of the things the 2016 US election has done is reveal rather large gaps between children and parents; it happened with mine and it has happened with several friends who are struggling to bridge that gap rather than write their relatives off. It would be easy to just ignore the parents on politics, given how far we all live from them. But we don't want to do this. That will inevitably mean painful bridging of those gaps, with each side struggling with bad understandings of the other. The internet could be a place to practice such bridging of gaps. It's neutral as technology and can be used to enhance sectarianism or dissolve it. Christians in particular have quite the opportunity to "Outdo one another in showing honor." Sadly, I see very little. (I don't claim to do it well myself.)

          • Jim the Scott

            Which is why arguing with Protestants is a bit of a tangent and I am justified in calling out Atheists who confuse us Catholics with you lot and your presupositions. Just as if you where on a Protestant site debaiting Atheists and one of them brings up a case of alledged Papal Fallibility. For you that is a non-starter objection.

            I complain about non-starter objects in general and I am not stopping anytime soon when I see them. Cheers.

          • Rather you cannot assume your sect's presuppositions on what the Bible means & how it should be used when arguing with Catholics.

            But Catholics can assume their sect's presuppositions on what the Bible means & how it should be used when arguing with non-Catholics? (I would frame the entire discussion differently, where neither side needs to be imperialistic. Perhaps I am misreading you. For the ambitious, Charles Taylor draws a helpful distinction in his 1989 essay Explanation and Practical Reason.)

            I don't why none of you get that? Especially the Atheists, skeptics and agnostics.

            Maybe it has to do with how they have been raised, how they have been taught to interact with others. A long time ago, I became curious about what kinds of competition scripture was ok with. All I found was Paul saying "Outdo one another in showing honor." Given stuff like Mt 23:5–12, I doubt it means behavior such as kissing the Pope's ring. I suspect closer to the mark is something I read from a Jew:

                So I state very simply: I can see myself meeting this man [Jesus] and, with courtesy, arguing with him. It is my form of respect, the only compliment I crave from others, the only serious tribute I pay to the people I take seriously—and therefore respect and even love. (A Rabbi Talks With Jesus, 3)

            I can see why such behavior might be irritating to those in power and allow the Jews more insight into things than their … more agreeable fellow humans. But the more I understand, the more Jacob Neusner seems spot on. I would add a huge dose of empirical evidence, as reason alone is too empty and/or too full. The seven letters in Revelation have promises to "the one who conquers"—not the one who obediently tows the party line. It's like there is something in human nature which just wants a tiny part of God, or maybe just the gifts he gives, and finds ways to rationalize away there being anything more—at least in this life. One must pierce such philosophical canopies, to use a term from Catholic scholar Josef Pieper. (Leisure: The Basis of Culture, 88–90, excerpt)

          • Jim the Scott

            Well it is a Catholic website why wouldn't I assume Catholicism Truth and her doctrines and philosophy? I don't have to reinvent the wheel to my fellows. Making the case Catholicism is false and Protestantism (in whatever sect you champion) is true is a legitimate argument but it is not legitimate for an Atheist to assume Catholics are Protestants & hold presumpositions unique to them. Too many skeptics/Atheists have this "One-size-fits-all" omni-anti-Theist polemic which they try to apply to different religions across the board and it's muttled thinking at best even if there are no gods.

            For me it is simplicity itself. You need to taylor make your polemics to the group you are criticizing. Arguments I might use against you Luke would not work on a Mormon. For example appealing to the need for a God appointed Authority. You lot don't have one. That is your problem. The Mormons profess to have one and for me the argument would turn to why I doubt theirs is the true authority from God and our is correct.

            >Given stuff like Mt 23:5–12, I doubt it means behavior such as kissing the Pope's ring.

            Jacob bowed to his brother to show respect. Just saying so I don't see a big deal in kissing the Pope ring (which the current model doesn't fancy). This human tradition Heir Luther made up something has to be explicit in Holy Writ to be legitimate isn't explicitly taught in Holy Writ therefore by it's own standards how can it be true? Even if something Catholic is explicit (Paul calling himself and religious leaders Father. Eat my flesh, forgive sins, Baptism now saves you etc) such is ignored and a non-literal interpreation is developed. It never ends....

            >The seven letters in Revelation have promises to "the one who conquers"—not the one who obediently tows the party line.

            The either/or mentality of Protestants never fails to estound me . I prefer the both/an view of Catholicism but that is just me (& a billon other people).

            Cheers bro.

          • JtS: Rather you cannot assume your sect's presuppositions on what the Bible means & how it should be used when arguing with Catholics.

            LB: But Catholics can assume their sect's presuppositions on what the Bible means & how it should be used when arguing with non-Catholics? (I would frame the entire discussion differently, where neither side needs to be imperialistic. …)

            JtS: Well it is a Catholic website why wouldn't I assume Catholicism Truth and her doctrines and philosophy? I don't have to reinvent the wheel to my fellows.

            Given that you're talking to non-Catholics, nobody is asking you to "reinvent the wheel to [your] fellows". To your first sentence, it all depends on whether or not you wish to be "imperialistic". If you have little interest in really getting inside others' minds, then you will forever lack a kind of credibility with them I see as tremendously important. The message I say you communicate is that either there is nothing of value in their minds which disagrees with yours†, or they must do all the work to do the compare & contrast. My own experience is that those who are willing to almost inhabit my errors, to understand how I went astray and guide me back as a shepherd (instead of as one who will not lift a finger to move my burden) are those who have been the biggest blessing to me. And sometimes, it turns out that the other person was wrong—or both, or neither!

            † Technically, I suspect you would like change "with [Jim's mind]" to "with the Magisterium". Not knowing the position the Magisterium takes on most of the issues I've brought up with you, I am not sure how well such a desire matches with reality.

            Making the case Catholicism is false and Protestantism (in whatever sect you champion) is true …

            That's not a case I've ever pressed on SN nor do I recall seeing anyone else press it.

            … it is not legitimate for an Atheist to assume Catholics are Protestants & hold presumpositions unique to them.

            That's not a case I've ever pressed on SN nor do I recall seeing anyone else press it.

            Too many skeptics/Atheists have this "One-size-fits-all" omni-anti-Theist polemic which they try to apply to different religions across the board and it's muttled thinking at best even if there are no gods.

            They are human, after all. I could also say that too many Catholics have a one-size-fits-all approach toward Protestantism, that I've routinely gotten broad-brushed by those here. An excellent example is my critique of calling priests 'Father', which I founded very differently from your usual Protestant. Instead of treating me as an individual who might not be a nameless, faceless representative of a group, I got treated as if I had started with Jesus' words in Mt 23. Being accused of giving canned answers, I got canned answers.

            For me it is simplicity itself. You need to taylor make your polemics to the group you are criticizing. Arguments I might use against you Luke would not work on a Mormon.

            Sure, and you aren't allowing atheists to have any legitimate expectations of goodness from God based on gift/​promise instead of duty/​obligation. You want to impose a rigid definition of 'theodicy' on them (WP: Theodicy is wider), deprive them of all appeal to special revelation except as you understand it‡, and obtain a win I would characterize as exceedingly shallow. You don't even take advantage of the argument that a God who operates by 'duty', 'obligation', and 'deserve' would would be a terrible and fearsome God; grace and mercy are necessary for human existence. Life without gift is horrific. Satan is the one who must operate solely based on 'duty', 'obligation', and 'deserve', for being self-cut-off from God's mercy and grace, he must exist parasitically upon creation, taking more than he gives while pretending all is as just as it will ever be.

            ‡ See †, above.

            For example appealing to the need for a God appointed Authority. You lot don't have one. That is your problem.

            If you were correct, you could point to Roman Catholics acting noticeably better during the Thirty Years' War than Protestants. Instead, you had a leader who in 1520 condemned "That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.", thereby making it much easier for "heretics" to be killed on religious grounds—sanctioned by God himself. Now of course the Roman Catholic Hierarchy did not want the Thirty Years' War to happen, just like it did not want Jews to be killed. Jews were killed because some rowdier Roman Catholics knew that all other "heretics" could be killed; the Jews had a special exemption but this was conveniently glossed over—perhaps because those Jews had loaned substantial sums for the killing of other "heretics". Every leader always says that if only [s]he had been listened to, the horrible thing wouldn't have happened. God knows if they were attempting to corral violence among their ranks and use it for purposes other than God's.

            But it's not like the kind of radical antithesis to the RCC that was the liberal German church was any better: after all, that most Enlightened of nations went on to commit genocide against the single protected group of "heretics". It is almost as if the real problem is not one of authority, about obeying the Correct Human Leaders. (To be sure, God always appoints the Correct Human Leaders. He/she/it/they always has/have!)

            Jacob bowed to his brother to show respect.

            True. Jacob also deceived his brother. Perhaps his respect was to make up for that?

            JtS: Catholics are neither Protestants, Evangelicals nor Fundamentalists & using the Bible the way they do begs the question more than anything.

            I don't why none of you get that? Especially the Atheists, skeptics and agnostics.

            LB: The seven letters in Revelation have promises to "the one who conquers"—not the one who obediently tows the party line.

            JtS: The either/or mentality of Protestants never fails to estound me . I prefer the both/an view of Catholicism but that is just me (& a billon other people).

            When we Protestants allow ourselves to question authority, we sometimes find that authority is doing just fine, but other times find out that it is engaged in abuses while commanding others to ignore them or cover them up. This is of course what humans always do. But if one believes that one's higher-ups have any influence on one's immortal soul and not just one's material well-being, keeping one's mouth shut becomes rather alluring. Towing the party line is the safest route.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Given that you're talking to non-Catholics, nobody is asking you to "reinvent the wheel to [your] fellows".

            Pretty much are....on a Catholic website I can assume the Truth of Catholicism to the exclusion of other views. You don't have to believe but it is irrational to restrain me.

            >To your first sentence, it all depends on whether or not you wish to be "imperialistic". If you have little interest in really getting inside others' minds, then you will forever lack a kind of credibility with them I see as tremendously important.

            That is not the issue. As a Catholic I am justified assuming the Truth of Catholicism among my own. Also one assumes the non-Catholics come here to hear it. I am not going to equivocate it with other sects. Sure Protestants agree with us on a lot of things but not everything. So differences count. Otherwise we have mutt-led discussion.

            >That's not a case I've ever pressed on SN nor do I recall seeing anyone else press it.

            At this point Luke you are all over the place I forgot what your original objection was?

            Protestants confuse sin with doctrinal error. Catholics do not. Which is why I cannot make heads or tail on the diddlies you are making about the Thirty Years War or the execution of heretics.

            >Sure, and you aren't allowing atheists to have any legitimate expectations of goodness from God based on gift/​promise instead of duty/​obligation.

            At last back on topic. Atheists have to be disabused of Theodicy and other Christians have to stop with the failed Theodicy enterprise.

            >You want to impose a rigid definition of 'theodicy' on them

            Yes because I don't want Atheist Sophists like Stephen Law pretending Aquinas use of the term is like Plantingia because it is not. I want clarity in terms.

            >(WP: Theodicy is wider),

            No narrowly it means the moral justification for a Morally Good God to allow evil. God is not a moral agent in the first place so it is like Fr. Davies said like wasting time arguing if a pitcher can run the mile in under 10 minutes in order to be a good pitcher. No with the pitcher the question is can he throw the ball? God is all Good but how is He that? That is the real question.

            > deprive them of all appeal to special revelation except as you understand it‡, and obtain a win I would characterize as exceedingly shallow.

            Luke you are a fellow believer (even if you are a heretic) and thus by Baptism and Faith my Brother via Trent and Vatican II. If I won't listen to you meanderings on Special revelation if they contradict Catholic teaching I am really not going to listen to an Atheist. Theodicies are philosophical arguments. They must be dealt with via philosophy.

            >You don't even take advantage of the argument that a God who operates by 'duty', 'obligation', and 'deserve' would would be a terrible and fearsome God; grace and mercy are necessary for human existence.

            I don't think I need too.

            >Life without gift is horrific. Satan is the one who must operate solely based on 'duty', 'obligation', and 'deserve', for being self-cut-off from God's mercy and grace, he must exist parasitically upon creation, taking more than he gives while pretending all is as just as it will ever be.

            No? Satan is a slave. He must do as God wills Him do thought he hates it.
            St Michael operates by duty motivated by divine virtues infused in his being as a gift of grace.

            >When we Protestants allow ourselves to question authority, we sometimes find that authority is doing just fine, but other times find out that it is engaged in abuses while commanding others to ignore them or cover them up.

            I am all for counter Reformation. I am all for the Church Authority undergoing personal reform. I just don't think that gives anybody the right to make up their own novel doctrines nobody has taught before or over throw what is taught.

            > But if one believes that one's higher-ups have any influence on one's immortal soul

            You have the typical Protestant prejudices and little knowledge. Pope Francis(or any Pope before or after him including Saints liek JP2) doesn't decide where I end up in the Afterlife.

          • Jim, have you seen the recently released picture of a black hole? If not go check it out. I want you to imagine a physicist telling you about it with lots of technical terms, assuming PhD-level background in concepts. Assuming you are not a physicist, I doubt you would actually benefit very much from such conversation. You might smile and nod out of a surface-level respect, but that is all. When you interact with atheists and just presuppose a mountain of Catholic understanding, I say the dynamic is similar. I doubt the atheist is thereby edified. Good teachers don't assume the lack of understanding or wrong understanding of their students, but they do practice self-limitation and they do try to get inside the minds of their students to best teach them. I see zero of this in you; is that because there is zero—at least when it comes to atheists saying they expect to see more good and less evil in the world? Do you think this is how Jesus would interact with them? (You can't imitate him perfectly, but you can work arbitrarily far towards that end, powered by endless grace.)

            You seem to believe, Jim, that the way to conquer error is merely to speak the truth. There's an old saying that to detect counterfeit bills, the Secret Service only studies genuine bills. Roger Olson heard this, doubted it, and wrote to the Secret Service. They responded that the saying is ridiculous; of course they carefully examine extant counterfeit bills. I'm quite content if you don't want to examine the counterfeit bills of a Protestant in the comment section of SN, but you might consider what you're communicating about God and about Jesus if you refuse to examine the counterfeit bills of atheists. I say you're in danger of communicating that they need to have their minds wiped and reprogrammed with Catholic dogma.‡ (I exaggerate somewhat, but not I think so much that the point is invalid.)

            God is all Good but how is He that? That is the real question.

            I agree completely. I don't see how "Good is convertable with Being." elucidates anything. And I don't see how you're going to develop very much understanding with pure reason / natural theology / general revelation / philosophy. In fact, if pure reason is pure because it knows nothing of evidence, nothing of particulars, nothing of special revelation, then there is the very important question of how one takes pure reason and applies it to everyday reality. One cannot derive such application from pure reason alone without denigrating everyday reality.

            The friction between us has nothing to do with definitions and everything to do with how definitions are applied to embodied reality. I'm actually rather decent when working with philosophical definitions; I believe I've done a pretty decent job of shredding a lot of atheist argumentation by applying more rigor than they. But even more, I challenge atheists to take their pretty little thought-castles and show them in hard, empirical reality. One of my favorites is to ask them to show me any examples of:

                 (1) When a scientist becomes an atheist,
                         [s]he does better science.
                 (2) When a scientist becomes religious,
                         [s]he does worse science.

            See, the formalism that "religion distorts one's ability to understand reality"† is a perfectly valid formalism. But is it sound? Only testing against embodied reality can tell. I have presented (1) and (2) many times by now; the best I've gotten is specious inferences from correlation to causation. Those who praise empirical evidence care not a whit for it when the evidence is inconvenient to their case. Par for the human course. So while there is a formalism that "religion distorts one's ability to understand reality", while it seems like maybe that could properly describe some possible worlds, there is zero evidence it describes our actual world. There is evidence that some of what passes for 'religion' distorts our ability to understand reality—the Bible teaches plenty on this topic. The good scientist knows that one cannot reason that 'some' ⇒ 'all'. There are few good scientists among the science enthusiasts.

            In essence, I see a complete refusal by you to talk about how God's goodness manifests in reality. You can hide behind technical definitions and abstractions which may have much meaning to you (just like a stress-energy tensor has great meaning to a physicist who studies black holes), but are vague if meaningful at all to many (most?) atheists. This vagueness is a perverse asset to you: it makes your position virtually unassailable. But it seems a poor match to Jesus who said both "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." and "You will recognize them by their fruits." Jesus seems much more knowable than the "all Good" you ascribe to God. Jesus got his hands dirty and applied plenty to real-world situations. He is said to be the fullest revelation of God we have, right?

            I can understand some good reason for retreating to abstract definitions: one can maybe build some common ground before getting tangled up in practical interpretation which can differ radically from one person to the next. In Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–34 we see that Jesus' understanding of 'greatness' profoundly differed from the disciples' understanding of 'greatness'. I suspect the same applies to 'all Good'. It is tempting to try to avoid these details. And yet without Jesus' life and death, God's chosen people had by and large come to a very bad understanding of 'all good'! You would trust people to use pre-Jesus reasoning and get somewhere useful?

            It's not just that the devil is in the details; God is also in the details. Step back from details / particulars / concrete / special revelation to generalizations / universals / abstractions / general revelation and can you even tell the difference between God and Satan? That is, does the formal, definitional difference help one navigate reality in any way? If one can learn how to apply pure reason to embodied reality using only pure reason, what does that say of the value of embodied reality? If it is always good for universals to mold or destroy particulars, the social correlate is that it was right for society to rid itself of Jesus.

            Perhaps the saddest part of this is that a morality based on duty and obligation is a terrible morality. One is not one's brother's keeper; instead one is an autonomous agent only doing what one must do. For humans to live according to such law instead of gift and grace and mercy is for them to fall short of imago Dei. When Jesus did only what he saw his Father doing and called us to follow him, he was not merely obeying, not merely doing his duty. He loved people freely, gratuitously. If humans are getting a duty-bound-moral-agent-God when they anthropomorphize, they are testifying to a degraded way of living. I say God never meant for humans to be 'moral agents' in this sense. Jesus was supposed to be the telos of the law, and yet the Jews stopped at something rather different. Might they have stopped at something like 'duty' and 'obligation'? Might they have stopped at external observances?

             
            † I'll say a bit more about (1) or (2) because comments like this one tend to bring people out of the woodwork. First, a common response to (1) and (2) is that scientists employ cognitive dissonance, compartmentalizing their religion when doing science. This response is fine as long as the cognitive dissonance / compartmentalizing is not complete. If it is complete, then "religion distorts one's ability to understand reality" becomes empirically unfalsifiable. Second, I often hear that (1) or (2) is not actually entailed by what my interlocutors are saying. This I find rather dubious and I invite people to explore that dubiousness in this way: read Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion and after every single sentence, note that said sentence does not in any way entail or suggest (1) or (2). My suspicion is that some of his sentences will seem really weird as a result. Circumstantial evidence can be found by observing the stance of Peter Boghossian as relayed by Randal Rauser (Boghossian wants 'faith' categorized as mental illness), and noting the high praise Richard Dawkins had for Boghossian's book. If we want to grant Michael Shermer authority to speak consistently with Dawkins, then also relevant his claim in the Foreword that "Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists is the perfect companion to Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion." Suffice it to say that it is hard to justify (on scientific grounds) the atheist hatred of religion if atheists cannot actually show any evidence of (1) or (2). And Jim, this case against atheists is only strengthened by replacing my standard of judgment with theirs—or rather, their proclaimed standard of judgment.

            ‡ Following on the previous footnote, this is the next sentence from Michael Shermer: "They should be bundled like an atheist software package to reprogram minds into employing reason instead of faith, science instead of superstition."

          • Jim the Scott

            This post is long winded and tedious. I won't read it Luke till you get to a point.

          • I'll just pick five sentences. You can look at them in context if you think that kind of thing is important.

            (1) I doubt the atheist is thereby edified.

            (2) I don't see how "Good is convertable with Being." elucidates anything.

            (3a) The friction between us has nothing to do with definitions and everything to do with how definitions are applied to embodied reality.

            (3b) In essence, I see a complete refusal by you to talk about how God's goodness manifests in reality.

            (4) If one can learn how to apply pure reason to embodied reality using only pure reason, what does that say of the value of embodied reality?

          • Jim the Scott

            1) Is subjective.
            2) Then you explain the concept or point to somebody or some book to explain it.
            3a) The reality is I am a strong Atheist toward any type of Theistic Personalist view of God and a strong believer in the Classical One the God of Abraham and Aquinas is the only God and that is reality as I see it.
            3b) That is not my job. I point people toward a philosophical and rational explanation on how God is good and how He is not. This is like a Franciscan yelling at a contemplative to get out of the monastery & help the poor and the contemplative yelling back to stop being so worldly and get on your knees and pray and trust God not your works. They are both idiots. Let each do his OWN VOCATION and not judge the servant of another for by his own master does he stand or fall.
            4) . Luke I never said one could "use reason to embody all reality". I don't know what "pure reason" is other then it sound Humean which means I dismiss it. Hume was full of it. One can use "reason alone" to know God exists & know "some" things about Him. Including His goodness, eternity, existence etc...some things require revelation (Trinity, Incarnation, creation ex nilo).

            PS. Thank you for simplifying.

          • JtS: God is all Good but how is He that? That is the real question.

            LB: [response described as "long winded and tedious".]

            LB: (3b) In essence, I see a complete refusal by you to talk about how God's goodness manifests in reality.

            JtS: 3b) That is not my job. I point people toward a philosophical and rational explanation on how God is good and how He is not.

            Then you're not responding to the evidential problem of evil. You don't care about evidence! I mean, maybe you do in some other conversation, but you couldn't care one whit about evidence when it comes to the present conversation.

            Before you react badly, let it be known that I was banned from Cross Examined [in crucial part] for doing something analogous for what you're doing. They wanted me to demonstrate "evidence of God's existence"; I said that you have to examine how the question is framed, first. A magical God who could rearrange the stars to spell things (a real example given by often-reasonable philosopher @disqus_s4ylzQ9exo:disqus over at Secular Outpost) would demonstrate power, not goodness. I don't recall an atheist ever admitting this, although perhaps Raphael Lataster's response to Trent Horn came closest. So your aversion to any "Theistic Personalist view of God" I take to be an instance of: garbage in, garbage out.

            The thing is, the evidential problem of evil essentially deals with how you understand goodness as connected to embodied reality. You cannot deal with its essence by responding via pure reason. To attempt that is a category mistake. You recommended to me Brian Davies' The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil; here's something he has to say:

            But in saying that something is good we are always noting ways in which it manages to meet up to expectations that we have. We are always drawing attention to what is, and should be, there. Or, as we might say, there is a serious connection between goodness and being. (199)

            I have spoken repeatedly, incessantly, about "expectations". They are a major part of what link theory to embodied reality. You said X, therefore I expected to encounter Y when I did Z. But I did not encounter Y when I did Z and therefore your X was wrong! Well, unless something unforeseen happened or I failed to see a Y which was there or I didn't do Z correctly. There are many possible caveats; embodied reality is hard to do correctly. I've gotten a lot of criticism from Catholics on SN as if I'm oversimplifying the connection between theory and embodied reality; suffice it to say that I was the one who asked, What is an “unarticulated background”?, over on Philosophy.SE. The fact that connecting theory to embodied reality is hard does not excuse, in any way shape or form, the refusal to make the connection. And to make it in a "brittle" way, so that one can possibly be wrong.

            You, Jim, are not responding to the "evidential problem of evil". You're responding to "any problem of evil presupposing a moral agent god". I think you have a really good objection, albeit for different reasons than you. But you act as if you have the objection, as if there are no other aspects worth dealing with. If you do that, I say fewer souls will be led to Jesus. Jesus can judge—surely you won't call his judgment "subjective". "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every ἀργός word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

          • Jim the Scott

            >Then you're not responding to the evidential problem of evil.

            The evidential problem of evil presuposes a Non-Classic Theistic God who is a moral agent. Thus in principle it is a non starter. I am not mounting a defense of a "god" I strongly disbelieve in. Thus I don't care at all about your "evidence". In theory if you came up with a mountain of evidence no cosmological argument was valid a Pantheists wouldn't care. Since a Cosmological argument presuposes a creator or at least sustainer God distinct from creation. A "god" who is creation would not be refuted thus.
            Dude you can't prove Christianity false by citing mistakes in the Koran. Christians don't care.

            How do you not get this?

            >You don't care about evidence!

            I cannot prove or disprove the existence of a Higg Bosen particle by digging in a fossil record. I don't care about evidence against a God I don't believe exists in the first place.

            >(a real example given by often-reasonable philosopher Keith Parsons over at Secular Outpost)

            Parsons is an idiot. The man has Theistic Personalism on the brain.
            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/search?q=keith+parsons

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/search?q=keith+parsons

            He is not a reasonable Atheist. He is a hack.

            >The thing is, the evidential problem of evil essentially deals with how you understand goodness as connected to embodied reality.

            It was formulated to answer Plantangia's theistic personalist Moral Agent "deity". Which I disbelieve exists in the first place. It has nothing to say to a Classic Theist.

            >You cannot deal with its essence by responding via pure reason.

            I just did. It is fundamentally irrational to defend a category mistake. It is like CNN wanted collusion to be true or some birther who still thinks Obama was born in Kenya. There is no Santa Claus and there is no Theistic Personalist God. The God of Abraham and Aquinas and Scotus is the Only God.

            >To attempt that is a category mistake. You recommended to me Brian Davies' The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil; here's something he has to say:

            I have read the whole thing many times and Davies other work. He denies the EPOE applies to Classic Theism in principle. As does Feser, Hart, and a host of Classic Theists.

            Davies also said"To be blunt, I suggest that many contemporary philosophers writing on the problem of evil (both theists and non-theists) have largely been wasting their time... They are like people attacking or defending tennis players because they fail to run a mile in under four minutes. Tennis players are not in the business of running four-minute miles. Similarly, God is not something with respect to which moral evaluation (whether positive or negative) is appropriate.

            You cannot draft Davies here not without gross misrepresentation.

            >You, Jim, are not responding to the "evidential problem of evil". You're responding to "any problem of evil presupposing a moral agent god".

            They are the same thing. It is "the" objection and I am firm here on the grounds of reason. If your only recourse is to reject or downplay the force of reason well then any rational discussion is pointless.

          • The evidential problem of evil presuposes a Non-Classic Theistic God who is a moral agent.

            I am sure that some forms of the evidential problem of evil do just that. I object to the claim that all forms do that. I think your definition of "Modern Theodicy" matches some of embodied reality. Why do you insist it matches all? (I'm not contesting your definition here!)

            Dude you can't prove Christianity false by citing mistakes in the Koran. Christians don't care.

            How do you not get this?

            God repeatedly demonstrates his goodness in the Bible by his particular actions and special words. What is that, if not evidence? He makes promises. What are they, if not predictions of evidence? When John the Baptist asked Jesus whether he was the Messiah, did Jesus respond with natural theology? No, he cited evidence. How did Jesus say to discern the sheep from the wolves? Evidence. How did Jesus know that the scribes and Pharisees preached but did not practice? Evidence. So when you say "Thus I don't care at all about your "evidence".", I see that as antithetical to the Bible and the God revealed therein.

            Atheists are crying out for a sound understanding of 'goodness' and you're handing them impenetrable abstractions such as "Good is convertable with Being." I see no ἀγάπη in how you interact with atheists on the matter and yet: θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν. You know what the scriptures say about truth without love.

            I don't care about evidence against a God I don't believe exists in the first place.

            Then tell atheists that no matter how much evil there were in the world, no matter how little goodness there was, God should still be worshiped. Replace the OT narrative where God is like a mother and father to Israel, and replace it with a narrative where God repeatedly abuses Israel. That'd be different empirical evidence, but you don't care a whit about the empirical evidence. Tell them that if the Roman Catholic Magisterium conspired to bring about a global thermonuclear war and the only survivors left were you and an atheist, each with children slowly dying of radiation poisoning, God should still be worshiped.

            If you disagree with something in the above paragraph, then maybe you think God being good really does entail something about embodied reality. Your refusal to discuss any such entailment only fuels those advancing the evidential problem of evil. Nature abhors a vacuum: if you don't talk about how God's goodness manifests in embodied reality, your atheist interlocutors will probably convince people to accept their ideas on the matter.

            LB: You, Jim, are not responding to the "evidential problem of evil". You're responding to "any problem of evil presupposing a moral agent god".

            JtS: They are the same thing. It is "the" objection and I am firm here on the grounds of reason. If your only recourse is to reject or downplay the force of reason well then any rational discussion is pointless.

            I see, you could not possibly be wrong. No evidence could show that you are wrong. Well, I think we've covered the territory by now; you are obviously 100% right and I've just been "blathering". I am happy for others to judge between us and I'm betting you are as well. When I come across the evidential problem of evil in the future, I will challenge atheists to construct it without a "Theistic Personalist God". If they seem to be interested in that, I'll point them to you and you can come up with a different term to describe what they're doing.

          • Jim the Scott

            It is good to see Dr. B chiming in to clarify your misunderstandings.

            >I am sure that some forms of the evidential problem of evil do just that.

            Then you must point me to the form that alledgely applies to Classic Theism. To date I have never heard of Rowe doing that or anybody building off of him to do it?

            >I object to the claim that all forms do that. I think your definition of "Modern Theodicy" matches some of embodied reality. Why do you insist it matches all? (I'm not contesting your definition here!)

            The term "Theodicy" means "justification for God". In ancient times it merely meant the rational and philosophical reasons for believing in the existence of God. Later, post enlightenment it came to mean the moral justification for an alledgdly morally good God who is all powerful to tolerate evil. I learned this from Davies.

            >God repeatedly demonstrates his goodness in the Bible by his particular actions and special words.

            That area of religious apologetics is outside of my specialty. If you are adept at giving reasons why one might believe in a particular divine revelation over another claimed revelation that is lovely. I am hardly against it but it has nothing to do with natural theology which comes first as reason proceeds faith. You need to know a God exists & which God before you can discuss which revelation is likely true and your standards for knowing that truth. But this doesn't have anything to do with the fact you cannot disprove Christianity by appealing to mistakes in the Koran & you cannot refute a Classic Theistic concept of God using an argument that can only in principle apply to a Theistic Personalist/Neo-theist divinity.

            >Atheists are crying out for a sound understanding of 'goodness' and you're handing them impenetrable abstractions such as "Good is convertable with Being."

            There is room for sentimentality in religion, it has it's uses and charms but there is also a big place for the intellect and Atheists need to know the intellectual foundations of belief. Feelings can only take you so far.

            Without a philosophical understanding of goodness then we might fall into relativism and volunteerism which are grevious errors. I don't see how starting with first principles isn't an act of love? A foundation must be laid and that is perfectly reasonable. Sentimentality is nice but people have to go from drinking milk to eating meat as well.

            >Then tell atheists that no matter how much evil there were in the world, no matter how little goodness there was, God should still be worshiped.

            That is the point of God not being a moral agent but being metaphysically good and ontologically good. Said God is the source of all goodness and even the goodness in morality & for His own sake should be worshiped. The logic is inescapable. How can you not worship The Good for its own sake?

            > Replace the OT narrative.

            I don't know what bug there is up your bum Luke but I don't believe in replacing Revealed Theology with natural theolgy alone. I don't do sola scriptura why would I do sola natural theology? I believe in starting first with the natural and let others more compotent then moi carry on with the rest. Geez chill already.....

            >That'd be different empirical evidence, but you don't care a whit about the empirical evidence.

            Empirical evidence has nothing to do with natural theology (save the maxium what is in the intellect was first in the senses etc) or Theodicy. That is purely from the perspective of Philosophy. I am staying in my own lane.

            Like I said you are like the obnoxious Franciscian who yells at the contemplative to get out of the Monestary etc...follow your own vocation I'll follow mine (sans the Protestant errors your really should ditch those and join the True Church. Just saying Luke. We could use you.).

            >Tell them that if the Roman Catholic Magisterium conspired to bring about a global thermonuclear war and the only survivors left were you and an atheist, each with children slowly dying of radiation poisoning, God should still be worshiped.

