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#61 of 300 Old 12-22-2010, 09:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
But is infallibility important?  Well, in the Episcopal Church there is a famous, or infamous bishop, who doesn't believe that Christ is God, or in the Resurrection, or even in a personal God.  If infallibility isn't a factor - if we can't know for sure as Christians that he is wrong - where does that leave us?

It depends on how you define "for sure". Isn't there a fairly compelling philosophical argument that we can't know with absolute certainty that we're not brains in a jar inside a Matrix-like simulation? Or indeed the philosopher who decided one can't infer anything other than one's own existence? I'm not entirely up on these arguments, but it seems like assurance has various degrees, and I don't think infallibility is required for fairly definite and useful knowledge. I don't believe we can infallibly know that we have kids, but we can be pretty darn sure and act accordingly. If we are similarly "pretty darn sure" that the Episcopal bishop (are we talking about Spong here?) is teaching heretically, why should we hesitate in our response, any more than we'd hesitate if one of the kids we (probably) have addressed us as if she were indeed real?

 

And remember - and I'm sorry I keep bringing this up, but it's important - even in a system with infallible Tradition, once the infallible teachings enter YOUR head they're no longer infallible. So you, as a Catholic layman (hypothetically speaking, I know you're not Catholic) couldn't infallibly denounce the bishop either.

Well, I hope I am not a brain in a jar, i guess.  I am probably too tired to think any more about this right now on a theological level.  But I would like to address something about the practical level. It seems to me that in your system Christianity as a revelation from God (not within my head) is only claiming to be something that could mean a lot of things.  If, in fact, the method of ss produced only one or even a few possibilities it might be one thing.  But we see in fact that it does not - it produces an almost bewildering number of possibilities, and I honestly just don't see any reason to think that will change.  Most people are not going to be able to wade through these in the level of detail that would be necessary, and even if you do, there are very rational people who disagree, and often may see arguments on both sides.  Yet the issues are significant.  And what is more, it is totally out of kilter with the first half of the Christian era.  And that is significant too.  We can't discuss things as if they are mathematical problems when actually we are talking about something concrete.  A bridge that seems mathematically perfect but doesn't get you from A to B is no good.  That isn't a proof of course, but it is IMO a real issue and speaks to the credibility of some arguments.


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#62 of 300 Old 12-22-2010, 10:02 PM
 
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The attitude that bugs me is that the author of the article says the Orthodox should "get inside the heads of Protestants" and learn the sola Scriptura point of view in order to refute it, but then repeatedly mischaracterises the doctrine. The piece attacks Protestantism as a whole at one point, a strawman of sola Scriptura at another, then empiricism, then liberalism, then fundamentalism... And I'm not a fan of some of those things, but they're all being vaguely lumped under sola Scriptura, which is a fairly specifically-defined doctrine; so it comes across as just a general anti-Protestant rant than a piece of compelling scholarship.

 

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Again, he is simply pointing out that the idea that Scripture alone is what is necessary is not true.  There is more required.  Every Church has a tradition, and that determines a lot about how they read the texts.    He is setting up his next point.

SS says that Scripture alone is the infallible rule of faith. It doesn't say it contains all the practical information required for setting up a church service. No SS advocate would deny that every church has a tradition, but that is not the same thing as having Sacred Tradition. The one does not lead to the other. So it's a strawman.

 

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Ah, yes - you are misunderstanding what Tradition is I think.  Those texts may well be part of Tradition, even though they are not infallible.  There is no list of infallible doctrines, but this article may one day be part of Tradition - if it is correct it is part of Tradition now. 

Is this a difference between the Catholic and EO views of Scripture? How are we to know if it's correct now and thus part of Tradition?

 

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Why are you separating the knowledge of the Church based on whether it was written down in the NT or not? It seems rather arbitrary. That method of understanding it did not belong to the people who did the deciding.  Don't you think that may have influenced what they decided to include?

I'm not. Oral traditions were valid insofar as they taught the truths that are contained in Scripture. I have no problem with oral tradition. What I have a problem with is oral tradition given the status of infallibility and declared to have its roots in apostolic teaching, when it clearly goes against what was written down (and presumably taught orally). I've seen all sorts of problems with these claims on the Catholic side of things, from cherry-picking or misinterpreting early church texts to using logic that doesn't work to prove harmony with Scripture. As I say, I'm not as familiar with the EO view, so perhaps these problems don't exist in that tradition.

 

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I'm not seeing what you meant here?

The grammar of the verse could be taken to mean that the oral and written teachings given were identical in context. The author was trying to use it to support the existence and infallibility of oral teachings which were different to things in Scripture, without justification.

 

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Because that is how the Fathers and the early church understood it would be my guess.

No doubt, but the relevance of those beliefs are part of the very question at hand. I can understand why the author didn't put it in the article, but my comments were addressed partly to Purple Sage. It's not part of her belief system yet, so it's something she should consider.

 

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You are telling the first Christians, those who knew the Apostles, that they got it pretty wrong. 

Well, the New Testament does show them doing just that on a number of important doctrinal issues. And in some cases, the issues in question have no textual evidence until rather later, when they were first described by people who did not know the Apostles. Although why knowing the Apostles should automatically give one good doctrine, I don't know. Some of the churches only had brief visits from one or two apostles, didn't they? And surely some had no visits at all by people who actually saw Jesus face to face.

 

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No, but it doesn't look really hopeful that the method is tending towards success does it? 

Depends how you define "success". If you define it as unity to one external, denominational church, then no. But I don't believe that's the point. (Anyway, Catholicism and Orthodoxy are likewise unsuccessful in that regard - plenty of people leave both denominations for Protestantism - or Islam, atheism etc. And let's not forget that both systems failed to prevent major schisms from occurring.) I'm sure God wants all Christians to agree on doctrinal matters, and to have the grace to put up with each others' preferences regarding worship styles and so on - but I don't see that He expects it in this fallen world. By definition, there is unity among Christians, regardless of differing beliefs on a number of issues. So it's quite possible God considers "the method" successful in that regard.

 

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But that isn't his main point here.  He is addressing the idea specifically that there is no "truth" at all, or that it is completely fragmented.  He's been pointing out to fundamentalists that the same views they have are what lead to liberal Protestantism.  He is also talking about the assumptions and results of science as a way of looking at scripture.  He doesn't need for his purposes to look at each method - and in fact he does point out that valuable things are learned with these types of inquiries.


Fair enough, but it seems that would have been better put in another article, not lumped in with objections to sola Scriptura specifically. Many SS advocates would argue against "literal" readings and liberalism too, after all. It seems to me he's trying to taint SS by association, but maybe I'm being cynical.

 

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That's interesting, I'm not sure he'd say there was no legitimate Tradition in Judaism before Christ - actually I am almost positive he wouldn't.  Tell me, in your scheme, what is the Church?  Everyone who believes in Jesus?  Do they need to believe anything specific about him?

I thought we discussed this on another thread recently? I believe the Church is an invisible, universal body comprised of all elect believers - defined as those who truly believe the Gospel laid out in the Scriptures.

 

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No, I would not imagine he is saying that.  My guess is he would not claim to know who will be saved.  Do you mean the invisible Church? 

I dunno - later on in the article he linked Christian (non-Orthodox) writings to a quote made by an early church father about the virtue of writings by Pagans, so combined with his other comments it seemed like he was saying Orthodoxy was necessary to salvation. It's not relevant to the issue, really; I was just curious to know if that's the Orthodox position.

 

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Why do you think unity of belief is not what was meant?  Who would you include?  Would you include Muslims?  There is historical precedent for them to be thought of as a type of Christian schismatic group.  Could they then be part of the Church?  What about other non-Christians?  What do you think unity is?

I'm not clear on the context of your first question. As for inclusion, see above. I don't believe any non-Christians are part of the true Church (by definition), but they certainly exist amongst the phenomenological church, as it were - in the pews, if you like.

 

I'd define unity depending on context. I don't think it means "kicking out whoever doesn't agree with you". Unity can be a common goal or purpose, a common belief system, the willingness to work together for the good of those things, or probably a bunch of other definitions, depending on why you're asking. :p

 

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Look at his first sentence.  He is staving off the "who do you think you are telling us the Bible is not the foundation of Christian belief! comments.  But it's an interesting point - what is holiness do you think?

I don't see how that's a relevant question. Why do you ask?

 

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You'll have to restate them.  I can't say they really resonate with me.

They don't have to resonate, but they do have to be accepted or rebutted (although not necessarily by you, of course!). So far they've largely been ignored. To restate my arguments/questions (and remember, I'm working off a Catholic understanding of Tradition here, not an Orthodox, so maybe you agree with me to a degree already, in which case consider them open to anyone who doesn't!):

 

-If infallibility is not required for secular knowledge, why is it required for religious knowledge?

-If infallible teachings must be received by fallible minds and consequently lose their infallibility, where is the epistemic advantage to infallibility for the layman?

-If infallible teachings are justified by use of Scripture and logic, does that not open those things up to criticism? If a teaching is shown to be logically impossible or a poor explanation of the Scriptures compared to another explanation, what is a Catholic layman to do?

-If Scripture, reason and private judgment are insufficient grounds for knowledge, how can they be used to come to an acceptance of Tradition? Isn't that self-refuting?

