Thursday, January 3, 2008

Mormonism and Margaret Barker - Part 4


This fourth installment of my MMB series will delve into the following “observation” from my initial MMB post:

Fourth observation – Barker teaches that much of the Bible has experienced significant corruption, and many important “other” Scriptures have either been suppressed or lost.

Certainly the later portion of the above is a definitive part of LDS apologetics, theology and the LDS Scriptures. However, Barker’s first premise has some significant criticisms within the historical setting of the LDS paradigm. Though a few LDS authors have embraced many of the assessments associated with the “higher-criticism” of the Bible, such views are at odds with some prior LDS presidents, apostles and scholars. It would literally take an entire volume to give full justice to this issue, but with that in mind, I shall limit myself to the following selections, which should (IMHO) prove to be satisfactory in establishing some credence to my assertion:


Such dissecting as this [higher criticism] can have but one general result—death of reverence for the Bible; death of faith in it, as the revealed word of God. The authenticity of the Bible by it is left doubtful; for while this method of criticism succeeds, with those who affect it, in proving that Moses is not the author of the five books for so many centuries accredited to him, it fails to tell us who is the author of those books. This Higher Criticism tells us that there are two and perhaps more, authors of the book of Isaiah's prophecies; that the last twenty-seven chapters were not written by the great Hebrew prophet whose name the book bears; but it fails to tell us who is the author of them. Nor can it be determined even when the unknown author lived. The same is true as to the other books of the Old Testament upon whose authenticity this system casts its shadow. The system is wholly destructive in its tendencies; it unsettles everything, it determines nothing, except that everything with reference to the authenticity, time of composition, inspiration, and credibility of the Old Testament is indeterminable. “It leaves everything hanging in the air,” says one able critic of Higher Criticism. “It begins in guesses and ends in fog. At all events the result leaves us in a hopeless muddle, and, when that is the only thing settled, the proposed solution is self-condemned.” (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, Vol.2, pp.6, 7.)

It is here where it can be proclaimed as the voice of the western hemisphere proclaiming the sublime truth that God did not leave himself without witness among the races and nations of men that inhabited the western world. It is here that its importance is felt as the voice of sleeping nations speaking as out of the dust to the whole world, not only vindicating the quality of justice in God, in that he did not leave the inhabitants of the western hemisphere to perish in ignorance of himself and the plan of life and salvation which had been ordained for the redemption of mankind; but also in that it bears witness to the world that the collection of books known as the Bible is the word of God, authentic, credible, and binding upon the consciences of men. It is a Witness for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of the truth of the Bible, which in value far surpasses all the evidences discovered in Egypt, the valley of the Euphrates, the Sinaitic Peninsula, and the land of Palestine throughout the nineteenth century. (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, Vol.2, p. 23.)

What a testimony we have here for the truth of the Bible! What a number of its incidents are here confirmed! The Higher Criticism questions the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, but here is an entry made in an ancient record in America at least 575 years B.C., attributing the authorship of five books to Moses, specifying that they gave an account of the creation of the world and also of Adam and Eve, "who were our first parents;" so that there can be no question as to this record brought by Lehi's colony from Jerusalem to America being identical with the Pentateuch of our Bible. In addition to the incident of the creation, and Adam and Eve, this entry upon the Nephite records also confirms the Bible narrative concerning Jacob and also of Joseph, his son, who was sold into captivity and taken to Egypt. Reference is made also to the subsequent exodus of Israel from the land of Egypt. Mention also is made of the prophets and their prophecies in this record, making special mention of the name of Jeremiah. Some of the writings of Jeremiah were also included in this record. The first Nephi also makes special mention of Isaiah by name, and describes in what manner he read from his writings upon the plates of brass, to his brethren. And what is better yet, he quotes, in his record, many passages from the prophet Isaiah. At this point it is well to call attention to the fact that the Higher Criticism holds that the book of Isaiah in our Old Testament is composite; that is, it claims that it is composed by at least two, and perhaps by seven different authors; that the last twenty-seven chapters certainly were not written by Isaiah. The best answer that can be made to these claims, on the part of those disposed to defend the Isaiah authorship of the book of prophecies which bears that prophet's name, is to say that from two hundred years B.C. the authorship of the prophecies, as they now stand in the Bible, have been attributed to Isaiah. But here is testimony, in this first book of Nephi, which shows that as early as 550 years B.C., a certain collection of prophecies in a record taken from Jerusalem, are attributed to Isaiah; and what is best of all a transcription is made from these prophecies into the Nephite record, which corresponds to chapters 48, 49, 50, 51 and 59, and also fragments of chapter 29; being a very large amount of the very part of Isaiah's prophecies of which the authenticity is questioned. Here are at least five of the twenty-seven chapters in dispute accounted for and fragments of another, while of the first part of the prophecies of Isaiah there is a transcription into the Nephite record corresponding to chapters from two to fourteen; so that so far as the authenticity of the book of Isaiah's prophecies is concerned, and the five books of Moses, the Book of Mormon is the most important of all witnesses. (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, Vol. 2, pp.25-27.)