            That is not what Natural Theology is for dude. Even Feser said the solution to the problem of Evil in Classic Theism would not likely offer comfort to the parents of a murdered and raped child.

            >I see, you could not possibly be wrong. No evidence could show that you are wrong.

            Of course not it's a philosophical argument. Try a philosophical defeater then we can get somewhere. Show me how the evidential problem of evil applies to a Deity who is both ontologically good and metaphysically good and is the Metaphysical Goodness Itself but who is not a moral agent. Make your philosophical argument or smeg off. If I wanted category mistakes I would talk to Michael or Sample1.

            Dude you are like the shop teacher yelling at the engeneering teacher to stop teaching physics and formulas and measuring get in the workshop and actually build something. BS!!! It's not either/or.

            Geez chil already.
            PS. I doubt there is a version of the EPOE that can be applied to Classic Theism. If you have philosophical argument let's hear it.

          • It is good to see Dr. B chiming in to clarify your misunderstandings.

            I see; I had all the misunderstandings and you had zero.

            Then you must point me to the form that alledgely applies to Classic Theism. To date I have never heard of Rowe doing that or anybody building off of him to do it?

            Which is what I said I would do at the end of my previous comment.

            The term "Theodicy" means "justification for God". In ancient times it merely meant the rational and philosophical reasons for believing in the existence of God. Later, post enlightenment it came to mean the moral justification for an alledgdly morally good God who is all powerful to tolerate evil. I learned this from Davies.

            I was really criticizing your application of "Modern Theodicy" to every single extant version of "the evidential problem of evil" and perhaps, to every logically possible version of "I was led to expect there to be more good and less evil than I find". Essentially, I'm assuming that maybe not everyone pushing "the evidential problem of evil" is as stupid as you are modeling. I see this as obedience to "Outdo one another in showing honor." and "From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh." You might claim I have to be a universalist to apply the former that way; I have some retorts to that.

            If you are adept at giving reasons why one might believe in a particular divine revelation over another claimed revelation that is lovely.

            That appears to be a non sequitur.

            You need to know a God exists & which God before you can discuss which revelation is likely true and your standards for knowing that truth.

            I think human psychology is rather more varied than you presuppose. For example, one friend who was pursuing a degree in physics came to faith after he read in Revelation that "The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up" and realized this is exactly what a black hole would look like. (That was a "proverbial straw".) I believe one can always make thought more integrated, but the idea that you have to get the foundations right first seems radically false. After all, where in the scriptures do we see "Good is convertable with Being."?

            LB: Atheists are crying out for a sound understanding of 'goodness' and you're handing them impenetrable abstractions such as "Good is convertable with Being."

            JtS: There is room for sentimentality in religion, it has it's uses and charms but there is also a big place for the intellect and Atheists need to know the intellectual foundations of belief. Feelings can only take you so far.

            I didn't realize that I was necessarily operating in the domain of 'sentimentality' and 'feelings'. I'm curious; when Jesus says to love God with all of our hearts, do you think he only means 'sentimentality' and 'feelings'? To me, those two words connote the kind of capricious personhood which David Bentley Hart criticizes, in Is God a Person?. See if you anthropomorphize from a capricious being, you get a capricious God. If you anthropomorphize from the humanity of Jesus, do you get a capricious God? Jesus clearly had emotions; in John 11, Jesus was "deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled". I take this to mean that Jesus had the right response to a broken reality, not an ephemeral emotional reaction. Such an understanding makes it possible for me to imitate this in Jesus; I'm not sure how I could possibly imitate impassibility without being an exceedingly cold human being.

            Without a philosophical understanding of goodness then we might fall into relativism and volunteerism which are grevious errors.

            How does "Good is convertable with Being." serve to keep us from relativism and voluntarism? Perhaps there is more you wish to add; if so please do! If you want to give something short then point to a book or article or something feel free. But it'd be nice to have some sort of sketch of how that statement of yours I keep quoting operates in embodied reality.

            LB: Then tell atheists that no matter how much evil there were in the world, no matter how little goodness there was, God should still be worshiped.

            JtS: That is the point of God not being a moral agent but being metaphysically good and ontologically good. Said God is the source of all goodness and even the goodness in morality & for His own sake should be worshiped. The logic is inescapable. How can you not worship The Good for its own sake?

            Easy: you can see The Good as far off, like the Chaldeans in Dan 2:5–11. From what I read in John Walton's Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, the gods were generally understood as far off and utterly incomprehensible. That is one reason Deut 4:6–8 is so amazing: "For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?" was radical. Now if God can be seen quite clearly no matter how terrible the behavior of his people are, then Paul's statement is nonsense: "You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”" It is almost as if the character of God's representatives matters so much that it can grossly distort others' understandings of God. I'm not sure whether classical theism permits this as a logical possibility; doesn't it say that intellect should be able to conquer such distortions?

            I don't do sola scriptura why would I do sola natural theology?

            You're doing sola natural theology when facing atheists who say that the amount of evil in the world and the lack of goodness is a problem for Christian theology.

            Geez chill already.....

            I think the person describing his fellow Christian as "stupid" (because my question came from who I am) and "obnoxious" and the person describing his fellow Christian's carefully edited comments as "blathering" is the one in most need of "chilling". I've spent a tremendous amount of time trying to write good responses to you (sometimes throwing them out and starting anew) and I've gotten quite a few insults in response.

            I am staying in my own lane.

            I suspect you are overestimating how much your own lane can tackle. As I go through life, I will keep razor-sharp attention to the evidential problem of evil being raised; if in fact I can find empirical evidence which supports my position, I will present it to you. At that point, you can evaluate whether you might have used your rigid definitions to squash true diversity in reality, and you can evaluate whether that was laziness, to not have to consider that the atheist might have a valid complaint buried within incorrectness. καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ

            LB: Tell them that if the Roman Catholic Magisterium conspired to bring about a global thermonuclear war and the only survivors left were you and an atheist, each with children slowly dying of radiation poisoning, God should still be worshiped.

            JtS: That is not what Natural Theology is for dude. Even Feser said the solution to the problem of Evil in Classic Theism would not likely offer comfort to the parents of a murdered and raped child.

            You misunderstand my point: if your position logically entails what I guessed here, I think the atheist interlocutor bringing the logical problem of evil to bear would find it rather revealing. It would demonstrate that you don't think God's goodness has any empirical correlates whatsoever. If in fact you disagree with this, I predict that most atheists pushing the evidential problem of evil would find that disagreement profoundly interesting.

            Show me how the evidential problem of evil applies to a Deity who is both ontologically good and metaphysically good and is the Metaphysical Goodness Itself but who is not a moral agent.

            I would first need to know how that 'good' is not equivocal with any embodied meaning of the term 'good'. I'm happy to stay away from univocal meanings, btw. I once made the mistake of thinking that the 'spin' of electrons was somehow analogous to the spinning of multi-part bodies; I was harshly rebuked. It's just a word that describes a property which works within a formal system. I worry that your use of 'good' is like the particle physicist's use of 'spin'.

            Dude you are like the shop teacher yelling at the engeneering teacher to stop teaching physics and formulas and measuring get in the workshop and actually build something. BS!!! It's not either/or.

            I would love to know how many others see it that way. I certainly don't, but people like you teach me to think that I need to have my own thinking obliterated from orbit wherever it disagrees with theirs. So I shall not pretend that my own opinion has the slightest bit of weight on this forum.

            PS. I doubt there is a version of the EPOE that can be applied to Classic Theism. If you have philosophical argument let's hear it.

            A ray of light at the end of the tunnel! I cannot possibly answer this until I hear about a non-equivocal understanding of 'good'. Until then, metaphysics is utterly sundered from empirical reality, without even a pineal gland to connect them.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Which is what I said I would do at the end of my previous comment.

            I don't see how you can? Like I said it would be like trying to find a Higgs Boson particle by digging it up in a fossil bed rather than using a particle accelerator.

            >I was really criticizing your application of "Modern Theodicy" to every single extant version of "the evidential problem of evil" and perhaps, to every logically possible version of "I was led to expect there to be more good and less evil than I find".

            It wasn't a valid criticism. Anyway let just skip to the good parts.

            >Essentially, I'm assuming that maybe not everyone pushing "the evidential problem of evil" is as stupid as you are modeling.

            I always bet on stupidity. If I bet actual money I would be a rich man today.

            >I think human psychology is rather more varied than you presuppose. For example, one friend who was pursuing a degree in physics came to faith after he read in Revelation that...

            There is no such thing as a one size fits all way to convert people. It is something that in the end requires Grace. It's not either/or it is both and. I can point to people who visited Feser's blog and found a natural belief in a philosoplical God and went on from their to become Catholic. I specialize in Natural Theology. That is my vocation.

            >After all, where in the scriptures do we see "Good is convertable with Being."?

            The same place you find Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide & private interpretation appart from the Church. Nowhere....I am still not a Protestant guy.

            >See if you anthropomorphize from a capricious being, you get a capricious God. If you anthropomorphize from the humanity of Jesus, do you get a capricious God? Jesus clearly had emotions; in John 11, Jesus was "deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled".

            Jesus had emotions in His human nature. I am not against emotion I just don't see it as the end all and be all. God's love is His Willing the Good of something. Luke we are on different pages and we don't belong to the same Church. The humanity of Jesus was unfallen so his higher rational nature dominated his animal nature since he did not suffer original sin.

            > I take this to mean that Jesus had the right response to a broken reality, not an ephemeral emotional reaction.

            St Paul also appealed to Greek philosophers "In Him we move and have our being" "to the Unknown God" etc...

            >Easy: you can see The Good as far off, like the Chaldeans in Dan 2:5–11. From what I read in John Walton's Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, the gods were generally understood as far off and utterly incomprehensible.

            An incomprehensible God is good. An anthropomorphic one is bad and renders the incarnation redundant.

            >You're doing sola natural theology when facing atheists who say that the amount of evil in the world and the lack of goodness is a problem for Christian theology.

            No I am doing natural theology first. I am doing Prima Natural Theology. I can't believe in Sola anything as it is too Protestant therefore intellectually, morally and spiritually offensive to my core beliefs.

            >It is almost as if the character of God's representatives matters so much that it can grossly distort others' understandings of God.

            Luke you are not my Father Confessor. Stay in your own lane.

            > think the person describing his fellow Christian as "stupid" (because my question came from who I am) and "obnoxious" and the person describing his fellow Christian's carefully edited comments as "blathering" is the one in most need of "chilling".

            Luke you use 30 words to say what can be said with 5. I have no patence and I am old and set in my ways. Anyway nothing you wrote here thus far convinces me any EPOE exists that can be applied to Classic Theism. Empiricism has nothing to do with it. There may be other aspects of general Chrisitan apologetics that use it but philosophy is needed to discern what "evidence" counts as evidence here.

            >I've spent a tremendous amount of time trying to write good responses to you (sometimes throwing them out and starting anew) and I've gotten quite a few insults in response.

            It would help if you just get to the point.

            >It would demonstrate that you don't think God's goodness has any empirical correlates whatsoever. '

            Your extreme either/or mentality is tedious. Read my lips. Empiricism has no place in natural theology. The POE and the EPOE are philosophical problems that require philosophical solutions not empirical ones. It is that simple.

            >I would first need to know how that 'good' is not equivocal with any embodied meaning of the term 'good'.

            In other words you don't know? So simply own that and move on.

            >I would love to know how many others see it that way. I certainly don't, but people like you teach me to think that I need to have my own thinking obliterated from orbit wherever it disagrees with theirs.

            Luke if I think something is wrong I will obliterate it. You do that too so what is the problem?

            >So I shall not pretend that my own opinion has the slightest bit of weight on this forum.

            Stop being so dramatic. Just because I don't find some of your ideas sound don't mean they aren't? Geez!!!!

            >A ray of light at the end of the tunnel! I cannot possibly answer this until I hear about a non-equivocal understanding of 'good'.

            What is a "non-equivocal understanding of "good"?

            >Until then, metaphysics is utterly sundered from empirical reality, without even a pineal gland to connect them.

            This is ironically a metaphysical claim and as such is by it's own standards sundered from empirical reality.

          • JtS: Without a philosophical understanding of goodness then we might fall into relativism and volunteerism which are grevious errors.

            LB: How does "Good is convertable with Being." serve to keep us from relativism and voluntarism?

            JtS: [ignored]

            I'd really rather you answer that question.

          • Jim the Scott

            >How does "Good is convertable with Being." serve to keep us from relativism and voluntarism?

            I should insert my sarcastic quip about the challenge to "explain and prove" Quantum mechanics in 100 words or less otherwise it is not a viable science. But I won't. ;-)

            It provides an definition of good that is objective and can be applied objectivily across the board. It provides a definition of good we can know by reason alone that doesn't rely on "well we are good just because the bible says so". Since Atheists don't accept the Bible out of the gate it is important to show them we can know objective good exists based on reason alone. Also we need to provide a philosophical and metaphysical definition to work with.

            Why is this hard?

          • JtS: Without a philosophical understanding of goodness then we might fall into relativism and volunteerism which are grevious errors.

            LB: How does "Good is convertable with Being." serve to keep us from relativism and voluntarism?

            JtS: It provides an definition of good that is objective and can be applied objectivily across the board. It provides a definition of good we can know by reason alone that doesn't rely on "well we are good just because the bible says so".

            But how can you derive the correct way to apply pure reason, from pure reason alone? I worry that you're kicking the can down the road, to that phrase "applied objectively".

            I should insert my sarcastic quip about the challenge to "explain and prove" Quantum mechanics in 100 words or less otherwise it is not a viable science. But I won't. ;-)

            Why is this hard?

            Really?

          • Jim the Scott

            >But how can you derive the correct way to apply pure reason, from pure reason alone? I worry that you're kicking the can down the road, to that phrase "applied objectively".

            I have no idea what you mean by "pure reason" outside of it being an erronous concept used by Kant or Hume?

            You start with reason first and move on from there. You teach arithmetic before jumping into Calculas.

            >Really?

            Yes really.

            Here is a primer.

            http://www.aquinasonline.com/Questions/goodevil.html

            http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/boapw.html

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06636b.htm

          • I have no idea what you mean by "pure reason" outside of it being an erronous concept used by Kant or Hume?

            Pure reason is what you get when you are disallowed from referring to any particulars—of which special revelation is a kind.

            Here is a primer.

            http://www.aquinasonline.co...

            I don't see how this helps one apply formalism to embodied reality. For example, is it destructive of "being" to execute a "heretic"?

            Nor do I see how your other two links help connect the intellectual/​theoretical and the embodied. The devil can play quite a lot in the details. One drives him out, I think, by actually stating the details rather than letting them be inferred in ways that "happen" to match up with societal norms which fall short of God's standards. Like it being ok to execute heretics.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Pure reason is what you get when you are disallowed from referring to any particulars—of which special revelation is a kind.

            So it is some kind of Dogma for you that one must always refer to scripture and revealed theology and never confine yourself when the situation calls for it to natural theology?

            I don't get it.

            >I don't see how this helps one apply formalism to embodied reality.

            Whatthefrakdoesthatevenmean? Does it mean this crap?
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formalism_(philosophy)

            >For example, is it destructive of "being" to execute a "heretic"?

            No it changes a being from live to dead. It destroys the form of life making it dead. Such as when according to the Command of God handed to Moses a prophet speaks something that does not come to pass he is executed or if he tells the other Israelites to go after false gods.

            That is also off topic to the EPOE vs Classic Theism.

            >Nor do I see how your other two links help connect the intellectual/​theoretical and the embodied. The devil can play quite a lot in the details.

            Don't know what that means? I gave you an explanation of Goodness and some philosophy to argue it. I guess no good deed goes unpunished.

            One drives him out, I think, by actually stating the details rather than letting them be inferred in ways that "happen" to match up with societal norms which fall short of God's standards. Like it being ok to execute heretics.

            >The devil can play quite a lot in the details. One drives him out, I think, by actually stating the details rather than letting them be inferred in ways that "happen" to match up with societal norms which fall short of God's standards.

            No you use prayer and fasting to get the devil out.

            > Like it being ok to execute heretics.

            Your argument is with Moses and the Torah. Executing heretics is an interesting topic but I refuse to go on that tangent. You still haven't given me a good reason to think the EPOE can be applied to Classical Theism.

          • So it is some kind of Dogma for you that one must always refer to scripture and revealed theology and never confine yourself when the situation calls for it to natural theology?

            No.

            LB: I don't see how this helps one apply formalism to embodied reality.

            JtS: Whatthefrakdoesthatevenmean? Does it mean this crap?
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wi...

            dictionary.com: formalism, 4. An example of "without regard to their meaning" is refusing to take a stance from natural theology alone on whether it is acceptable to ever execute heretics.

            LB: For example, is it destructive of "being" to execute a "heretic"?

            JtS: No it changes a being from live to dead. It destroys the form of life making it dead.

            I see; thanks for answering. The reason I asked is that I generally don't even know what language means until I see it show up in concrete reality. I find many people violate natural kind boundaries, which is bad science at best and rank hypocrisy at worst.

            LB: Nor do I see how your other two links help connect the intellectual/​theoretical and the embodied. The devil can play quite a lot in the details.

            JtS: Don't know what that means? I gave you an explanation of Goodness and some philosophy to argue it.

            I just had a flash of possible insight: do Catholics believe that all [good?] action starts in the intellect? If true, that would explain a lot, including the present difficulty.

            No you use prayer and fasting to get the devil out.

            So 2 Cor 10:1–6 has nothing to do with driving the devil out? (I don't disagree with what you say as part; I'm questioning whether it is the whole.)

            LB: Like it being ok to execute heretics.

            JtS: Your argument is with Moses and the Torah.

            If you think Jesus changed nothing in this domain, perhaps. One would have to ask how much God did because of the hardness of Israelite hearts.

            LB: You, Jim, are not responding to the "evidential problem of evil". You're responding to "any problem of evil presupposing a moral agent god".

            JtS: They are the same thing. It is "the" objection and I am firm here on the grounds of reason. If your only recourse is to reject or downplay the force of reason well then any rational discussion is pointless.

            LB: I see, you could not possibly be wrong. No evidence could show that you are wrong. Well, I think we've covered the territory by now; you are obviously 100% right and I've just been "blathering". I am happy for others to judge between us and I'm betting you are as well. When I come across the evidential problem of evil in the future, I will challenge atheists to construct it without a "Theistic Personalist God". If they seem to be interested in that, I'll point them to you and you can come up with a different term to describe what they're doing.

            JtS: Executing heretics is an interesting topic but I refuse to go on that tangent. You still haven't given me a good reason to think the EPOE can be applied to Classical Theism.

            You appear to have forgotten what I wrote. The only thing I see which is left which you may possibly be interested in is the conversation which started this way:

            JtS: Without a philosophical understanding of goodness then we might fall into relativism and volunteerism which are grevious errors.

            LB: How does "Good is convertable with Being." serve to keep us from relativism and voluntarism?

            I still don't understand your subsequent answers; they seem open to incredible amounts of interpretive flexibility when intellect gets turned into action within embodied reality.

          • Jim the Scott

            Let's just cut out the fat.

            >I just had a flash of possible insight: do Catholics believe that all [good?] action starts in the intellect?

            From a scholastic point of view, yes.

            >Definition Four of Formalism.

            I don't see how that applies to natural theology or reason?

            >is refusing to take a stance from natural theology alone on whether it is acceptable to ever execute heretics.

            Why would that be under natural theology?

            >If you think Jesus changed nothing in this domain, perhaps. One would have to ask how much God did because of the hardness of Israelite hearts.

            The death penalty in general and the morality of a confessional state executing heretics specifically is off topic and had nothing to do with the topic at hand.

            > Without a philosophical understanding of goodness then we might fall into relativism and volunteerism which are grevious errors.

            I exlained myself here it is a simple proposition and should be non-controversal.

            >I still don't understand your subsequent answers; they seem open to incredible amounts of interpretive flexibility when intellect gets turned into action within embodied reality.

            The feeling is mutual buddy.

          • LB: I just had a flash of possible insight: do Catholics believe that all [good?] action starts in the intellect? If true, that would explain a lot, including the present difficulty.

            JtS: From a scholastic point of view, yes.

            Good action only, or all action? If evil action can be caused by the intellect …

            I don't see how that applies to natural theology or reason?

            You don't see a difference between reasoning which is dependent upon evidence and reason which is not dependent on evidence?

            Why would that be under natural theology?

            I expect natural theology to help us ἀγάπη God and man. If you think that is wrong, please say so.

            The death penalty in general and the morality of a confessional state executing heretics specifically is off topic and had nothing to do with the topic at hand.

            If natural theology is supposed to tell us about 'goodness', then I will agree with Alasdair MacIntyre when he says:

            A moral philosophy—and emotivism is no exception—characteristically presupposes a sociology. For every moral philosophy offers explicitly or implicitly at least a partial conceptual analysis of the relationship of an agent to his or her reasons, motives, intentions and actions, and in so doing generally presupposes some claim that these concepts are embodied or at least can be in the real social world. Even Kant, who sometimes seems to restrict moral agency to the inner realm of the noumenal, implies otherwise in his writings on law, history and politics. Thus it would generally be a decisive refutation of a moral philosophy to show that moral agency on its own account of the matter could never be socially embodied; and it also follows that we have not yet fully understood the claims of any moral philosophy until we have spelled out what its social embodiment would be. (After Virtue, 23)

            You're welcome to pick something other than the execution of "heretics". But if you can't show how the intellectual system you're talking about manifests in embodied reality, I will suspect that a megadose of subjectivity exists in that gap. You can, of course, dismiss my suspicions out of hand. :-D

            I exlained myself here it is a simple proposition and should be non-controversal.

            If you're not going to connect that proposition to embodied reality, it's symbols without meaning to me.

          • Jim the Scott

            >If you're not going to connect that proposition to embodied reality, it's symbols without meaning to me.

            Don't know what that means. If there is a forum where I can learn it let me know.

          • You know nothing of the difficulty of putting abstract formal systems into practice? You have never heard of the saying, "In theory, theory works in practice. In practice, it often doesn't."?

          • Jim the Scott

            Luke at this point you have mulipled so many tagents & gone in so many different direction talking to you has become tedious.

          • Jim the Scott

            Additional:

            Descartes, Hume and Kant have their heads up their neither regions IMHO.

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2019/04/can-you-doubt-that-2-3-5.html

            Doubting reason is irrational.

          • Descartes, Hume and Kant have their heads up their neither regions IMHO.

            Statements like this, combined with your obvious belief that you don't inherit any of their problems in your intellectual DNA, remind me of this passage:

                So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
                Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” (John 8:31–38)

            I myself don't have anything like your [apparent] confidence that zero to trace amounts of their errors exist within my intellectual DNA. Indeed, I have so much enjoyed John Milbank's critique of Kant's "infinite" stance (he thought he had discovered all of the categories) that I haven't yet made further progress in The Word Made Strange: Theology, Language, Culture.

            Doubting reason is irrational.

            Well in a sense yes: one always doubts reason with reason. But to think that 'reason' can never be understood or used in a corrupted fashion seems to me the height of arrogance. Surely sin touches the intellect as well as the heart?

          • Jim the Scott

            >Statements like this, combined with your obvious belief that you don't inherit any of their problems in your intellectual DNA, remind me of this passage:

            Luke you are Protestant I am going to dismiss all your Bible citations like I do the Atheists. It just makes it easier.

            >John 8:31–38

            That is a lovely verse and I shall meditate on it but it won't overthrow the Truth of the Catholic Faith. Luke you are not my Father Confessor. My Father Confessor is some Black guy from Africa who live four blocks from me. He has it in hand. Then there is the wife...

            > myself don't have anything like your [apparent] confidence that zero to trace amounts of their errors exist within my intellectual DNA.

            What is this some subconscious total depravity view? You people and your reformation.....

            >Indeed, I have so much enjoyed John Milbank's critique of Kant's "infinite" stance (he thought he had discovered all of the categories) that I haven't yet made further progress in The Word Made Strange: Theology, Language, Culture.

            Glad to hear it.

            >Well in a sense yes: one always doubts reason with reason.

            One uses reason to sharpen reason. Close enough. I agree.

            >But to think that 'reason' can never be understood or used in a corrupted fashion seems to me the height of arrogance. Surely sin touches the intellect as well as the heart?

            Category mistakes. You all know how I love those. I don't see how I need to do an examination of conscience to know if there is or is not an Act/Potency distinction in being?
            My sins don't flow from philosophy or good reasoning. The come from me being an arsehole. Which I am. I confess and repent it and call on all to pray for me.

          • Luke you are Protestant I am going to dismiss all your Bible citations like I do the Atheists.

            But somehow they are to apply a different standard to you, and heed your Bible citations? Maybe after they swallow your version of classical theism?

            That is a lovely verse and I shall meditate on it but it won't overthrow the Truth of the Catholic Faith.

            Wasn't meant to. (I'm not trying to convert you, Jim.)

            Luke you are not my Father Confessor.

            Non sequitur.

            LB: I myself don't have anything like your [apparent] confidence that zero to trace amounts of their errors exist within my intellectual DNA.

            JtS: What is this some subconscious total depravity view? You people and your reformation.....

            May infer from this that you believe your intellect to be error-free?

            My sins don't flow from philosophy or good reasoning.

            Is that a partial answer to a question I asked on a different thread:

            LB: do Catholics believe that all [good?] action starts in the intellect?

            ? What's weird to me is if sinfulness cannot badly affect the intellect, how can the intellect act against sinfulness?

          • Jim the Scott

            >But somehow they are to apply a different standard to you, and heed your Bible citations? Maybe after they swallow your version of classical theism?

            This is not a forum for you to convert us to Protestantism. There are other forums for you to duke it out with Catholics over your Protestant errors.
            Atheists will argue against the God I believe in and NOT the one they wish I believed in or they can f......walk away and do something else.;-)

            They waste my time giving me their interpretation of a document I fundamentally believe they have no authority to interpret. It's like listening to a Communist from another country tell me what the constitution means over Jefferson or the SCOTUS. It is that simple.

            >Wasn't meant to. (I'm not trying to convert you, Jim.)

            But it was meant to correct me and you are still not my father confessor.

            >May infer from this that you believe your intellect to be error-free?

            You are equivocating between the intellect vs reason. Of course our intellects are darkened by sin. That doesn't mean you must do an examination of conscience before you accept 1+1=2.

          • This is not a forum for you to convert us to Protestantism.

            Non sequitur.

            They waste my time giving me their interpretation of a document I fundamentally believe they have no authority to interpret.

            Ok. I see scripture as a two-edged sword, revealing what is in people's hearts. That is, you can see into their hearts (noisly—there are always multiple interpretations) via investigating their interpretations of scripture. Apparently you do not believe this can be done, or choose not to avail yourself of this ability.

            But it was meant to correct me

            Category mistake: I was attempting to correct you intellectually, not morally.

            LB: I myself don't have anything like your [apparent] confidence that zero to trace amounts of their errors exist within my intellectual DNA.

            JtS: What is this some subconscious total depravity view? You people and your reformation.....

            LB: May infer from this that you believe your intellect to be error-free?

            JtS: You are equivocating between the intellect vs reason. Of course our intellects are darkened by sin.

            Do you then believe that reason is error-free? Not some Platonic Form of 'reason', but what you call 'reason'?

            That doesn't mean you must do an examination of conscience before you accept 1+1=2.

            Correct. But if you try to extrapolate that and manage not to hit problems related to Gödel's incompleteness theorems, I could see those extrapolations as being impacted by lack of integrity in other parts of your mind/​intellect. It would be rather wise of God to keep us from developing too much mathematics, philosophy, science, and technology for any given stage of moral development and any stage of understanding God's goodness.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Do you then believe that reason is error-free? Not some Platonic Form of 'reason', but what you call 'reason'?

            Reason is error free. The attempt to reason is not.

            >Category mistake: I was attempting to correct you intellectually, not morally.

            You failed in both.

            >Ok. I see scripture as a two-edged sword, revealing what is in people's hearts.

            I'll consult a Catholic commentary on what that means when I get around to it.

          • Reason is error free.

            What is the definition of 'reason'? (Feel free to punt to a reference.) You have repeatedly characterized what I have said as "vague" and "ambiguous"; I am excited to see you demonstrate that your definition of 'reason' has zero vagueness and zero ambiguity. BTW, Whitehead and Russell attempted to set formal reasoning—mathematics—on a sure, final, and unambiguous foundation. Principia Mathematica was that attempt, and it was only on page 379 of the first edition where they proved that 1 + 1 = 2. Ostensibly, you can somehow best them without having to retreat to abstractions and generalizations which permit vagueness and ambiguity.

            I'll consult a Catholic commentary on what that means when I get around to it.

            I would appreciate that. BTW, I checked Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma for any references to Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–30; I found nothing except references to Mt 20:28. I forgot to check Mk 9:33–37, so I've re-requested the book from the library. I can check Heb 4:12–13 as well. If you have other suggestions for places to look, please let me know. You said "If you want a CC understanding just get a Catholic concordance. Scott Hahn's is my fav.", but The Catholic Bible Concordance for the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition starts at $120—kind of steep. Did you perhaps mean Hahn's Catholic Bible Dictionary? Oooh, Hahn wrote A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God's Covenant Love in Scripture; I might have to pony up the $10 and see how it compares to my own understanding of expecting goodness based on God's promises.

          • Jim the Scott

            Luke you have now offically bored me. Worst then any Gnus thus far. Congrats.

          • Chris Morris

            I suspect that using Dawkins as an example of atheism to argue against is much the same as atheists using Ken Ham as an example of Christianity to argue against.

          • I picked Dawkins because he is well-known; I suspect I could pick any New Atheist. Indeed, I suspect I could pick many Enlightenment philosophes as well. If you want to say that I should go to the scholars, I will be reticent as I think there is worth in dealing with atheism "on the ground" rather than in the ivory tower. Similarly, I am skeptical about theology which rebuts criticism by retreating to the ivory tower.

            If the shoe doesn't fit—if neither (1) nor (2) could be expected from a given atheist's writings such that my little experiment would fail—that would simply make me happy.

          • Chris Morris

            But I would say that Dawkins IS an example of someone looking out from the ivory tower. 'Atheism on the ground', in my experience, has very little to do with what Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and others are writing in the same way that 'Christianity on the ground' hasn't got much to do with what Craig, Plantinga and others. My suspicion is that 'The God Delusion' has only ever been used for confirmation bias and has achieved hardly any significant cultural influence compared to, for example, someone like Billy Graham.

          • I suggest you check out Estranged Notions, Cross Examined, Godless in Dixie, and Debunking Christianity. I would not call many of the participants therein "ivory tower", and yet many of them do not see Dawkins in anything like the light you have described.

            I agree with you that Dawkins et al mostly just preach to the choir, but many in the choir are not academics. They are people on the ground going about their daily lives. As to influence, I believe their influence will grow as long as Christians do not take sufficiently seriously the many valid points pushed by the New Atheists. There is much to critique in Christianity which I believe too many Christians are unwilling to take seriously. What can God do except increase the sound and frequency of the criticism? As to the very mixed nature of New Atheist critique: if Holy Spirit-powered Christians have trouble discerning what is καλός and what is κακός, what exactly should one expect of those who do not have the Holy Spirit?

            As to William Lane Craig, how is he ivory tower, given that he is a world expert on debating when the audience are mostly laypeople? Plantinga is obviously academic, but WLC? I'm pretty sure you can find plenty of his reasoning among the rank and file.

            Now, I can explain part of your comment on the basis that most people just don't examine their lives as much, and don't take the kind of articulate positions you see in any of the people you mention. I'm reminded of the famous Converse 1964 study which showed that very few people have anything resembling a political ideology. I generally take that to mean that people have inchoate amalgams of the more articulate stuff out there. But we can still take as important data that there don't seem to be [m?]any popular atheists pushing against the likes of Dawkins. These are test particles to get some idea of what the inchoate might consist of.