-Has an infallible list of infallible doctrines ever been created? If not, why should a fallible list of such be trusted (especially given the Catholic position that SS advocates cannot trust the canon, since they do not believe its selection was infallible)?

-Practically speaking, Tradition has not in fact led to unity among believers, but to the schism that split Catholicism from Orthodoxy, and the Reformation that split Catholicism from Protestantism.

-The Catholic defense of Tradition from Scripture relies on interpreting certain verses about the church's nature and function in a specific way. These interpretations require justification.

-Many of the Catholic/EO arguments against SS are based on strawmen: the idea that SS advocates don't use tradition (or are hypocritical in doing so), that they believe any personal interpretation is equally valid as any other, that they ignore church history, and so on.

 

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It seems to me that in your system Christianity as a revelation from God (not within my head) is only claiming to be something that could mean a lot of things.

Can you clarify what you mean by this? I don't get it.

 

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We can't discuss things as if they are mathematical problems when actually we are talking about something concrete.  A bridge that seems mathematically perfect but doesn't get you from A to B is no good.

OK, but Tradition-based epistemologies have also led to schism and disagreement, so I don't see that either is perfect in a practical sense. I also don't see why either should be expected to be.

 

And remember, not all divisions within Protestantism are the "fault" of SS. Some are the result of liberalism, or of power-hungry maniacs wanting their own cults, or of differences of ethnicity or preferred worship style. After all, Anglicanism is tremendously divided, and it doesn't hold to sola Scriptura. Yet you (presumably) don't consider this a reason for leaving Anglicanism..?

 

ETA: In fact, Catholicism probably has a lot LESS unity of belief than most individual Protestant denominations. Catholicism historically maintained unity through excommunication, Protestants through splitting voluntarily. But Catholicism isn't so much with the excommunication these days, so while it arguably has more unity than Protestantism as a whole (however you define it), from the Protestant point of view it is just one more denomination, and a spectacularly non-unified one at that. Take any ten Catholics and any ten Reformed Baptists, and I'd wager the latter had more similarity of belief among themselves than the former. So... there's that.


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#63 of 300 Old 12-23-2010, 06:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Re: your questions on infallibility - I can't answer them because I don't think that infallibility motivates me. I'm not looking for infallibility. I think that the Church is a certain way because over a period of time I've come to the conclusion that that is the kind of thing the Church is.  The fact that it claims a certain kind of truth isn't actually the point - it's the result.

 

  As for the sufficiency of reason - I suppose I would say that reason could be enough to identify the Church, though I rather hate to take out faith and Grace, and think it is inaccurate to do so.  But I am not sure where they come in with your theology.  I would say that reason and Scripture alone are not enough to understand everything the Church has to teach - that is why we need private revelation.  I suppose I could equally ask you if reason alone is enough why have Scripture?  Why do you think Scripture needs to be inerrant?  If you can use logic to determine the validity of Scripture, does that not open it up to logical criticism?  Maybe the answer to this is similar to the answer for your questions?

 

But you know, it isn't a straw man to address fundamentalists.  There are a lot of people who deny that they use any lens to understand Scripture at all, and so don't think about the implications of that.

 

As far as where he talks about liberal theology and biblical criticism I think he is saying that if you accept that that kind of investigation is either necessary, or authoritative in some way, you are also going to have to deal with the results of that.  In liberal theology that kind of scientific authority has simply meant that the role of the HS in preserving Biblical truth is become obscured.  The focus shifts onto the same kind of criteria looked at when we look at a non-religious text with the same methods  Conservative Christians have stopped short of that, but it isn't always clear why. (As a comparison, it reminds me a bit of some creationists who tell us that science is not reliable up until a certain point historically, but now it is.  Or even those groups that reject technology past a certain date.)

 

 

I agree that the author here isn't the most systematic in his presentation.(which I have to say is rather typical of Orthodox style in many cases)  Eh - I can see what he is trying to get at anyway.  If you can't then it probably isn't the article for you.  But I have to say - I feel like you are trying to construct a mathematical proof, or dissect one really - not understand a different worldview.  If you approach the latter like the former, you're bound to fail - you can never create the structure of the alternate view and populate it well enough to actually see how it works.

 

With regard to kicking out whoever doesn't agree with you - I am honestly not sure how you can maintain this on the one hand, and then say that there are limits to what one can believe and be in "The Church"?  You could of course try to argue that a group like the Montanists or whatever really were the Church and had kept the teachings intact without adding to them, not the group that actually maintained that title.  But how both?

 

Yes, how the Church knows what Tradition is in the EO and the CC are different.  In the CC the authority around this subsists in the Bishops and ultimately in the Pope.  He can also appoint and depose Bishops outside of his own See, which I think is related.  In the EO, you have to convince pretty much everyone.  Bishops have a kind of teaching authority, but the laity has to accept it too.  Of course some people may not come into line, and then they are considered outside the Church.  It seems then that it is a majority issue - but not really, if you look at the Arian controversy.  So - as I understand it - if you are looking for the teaching on an issue you look for agreement.  Maybe it is a council - it could be a local council if that goes on to be widely accepted, or an ecumenical council.  Or the writings of the Fathers and saints, where they agree.  Or the liturgy. 

 

Anyway, I've gtg get the kids dressed, so I'll end there - sorry if it's a bit disorganized.


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#64 of 300 Old 12-23-2010, 06:46 AM
 
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I don't have time to respond to everything, so I'll just try to answer these points. My response in red.

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-If infallibility is not required for secular knowledge, why is it required for religious knowledge?

Because it matters that much.  What has been shown time and time again is that just because there is one right interpretation of Scripture, or one correct doctrine that must be adhered to, that does not mean that two intelligent, rational people will come to the same correct conclusion using SS methods.  And when issues like when to baptize a person or Scriptures like "this is My body, this is My blood" are not agreed upon, the stakes are quite a bit higher than for other secular subjects. 

 

-If infallible teachings must be received by fallible minds and consequently lose their infallibility, where is the epistemic advantage to infallibility for the layman?

I'll answer this as I personally feel about it, not as a sweeping statement for everyone.  The advantage for me would be knowing that there is objective Truth, and the degree to which my mind makes that Truth any different that what it is does not change it.  If I have a hard time understanding a teaching or for some reason disbelieve it, then I know that the problem lies with me.  It would then be up to me to pray for understanding and humble myself and follow the teaching anyway. 

 

-If infallible teachings are justified by use of Scripture and logic, does that not open those things up to criticism? If a teaching is shown to be logically impossible or a poor explanation of the Scriptures compared to another explanation, what is a Catholic layman to do?

See above.  I can only answer this for myself, but I would not put my understanding above the understanding of the great minds who I believe were guided by the Holy Spirit in defining a particular doctrine that I was having trouble with.  I would have to exercise humility and pray for understanding.  Just because I think something is logically impossible, does not mean it actually is - I'm open to the idea that I could be wrong.

 

-If Scripture, reason and private judgment are insufficient grounds for knowledge, how can they be used to come to an acceptance of Tradition? Isn't that self-refuting?

That is something I struggle with.

 

-Has an infallible list of infallible doctrines ever been created? If not, why should a fallible list of such be trusted (especially given the Catholic position that SS advocates cannot trust the canon, since they do not believe its selection was infallible)?

I don't know the answer to thee questions right now. 

 

-Practically speaking, Tradition has not in fact led to unity among believers, but to the schism that split Catholicism from Orthodoxy, and the Reformation that split Catholicism from Protestantism.

I don't think that it speaks against Tradition that the people do not have perfect unity.  The beliefs of the people do not change what the Truth is.  As long as the Church is still teaching the Truth, that is what matters.  People are always free to believe or not.

 

-The Catholic defense of Tradition from Scripture relies on interpreting certain verses about the church's nature and function in a specific way. These interpretations require justification.

And they don't justify them?  Or they don't justify them to your satisfaction?

 

-Many of the Catholic/EO arguments against SS are based on strawmen: the idea that SS advocates don't use tradition (or are hypocritical in doing so), that they believe any personal interpretation is equally valid as any other, that they ignore church history, and so on.

I'm sure this is sometimes true.

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#65 of 300 Old 12-23-2010, 03:19 PM
 
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Yes, but epistemically there's a vast difference. The latter maintains that those passages are still theoretically knowable by the same methods that are used to interpret other Scriptures, or indeed other documents. The former tends to lead to the idea that Scriptural knowledge is qualitatively different to other knowledge, which in turn tends to lead to the idea that Scripture isn't bound by logical thought, and "mystery" can be invoked to hold together two mutually contradictory doctrines; or that a particular set of people have mystical insight into the truth, and no obligation to explain it rationally. And that is a practical difference.

I don't disagree with you here. I personally put Scriptural knowledge in the same category as other knowledge - scientific knowledge, for example. That said, I doubt you can find a scientist who thinks that humans will ever attain complete knowledge of the universe from the quantum foam to the farthest star. Although in theory it's possible, in practice our limitations will most likely keep us from ever achieving it. But that doesn't impede scientific study of what we can understand, with the humility to know that the answers we arrive at may or may not be correct. The reason why I think that such humility is important is because it contributes to an open mind, which in turn enhances one's ability to see Truth. While just throwing up ones' hands can lead to fuzzy mysticism, as you say, a rigid belief that every question can be answered if one just applies enough logic can lead to wrong answers

 

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Sure. But I think there are some positions which are illogical to the core, such as believing in libertarian free will and perfect definite foreknowledge. To my knowledge, Orthodoxy believes in both, which to my mind is enough to invalidate the entire system of belief.