After he had completed his ministry in Judea, the resurrected Messiah appeared among the Nephites, in fulfillment of his promise to their fathers by the prophets. He announced his divinity, taught them the gospel, conferred divine authority upon certain men whom He chose among them, authorized the establishment of the Church for their instruction and development in righteousness. He taught them every moral truth which He had imparted to those living on the eastern hemisphere. He fulfilled all the prophecies relating to him up to this point in the Jewish scriptures, which their fathers had carried with them from Jerusalem. He assured them of the reality of life beyond the grave, and, in a word, planted here the whole system of truth which makes for the salvation of men, and is called the fulness of the everlasting gospel. The Book of Mormon gives a voice to the ruined cities and half buried monuments upon this land of America. It confirms all the revealed truths made known in the Jewish scriptures. In sustaining the truth, inspiration and authenticity of the Bible, the Book of Mormon is more valuable than a thousand Rosetta Stones; it is superior to all the clay tablet libraries found in old Babylon and Egypt….(B. H. Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints, Vol.1, p.364.)

The present position of “higher critics” is, that the Hexateuch, as they call it, is composed of, at least, four independent documents: The Yahwist, the Elohist, the Deuteronomist, and the Priestly Code, which, for the sake of brevity, they call J, E. D, and P, respectively. The Yahwist and the Elohist documents may, they think, have been written some time between 800 and 700 B.C. The Deuteronomist they assign to some year between 650 and 625 B.C. The date of the Priestly Code they give as any time between 525 and 425 B.C. Some of the critics hold, however, that the entire Pentateuch belongs to some time after the Babylonian exile. The five books of Moses were, accordingly, not written by Moses, but by authors who lived much later, and by editors who pieced their work together the best they could. There were a number of such editors. Wellhausen found traces of, but Kuenen thought would answer the purpose. [p.261] Nephi refers to the five books in question as “the Books of Moses.” That is his testimony to a skeptical world. Thus, the Book of Mormon confirms the Bible at a time when so-called higher critics are doing all in their power to destroy the belief in the divine authority of the Scriptures. It is a ‘new witness’ as President B. H. Roberts so aptly has called it, for the authenticity of the Bible. It claims no other position in sacred literature. It is the ‘stick of Ephraim,’ joined to the ‘stick of Judah,’ according to the word of the Lord. (Ezekiel 37:15-19) (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4, p.260.)