          • Chris Morris

            Yes, I've read most of those blogs and I would agree that presumably many of the participants can't be described as 'ivory tower' individuals but I think the conversations themselves are taking place in just that rarefied atmosphere. I would disagree with your opinion that few popular atheists are "pushing against the likes of Dawkins." I've come across several commentators either explicitly arguing against Dawkins or proposing very different views.

            In reality we're talking about a tiny number of people here; if you look at the 'friend's lists' on the Facebook pages of people like Craig, Ken Samples and so on as well as the 'opposition' such as Graham Oppy you see the same small, fairly homogenous, group of people taking part in these debates. My guess would be that the audience for the public debates that Craig has is very much self-selecting whereas the audience for Billy Graham events was much more representative of the wider society. On the whole I think it's very easy, when using these blogs, to imagine that they're more influential than is actually the case.

            I'm not trying to present any value judgments about this; whether people in general 'should' be studying deep questions or rationally examining their lives more rigorously is not the immediate point here although, of course, it's probably where this sort of debate moves towards eventually. The majority of people don't have the time or energy to differentiate these ideas in a way would make them available for such analysis so, yes, most people get by with "inchoate amalgams" which can work most of the time but tend to fail horribly if we have to make a choice such as "do you want to leave or remain in the European Union?"

            There's always a struggle to find a balance in this; while I've been commenting on here I've also been 'engaging' (in the same way that I once 'engaged' with commenters on JihadWatch…) with some English nationalist anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists who believe that Nostrodamus predicted the fire at Notre-Dame and 5G is a weapon that globalists are using to destroy the human race. These people are barely literate although most seem to identify as Christians - of course it's not a Christianity you would recognise being more Dan Brown than William Lane Craig really - but they regard any form of rational explanation as simply another element of the 'globalist conspiracy' so I have no idea how anyone would convince them of anything that they don't already believe.

          • I agree that CE, DC, GiD, and EN have little influence; I am less certain about how representative they are and where that trend is going. From what I can see, Charles Malik was right in 1980 when he described academia as hostile to Christianity. (The Two Tasks, "the main address at the dedication of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois") Christians and atheists have conspired to convince 70% of 18–23-year-olds in the US to believe in the conflict thesis. The quality of moral thinking revealed by that longitudinal survey of ≈ 3000 young Americans is rather poor. (Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood) If Eric Schwitzgebel is even close to being right, academia isn't noticeably better: On Aiming for Moral Mediocrity & Cheeseburger ethics.

            My suspicion is that we don't know how to really talk about goodness; we're too infected by Nietzsche and see everything as ultimately power. This hypothesis is corroborated every time that an atheist's "evidence for God's existence" reduces to mere acts of power[1]. When the theist tries to give example "evidence", it is always interpreted through the mechanical philosophy, which is a perfect fit for the Nietzschean will to power. It says that anything not mechanical (such as human conniving[2]) is not a proper object of scientific study. I recently argued that this very understanding of science is itself an act of power—it keeps us from understanding possible order in reality. In particular, it stymies our efforts to understand the kind of 'goodness' humans are trying to establish. Sadly, I don't think statements like "Good is convertable with Being." are of much help without extensive connecting of theory to embodied reality.

            Good luck with talking to the conspiracy theorists; I myself am always very wary of "knowledge" people have which they don't need to achieve empirical success in their lives. There are real conspiracies as well; Big Tobacco and Big Sugar are examples. But they lack the mystique we so love in myths and legends. If only we would accept that the heroes of myths and legends have to do a lot of hard work and a lot of facing reality in order to do what they do. Would we rather just read and watch such things or might it be nice to do and be them?

             
            [1] A recent example from philosophy faculty @disqus_s4ylzQ9exo:disqus:

            KP: The existence of God could be confirmed at any time in many different ways. If the image of the Eagle Nebula taken by the Hubble Space Telescope had come with beautiful cursive writing saying "I, Yahweh, did this" then--ruling out a practical joke--that would do it. God could appear in all his Michaelangeloid glory and assure us that he does indeed exist. Something like the contest at Mt. Carmel between Elihah and the priests of Baal would also do it.

            I attempted to discuss this directly with @Ficino:disqus here on SN seven months ago; I failed.

            [2] I know I'll get push-back on this and the very nature of the problem makes it hard for me to succinctly explain just what it is that current understandings of 'science' screen from view. For expert testimony on the evidence I can point to Donald Polkinghorne's 1988 Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences (8700 'citations'), where narrative is contrasted to numerical theory. I can also appeal to the beginning of Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue, where he faced a similar task of arguing that our moral vocabulary is greatly impoverished, that there was much we could no longer see. Part of the problem is that we can see and interact with these things in really clunky ways, and it's easy to tell ourselves stories that we could build skyscrapers with shovels instead of excavators. We praise the tools and understanding that science and technology have delivered, but expect nothing similar when it comes to matters of 'goodness'.

          • Chris Morris

            I think the answer to our problem of how the conflict thesis has become common and why we might consider that 'science' is not transparent in some way is actually right there in Polkinghorne and MacIntyre (and Ricoeur, Heidegger... all the way back to Weber and Dilthey and before that in Henry Parker, a lawyer who published pamphlets throughout the English Civil War period that first established the theory of Parliamentary Sovereignty underlying our current constitutional arrangements when he and Hobbes and others came to recognise that the medieval 'balanced constitution' was breaking down). The language of the modern world was moulded to accommodate the object/subject dichotomy which arose when the limitations of the medieval world-view became problematic. In which case, attempting to articulate the problem in precisely the language of the conflict in which concepts such as power and sovereignty play an important role is, itself, part of the problem.

            The narrative "science (a large and powerful beast) forced itself upon the world with the intention of shutting down metaphysical or transcendental speculation etc., etc." is simply accepting the language and limitations of the modern world which is why that debate never goes anywhere and leaves itself open to being decided, as you correctly recognise, by raw power.

            On the other hand, seeing the story in terms of multifarious scientific investigations developing as a response to the limitations of the medieval world-view and themselves having grown and flourished in the contradictory fertiliser of rationalism and empiricism allows the possibility of a conversation that can go beyond the idea of fixed solutions that only hold through power.

          • I'm afraid I don't really understand "the object/​subject dichotomy", despite having read Emil Brunner's Truth as Encounter which focuses on it extensively. If it helps, I find phenomenology to be nigh impenetrable, despite having found some fascinating bits in Michel Henry's Barbarism and I Am the Truth. I have yet to read Heidegger and have only read a small bit of Ricœur. I'll see if I can get somewhere by understanding the dichotomy as precluding a robust common good and purpose which simultaneously does not squash the individual. That is, I sense that maybe you think the object/​subject dichotomy empowers what John Milbank calls an 'ontology of violence', but which can also be understood as a forever-shrinking overlapping consensus which led John Rawls to posit "the fact of oppression". Or perhaps I'm off-base, here.

            As to the narrative I told about science, I realize that I was a bit conspiracy theory-ish (I think you took it further than I intended, though) and I always want lack of [sufficient] good intention to be a competing hypothesis with evil intention. Let me add another component: it is a fearsome thing to consider that scientists might be learning better and better how to manipulate me, to reach further and further into the core of my being and grasp instrumental hold, to do with me whatever pleases those in power, those funding the scientific research. Jacques Ellul spoke of how sociology was finding more and more predictability in Western humanity at precisely the same time that philosophers were declaring radical freedom. There is a deep need to feel free and unfortunately, humans will be sated with felt freedom for quite some time. But we can see here a not-terrible motivate to deny that science can understand as much as it actually can. A definition of 'science' which simply precludes such possibility of understanding is, itself, thereby understandable.

            I have no disagreement with the alternative narrative which criticizes the medieval worldview for being too closed to the full glory of creation. But I don't really see it as "alternative". One way to understand the scientific flowering we saw is that humans are threatened by too much difference and Christendom created so much similarity that it was safe to do scientific work and disagree with fellow humans over this teensy tiny issue which wouldn't in any way threaten societal stability. But we are the instruments with which we measure reality and scientists in Europe were all the same in certain ways which precluded them from understanding that sameness. If all the universe were the same shade of red, we wouldn't see it. As long as the sameness persists, it's ok to take it for granted—we can only focus on so much at once. But the sameness did not persist. The irrational conclusion was that it's all "subjective"—there's no order whatsoever [in the psychological realm]! See the answer of "no" to my Philosophy.SE question Are there laws which govern minds?.

            Perhaps the most charitable interpretation is given by Yuval Levin: "Ignorance brings learning, but knowledge breeds rigidity of mind." (Tyranny of Reason, xviii) It is a pattern he observes over and over again in history. I myself believe that falsely thinking the appearances (the current equations or models or theories) are reality is one of the better understandings of 'idolatry'; I base this off of Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry. Understood in this light, the constant refrain against idolatry and for a God who could never be completely known becomes rather interesting.

          • Chris Morris

            http://www.bu.edu/wcp/Papers/Cont/ContCuce.htm
            This seems to be a reasonably straightforward description, if the link works.
            Your understanding of the scientific flowering looks interesting - I'll have a think about and reply later.

          • Interesting; I think I might understand 10% of that. My biggest current interest in Descartes is captured by this exchange:

            LB: Among other things, [MacIntyre] criticizes Descartes for thinking that he has doubted everything when in fact there is a tradition he is not doubting, but instead using as his foundation for doubt.

            K: In any event, it's widely agreed that Descartes was mistaken in his starting point; you just can't reject everything and start over from scratch like that.

            When I interfere the above with Descartes' cogito, I am reminded of a criticism that he only showed "thoughts exist", not that there was any articulated "I". A. Kadir Çüçen writes in the article you linked:

            For this reason, according to Heidegger, critical philosophy in modern times (such as the Kantian philosophy) is uncritical and dogmatic because, in beginning with the problem of knowledge, "the question of the kind of Being which belongs to the knowing subject is left entirely unasked." (10) (Heidegger's Reading of Descartes' Dualism: The Relation of Subject and Object)

            There's a nice contrast between Descartes' self-sufficiency (unless I'm reading him wrong—I'm not a Descartes expert) and scientist Michael Tomasello:

            Individual human beings are able to create culturally significant artifacts only if they receive significant amounts of assistance from other human beings and social institutions. In my case, I was able to write this book—whatever its faults and however limited its cultural significance—only because I received direct assistance from the following people and institutions (and, of course, indirect assistance from all the other people over the past 2,500 years of Western civilization who have thought and written about the basic puzzles of human cognition). (The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition, v)

            Is Descartes' self a fundamentally non-relational being? If so, that would explain how he could bequeath an ontology of violence. If I don't realize how much I am a product of human strength and foibles, I might not see the possibility that I could contribute more strength and fewer foibles, in concert with many other humans. It's pretty well-known by now that many humans feel most fulfilled when they are part of a cause larger than themselves. And yet, does Descartes' cogito acknowledge that? (It may simply be too simple and not say either way, but that lets the void be filled in by whatever and I find that is rarely a good thing to permit.)

            The above, it seems to me, is rather separate from the issue of embodiment. I'm not sure how bad understandings of embodiment are a huge part of the problem under discussion, so please correct me if you see differently.

          • Chris Morris

            "...I was a bit conspiracy theory-ish (I think you took it further than I intended, though)..." Yes, I was caricaturing it0 but, in a way, you have a higher opinion of what the results of scientific research can do than I have. I've mentioned elsewhere my view that scientific knowledge exists on a spectrum with the most reliable physical science at one end and social studies further down towards the 'educated guesswork' end. I spent four happy but frustrating years studying with one of Britain's leading political scientists - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Curtice - and, although I was never able to dent his confidence in the scientificness of his work, I had a close-up view of its limitations and his blind-spots. My opinion would be that you have very little to worry about as far as being manipulated against your will by governments using the results of social science is concerned; sociology tends to find regularities because it's looking for regularities, for example. As MacIntyre pointed out, the aspiration to look at people and societies objectively was an important part of the Enlightenment project but it has never gone beyond being an aspiration - the aspiration has achieved results, including the conflict thesis, but the actual science has produced very little in the way of law-like generalisations that can be used to make reliable predictions.

            I sort of agree with the 'scientific flowering driven by differences' view. Certainly the 15th and 16th century explorations and the discovery of strange new places and people and the ability of telescopes to see other worlds had an enormous influence on the development of science but I'm not sure about the 'sameness' of scientists at that time. They were, of course, very few in number so they tended to know each other but they had very different views about what they were doing and how to go about it.

          • I don't expect the best scientific knowledge of social aspects of human beings to be published openly. I expect it to be used by powerful governments and corporations. And unlike social scientists, they have incredible funding to run "experiments", collect extensive data on the results, and iterate. How many phones which recognize your face to unlock them will be able to gather information on your emotional state every time you do so? By the way, I'm not giving the powers that be arbitrary power to make us believe or do anything—that itself is propaganda. I'm talking more about things like nudge theory. It's just that many small nudges can appreciably change a trajectory. As long as it doesn't hurt, citizens almost surely wish to stay ignorant of such things; ignorance is bliss.

            The above can be only a tiny bit true of now and more true about later. How do you think machine learning resources will be used? For the good of the consumer who wants everything to be free and supported by advertisement? Pah. Just look at where the economic incentives are.

            As to 'sameness', see the Republic of Letters. Or look at Hume thinking he had discovered universal morality. Christendom really did impose a lot of uniformity. People love to hate on that, but I wouldn't be surprised if it created the right conditions for a lot of communication and collaboration.

          • Chris Morris

            OK, your last paragraph, particularly, makes it a lot clearer to me what it is your meaning. Just to be clear, I'm not in any way defending capitalism, the military/industrial complex or even liberal democracy; I'm very well aware of how the tobacco industry tried to cover up the results of cancer research and so on. However, I would still hold to the opinion that 'nudge theory' has very little to do with science. The culture that forms us as individuals is always nudging us in all sorts of directions. Certainly, companies spend vast amounts of money on advertising because they believe that it nudges us to buy their products but there really isn't any science involved in this, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't - just look at the Ford Edsel - and as far as I'm aware, in 50 years or so of TV advertising, no one has come up with a reliable scientific theory for predicting which campaign will work and which won't.

            As for government manipulation, I think there's a case to be made for defining democracy as 'government by social experiment'. Undoubtedly, some of it is hidden but most of it is visible:
            https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/civil-service-government-social-research-profession
            It seems to me that culture, particularly that of developed Western states, is impossibly complex so predicting a simple causal chain of events is almost always going to be wrong and science, in order to formulate laws that obtain universally, always has to rely on causality.

            I agree with your last paragraph. I remember hearing an interview with a jazz musician whose name escapes me at the moment, who put forward the idea that jazz had progressed in the space of 50 years in a way that European classical music had taken 300 years to accomplish because black musicians had been socially confined to just that imposed uniformity that, as you say, provides the right conditions for communication and collaboration.

          • However, I would still hold to the opinion that 'nudge theory' has very little to do with science.

            It seems like one of the only ways to do true scientific experiments on real social dynamics, rather than highly simplified versions in the lab. Another form is A/B testing. Did you ever come across Facebook reveals news feed experiment to control emotions (2014)?

            … and as far as I'm aware, in 50 years or so of TV advertising, no one has come up with a reliable scientific theory for predicting which campaign will work and which won't.

            And yet: Barack Obama campaign claims two top prizes at Cannes Lion ad awards (2009). And the Big Data operation behind Trump's campaign has gotten credit for helping him win the electoral vote while losing the popular vote. I suspect you're too focused on large-scale changes, which is explainable by false propaganda against true propaganda. I suggest a read of Jacques Ellul's Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes.

            Remember: evolution works by many, many tiny steps. The steps are almost universally very tiny. If you don't have the right tools, you just won't see them. Who says humans cannot harness such power? The harnessing will generally not be insidious like you see in James Bond movies—although the Facebook experiment was pretty insidious. And surely the Russian interference with the 2016 US Presidential Election is evidence in favor of my position?

            The fact that academic research done by the social sciences does not produce the above kinds of effects itself operates as propaganda: if the academics can't do it, surely nobody can do it! I happen to be currently mentored by a sociologist in his 70s and he has told me several stories where he could have made a real difference, except that his discoveries threatened the powers that be and were thereby suppressed. I can't really go into examples—they aren't super-flashy—but suffice it to say that more can be done than is done. Where is the LHC for social science?

            It seems to me that culture, particularly that of developed Western states, is impossibly complex so predicting a simple causal chain of events is almost always going to be wrong and science, in order to formulate laws that obtain universally, always has to rely on causality.

            Think less omnipotence, more guided evolution. Or think erosion and plate tectonics. Do you think the shift in understanding of 'temple of the LORD' from King Solomon's time to Jeremiah's time (Jeremiah 7:1–15) happened within one generation? Perhaps the most powerful tool of propaganda is to make us think the only possible propaganda works like we imagine God's omnipotence to operate.

            There is also the question as to what is complex and what is not. A booming buzz of complexity is a great way to hide what's going on underneath. At least part of the "underneath" is simple: consumerism is supposed to be satisfying for the vast majority of Americans. So many scientific studies on happiness push against us, and yet what do Americans do on Black Friday? How big of a deal is "consumer confidence" to our economy as currently construed? If you want to see fault lines here, take a look at Michael Taylor's Rationality and the Ideology of Disconnection.

            I agree with your last paragraph. I remember hearing an interview with a jazz musician whose name escapes me at the moment, who put forward the idea that jazz had progressed in the space of 50 years in a way that European classical music had taken 300 years to accomplish because black musicians had been socially confined to just that imposed uniformity that, as you say, provides the right conditions for communication and collaboration.

            Neat! That in turn reminds me of Richard Hamming's You and Your Research, where he argues that funding restrictions can actually aid scientific inquiry because you have to be more clever.

          • Chris Morris

            "Think less omnipotence, more guided evolution." Yes, but evolution isn't guided which is why is why I'm happy to focus on large-scale changes; the best way of seeing a meaningful picture is to stand as far back as you can, it's only then that you can see how the details (which I agree social scientists are very good at collecting) fit together to make the picture.
            I do, indeed, remember the Facebook 'experiment' and all of the other data that are used to justify either social scientists getting funding for their jobs or conspiracy theorists claiming that social science shouldn't get funded. Part of the point I'm trying to make is that, while the idea of social science not working can be used as propaganda disguising covert manipulation, the 'fact' (if I may be allowed to make that claim just for the moment) that it doesn't work surely makes the propaganda that social science can manipulate populations a far more serious problem.
            I'm just heading out to the shops but I'll throw in three quick comments and write some more later. "Where is the LHC for social science?" Right here, I think - we, the human species are the experiment (although Douglas Adams used this as a joke, I think it is a serious point). How does your sociology mentor know that he could have made a difference, or at least the difference he thinks he could've made? In my experience, advertising executives are some of the most stupid people around - they're inclined to fall for anything that looks scientific to them although I'm not sure that anyone has tried an Alan Sokal-type hoax on them!

          • Exactly what are you saying "doesn't work"?

            Again, I must remain confidentiality about what my mentor knew would work in the cases he was thwarted by the powers that be. But I can find sociology that actually works, if you'd like.

            If you think advertising executives are sufficiently uniformly stupid for your point to go through, I'd love your thoughts on the Medium article How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind — from a Magician and Google Design Ethicist. I'm taking "advertising executives" to be a stand-in for corporate ability to manipulate.

          • Chris Morris

            I know I get carried away with this but I've always seen it as 'my subject'; it was what got me interested in philosophy in the first place and I titled my university dissertation "Ideology and the Social Sciences" - my supervisor hated that - so it's something I feel quite strongly about but it's also something I actually know quite a lot about (I can't say that about much else other than the history of Prog Rock...). Having said that, let me try and answer your question:

            What I think doesn't work is the ability to present explanatory laws which precisely and consistently predict human behaviour. What social science generally does is to collect large amounts of data and extrapolate likely behaviours from that and offer opinions as to why that behaviour happened, which is fine because most of the time we tend to lead very predictable lives and 'go with the flow' of the culture we've grown up with and, if the social scientist is sensible, they will make it clear that their paper or hypothesis is based on a very limited and necessarily artificial model of human being which produces, I suspect, the sort of sociology you would quote to me as actually working. To some extent, of course this can be said to work but I can't really see much difference between that and an educated guess that anyone can make which I think we actually do all the time in our everyday social interactions without being overly aware of it.
            However, real people are generally not artificially limited or isolated in this way (even Andaman Island tribes are presumably aware that other cultures exist even if they don't have very much effect on them) and the significant events are precisely the ones where something changes unexpectedly or someone behaves 'out of character'. What we really want to understand are questions such as why there are different cultures geographically and why cultures change over time, how we recognise ourselves as individual expressions of a culture and how we differentiate ourselves from other individuals of that culture. These are philosophical questions involving meaning and interpretation which science is not well-equipped to deal with.

            The article you link to is interesting but I have to ask (assuming that you agree with what he's saying) why do you assume he is not trying to manipulate the situation to earn a living? This was something I asked the conspiracy theorists I was talking to last week they chose to believe the anti-vaxx 'science' rather than the conventional science but they couldn't (or wouldn't) explain why they chose one and not the other.

          • Chris Morris

            My earlier reply to this post is 'marked as spam' for some reason; it contains no links of any sort so I don't know what's happening there.

          • Yeah, that happens from time to time. @bvogt1:disqus hasn't been active for 2 months, so I'll just reply to it with full quote blocks so that one can read from top to bottom and get the entire comment to which I'm responding.

            [Edit: comment restored]

            I know I get carried away with this but I've always seen it as 'my subject'; it was what got me interested in philosophy in the first place and I titled my university dissertation "Ideology and the Social Sciences" - my supervisor hated that - so it's something I feel quite strongly about but it's also something I actually know quite a lot about (I can't say that about much else other than the history of Prog Rock...). Having said that, let me try and answer your question:

            That's really cool that you wrote that. I find the most interesting people online! Question: what do you make of the following, from Paul Rabinow in 1987:

                The time seems ripe, even overdue, to announce that there is not going to be an age of paradigm in the social sciences. We contend that the failure to achieve paradigm takeoff is not merely the result of methodological immaturity, but reflects something fundamental about the human world. If we are correct, the crisis of social science concerns the nature of social investigation itself. The conception of the human sciences as somehow necessarily destined to follow the path of the modern investigation of nature is at the root of this crisis. Preoccupation with that ruling expectation is chronic in social science; that idée fixe has often driven investigators away from a serious concern with the human world into the sterility of purely formal argument and debate. As in development theory, one can only wait so long for the takeoff. The cargo-cult view of the "about to arrive science" just won't do. (Interpretive Social Science: A Second Look, 5)

            ?

            What I think doesn't work is the ability to present explanatory laws which precisely and consistently predict human behaviour. What social science generally does is to collect large amounts of data and extrapolate likely behaviours from that and offer opinions as to why that behaviour happened, which is fine because most of the time we tend to lead very predictable lives and 'go with the flow' of the culture we've grown up with and, if the social scientist is sensible, they will make it clear that their paper or hypothesis is based on a very limited and necessarily artificial model of human being which produces, I suspect, the sort of sociology you would quote to me as actually working. To some extent, of course this can be said to work but I can't really see much difference between that and an educated guess that anyone can make which I think we actually do all the time in our everyday social interactions without being overly aware of it.

            I thought I had been rather clear that I'm not expecting such "precisely and consistently"? I just think you can do a tremendous amount without that! Imagine if Facebook hadn't been connected with Russia: Zuckerberg was visiting every state in the US. Maybe he was just trying to drum up support for Facebook and maybe he was trying to better understand how to build communities … or maybe he was preparing for a presidential run. I shiver to think of what support Facebook could have given his presidency—and yes, I mean after he divested himself of it and cut all "formal" ties.

            However, real people are generally not artificially limited or isolated in this way (even Andaman Island tribes are presumably awa re that other cultures exist even if they don't have very much effect on them) and the significant events are precisely the ones where something changes unexpectedly or someone behaves 'out of character'. What we really want to understand are questions such as why there are different cultures geographically and why cultures change over time, how we recognise ourselves as individual expressions of a culture and how we differentiate ourselves from other individuals of that culture. These are philosophical questions involving meaning and interpretation which science is not well-equipped to deal with.

            Your criticism of artificial conditions and models is well-taken; one of my favorite sociologists is Jacques Ellul, who takes what you say very seriously in Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes. He was not seduced by hyper-individualism, nor by easy mathematical models. I will bet he would be quite at home with Ian Hacking's The looping effects of human kinds, available in Arguing About Human Nature among other places. The First Law of Sociology is that any system will be gamed. So says my mentor and having lived some life, I believe him! This introduces self-reference, which AFAIK science isn't that great at understanding [yet]. It's even troubling in mathematics.

            The article you link to is interesting but I have to ask (assuming that you agree with what he's saying) why do you assume he is not trying to manipulate the situation to earn a living? This was something I asked the conspiracy theorists I was talking to last week they chose to believe the anti-vaxx 'science' rather than the conventional science but they couldn't (or wouldn't) explain why they chose one and not the other.

            I have no doubt that the author of How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind has motives. That doesn't automatically discredit him, else we would all be automatically discredited. One reason I am inclined to believe the author is that I'm especially attuned to the "What's not on the menu?", for reasons I had prior to encountering that article. Here's an example of me valuing that particular issue.

            If you really wanted to test the claims in that article, or in the PBS special The Persuaders, you'll need competing alternative hypotheses and predictions which can be tested in the future. You'll want to make the claims brittle enough so that there's a really good possibility they can be falsified. I never want to rest in easy answers which let me hate The System while simultaneously preventing me from actually fighting it with any effectiveness. Indeed, I see that as a major problem with how much of the West operates—this goes much further than just conspiracy theories. Archimedes said that with a lever long enough and a fulcrum to place it, he could move the world. The booming buzzing confusion of today makes for a terrible lever—so little structural integrity.

          • Chris Morris

            Thanks for rescuing that!
            The Paul Rabinow article is a good example of the sort of views expressed in many books and articles that I used as supporting evidence for my dissertation. I don't think my view is particularly rare or controversial although, of course, some social scientists get a bit sensitive when they read such views - one of my favourite quotes was from Ernest Gellner's review of Peter Winch's "The Idea of a Social Science and its Relation to Philosophy" in which he accused Winch of being like a philosophic Superman flying in to set right the poor social scientists.

            "I thought I had been rather clear that I'm not expecting such 'precisely and consistently'." Yes, that was a poorly worded paragraph. I was trying to differentiate between the precision and reliability of the typical results of physical sciences which I don't think social science provides and the statistical generalisations that people normally cite as good social science and which, as you say, can be very useful. Actually, people like Zuckerberg, Musk, Gates, Branson and so on are good examples of why social science doesn't fulfil the more positivist claims made for it.

            "The First Law of Sociology is that any system will be gamed." Your mentor is right, of course, except that it isn't a law because sometimes it won't and sometimes gaming the system is part of the system so, yes, human phenomena always involve some level of self-reference or reflexivity as George Soros would say.

            "The booming buzzing confusion of today makes for a terrible lever..." Well, to go back to MacIntyre, it was the aspiration to envisage such a lever that was the great step forward. The problem has been in recognising that the lever will always be hypothetical. The 'secret' of postmodernism for me is the Hegelian dialectic of seeing that all of those bits of disintegrated social structure shouldn't be expected to make sense in a grand totalising narrative but, at the same time, being aware of that mythical lever in order to stand back and imagine the big picture.

          • The Paul Rabinow article is a good example of the sort of views expressed in many books and articles that I used as supporting evidence for my dissertation.

            Hmm, I need to read Winch. I was actually well-primed to accept Rabinow's claim; two big influences on me are Taylor's 1971 Interpretation and the Sciences of Man and Bernstein's Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis. But there is something which confuses me: you seem to think that once we accept Rabinow's claim, all of a sudden not very much can be done with the social sciences to alter society—including in ways you and I might dislike. That seems to me like jerking from one extreme to the other.

            Actually, people like Zuckerberg, Musk, Gates, Branson and so on are good examples of why social science doesn't fulfil the more positivist claims made for it.

            Well, humans can consume descriptions of themselves and thereby change their behavior. Electrons, not so much.

            … sometimes gaming the system is part of the system …

            What's a good example of this, where there is no higher-order "gaming" which is disallowed?

            LB: The booming buzzing confusion of today makes for a terrible lever

            CM: Well, to go back to MacIntyre, it was the aspiration to envisage such a lever that was the great step forward.

            MacIntyre or Dupré? Anyhow, if we all have different ideas on how we want to move society and the underpinning metaphysic is an ontology of violence, the result ain't gonna be good. If you convince enough people that levers don't work, then the few which know they clearly do have quite the advantage.

            The 'secret' of postmodernism for me is the Hegelian dialectic of seeing that all of those bits of disintegrated social structure shouldn't be expected to make sense in a grand totalising narrative but, at the same time, being aware of that mythical lever in order to stand back and imagine the big picture.

            Haven't read Hegel yet, but this sounds useful. Richard M. Weaver talks in Ideas Have Consequences and The Ethics of Rhetoric of language being based in and pointed toward a 'metaphysical dream'; I wonder if that's related to Yuval Harari's 'imagined reality' in Sapiens. The reason no single imagined reality is coming true is that we're fighting each other. If the only imagined realities which have any chance of winning are collective and thus not based in any individual person, then the battle being between principalities and powers instead of flesh and blood starts to make a lot of sense to me.

            I think you could say that Taylor's Modern Social Imaginaries is a concrete example of an 'imagined reality'. I find this topic fascinating, because my wetware seems to automatically assume that language points rather further than a lot of people. It is as if I am more aware than average of the imagined reality promised by any given bit of language. Not all promises are kept of course, and that is a big part of my issue with modernity (but really, any age). I do wonder whether civilizations go through different tolerance levels of falsehood; in times of war, too much falsehood means your civilization gets conquered. Perhaps it's times of plenty which allow more complete detachment from reality; I'm reminded of the term hyperreality, which I need to research more.

            Anyhow, this particular topic is an area of active research, so any and all thoughts & references are quite welcome.

          • Chris Morris

            Yes, Taylor's good on things like the hermeneutical circle (Ricoeur, too, but I find he's a much more difficult read) but I've only skimmed a bit of Bernstein.
            "...you seem to think that once we accept Rabinow's claim, all of a sudden not very much can be done with social sciences to alter society..." It's not so much a case of making a claim/accepting a claim causing social science to stop working. What he, and most of the other people who've examined the idea of studying human being scientifically and formed an opinion are seeing is that social science hasn't developed in a way that matches the physical sciences, as the early positivists assumed it would - that is, as a science that would allow governments to make changes to society which would provide predictable positive outcomes. When you write that "I never want to rest in easy answers which let me hate The System while simultaneously preventing me from actually fighting it with any effectiveness. Indeed, I see that as a major problem with how much of the West operates - this goes much further than just conspiracy theories.", it indicates to me that you see Western societies as being in a pretty bad way which suggests that 150 years of attempts by social scientists to provide answers that would help improve society have not been particularly successful. You sum up the difference very well: "...humans can...change their behaviour. Electrons, not so much."

            "What's a good example of this..?" Like Mary Poppins, I never give examples :-).

            Sorry, the lever metaphor is confusing. Archimedes' lever is a thought-experiment referring to a physical process. MacIntyre's lever (Spinoza's sub specie aeternitatis) is a description of the Enlightenment's thought-experiment of being able to study humans objectively. MacIntyre's view is that the thought-experiment had an enormous influence on how we identify as individuals and relate to our social structures manifesting itself in individual rights, equality before the law, democratic politics and so on but also in the inability of science to replace the unifying voice of the church, an inability that has allowed conflictual structures to proliferate. The point of criticising a positivist view of social science is mainly an attempt to indicate where this conflict is coming from and provide a dialogue for rebuilding the idea of community. Several, particularly British, postmodernists like MacIntyre have decided that the way to do this is to go back to the church. Others think that we need to go forward and create a new form of community.
            Yes, I think Yuval Harari's imagined reality is what we're talking about here but it seems to me that he doesn't understand that he's still talking about it from a modernist viewpoint.

