Monday, December 30, 2013

Apologetics Online II

Please forgive my absence from posting more regularly. Some bloggers keep up with a better regimen and react to news more quickly. I'm beginning to feel as if I'm more in St. John's camp. At the end of his second letter he states that he wishes to speak with his brothers face to face. I'm perhaps the same way.

As I work on other pieces during my break I thought it would be nice to share with you some of my other encounters online doing apologetics. These are a few selections from a number of various topics selected. I give them to you all for your scrutiny and hope we can discuss similar questions together. If you have any additional questions, please ask away.

Much obliged.
As with last time, the person who asks me a question/makes a comment will be in italics. My responses will be in plain text.

[1]

 When someone slags off the church (IE calling them paedophiles) what do you say to them?

Well, it's upsetting because it's ignorant--not ignorant in that there are no pedophiles in the clergy (sad and regrettable)--but sometimes these people only want to be listened to.

The ones who say it as a joke or as slander don't want to be told anything. The best response is patience, really,

Others simply have been hurt by it and need to be heard. Other than that there are plenty of statistics to show that the rate among clergy, especially Catholic clergy, is lower and less frequent than nearly any other populations (e.g., fathers, teachers, etc.).


[2] Note: the wide area a simple question opens up to. It shows, I think, how ready we have to be to approach these subjects specifically and then see the larger picture. In this instance infallibility opens up to questions about truth, veracity, certainty, (Medieval) history, philosophy, and Church procedures. It goes on and on.

(I've done some editing and down-sizing)

Do you believe the pope's word is infallible spiritually or otherwise and how con someone who allegedly have a direct link to an omniscient being be wrong about one thing and not another?

First and foremost Papal Infallibility is limited to the Pope speaking authoritatively on matters of faith and morals to the whole Church, not just one part. His comments on local affairs or specific concerns in a field, while they carry weight by virtue of his authority, are not considered infallible.

The "direct link" to Omniscience is not like a phone call to God. The Holy Spirit works in the Church and ultimately Christ, rather, the Trinity, leads the Church. The Pope is the living authority of the Church who by virtue of His stature, is said to be incapable of error or deceit when it comes to the contents of faith.

This has been misinterpreted for centuries, even after clarification in the 19th century, and has been taken to mean that whatever he says is free from error. The pope has only invoked infallibility according to our definition about 30 times in our whole history. Likewise, as Scripture states "the one who is wise seeks council." Very rarely, if ever, has the pope just come out and said "I infallibly say..." In fact he never has. He consults with his fellow bishops on matters of faith that concern the peoples from all over the world and when conflict arises they discuss this conflict's subject matter and how it relates to the whole of the faith. It's a very long process and never done flippantly.

Again isn't he supposed to be god's mouthpiece on Earth; why would he need to do all that if he can contact the "all mighty" himself?

Well we would first have to examine any assumptions one would make about it. First, I don't recall us calling him "God's mouthpiece." It's not an official or even theological title.

It assumes how God speaks to men or through men. It assumes how men listen for God. I wish I could give you a formula for how it happens but it's not subject to human control (or invocation). The Pope is elected as leader of the Church by his fellow brothers because they see in him a spirit of governance. He is not perfect, he's human. By virtue of his position he is given great responsibility but also a great number of graces--should he choose to accept him.

Describing how the Holy Spirit works through men is not an easy task, nor is it one many Christians wish to reflect on or think through.

I know it might be hard for you to process but has it ever occurred to you that it's most likely all made up?
Of course, but then again how much effort have you dedicated to seeing if it's true?

Most of my adolescence and all of my early adulthood. There is a logical tool that is used to determine the veracity of a claim called Occam's Razor. I'm sure you heard of it.It is a line of reasoning that says the simplest answer is often correct. [someone else, atheist it seems, steps in to say, "Not quite. Occam's Razor is more like "the answer that makes the least amount of assumptions is often correct".]
I've also found that that's the extent of people's knowledge of Ockham.

Let use it in an example then!
Which is the simpler claim: that someone can truly be infallible or that it's a lie?

Asking if he's claiming that it's more probable to tell the truth than a lie he response, "No it is much more likely that someone is telling a lie; especially when making an extraordinary a claim as "selective infallibility". If we are to believe any claim we require evidence and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." [I also ask if he's read Ockham]


Can you give me the probabilities on that? If you call what I described as "selective" you might as well call any truth claim "selective truth claiming."

As for evidence in general, who requires it and why? What makes a claim extraordinary? Likewise, are claims of logic, philosophy, or similar branches subject to the same criteria as the physical sciences, or are their various forms of demonstration according to their proper field?

I also like the notion of "extraordinary claims." Extraordinary has a very emotional ring to it, doesn't it?

You see, Ockham's Razor is very popular except people seem to have forgotten that he did believe in God--did he not follow his own rule? That, and his use of the "Razor" was more concerned with the discussion of universals than every time someone wanted to talk about God.
[Here it gets a bit more complicated:]


[1] Truth as most commonly defined as that which is in accordance with fact or reality.
What you are claiming is that the pope isn't just selectively telling the truth but as I was getting at that the pope is allegedly capable of selectively dictating without error the word of an alleged all powerful being that created the universe.