DURING the second half of the nineteenth century there was a determined effort launched on the part of certain scholars to tear asunder and destroy the authenticity of the holy scriptures. They were influenced by the same spirit which prompted the organic evolutionists. This plan has been called “Higher Criticism,” but in reality it should be called "destructive criticism." The advocates of this theory assumed to have the wisdom by which they could discover, without Urim or Thummim, but by their own wisdom, a difference in style in the various books of the Bible. This difference they proclaimed was discovered within paragraphs as well as in chapters of the various books. Moreover, they taught that in many of the books, particularly the five books of Moses and Joshua, Isaiah and others, there was evidence that indicated that parts could not have been written at the time indicated by these books, but at some later date. In this manner of criticism unknown writers had to be provided to take care of these theories. Some of the passages, like that dealing with Isaiah's prophecy naming Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1-4), they maintained were written by authors after the prophetic events had taken place. To their way of thinking even God could not predict the birth of a man over one hundred years before he was born. In the Book of Genesis they thought they discovered combinations of writers, and that the account of the creation and of Adam's advent in the Garden of Eden was in conflict with itself. These critics were not like the prophets of old of whom Peter speaks: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20-21.) These learned men do not claim to have the guidance of the Holy Ghost, but by their scientific training they have spoken and given utterance.


In their contention, through their uninspired skill, they maintain that they were able to discover that the five books of Moses were not the works of Moses. So they concluded to give these books to several authors living at various times. Genesis, said they, was compiled by some enterprising scribes hundreds of years later. So the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua had to be assigned to writers of various and later times. Moreover, their doctrine was that the stories of creation, the Garden of Eden, Adam's fall, recorded in Genesis, were taken from the myths and legends of the Assyrians and Babylonians. It was the accepted view at that time that “the Mosaic age was outside the scope of written records.”


In addition to this severe criticism of the Pentateuch these critics assigned the Book of Isaiah to three, at least, different writers. The entire study was, of course, speculative, and could be nothing more. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Man, His Origin and Destiny, pp. 490 – 491.)

However, from the competent advocates of Biblical authenticity, we may make a brief summary. We have learned:

That writing and record keeping, from the archaeological discoveries were long anterior to Abraham.

That many parts of the Bible formerly considered legendary and mythical, have been confirmed by archaeological research.

That many events recorded in Genesis, previously viewed skeptically, are now confirmed by records that have been discovered.

That Moses did not get the accounts of the Garden of Eden, the fall, the flood, from Assyrian or Babylonian sources.

That the “four accounts,” J., E., P. and D., are without any foundation in fact.

That there is no sound and justifiable reason for dividing the Book of Isaiah among two or three authors, and placing a great part of it as late as the sixth or fifth centuries B.C.

That the earliest religion known was not worshiping multiple gods. The worship of idols and multiple gods came later, contrary to what is written in every school textbook on ancient history at the present day. The earliest religion was the worship of one God.

That the so-called “higher criticism,” which is destructive criticism, is based on “unsound assumptions,” that are unreliable.

Above all of this, members of the Church have double assurance. We have the word of the Lord that Isaiah wrote the book that bears his name. Chapters called in question by these critics are found, or quoted in part, in the Book of Mormon. The Five Books of Moses were in possession of the Nephites on this continent, and therefore Deuteronomy or any other part could not have been written after Lehi left Jerusalem.

Our Savior quoted constantly from Isaiah, and the books of Moses and other parts of the Old Testament. In his conflict with the devil in the wilderness the Savior gave all three quotations from Deuteronomy. After his resurrection, when talking with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, it is written: “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27.) Later when he met with the disciples in an upper room, it is written: "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me." (Luke 24:44.) This quotation the destructive critics should memorize:

And it came to pass, that the begger died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldst send him to my father's house:
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (Luke 16:22-31.) (Joseph Fielding Smith, Man, His Origin and Destiny, pp. 513 – 514.)

And the surprising thing that the Scrolls show us that the text of the Bible has not been so much altered—for actually they show that it has been on the whole preserved with astonishing integrity—as mutilated by the removal of material from the original…By furnishing us with older texts of the Bible than any heretofore known, they show very clearly that present misunderstanding of the scriptures are not due to corruptions of the text but rather to serious omissions and deletions. (Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, 1967 ed., p. 26.)