          • Woohoo, @bvogt1:disqus fixed both of your comments. I can't recall the last time that one of my comments got marked as spam, but those arguing with me occasionally do; another recent example, over at Rational Doubts. I swear I have no insider access with Disqus.

            It's not so much a case of making a claim/accepting a claim causing social science to stop working. What he, and most of the other people who've examined the idea of studying human being scientifically and formed an opinion are seeing is that social science hasn't developed in a way that matches the physical sciences, as the early positivists assumed it would - that is, as a science that would allow governments to make changes to society which would provide predictable positive outcomes.

            Yes, the social sciences have not delivered us results so that we can reshape social reality like we can reshape a chunk of matter. But I don't want to get stuck in either/or thinking, that:

                 (1) either you can radically reshape
                 (2) or you can essentially only describe

            This same false dichotomy shows up in discussions about free will; such discussions ignore the possibility of infinitesimal forces which can operate at unstable Lagrangian points and result in radically different outcomes—something taken advantage of by the Interplanetary Transport Network to achieve satellite trajectories with [approximately] infinitesimal fuel. I know the scientist who invented this clever use of a mathematical loophole. :-) Anyhow, I believe that free will can also take advantage of this; I call it a "small Δv model of free will", although technically it's a "dv model of free will". The most interesting objection I've gotten is that brain states almost certainly do not pass through anything analogous to an unstable Lagrangian point. I could not see the justification for said "almost certainly".

            So, I think that nudge theory is paradigmatic of a powerful way to manipulate humans, one tiny bit at a time. Compound interest is powerful. And so I don't see why we should think that the social sciences can do so little—or some hidden form of the social sciences being performed by propaganda departments of governments and corporations. From here, take a cue from Hari Seldon's psychohistory: if you tell people your predictions of their behavior, they can consume that description and change. Isaac Asimov knew a few things.

            … it indicates to me that you see Western societies as being in a pretty bad way which suggests that 150 years of attempts by social scientists to provide answers that would help improve society have not been particularly successful.

            That presupposes that the social scientists wanted good things for society; I think instead that there was some bad, if not some evil, mixed in with what they wanted. One of the dominant characteristics of Enlightenment thinking was to deny the aspect of original sin which says that our very understanding of good vs. evil has been corrupted. Think of Descartes saying that he could not possibly be deceived about the fundamentals and thus could reason from them with absolute confidence. IIRC he said this in a non-moral domain, but the same applies to moral thinking of the "shepherd" class. (The philosophes were willing to let the poor rabble have an anemic religion, like a dead virus used as vaccine.)

            I found it interesting that Chris Hedges, who is a very liberal Protestant (believes God is made-up) thinks that we royally screwed up in denying what he calls "original sin", but I think means the above distortion and not the transmission from A&E. This is a journalist who although he had co-won a Pulitzer got censured by the NYT when he spoke out against the Iraq War in a college commencement address. IIRC that was the proverbial straw which convinced Hedges that even a left-leaning newspaper with reputation like the NYT had become a tool of power. (Modernity can allow some pluralism, but in other instances it is important for the influential players to tow the party line. Knowing which is which is a secret of the trade.)

            Like Mary Poppins, I never give examples :-).

            Erm, ok. Then I will view what you say with extreme doses of skepticism.

            MacIntyre's lever (Spinoza's sub specie aeternitatis) is a description of the Enlightenment's thought-experiment of being able to study humans objectively. MacIntyre's view is that the thought-experiment had an enormous influence on how we identify as individuals and relate to our social structures manifesting itself in individual rights, equality before the law, democratic politics and so on but also in the inability of science to replace the unifying voice of the church, an inability that has allowed conflictual structures to proliferate.

            Where does MacIntyre talk of this? I agree by the way; Louis Dupré talks of us opening our eyes to our creative power well before the Enlightenment. But this "objectively" is pretty hilarious; it assumes 100% righteousness/​perfection of those doing the studying. Screw any distortions due to sin and obey us! By the way, another distorting aspect of this "objectively" is that it ignores the importance of local conditions, something which is denied by the pursuit of "timeless, universal truths". Doing Research that Makes a Difference gets at this issue nicely. And Nancy Cartwright has long had the prejudice toward "timeless, universal truths" in her cross-hairs.

            The point of criticising a positivist view of social science is mainly an attempt to indicate where this conflict is coming from and provide a dialogue for rebuilding the idea of community. Several, particularly British, postmodernists like MacIntyre have decided that the way to do this is to go back to the church. Others think that we need to go forward and create a new form of community.

            I'm not sure I'd call MacIntyre a "postmodernist". I would say that he doesn't have a prejudice toward "timeless, universal truths"; in fact I would say that he is one of those who pointed out this prejudice. There is no need to swing to the opposite extreme and say that local patterns are all that exist, with nothing unifying about them. One can have universals and particulars; they don't have to be enemies!

            I would go further: if one focuses exclusively on contingent reality and created particulars, one's ability to build and create will be radically limited. If one focuses exclusively on "timeless, universal truths", one will have arrogance of the kind we see in Seriously, The Laws Underlying The Physics of Everyday Life Really Are Completely Understood, imprisoning us under a philosophical canopy with bars which cannot be seen, touched, tasted, heard, or smelled. (Hint: today's "everyday" need not be tomorrow's "everyday".)

            For theory and evidence in this train of thought, see Colin E. Gunton's The One, the Three and the Many: God, Creation and the Culture of Modernity. I also learned a decent amount from Nancey Murphy's Anglo-American Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion, and Ethics.

            Yes, I think Yuval Harari's imagined reality is what we're talking about here but it seems to me that he doesn't understand that he's still talking about it from a modernist viewpoint.

            If so, par for the course. When does a problem ever not get first identified while still presupposing the problem?

          • Chris Morris

            Well done! Thank you for sorting that, I'm deeply impressed.

            I agree that 'either we can reshape or only describe social reality' is a false dichotomy. Description is generally the process through which social change is accomplished. Sometimes some physical element feeds in to the process (such as the food shortages resulting from climate variation which preceded the French Revolution, for example) but there doesn't seem to be any particularly linear causality involved; general discontents may be manifested in a particular individual or idea and their description can become a focus for instantiating a vague feeling. I'm thinking here of, for example, Shakespeare, Luther, Newton and so on, whose view of the world describes something at the right time to catch the imagination of enough people for it to establish some momentum.
            Yes, these are nudges but my view would be that we live in a minestrone of nudges of all sizes and many different directions which sometimes cancel each other out and sometimes amplify each other.

            "That presupposes that the social scientists wanted good things for society..." Yes, the early positivists such as Comte and Harriet Martineau, couldn't conceive of anything bad arising from their view that precisely describing society and organising that description in to a body of scientific knowledge could be used to change society. They saw their project as 'solving the problems' that had arisen from what they regarded as the superstitions of pre-modernism. Clearly, we post-moderns recognise that their 'solutions' generated problems as bad or worse than what went before at the same time as producing benefits such as I've listed previously.

            "Like Mary Poppins, I never give examples." I was joking, mainly because I couldn't think of an example while I was typing but I'm very happy that you are sceptical of my views - scepticism is good (apart from when it isn't, of course).

            "Where does MacIntyre talk of this?" He doesn't in those words, it's my re-description of what he wrote in After Virtue. "I'm not sure I'd call MacIntyre a 'postmodernist'. I would say that he doesn't have a prejudice toward 'timeless, universal truths'..." Yes, this is postmodernism! To recognise that timeless, universal truths have a place in our world but that we have to understand them as they are expressed historically and locally. So, yes "One can have universals and particulars; they don't have to be enemies." You're almost getting there with this! Not just 'can have', they're inseparable but you still haven't quite managed to purge yourself of the idea of 'enemies' yet. "When does a problem ever not get first identified while still presupposing the problem." They don't, for sure, but we're a long way past identifying the problem now.

          • Well done! Thank you for sorting that, I'm deeply impressed.

            Thanks; the "small Δv model of free will" came out of hundreds of hours of grueling discussion, some of which felt like the other person was gleefully gouging my flesh with shards of glass. Glad it wasn't a complete waste.

            Yes, these are nudges but my view would be that we live in a minestrone of nudges of all sizes and many different directions which sometimes cancel each other out and sometimes amplify each other.

            Heh, I like "minestrone of nudges". I suspect there is asymmetry as to who is good at nudging and that it would be worth investigating such asymmetry.

            Yes, the early positivists such as Comte and Harriet Martineau, couldn't conceive of anything bad arising from their view that precisely describing society and organising that description in to a body of scientific knowledge could be used to change society.

            They thought they were good "shepherds".

            I was joking, mainly because I couldn't think of an example while I was typing …

            Ah, ok. I get stuck in "serious mode" and then the jokes go into a black hole.

            Yes, this is postmodernism! To recognise that timeless, universal truths have a place in our world but that we have to understand them as they are expressed historically and locally.

            That is not the postmodernism with which I am familiar, although the term is notoriously contested. The postmodernism I'm most familiar with claims that there cannot possibly be any grand narratives.

            Not just 'can have', they're inseparable but you still haven't quite managed to purge yourself of the idea of 'enemies' yet.

            I'm not sure what you're getting at with the 'enemies' critique. Do you think the term 'enemy' just has no reference according to any sense of the term? If not, just what is it that you're criticizing?

          • Chris Morris

            Your conversation with Peter Donis that you linked to is very interesting. I'm inclined, as an initial reaction, to agree with many of his points particularly his use of Dennett's idea that, if you make yourself really small, you can externalise virtually anything: "The key term in all this is 'one'. What is the boundary of the 'person'?" This resonates with the way I understand and experience postmodernism (not the 'strawman' type that gets tossed around in the usual polemical fashion). For the last 20 years before I retired I worked as a carer looking after people with various forms of dementia, a job which provided a close-up view of how individual identity works in reality, not just as a philosophical stance or an experimental generalisation. I saw that, once the 'elastic band' of memory which maintains the integrity of the various strands that make up our identity begins to disintegrate, we start to become that Dennettian 'absence' where everything is externalised. The end of that process, when every aspect of the person is externalised, means that there is nothing connecting any of those strands, nothing has any relation to anything else any more. What you see then is someone existing in a completely alien place where nothing makes any sense. Fortunately, most people die before they reach that stage but I did experience it a few times.
            What this means to me is that, if you like, we are both embodied cognition and embedded cognition and it's the tension between differentiating ourselves as individuals and understanding ourselves as a social construct that drives us to creativity and change. In general terms, the pre-modern didn't sufficiently recognise the differentiated individual and the modern didn't sufficiently recognise the social construction (yes, this is a gross over-simplification but, in a way, that's part of the story I'm trying to tell here). Postmodernism, to me, is the attempt to bring about some balance, to understand that these views are not enemies that require some sort of 'final solution' (a phrase with unfortunate connotations but those connotations do suggest that the idea may not be the best way to go) but that it is what we actually do all of the time in being human individuals, to hold that balance, to juggle those Kantian antinomies, those Hegelian contradictions. It is 'essentially' (if a postmodernist might be allowed to use that word) a phenomenological view in that it concentrates on how things appear to us but it generally tends to understand this from the immanentist end of the spectrum rather than the transcendental end which is why it can seem to be arguing that everything about our reality is simply a social construct.

            I hesitate to mention this as I get the impression that academic respectability is important for you but I found that the best way to understand phenomenology back in the early 70s when I was a hippy, living in Australia, lying around on Bondi beach smoking dope was through reading the first three of Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan books. The theme of these books is that Castaneda, as a middle class Western academic, has to have his world-view, his framework for interpreting reality broken down (mostly through psychotropic substances and strange experiences that didn't fit in to his framework) in order to rebuild a framework that encompasses Don Juan's magical reality. It's suggested, although never explicitly made clear, that this is a 'better' reality in that it reconnects Castaneda with a more natural world but I don't think we ever find out if it's meant to be a more real or more fundamental reality. At some point Castaneda asks Don Juan if what he's teaching is purely Yacqui culture or something wider but, as far as I remember, he never really gets an answer (or perhaps the whole point of the books is that, if he has to ask that question, then there isn't an answer that would make sense to him anyway).

            Now most people, especially academics, got hung up on whether the books were 'true' or not but I always read them as philosophy and I still regard them as the best introduction to phenomenology and existentialism available. For me the books, and philosophy in general, are not just an academic exercise; it's a process of examining my framework in order to understand the significance of the connections that hold it together (that is, critique, properly speaking) and occasionally encountering something that adjusts the framework or highlights a section that was too dark to see properly.

          • Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've long understood postmodernism, in all its variety, to be unified behind one point: there are no grand metanarratives. I see it as the ultimate form of nominalism, the dropping of a thermonuclear bomb on any possibility that there could be a way to connect up the various interests and talents and values of humanity across space and time. Instead, the stance seems to be that any attempt to do this is an act of power, by one group to dominate all the rest.

            As far as I can tell, the above stance must be correct if there is no God coordinating all of … being, constantly offering to help fix screw-ups and reconcile that which seems irreconcilable. But in a world where so many don't believe they have any true agency (recent example), there is only one agency: God/​society. That agency must be killed in order for the rest to have any agency. I see this as a gross metaphysical mistake, one warned against by Adam & Eve denying personal responsibility. We don't understand how to mix agency. Here's some sobering evidence:

                The creative process is also the most terrifying part because you don't know exactly what's going to happen or where it is going to lead. You don't know what new dangers and challenges you'll find. It takes an enormous amount of internal security to begin with the spirit of adventure, the spirit of discovery, the spirit of creativity. Without doubt, you have to leave the comfort zone of base camp and confront an entirely new and unknown wilderness. You become a trailblazer, a pathfinder. You open new possibilities, new territories, new continents, so that others can follow.

                Many people have not really experienced even a moderate degree of synergy in their family life or in other interactions. They've been trained and scripted into defensive and protective communications or into believing that life or other people can't be trusted. As a result, they are never really open to Habit 6 and to these principles. (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, 263–64)

            1 Cor 3:9 describes us as God's συνεργός (synergos):

                 • co-workers
                 • fellow workers
                 • labourers together
                 • partners

            This is a serious mixing of agency; it actually seems heretical with respect to much philosophy and much religion. What is more sobering is that the greater power leaves incredible freedom to the lesser power—this does not appear to be the default human way. This is antithetical to Hobbes' Leviathan, antithetical to the States today which encroach more and more on everything which is not atomistic and hyper-individualistic. Creativity then gets corralled into a "safe space" which cannot possibly threaten the State. The void left by postmodernism's attack on the grand metanarrative is filled by power.

            Don't get me wrong; it seems that our choices forced us to go through this state of disordered existence. Colin E. Gunton seems right when he wrote:

            There was something wrong and oppressive about the form Christian institutions took in what Paul Johnson called the 'idea of a total Christian society' which 'necessarily included the idea of a compulsory society'.[30] Parmenides did require supplementation by Heraclitus, and in Christendom rarely received it. Thus according to an influential stream of modern thought, pre-modern political institutions, and particularly those from which the modern world was seeking to escape, represented a Parmenidean subordination of the many to the one. It is in this sense that much modern social and political thought can be understood as the revolt of the many against the one. (The One, the Three and the Many, 26)

            Gunton is the only person I've encountered who refuses to accept either the narrative of the Catastrophe of Nominalism or the narrative of Freedom from Religion/​Universals. Anemic universals create uniformity which suppress the individual; no universals result in homogeneity and thus deny the individual. Gunton suggests we explore 'open transcendentals', which to me seems to allow divine and human agency to mix, rather than one dominating the other. I find it sometimes helpful to see God as being the most we could possibly be; if God cannot share agency with humans, then humans cannot possibly share agency with each other. Evolution does not synchronize; indeed it produces mostly dead ends.

             
            P.S. I respect academics for their ability to help move discussions between laypersons past the infinite loops they so often recapitulate. I firmly believe Sturgeon's law holds everywhere. And I am concerned about Ivory Tower incentives, such as articulated in I give up on CHI/UIST. James Landay, an academic in the Computer–Human Interface field, laments that one can spend 3–4 person-years doing useful research culminating in one paper, or 16–20 weeks on a toy problem culminating in one paper. The pathology: what is valued for hiring and tenure is the simple # of papers.

            P.P.S. I assume you've come across Ralph Waldo Emerson's The American Scholar?

          • Chris Morris

            Your first two paragraphs are actually a perfect example of what I was saying about Yuval Harari's book - looking at the postmodern world from the ideological standpoint of the modern world where things can only be understood in terms of simple two-sided conflict, with the only possible outcome being total victory for one side or the other. Of course, as a postmodernist, I feel under no obligation to agree with any opinion presented by anyone identifying or being identified as a postmodernist so, even if everyone else denied any possibility of some sort of overarching view of human being, it wouldn't undermine my view. As it happens, I agree with many people who so identify and most recognise, in some form, philosophy as a metanarrative that connects our various situated understandings. What critics of postmodernism miss is that this is a matter of emphasis; modernism, in developing the theme of a universal autonomous individual as an object of scientific study, neglected the individual as a product of local and historical conditions. Postmodernism attempts to redress that imbalance by emphasising the latter.
            Of course, whether we have a grand metanarrative available to us or not, power still plays a part but, as we seem to have agreed, those various nudges of whatever size are pushing us in all sorts of directions such that I don't think anyone can confidently assume that they hold any permanent ultimate power. Obvious examples such as the fall of the Soviet Union, Trump's election victory and the EU referendum result here, I think, tend to suggest that power is a social construct that is both a manifestation of social changes and an influence on social change. You write that "The void left by postmodernism's attack on the grand metanarrative is filled with power." I have to say that I don't see this at all. I don't see a 'void' because I don't see postmodernism as having 'succeeded' yet. As I said of Harari, I think we're a long way past needing to analyse the problems through the ideological language of the modern world but we're still a very long way from postmodern ideas having sufficient influence to create a 'void'.

            Your final remarks about God and the divine are beyond me. I'm aware of how influential Christianity has been for Western cultures but I have very little knowledge and no experience of it so I'm not really qualified to pass an opinion on the views you express there.

          • Certain ideologies do seem to need to have total victory; Communism and Neoclassical Liberalism are two examples. Progressivism might be another. We could understand why they need total victory and what understandings of reality do not. We could also look at the psychological motivations generally associated with each.

            As to local circumstances, didn't the counter-Enlightenment also pay attention to them?

            I see postmodernism as already leaving voids (such as "alternative facts"); the claim that morality is purely subjective is another. Each is the obliteration of universals. If there's a form of postmodernism which doesn't, I'd like to see it both described and lived out. If the most you get is something like Twin Oaks Community, that would be an important data point.

            The God stuff can be be entirely framed in this light:

            LB: I find it sometimes helpful to see God as being the most we could possibly be; if God cannot share agency with humans, then humans cannot possibly share agency with each other.

            It is not clear to me that postmodernism is any better at enabling us to mix agency than modernism.

          • Chris Morris

            Yes, Marxism/Leninism and 'Neoclassical' Liberalism (any sort of Liberalism really) are products of the Enlightenment and therefore the modern world. I don't know what you mean by Progressivism but the idea of progress is part of modernist ideology.
            Yes, the counter-Enlightenment or Romanticism is one of the roots of postmodernism.
            My view would be that any set of ideas can be misused by politicians and there will always be people willing to accept that misuse or unable to distinguish a well-reasoned philosophical position from demagoguery.
            A quick look at the Twin Oaks community doesn't suggest to me any connection with postmodernism.
            I see postmodernism as an improvement over modernism as far as agency is concerned because postmodernism gives a more complete understanding of individual identity.

          • I see postmodernism as an improvement over modernism as far as agency is concerned because postmodernism gives a more complete understanding of individual identity.

            Where do you see this postmodernism best lived out? It's one thing to have a theory; it's another to live it out and explore how good it really is, when implemented on human hardware.

            I have a hypothesis which leads naturally to the "destroy all universals" kind of postmodernism. I recognize you don't hold to that (I am curious about how you think about universals), but surely you recognize that plenty of humans have, under the banner of "postmodernism". The hypothesis is this: Roman Catholicism was totalizing psychologically, and the means to reject this was to reject the very principle behind it: that anyone can tell anyone else what is right and good. What was excluded—perhaps because of the famed dichotomous thinking of Modernity—was a middle: that I have some understanding of what is right and good but not all, and only if we work together and sand off each other's rough edges, can we come to a better, more comprehensive understanding of what is right and good. Anyhow, one way to escape the alleged "mind control" of the RCC would be to deny that anyone has any such authority. We are each "autonomous"! Well, the men at least. (I love how Enlightenment philosophes aren't as punished for this lapse as so many others.)

            Now, to qualify the above, magisterial Protestantism was also plenty totalizing; Calvin's Geneva would be an example. Exsurge Domine #33 might have been aimed at Martin Luther's stance that executing heretics was never permitted, but John Calvin was only willing to go so far in trying to prevent the execution of Michael Servetus before capitulating. Dominic Erdozain argues in The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx that the more gracious and merciful strains of Christian thought were used against the harsher strains post-Reformation, to lead to atheism. This applies to Catholic and Protestant theology, including practice. We must never forget that René Descartes was 22 when the Thirty Years' War started and died only two years after the Treaty of Westphalia.

            Turning now to a Catholic, I cannot help but agree with Romano Guardini, a mentor of Pope Francis—at least, with the final sentence:

                It is cheap and false to condemn the medieval use of authority as "slavery." Modern man makes this judgment not merely because he enjoys the discovery of autonomous investigation but because he resents the Middle Ages. His resentment is born of the realization that his own age has made revolution a perpetual institution. But authority is needed not only by the childish but also in the life of every man, even the most mature. Integral to the full grandeur of human dignity, authority is not merely the refuge of the weak; its destruction always breeds its burlesque—force. (The End of the Modern World, 26)

            If we abandon universals—again, something I see with a lot of postmodernism but not yours—then the void is filled by power. But the form of that power is different from previous ages: it comes more from the machine and the nameless, faceless bureaucracy than a taskmaster. The result is alienation with nobody to rage at; "the system" is at fault and other than attempting to burn it all down, how do you fight "the system"?

            What we seem to need is something like non-totalizing universals; perhaps we could say "open universals", in reference to open systems which can grow over closed systems which only ever increase in entropy. Some universals may be constructed—that is, there could be plenty of other ways to build a society which work [at least somewhat well], and we've dedicated ourselves to one of them and past work dictates that future structure look like this and not that. Some constructed universals may be capable of only supporting systems of limited complexity, like wood construction allows only so many stories. And perhaps the closer we get to the maximum building height, the less psychological force can exist within that society—because there will be at least implicit recognition that those born today cannot add much in comparison to their forebears. (more here)

            Am I making any sense?

          • Chris Morris

            "Where do you see this postmodernism best lived out?" This is, I would say, a question coming from a modernist world-view. I can't point to a society and say "this is postmodernism." Think about that 'minestrone' for a minute - it's a mixture of all sorts of things: prehistoric Jungian archetypes, myths, medieval organisations like the Catholic church and monarchies, modern world interpretations of medieval organisations such as constitutional monarchy, modern inventions such as capitalism and communism, postmodern ideas and so on, ideas trivial and profound, too many things to list or for anyone to know completely. Consequently, I would suggest that it's not "one thing to have a theory" and "another to live it out and explore how good it really is..." The postmodern narrative is that the moderns came up with the idea that we could separate the theory from the lived experience and, as I keep referring back to what MacIntyre wrote in After Virtue, this aspiration was a notable achievement but it was never more than an aspiration and we now understand that, while we can imagine the separation, we have to recognise that our theory - how we interpret what we do, what other people are doing and how we understand the way they are interpreting our interpretation of what they're doing and so on round and round the hermeneutical circle - is an inextricable part of our reality.
            Thus the situation as I see it would be that postmodernism is not the abandonment of universals, rather it's the acceptance that the universals we recognise are precisely the sort of "open universals" that you're proposing - rules so widely accepted that we can treat them as universal even if we haven't found a way to ground them absolutely. Again, this implies a spectrum with some rules being more strongly held than others. So, are you making sense? I would say yes, you're perhaps making more sense than you give yourself credit for.

          • LB: Where do you see this postmodernism best lived out? It's one thing to have a theory; it's another to live it out and explore how good it really is, when implemented on human hardware.

            CM: This is, I would say, a question coming from a modernist world-view.

            Seriously? Here's MacIntyre, whom you called 'postmodernist':

            A moral philosophy—and emotivism is no exception—characteristically presupposes a sociology. For every moral philosophy offers explicitly or implicitly at least a partial conceptual analysis of the relationship of an agent to his or her reasons, motives, intentions and actions, and in so doing generally presupposes some claim that these concepts are embodied or at least can be in the real social world. Even Kant, who sometimes seems to restrict moral agency to the inner realm of the noumenal, implies otherwise in his writings on law, history and politics. Thus it would generally be a decisive refutation of a moral philosophy to show that moral agency on its own account of the matter could never be socially embodied; and it also follows that we have not yet fully understood the claims of any moral philosophy until we have spelled out what its social embodiment would be. (After Virtue, 23)

            I prefer to just ask "Seriously?", but it seems like I might need a bit of extra oomph behind my question, to legitimate it. (Is that a modernist, postmodernist, or other- move?)

            The postmodern narrative is that the moderns came up with the idea that we could separate the theory from the lived experience and, as I keep referring back to what MacIntyre wrote in After Virtue, this aspiration was a notable achievement but it was never more than an aspiration and we now understand that, while we can imagine the separation, we have to recognise that our theory - how we interpret what we do, what other people are doing and how we understand the way they are interpreting our interpretation of what they're doing and so on round and round the hermeneutical circle - is an inextricable part of our reality.

            Sure, but according to the postmodernist, those who live according to modernism can only kinda-sorta shape reality to fit that modernism. There are all sorts of cracks, contradictions, holes, and apparent irrationalities that result by thinking wrongly about reality. If there is no account that things are somehow better when you live according to postmodernism, then I'm not sure I even understand what you mean by 'postmodernism'.

            So, are you making sense? I would say yes, you're perhaps making more sense than you give yourself credit for.

            Hmmm, the way you opened your comment makes me rather skeptical. It was a very surprising response. And you're treating universals as a more socially constructed (as if you could socially construct arbitrary other things—you did not rule this out) than I would. The spacecraft we send to Mars are constructed by humans, but according to rules we did not specify. We probably could have made very different spacecraft to do the same thing, but we could not invent rules out of whole cloth and have that work.

          • Chris Morris

            Perhaps, rather than engaging with your posts point by point and trying to use your terminology in my responses (because I think we too easily fall in to the habit of using labels like 'postmodern' or 'science' as if they are monolithic entities and then treat them as such - the problem of 'universals'), it would be clearer if I made a statement of my view in the way that I understand it but this would require an hermeneutical reading on your part. I don't have time to write it at the moment (I'm eating my breakfast just now and I'll be out most of the day) but I'll try it later.

            In the meantime, just a quick note: Yes, I think some (many?) universals are socially constructed but 'social construction' generally implies some physical element. For example, language is a social construct but how we articulate the noises that we use depends on the physical structure of our body and how we communicate written language depends on how we interact with the physical material we're using. John Donne preached that "no man is an island" and, I think that following the logic of your views here, you would want to say that 'man' can be either an island or not an island. However, my view is that we are a process of struggling and, necessarily failing, to be islands. We can't exist without the physical universe but I can't have an individual identity without in some way being part of a social structure and, at the same time, differentiating me from everything that is not me.
            So, yes, the spacecraft we build are made and flown according to physical constraints that exist whether we're here or not but the idea of building something called a spacecraft and sending it somewhere to find out what's there is a social construct.

          • I'm happy to try to derive your meaning of 'postmodernism' from your use of the term. I almost always do this with words; definitions have been very unreliable to me. Some of that is that I seem to come at things with a very different perspective than most, which means the ways others use a given word often don't seem to form anything like a natural kind in my head. But so often the words are used as if they have causal powers of kinds. Anyhow, with enough back-and-forth, I'll probably figure out what you mean. I've already discovered that your meaning of the word is unique in my experience.

            Yes, I think some (many?) universals are socially constructed but 'social construction' generally implies some physical element. For example, language is a social construct but how we articulate the noises that we use depends on the physical structure of our body and how we communicate written language depends on how we interact with the physical material we're using.

            That still gives a tremendous freedom to the social construction part. I question how often there is that much freedom—at least if you want to build higher than wood permits.

            John Donne preached that "no man is an island" and, I think that following the logic of your views here, you would want to say that 'man' can be either an island or not an island.

            I suspect the most island-ish a person gets is when [s]he goes somewhere and receives negativity or nothing from everyone. For a time, no social construction gets done; maybe destruction will happen followed by social construction in that group's image. But even there, there is a rich past of human relationships where people gave of each other to each other. Can one even define 'person' without 'relationship' and vice versa?

            Now, the 77-year-old sociologist mentoring me did struggle quite a lot with me using individualistic language. I think our working hypothesis is that I took individualism more seriously than most and tried to make it work more than most. A big part of that is probably that I have repeatedly chosen to put myself in extremely critical if not hostile groups, online. If anything, I have discovered hard limits to being a solitary individual and am now tired of doing so. Cutting oneself off from further personal formation via relationship is like erecting a complete solar shade between the Sun and Earth. (I'm less certain about letting "the social" form one's core; I'm too familiar with mob dynamics.)

            However, my view is that we are a process of struggling and, necessarily failing, to be islands.

            I wonder how much of this is a Western phenomenon and most intensely, an American phenomenon. In Mind, Modernity, Madness, Liah Greenfeld notes that before the "you can be anything you want" rhetoric existed, a specific class of mental illness, then called 'madness', only took acute forms. This opens up the question: to what extent are diseases such as schizophrenia diseases of culture and not just individual biology? From a MAKE magazine review:

            Liah Greenfeld’s new study of the influence of culture on schizophrenia and manic depression, Mind, Modernity, Madness: The Impact of Culture on Human Experience, has Durkheim’s concept of anomie at its centre. Greenfeld describes anomie as a ‘cultural insufficiency – the inability of a culture to provide individuals within it with consistent guidance.’ This lack of guidance, for Greenfield, leads to difficulties in identity formation and mental functioning. Greenfeld sees this phenomenon of anomie as a significant causal factor in the illnesses of schizophrenia and manic depression. But whereas Durkheim examines specific cultural causes of anomie (deregulation of industry, economic disaster etc.), Greenfeld’s approach focuses instead on the influence of nationalism.

            Although it is not made explicit in the title, Greenfeld’s concept of nationalism is the central facet of the book, and indeed of Greenfeld’s entire body of work, (Mind, Modernity, Madness is, in fact, the third in a trilogy on the theme of Nationalism). Mind, Modernity, Madness’s basic thesis is that ‘anomie’ is the result of the uniquely modern phenomenon of nationalism, defined in the book as consisting of the three principles of ‘secularism, egalitarianism, and popular sovereignty’. These principles, it is argued, bring into being the idea(l) of the ‘individual in control of his or her destiny… the ultimate authority in deciding on one’s priorities.’ (MAKE magazine review)

            So I'm not sure that what you describe is a necessary property of humans (anthropology has a lot to say, here). Indeed, it seems downright pathological—what does it do to the core of a human to incentivize him/her to pursue an impossible goal? I can see what Greenfeld describes as 'nationalism' being an overreaction to that "something wrong and oppressive about the form Christian institutions" I excerpted, which I developed with my "hypothesis". But any notion that one necessarily has to pursue an impossible goal (a strengthening of the position you stated) presupposes metaphysics with which I would disagree.

          • Chris Morris

            Well, that was an interesting day! I'll see if I can make some of my sort of sense of all this but just to start by giving your hermeneutic something to work with: I'm typing this while watching the latest news from Venezuela, enjoying the spectacle of our Defence Secretary being sacked for leaking, listening to a Billy Cobham album and checking out how best to keep the collared doves that are nesting in the back garden at the moment safe and well fed. Given this level of multi-tasking, I have a reasonable belief that I'm not a philosophical zombie, a brain-in-a-vat or any other hypothetical cognitive device and the large plateful of chicken kebabs and cous-cous I've just eaten will be a considerable influence on the views I express.