I see, sort of like a litmus test. I've always thought that the concept of God as a Being outside of time resolves that conflict in a perfectly logical way. I know you don't but can't remember why. Anyway it leads to another question, which is, in the absence of a complete set of facts, how do you know any logical conclusion drawn from those facts is correct? There was nothing illogical about the conclusion that the sun revolved around the earth, after all, just a dearth of facts. Once the invention of the telescope provided more complete facts about our solar system, we came to the correct conclusion that the earth revolves around the sun. The Scriptures promise that they are sufficient for salvation and knowing how to live, but as far as I know don't promise sufficient guidance in matters such as whether man has free will. If you are basing your conclusion on verses in the Bible - there are verses that can be interpreted to support both sides, so the set of facts that you are working from is unclear and likely incomplete. Even reasoning from first principles, your set of facts is limited by the limits of the human mind. Even if logic applies to both God and man, you have to admit that God has a significantly larger set of facts than we can ever hope to have. So how can you be sure that your conclusion, however logical, is actually correct?

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#66 of 300 Old 12-23-2010, 05:24 PM
 
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With regard to kicking out whoever doesn't agree with you - I am honestly not sure how you can maintain this on the one hand, and then say that there are limits to what one can believe and be in "The Church"?  You could of course try to argue that a group like the Montanists or whatever really were the Church and had kept the teachings intact without adding to them, not the group that actually maintained that title.  But how both?

I have no problem with kicking people out necessarily (although I sort of prefer the Protestant version, in which people who disagree with the theology of their current denomination tend to kick themselves out, either joining another denomination which more closely matches their beliefs, or starting their own church). What I disagree with is that this is unity in any particularly meaningful way. It doesn't demonstrate that all the members of the body of the Christ were thinking in harmony; it just demonstrates that those who believed a certain doctrine had enough influence or power to kick dissenters out. It's like... if you claim that your school is full of slim children, that sounds impressive - implying that something virtuous in the school's functioning encourages exercise and healthy eating - but if it turns out the school was turfing out children once they reached a certain weight, or refusing to allow heavy children into the school to begin with, it becomes a lot less impressive. Similarly if some of the children are told that no other school will give them a "real" education, so they'd better maintain a certain weight or they'll be doomed to ignorance...That's probably not my most nuanced analogy ever, but I'm sleep-deprived. :p

 

Surely a more genuine kind of unity is Christians who can work together despite doctrinal differences, or who believe the same things because they have independently come to the same conclusions? I'm not sure how far we can expect the latter in a fallen world, of course...

 

OK, we're having lunch in a sec, so I may have to answer this in chunks:

 

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Because it matters that much.  What has been shown time and time again is that just because there is one right interpretation of Scripture, or one correct doctrine that must be adhered to, that does not mean that two intelligent, rational people will come to the same correct conclusion using SS methods.  And when issues like when to baptize a person or Scriptures like "this is My body, this is My blood" are not agreed upon, the stakes are quite a bit higher than for other secular subjects. 

The stakes are higher, yes, but I'm not sure how that makes the knowledge qualitatively different. Some kinds of secular knowledge are pretty darn important too - like "Should I approve this drug?". The results might be the deaths of thousands of innocent people, or the alleviation of great suffering (or both!), but it doesn't follow the the scientist therefore deserves or should expect infallible knowledge.

 

Nor does infallible knowledge guarantee that intelligent, rational people will come to the same correct conclusion, any more than SS does. (In fact, nobody can HAVE infallible knowledge, given that we all have fallible minds.) Jesus spoke infallible truths about Himself during His lifetime, and it didn't exactly result in the world accepting Him as Messiah and Saviour!

 

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I'll answer this as I personally feel about it, not as a sweeping statement for everyone.  The advantage for me would be knowing that there is objective Truth, and the degree to which my mind makes that Truth any different that what it is does not change it.  If I have a hard time understanding a teaching or for some reason disbelieve it, then I know that the problem lies with me.  It would then be up to me to pray for understanding and humble myself and follow the teaching anyway. 

But I'd say that exact same thing as a SS advocate. I'm not sure what Tradition is giving you here that SS isn't - SS advocates certainly believe in objective Truth.

 

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See above.  I can only answer this for myself, but I would not put my understanding above the understanding of the great minds who I believe were guided by the Holy Spirit in defining a particular doctrine that I was having trouble with.  I would have to exercise humility and pray for understanding.  Just because I think something is logically impossible, does not mean it actually is - I'm open to the idea that I could be wrong.

Are you open to the idea that the laws of logic could be wrong? Because that's more germane to the issue.

 

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I don't think that it speaks against Tradition that the people do not have perfect unity.  The beliefs of the people do not change what the Truth is.  As long as the Church is still teaching the Truth, that is what matters.  People are always free to believe or not.

Again, I would say the exact same thing about SS. You're not demonstrating that Tradition is any better epistemically or practically than SS.

 

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And they don't justify them?  Or they don't justify them to your satisfaction?

The latter. We can go into specifics if you want (after Christmas, though - it's Christmas Eve here!).

 

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I see, sort of like a litmus test. I've always thought that the concept of God as a Being outside of time resolves that conflict in a perfectly logical way. I know you don't but can't remember why.


Eh, it's to do with temporal versus logical priority. Or contingency, if you will. Even in eternity, if a person's decision to act logically precedes God's foreseeing of the event, that raises huge problems for the nature of God (unless one happens to be an Open Theist). It impacts upon His sovereignty and non-contingency and possibly even omniscience, not to mention the whole pattern of history and God's ability to direct it.

 

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Anyway it leads to another question, which is, in the absence of a complete set of facts, how do you know any logical conclusion drawn from those facts is correct? There was nothing illogical about the conclusion that the sun revolved around the earth, after all, just a dearth of facts.

A heliocentric universe isn't ultimately a philosophical question, though; it's a scientific one. I'd file the freewill thing more under the same category as "Can A be both A and not-A at the same time and in the same sense?", or "Is there such a thing as a married bachelor?" - questions of logic. If we go down the road of questioning logic itself - saying that the law of non-contradiction is "incomplete", for instance - I think we run into huge epistemic issues. At any rate, given that logic is necessary for the functioning of the human mind (which I think you agree with, yes?), and that we have no Biblical evidence that a different system of thought exists, I don't think God will blame us for interpreting the Bible with logic. We literally can't know any better.

 

Right, lunch.


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#67 of 300 Old 12-23-2010, 05:32 PM
 
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I don't have time to get into the larger discussion right now, but I just wanted to point out that it's perfectly acceptable for Catholics to believe in predestination, assuming they fall within certain parameters (they're usually referred to as Thomists).  It's true that Calvinism as a whole is incompatible with Church teaching, but there are aspects of it that are acceptable (which touches on the fact that the Church hasn't spoken infallibly or dogmatically on every single aspect of faith, and as such, theologians and lay people alike are free to think and form their own suppositions about certain things [evolution also comes to mind as something Catholics can reasonably hold differing opinions on], provided they don't contradict Scripture or existing Church teachings).  Anyway, I'm not well versed on it, but off the top of my head, one of the biggest differences between Calvinism and Thomistic predestination would be predestination to Hell (not acceptable from a Catholic viewpoint).

 

If I ever get time I'll try to answer some of your questions, Smokering.

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#68 of 300 Old 12-23-2010, 06:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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With regard to kicking out whoever doesn't agree with you - I am honestly not sure how you can maintain this on the one hand, and then say that there are limits to what one can believe and be in "The Church"?  You could of course try to argue that a group like the Montanists or whatever really were the Church and had kept the teachings intact without adding to them, not the group that actually maintained that title.  But how both?

I have no problem with kicking people out necessarily (although I sort of prefer the Protestant version, in which people who disagree with the theology of their current denomination tend to kick themselves out, either joining another denomination which more closely matches their beliefs, or starting their own church). What I disagree with is that this is unity in any particularly meaningful way. It doesn't demonstrate that all the members of the body of the Christ were thinking in harmony; it just demonstrates that those who believed a certain doctrine had enough influence or power to kick dissenters out. It's like... if you claim that your school is full of slim children, that sounds impressive - implying that something virtuous in the school's functioning encourages exercise and healthy eating - but if it turns out the school was turfing out children once they reached a certain weight, or refusing to allow heavy children into the school to begin with, it becomes a lot less impressive. Similarly if some of the children are told that no other school will give them a "real" education, so they'd better maintain a certain weight or they'll be doomed to ignorance...That's probably not my most nuanced analogy ever, but I'm sleep-deprived. :p

 

Surely a more genuine kind of unity is Christians who can work together despite doctrinal differences, or who believe the same things because they have independently come to the same conclusions? I'm not sure how far we can expect the latter in a fallen world, of course...

 

But that's just what you would like.  The Church has never said that it can somehow make everyone believe the same thing.  I mean, how could they do that?  The only way I can see that would be some sort of universalism.  Which I suppose is possible (though I think unlikely) from a Christian perspective, but I don't think it can be dogmatically asserted.

 

It is nice when heretics or disagreers or whatever just take themselves off, but sadly, they don't always.  Consider the Arians, or the unfortunate position of Anglicans at the moment.  