Ancient American prophets, six hundred years before Christ, foresaw the coming of Columbus and those who followed. These prophets saw the establishment of the colonies, the War for Independence, and predicted the outcome. These prophecies are contained in a volume of scripture called the Book of Mormon. This sacred record, a companion to the Holy Bible which it confirms, is an added witness to the divine mission of Jesus as the Son of God and Redeemer of the world. How I wish every American and every living soul would read the Book of Mormon. I testify to you that it is true. (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.50-51.)


[Note: all bold and underline emphasis in the above quotes are mine.]


One should also take note of the following collection of essays by Dr. Sidney B. Sperry:


http://www.farmsresearch.com/display.php?table=jbms&id=84


http://www.farmsresearch.com/display.php?table=jbms&id=85


http://www.farmsresearch.com/display.php?table=jbms&id=88


http://www.farmsresearch.com/display.php?table=jbms&id=89



Now, I sincerely wonder to myself if the future generations of Latter-days Saints will embrace the methodologies of the liberal higher critic school of thought (which certainly includes Margaret Barker), or if they will perhaps give greater stock to what their presidents, apostles and former scholars of renown have said…


Grace and peace,

David

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

I appreciate your continuing efforts to bring Mormons closer to the Catholic faith. That is how I see it. I am a Catholic who holds to the verbal inspiration of the entire 73 book Catholic Bible, of which Mormons have 66. It is clear from your citations that past Presidents and authorities in the LDS faith were closer to my point of view about biblical reliability than to the regurgitations of Margaret Barker whose positions were exposed as destructive of faith by Mormon scholars and prophets almost a century ago. I appear to be better in line with traditional Mormonism than are many Latter Day Saints on this question. Who is the apostate? If these people can get "temple recommends", maybe you and I ought to take a crack at it.

You and I are in agreement with LDS prophets of the past, great Protestant defenders of biblical inspiration like J. Gresham Machen, and of course, the Catholic Tradition. I hope any LDS readers of these remarks will understand that we aren't supposing that to acknowledge the errors of Margaret Barker is not an admission that would necessarily point them toward the Catholic Church. It would be to point them back to their own faith roots.

Roberts and the others did a masterful job of showing how her skeptical view of Scripture will result in the destruction of confidence in the New Testament. What I found more interesting though, was how they tied in their own Book of Mormon, which falls apart if she is right about the books usually assigned to Moses and the multiple authorship theory of Isaias.

Maybe some of the LDS eggheads need to put aside their books for a while and listen to what the apostles they supposedly accept have to say. For a church which is supposed to eschew academics in favor of supernatural revelation, it is shocking to see how little attention is paid to the messages of both "Former" and "Latter Day" Apostles.

I have thought that for the sake of our Protestant and Catholic friends, there might be some value for you Dave, to share how your interest in restoration theology in general and Mormonism in particular has played a part in your own conversion. I think most Catholics think of Mormonism as a boring side show. I don't think Catholics appreciate the strengths of LDS claims when Protestant arguments against the Catholic Church are taken for granted.

I will speak briefly about my own interest. The LDS Church, up until recently, has taken Protestant claims to their logical conclusion. For about the first fifteen years of my life as a Protestant, I never gave the Catholic Church any serious consideration at all. If there was an apostasy of the Catholic Church, none of the churches of the Reformers maintained enough continuity with the Apostles looking backward, or unity looking forward to qualify as the Church Christ founded. Whether that is the reason or not, modern Protestants have opted to disqualify themsleves from any claims to being the one, true, visible church by declaring that there is no such thing. I cannot make sense of that theory biblically or historically. Enter Joseph Smith.

Whoa...That was scary enough to make me examine not just the LDS faith, but Rome too. I am delighted to report that in almost 13 years of being Catholic, I have never wavered in since my discovery that the Protestants had no foundation to start new churches, and that the fatal error of Joseph Smith was in assuming that the Protestants were right about a degree of Catholic apostasy which gives all Christians the moral liberty to develop their own separate dogmas and start their own separate churches.