            One of the things we did today was to go to the cinema to see "Red Joan", a film which interested us partly because both my wife and I have signed the UK Official Secrets Act. I see it's been reviewed by the New York Times so I presume it's been given US distribution although I can't imagine many Americans actually appreciating it but if you get a chance you should see it as it's quite apposite to this conversation. It's got a horribly clunky screenplay but it gives an interesting picture of the confusion when ideas and moral choices are translated from one world to another. While it downplays the drama, concentrating instead on the banality of enormous historical events, it's a good description of how our choices are filtered through our whole being.

            One thing it touched on but only superficially was nationalism. Personally, I'm more impressed by Ernest Gellner's analysis of nationalism than what I gather to be Liah Greenfield's view. Nationalism, I think, has been a variety of responses to particular sets of circumstances; the invention of childhood, for example. Generally, feudal societies lacked a general education system; as soon as you reached the appropriate age, you learned the trade of your father very specifically such that the various strata of society had very little knowledge of other and, in some cases, it was almost impossible for them to communicate with each other because they used specialised languages. Consequently, these strata were spread across Christendom with almost no regard for the national boundaries we recognise today. The Black Death and the Hundred Years War, amongst other things, had considerable influence on increasing social mobility requiring a more general education system and on the gradual process of unifying the language and culture. So, rather than the anomie that Greenfield sees as a central problem of nationalism, I would say that nationalism tends to present a too rigid framework of cultural norms. Local cultures are never entirely absorbed in the national culture and the difference between them must eventually lead to a breakdown as is evident in the disunited Kingdom at the moment.

            I can see from your reply that you're still not getting the point about the logic of individual identity. "...what does it do to the core of a human to incentivize him/her to pursue an impossible goal?" No one's incentivising anyone here; I have an individual identity because I'm an instantiation of both a physical and social structure which means that I can recognise myself as being different from everything that is not me by understanding that I'm part of those structures. There's nothing 'fixed' about this, it's a constant struggle that we live with our whole lives unless, as I suggested earlier, we suffer from dementia and cease to have an individual identity or perhaps we choose to distance ourselves so completely from the physical that we die of starvation. Think of yourself standing still - you might not appear to be doing anything but your muscles are working very hard to maintain a balance and keep you upright. It's all about balance - yes, if we allow ourselves to become too undifferentiated we risk becoming part of a mindless mob; if we become too differentiated we cease to make sense to anyone else and, as we understand ourselves through what we see reflected from others, we eventually cease to make sense of ourselves.

          • Sorry to hear about your Defence Secretary, although I wonder if he was doing a favor to the country if it really was going to allow Chinese equipment to be used by government to transmit state secrets—or even if citizens were going to use it for everyday communication. I doubt China would trust the UK or US to provide equipment for its own governmental communication!

            Thanks for suggesting "Red Joan"; it is in theaters near me but I'm not sure I'll be able to convince anyone to join and I usually don't drop the cash just to go out by myself. Having discussed and argued with atheists on the internet for tens of thousands of hours and IRL for fewer, I do have some sense of "how our choices are filtered through our whole being". Good fiction (or history) also helps, although it lacks the interactive element of talking with another human being who differs from you in key ways.

            Personally, I'm more impressed by Ernest Gellner's analysis of nationalism than what I gather to be Liah Greenfield's view.

            I'm no expert on nationalism, but Greenfield's seems to me on admittedly brief inspection to be a somewhat weird definition. But this might be due to a particular idiosyncrasy of [some] sociology: paying little attention to "history of ideas" and instead focusing on what the average person on the street thinks and does. What is "in the air" has been empirically demonstrated to be rather different from what political ideologues rant about: Converse 1964. This tack seems exactly the right one if one wants to investigate psychology as shaped (or not shaped) by society. If culture cannot or will not provide individuals with trustworthy guidance, they will struggle unnecessarily. I'm married to such an individual: the powers that be are quite willing to perpetuate a situation where probably less than 10% of postdocs get primary investigator positions, while milking exceedingly cheap, highly-skilled productivity out of them because that is the promise held out to rather more than 10%. And this is what American society does to someone in a class which has appreciable political influence!

            So, rather than the anomie that Greenfield sees as a central problem of nationalism, I would say that nationalism tends to present a too rigid framework of cultural norms. Local cultures are never entirely absorbed in the national culture and the difference between them must eventually lead to a breakdown as is evident in the disunited Kingdom at the moment.

            America has never been as unified as pretty much any country or kingdom in Europe. No ethnic group so dominated the rest that one can get a critical homogeneity. Blacks were able to make racism a political issue in the US and anti-semitism can be called out for what it is, here. If anything, the problem in the US now is increasing attempts to squash local cultures with a national culture dictated by academia. For example, "cultural [mis]appropriation" has become a bludgeon for attacking authors and publishers.

            CM: However, my view is that we are a process of struggling and, necessarily failing, to be islands.

            CM: I can see from your reply that you're still not getting the point about the logic of individual identity. "...what does it do to the core of a human to incentivize him/her to pursue an impossible goal?" No one's incentivising anyone here; I have an individual identity because I'm an instantiation of both a physical and social structure which means that I can recognise myself as being different from everything that is not me by understanding that I'm part of those structures.

            My objection was to us necessarily struggling to become something we could not possibly be. Why frame the matter that way? Why is that model superior to models where we strive to be something we can be? What it sounds like is that you've taken hyper-individualism too much to heart, presupposing at least some crucial bit of it and then treating the resultant contradictory existence as necessary instead of contingent.

            Think of yourself standing still - you might not appear to be doing anything but your muscles are working very hard to maintain a balance and keep you upright. It's all about balance - yes, if we allow ourselves to become too undifferentiated we risk becoming part of a mindless mob; if we become too differentiated we cease to make sense to anyone else and, as we understand ourselves through what we see reflected from others, we eventually cease to make sense of ourselves.

            I have no problem with this, but nor do I see it as us struggling to be something we could not possibly be. I tried for some of my life to be an island, to be self-sufficient and as much of a renaissance man as one can be in this age. I probably did a better job than most, thanks mostly to conditions outside of my control. But it's a terrible life. It is much better to be a critical part of a much larger whole. A major clue here is my excerpt from Seven Habits: when individuals are absorbed into an amorphous whole instead of integrated into the whole as individuals, it does violence to them and they resist.

            In my view, we can each have a unique perspective on creation and the creator and unique talents, but where the development and use of those perspectives and talents depend on continual cross-pollination. No matter how much I communicate about my current current understanding and no matter how much I train others with my current abilities, I and only I can further pioneer just my perspective and just my talents. I need not fear others "scooping" me, but I can fear others crushing me or failing to help me and/or failing to let let me help them. One can mistakenly try to become the wrong person, but there is never a pretense that one can become "self-sufficient" or "autonomous". It would be recognized that too heavy a hand will stymie a given individual's development and in the worst case, deprive humanity of that perspective and those talents forever—at least up to resurrection.

            See, Christianity has zero problem with combining dependence and individuation. Nor does Judaism: if you compare the Sargon legend with the birth narrative of Moses, you'll find that the former only permits psychological depth of the king, while the latter includes psychological depth in the little people. (Created Equal) The primordial conditions were not violence and competition, but goodness and peace with human agency making real differences in reality. Therefore, one can assume that there is a way to return to that state, that the most fundamental building blocks of reality do not yield inevitable contradictions and pain and suffering. Nobody has to be a loser and nobody has to get crushed—although sadly some might choose to. But there is absolutely no need to strive for the impossible. At most, that's the lie told by the serpent. It is a lie which has permeated humanity and even Christianity, but everything can be subverted … and then subverted again.

          • Chris Morris

            Yes, a lot of us agree with the ex-Defence Secretary's reservations about giving the Chinese access to the intelligence network but are happy to see his political career cut down because he has previously taken political manipulativeness to new lows of dishonesty. Of course, this is not always a bad thing; the event which started my interest in politics was the contest for the leadership of the Labour party in 1962 when the old-fashioned, honest but alcoholic George Brown was beaten by the extremely devious and manipulative Harold Wilson. As it happens, Wilson turned out to be quite a good Prime Minister in many ways perhaps partly because of those very faults.

            I love that Converse paper you've linked to - "...found that the mass public does not seem to share beliefs in any predictable way with elites..." is pretty much the point I was trying to make to Roger Olson which he seems to see as obviously wrong.

            "My objection was to us necessarily struggling to become something we could not possibly be." But we are already that possibility. The existential choice we have is that we can refuse to accept the struggle, that is, we can choose to achieve one of the 'solutions' by either separating our self from the social structure or giving up on separating our self from it. In either case we cease to have an individual identity. Everything in between those two end points is the creative space of human possibility. This isn't a 'model' and I hope it's not a 'lie told by a serpent', it's simply a basic description of human being.

          • I'm afraid I just don't know what you mean by this:

            CM: However, my view is that we are a process of struggling and, necessarily failing, to be islands.

            A very plain interpretation seems to be that we're trying to become something we cannot possibly be. But apparently that's not the right interpretation.

          • Chris Morris

            I think that you're missing it because you're still seeing it from inside the modernist ideological position where 'struggle' can only be a temporary turbulence between areas of stability. It's interesting that the thing I'm trying to get you to grasp (human being) is actually very simple and basic but the change in viewpoint required to see it is incredibly difficult and complicated to articulate. Think of it in terms of how easy it is to explain to someone how to see themselves in a mirror but how difficult it is to for us to understand how to look at ourselves without a mirror.
            We can only understand ourselves as human individuals because we are aware that we're an instance of humanity but in order to do that we must come to a recognition that we're not all of those other humans (and not just those other humans but also not everything else that exists). For example, up until you were about four years old you were able, like everyone else, to hold the direct gaze of a complete stranger in public. Like everyone else, once you developed a full awareness of your individuality, that becomes a gross invasion of privacy unless it's accompanied by ameliorating gestures or context. Children can do that because they're not aware that what they're looking at is another self-aware individual and they're not aware of that because they are not yet fully self-aware.

            I'll be away in Edinburgh for a couple of days, stroking David Hume's toe, so I'll let you meditate on these contradictions in a zen-like fashion until I return!

          • I think that you're missing it because you're still seeing it from inside the modernist ideological position where 'struggle' can only be a temporary turbulence between areas of stability.

            I'm not sure how I'm presupposing that. I was keying in on the goal/​target being impossible to obtain. I think we should aim for things which are possible to obtain.

            Perhaps what you're sensing is something which Ian McGilchrist suggests might be necessary to analytic understanding.[1] Without temporarily freezing a constant flux to see a discrete pattern, all one has is constantly moving fuzz. Once one has that pattern, one can observe oscillations around that pattern, or how things are becoming more or less like that pattern. But any pattern is by definition an "area of stability". The cyclic understanding of civilization (e.g. The Course of Empire) is an instance of "stability". And whenever you identify a pattern, it can always be relativized by higher-order change. Nozick suggests in Invariances that we might understand reality by finding invariance after invariance after invariance.

            Are you suggesting that it is possible to understand anything without reference to patterns?

            We can only understand ourselves as human individuals because we are aware that we're an instance of humanity but in order to do that we must come to a recognition that we're not all of those other humans (and not just those other humans but also not everything else that exists).

            I agree. A further step is to become aware that it would be really bad if everyone else were forced to become just like me or just like you. Whenever I encounter someone who is insistent on forcing his/her particular way of thinking on me (you are not doing this) makes me immediately suspect that [s]he thinks the world could do with more of him/her. It reminds me of a graduate student who came to computer science via poetry—she loved poetry and wanted to systematically study patterns therein. She joined a physical computation lab and got continual grief for not thinking like them—even though she produced a fantastic thesis. Humans so often dislike diversity they cannot understand—cannot assimilate to their patterns.

            Anyhow, enjoy your trip and I look forward to additional ways you find which might finally demonstrate how I'm wrong (Modern) and you're right (Postmodern). Yes, that was fully intended—my attempt at dry humor for the moment.

             
            [1] Ian McGilchrist:

            We have also seen that many important aspects of experience, those that the right hemisphere is particularly well equipped to deal with – our passions, our sense of humour, all metaphoric and symbolic understanding (and with it the metaphoric and symbolic nature of art), all religious sense, all imaginative and intuitive processes – are denatured by becoming the object of focussed attention, which renders them explicit, therefore mechanical, lifeless. The value of the left hemisphere is precisely in making explicit, but this is a staging post, an intermediate level of the ‘processing’ of experience, never the starting point or end point, never the deepest, or the final, level. The relationship between the hemispheres is therefore highly significant for the type of world we find ourselves living in. (The Master and His Emissary, 209)

          • Chris Morris

            Edinburgh was its usual fascinating and slightly mysterious self. We stayed in the house where Kenneth Grahame (Wind in the Willows) was born and had an interesting appointment at the Scottish Parliament.
            I must admit I hadn't come across Ian McGilchrist before although I was vaguely aware of research on the brain's two hemispheres. Not having read the Master and His Emissary I can't be sure of his view but initial readings about him do seem to suggest he's making a very similar point. I sense a couple of problems that might make it look like we're not quite on the same page: I suspect that the book, in order to sell as a work of 'pop science', has more of a 'solution', or perhaps more accurately, a 'punchline' than McGilchrist really intends and his understanding of history is not sufficiently developed for him to recognise that his view is a postmodernist one (or simply that he doesn't want to be seen as associated with the sort of 'pop postmodernism' that he would've come across in his literary studies in the 1980s).

            I'll include two quotations that I found very interesting. In the first, he's talking about why it took him so long to write the book: "How to put it across. Because here, too, the problem of the hemispheres obtrudes. I found that, in order to explain any one thing, I needed already to have explained everything else. In other words, the parts needed the whole to be understood before they could themselves be understood. Straightening it out in to what any book demands, namely a sequential argument, was like trying to straighten out a cat's cradle without losing the pattern in which, alone, it exists." As good a description of the hermeneutical circle as any I've seen and one that reminded me that I once described to you my favourite visual image for understanding this - it's like trying to grasp a ten-foot diameter balloon, it has to be grasped whole because if you take a knife to it to find how the bits fit together you're left with a loud bang, several bits of shrivelled rubber and a lot of gas.

            As part of his reaction to criticism from A C Grayling he said "Grayling… quite misunderstood the point that we need both hemispheres in balance... but he... seemed to balk at the idea that something that is true about the way in which a single human being sees the world can be true about the way in which an aggregate of human beings who share a world view (namely, a culture) sees the world."

          • Well, I recently wrote the following to an atheist who has invited me to write a blog post of why I am a Christian:

            L: Writing up a full "Why I believe?" is quite a daunting task; this has been rendered exceedingly difficult by the fact that presenting incomplete subsets of "Why I believe?" often meets with substantial misunderstanding by almost all atheists I've tried it with. Compact presentations of the whole yield accusations of vagueness.

            So … I'm still not sure what it is that you think I'm not getting. Do you have a favorite book on postmodernism, which you think is closest to your flavor?

          • Chris Morris

            I totally empathise with the problems arising from incomplete subsets and compact presentations, I think that's an inevitable difficulty with these blogs. As far as favourite books goes, part of what I'm suggesting is that there can't really be a book that would fill that space. If we're reading books for information we're already accepting a modernist view (or in McGilchrist's terms, accepting that the left hemisphere will not allow the right hemisphere a voice), in only regarding information as a package transferable between two autonomous individuals as a linear stream.
            My view would be that we are both embodied and extended cognition. We think with our whole body and that body is embedded in the physical world but that extending our identity beyond our body also extends our mind out in to a social context through language. We are all instantiations of a set of overlapping worlds, some all-embracing such as the world of the human species (mammals that are born, eat, sleep and die), some very big such as the English-speaking world, some extremely small such as... well, pretty much anything. These worlds are full of ideas floating about, big ideas like justice, democracy, religion as well as little ideas like what to have for dinner or whether to converse with people on internet blogs. As I say, all of these ideas are mixed together, bouncing around nudging each other, being misspoken, creatively misinterpreted and very rarely taking on a clearly defined shape for very long. And so on... naturally, this incomplete subset is open to much misunderstanding.

            How do I know any of this? Well, of course, I don't really. I suppose that if anyone asked "Why are you a postmodernist?" I would have to say that, apart from the problem of whether there can be such a thing, to me it just seems the best description for what I see around me. As I said previously, I don't think I'm saying anything particularly controversial or weird so there will be plenty of books and papers available which discuss this view. Antonio Damasio is probably one of the best known exponents.

          • If we're reading books for information we're already accepting a modernist view (or in McGilchrist's terms, accepting that the left hemisphere will not allow the right hemisphere a voice), in only regarding information as a package transferable between two autonomous individuals as a linear stream.

            I didn't say a book "for information". For example, here's one of my favorite bits from any book:

            Attitude of supplication: I must necessarily turn to something other than myself since it is a question of being delivered from myself.
                Any attempt to gain this deliverance by means of my own energy would be like the efforts of a cow which pulls at its hobble and so falls onto its knees.
                In making it one liberates a certain amount of energy in oneself by a violence which serves to degrade more energy. Compensation as in thermodynamics; a vicious circle from which one can be delivered only from on high.
                The source of man's moral energy is outside him, like that of his physical energy (food, air etc.). He generally finds it, and that is why he has the illusion—as on the physical plain—that his being carries the principle of its preservation within itself. Privation alone makes him feel his need. And, in the event of privation, he cannot help turning to anything whatever which is edible.
                There is only one remedy for that: a chlorophyll conferring the faculty of feeding on light.
                Not to judge. All faults are the same. There is only one fault: incapacity to feed upon light, for where capacity to do this has been lost all faults are possible.
                'My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me.'
                There is no good apart from this capacity. (Gravity and Grace, 3)

            Another that wasn't in a book but could be:

            A Dialogue-Anthem

                                          Christian, Death

            Chr.   ALAS, poor Death ! where is thy glory ?          Where is thy famous force, thy ancient sting ?Dea.   Alas, poor mortal, void of story !          Go spell and read how I have killed thy King.Chr.   Poor Death ! and who was hurt thereby ?          Thy curse being laid on Him makes thee accurst.Dea.   Let losers talk, yet thou shalt die ;          These arms shall crush thee.Chr.                                           Spare not, do thy worst.

                      I shall be one day better than before ;          Thou so much worse, that thou shalt be no more.

             

            As I say, all of these ideas are mixed together, bouncing around nudging each other, being misspoken, creatively misinterpreted and very rarely taking on a clearly defined shape for very long.

            Wasn't a major objection of the Enlightenment that there was far too little clearly analyzed? For example, Francis Bacon's "idols". I have no problem saying that we went too far in the "clear and distinct idea" direction—so far that our models detached from reality, leaving a gap for existentialism to struggle with. Charles Taylor has much to say about "disengaged reason", as do many others. If we go back further, some early ANE religion can be construed as pushing back the chaos to maintain civilization. Some ceremonies had this being done every day—chaos was a real danger. Civilization after civilization had collapsed. Too little stability is anathema to society.

            A pathology of modernism are those atheists who want a full and complete definition of God before they'll talk about him. As if we have that for almost any of the terms we use in day-to-day life. Conceptual analysis is not the key to happiness, but it can clear up some muddiness. One of the predominant experiences I have online is being accused of vagueness and abstractness; my interlocutors so often want "clear and distinct ideas"—of course, clear and distinct to them, given their cultural milieu, their plausibility structure. I see this prejudice as very harmful to conscious understanding of the thought process and how ideas are conceived, nourished, born, and disciplined into adults. Modernity is, in a key way, anathema to creativity.

            Actually, now I get to accuse you of Modernity still having its clutches on your thoughts. See, Modernity promises a god-like view, where you can give descriptions that cover everything. Kant's categories epitomize this. An alternative is to acknowledge that we are always local and parochial. But we can often describe the local and parochial with clarity. The key is not to hastily generalize 'some' ⇒ 'all'. We can continue to broaden our horizons. The result is a collection of ever more varied descriptions and stories about how things work in various locales. Only the insistence that all be described from a god-like point of view yields the description of "all is fuzz and interrelated". A philosopher of science who refuses the god-like view is Nancy Cartwright; see for example her The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science.

            Antonio Damasio is probably one of the best known exponents.

            Thanks; I've read parts of Descartes' Error. Is there any particular book or paper you suggest?

          • Chris Morris

            Well, I'm generally a bit dubious about Simone Weil but there's nothing in that quotation that I would find particularly disagreeable.
            "I didn't say a book 'for information'." I was just using 'information' in a very general sense to differentiate from pure entertainment but I can't think of another more appropriate word at the moment.

            I get the impression that you're still seeing this in terms of taking sides: "Wasn't a major objection of the Enlightenment that there was far too little clearly analysed?" Yes, what have I been saying throughout these posts? From Roger Bacon through Francis Bacon all the way to those positivist social scientists I mentioned earlier, the idea of the 'mind of man' as 'an enchanted glass, full of superstition and imposture' needing to be 'delivered and reduced' was the driving force that did, as you say, open up a gap for existentialism to struggle with.
            Taylor, I think, sees it as part of the gradual replacement of the Platonic Good through an internalising movement towards an independent moral subject that was manifested earlier in those such as Luther but that the process continued beyond the Christian context. I agree that this can be seen as an episode in the longer process of "pushing back the chaos" to maintain the balance required to support societies.

            I also have a problem with those who try to stifle any debate by insisting on a full and complete definition of whatever happens to be the subject of the conversation so I agree that we need to balance the creative imprecision of language with sufficient clarity to allow for reasonable understanding. I think there's a broad area between the nonsense of pseudo psychobabble and the meaninglessness of definitions so precise that they lose any connection with reality.

            I'm happy to acknowledge that Modernity still has me in its clutches! This is the point I keep trying to get across: it's not a case of picking sides, of choosing to be modern or postmodern. We are part of a process. Modernity does indeed open up for us the idea of sub specie aeternitatis but, as I keep saying, it's the ASPIRATION which makes the difference. Once that aspiration is opened it doesn't disappear or get resolved so, rather than acknowledging the 'local and parochial' as an alternative, we need to understand its connection to the 'fuzz and interrelatedness' in order to find how to 'push back the chaos' resulting from that overly objectivist view to maintain the balance.
            I know you're involved in many conversations here and elsewhere and the way these threads work makes it difficult to scroll back to earlier posts but you really should take a moment to check back and see how many times I've made this point in different ways!

            Nancy Cartwright's writing looks like the sort of thing I could well agree with. "Is there any particular book or paper you suggest?" No! You're young, go out and enjoy all of your life experiences - ontology should take precedence over epistemology.

          • I'm sorry, but I just don't see what it is that you're critiquing in what I've said. You definitely have been saying approximately the same thing in a number of different ways, and I thought I have at least once said approximately the same thing in my own way. However, you apparently did not see sufficiently alignment with what you were saying. And so you are taking a side against me, while claiming that I am the one taking sides.

            I also don't see what you're talking about when it comes to the incorrect framing of choosing sides, when you want me to choose a particular way of looking at things and navigating life. Surely you aren't saying that what I should do is stop making choices and just relax into how things are? Some of how things are is good and beneficial to life, but some is toxic to life and must be fought, must be opposed. The question, it seems to me, is well-posed by Solzhenitsyn:

            If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? (The Gulag Archipelago)

            The sides are within my heart, not between me and some devious Other whom I must distance myself from, oppose, and if "necessary" (violence is always "necessary" these days), destroyed. This was a lesson of Jesus as the messiah the Jews needed, not the messiah they wanted (or deserved): the problem is not political oppression from without which we can free ourselves from via revolution, but it is bondage generated from choices made within. Modernity has a habit of destroying pieces of its heart—or at least, trying its darnedest.

          • You're young, go out and enjoy all of your life experiences - ontology should take precedence over epistemology.

            Sorry, but I prefer not to "go with the flow" and become part of The Charitable–Industrial Complex, or part of the internet rage machine which has no clue what 'justice' is. I know what will happen if I earn Fifteen Million Merits. The world is a booming buzzing confusion of experiencing and action. It also seems set on a pretty bad trajectory if enough people don't step back and work out what can be done, given human psychology, social dynamics, and the particulars of the 21st century in various locales. We are running out of time to impose our fantasies on reality.

          • Chris Morris

            As it's past my bed time now, if you don't mind I'll reply to all those responses in one post to save time.

            "...I prefer not to 'go with the flow'..." I have to say, I find that paragraph desperately sad. I've had an interesting life but there were quite a few things I would've liked to have done but didn't for lack of confidence or other reasons. Looking back now, I really regret not doing them. The world certainly looks like a mess that's just about to crash and burn (and of course there's no guarantee that the next crisis won't be the one that wipes us out) but history shows us that it has looked like that more often than not - imagine how people felt during the Thirty Years War, for instance, or any of the other calamitous periods.
            Yes, you've certainly said things which I agree with but I feel that you haven't yet managed to fully absorb the implications of the reflexivity that will take you beyond the idea of the conflict being confined to your heart. It's not a question of not choosing your battles or just accepting everything as it is, it's just a matter of being open to the idea that the world can't be divided in to two neatly labelled opposing boxes. By all means, carry on debating - I enjoy how you've pushed me in to seeing holes in my views that I wasn't previously aware of - but don't think that you need a watertight world view before you can make a difference in the world.

            As for Philip Rand, to be honest I couldn't really make any sense of what he was saying and he didn't seem that interested in engaging in any meaningful dialogue so I didn't spend much time or effort thinking about the replies I posted.

          • I honestly don't know what experiences I should [heh] go out and have. As far as I can tell, I'm more built to serve needs than to accrue experiences. But I will challenge people's ideas of exactly what their needs are and how to serve them; I try to have a slightly richer imagination than most. And I go on hikes when the wife requests. :-)

            It's interesting you see me as at all thinking that the world can be divided into two neatly labeled, opposing boxes. I know that I often think in terms of linear combinations of something like ideal types, and that sometimes this comes across as black & white thinking. But the thing is, I also routinely get accused of fuzzy thinking! At least, online and by theists and atheists. It's hard to make sense of the criticism when it is neatly labeled and so completely opposed. :-| Perhaps what's confused people is that I often make a low-resolution "first pass" that can be falsely understood as fundamentalistic when in fact I'm just trying to capture the broad outlines. I'm one of those people who doesn't like turn-by-turn directions; I like to see an overview of the route as well. You can't always get that, but I've found that one can often capture the broad outlines first. I know that Ceci n'est pas une pipe., but perhaps I'm bad at communicating this.

            Incidentally, I'm a big fan of being very careful of false dichotomies. So often, there are silently excluded terms, terms which seem "small" because there is little to no theoretical support for them. But Galileo himself may have made his impetus discovery by realizing that "fire escapes the center and matter seeks the center" leaves the tangent unspecified. A certain relative of mine did a science class in middle school called "Galileo's Rolling Balls"; she was a bit naive at the time. Her teacher was less naive and had some trouble controlling his reaction. Fortunately, she had good friends.

            I hear you on Philip; it's frustrating because sometimes it seems like he might have something useful to say. Oh well.

          • Chris Morris

            "I'm more built to serve needs than to accrue experiences." I don't think we can do anything without accruing experiences and going for hikes with your wife is definitely a good place to start!
            I don't see you as any more prone to putting the world in opposing boxes as anyone else, it's a general statement not aimed at you personally. We all do it all the time, in fact I think that we need to be able to do that (is this what you mean by 'trying to capture the broad outlines'?) but we always need to strongly balance that need in order to free ourselves from that ridiculous position of hiding behind barricades waving our slogans or getting caught up in false dichotomies. Clearly, your current posts on Roll to Disbelieve show that you're aware of the need for that balance, more so than Captain Cassidy, anyway! I think the reason I don't experience any of the conversations on these blogs as being particularly confrontational is through seeing it as voices in a chorus - I'm just another voice and so is everyone else.
            I love the idea of "Galileo's Rolling Balls" - I hope she got an A+ for that!

          • The only way I know to achieve balance is to put myself out there among people who are not like me, critically but charitably interpreting what they say and encouraging them to do the same with what I say. When things really get going, "we" start saying things—not everything is said by an individual. (And yes, 'individual' here can be an amalgam; the question is whether the amalgam is hidden or explicit and whether there is true creatio ex nihilo which cannot be deterministically traced back to the Big Bang.)

            I think the reason I don't experience any of the conversations on these blogs as being particularly confrontational is through seeing it as voices in a chorus - I'm just another voice and so is everyone else.

            Does this viewpoint actually work, out there in reality? "Live and let live" is a saying with a long pedigree but dubious empirical tenability. Don't get me wrong; I think much more diversity and variety exists than we humans have so far fathomed or built. I'm inclined to think that the "wrong" ways—that is, those ways which lead to death of person or death of endeavor—are actually minuscule in comparison to the total number of ways. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden, only one out of a plenitude of options was off-limits. But you seem reticent to say there any "wrong" ways—as if anything can lead to life and more life and more life.

          • Chris Morris

            Yes, putting yourself out there, joining the conversations and becoming aware of just how diverse people's views are can be a good way of achieving balance. Taking part in those conversations knowing that I'm just another voice works for me although I'm not sure it would've worked quite so well forty years ago. It's taken me many years to find sufficient confidence in my viewpoint to not have to retreat in to a shell when my views are criticised.
            I think 'live and let live' is more of a moral aspiration or ideal than a political strategy that would require empirical justification so I would see it as a bit of pasta in that minestrone that may nudge us. Given that, yes, you could say that I don't see any 'ways' as being necessarily right or wrong, but obviously we make decisions all the time that cover the whole range of life experience from the absolutely immediate and local, such as whether to run across the road in front of that bus, which has a reasonably predictable outcome to the most long-term and global which are much more likely to have an unpredictable outcome. May be it would be possible to scientifically test whether the decisions made by someone following a fixed rulebook tend to have more successful outcomes than those made by someone pragmatically using available information, intuition and experience but I can't imagine how it would work. However, not having that fixed rulebook doesn't stop me from being able to present reasoned arguments for why an action might be good or bad but it does make it much more difficult for me to apply my views in an authoritarian fashion.

          • It's taken me many years to find sufficient confidence in my viewpoint to not have to retreat in to a shell when my views are criticised.

            Yes, I find that Western education is pretty terrible in this respect. It is as if the individual isn't truly valued. If it were, a major part of education would be how to fight for your viewpoint amidst opposition. These days, identity politics seems preferred, and it is almost the antithesis.

            May be it would be possible to scientifically test whether the decisions made by someone following a fixed rulebook tend to have more successful outcomes than those made by someone pragmatically using available information, intuition and experience but I can't imagine how it would work.

            The very notion of "fixed rulebook" seems to be a post-Enlightenment idea, not a pre-Enlightenment idea. But there was a crucial use to this: to the extent that you do not stick to precisely the same rulebook between the time you formed a hypothesis and analyze subsequent empirical results, you are in danger of post hoc rationalization.

            What you describe seems in danger of being non-communal and insufficient for aggregating knowledge over space and time. Without a kind of dance between rigidity and change, we risk something very different from "progress".

            However, not having that fixed rulebook doesn't stop me from being able to present reasoned arguments for why an action might be good or bad but it does make it much more difficult for me to apply my views in an authoritarian fashion.

            Your reasoned arguments require a sufficient common ground with others; to the extent this does not approximate a "fixed rulebook" for the duration of the argument, what exactly are you doing? Furthermore, the very notion of "Progress" requires some sort of meta-rulebook which can be used to say that this constitutes 'progress' over what came before. Otherwise, the word 'progress' becomes nothing more than "we prefer". History tells us that human preferences are notoriously fickle.

          • Chris Morris

            "I find that Western education is pretty terrible in this respect." Yes, that was certainly my experience but, as I'm married to someone who taught maths in secondary school for 37 years, I have to believe that this isn't necessarily much more than simply my anecdotal evidence.