A heliocentric universe isn't ultimately a philosophical question, though; it's a scientific one. I'd file the freewill thing more under the same category as "Can A be both A and not-A at the same time and in the same sense?", or "Is there such a thing as a married bachelor?" - questions of logic. If we go down the road of questioning logic itself - saying that the law of non-contradiction is "incomplete", for instance - I think we run into huge epistemic issues. At any rate, given that logic is necessary for the functioning of the human mind (which I think you agree with, yes?), and that we have no Biblical evidence that a different system of thought exists, I don't think God will blame us for interpreting the Bible with logic. We literally can't know any better.

 

Right, lunch.

Even in an argument that is essentially logical, it is always possible that your premises are incorrect, or ill-conceived.  And in any real argument about substantial things, it isn't as easy as writing out a little logical equation.  I think it's telling that the rise of the use of symbolic logic in the 20th century has failed to make the answers to the real questions any easier to find.  As an example, it always seems to me that Calvinists beg the question by defining things like God's sovereignty in a way that it precludes him deciding to give free-will to creatures.  I am not sure why you think the Bible has no indications that there is some kind of alternative logic system - there are lots of indications that God's way of being is qualitatively different from ours, and that could mean a lot of things.

 

You asked me back in the thread why I thought holiness is important in relation to this kind of question - why we would ask great saints or holy people about their views rather than theologians and philosophers.  Holiness is about being close to God.  Talking about what God is, or his nature, without talking to the people who have some direct experience of him is like writing about fish when you have never been out of the desert.  I think if you look at what such people say, they will take issue with the claim that there is nothing above logic.  And if that is true, you are missing an important piece of information.
 


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#69 of 300 Old 12-24-2010, 01:28 AM
 
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I don't have time to get into the larger discussion right now, but I just wanted to point out that it's perfectly acceptable for Catholics to believe in predestination

Yes,  I believe Catholicism does assert single predestination. But it's my understanding that it also asserts libertarian free will, which I think is immensely problematic.

 

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But that's just what you would like.  The Church has never said that it can somehow make everyone believe the same thing.  I mean, how could they do that?  The only way I can see that would be some sort of universalism.  Which I suppose is possible (though I think unlikely) from a Christian perspective, but I don't think it can be dogmatically asserted.

Well, yes, quite. That's sort of my point. Infallible Tradition doesn't result in everyone believing the same thing, any more than SS does.

 

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It is nice when heretics or disagreers or whatever just take themselves off, but sadly, they don't always.  Consider the Arians, or the unfortunate position of Anglicans at the moment. 

True. And as I say, I don't necessarily have a problem with kicking people out. I think my own local church has done it once or twice (though not for doctrinal issues per se, just incredibly bad behavior). But I'd call that an unfortunate evidence of and reaction to disunity, not proof of unity, KWIM?

 

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Even in an argument that is essentially logical, it is always possible that your premises are incorrect, or ill-conceived.  And in any real argument about substantial things, it isn't as easy as writing out a little logical equation.  I think it's telling that the rise of the use of symbolic logic in the 20th century has failed to make the answers to the real questions any easier to find.  As an example, it always seems to me that Calvinists beg the question by defining things like God's sovereignty in a way that it precludes him deciding to give free-will to creatures.

I'm not saying that every doctrine is reducible to a "little logical equation", though. I'm just saying that arguments - even quite complex ones - can often benefit from being phrased in syllogistic form, and examined for logical inconsistencies or absurdities. Symbolic logic played a VERY large part in my husband's conversion, so I do think it helped him, at any rate, to find answers to real questions.

 

The Calvinist problem with free will isn't just predicated on a certain definition of God's sovereignty; but out of curiosity, how would you define it?

 

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I am not sure why you think the Bible has no indications that there is some kind of alternative logic system - there are lots of indications that God's way of being is qualitatively different from ours, and that could mean a lot of things.

Do you think it could mean, for instance, that God can make A be and not-A in the same time and in the same sense?

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You asked me back in the thread why I thought holiness is important in relation to this kind of question - why we would ask great saints or holy people about their views rather than theologians and philosophers.  Holiness is about being close to God.  Talking about what God is, or his nature, without talking to the people who have some direct experience of him is like writing about fish when you have never been out of the desert.  I think if you look at what such people say, they will take issue with the claim that there is nothing above logic.  And if that is true, you are missing an important piece of information.

1. As I said before, though, we don't have comprehensive biographical information about all the Church Fathers. (Or does the EO claim to?)

2. I think a person can be holy but mistaken; holy but illogical; holy but poorly-educated; holy without access to the Scriptures or to good teaching. So I wouldn't necessarily take the word of a holy man on theology just because he was holy. What seems the obvious way to me to see that his closeness to God produced good teaching is to examine them against Scriptures using reason.

3. Even an unholy man can theoretically "talk to", or interact with, the Scriptures (which were, by definition, written by people who had direct experience of God). My father always said one of the best explainers of Paul's doctrines he'd ever met was an agnostic professor, who didn't believe a word of it but nevertheless understood the logic of Paul's arguments very clearly. I don't see any reason my father should have rejected the knowledge he offered, although obviously he was aware of the guy's biases (which I think is important) and thus particularly on the lookout for teaching that betrayed disrespect for the Scriptures. Even secular philosophers have occasionally stumbled upon truths which have supported and illuminated Christianity. Paul quoted a secular poet. I guess my belief is that all good knowledge comes from God regardless of its human source, and valuable spiritual truths can be gained even by people totally on the wrong track. (Ever read Les Miserables?)

4. I'm not sure what "nothing above logic" means. I think there are factors in this world other than logic, if that's what you mean, but the idea of a kind of supra-logic or trans-logic is literally inconceivable. I think we've discussed this before. Even if I were to accept it, where should I go from there - abandon the use of logic as we understand it in everyday life and communication? That isn't feasible, and surely not desirable. So if I continue to use logic, why should I not apply it to the Scriptures? Again, you would need to demonstrate that religious knowledge is qualitatively different from other knowledge. Which is tricky, because a lot of religious knowledge essentially IS secular knowledge. Much of the Bible's content is facts about the physical universe - the existence of towns and tribes, the genealogies of people, reports of battles and censuses (censi?) and architecture. Should I count the existence of the town of Galilee a secular fact, or a religious one? What about the existence of a man called Jesus Christ? It just doesn't work - I don't see how you can build a coherent worldview on it, and it seems such a worldview would give you FAR less assurance and intellectual accountability than an SS worldview.

 

ETA: Also, DH just pointed out that to say "God is above or beyond logic" is to apply the law of identity to God; which, if the statement is true, can't be applied to God. So basically, if God is above or beyond logic, we can't know Him or even conceive of Him at all. We certainly can't trust what He says about Himself in the Bible (or in Sacred Tradition, if you like), because the statement "God is holy" could possibly mean, in God-logic, "God is both holy and not-holy at the same time and in the same sense".


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#70 of 300 Old 12-24-2010, 06:27 AM
 
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Honestly, a lot of this talk about logic goes over my head.  innocent.gif  I need to study. 

 

I'm going to have to step off this merry-go-round now so I can concentrate on Christmas and the influx of relatives we're expecting over the next week.  Thanks for all the thought-provoking posts and Merry Christmas!

 

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A heliocentric universe isn't ultimately a philosophical question, though; it's a scientific one. I'd file the freewill thing more under the same category as "Can A be both A and not-A at the same time and in the same sense?"

Even philosophical questions are based on sets of facts (premises, I guess, as Bluegoat said) that are derived from somewhere, so I don't see it as all that different. It is because you define God as A, and that A does not allow for free will, that you run into the philosophical problem. So why do you define God as A? I'm presuming you base your definition on verses in the Bible, but how do you know the given set of facts in the Bible is complete enough to render a correct conclusion?

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subbing... :)

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#73 of 300 Old 12-24-2010, 03:07 PM
 
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(Quote underneath, can't type below it for some reason!)

 

Because if the facts in the Bible aren't enough to give one the confidence to make meaningful statements about God, one has to conclude that God gave us an entirely useless book. And the same epistemology would mean Tradition had precisely the same problem.

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Even philosophical questions are based on sets of facts (premises, I guess, as Bluegoat said) that are derived from somewhere, so I don't see it as all that different. It is because you define God as A, and that A does not allow for free will, that you run into the philosophical problem. So why do you define God as A? I'm presuming you base your definition on verses in the Bible, but how do you know the given set of facts in the Bible is complete enough to render a correct conclusion?

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Because if the facts in the Bible aren't enough to give one the confidence to make meaningful statements about God, one has to conclude that God gave us an entirely useless book. And the same epistemology would mean Tradition had precisely the same problem.

One certainly does not have to conclude that. It could be that God meant the Scriptures to be sufficient and useful for bringing men to salvation and teaching them how to live, but not for giving a complete definition of God's nature. Or is could be that God's intention was for Scripture to be used in conjunction with Tradition, thus giving a more complete set of facts to work from.

 

I also don't see why if the Scriptures are incomplete it necessarily follows that Tradition is also incomplete. That sounds like a non sequitur to me. There nothing inherently illogical in the concept that God might divinely guide the preservation of some truths in Scriptures, and then divinely guide a certain Church Tradition to more fully explain and expand on those truths.

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(Quote underneath, can't type below it for some reason!)