Very heady and refreshing times those restoring and reforming days. But now we see the fruits of Christian separation from the One True Church. I sincerely respect any church which promotes such committment in its young people that they die to self for a cause and volunteer for two year missions. But that will end too. Who will die to self for an uninspiring and unlovable message about how Christ and all his apostles didn't understand that the first descendants of Abraham worshipped many gods and that most of the Bible is a load of bleep? As they continue to quietly distance themselves from belief that they possess an accurate, inspired historical narrative about the beginnings of human history in the West with a unique and compelling approach to being a non-Catholic Christian, fewer and fewer young persons will be willing to sacrifice for that.

I have often asked myself with hope, if I might have the grace to die for my faith if the opportunity presented itself. That is because I not merely believe my faith intellectually, I embrace it with my whole heart and soul. I love it. Though I am cowardly, I think my heart would break not to die, if I had the opportunity. I think it is possible I would do the right thing.

But who could love Barkerist "Christianity"? The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Will we see the joyful martyrs to Barker's cold and discouraging message? I guess we can wait and see how happy it makes them and whether they will sell all they have for such a "precious" jewel.

As for me and my house, I have never been happier to have stumbled into becoming Catholic. All my children, some grown now, still go to Mass, say the Rosary, etc. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, preserve the faith of my family. Beatus Vir. Thank God, thank God. Viva il Papa! God bless and strengthen our good Pope Benedict!

Rory

PS: Pardon my Latin and Italian...if needs be. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hi again David,

I woke up this morning thinking about your blog here. I had to go to a funeral, but afterwards checked out the comments on the Mormon board. Only one poster, Kevin Christensen by name, seemed to possibly understand the thrust of your argument. He asked twice if B.H. Roberts would disapprove of two different selected teachings of M. Barker. The rest don't seem to see any problem with disagreeing with their own recent fathers in the faith.

Nobody is wrong about everything. I am sure I agree with something that Barker believes too. But regardless if we agree on whether Ohio State deserves to play LSU, I disagree and disapprove of the fact that "Barker teaches that much of the Bible has experienced significant corruption, and many important “other” Scriptures have either been suppressed or lost." That is what you claimed she teaches Dave, and that is where the focus should be. It seemed clear to me that Roberts would indeed disapprove of that salient fact, along with the other authorities you quoted in regard to her negative judgments about Scriptures accepted into the LDS canon. No one is complaining about "true insofar as correctly translated". Her view seems to make whole books out to be not merely untrue and poorly translated, but deliberate wholesale distortions. To call such writings Scripture would be foreign to the LDS tradition you have cited.

Christensen "sees the LDS faith as a flowing, changing, fountain. Not a static set of attitudes that must be adhered to at all costs, against all opposition. It is a growing tree that does not need to resemble the seed in every particular." Great. Latter Day Saints are free to develop in a variety of directions. In eight years at ZLMB I don't think I ever complained because the Latter Day Church outlawed polygamy. But now they want to virtually ditch books of their own Bible except as arcane examples of attempts to corrupt truth. Flux is fine until you need to prove somebody is wrong about something.

They can't with any integrity come to a Traditional Catholic with a "non-static, growing tree not resembling the seed attitudes" and try to explain why the Former Day Saints (Early Christians) were apostate because they hellenized, or they didn't have apostles, or they closed the canon, or whatever else comes to mind. No apostles? They made a creed? So what? Since when does the tree need to resemble the seed in every particular?

Unfortunately for these liberal Mormons, their church was founded on principles which had no appreciation for these "non-static" aspects of the Church. No one could ever speak of apostasies where liberty of doctrine and practice is so flexible as that described by Christensen in order to allow Mormonism to adapt itself to destructive views of the biblical canon...yesterday or today. And without an apostasy yesterday, you don't have an LDS Church today.