[2] A claim that is mundane or a commonly observed or experienced occurrence (like: I walked my dog) is an easily determinable as either true or false there should be no reason to doubt me and if you do I could present to you evidence that I have a dog. Simply by presenting my dog. That would be considered ordinary.
Extraordinary (despite your attempt to call me on an appeal to emotion) is something that is as the word describes extra-ordinary. Which is defined as going beyond what is usual, regular, or customary.
Infallibility would fall under the category of an extraordinary claim.
[3] Because just like Sir Isaac Newton, Ockham's scientific contribution is irrelevant to his religious beliefs. 

Ockham believed that  "only faith gives us access to theological truths. The ways of God are not open to reason, for God has freely chosen to create a world and establish a way of salvation within it apart from any necessary laws that human logic or rationality can uncover." His theism was based solely on private revelation and faith and that god was an ontological necessity. Which given the century he lived in there was literally no alternative theory of how things came to exist. Essentially Ockham granted god special pleading because when you apply the Razor to the claim of god it really does a number on it.
[I quote what I'm responding to:]
Truth as most commonly defined as that which is in accordance with fact or reality.

Philosophy is often quite good at challenging even these claims as being self-evident, but I won't argue semantics here.

But regardless of our views about the value of fact or the precise definition of reality you seem to be adding complications to it by your evaluations of a given pope's actions, i.e., I don't understand  "selectively dictating without error the word of [x]." It leads me to believe that you take his action to be some sort of prophecy or divination which it isn't. I can't really argue against things I don't believe or the Church doesn't teach/proclaim.

It doesn't quite answer my question about your comment about the probability of truth.
Extraordinary (despite your attempt to call me on an appeal to emotion) is something that is as the word describes extra-ordinary. Which is defined as going beyond what is usual, regular, or customary.Infallibility would fall under the category of an extraordinary claim.

Then again, given your dog example, you could claim that you've spoken infallibly about your dog. I only say it's "emotional" in that there usually is some wonder in confronting something extraordinary. The vastness of the universe, stellar motions, and the like can provoke wonder. Sub atomic structures, the formation of organisms from single cells, mitosis, etc. may also be extraordinary in a certain sense. Then again even the act of walking our dog or observing the harmony of an animal's motions can be very captivating. Even something as "ordinary" as ourselves--we are with ourselves most of the time after all--is subject to a great deal of contingency and wonder.

Perhaps this serves as a small example of how easily ordinary and extraordinary can sometimes be confusing, even emotional insofar as they cause us to wonder.

Infallibility is not so extraordinary when one is certain. People seem to infallibly claim things all the time such as:

-the universe is infinite
-the universe is only material (and thus finite)
-any evaluation of the Middle Ages seems to be very extraordinary and many non-historians/Christians/etc. claim many fantastic, infallible things off of weak/unfounded/biased/unhistorical evidence

I use that last example of the ordinary way everyday people speak infallibly about things much larger and more complicated than themselves.

Whenever the Pope speaks infallibly, however, it is not apart from a careful examination of the faith of the people, the content of tradition, and the content of revelation--claims rarely made (as I said) flippantly.

Perhaps you're introducing more extraordinary things into the process.
Because just like Sir Isaac Newton, Ockham's scientific contribution is irrelevant to his religious beliefs.

The thing is that Ockham's claim with the "Razor" was not scientific, but philosophical--a bit of a difference. Likewise Newton's physics (Paschal's too) were motivated by both genuine curiosity, genius, and their faith. It was their belief that creation was orderly, not chaotic, that inspired them to find that order in creation (that's how they would see it--how you see it for them is beside the point).

His theism was based solely on private revelation and faith and that god was an ontological necessity. Which given the century he lived in there was literally no alternative theory of how things came to exist. Essentially Ockham granted god special pleading because when you apply the Razor to the claim of god it really does a number on it.


Are you saying that as a scholar of this particular period of theology and philosophy or just an educated opinion?

Given that he was a member of the Catholic Church he believed in some capacity of revelation throughout history and also through the Church, not just privately. A private faith apart from the Body, the Church did not share clearly or accurately with revelation because a private faith alone is not a part of the Body.

As for alternative theories have you read Anselm, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Scotus, Nicholas of Cusa, or Ockham on their own terms to see if your purported truth claim is, well, true?


I thought the same when I started philosophy, that the Middle ages just said "God" was the answer without any real thought behind it. As it turned out I had to be humbled by my peers and by actual reading to find that, all along, I (me personally) had been the arrogant one and I was wrong. There's a richness and variety that we deny these men by assuming what their arguments are all about.
 [This is the conversation thus far....]

***

Reflection:

Apologetics is a task where one has to get to the heart of what one is asking. In matters of making a defense the first claim is the gateway into a number of further disagreements. If we can be civil and honest about such disagreements we can go a long way. Likewise, we have to carefully see how the other uses his vocabulary--eek out certain assumptions and premises. Very often philosophy is misunderstood, let alone medieval philosophy.

Humility always plays a role in evangelization; we don't know everything. Some people want to argue with us and compete while others simply are interested in how we process the many things that happen. I'm learning to approach both these moments with gratitude. God speaks through our enemies and detractors just as He does our loved ones.

Thanks for reading!

M