            "The very notion of 'fixed rulebook' seems to be a post-Enlightenment idea..." I'm puzzled as to why you think this; surely the Bible would've been a pre-Enlightenment rulebook and a large part of going beyond the Enlightenment is to criticise the over-dependence on fixed plans such as positivist social science and Marxism. The problem with rulebooks, which postmodernism really addresses, is the difficulty of deciding which rulebook should be the correct one to follow. I think that postmodernism is generally a movement to return to communal conversation in the way that Rorty advocates in The Mirror of Nature. Yes, the "dance between rigidity and change" describes it very well although I don't think I've brought up the idea of 'progress' in any of my posts - it's a word I hesitate to use. I would say that, actually, history shows us that societies are generally quite stable so that, in many ways, our preferences are a reasonable measure of social structure and trying to impose too rigid a rulebook can undermine that stability.

          • LB: The very notion of "fixed rulebook" seems to be a post-Enlightenment idea …

            CM: I'm puzzled as to why you think this; surely the Bible would've been a pre-Enlightenment rulebook and a large part of going beyond the Enlightenment is to criticise the over-dependence on fixed plans such as positivist social science and Marxism.

            I'm working off of Stephen Toulmin, who argued in Cosmopolis that there was much more dogmatism in the 17th century than before. We can also explore the Enlightenment hopes of "geometric government"; as usual the French took this idea to the max.

            The problem with rulebooks, which postmodernism really addresses, is the difficulty of deciding which rulebook should be the correct one to follow. I think that postmodernism is generally a movement to return to communal conversation in the way that Rorty advocates in The Mirror of Nature.

            So, counter-Enlightenment over against Enlightenment? Not that Enlightenment delivered nothing of value; it's more that it over-simplified and neglected the importance of the local. That being said, I'm not aware of sources labeling themselves as 'postmodern' as standards-bearers in "a movement to return to communal conversation"; who were you thinking of when you said this?

            Yes, the "dance between rigidity and change" describes it very well although I don't think I've brought up the idea of 'progress' in any of my posts - it's a word I hesitate to use.

            For the purposes of this discussion, we can talk of whether we are accumulating knowledge and wisdom instead of speaking in terms of 'Progress'.

            I would say that, actually, history shows us that societies are generally quite stable so that, in many ways, our preferences are a reasonable measure of social structure and trying to impose too rigid a rulebook can undermine that stability.

            The rigid rulebooks appears to come when a social structure is threatened. Toulmin argues that the fight between Catholics and Protestants induced a lot of rigidity. Thinkers like Descartes and Leibniz desperately sought some more fundamental rulebook which could help prevent something like the Thirty Years' War from ever happening again.

          • Chris Morris

            I'm not sure that Toulmin is making such a general assertion as that there was much more dogmatism after Descartes than before. He's pinpointing quite specific cultural phenomena such as the Renaissance humanism identified with the likes of Erasmus and Montaigne.
            "Not that the Enlightenment delivered nothing of value; it's more that it oversimplified and neglected the importance of the local." Yes, I think I've expressed that view in a couple of places in this conversation.
            "...who were you thinking of when you said this?" Me! (But also Rorty, Wittgenstein, Toulmin, Michael Sandel…) and I think I can live with the idea of accumulating knowledge and wisdom.
            "The rigid rulebook appears to come when a social structure is threatened." Yes, although I'm naturally going to say that in social phenomena it's very difficult to articulate any such direction of causality but, certainly, Toulmin is correct in assigning that intention in the same way that I assigned the same intention to Positivist social scientists earlier.

          • This happened with your more recent comment as well; I shot a quick email off to @bvogt1:disqus. I'll wait a few days to see if he fixes it by then (I figure you and I can wait); if I don't hear from him by then we'll figure something out. Recall that my email is in my Disqus profile.

          • Ficino

            From seven months ago:

            LB

            I have zero obligation to defend a claim I have neither made nor entailed ("unbelievers should accept that the unique claims of Christianity are true").

            As to the proposition, "the unique claims of Christianity are true," do you hold that it is:
            true
            false
            meaningless
            too vague to serve as matter for a response
            you have no opinion
            you have an opinion but decline to state it
            something else?

          • "too vague to serve as matter for a response"

            I've written more below, but here's a summary: We are the instruments with which we measure reality. Any limitation in capability, any miscalibration, and any defects will occlude and distort phenomena. So much human thinking assumes there is no meaningful limitation or distortion. Kant taught us with his Categories that we are preprogrammed to see it all. But what if we have less than 1% of what is required to understand all of reality and to act well in it (e.g. actually eliminate poverty and reduce power differentials which allow the rich to see the poor as ants and treat them accordingly)? I say we need a way of thinking that assumes a finite starting point with huge amounts of distortion. Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings: Piecewise Approximations to Reality is a start, but we need much more.

            I cannot have a profitable conversation on such a complex matter with you until I know you more. If we're both physicists then we can restrict the conversation to matters where we share expertise; our personalities and wider understandings of what is and what ought to be can be [mostly] irrelevant. But if the topic is God, that makes relevant our entire being. A small defect in the instrument over there can all of a sudden matter. If I'm not permitted to examine it—or if I don't permit you to examine me—then maybe we can't get very far. It's simple logic. Ok, now the longer version; feel free to ignore it and respond just to the above.

             
            If your only kind of truth is scientific truth, modeled after physics, then you will think that any proposition which doesn't look like something physicists work with cannot possibly be 'true' or 'false'. That is, you will have an impoverished toolbox for understanding everything which exists out there in reality. Shakespeare: "There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy".

            If we have different toolboxes, then "the unique claims of Christianity are true" will mean something different coming out of your mouth, than it does coming out of my mouth. And that's not all. You might see Jesus as primarily accusing us, which [I am told by my pastor] is how the unclean spirits were describing Jesus before he told them to shut their faces. After all, is God not judge? And yet: "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." So apart from what's in your toolbox, I might greatly disagree with how you understand Christianity. I might think you hold an understanding of 'temple of the LORD' like the one Jeremiah criticized.

            What makes things immeasurably harder for me is that "scientific truth" (even of a slightly wider version than "what physicists do") is set up against noumena and mysteriousness as if that were a true dichotomy, when in fact it's abysmally false. It's like taking Is 55:6–9 and pretending that the first two verses don't exist. I say all sorts of abuse can happen when norms are authoritatively handled by a priestly caste (because they are "mysterious" or "too complex" or "require nuance") and the correct behavior for everyone else is obedience + the most limited form of nonthreatening questioning. If you think this is 'Christianity', I have to fight against that, for it will shape your understanding of all the particulars.

            Yet another difficult aspect is the following:

            Our basic thesis—that we are strategically blind to key aspects of our motives—has been around in some form or another for millennia. It’s been put forward not only by poets, playwrights, and philosophers, but also by countless wise old souls, at least when you catch them in private and in the right sort of mood. And yet the thesis still seems to us neglected in scholarly writings; you can read a mountain of books and still miss it. (The Elephant in the Brain, ix)

            We humans do not want to face ourselves. We pass the buck, tell pretty stories about ourselves and our past, and reward those who flatter us. And yet, I see so much of scripture as piercing through such false beliefs, such self-inflicted delusions. You are meant for something more fantastic than you can possibly imagine, but you must first acknowledge how finite and prone to error you are, amidst the true agency that you have. To be taught we must be teachable. We humans don't like facing the music; if software would show how a hospital can recoup 8% of its net income due to misfiled insurance claims, the CFO will probably say "no" because such software would identify his/her own incompetence. The Bible preaches grace and mercy, but we humans want our pound of flesh. And so things go.

             
            P.S. I'm curious what a Catholic has to say about the above. I see it as almost more Catholic than Protestant in ways, although perhaps I'm making anti-Aquinas assumptions about the corruptibility of the intellect? Anyhow, my sense is that Catholics see the integrity of the whole human being as more important to understanding than so many Protestants.

          • Ficino

            I quoted you from seven months ago because I saw that you referred to that thread in your recent post. I don't foresee a profitable conversation, either, but thank you for answering.

          • Well, if you ever want to put more of yourself out there, I'm willing to reciprocate. I'll even start. As things are now, you seem [to me] to want to stand in the shadows while bright lights are shone on me from all directions.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            P.S. I'm curious what a Catholic has to say about the above.

            Pope Benedict XVI semi-famously quipped -- before he was pope -- that Gaudium et Spes needed more of Martin Luther's thinking ( !! :-) ) as regards to the corrupting effects of sin.

            https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/all-things-catholic/german-pope-heads-land-luther

            It seems to be a seldom-appreciated irony that what we now call "conservative" Catholicism tends to be much more sympathetic to Luther's critiques, while "liberal" Catholicism is in many ways more nearly aligned with pre-Reformation Catholic optimism and "humanism" (certainly this is true if one takes Erasmus as an exemplar of that optimism).

            Personally, although my sympathies often lie with "liberal" Catholicism, I think the "conservative" Catholics (and Martin Luther!) (and Luke Breuer!) are correct to put as much emphasis as they do on the corruptibility of humans.

          • That is a fascinating article; thanks Jim! I'm a bit of a tear these days when it comes to understanding self-righteousness; I wonder if it is the enemy Jesus destroyed on the cross. That is a very strong statement, but the more work I do, the more it seems like it might be right. When sin moves from reparable to irreparable, self-righteousness begins. I wonder if self-righteousness is only cured by carving its sins into Jesus' flesh, deeply believing they are Jesus' at first. But since Jesus is the only one without sin, this belief cannot stick—at least for some.

            So, I am glad that Pope Benedict XVI pushed back against the unwarranted optimism of Gaudium et spes. I still believe the sky is the limit, but more work is required to get there. Or perhaps, the attempt to take shortcuts creates much more work than is actually required. The trick with the noetic effects of sin is that they hard to see! We could see this as a grace: God letting us be aware of that which we can tackle but not too much more. But … are we seeing the iceberg, the tip of the iceberg, or 0.0001% of the problem? I wonder if the right attitude and behavior for the last option actually works well for the first two.

            If you really want to have fun, imagine humans having magical powers where they can just will something and it happens. To the extent that we're screwed up, the result would be more epic wars, not more human flourishing. Maybe it's good we don't have such powers. (And maybe, as C.S. Lewis imagined, we once had them before we abused them too badly. Oh the imagination it is fun!)

          • My first reply was on-topic with respect to the OP; this one is less directly related. (I demonstrate your distorting of the empirical evidence via stereotypes/​definitions.)

            LB: But if one believes that one's higher-ups have any influence on one's immortal soul and not just one's material well-being, keeping one's mouth shut becomes rather alluring. Towing the party line is the safest route.

            JtS: You have the typical Protestant prejudices and little knowledge. Pope Francis(or any Pope before or after him including Saints liek JP2) doesn't decide where I end up in the Afterlife.

            You invalidly strengthened my argument, from "any influence""decide". You claimed in this very comment that "At this point Luke you are all over the place"; I plead with you to question whether you are causing much confusion by seeing your stereotypes of Protestants whenever they disagree with what I've actually said. This is also why I asked the following:

            JtS: Don't see them saying anything about Holy Writ being formally sufficient or the sole rule of Faith either...

            LB: Would you please quote a Reformer whose words, in context, mean what you require them to mean for your words to not be a caricature? If you want to say that disciples of those Reformers, maybe a few generations later, bastardized the original views, I will be unsurprised.

            JtS: You are the typical Protestant Luke. You demand Catholics have to spell out everything with a Bible verse to back it up. Complain when we make arguments from inference but exempt yourself from those standards.

            You have once refused to back up your claim ("inference") with empirical evidence, with what someone actually said. Will you do it again, and not show where I made an inference but refused to support it with evidence upon request? You claim in this very comment that "I want clarity in terms.", and yet you will not provide clarity on whether the understanding of sola scriptura you are promulgating was actually held by the initial Reformers. Apparently, you want me to mindlessly accept that the particular understanding (≈ "definition") you have of sola scriptura matches embodied reality†. Why should I oblige you?

            Jim, I have seen the "logic" you are applying here, applied in plenty of social situations. The group in power claims the right to label things as it chooses. There need be no rationality to this labeling; in fact I've seen them violate natural kind distinctions all over the place, while simultaneously attaching causal reasoning which is only valid when applied to natural kinds. Social power means they don't have to justify themselves; enough people with enough power merely murmur and nod and it is done. I say such "logic" is the antithesis of the "open to reason" of James 3:13–18. If you wish to promulgate the "logic" I have described here, I predict you will drive more people from Catholicism than draw to Catholicism. You may not like the people you draw to Catholicism, either.

             
            † Specifically, matches the initial Reformers.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Any interpretation which can be investigated with reason and evidence in light of the tradition(s) which have shaped us. I would add the belief that we are not above making the kind of error seen in Jeremiah 7; we may disagree on this point.

            That is private interpretation and that fails too. OTOH the Eastern Orthodox do that and doctrinally they are more like us then the Protestants.

            >As to sola fide, you would first have to convince me you have charitably understood Martin Luther.

            Luther contradicted himself more often than not. He rejected reason as "the Devil's Whore" and He often granted himself more authority from God than the most odious authoritarian Pope. OTOH I only wish modern Protestants had his civilized and mostly correct view of the Virgin Mary.

            >None of the above means I sunder myself from tradition like naive versions of sola scriptura have it.

            Sola Scriptura like "weak scientism" is in my experience a moving target.

            >Nevertheless, Jesus embodied a very different understanding of God than existed at the time. The Jews had erred, deeply. Do we have the arrogance to say that we cannot possibly err that deeply?

            Hmm? For an Evangelical you seem to have few Messianic Jewish friends? I might counter from them Jesus held all the Theology of the Pharisees and the fact the middle part of the NT by Rabbi Saul/Paul was written by one. The Jews didn't practice what they preached by the moral lessons of Jesus can be found in some form in the Talmud.

            Anyway that is very interesting to me but it is far afield from claims about Theodicy.

          • JtS: Whose interpretation of Jesus' words? I still shake my head at Luther's Sola Fide view whenever I read James 2:24.

            LB: Any interpretation which can be investigated with reason and evidence in light of the tradition(s) which have shaped us. I would add the belief that we are not above making the kind of error seen in Jeremiah 7; we may disagree on this point.

            JtS: That is private interpretation and that fails too.

            Sorry, exactly what is 'private interpretation'? The bit about "in light of the tradition(s)" or the bit about Jeremiah 7?

            Luther contradicted himself more often than not.

            Sure, and he pointed out how Roman Catholics did the same.

            He rejected reason as "the Devil's Whore" and He often granted himself more authority from God than the most odious authoritarian Pope.

            Did he believe it was ok to execute heretics—something Jesus showed us by example was absolutely ok to do? As to 'reason', I would look at the 'reason' which makes matter and creation out to be evil, or the 'reason' which denies the possibility of creatio ex nihilo. As it turns out, 'reason' can do many different things; just feed it the right axioms & rules of inference. There is good reason to think that more is going on than just 'reason'.

            Sola Scriptura like "weak scientism" is in my experience a moving target.

            Sure. The path is narrow; it is rather easy to turn to the right or the left. The idea that one can just rest in The Right Definitions is just silly. I don't even believe that The Right Definitions are particularly helpful, in the scheme of things. Humans are simply too good at flaunting the spirit of the law while obeying the letter of the law, making disciples twice the sons of hell as they are.

            Anyway that is very interesting to me but it is far afield from claims about Theodicy.

            Contrary to your "I don't think God wants to be "known" rather I think He wants to be loved", I think God does want to be known. We, being finite beings, cannot know him perfectly. You would seem to imprison humanity within something less than knowledge. That does serve as a powerful way to keep religious followers from challenging authority, but I don't see how it is possibly scriptural. Theodicy, I believe, is ultimately a criticism of powerlessness of Christians to fight evil. It simply could not gain much traction with much of anyone were Christians to show some Holy Spirit-powered edge, in fighting evil and blessing people. If one assumes that humans are inherently good, as so much of the Enlightenment did, then the problem cannot possibly be humans. Instead, one simply blames God for not giving humans (and perhaps other creatures) the right materials to live better. Your approach to theodicy has the curious property of not permitting any meaningful criticism of Christians.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Sorry, exactly what is 'private interpretation'? The bit about "in light of the tradition(s)" or the bit about Jeremiah 7?

            Any interpretation you offer in theory which contradicts the Catholic Church.

            >Sure, and he pointed out how Roman Catholics did the same.

            Catholics don't claim omni-infallibilty or sinlessness so his objection was without meaning.

            >Did he believe it was ok to execute heretics—something Jesus showed us by example was absolutely ok to do?

            As far as I know all the main Reformers believed that. But strictly speaking it means the State can execute people who commit treason & since treason threatened the life of the State then it was entitled to self defense and in some cases heresy was seen as treason.

            >As to 'reason', I would look at the 'reason' which makes matter and creation out to be evil, or the 'reason' which denies the possibility of creatio ex nihilo.

            That is an open question. Aquinas believe we can only know creatio ex nihilo is true via divine revelation. I believe Boniventure disagreed? One can take either opinion. As a pratical matter I assume Aquinas' view.

            Without a visible Church with binding authority it's like trying to enforce the Bill of Rights & Constitution without a US Government. That leads to Chaos which is what Protestantism has been since it's inception.

            >Contrary to your "I don't think God wants to be "known" rather I think He wants to be loved", I think God does want to be known.

            Our Knowing of God is threw love and as you say we cannot have absolute knowledge of God but I would add we cannot in principle know what God is as God as God in His nature is incomprehensible.

            I hope that clears it up.

            >Theodicy, I believe, is ultimately a criticism of powerlessness of Christians to fight evil.

            Classic Theodicy is merely the philosophical arguments by which we arive at the natural knowledge of God's existence. Modern Theodicy is an attempt to offer moral justification for an alledgidly moral agent God (i.e moral agent in the unieqivocal way rational creatures are moral agents) inaction or delayed action in the face of evil.

            Since God is not a moral agent like creatures and connot coherent be concieved as one then Theodicies are non-starters and I would add no modern theodicy succeeds in defending an "all powerful" theisitic personalist so called "deity".

            That seems obvious.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Do you have good definitions for 'intuitive' and 'comprehensive', as you use them here?
            >However, I want to know the nature of this 'intuitive' which is somehow … more complete?

            If I knew the Beatific Vision I would A) be a far more pleasant person then I am now. b) I doubt I could describe it since Aquinas on His Death bed received a brief glimpse of God given as a divine gift. He then dropped his pen and refused to finish the Summa calling it straw. That is his greatest theological lesson.

            >Taking this back to the matter of theodicy, surely a huge part of loving God is to do what he does. The apprentice learns by imitating the master. Jesus only did what he saw the father doing and we are to follow in Jesus' footsteps. But all of a sudden I have given a foothold to those posing an evidential problem of evil, for I am only to fight evil if God fights evil.

            Why does this have to do with the failure of theodicy? We Christians have duties to God and the Incarnate God. That is not in dispute. I am by the Grace of God a Catholic Christian.

            >But all of a sudden I have given a foothold to those posing an evidential problem of evil, for I am only to fight evil if God fights evil.

            God by definition doesn't fight evil. At a time of His choosing He will neutralize Evil. It won't be much of a fight. Trying playing any Video Game using Cheatcodes that grants you "godmode" . & watcht the bad guys fall.

            I fight evil because I am a moral agent and it is my duty to God and my fellows.

            >The apprentice learns by imitating the master.

            We can imitate the Human things Jesus does but we really can't imitate the divine. So you lost me at this point....

          • If I knew the Beatific Vision I would A) be a far more pleasant person then I am now.

            Oh c'mon:

            No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:13)

            (Feel free to produce the interpretation of that approved by the Magisterium.) Logically, either God has not provided you enough grace and mercy to be more pleasant, or that you simply don't want to be more pleasant. I think too highly of God to believe the former.

            I doubt I could describe it since Aquinas on His Death bed received a brief glimpse of God given as a divine gift. He then dropped his pen and refused to finish the Summa calling it straw. That is his greatest theological lesson.

            Given your intense focus on philosophy over theology, I don't see how it is a lesson you have taken to heart.

            LB: Taking this back to the matter of theodicy, surely a huge part of loving God is to do what he does. The apprentice learns by imitating the master. Jesus only did what he saw the father doing and we are to follow in Jesus' footsteps. But all of a sudden I have given a foothold to those posing an evidential problem of evil, for I am only to fight evil if God fights evil.

            JtS: Why does this have to do with the failure of theodicy?

            Why should I fight evil if Jesus did not fight evil?

            God by definition doesn't fight evil. At a time of His choosing He will neutralize Evil. It won't be much of a fight. Trying playing any Video Game using Cheatcodes that grants you "godmode" . & watcht the bad guys fall.

            When you use cheat codes, the result has no value.

            We can imitate the Human things Jesus does but we really can't imitate the divine.

            Then why does Paul say "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children."?

          • Jim the Scott

            >(Feel free to produce the interpretation of that approved by the Magisterium.)

            It is easier to dismiss one not formally endorsed by it or seemingly contradicting it.

            >Logically, either God has not provided you enough grace and mercy to be more pleasant, or that you simply don't want to be more pleasant. I think too highly of God to believe the former.

            Rather God have given me truly sufficient grace to be more pleasant and my lack of it can be my own fault too. But my personal failings are between me and my Father Confessor.

            > I think too highly of God to believe the former.

            God never directly wills my willful faults of course. That is beyond dispute.
            I am no Calvinist. I suspect most Calvinists aren't Calvinists just Augustinians or Scholastics in training which is much better.

            >Given your intense focus on philosophy over theology, I don't see how it is a lesson you have taken to heart.

            I can only try and hope to take it fully to heart.

            >Why should I fight evil if Jesus did not fight evil?

            You are obligated to follow His will and Jesus will deal with Evil in His Time nor yours nor mine.

            >When you use cheat codes, the result has no value.

            We don't really have "value" to God in that He gets nothing out of creating us. For Him it is pure Gratuitous Benevelance on his part to create and redeem us. Tt is the way He choose from all eternity to express that perfection. He could have done something else inexplicible to us to express it.
            Why he does A when he could have done B is a mystery we cannot in principle know.

            >"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children."?'

            That is not absolute just like "If they right eye offend thee etc".

          • LB: (Feel free to produce the interpretation of that approved by the Magisterium.)

            JtS: It is easier to dismiss one not formally endorsed by it or seemingly contradicting it.

            Curious; not only do you want to assume Catholic interpretation, you don't even want to articulate it. Well, I suppose I won't get an answer from you, but I'd love to know what the Magisterium's take on "Outdo one another in showing honor." is. I would think that includes finding what one thinks is correct in the other's statements, even if there is stuff one thinks is incorrect. That would also appear to be obedience to Heb 5:14, unless I'm being a filthy Protestant in how I'm interpreting it.

            You are obligated to follow His will and Jesus will deal with Evil in His Time nor yours nor mine.

            I don't know how that is possibly consistent with Jesus being able to do no great work in one town because of the lack of faith. Nor do I see how it is possibly consistent with Isaiah 59:14–21, where God takes action to fight injustice only when no human is left who will do it. But I guess since I haven't stated explicit Magisterial teaching on these matters to you, you can dismiss them as "not formally endorsed by it or seemingly contradicting it"?

            Note that if we believers are falling woefully short in fighting evil, that could easily show up as more evil and less human flourishing than atheists and skeptics have been taught to expect. They might then gain confidence that there is evidence that God's power is evidently not at work in any easily discernible way. Unlike Roman times before Constantine made Christianity the established religion, when Christians' charity was on display and obnoxious to the non-Christian powers that were.

            We don't really have "value" to God in that He gets nothing out of creating us. For Him it is pure Gratuitous Benevelance on his part to create and redeem us.

            As far as I can tell, "pure Gratuitous Benevelance" absolutely requires creatio ex nihilo, and yet you cannot say with confidence that natural theology can establish creatio ex nihilo. Agree, or disagree? I say this is rather relevant to an expectation of God being "good", which surely undergirds any evidential problem of evil. You say natural theology prohibits us from saying that God is obligated to be good to us; I say that for all we know, natural theology does not permit us to say much of anything about God's goodness!

            Why he does A when he could have done B is a mystery we cannot in principle know.

            I don't think I've stated or logically implied I have any problem with this?

            JtS: We can imitate the Human things Jesus does but we really can't imitate the divine.

            LB: Then why does Paul say "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children."?

            JtS: That is not absolute just like "If they right eye offend thee etc".

            Given how much you despise theistic personalism (whatever you mean by that), why do you think Paul would dare say to imitate God—not just imitate Christ? As far as I can tell, both Jews and Muslims would be horrified to hear someone give the command, "Imitate God!" Muslims are renowned for despising any anthropomorphizing of God. It seems to me that Paul is willing for there to be more similarity between us and God, similarity which might show up in the expectations of "less evil, more flourishing" which I say play a part in the evidential problem of evil.

            See, if the NAB translators were wise in translating sunergos as "co-workers", then that indicates a shocking similarity between God and human. If we take seriously your claim that God is not obligated to fight evil and promote flourishing and take seriously my claim that he operates instead by gift, then might it be the case that we are to do the same? The slide from willing gift to grudging obligation, epitomized by Immanuel Kant, would be a slide away from imitating God. Any evidential problem of evil founded on obligation would be a similar degradation. One option is to dismiss the whole thing; another is to say that there is a much better way to frame it: somehow, some of us have been to expect more gift than we see. From there, we can reason that the fault is God's and/or ours. I say that pursuit of this line of reasoning shows the fault to be ours—Christians', in particular.

            A beauty of this approach is that it gets us humans away from slavery to obligation. Perhaps it can even be shown that the political and economic powers benefit from slavery to obligation, because they generally get more out than they put in, while the average person puts in more than [s]he gets out. Perhaps one can show that slavery to obligation was greatly strengthened by the Enlightenment focus on "you are not your brother's keeper"—that is, a relationless liberalism where you only have to "not harm" your fellow human. Perhaps this enclosure upon the self—Augustine used the term incurvatus in se. If we refuse to be creative in looking out for each other and building each other up (being careful not to dominate each other), obligation is the only way left to keep the peace. Mere obligation is a pitiful existence.

            It makes me sad that all this is hidden when you and others insist on restricting the discussion to natural theology and implicit Catholic doctrine. Surely there is some significant overlap between Catholic doctrine and what I've written, above?

          • Mark

            As to sola fide, you would first have to convince me you have charitably understood Martin Luther

            Luther is the one with the theological novum assertions. The burden of proof for these assertions are not on Catholics. If Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura were true I would expect to find them not only in the Bible but somewhere in the first 1500 years of Christian dialogue, but neither is the case.

            The apprentice learns by imitating the master. Jesus only did what he saw the father doing

            Theological assertion that sounds to me heretical against homoousious. You might choose better wording to make whatever point you're trying to make.

            Scripture is my only defense against the religious elite

            You might consider a better defense, one that is logical: If you assume the truth and authority of an inerrant canon of Scripture, you do so only by assuming the truth and authority of the Catholic Tradition (the very thing you are arguing against) or the truth and authority of Luke B. And if the latter, why should I be compelled by Luke B's Scriptural authority and not that of the Magesterium's, Calvin's, Luther's, Zwingli's, or Joseph Smith's?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura were true
            I think Luke's point is that Luther's position is only very crudely caricatured by the "sola fide" label. Luther (like Paul himself) actually went to substantial lengths to clarify that he actually did NOT believe that works and the moral life were unimportant. He was rather saying that works alone, even if 100% "by the books", are not sufficient. He was emphasizing that works attained soteriological efficacy only if they flowed from a welcoming of God's grace. Since Catholics themselves are not Pelagians, it is actually quite hard to find whatever subtle difference exists between Luther's position and the Catholic Church's on this topic.

            For those interested in greater detail, I can heartily recommend this book which is eminently readable and fascinating. I'm about 1/2 way through it right now.

          • Mark

            If you redefine faith alone as grace alone I might agree. I'll put the book on my reading list. Having read much Luther I won't be convinced that's what Luther meant (initially), but I'm open to historical interpretation. Luther opened pandora's box and he spent some time trying to un-ring the bell, most of that latter Luther is what I haven't read. Thanks Jim.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thanks. I'd be interested to hear what you think if you do read it. Whatever low esteem you may have for various Lutheran and Protestant doctrines as they have developed over the years, I think you will find it hard to read the story of Luther himself without being extremely sympathetic to the guy.

          • Mark

            I am sympathetic to the guy actually. I believe he suffered from what we would now call OCD. He was intellectually gifted and his scrupulosity had to be unbearable at times. I see much of his theological inclinations a result of psychologically breaking fee of the self-imposed burden of the confessional. I actually love the quote, "...to go against conscious is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God." True regardless of which side of the Tiber you're on. But in regards to sola grace or sola fide; I can't reconcile sola grace with, "Sin cannot tear you away from Him, even though you commit adultery a hundred times a day and commit as many murders." I just don't picture genocidal adulterers that once made an altar call in any part of the beatific vision. My understanding is Luther viewed murdering and philandering married men as having a relationship with a demon. I honestly have nothing there; maybe why I should read the book.

          • LB: As to sola fide, you would first have to convince me you have charitably understood Martin Luther.

            M: Luther is the one with the theological novum assertions. The burden of proof for these assertions are not on Catholics. If Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura were true I would expect to find them not only in the Bible but somewhere in the first 1500 years of Christian dialogue, but neither is the case.

            That has nothing to do with charitably understanding Luther. Charitable understanding doesn't mean that you end up with something True. Protestants in the Reformation did plenty of relying on tradition. As best I can understand, they were simply willing to let tradition have some amount of error, and trust that God provided scriptures which could help rescue us from that error, as they evidently did for prophets in the OT.

            LB: Taking this back to the matter of theodicy, surely a huge part of loving God is to do what he does. The apprentice learns by imitating the master. Jesus only did what he saw the father doing and we are to follow in Jesus' footsteps.

            M: Theological assertion that sounds to me heretical against homoousious. You might choose better wording to make whatever point you're trying to make.

            Jesus' claim that he is the vine and we are the branches and that we are to abide in him and he in us "sounds to me heretical against homoousious". The same goes with John saying "Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." Now of course we are finite beings while God is infinite, so this participation in one substance will always be incomplete. But anything less would be God holding us at a distance and when I read through the scriptures, I see humans as being the ones who want the distance. Deut 5:22–33 and 1 Sam 8 are good examples of this, but there is also Joshua's response in Num 11:24–30. Anyhow, there's some of my reasoning; you provided me none of yours.

            LB: Scripture is my only defense against the religious elite recapitulating this pattern: [Rom 2:23–24]

            M: You might consider a better defense, one that is logical: If you assume the truth and authority of an inerrant canon of Scripture, you do so only by assuming the truth and authority of the Catholic Tradition (the very thing you are arguing against) or the truth and authority of Luke B.

            Shall we discuss whether scripture was canonized via authoritarian hierarchical power or egalitarian agreement? I can also point you to conversations @randygritter:disqus and I had on precisely this matter, here on SN. As to "authority of the Catholic Tradition", that tradition includes the execution of heretics (whether directly or by instigating secular authorities to do it) and I cannot find any reason to believe Jesus would have been ok with that. In fact, Jesus himself was executed by the secular authorities at the behest of the religious elite. Jesus was disrupting societal order, you see.

            And if the latter, why should I be compelled by Luke B's Scriptural authority and not that of the Magesterium's, Calvin's, Luther's, Zwingli's, or Joseph Smith's?

            Why would you see any of them as being absolutely compelling? The RCC is as guilty of schism as Protestants, as can be seen with Cardinal Humbert's letter of excommunication to the West which included the fallacious claim that they had omitted the Filioque, when in fact the RCC had added it in contravention to the Third Ecumenical Council. Rome became used to acting with sole authority, in part due to the disintegration of the Roman Empire around it. Where Israel was to be a light to the nations (Deut 4:6–8) with fixed borders (Num 34), Rome decided to expand its dominion to all of Europe. The amount of power-grasping is well indicated by Unam sanctam; the Wikipedia article notes that Pope Boniface "reminded [the French clergy] that previous popes had deposed three French kings". It shouldn't be surprising that such power-grasping would distort both doctrine and practice.