Barkerite Mormons will need to have it both ways. An easy non-static way for them, that permits dumping of an "everlasting" statute (polygamy), or academic condemnations of whole sections of their own Scripture. But a hard, unchanging way for the Early Church Christians who when they aren't being martyred, are not permitted to glance to the right or left lest they be suspected of leaving the straight path.

Roberts and Co. already showed Barkerist naturalism undermines faith in the traditional canon as well as the Book of Mormon. I suggest the problem of perceiving an apostasy was just made impossible by the standard for how we perceive the church suggested by Kevin Christenson at the Mormon Apologetics and Discussion Board. In my opinion, Barker, if her views were valid, far from helping the Mormon cause, has shot any kind of compelling Mormon Restoration...in both feet.

-----------

Dave, remember when the Mormons at ZLMB were a little surprised at first when you, with my slight help, buried them in quotes from every era of the Church showing that Catholics have always continuously taught divinization? Undiscovered gems keep trickling in. I have started to occasionally say Vespers privately on Sundays and Holy Days using the old Breviary (since I assist at the Traditional Mass). You will love the antiphon which preceeds the First Psalm for Vespers of the First Octave of the Nativity (The Feast of the Circumcision):

O admirabile commercium. Creator generis humani, animatum corpus sumens, de Virgine nasci dignatus est; et procedens homo sine semine, largitus est nobis saum Deitatem.

O wondrous interchange: the Creator of the human race, taking unto Himself a living body, deigns to be born of a Virgin: and becoming man from no human seed, hath bestowed upon us His divinity.

R

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

A couple more insightful and well written posts to add to your ever growing list. It nice to know that I am not a sole ‘voice in the wilderness’ on these issues.

Just moments ago, I responded to Kevin’s last post HERE .

When you get a chance (and if you are interested), I love to here your reflections on it…


Grace and peace,

David

P.S. Thanks for the deification quote; I will add it to my list.

Chris said...

Hi David,

This is a little off-topic. I was reading about John Henry Newman some time ago and the author I was reading used him as an example of "confessionalism". In essence, Newman saw three things:

1) that private judgment leads to such a diversity of views that meaningful unity is difficult or impossible to achieve,
2) that the alternatives are either latitudinarianism and skepticism, both of which undermine dogma and rob the gospel of its content, and
3) that higher criticism so threatened everything he believed in that it should be feared and suppressed.

Newman concluded that the Protestant position was untenable because really, carried to its logical conclusion, the application of private judgment results in skepticism or latitudinarianism. The Protestants were willing to employ their private judgment with respect to church history, but begged the question with respect to the authority and inspiration of the Bible. Newman felt that was silly, and they should at least be consistent one way or the other. Either beg the question all the way and accept the authority of the RCC, or employ your private judgment all the way and become a skeptic. He chose the former option.

So my question for you is, as an admirer of Newman, would you conider yourself a confessionalist? Do you agree with the reasoning I outlined above? If so, I would be interested in seeing you defend the confessionalist approach to reality on your blog. I have to admit that when I read your denunciations of "the liberal higher critic school of thought" and see you encouraging Mormons to accept uneducated opinions from their apostles and prophets, it leaves my head spinning a little bit. I really don't understand why someone would choose to approach important questions in this manner.

But I would like to.

Best,

-Chris

David Waltz said...

Hi Chris,

Good questions; I am quite busy today, so for now, I am only going to be able to respond the following part of your post:

>>I have to admit that when I read your denunciations of "the liberal higher critic school of thought" and see you encouraging Mormons to accept uneducated opinions from their apostles and prophets, it leaves my head spinning a little bit. I really don't understand why someone would choose to approach important questions in this manner.>>

Me: I certainly would not term B.H Roberts and Sidney Sperry as “uneducated” concerning the subject of higher criticism (check the Sperry links in is thread). Further, I have attempted to convey to the member of the CoJCoLDS that his/her paradigm has important added features (their expanded canon and living apostles) that must be taken into consideration when considering certain aspects of higher criticism (e.g. Mosaic authorship, book of Isaiah authorship, historicity…).