 

Because if the facts in the Bible aren't enough to give one the confidence to make meaningful statements about God, one has to conclude that God gave us an entirely useless book. And the same epistemology would mean Tradition had precisely the same problem.

 


I don't know why you would conclude that.  Just because it does not contain everything we need to know does not make the things in it useless.   But without Holy Tradition I guess it is far less useful, understandable, and makes far less sense.  But an individuals choice to disregard Holy Tradition is not a reflection on the value of the writings in the books, the people who wrote them, the people who chose them, or the God who ordained them.  Just the person who is reading it.  Indeed it might be useless/less useful to a person who is functioning without the benefit of Holy Tradition or someone who is functioning outside of the Church the writings were intended for.  Just because it is useless out of context, though, does not make it useless.  And even if part does not directly apply to you that does not mean that you cannot still apply the parts that do.


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#76 of 300 Old 12-26-2010, 02:13 AM
 
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One certainly does not have to conclude that.

 

Quote:I don't know why you would conclude that.

 

 

Well, that's what I get for being terse. :p It's Boxing Day now, so I'll try to be clearer. Thao, this whole thing stemmed from the discussion about believing in both libertarian free will and predestination, right? I was saying that such a belief is logically impossible, and you and Bluegoat were saying that maybe it only seems impossible because there are alternative logical laws out there which I don't know of, but which could potentially make it comprehensible. I can see three directions you might be going with this.

 

1. I assume the existence of an alternative set of logical laws for this one theological point only. That seems like specious special pleading, and I have no good reason to do so, given that I believe my view comports with both Scripture and reason. You know what they say... "If you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not creatures that are both horses and not-horses at the same time and in the same sense". :)

 

2. I assume the existence of an alternative set of logical laws for theology in general, or indeed for knowledge in general (which makes more sense, because no-one has yet given me a good argument for believing religious knowledge is qualitatively different from other knowledge). In this case, the Bible becomes utterly incomprehensible, as does life in general. I can't believe in apply the law of non-contradiction or the law of identity - when the Bible says "God is holy" I have to read it with the caveat "But maybe there are logical laws that I don't know about which mean that God both is and isn't holy", which makes reading the Bible at all rather a useless endeavor. Same thing for facts such as "My husband exists" or "Concrete is not good to eat". With this epistemology, I can't trust anything; it's utter chaos.

 

I don't believe you'd go for option 2, as I seem to recall from a previous discussion that you agree humans have to use conventional logic - we can't mentally escape it. This being the case, it would be, to say the least, odd of God to write a book that was incomplete in a manner that meant humans WOULD inevitably, totally and utterly misunderstand it through only having half the pieces of the puzzle. What would be the point of that? Why bother communicating "Salvation is through Christ alone" if what you really mean is "Well, it isn't... well, it is and it isn't, it doesn't make any sense to you, but you can't comprehend the truth so I'm giving you this factoid anyway, even though it's wrong"? (And the same objection applies to point 1.)

 

3. I assume an epistemology wherein Tradition reveals alternative logical laws by which inconsistencies in the doctrines of LFW and predestination can be reconciled. This might be what lilyka is suggesting? The trouble with that scenario is that I've read Catholic teachings, at any rate, on LFW, and they don't present alternative logical laws. They use (or misuse, I would argue) conventional logic and Scripture. I'm not familiar with the Orthodox view, but I'll bet it doesn't present any alternative logical laws either. And if Tradition did present them, it would have to explain them - mere vague allusions to mystery or the existence of such laws simply isn't good enough (as, after all, any crackpot could claim the existence of logical laws which neatly allowed him to present heresy or lunacy as truth).

 

The pattern in Scripture is that God wants us to understand His truth - that's the whole point of revelation - and He never asks people to accept truths "just because". Often He explains His position, via (conventional) logic; at other times He appeals to His character, which we can only understand by conventional logic. As far as I can see, there's no compelling evidence that alternative laws of logic even exist; nor that if they did, human minds could possibly conceive of them in a manner allowing them to intelligently incorporate them into theology; nor that Tradition utilises them; nor that God intended them to be used by creatures whose minds are utterly intertwined with conventional logic (except, perhaps, in cases of madness; but even then I'd say logic exists in a perverted form, it's not absent entirely). And indeed, a theology exists which avoids the logical problem of LFW and predestination, so it's not even like alternative logic is necessary to explain the Bible. (Not that LFW/predestination is the only logical conundrum in the Bible, obviously, but I haven't found one yet that's unsolvable - even the Trinity and the Incarnation have been formulated in a manner that corresponds to formal logic.)

 

So to me it seems like just a lot of what-ifs. What we HAVE is the Bible, which gives every indication of being a communicative document which applies the principles of reason to paranormal and mundane subjects alike. We also have logic; we also have fallible human minds and sinful natures. The latter may mean that a 100% correct understanding of the Bible will never be achieved before the Second Coming (and indeed, there's no reason we should expect it); but I have repeatedly shown that a Sacred Tradition does not mitigate this problem at all, because it does not do away with the fallibility and sinfulness that are the root of incorrect doctrines. Epistemically, SS is at least as valid as Tradition. I have a hunch that it may be more valid, but I need to toss that back and forth with DH - I haven't formulated the argument properly yet.


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#77 of 300 Old 12-26-2010, 06:01 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm short on time this morning, so I'll try to be concise (for a change).

 

1) Why does it matter that either SS or a traditional understanding of the HS as working through the Church could cause some kind of actual unity of all people.  For anyone who believes in the latter that isn't likely to work anyway, as it would negate free will - there has never been anyone who says that unity of the Church means that.  You might like it better - it would be neater - but that just isn't what it means.
 

2) Holiness - THere are any number of people that the Church believes have had mystical encounters with God - many of them have written about it.  Augustine had a mystical experience like this with him mother Monica, and they are lots of other mystic saints (as well as ones who describe encounters with the Devil.)  Some are not theologians, others are, but the point is not that you are necessarily looking to them for a logical argument.  You are looking for them to tell you about God and what he is like, because they have encountered him directly.  You may be an expert on fish, and have read everything ever written, and maybe seen them in bits in the lab, and know all about skin coatings or something, and maybe even have seen fish in a lab.  But the guy who spends all day every day in the water with the fish has another kind of knowledge and can probably tell you something. (And in this case, we are talking about someone who has been mysically united with the fish.)

 

Of course non-Christians can have important and true insights.  But if you are talking about the nature of God, and you are not looking at what people who have met him say, I really have to wonder why.

 

 

3) Huge chunks of the history of philosophy are dedicated to understanding God as something that has a different mode of being than we do.  It was a problem for the ancients in uch the way your husband describes - so Plotinus tells us we can only say "God is not..."  They understood our philisophical language about him to simply be pointers that indivated a kind of direction.  Because we are by nature spirits (they thought) we can achieve brief and infrequent union with God, if we are a philosopher, until we die. (But ten we are reincarnated, boo hoo.)  Christianity was a huge step because it allowed them to move from an almost completely negative philosophy (with all the logicalquestions about creation that implied) to a positive kind of reasoning about God.  We could indeed say things about him, see him, and have lasting union with him, even if we weren't philosophers. 

 

So, really I can only say, read more early Christian stuff, and try reading Scripture in light of that.  (The classic of this type would be The Divine Names.  It's a bit heavy though.  Maybe The Consolation of philosophy would be better.)

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I don't have time to get into the larger discussion right now, but I just wanted to point out that it's perfectly acceptable for Catholics to believe in predestination

Yes,  I believe Catholicism does assert single predestination. But it's my understanding that it also asserts libertarian free will, which I think is immensely problematic.

 

Quote:
But that's just what you would like.  The Church has never said that it can somehow make everyone believe the same thing.  I mean, how could they do that?  The only way I can see that would be some sort of universalism.  Which I suppose is possible (though I think unlikely) from a Christian perspective, but I don't think it can be dogmatically asserted.

Well, yes, quite. That's sort of my point. Infallible Tradition doesn't result in everyone believing the same thing, any more than SS does.

 

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It is nice when heretics or disagreers or whatever just take themselves off, but sadly, they don't always.  Consider the Arians, or the unfortunate position of Anglicans at the moment. 

True. And as I say, I don't necessarily have a problem with kicking people out. I think my own local church has done it once or twice (though not for doctrinal issues per se, just incredibly bad behavior). But I'd call that an unfortunate evidence of and reaction to disunity, not proof of unity, KWIM?

 

.{..snip snip}

 

 

1. As I said before, though, we don't have comprehensive biographical information about all the Church Fathers. (Or does the EO claim to?)

2. I think a person can be holy but mistaken; holy but illogical; holy but poorly-educated; holy without access to the Scriptures or to good teaching. So I wouldn't necessarily take the word of a holy man on theology just because he was holy. What seems the obvious way to me to see that his closeness to God produced good teaching is to examine them against Scriptures using reason.

3. Even an unholy man can theoretically "talk to", or interact with, the Scriptures (which were, by definition, written by people who had direct experience of God). My father always said one of the best explainers of Paul's doctrines he'd ever met was an agnostic professor, who didn't believe a word of it but nevertheless understood the logic of Paul's arguments very clearly. I don't see any reason my father should have rejected the knowledge he offered, although obviously he was aware of the guy's biases (which I think is important) and thus particularly on the lookout for teaching that betrayed disrespect for the Scriptures. Even secular philosophers have occasionally stumbled upon truths which have supported and illuminated Christianity. Paul quoted a secular poet. I guess my belief is that all good knowledge comes from God regardless of its human source, and valuable spiritual truths can be gained even by people totally on the wrong track. (Ever read Les Miserables?)