            There is a tendency among at least some humans which I have observed in my tens of thousands of hours talking to atheists: it rankles that God would work towards perfection, through imperfection. The purest form of this is perhaps Would God Create Perfect Creatures? – A Christian/​Atheist Dialogue. (That's an SN article.) It is as if we are Archimedes and need a fulcrum of Pure Truth on which to place our lever, after which we can move the world into Right Alignment. And of course, my group has privileged access to said fulcrum. What if this is just false? Would that necessarily make God "not good"? Or is it that we have yet to learn to live without authority structures built on "lord it over" / "exercise authority over"?

          • Mark

            As best I can understand, they were simply willing to let tradition have some amount of error, and trust that God provided scriptures which could help rescue us from that error, as they evidently did for prophets in the OT.

            That is a charitable way to see it. An LDS member uses the same reasoning to arrive at the truth of the Church of the LDS. Just substitute "prophets in the OT" with "prophet Joseph Smith". It may not make your bosom burn, but it does for LDS members.

            "sounds to me heretical against homoousious" means it sounds like there is a separation of Will the way you phrase it. I don't think you intend to make it sound the way it sounds. Maybe you do, homoousious and Trinity are not found in the Scripture, therefore, the Catholic Church may have made them up.

            Shall we discuss whether scripture was canonized via authoritarian hierarchical power or egalitarian agreement?

            I'm not really interested in a red herring alternate Reformed history debate. The Catholic church handed humanity the Bible as a tool for salvation and some Protestants use it as a weapon against Her. I'm also not interested uncharitable jabs at Her or any other ad hominem arguments. If you want to give me reason why I should accept the truth and authority of you or your denomination of Christianity's teaching it would be faster than poking holes in the Magisterial teachings and the teachings of the other 30k denominations of Protestantism which seems your default tactic. Unlike Randy I'm not going to chase every Reformed red herring assertion you make.
            You may feel free to continue your dialogue with Jim the Scott on theodicy. I just noted if you got a problem with Catholic Tradition then you have, by definition, a problem with Scripture since one is the source of the other. If you have a formula for how to cherry pick the aspects of the Tradition that has authority for you I would be interested. Otherwise, I'm not interested in any particular proof text of Scripture you offer until you can articulate that supposition.

          • LB: As best I can understand, they were simply willing to let tradition have some amount of error, and trust that God provided scriptures which could help rescue us from that error, as they evidently did for prophets in the OT.

            M: That is a charitable way to see it. An LDS member uses the same reasoning to arrive at the truth of the Church of the LDS. Just substitute "prophets in the OT" with "prophet Joseph Smith". It may not make your bosom burn, but it does for LDS members.

            So we don't get stuck in abstractions, would you point me to an instance where this is what LDS members do? I would be especially interested in what they do with Deut 18:15–22 and 12:32–13:5.

            LB: The apprentice learns by imitating the master. Jesus only did what he saw the father doing

            M: Theological assertion that sounds to me heretical against homoousious. You might choose better wording to make whatever point you're trying to make.

            M: "sounds to me heretical against homoousious" means it sounds like there is a separation of Will the way you phrase it.

            Sorry, could you spell out how I'm implying "a separation of Will"? I should think that "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise." is the opposite of "a separation of Will". I'm fully confused.

            LB: Scripture is my only defense against the religious elite recapitulating this pattern: [Rom 2:23–24]

            M: You might consider a better defense, one that is logical: If you assume the truth and authority of an inerrant canon of Scripture, you do so only by assuming the truth and authority of the Catholic Tradition (the very thing you are arguing against) or the truth and authority of Luke B.

            LB: Shall we discuss whether scripture was canonized via authoritarian hierarchical power or egalitarian agreement?

            M: I'm not really interested in a red herring alternate Reformed history debate.

            Ok, we can leave your false dichotomy unexplored.

          • Mark

            As best I can understand, they were simply willing to let tradition have some amount of error, and trust that God provided scriptures which could help rescue us from that error, as they evidently did for prophetsof the OT (Joseph Smith).

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2J3VIoXyj5E

            Sorry, could you spell out how I'm implying "a separation of Will"?

            The analogy of a master and an apprentice is a terrible analogy for the Trinity. Because a master has an intellect and will that is separate from the intellect and will of the apprentice. The apprentice may want to align his intellect and will with the master, but that is not a Trinitarian relationship of persons. There again, this is based on Catholic and apostolic Tradition since Trinity is found no where in the Bible. Many "Christians" that use Scriptural authority don't believe in the Trinity. (LDS, JWs, Oneness Pentecostals, United Church of God.)

            Ok, we can leave your false dichotomy unexplored

            Okay, Charitably I didn't specifically ask. Do you assume and/or believe in the truth and authority of an inerrant canon of Scripture?

          • LB: As best I can understand, they were simply willing to let tradition have some amount of error, and trust that God provided scriptures which could help rescue us from that error, as they evidently did for prophets in the OT.

            M: That is a charitable way to see it. An LDS member uses the same reasoning to arrive at the truth of the Church of the LDS. Just substitute "prophets in the OT" with "prophet Joseph Smith". It may not make your bosom burn, but it does for LDS members.

            LB: So we don't get stuck in abstractions, would you point me to an instance where this is what LDS members do? I would be especially interested in what they do with Deut 18:15–22 and 12:32–13:5.

            M: [YouTube video "The Bible and Authority | Basic Mormonism #1"]

            I don't see how that video is an example of what I described; when I wrote "trust that God provided scriptures which could help rescue us from that error", I thought it was obvious that I was referring to extant scriptures. Those are the scriptures I keep quoting from, which you and others keep describing as "prooftexting". In contrast, Mormons have added scriptures. That's a very big difference.

            LB: Taking this back to the matter of theodicy, surely a huge part of loving God is to do what he does. The apprentice learns by imitating the master. Jesus only did what he saw the father doing and we are to follow in Jesus' footsteps.

            M: Theological assertion that sounds to me heretical against homoousious. You might choose better wording to make whatever point you're trying to make.

            M: The analogy of a master and an apprentice is a terrible analogy for the Trinity.

            My apologies; I meant it as an analogy for our relationship with Jesus. I think that is more obvious when you include the context of my words, which I put in strikethrough because you excluded them from your quotation. Bringing this back to the evidential problem of evil, perhaps more Christians following more in Jesus' footsteps would reduce the amount of evil and increase the amount of blessing in this world. Were Christians to do this in a way that is sufficiently perspicuous (like it was before Constantine), perhaps the evidential problem of evil would seem silly.

            LB: Scripture is my only defense against the religious elite recapitulating this pattern: [Rom 2:23–24]

            M: You might consider a better defense, one that is logical: If you assume the truth and authority of an inerrant canon of Scripture, you do so only by assuming the truth and authority of the Catholic Tradition (the very thing you are arguing against) or the truth and authority of Luke B.

            LB: Shall we discuss whether scripture was canonized via authoritarian hierarchical power or egalitarian agreement?

            M: I'm not really interested in a red herring alternate Reformed history debate.

            LB: Ok, we can leave your false dichotomy unexplored.

            M: Okay, Charitably I didn't specifically ask. Do you assume and/or believe in the truth and authority of an inerrant canon of Scripture?

            That is not what I was referring to with "false dichotomy". I meant that the RCC of 325 AD is not necessarily the same as the RCC of 1302, in the respects required for "the Catholic Tradition" to be univocal. But you don't seem to want to dive into this, characterizing it as "a red herring".

          • Shall we discuss whether scripture was canonized via authoritarian hierarchical power or egalitarian agreement? I can also point you to conversations Randy Gritter and I had on precisely this matter, here on SN. As to "authority of the Catholic Tradition", that tradition includes the execution of heretics (whether directly or by instigating secular authorities to do it) and I cannot find any reason to believe Jesus would have been ok with that. In fact, Jesus himself was executed by the secular authorities at the behest of the religious elite. Jesus was disrupting societal order, you see.

            You misunderstood much of the point here. Some process or other revealed infallibly the canon of scripture. Whether you call it authoritarian hierarchical power or egalitarian agreement is not that important. The question is whether it was unique. Were any other truths revealed by God in a similar way? There are certainly many doctrines that Protestants reject that were just as widely believed. So it seems quite arbitrary to accept one such teaching and not all of them. It also seems a lot like the notion of tradition that the Reformers rejected.

            Now some Protestants have tried to find a consistent principle that would give the right answers. That is drawing a non-arbitrary line between the Catholic teachings they think are right and those they think are in error. I know I tried to do that. Keith Mathison tried in a more scholarly way in this book.
            https://www.amazon.ca/Shape-Sola-Scriptura-Keith-Mathison/dp/1885767749/ref=sr_1_4?qid=1554667667&refinements=p_27%3AKeith+A.+Mathison&s=books&sr=1-4

            Ultimately it all fails. Any notion that long and widely held beliefs in Christendom have to be true can be used to defend the Marian doctrines, Eucharistic doctrines, doctrines of church authority, etc.

            Now you also misunderstand the Catholic idea of sacred tradition. There were executions of heretics. Yet the execution of heretics never became part of sacred tradition. So Catholics do have a consistent principle but it is not simply that everything the church did was wonderful. Some sins persisted widely for a long time. The question is whether it made it into the magisterial teaching. That is the Catholic principle that makes your objection about heretics fail. That practice never became part of Catholic sacred tradition.

          • David Nickol

            That practice never became part of Catholic sacred tradition.

            I am a little confused. My understanding of tradition is that it is the knowledge of revelation from the apostolic era handed down within the Church.

            83 The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus' teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition.

            Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium.

            The execution of heretics would seem to fall in the second category above, so even if it had continued from the Middle Ages right up to today, unless some way had been found to justify it relying on apostolic authority, it wouldn't be Tradition.

          • Yes, it is the magisterium and particularly the office of pope that is protected from error by the Holy Spirit. It can take the form of a definitive statement or it can be based on a number of less definitive statements over a long period of time. The claim is that the Holy Spirit will not let the Church make unrecoverable of errors. So mistakes that churchmen make will never reach the status of irreformable doctrine.

          • You misunderstood much of the point here. Some process or other revealed infallibly the canon of scripture. Whether you call it authoritarian hierarchical power or egalitarian agreement is not that important.

            Sorry, but I insist that the process of decision is exceedingly important. I take Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–30 very seriously and I doubt you can do anything to change that seriousness. You are always welcome to explicate the Roman Catholic understanding of those passages; perhaps you will convince me I have been understanding them incorrectly. One of my long-term projects has been to try to understand the upside-down aspect of 1 Cor 1:18–2:13. I think the Matthew and Luke passages play into that, but of course I could be wrong—I am no Magisterium.

            There are certainly many doctrines that Protestants reject that were just as widely believed. So it seems quite arbitrary to accept one such teaching and not all of them.

            To which teaching(s) are you referring, which are relevant to the context of any discussion in this comments section, which virtually all Christians around the time of the First Council of Nicaea believed but Protestants have now rejected? Here's the only list I see in your comment:

            Any notion that long and widely held beliefs in Christendom have to be true can be used to defend the Marian doctrines, Eucharistic doctrines, doctrines of church authority, etc.

            The only relevant instance seems to be "doctrines of church authority". And yet, there you and I had a strong disagreement: I said that "first among equals" is utterly incompatible with "Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." (Unam sanctam) The Eastern Orthodox appear to agree with me; see for example Orthodox Wiki: Primus inter pares. There is also the excerpt I provided from Timothy Ware's The Orthodox Church; Ware is now Bishop Kallistos Ware.

            LB: Scripture is my only defense against the religious elite

            M: You might consider a better defense, one that is logical: If you assume the truth and authority of an inerrant canon of Scripture, you do so only by assuming the truth and authority of the Catholic Tradition (the very thing you are arguing against) or the truth and authority of Luke B.

            LB: As to "authority of the Catholic Tradition", that tradition includes the execution of heretics (whether directly or by instigating secular authorities to do it) and I cannot find any reason to believe Jesus would have been ok with that. In fact, Jesus himself was executed by the secular authorities at the behest of the religious elite. Jesus was disrupting societal order, you see.

            RG: Now you also misunderstand the Catholic idea of sacred tradition. There were executions of heretics. Yet the execution of heretics never became part of sacred tradition.

            You are technically correct, but my point stands with slight modification: Infallible Church Tradition contains nothing I know of which prohibits any and all execution of heretics, whether direct or indirect. One way of putting this is that Exsurge Domine #33 is not formally heresy within the Roman Catholic Church. Because of the slightly odd wording, here's what I quoted to you before:

            In virtue of our pastoral office committed to us by the divine favor we can under no circumstances tolerate or overlook any longer the pernicious poison of the above errors without disgrace to the Christian religion and injury to orthodox faith. Some of these errors we have decided to include in the present document; their substance is as follows:⋮20. They are seduced who believe that indulgences are salutary and useful for the fruit of the spirit.⋮33. That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.⋮37. Purgatory cannot be proved from Sacred Scripture which is in the canon. (Exsurge Domine)

            I suspect this violates your intuitions so much today that you originally got the negation the other way 'round: "Pope Leo said burning heretics at the state was not the will of the Holy Spirit." Given the clause I quoted from Dignitatis Humanae when I pointed out #33 from Exsurge Domine, I can understand your confusion. Anyhow, since it has long been claimed that nothing in Infallible Church Tradition is contradictory, I have to conclude that maybe the RCC thinks it's still ok to execute heretics. Therefore, scripture is my only defense against the ultimate act of "lord it over" / "exercise authority over": the execution of heretics.

            Now some Protestants have tried to find a consistent principle that would give the right answers. That is drawing a non-arbitrary line between the Catholic teachings they think are right and those they think are in error.

            You and I disagree on whether getting doctrine right is the first step (or one of the first) to getting that unity Jesus describes in Jn 17:20–23 and the love of all brothers and sisters in Christ he describes in Jn 13:34–35. In discussion with you, multiple times I point out that when Paul faced a factious church, he said "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." He went back to basics. This can be contrasted with Cardinal Humbert declaring excommunication based on the [false] allegation that the East had excluded† the Filioque, or Protestants and Catholics wrangling over purgatory. As far as I can tell, both of those are more complex issues than Jesus Christ and him crucified. It's not that more complex doctrine is unimportant; the author of Heb 5:11–6:3 clearly wants to move on to such doctrines. But he can only do that with those who have learned to discern between what is kalos and what is kakos—a component, I claim, which is part of spiritually maturity.

            That discernment the author of Hebrews talked about connects doctrine and practice. When I brought up Mt 23:1-4 our extended discussion, you immediately jumped on the fact that Jesus is telling his hearers to obey the Pharisees because they hold an Office—Moses' seat. I contended that Jesus affirmed their teaching as correct and condemned their practice as terrible. I asked how he could know that their practice was terrible, given that they surely thought and taught that their practice was correct. To my recollection, you never answered that utterly critical question. It is almost as if you wanted to extract the one bit you liked from the passage (obey because of the Office) and reject any other comparison (e.g. they might not practice what they preach). And I'm not talking about obvious falling short, where the religious elite are careful to note that they fall short. I'm talking about something like what Jesus describes in Matthew 23, where the religious elite think they're practicing just fine and yet are so far from the mark that it was correct to call them "whitewashed tombs".

             
            † In fact, the Roman Catholic Church had added the Filioque, in contravention to the Third Ecumenical Council (excerpt). The claim is that they were merely updating the creed to reflect what was always meant, but it was done non-ecumenically (that is, via "exercise authority over" / "lord it over"). While not relevant to the point I'm making where I mention the Filioque, this is an excellent example of the Roman Catholic Church exceeding the East's understanding of "first among equals".

          • Sorry, but I insist that the process of decision is exceedingly important. I take Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–30 very seriously and I doubt you can do anything to change that seriousness. You are always welcome to explicate the Roman Catholic understanding of those passages; perhaps you will convince me I have been understanding them incorrectly. One of my long-term projects has been to try to understand the upside-down aspect of 1 Cor 1:18–2:13. I think the Matthew and Luke passages play into that, but of course I could be wrong—I am no Magisterium.

            I don't think my understanding of these passages is any different from yours. I don' think I view them as any less important. I just don't see how they tell us anything about whether we should choose Protestant leaders or Catholic ones. I have pointed out what Jesus says in Luke 22 after the part you like to quote points to both apostolic authority and petrine primacy. So ye, Jesus agrees with me and sees your position on these texts as totally consistent with a Catholic hierarchy.

            To which teaching(s) are you referring, which are relevant to the context of any discussion in this comments section, which virtually all Christians around the time of the First Council of Nicaea believed but Protestants have now rejected?

            Like all of them. Bl John Henry Newman talks about Baptismal Regeneration and compares it to the tradition behind the book of Philemon. His point is that if you believe Philemon is part of the canon, as Protestants do, but reject baptismal regeneration, as Protestants do, then you are hugely inconsistent.

            You can multiple examples of this endlessly. Basically everything Protestants don't like about Catholicism was there before Nicea.

            Anyway, I am going to Rome for a couple weeks so I won't be able to spend much time on this. Maybe I will say more after Easter.

          • Sample1

            As an atheist, if I had to choose a flavor of Christianity, no-god forbid!, it would be extremely difficult to ignore the apostolically founded churches (RCC, Armenian, Orthodox, Coptic, etc.) as possessing a legitimacy that is absent in later interpolations. The rest is commentary.

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Anyway, I am going to Rome for a couple weeks so I won't be able to spend much time on this. Maybe I will say more after Easter.

            Have fun in Rome! I will set a reminder on my calendar to respond around May 1, if you don't reply earlier.

          • I was in the crypt under the high altar at St Peter's Basilica in Rome. Lots of Popes buried there including St Peter himself and St John Paul II. One that made me think of you is Boniface VIII. He is not a saint. Unam Sanctam is likely the reason he was never canonized. It is generally regarded as an ill-advised document but it does meet the conditions for infallibility. Does it contradict "first among equals?" You assert it does but people happily go on believing both. Can you believe that God communicates the truth of the gospel through the papacy and still think the pope should not act as a dictator? Catholicism requires you believe both. Catholicism often take the both/and approach when other insist on the either/or. If you are looking for a contradiction that con be frustrating but if you are charitably trying to make Catholicism work it is not a problem.

            One thing to understand about this is that accepting the bible as the true gospel does meet this condition. How do we get the bible? From the authority of the church. How does that work? Through the papacy? So anyone who accepts the inerrancy of scripture really does indirectly accept the authority of the pope. For me, that help make clear that if someone rejected all the authoritative teaching of the popes that it is difficult to see anything approaching a Christian faith.

            There is the notion in Catholicism that ignorance can make a person less culpable for serious sins. Protestants denying the direct authority of the pope are less culpable if they are honestly ignorant of how God uses the papacy in leading His people. King Phillip of France in 1302 might not have that same ignorance.

            The same notion goes with the Filioque. You see a contradiction. I don't. I don't think the reformers did. They followed the West's position on the Filioque. The West is simply right. That is something you need to get used to as a Christian. That your opinion does not matter as much as it did when you were Protestant. What do I think? Is the key question for Protestants. What does God reveal? Is the key question for Catholics.

            Could Eastern Orthodoxy be right? No. The Council of Florence in 1438-39 should be a legit ecumenical council by their own standards. If it is then they should obey it because the Holy Spirit was leading the church. Yet they don't. They rejected it simply because it was unpopular. That makes Eastern Orthodoxy self-contradictory. Whatever method God is using to lead He church it should be one that is internally consistent. Protestantism is not. Easter Orthodoxy is not. Catholicism is.

          • Good to have you back, Randy.

            Unam Sanctam is likely the reason he was never canonized. It is generally regarded as an ill-advised document but it does meet the conditions for infallibility.

            Wait a second, Unam sanctam is considered 'infallible'? I've had problems properly understanding infallibility, so perhaps you could confirm and indicate whether it is 100% infallible, infallible in parts, etc. I'm especially confused by the idea that God would want poorly stated† things to become infallible. Surely he could do better if he wanted?

            † What you said was "Unam sanctam is not the best statement about the Papacy."; I don't know if you'd say that constitutes "poorly stated".

            Can you believe that God communicates the truth of the gospel through the papacy and still think the pope should not act as a dictator? Catholicism requires you believe both. Catholicism often take the both/and approach when other insist on the either/or.

            Yes, I have been accused of either/or thinking by Catholics several times by now. I would like to learn more about this both/and approach, especially given that according to classical logic, once you admit a contradiction, any statement can be proven true as well as proven false: see principle of explosion. Now, you can argue after the style of Alvin Plantinga in his free will defense that there is no true contradiction; he goes about this by explaining how a strict logical analysis shows no contradiction, then by showing some plausible additional premises which yield the contradiction, then by presenting an alternative additional premise which supplants the contradiction-introducing plausible premises and does not yield a contradiction. Make sense? The idea is that an apparent contradiction can be evidence of a bad, suppressed premise. Such premises can be drawn from one's plausibility structure and be part of the world to which we are not to conform. (Rom 12:1–2—I'm hoping Catholics can agree with the extremely slight amount of interpretation this Protestant just did)

            If you are looking for a contradiction that con be frustrating but if you are charitably trying to make Catholicism work it is not a problem.

            I think this is a bad way to look at it. A harsh view can be rebutted by making what is implicit, explicit—like Plantinga did. (One can rage against Plantinga assuming an anthropomorphized deity all one wants; that is not what I am focusing on in using him as an example.) Satan loves what remains in darkness. God wants us to bring such things into the light to expose them.

            So anyone who accepts the inerrancy of scripture really does indirectly accept the authority of the pope.

            Your hidden premise is that the RCC today is 100% continuous with the body of believers which gathered at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. I say it isn't; I say that plenty of Christians in 325 who voted on what would be canon would have rejected "Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." Do you disagree?

            That is something you need to get used to as a Christian. That your opinion does not matter as much as it did when you were Protestant.

            Oh, I have been told the underlined by my peers and by my siblings and by atheists online and by Christians (Protestant and Catholic) online time and time and time and time and time and time again. Catholics do not have a monopoly on demanding social conformity via doctrinal conformity; they might even be less bad than most! I went to a two-day leadership workshop when in college where they attempted to demonstrate the wisdom of the crowd over the individual. So they gave a test with various questions on what to do after an earthquake. First everyone took it individually, then groups took it together. What usually happened was that the group score was greater than any individual score. But my score was rather higher than the group. I attribute this somewhat to my genes, somewhat to my upbringing, and largely due to exposing myself to continual punishment for any error anyone could find in anything I wrote online. And yes, many people derive much enjoyment from punishing. I wonder if this has any connection whatsoever to "he learned obedience through what he suffered". A mysterious verse, to be sure.

            Were I to follow your advice, Randy, I would trust in extant authorities more than I believe the evidence warrants. See, having all the wisdom and knowledge in the world is useless if your praxis is bad. Just look at Solomon! He raised a son who split the kingdom in half via machismo. Possibly, when I try to achieve better praxis, I will find in time that Catholic doctrine aids that more than anything else/​anything which contradicts it. But I think we're in the midst of a new Trahison des clercs. (Treason/​betrayal of the intellectuals) All the doctrine in the world and all the saints in the world are of little use if there is sufficient hypocrisy such that “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Jesus was not obeying those who sit in Moses' seat when he pointed out that they did not practice what they preached. Those sitting in Moses' seat surely claimed that they were practicing what they preached; those who accepted both the practice and the preaching the best became twice the sons of hell as their mentors. I dare you to demonstrate an interpretation of those verses from the Magisterium which contradicts my own. What I sadly predict is that you'll simply assert that my "opinion" can be obliterated from orbit.

            What do I think? Is the key question for Protestants. What does God reveal? Is the key question for Catholics.

            I'm reading through Karl Barth's three essays in The Humanity of God and as far as I can tell, what you say either targets a strict subset of Protestants, implies that Barth was wildly deceived, implies that I cannot properly understand what Barth wrote, or is heinous libel against a [different] strict subset of Protestants. You don't want me to lump all Catholics in the same bucket as Pope Boniface VIII; surely you will extend the same courtesy to Protestants?

            Could Eastern Orthodoxy be right? No. The Council of Florence in 1438-39 should be a legit ecumenical council by their own standards.

            Failing to recognize that the East was desperate for military aid from the West and thus had severe worldly pressure to acquiesce to doctrinal pressure from the West is, I claim, a very iffy rhetorical strategy.

            Whatever method God is using to lead He church it should be one that is internally consistent. Protestantism is not. Easter Orthodoxy is not. Catholicism is.

            Does this mean that Exsurge Domine has not obtained 'infallible' status—at least #33? I remind you of my juxtaposition of Exsurge Domine and Dignitatis Humanae.

          • Good to have you back, Randy.

            Thanks

            Unam Sanctam is likely the reason he was never canonized. It is generally regarded as an ill-advised document but it does meet the conditions for infallibility.

            Wait a second, Unam sanctam is considered 'infallible'? I've had problems properly understanding infallibility, so perhaps you could confirm and indicate whether it is 100% infallible, infallible in parts, etc. I'm especially confused by the idea that God would want poorly stated† things to become infallible. Surely he could do better if he wanted?

            Infallibility is a negative thng. It means it cannot clearly and authoritiatively teach error. So we are saying the bad statement of popes cannot be super bad. That is so bad that the faithful can no longer trust any church teaching. Infallibility is defined by the First Vatican Council. It has 4 conditions outlined here https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/papac2.htm
            So if the conditions are met then the teaching is infallible. It could be infallible in part. Typically because only some points might be addressed definitively.

            Yes, I have been accused of either/or thinking by Catholics several times by now. I would like to learn more about this both/and approach, especially given that according to classical logic, once you admit a contradiction, any statement can be proven true as well as proven false: see principle of explosion. Now, you can argue after the style of Alvin Plantinga in his free will defense that there is no true contradiction;

            You are right that Catholicism would argue that the apparent contradiction is not a true contradiction.

            If you are looking for a contradiction that con be frustrating but if you are charitably trying to make Catholicism work it is not a problem. It is always possible to see how the false choice is false. That the assumed contradiction can be avoided. It just takes some openness.

            So anyone who accepts the inerrancy of scripture really does indirectly accept the authority of the pope.

            Your hidden premise is that the RCC today is 100% continuous with the body of believers which gathered at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. I say it isn't; I say that plenty of Christians in 325 who voted on what would be canon would have rejected "Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." Do you disagree?

            Sort of, I agree they would not have made that statement. In fact, Catholics today would not state things that way. The other thing you are missing is development. Just because they don't understand the deposit of faith in a certain way does not mean it is not part of the faith. Statements reflect a deepening understanding of the faith over time and also reflect the culture they are made it. So the words cannot just be moved to a different time and place.

            Were I to follow your advice, Randy, I would trust in extant authorities more than I believe the evidence warrants. See, having all the wisdom and knowledge in the world is useless if your praxis is bad. Just look at Solomon! He raised a son who split the kingdom in half via machismo. Possibly, when I try to achieve better praxis, I will find in time that Catholic doctrine aids that more than anything else/?anything which contradicts it. But I think we're in the midst of a new Trahison des clercs. (Treason/?betrayal of the intellectuals) All the doctrine in the world and all the saints in the world are of little use if there is sufficient hypocrisy such that “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Jesus was not obeying those who sit in Moses' seat when he pointed out that they did not practice what they preached. Those sitting in Moses' seat surely claimed that they were practising what they preached; those who accepted both the practice and the preaching the best became twice the sons of hell as their mentors. I dare you to demonstrate an interpretation of those verses from the Magisterium which contradicts my own. What I sadly predict is that you'll simply assert that my "opinion" can be obliterated from orbit.

            I just point out you ignore what Jesus says. Jesus says obey legitimate authority even if their practice is poor. You say something different. I follow Jesus. Can you opinion be obliterated? What if it is wrong? Should not wrong opinions be obliterated? It is a harsh word. Maybe corrected? Do you really want to know when you are wrong? We all think so but in practice we can be pretty stubborn. How would we know when we are missing what God wants on some important question?

            What do I think? Is the key question for Protestants. What does God reveal? Is the key question for Catholics.
            I'm reading through Karl Barth's three essays in The Humanity of God and as far as I can tell, what you say either targets a strict subset of Protestants, implies that Barth was wildly deceived, implies that I cannot properly understand what Barth wrote, or is heinous libel against a [different] strict subset of Protestants. You don't want me to lump all Catholics in the same bucket as Pope Boniface VIII; surely you will extend the same courtesy to Protestants?

            I have no problem saying Barth is wildly deceived. I know I was. I thought I was pursuing truth through scripture and reason. I didn't realize how closed I was to how God was really trying to tell me. It is the nature of Sola Scriptura. It is deceptive. It promised the truth of God but delivers just your own opinions refined a bit. Sure there are exceptions but mostly people have a fellowship of like minded people that they see as the whole body of Christ but is actually a very narrow sliver of it.

            Could Eastern Orthodoxy be right? No. The Council of Florence in 1438-39 should be a legit ecumenical council by their own standards.
            Failing to recognize that the East was desperate for military aid from the West and thus had severe worldly pressure to acquiesce to doctrinal pressure from the West is, I claim, a very iffy rhetorical strategy.

            Not failing to recognize anything. Is an ecumenical council trustworthy or not? If not, then what is the Eastern rule of faith? If it is, then they should at least now be willing to recognize that council.

            Whatever method God is using to lead He church it should be one that is internally consistent. Protestantism is not. Easter Orthodoxy is not. Catholicism is.
            Does this mean that Exsurge Domine has not obtained 'infallible' status—at least #33? I remind you of my juxtaposition of Exsurge Domine and Dignitatis Humanae.

            Sure. Typically a laundry list like occurs in that document are not considered infallible in every point. He is not solemnly defining doctrine. Now if you reject almost all the points the pope makes then you might be concerned. Still this is Leo X. He is generally considered to be a scoundrel.

          • Infallibility is defined by the First Vatican Council. It has 4 conditions outlined here https://www.ewtn.com/faith/...
            So if the conditions are met then the teaching is infallible. It could be infallible in part. Typically because only some points might be addressed definitively.

            Thanks; that was helpful. There is still a tremendous amount I don't understand (such as how this is put into practice), but that is probably a much longer discussion littered with case studies.

            If you are looking for a contradiction that con be frustrating but if you are charitably trying to make Catholicism work it is not a problem.

            This is itself, I claim, an uncharitable reading of what I was trying to do. Let's turn again to the logical problem of evil which many analytical philosophers agree Plantinga defeated: the reason that said PoE seemed plausible in the first place was via a gap in articulated reasoning, a gap which permitted all sorts of nonsense to fester. Plantinga cleaned out the festering mass and like the parable of cleaning house, he found something plausible to replace the festering mess. Regardless of whether you think classical theism makes the logical problem of evil moot, I say Plantinga did a very good deed. I think one can do the same thing for other apparent contradictions, and that doing so is beneficial.

            So anyone who accepts the inerrancy of scripture really does indirectly accept the authority of the pope.

            Here, you are depending on suppressed premises; you are hiding stuff in the unarticulated space. Like organisms can slowly change via natural selection, the interpretation of doctrines can slowly change from generation to generation. One can switch from an ecumenical/​egalitarian mode of existence to an authoritarian mode of existence. This is true even if you say the Pope must not be a dictator: the reserved ability to unilaterally determine doctrine is itself incredibly powerful. Now you will of course retort that the Pope is not 'determining' doctrine but 'reporting' it. I say that if one cannot tell the difference, then one must work with both possibilities and at various points, see which appears to be a better fit to behavior. If infallible doctrine does not help us discern between them, that's a problem. (So for example, Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma contains no references to Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–30 except for orthogonal references to Mt 20:28; I did not think to check Mk 9:33–37, so I have re-requested the $40–$60 book from my library.)

            The other thing you are missing is development.

            Some development contradicts, other development does not.

            So the words cannot just be moved to a different time and place.

            Agreed. Keeping stuff in Latin is only marginally helpful for this very reason. But what guarantee do we have that the meanings won't change like Jeremiah describes in Jeremiah 7:1–15?

            I just point out you ignore what Jesus says. Jesus says obey legitimate authority even if their practice is poor. You say something different.