4. I'm not sure what "nothing above logic" means. I think there are factors in this world other than logic, if that's what you mean, but the idea of a kind of supra-logic or trans-logic is literally inconceivable. I think we've discussed this before. Even if I were to accept it, where should I go from there - abandon the use of logic as we understand it in everyday life and communication? That isn't feasible, and surely not desirable. So if I continue to use logic, why should I not apply it to the Scriptures? Again, you would need to demonstrate that religious knowledge is qualitatively different from other knowledge. Which is tricky, because a lot of religious knowledge essentially IS secular knowledge. Much of the Bible's content is facts about the physical universe - the existence of towns and tribes, the genealogies of people, reports of battles and censuses (censi?) and architecture. Should I count the existence of the town of Galilee a secular fact, or a religious one? What about the existence of a man called Jesus Christ? It just doesn't work - I don't see how you can build a coherent worldview on it, and it seems such a worldview would give you FAR less assurance and intellectual accountability than an SS worldview.

 

ETA: Also, DH just pointed out that to say "God is above or beyond logic" is to apply the law of identity to God; which, if the statement is true, can't be applied to God. So basically, if God is above or beyond logic, we can't know Him or even conceive of Him at all. We certainly can't trust what He says about Himself in the Bible (or in Sacred Tradition, if you like), because the statement "God is holy" could possibly mean, in God-logic, "God is both holy and not-holy at the same time and in the same sense".




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#78 of 300 Old 12-26-2010, 07:56 AM
 
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Still reading...not much time to respond, but I have a couple of questions.

 

Smokering, would you mind going over again what you think is the logical impossibility of LFW?  And can you explain specifically what you disagree with in the Catholic perspective on this?

 

 

And Bluegoat, can you rephrase the quote below because I'm not sure what you mean... 

 

Quote:
1) Why does it matter that either SS or a traditional understanding of the HS as working through the Church could cause some kind of actual unity of all people.  For anyone who believes in the latter that isn't likely to work anyway, as it would negate free will - there has never been anyone who says that unity of the Church means that.  You might like it better - it would be neater - but that just isn't what it means.

 

TIA!

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Thao, this whole thing stemmed from the discussion about believing in both libertarian free will and predestination, right? I was saying that such a belief is logically impossible, and you and Bluegoat were saying that maybe it only seems impossible because there are alternative logical laws out there which I don't know of, but which could potentially make it comprehensible.

Actually, no, that wasn't my argument at all, LOL. While I don't disagree with Bluegoat that the laws of logic may not apply to God, I was actually putting myself inside your worldview where they do apply to God and going from there. This is what I said:

 

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It is because you define God as A, and that A does not allow for free will, that you run into the philosophical problem. So why do you define God as A? I'm presuming you base your definition on verses in the Bible, but how do you know the given set of facts in the Bible is complete enough to render a correct conclusion?

I think that is clear - if it's not, let me know, and I'll try to rephrase it.

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Still reading...not much time to respond, but I have a couple of questions.


 

And Bluegoat, can you rephrase the quote below because I'm not sure what you mean... 

 

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1) Why does it matter that either SS or a traditional understanding of the HS as working through the Church could cause some kind of actual unity of all people.  For anyone who believes in the latter that isn't likely to work anyway, as it would negate free will - there has never been anyone who says that unity of the Church means that.  You might like it better - it would be neater - but that just isn't what it means.

 

TIA!


It was a response to the idea that the doctrinal unity in the Church was compromised because of heresy, break-away groups, etc. 

 

What I meant was this:  One of the four marks of the Church is unity.  Sometimes people point out that there have always been those who did not agree with the teachings and either separated themselves, or were kicked out, and say "so it's not real unity."  But what that really means is that it is not what they consider to be real unity, or an important kind of unity.  The Church has never said that there will not be people who are not Christians, or Christians who believe heretical teachings, or even that there will never be people who are visibly in the Church who actually do not actually believe it's teachings.  That has just never been what it meant by unity. 

 


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#81 of 300 Old 12-26-2010, 11:50 AM
 
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Thao: Right, OK. Well. Same argument applies, really. (And I'll add it's not just the definition of God's sovereignty that causes issues for LFW - a definition in which I might differ slightly from Catholics - but the definitions of perfect definite foreknowledge, non-contingency and so on.)

 

Bluegoat: So what do you think the Biblically-promised unity means? (Actually, where does the Bible promise unity in the church? I can think of verses in which churches are told to aim for unity, but I can't think of any promises that the church as a whole will be united, off the top of my head. It might be helpful to look at the actual verses in question.)

 

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Smokering, would you mind going over again what you think is the logical impossibility of LFW?  And can you explain specifically what you disagree with in the Catholic perspective on this?

Catholics (and all Arminians, I think) believe in both LFW and God's perfect definite foreknowledge. That's philosophically impossible. If man's decision to choose comes logically prior to God's foreknowledge, then God's knowledge is contingent on His creation, which is an Open Theist-type view and not, AFAIK, one that Catholicism endorses. Choice is generally phrased in terms of possible worlds - ie, there's a possible world in which Gerry chooses the banana or the apple for lunch. With perfect definite foreknowledge, God doesn't just see all the possible worlds, but He knows which world will be instantiated, and indeed instantiates it. So under this model, in which the orthodox definition of God is preserved, Gerry's possible worlds are limited to the one God instantiated - meaning that he doesn't have true freedom of choice at all. He may think he's choosing the banana freely, but in fact there was never any possibility of him choosing the apple, as God did not instantiate that particular world. So foreknowledge collapses into predestination. To put it another way: if God knows something will occur, it WILL occur, and thus human will has no ability to make it not occur, and thus human will is not free in the LFW sense. Gerry will still feel that he is freely choosing the banana, but that's irrelevant; and it's the Calvinist view. The illusion of choice is not the same as having actual options.


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Still reading...not much time to respond, but I have a couple of questions.


 

And Bluegoat, can you rephrase the quote below because I'm not sure what you mean... 

 

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1) Why does it matter that either SS or a traditional understanding of the HS as working through the Church could cause some kind of actual unity of all people.  For anyone who believes in the latter that isn't likely to work anyway, as it would negate free will - there has never been anyone who says that unity of the Church means that.  You might like it better - it would be neater - but that just isn't what it means.

 

TIA!


It was a response to the idea that the doctrinal unity in the Church was compromised because of heresy, break-away groups, etc. 

 

What I meant was this:  One of the four marks of the Church is unity.  Sometimes people point out that there have always been those who did not agree with the teachings and either separated themselves, or were kicked out, and say "so it's not real unity."  But what that really means is that it is not what they consider to be real unity, or an important kind of unity.  The Church has never said that there will not be people who are not Christians, or Christians who believe heretical teachings, or even that there will never be people who are visibly in the Church who actually do not actually believe it's teachings.  That has just never been what it meant by unity. 

 


That's what I thought you meant, and I agree.

 

 

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Catholics (and all Arminians, I think) believe in both LFW and God's perfect definite foreknowledge. That's philosophically impossible. If man's decision to choose comes logically prior to God's foreknowledge, then God's knowledge is contingent on His creation, which is an Open Theist-type view and not, AFAIK, one that Catholicism endorses. Choice is generally phrased in terms of possible worlds - ie, there's a possible world in which Gerry chooses the banana or the apple for lunch. With perfect definite foreknowledge, God doesn't just see all the possible worlds, but He knows which world will be instantiated, and indeed instantiates it. So under this model, in which the orthodox definition of God is preserved, Gerry's possible worlds are limited to the one God instantiated - meaning that he doesn't have true freedom of choice at all. He may think he's choosing the banana freely, but in fact there was never any possibility of him choosing the apple, as God did not instantiate that particular world. So foreknowledge collapses into predestination. To put it another way: if God knows something will occur, it WILL occur, and thus human will has no ability to make it not occur, and thus human will is not free in the LFW sense. Gerry will still feel that he is freely choosing the banana, but that's irrelevant; and it's the Calvinist view. The illusion of choice is not the same as having actual options.

 

Thanks.  I have thoughts about this, but I'll have to come back later.

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Bluegoat: So what do you think the Biblically-promised unity means? (Actually, where does the Bible promise unity in the church? I can think of verses in which churches are told to aim for unity, but I can't think of any promises that the church as a whole will be united, off the top of my head. It might be helpful to look at the actual verses in question.)

 

I wouldn't say it promises unity.  Christ asks God to give the Church unity when they pray -  at the last supper.  He says that unity will be one of the ways the world will recognize that the Father sent the Son. (which I would say implies a kind of unity that must be recognized by those outside of the church.)  The "four marks of the Church" are set out in the Creed "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."

 

What do I think it means?  Well, I don't think it means that we have to be alike in everything. I don't necessarily think it means that the administrative aspects have to be the same (though I do think it has to be apostolic, so that would be an essential to my mind.) I do think that it means that we have to recognize the essentials of faith, and agree on them, or to submit ourselves to the Body when we don't get it.  So there must be some way for whatever organic groups exist - congreations or groups centered around Bishops - to recognize each other as sharing these essentials.

 

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Smokering, would you mind going over again what you think is the logical impossibility of LFW?  And can you explain specifically what you disagree with in the Catholic perspective on this?

Catholics (and all Arminians, I think) believe in both LFW and God's perfect definite foreknowledge. That's philosophically impossible. If man's decision to choose comes logically prior to God's foreknowledge, then God's knowledge is contingent on His creation, which is an Open Theist-type view and not, AFAIK, one that Catholicism endorses. Choice is generally phrased in terms of possible worlds - ie, there's a possible world in which Gerry chooses the banana or the apple for lunch. With perfect definite foreknowledge, God doesn't just see all the possible worlds, but He knows which world will be instantiated, and indeed instantiates it. So under this model, in which the orthodox definition of God is preserved, Gerry's possible worlds are limited to the one God instantiated - meaning that he doesn't have true freedom of choice at all. He may think he's choosing the banana freely, but in fact there was never any possibility of him choosing the apple, as God did not instantiate that particular world. So foreknowledge collapses into predestination. To put it another way: if God knows something will occur, it WILL occur, and thus human will has no ability to make it not occur, and thus human will is not free in the LFW sense. Gerry will still feel that he is freely choosing the banana, but that's irrelevant; and it's the Calvinist view. The illusion of choice is not the same as having actual options.


I just find this totally unconvincing.  All the points that are supposed to follow here, as far as I can see, don't.  (Not to mention, who said God only made one possible world?) 


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#84 of 300 Old 12-26-2010, 11:28 PM
 
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I wouldn't say it promises unity.  Christ asks God to give the Church unity when they pray -  at the last supper.  He says that unity will be one of the ways the world will recognize that the Father sent the Son. (which I would say implies a kind of unity that must be recognized by those outside of the church.)  The "four marks of the Church" are set out in the Creed "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."

 

What do I think it means?  Well, I don't think it means that we have to be alike in everything. I don't necessarily think it means that the administrative aspects have to be the same (though I do think it has to be apostolic, so that would be an essential to my mind.) I do think that it means that we have to recognize the essentials of faith, and agree on them, or to submit ourselves to the Body when we don't get it.  So there must be some way for whatever organic groups exist - congreations or groups centered around Bishops - to recognize each other as sharing these essentials.

I actually got curious about this after I posted and googled Bible verses about unity. It's interesting; I'll see if I have any thoughts on it later. The verses I've found are a bit more comprehensive than just unity when Christians pray - the list is here. (Can't vouch for the source, I just happened upon it.)

 

By "apostolic" are you referring to historical continuity with the apostles (via laying on of hands or whatever), or theological continuity with their teachings (as laid out in Scripture, or Scripture interpreted by Tradition), or both, or what? Do you feel there's an visible current denomination which is the Church spoken of in the NT?

 

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I just find this totally unconvincing.  All the points that are supposed to follow here, as far as I can see, don't.  (Not to mention, who said God only made one possible world?)

Well, OK, can you point out where and how my argument is wrong? I'm not sure what you mean about God only making one possible world. Some choices have multiple possibilities (a whole fruit bowl, as it were!), but that doesn't alter the argument..? Or are you saying God creates a new parallel universe (or two, or three) for every choice so that every possible human decision is played out? But that doesn't affect the free will of the creatures within each universe either. Can you clarify what you mean?


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I wouldn't say it promises unity.  Christ asks God to give the Church unity when they pray -  at the last supper.  He says that unity will be one of the ways the world will recognize that the Father sent the Son. (which I would say implies a kind of unity that must be recognized by those outside of the church.)  The "four marks of the Church" are set out in the Creed "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."

 

What do I think it means?  Well, I don't think it means that we have to be alike in everything. I don't necessarily think it means that the administrative aspects have to be the same (though I do think it has to be apostolic, so that would be an essential to my mind.) I do think that it means that we have to recognize the essentials of faith, and agree on them, or to submit ourselves to the Body when we don't get it.  So there must be some way for whatever organic groups exist - congreations or groups centered around Bishops - to recognize each other as sharing these essentials.

I actually got curious about this after I posted and googled Bible verses about unity. It's interesting; I'll see if I have any thoughts on it later. The verses I've found are a bit more comprehensive than just unity when Christians pray - the list is here. (Can't vouch for the source, I just happened upon it.)

 

By "apostolic" are you referring to historical continuity with the apostles (via laying on of hands or whatever), or theological continuity with their teachings (as laid out in Scripture, or Scripture interpreted by Tradition), or both, or what? Do you feel there's an visible current denomination which is the Church spoken of in the NT?

 

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I just find this totally unconvincing.  All the points that are supposed to follow here, as far as I can see, don't.  (Not to mention, who said God only made one possible world?)

Well, OK, can you point out where and how my argument is wrong? I'm not sure what you mean about God only making one possible world. Some choices have multiple possibilities (a whole fruit bowl, as it were!), but that doesn't alter the argument..? Or are you saying God creates a new parallel universe (or two, or three) for every choice so that every possible human decision is played out? But that doesn't affect the free will of the creatures within each universe either. Can you clarify what you mean?

As far as multiple worlds, no, I can't really elaborate much - it's not something I would say is true you know?  I was thinking of the idea that as each choice is made, all the choices are in fact instantiated in paralell universes.  It's an interesting idea from a mathematical POV because it seems to be an idea that relates to problems of why one thing happens and not another,  But I really haven't the background to comment on it more than that, and it is so theoretical anyway, and goodness knows what it would mean theologically.  I can't imagine that thee is a way to test this idea either.

 

As to where I think the argument went wrong - almost every therefore I thought - that doesn't follow.  I don't think that God allowing free will in his creation makes him contingent on it, any more than having a creation at all makes his knowledge of it contingent; I don't think the act that God has instantiated one possible universe (or that an individual finds himself in one possible universe) means that his choice isn't really free; that is just saying God can't really give freedom to his creation as a dogmatic statement.  It all seems to be saying that God really just can't hold it all together, and it seems to me to be a terribly linear way of thinking.

 

And it does raise a whole series of problems of its own, the biggest I think being that it makes God the author of evil.
 

THat is a very comprehensive set of references to unity in the Bible.(Did you notice that the group has been online since 1986?)  I do think that it means historical continuity with the Apostles via laying on of hands, though I also understand the argument that says that is is continuity of teaching.  I actually think you need both.  If any group has it I think it is probably the EO - I don't think the Catholics do, and I don't think Protestants can claim it.  Anglicans are pretty close from the point of view of the form - bishops in Apostolic continuity, groups of related churches that recognize each other by being members of the Anglican communion, and institutions that are meant to bring about doctrinal unity within parameters.  But the last part hasn't worked well, and now you have a lot of traditional Anglicans who are not even in the communion, while some that are believe nothing that the Apostles would have recognized.  It could sort itself out, but I think not without a serious change in its institutions.  Some of the confessional Lutherans are close too I think, and the Catholics are close, but I actually think they may be out in the breeze more than the confessional Lutherans.


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Thao: Right, OK. Well. Same argument applies, really. (And I'll add it's not just the definition of God's sovereignty that causes issues for LFW - a definition in which I might differ slightly from Catholics - but the definitions of perfect definite foreknowledge, non-contingency and so on.)

So if I am understanding you correctly, you think that if the Bible is an incomplete basis from which to reason out and build a theology that definitely describes God's character, it is useless?

 

That makes no sense. By that logic, a child's textbook that teaches adding and subtracting is useless because the child can't use it to learn advanced statistical theory.

 

As far as I can see, the only argument you have given to prove that the Bible must be a complete basis from which to extract comprehensive premises about the nature of God is that it would "be odd" if it were not. Which isn't much of an argument.

 

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Or are you saying God creates a new parallel universe (or two, or three) for every choice so that every possible human decision is played out? But that doesn't affect the free will of the creatures within each universe either.

It's called the Many Worlds Interpretation, and it is a mainstream theory in quantum physics (meaning, it is not some sci-fi woo-woo red herring, it is a possibility that physicists take very seriously). In this theory, every time a probability wave collapses - in other words, every time a non-deterministic event happens - new worlds split off in which each possible event actually happened. I'm not sure how it affects the issue of free will, however. A physicist might view Gerry's choice to eat the banana and a particle's "choice"  to decay in a certain way as equivalent i.e. random happenings rather than free will choices. If one believes in a soul, however, I don't see why you couldn't say that Gerry freely chooses to eat the banana and as a consequence another Gerry is created who necessarily chooses to eat the apple. Thus Gerry has free choice and God knew beforehand that he would eat both the apple and the banana. And while the second Gerry didn't have a free choice to eat the apple - he HAD to, since the first Gerry ate the banana - as a human in his world he can have free will going forward. Just as we don't have free will in choosing to be born, but we do going forward from there. So I think the idea of multiverses could be used to support either position.

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As far as multiple worlds, no, I can't really elaborate much - it's not something I would say is true you know?  I was thinking of the idea that as each choice is made, all the choices are in fact instantiated in paralell universes.  It's an interesting idea from a mathematical POV because it seems to be an idea that relates to problems of why one thing happens and not another,  But I really haven't the background to comment on it more than that, and it is so theoretical anyway, and goodness knows what it would mean theologically.  I can't imagine that thee is a way to test this idea either.