            There are two parts to obedience: doing what one is told, and imitating behavior. Jesus said to do one, and to avoid doing the other. "Do what I say, not what I do" only has to be said by hypocrites. Do you really want to suggest that the RCC could be full of whitewashed tombs with disciples who are twice the sons of hell as they are, like the addresses of Mt 23:1–4?

            Can you opinion be obliterated? What if it is wrong? Should not wrong opinions be obliterated? It is a harsh word. Maybe corrected? Do you really want to know when you are wrong? We all think so but in practice we can be pretty stubborn. How would we know when we are missing what God wants on some important question?

            Of course I want to know when I am wrong; that is one reason I spend so much of my online time immersing myself in environments where I am either the single person promoting my view, or one of precious few. Notice that I have 3213 upvotes for 26778 comments. I am pretty much unpopular wherever I go; SN seems uncertain and that is an exception. I do generally ask that people grapple with my error, showing how it is wrong instead of merely declaring it to be wrong. But I've heard whispers that Aquinas would actually be ok with this approach.

            Now, I think it's a bit questionable that you would phrase your paragraph as you did, for linguistically it holds out the promise that sometimes the situation could be flipped. But does anyone believe that I could ever be right and the Magisterium wrong? I think what you really must say is that on every count where I disagree with the Magisterium, I am harming Jesus and his mission. Every time I refuse to obey the RCC, I am harming Jesus and his mission. What I'm not sure is whether you can point to convincing empirical evidence that this is so. And I say Jesus was big on judging/​evaluating by fruit.

            I have no problem saying Barth is wildly deceived. I know I was.

            So when he describes a time when Catholics and Protestants were having a hard time talking helpfully with each other, diagnoses the problem, and works to get as much ecumenical discussion as possible, he is "wildly deceived"? Randy, it seems like you are uttering things about which you do not know. Not everyone is very like you.

            Sure there are exceptions …

            Have I ever seen you acknowledge one? More than one?

            Still this is Leo X. He is generally considered to be a scoundrel.

            What does being a scoundrel have to do with uttered doctrine?

          • Let's turn again to the logical problem of evil which many analytical philosophers agree Plantinga defeated: the reason that said PoE seemed plausible in the first place was via a gap in articulated reasoning, a gap which permitted all sorts of nonsense to fester. Plantinga cleaned out the festering mass and like the parable of cleaning house, he found something plausible to replace the festering mess. Regardless of whether you think classical theism makes the logical problem of evil moot, I say Plantinga did a very good deed. I think one can do the same thing for other apparent contradictions, and that doing so is beneficial.

            There are many reasons why people see contradictions where there are none. I think motivation is a big one. This is especially true in the area of religion. Our reasoning powers are skewed by all sorts of things. I am not sure exactly what you mean here but I do think just opening yourself up to the idea that those who don't see a contradiction are not irrational is big. Try and understand where they come from.

            Is this uncharitable? Maybe. I think it is common. So asking someone if they might be letting their motivation color their reasoning is really just suggesting they are human rather than suggesting they are stupid.

            Here, you are depending on suppressed premises; you are hiding stuff in the unarticulated space. Like organisms can slowly change via natural selection, the interpretation of doctrines can slowly change from generation to generation. One can switch from an ecumenical/?egalitarian mode of existence to an authoritarian mode of existence. This is true even if you say the Pope must not be a dictator: the reserved ability to unilaterally determine doctrine is itself incredibly powerful. Now you will of course retort that the Pope is not 'determining' doctrine but 'reporting' it. I say that if one cannot tell the difference, then one must work with both possibilities and at various points, see which appears to be a better fit to behavior. If infallible doctrine does not help us discern between them, that's a problem. (So for example, Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma contains no references to Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–30 except for orthogonal references to Mt 20:28; I did not think to check Mk 9:33–37, so I have re-requested the $40–$60 book from my library.)

            Doctrine can take on a life of its own. Still when something goes from human opinion to divine revelation that seems like a big deal to me. Protestants don't have a coherent understanding of how that happens. They deny the Catholic understanding but in practice accept the Catholic claim that the bible is divine revelation.

            Can such a thing be egalitarian? I am not sure how. You have to have some doubt being resolved by some act that is understood to be from God. So those who say the Gospel of Matthew is in the bible are right about God and those who say it is not are wrong about God. There is an inherent inequality. Remember you are not asking if Matthew is likely to be in the Bible but looking for a 100% trustworthy answer. We are to be willing to die for the truth. We need to be a sure.

            There are two parts to obedience: doing what one is told, and imitating behavior. Jesus said to do one, and to avoid doing the other. "Do what I say, not what I do" only has to be said by hypocrites. Do you really want to suggest that the RCC could be full of whitewashed tombs with disciples who are twice the sons of hell as they are, like the addresses of Mt 23:1–4?

            If we just look at Mt 23 then the answer is Yes. In fact, there are some examples of bad popes in the RCC. It is not accurate to say "full of." Jesus is making a point. Our obedience is based on their office. Our immitation is based on their holiness. The office will always be there. The holiness should be but you can't be sure.

            Of course I want to know when I am wrong; that is one reason I spend so much of my online time immersing myself in environments where I am either the single person promoting my view, or one of precious few. Notice that I have 3213 upvotes for 26778 comments. I am pretty much unpopular wherever I go; SN seems uncertain and that is an exception. I do generally ask that people grapple with my error, showing how it is wrong instead of merely declaring it to be wrong. But I've heard whispers that Aquinas would actually be ok with this approach.

            If something like the Catholic church is suggesting you are in error on a number of points then that is OK. It is not obliterating all your opinions. Just some that are clearly wrong. Clearly because God clearly speaks through His church. Yes that can be hard to swallow. I know. I tried to avoid it for a long time before I took the plunge. Still what remains is very much you. A purified you but a very recognizable you.

            Now, I think it's a bit questionable that you would phrase your paragraph as you did, for linguistically it holds out the promise that sometimes the situation could be flipped. But does anyone believe that I could ever be right and the Magisterium wrong? I think what you really must say is that on every count where I disagree with the Magisterium, I am harming Jesus and his mission. Every time I refuse to obey the RCC, I am harming Jesus and his mission. What I'm not sure is whether you can point to convincing empirical evidence that this is so. And I say Jesus was big on judging/?evaluating by fruit.

            When a teaching is infallible this is so. Yet many Protestants find that they bless the Catholic church on many questions as well. Converts often help many Catholics grow in holiness. So things very much go both ways. Initially it does not feel that way.

            So when he describes a time when Catholics and Protestants were having a hard time talking helpfully with each other, diagnoses the problem, and works to get as much ecumenical discussion as possible, he is "wildly deceived"? Randy, it seems like you are uttering things about which you do not know. Not everyone is very like you.

            Ecumenical discussion is good to a point. I was involved in a lot of it as a Protestant. It does not do much to tell us who is right. Those questions are typically avoided. So we need more. We need to be one church like the New Testament says we are.

            What does being a scoundrel have to do with uttered doctrine?

            It does not if it meets the test of infallibility. When it does not it does matter how well respected a pope is.

          • I am not sure exactly what you mean here but I do think just opening yourself up to the idea that those who don't see a contradiction are not irrational is big.

            If the reasoning simply isn't tight and there is room for additional premises, some of which result in contradictions and some which do not, then I say it is dangerous to leave that space unexplored. Such unarticulated space leaves much room for the flesh (σάρξ) to do its thing—whether in Pope or in pauper. So for example, here's what sparked this conversation:

            RG: Can you believe that God communicates the truth of the gospel through the papacy and still think the pope should not act as a dictator?

            What additional premise(s) are required to lead to 'dictator' and what additional premise(s) are required to exclude 'dictator'? I personally would think that Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–34 provides some help here, but I've gotten zero response as to how the RCC understands those verses. As I noted, Ludwig Ott is silent. So we're in danger of a situation where the RCC says it is not a dictator, and yet may not give us a very good way of distinguishing 'dictator' from any alternative. For another concrete example, has Boniface VIII's bragging "that previous popes had deposed three French kings" ever been condemned as 'dictatorial'?

            Can such a thing be egalitarian? I am not sure how.

            The first six ecumenical councils seem to have been 'egalitarian'. As far as I can tell, not a single one had points/​doctrines unilaterally decided by the "first among equals" Patriarch from Rome.

            Our immitation is based on their holiness.

            But supposing for the moment that they "preach, but do not practice", from whence do we get our understanding of 'holiness'? If one always trusts them to properly model 'holiness', then at points you'll become twice the son of hell as they are. So it seems like God has to somehow reveal himself apart from the ecclesial chain of command.

            If something like the Catholic church is suggesting you are in error on a number of points then that is OK. It is not obliterating all your opinions. Just some that are clearly wrong. Clearly because God clearly speaks through His church.

            I don't believe I have ever spoken of all my opinions being "obliterated". Even the most heinous of dictator doesn't have to obliterate every single opinion of the people he wishes to brainwash. All he needs is 100% conformity to his group. The dictator will always see this obliteration as doing good to the people being brainwashed. It's always moralized. The pattern I'm pointing out here is simple: when the individual disagrees with the group, the individual is always wrong. Sometimes 'the group' = 'the mob', but we can also have 'the group' = 'ruling authorities'. Jesus himself was obliterated by both the mob and the ruling authorities—he disagreed with them on points and thus he was wrong. Fortunately, he didn't stay obliterated. Whenever a group is against me, I take comfort that I was not the first to experience this. Nor do I believe that the group is always wrong; that would be to pretend I'm Jesus.

            When a teaching is infallible this is so. Yet many Protestants find that they bless the Catholic church on many questions as well. Converts often help many Catholics grow in holiness. So things very much go both ways. Initially it does not feel that way.

            I'm just not sure what the sum total of infallible teaching gets you, if it can't even say that executing heretics is wrong. If most of practice requires a crucial input from fallible teaching over and above that which is infallible, then how does the infallible teaching keep one from something awfully like relativism? Again, I'm shocked that Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma does not reference Mt 20:20–28 or Lk 22:24–30, excepting a tiny bit on Mt 20:28. It seems to me that the sum total of infallible teaching leaves a tremendous amount of wiggle room. The more discretion is left to humans, the more we have the issue of how Jesus knew that the Pharisees preached but did not practice—since surely they taught that they did practice.

          • RG: Can you believe that God communicates the truth of the gospel through the papacy and still think the pope should not act as a dictator?
            What additional premise(s) are required to lead to 'dictator' and what additional premise(s) are required to exclude 'dictator'? I personally would think that Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–34 provides some help here, but I've gotten zero response as to how the RCC understands those verses. As I noted, Ludwig Ott is silent. So we're in danger of a situation where the RCC says it is not a dictator, and yet may not give us a very good way of distinguishing 'dictator' from any alternative. For another concrete example, has Boniface VIII's bragging "that previous popes had deposed three French kings" ever been condemned as 'dictatorial'?

            I have responded to how the RCC understands Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–34. They understand them the same way you do. They believe in servant leadership. The pope is the Servant of the Servants of God is one of the pope's titles and is used at the beginning of papal bulls.

            What is the difference between the correction we get from a father and the correction we get from a dictator? If you are rebellious son then you might not see any difference. The parable of the prodigal son sees both sons experience the father as a slave master or dictator. Yet the problem was not with the father but the sons.

            In practice popes rarely dictate. in recent decades they have been very patient. More patient then I would want with some liberal theologians but that is their call.

            Can such a thing be egalitarian? I am not sure how.
            The first six ecumenical councils seem to have been 'egalitarian'. As far as I can tell, not a single one had points/?doctrines unilaterally decided by the "first among equals" Patriarch from Rome.

            I would not say the pope has had any less impact on the first 6 councils then he has on the councils since. None have involved a pope simply ignoring everybody and doing his own thing. There is always some disagreement. The pope needs to be on side. Occasionally the pope will change the way things are expressed rather than just reject something but that is not normal way things work. A council is an attempt to find a consensus and mostly they have done so. Yes, there was an East/West rift and the East got annoyed with the process and eventually left. That does not make it dictatorial.

            Is is equal? No. Why should it be? Even the East sees the bishops from Constantinople and Moscow and some other places as carrying more weight. It seems to me 'egalitarian' has no scripture or tradition behind it. Even as a Protestant there was the notion that all the elders were equal but it was never the case. The pastor was first among equals. In practice that meant he had to be on side or it was not happening. I didn't see anything wrong with that then and I don't when Catholic decision-making looks the same way. The question is whether the Holy Spirit is guiding them or not.

            Our imitation is based on their holiness.
            But supposing for the moment that they "preach, but do not practice", from whence do we get our understanding of 'holiness'? If one always trusts them to properly model 'holiness', then at points you'll become twice the son of hell as they are. So it seems like God has to somehow reveal himself apart from the ecclesial chain of command.

            As Catholics we get our understanding of holiness from God through the church. Protestants? They have a huge issue of where they get a true understanding of holiness. It has nothing to do with practicing what they preach. It has to do with whether the preaching is true. So you are right. God has to reveal Himself. He does that many ways. Yet infallibility is one way he does that in spite of the ecclesial chain of command. We can't just dismiss the church as a bunch of so and so's. It is more than that even if the actual people are seriously lacking.

            If something like the Catholic church is suggesting you are in error on a number of points then that is OK. It is not obliterating all your opinions. Just some that are clearly wrong. Clearly because God clearly speaks through His church.
            I don't believe I have ever spoken of all my opinions being "obliterated". Even the most heinous of dictator doesn't have to obliterate every single opinion of the people he wishes to brainwash. All he needs is 100% conformity to his group. The dictator will always see this obliteration as doing good to the people being brainwashed. It's always moralized. The pattern I'm pointing out here is simple: when the individual disagrees with the group, the individual is always wrong. Sometimes 'the group' = 'the mob', but we can also have 'the group' = 'ruling authorities'. Jesus himself was obliterated by both the mob and the ruling authorities—he disagreed with them on points and thus he was wrong. Fortunately, he didn't stay obliterated. Whenever a group is against me, I take comfort that I was not the first to experience this. Nor do I believe that the group is always wrong; that would be to pretend I'm Jesus.

            Mostly we like to believe we are right. We are very quick to believe a narrative of dictators obliterating us. We are much less likely to believe we are sinners making excuses for ourselves. Sola Scriptura makes us the final judge. We simply are not qualified. Catholicism says God gives us another way. That His grace really is sufficient. That we can know the truth and the truth can see us free.

            When a teaching is infallible this is so. Yet many Protestants find that they bless the Catholic church on many questions as well. Converts often help many Catholics grow in holiness. So things very much go both ways. Initially it does not feel that way.
            I'm just not sure what the sum total of infallible teaching gets you, if it can't even say that executing heretics is wrong. If most of practice requires a crucial input from fallible teaching over and above that which is infallible, then how does the infallible teaching keep one from something awfully like relativism? Again, I'm shocked that Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma does not reference Mt 20:20–28 or Lk 22:24–30, excepting a tiny bit on Mt 20:28. It seems to me that the sum total of infallible teaching leaves a tremendous amount of wiggle room. The more discretion is left to humans, the more we have the issue of how Jesus knew that the Pharisees preached but did not practice—since surely they taught that they did practice.

            Catholicism is our only chance against relativism. Protestantism completely fails. It says truth is objective but the revelation of truth is subjective. That we should be OK with Christians allegedly united as the body of Christ teaching many contradictory doctrines. That way we end up choosing whatever morality suits us because nobody really knows what God's will is. I can see how Protestantism leads to relativism but not how it can combat it.

            The question of executing heretics is a harder one that you understand. People today say it is so silly because we all know heresy is unimportant. We know that because it involves religion and religion is unimportant. So they see executing heretics as OK because they are relativists. The Catholic church does not go there. It says heresy matters. It harms society greatly. True religion matters a lot. Once you understand that then what to do about heretics becomes a more difficult question. We know they are not harmless. Yet we still say we should not execute them. We say that knowing that they will execute us. That is ultimately where it goes. The heretic gains power and the true Christians are executed as heretics against the now dominant ideology. So you think it is a small thing to not execute heretics. If we know the truth and love the truth it is anything but. We are called to pick up our cross and go there but your confusion over why anyone find this difficult is a bit strange.

          • 1/2 (2/2)

            I have responded to how the RCC understands Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–34. They understand them the same way you do. They believe in servant leadership. The pope is the Servant of the Servants of God is one of the pope's titles and is used at the beginning of papal bulls.

            You can't just define someone to be a servant and all of a sudden have that be exactly what Jesus was talking about. The world doesn't magically rearrange itself to suit definitions and humans don't automatically obey definitions. No, humans pervert terms to mean their opposites. For example:

                The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’
                “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.
                “Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, declares the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim. (Jeremiah 7:1–15)

            The most central aspect of the Jewish faith had been grossly misunderstood as something which enhances evil, instead of purifying creation. The very place where God was breaking into reality (any more breaking in had been temporarily put on hold in Deut 5:22–33 and then 1 Sam 8) became blasphemy of the name of God in the highest degree. If 'the temple of the LORD' can be so perverted, why not 'servant leadership'?

            What is the difference between the correction we get from a father and the correction we get from a dictator? If you are rebellious son then you might not see any difference. The parable of the prodigal son sees both sons experience the father as a slave master or dictator. Yet the problem was not with the father but the sons.

            That's essentially a non-answer, Randy. It also draws on Total Depravity, which is something I thought Catholics must reject. As @Jimthescott:disqus writes, "Reason is error free." So can you provide reason which distinguishes, or are you going to treat me as someone who could not possibly understand the difference until I've drunk the Kool-Aid?

            In practice popes rarely dictate. in recent decades they have been very patient.

            I haven't the historical knowledge to judge your first sentence. The second is a political necessity (the RCC just doesn't have nearly the political power it used to), and so I'm not sure how interesting it is. And patience is a double-edged sword: patience toward sin within the hierarchy is not always the best strategy for minimizing harm done to the vulnerable—children and nuns, for example.

            I would not say the pope has had any less impact on the first 6 councils then he has on the councils since.

            The Eastern Orthodox clearly think there is a major difference; do you just think they're wrong? If so, is this based on a careful analysis of the evidence, or is it more a statement of blind faith?

            Is is equal? No. Why should it be?

            The Eastern Orthodox seem to understand "first among equals" as pretty much "equal", aside from some extra honor being given the Patriarch from Rome. Why would God possibly want to do things this way? I could see many reasons, the first being that power differentials permit rationalization to substitute for rationality, and greater power differentials allow more severe versions. That's the empirical evidence I know about. I also take seriously the "law of kings" snippet in Deut 17:14–20 where "his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers". Any of the things prohibited—acquiring military might, depending on political alliances for security, amassing wealth—would thwart this. And as I never tire of saying, brothers can call each other out on their crap, while a son must not do this in critical ways with his father. Jesus says "you are all brothers". Well, is that only kinda-sorta true, easily trumped by needing to exert authority?

            The question is whether the Holy Spirit is guiding them or not.

            Once again, you seem to side with Joshua over Moses; I will again excerpt:

                Then the LORD said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. …
                So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it.
                Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp. (Numbers 11:16,24–30)

            Would that all have the Spirit [and prophesy]! So, just whom did Moses want the Spirit to guide? The ["servant"] elite, or everyone? But this can easily be distorted, by saying that the leaders get cognitive content from the Spirit while the followers mostly get the ability to obey (and keep their emotions in-line) from the Spirit.

            As Catholics we get our understanding of holiness from God through the church.

            So there is just no protection against:

            “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:13–15)

            ? Because surely those scribes and Pharisees claimed that they were practicing what they preached! And yet, look at what happened to those who (i) did what they were told; (ii) imitated what what their leaders practiced. You have the temerity, Randy, to say that Protestants should see Mt 23:1–3 as applying to them with respect to the 'office' of the Pope, but that the danger Jesus specified will never befall the RCC! Or more precisely: no matter how badly the RCC does, never will there be a source outside which could offer major correction—because would the Holy Spirit not obviously do this infallibly through the Pope?

            Protestants? They have a huge issue of where they get a true understanding of holiness. It has nothing to do with practicing what they preach. It has to do with whether the preaching is true.

            I'm floored. You write as if definitions always match reality, as if words only ever construct the correct practice in people's minds. Despite the fact that 'the temple of the LORD' came to mean its evil twin, you seem to think that this could not possibly happen post-Πέτρος/πέτρα. I'm going to stop here, because I sense the possibility of a major disagreement on just how much language can be corrupted. I am not saying that language is always as corrupted as Jeremiah 7 tells, but merely that we are in that much danger, post-NT.

          • Jim the Scott

            I dismiss it. It's is just your fallible interpretation vs the Catholic Church's interpretation and I have no motivation to accept yours over Her's unless you can prove to me the Holy Spirit protects you from formally teaching doctrinal error.

            Add to that the complete A-historic nature of Protestantism. I could never be one. Catholic or Eastern Orthodox but never Protestant. Their religious system is irrational and self refuting.

            This book provide the Biblical defense of the Papacy. It has converted many a Protestant Minister and even one or two Orthdodox Priests.

            https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Peter-Keys-Scriptural-Handbook/dp/1882972546

            Then there is my friend and fellow Scotish American Dave Armstrong.

            https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/

          • Sample1

            I’m not sure where to place this recent news but thought you might have something interesting to say about it.

            19 Catholic scholars have recently written the relevant people at the Vatican canonically accusing Pope Francis as teaching formal heresy (not “mere” material heresy) and asking them to deal with the problem of a seated, heretical Holy Father. Seven counts of formal heresy. These scholars are not fringe SSPX or Sedes or Rad Trads. They come from the heart of Catholicism supported by groups like EWTN, First Things, et al.

            Does this mean, if true, that contrary to the claim the Church is protected from heretical doctrine, it is indeed possible for a pope to formally teach heresy? If so, that would suggest such promised grace has been withdrawn. If it ever existed?

            Thoughts?

            https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2019/05/01/critics-pope-francis-level-new-accusation-heresy

            https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.lifesitenews.com/mobile/blogs/im-a-catholic-philosopher-why-i-signed-the-open-letter-accusing-pope-francis-of-heresy

            Mike, excommunicated

          • Jim the Scott

            Yeh Simple1 I am still cheesed at you over the shite you talked about Mother Theresa.
            But I will grace you with an answer anyway. Because I am feeling better.

            I think Pope Francis is a problematic Pope but I don't believe it is my place to criticize him. That is for the Bishops and Cardinals as they are like Paul unto Peter at Antioch. "One does not speak Evil against the leader of thy people" said Paul quoting the OT. The Pope is judged by none save God alone.

            Given that Pope Francis merits a great deal of Criticism their charges and criticism here are "pure shite" and do more harm than good. It is a disgrace.

            Jimmy Akin takes a very good shot at it.
            http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/on-charging-a-pope-with-heresy

            "It’s gravely reckless and irresponsible to charge anyone with an ecclesiastical crime as serious as heresy if you can’t prove it, and it’s even worse to do so with regard to the pope, given the scandal, confusion, and risk of individual schism that it will create for the faithful."

            I would add if we grant for the sake of argument the Pope had done a feckless job running the Church and it is do to a grave moral falling on his part and harms souls well the same God who will judge Pope Francis will punish these clowns for the same offense. They just made the problem worst.

            This analysis is excellent as well.
            https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/analysis-serious-and-unserious-allegations-of-papal-heresy-63007

            "The attempt to yoke together serious issues, like the language of parts of Amoris Laetitia, with trivial complaints, like the shape of a staff in a liturgical procession, has largely been met with skepticism."

            "For those with serious, even legitimate concerns about the clarity of teaching in some papal writings, this letter and its invocation of canonical heresy may prove to be an unwelcome distraction."

            Pope Francis simply hasn't formally taught heresy and I say this as someone who think his change to the CCC on Capital Punishment was knackered.

          • I dismiss it. It's is just your fallible interpretation vs the Catholic Church's interpretation and I have no motivation to accept yours over Her's unless you can prove to me the Holy Spirit protects you from formally teaching doctrinal error.

            Not sure exactly what you're dismissing (not the "Reason is error free." bit?), especially with this as part of the context:

            RG: I have responded to how the RCC understands Mt 20:20–28 and Lk 22:24–34. They understand them the same way you do.

            It does strike me though, that something might be wrong with a set of teaching if it lets one dismiss people quickly and easily. I just can't see Jesus doing that.

            Add to that the complete A-historic nature of Protestantism. I could never be one. Catholic or Eastern Orthodox but never Protestant. Their religious system is irrational and self refuting.

            I don't think I could ever be part of a tradition that has not fully and completely repented of executing "heretics" post-Jesus, given that nothing about Jesus's words, life, death, or resurrection can be construed to support living by the [physical] sword.

            This book provide the Biblical defense of the Papacy. It has converted many a Protestant Minister and even one or two Orthdodox Priests.

            [Jesus, Peter & the Keys: A Scriptural Handbook on the Papacy]

            Thanks; I've requested it from my library. But just so you know, I have serious problems with the lack of papal rejection of the execution of "heretics"; had a Pope made this absolutely clear well before the Thirty Years' War, there may well have been no Thirty Years' War! And if the Pope had and such a war had still occurred, one wonders just how much the office of the Pope accomplishes. (There is the danger that it simply cannot push very hard against what the masses believe, where it needs to in order to do what Roman Catholics like you and @randygritter:disqus need it to do for your words about it to be true.)

            Then there is my friend and fellow Scotish American Dave Armstrong.

            Thanks; I'm not sure I want to add yet another blog to my list, but I'll put down a note as you've recommended him quite a few times, now.

          • Jim the Scott

            >But just so you know, I have serious problems with the lack of papal rejection of the execution of "heretics";

            This is why I will refuse to have further discussions with you. You are tedious sir. Very tedious. You use 1000 words to say what could be said in merely 10.
            A normal human being would ask me plaining and directly "Is it moral for a confessional state to execute heretics?". I could then discuss it.

            But you are all over the place. Tedious..

            Now you have tools. I can't cry over the Pope's teachings on executing heretics when I know every single main Reformer in principle believed the same thing.

            I am not getting roped into this. My blood pressure.

          • You use 1000 words to say what could be said in merely 10.

            When I use 10, you get frustrated. When I use 50, you get frustrated. When I use 100, you get frustrated. When I [rarely] use [the 100x version of] 1000, you get frustrated. Nothing is an acceptable sacrifice to you, Jim. For example:

            JtS: Add to that the complete A-historic nature of Protestantism. I could never be one. Catholic or Eastern Orthodox but never Protestant. Their religious system is irrational and self refuting.

            LB: I don't think I could ever be part of a tradition that has not fully and completely repented of executing "heretics" post-Jesus, given that nothing about Jesus's words, life, death, or resurrection can be construed to support living by the [physical] sword.

            You used 29 words and stated a position rather than asking any questions. I used 42 words to state a position rather than asking any questions. And yet you say that failing to ask a question indicates a serious problem:

            A normal human being would ask me plaining and directly "Is it moral for a confessional state to execute heretics?". I could then discuss it.

            I sense a double standard.

            But you are all over the place. Tedious..

            I've been very regular about the execution of heretics topic. What is tedious is how reticent Catholics appear to deal with it head-on. Randy finally did, to which I have responded.

            I can't cry over the Pope's teachings on executing heretics when I know every single main Reformer in principle believed the same thing.

            You've never presented evidence that Martin Luther believed that. Furthermore, the choice to include Exsurge Domine #33 makes no sense if what you say is true.

          • Jim the Scott

            >When I use 10, you get frustrated. When I use 50, you get frustrated. When I use 100, you get frustrated. When I [rarely] use [the 100x version of] 1000, you get frustrated. Nothing is an acceptable sacrifice to you, Jim. For example:

            Not true. When you are to the point I am pleased. When you are all over the place I am not.

            >I sense a double standard.

            As do I......

            >I've been very regular about the execution of heretics topic. What is tedious is how reticent Catholics appear to deal with it head-on. Randy finally did, to which I have responded.

            I didn't know that. I have been regular on the topic of God's "morality" and the problem of evil. I am afraid we have talked past each other and I am just too tired of it.

            >You've never presented evidence that Martin Luther believed that.

            It's not controversial. I have debated Lutheranss who readily concede that.
            They don't think his sins and failings deny the "truths" he taught.

            Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants by Luther. Start there

            Google anything on Luther's attitude towards Anabaptists.

          • Your buddy Dave Armstrong wrote the 2016 article Luther Favored the Death Penalty for Anabaptists, so I got excited to see a clear instance where Martin Luther advocated the execution of heretics. I found only one unambiguous case:

            … Also when it is a case of only upholding some spiritual tenet, such as infant baptism, original sin, and unnecessary separation, then, because these articles are also important . . . we conclude that in these cases also the stubborn sectaries must be put to death. (History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages, Vol X, 223n1)

            What Armstrong doesn't mention is that we find this in the main text on the previous page:

            Luther, who had at first strongly disapproved of the execution of heretics, began, after 1530, to advocate capital punishment for false doctrine and heresy.[1] (222)

            This makes perfect sense of Exsurge Domine #33: my guess is that before Martin Luther had appreciable political power, some combination of self-preservation and conscience had him condemning the execution of heretics. It is well-known that having appreciable political power generates profound temptations to evil; this is one. And guess what? Luther had a ready pattern to appeal to which had been imprinted upon society for centuries, by none other than the Roman Catholic Church. This all being said, I stand by what I wrote:

            LB: I don't think I could ever be part of a tradition that has not fully and completely repented of executing "heretics" post-Jesus, given that nothing about Jesus's words, life, death, or resurrection can be construed to support living by the [physical] sword.

            I'm not actually a Lutheran (I'm non-denominational), but I would like to be part of discovering my actual tradition, and then do the hard work of repenting of errors made long ago but which still propagate spiritually, in however attenuated a form that they do. I'm guessing you hold that it would be glorifying to God and acceptable to Jesus for the RCC to execute heretics today? Supposing that this was in accordance with civil law, of course.

          • Jim the Scott

            Really Luke you wore me out. So I won't get sucked into it. Well maybe a little if only because I am in a good mood after seeing The Avengers......just because you can do a thing in principle doesn't aways mean you must do that thing. Like the orthodox Catholic view on the death penalty. In principle the State may execute people guilty of capital crimes but contrary to the errors of Emmanuel Kant you don't have to have a death penalty.
            In a confessional state under certain circumstances heretics are a threat to the good order of society and souls and can be put to death. Like the Albigensians who taught murder suicide was permitted and mandated by the Bible to save souls. I don't feel sympathy for that lot. People who practiced black magic by sacrificing babies. To the stake with em.

            Yeh this post was a mistake. It will only encourage you.

          • If you've got a confessional state where most citizens are mature†, exactly how could a heretic be of much threat? It seems that the very conditions required to make a heretic so threatening as to require execution indicate gross immaturity of most people. And yet, is the execution then conducive to an increase in maturity or does it merely delay inevitable apostasy—in behavior if not in profession?

            † See Heb 5:11–6:3 for one accounting of 'maturity'—and definitely interpret it according to the Magisterium and not yours truly.

          • Jim the Scott

            >If you've got a confessional state where most citizens are mature†, exactly how could a heretic be of much threat?

            If he is inciting violence. Calling on people to worship the Devil. Promoting sex with children.........basically doing anything with a religious theme that also coincides with some type of political treason. It is morally permitted for any state to execute a traitor on the grounds of self defense.

            Of course who to execute and when or if you should is entirely a question of prudence. Even in Catholic Confessional State pre-Vatican II post reformation you couldn't just sentence someone to death for being an ex-Catholic Methodist.

            >It seems that the very conditions required to make a heretic so threatening as to require execution indicate gross immaturity of most people. And yet, is the execution then conducive to an increase in maturity or does it merely delay inevitable apostasy—in behavior if not in profession?

            How the fudge should I know? I only deal with the principles and concepts.
            If you want practical advise on how to run a society bugger that. Stop asking me those questions. They bore me and worst make me look bad because I don't ever know the answer to them.

            >† See Heb 5:11–6:3 for one accounting of 'maturity'—and definitely interpret it according to the Magisterium and not yours truly.

            I doesn't see what this verse has to do with the right God gives to any State to use premeditative force against the wicked in order to keep societal order? This is personal instruction individual Christians.