"Possible worlds" is a philosophical term - it's not referring to the concept of parallel universes (which is a concept that goes way over my head, frankly!). Maybe "worlds" is confusing - it's just a way of conceptualising an alternative situation. Substitute "alternative situation" in the argument if you like (or "alternative reality", but that also has vaguely scifi connotations!).

 

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As to where I think the argument went wrong - almost every therefore I thought - that doesn't follow.  I don't think that God allowing free will in his creation makes him contingent on it, any more than having a creation at all makes his knowledge of it contingent; I don't think the act that God has instantiated one possible universe (or that an individual finds himself in one possible universe) means that his choice isn't really free; that is just saying God can't really give freedom to his creation as a dogmatic statement.  It all seems to be saying that God really just can't hold it all together, and it seems to me to be a terribly linear way of thinking.

1. It's not that God allowing free will to His creation makes Him contingent on it; it's that if their decision to act logically precedes His knowledge of that decision, His knowledge is contingent (logically, not temporally) on it. You have a learning God. The creation of the physical universe isn't the same thing, because God's knowledge of the universe logically preceded its existence. God didn't foresee the universe say "I freely decide to have stars" and go with it.

 

2. "I don't think the act that God has instantiated one possible universe (or that an individual finds himself in one possible universe) means that his choice isn't really free" - well, how? Within that universe, if there is no objective possibility that Gerry will not choose a banana, how does it comport with LFW that he chooses it? Surely freedom of choice requires an actual ability to do otherwards? I wouldn't say I choose not to grow wings - I couldn't if I tried (even if I believed I could, and felt I was making a real choice for the safety of my unborn child, or somesuch illusion.) If God instantiates, by knowing it will occur and thus logically ensuring nothing else will, a state of affairs in which Gerry chooses a banana, he can no more effectively not choose a banana than I could effectively choose to  grow wings.

 

3. You know I don't believe that God can "hold together" mutually contradictory facts, as His nature is logical... any more than God can "create a stone so heavy He can't lift it". If you want me to entertain the idea that God isn't bound by logic, you need to argue for it (using logic), not just dismiss it as "linear", whatever that means - given that I'm not talking about temporality here. "For God so loved the world..." is "linear" too, logic-wise, so it seems a strange way to dismiss an argument!

 

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And it does raise a whole series of problems of its own, the biggest I think being that it makes God the author of evil.

1. And LFW, if applied to every human decision ever, raises the problem that God is powerless to stop evil, at least when it originates from human choice. If you don't apply it systematically - if you accept that God sometimes interferes with LFW - then it seems you have all the "problems" of both positions.

 

ETA: Actually, given that perfect definite foreknowledge logically collapses into predestination, even believing in PDF means you believe God is the "author of evil" to some extent. If He foresees a reality in which evil will occur and chooses to instantiate that reality, He's a necessary cause of its occurrence.

 

2. God outright claims to be the originator of several evil acts in the Bible - the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, sending an evil spirit to Saul, preventing various people and even people-groups from accepting Christ or correct doctrine and causing them to believe what was false. You also have Isaiah 45:7 to contend with. So I'm constantly amazed that Christians get so outraged at the idea that God is in some sense the cause of sin - God admits it! Frequently! And any theology which claims that God is in control of all things or causes all things leads naturally to that conclusion, unless LFW is employed as a kind of escape route to preserve God's character, against what He revealed about it in the Bible.

 

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THat is a very comprehensive set of references to unity in the Bible.(Did you notice that the group has been online since 1986?)  I do think that it means historical continuity with the Apostles via laying on of hands, though I also understand the argument that says that is is continuity of teaching.  I actually think you need both.  If any group has it I think it is probably the EO - I don't think the Catholics do, and I don't think Protestants can claim it.  Anglicans are pretty close from the point of view of the form - bishops in Apostolic continuity, groups of related churches that recognize each other by being members of the Anglican communion, and institutions that are meant to bring about doctrinal unity within parameters.  But the last part hasn't worked well, and now you have a lot of traditional Anglicans who are not even in the communion, while some that are believe nothing that the Apostles would have recognized.  It could sort itself out, but I think not without a serious change in its institutions.  Some of the confessional Lutherans are close too I think, and the Catholics are close, but I actually think they may be out in the breeze more than the confessional Lutherans.

Interesting. If you don't mind me asking, if you feel the EO are best option in terms of fulfilling the promise, how come you're not EO?

 

Why do you feel historic continuity is important? I can't see any Biblical evidence for it - to me, as a Protestant, the teachings seems to be the important thing, whether they originate in six independent places after being lost or denied for years, or are preserved faithfully by the literal sons of sons of sons of the apostles, or anything in between.


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So if I am understanding you correctly, you think that if the Bible is an incomplete basis from which to reason out and build a theology that definitely describes God's character, it is useless?

 

That makes no sense. By that logic, a child's textbook that teaches adding and subtracting is useless because the child can't use it to learn advanced statistical theory.

 

As far as I can see, the only argument you have given to prove that the Bible must be a complete basis from which to extract comprehensive premises about the nature of God is that it would "be odd" if it were not. Which isn't much of an argument.

No, you're misunderstanding me again. I'm saying that to claim that facts in the Bible aren't reliable in terms of knowing about God - because there might be alternative logic systems out there that totally change the way we should interpret the Biblical data - makes it ENTIRELY useless for knowing about God's nature OR any of the other facts in the Bible - the existence of Galilee, the existence of Israel, Jesus' birth, anything. This is a child's textbook that teaches that 1+1=2, but you can't trust it because there might be an alternative mathematical system out there which adds new information, making 1+1=2 false. So it's not good for ANYTHING, not teaching basic addition or subtraction OR advanced statistical theory. Creating such a book would be more than "odd", it would be utterly pointless - it would be using a method always used for communication in order to provide no useful communication whatsoever.

 

Also, the nature of God is hardly the "advanced statistical theory" of Biblical doctrines. It is the "1+1". We can't worship God without knowing what He is. You mentioned salvation as the basic "point" of the Bible, but salvation is a meaningless term unless we understand things like God's holiness, wrath, justice, mercy and love. Those are attributes of His nature. If you say I can't trust the Biblical verses that describe God's sovereignty, why should I trust those that describe those other characteristics? Alternative logic systems could mean they don't mean what I think they mean, after all!


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#89 of 300 Old 12-27-2010, 11:22 AM
 
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No, you're misunderstanding me again. I'm saying that to claim that facts in the Bible aren't reliable in terms of knowing about God - because there might be alternative logic systems out there that totally change the way we should interpret the Biblical data

With respect, Smokering, I'll ask again that if you are going to respond to my posts that you should take the time to read what I say in them. I specifically said above that I am NOT positing an alternative logic system. See post #79.

 

I'll try again:

 

1. Logic can only render correct conclusions if the set of facts from which one reasons is complete enough (example: incomplete facts about the movement of the heavenly bodies led to a flawlessly logical but incorrect conclusion that the sun revolves around the earth). Additional information can lead to different and more valid conclusions.

 

2. Philosophic reasoning is based on premises, just as scientific reasoning is based on observed phenomenon.

 

3. Christian philosophers extract their premises from the Scriptures.

 

4. How do you know the Scriptures contain sufficient information to extract valid premises about the intricacies of God's nature? There's no doubt that the Bible gives us the broad outlines, but being God, surely there are parts of his nature which are beyond our ken. How do you know that the parts that are beyond our ken might not explain the apparent contradiction between God's omniscience and non-contigency and man's free will?

 

 

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We can't worship God without knowing what He is.

Do you think you understand comprehensively all of God's nature? If not, how much do you think you know?

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#90 of 300 Old 12-27-2010, 02:06 PM
 
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I specifically said above that I am NOT positing an alternative logic system.

But you are now saying:

 

Quote:
How do you know that the parts that are beyond our ken might not explain the apparent contradiction between God's omniscience and non-contigency and man's free will?

...which would REQUIRE an alternative logic system, given that Tradition cannot explain it by conventional logic. The concepts aren't just Scripturally incompatible, they're logically/philosophical incompatible. It's like saying "You think that A cannot be A and not-A in the same time and in the same sense, but there might be some extra information beyond your ken that would resolve this apparent contradiction". If there is, it must be an alternative logic system, because nothing in this logic system can resolve it, by definition. Bluegoat seems to think my argument isn't logically sound, but I'm waiting for an argument that proves it; certainly none of the people I've met who've encountered it before have come up with a solution.

 

Also, why should I need to resolve the "apparent contradiction"? I don't believe in LFW. I don't think it's a necessary facet of Christianity - something that must be dealt with or the whole religion falls apart. I think it's unbiblical and illogical. I think the Biblical teachings on predestination are VERY clear, and you're asking me to abandon them in favour of thinking Biblical data is not complete enough to make correct conclusions about God's nature - which, apart from raising serious epistemic issues, I don't see any reason to do. If I believed in LFW, then yes, I'd have a very strong reason to want it to be true - but I don't.

 

Quote:

Do you think you understand comprehensively all of God's nature? If not, how much do you think you know?

No; God never says that humanity will conprehensively understand all of His nature. But He says that He does not lie. So when He says He is holy, wrathful, just, merciful etc, I believe Him - I don't think "Well, maybe we don't have enough data to say" and keep all those beliefs on hold. There is absolutely no epistemic reason to do that.


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