More on the rest of your post tomorrow, the Lord willing.


Grace and peace,

David

Chris said...

Hi David,

Roberts and Sperry certainly were among the better-educated GAs in church history. But the links you posted don't really demonstrate anything more than a passing awareness that critical theories exist. They don't demonstrate a grasp of *why* such theories exist or of the evidence they're based on. Sperry is not rejecting critical theories on rational grounds, but rather on confessional grounds. Which, of course, brings us back to my question in my last comment.

David Waltz said...

Hi Chris,

Finally got some time to make a few comments; you posted:

>>This is a little off-topic. I was reading about John Henry Newman some time ago and the author I was reading used him as an example of "confessionalism".>>

Me: Not to get too technical, but I have heard the word “institutionalism” as the best term to describe Newman’s Essay and post-Essay period view. IMHO, the distinction is an important one.

>>In essence, Newman saw three things:

1) that private judgment leads to such a diversity of views that meaningful unity is difficult or impossible to achieve,
2) that the alternatives are either latitudinarianism and skepticism, both of which undermine dogma and rob the gospel of its content, and
3) that higher criticism so threatened everything he believed in that it should be feared and suppressed.>>

Me: Pretty close to how I understand Newman, though I would add liberalism in between latitudinarianism and skepticism.

>>Newman concluded that the Protestant position was untenable because really, carried to its logical conclusion, the application of private judgment results in skepticism or latitudinarianism. The Protestants were willing to employ their private judgment with respect to church history, but begged the question with respect to the authority and inspiration of the Bible. Newman felt that was silly, and they should at least be consistent one way or the other. Either beg the question all the way and accept the authority of the RCC, or employ your private judgment all the way and become a skeptic. He chose the former option.>>

Me: Newman’s attempt to create a Via Media ultimately failed; and being the high-chuchman that he was, he felt compelled to go to Rome.

>>So my question for you is, as an admirer of Newman, would you conider yourself a confessionalist?>>

Me: I should probably wait to answer this question, for I am right in the middle of a very intense study of lower and higher criticism, beginning with everything Burgon and Miller wrote…

>>Do you agree with the reasoning I outlined above? If so, I would be interested in seeing you defend the confessionalist approach to reality on your blog. I have to admit that when I read your denunciations of "the liberal higher critic school of thought" and see you encouraging Mormons to accept uneducated opinions from their apostles and prophets, it leaves my head spinning a little bit. I really don't understand why someone would choose to approach important questions in this manner.>>

Me: Whilst you await the fruit of my current studies, I shall suggest that you read Frank M. Turner’s recent bio of Newman; he explores Newman in different directions than anyone else I have read (one the more interesting angles is the impact that Newman’s brother's (Francis) conversion to Unitarianism had on his thought).

Anyway, do not wish to sound evasive, but I just don’t feel it wise to comment much further until I have completed my research. I shall not forget this thread…


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello again Chris,

You said in your other post:

>>Sperry is not rejecting critical theories on rational grounds, but rather on confessional grounds.>>

Me: I am not so sure about this, especially when one considers the fact that Mormonism bears little resemblance to churches that are usually labeled “confessional”. Perhaps you are using “confessional” in a sense I am not familiar with; if so, could you explain a bit further.

Thanks much,

David

Chris said...

Hey David,

I actually have read Turner's bio. It was excellent, IMO.

"Confessionalism" in the sense I'm using it refers basically to the rejection of reason as a measure of faith. The inerrancy of the Bible, for example, is privileged over and above any rational examination of it, due solely to the confessional commitment of the believer. Or the Trinity might be insulated from any objections to perceived logical incoherency for the same reason. It is an epistemological position that was first made explicit in the 19th c., particularly as a reaction to the encroachment of higher criticism and of pietist or unorthodox religious movements against historic state churches. I doubt any one church could be pigeonholed as uniformly confessionalist in this sense, but I think there are many Southern Baptists who could aptly be described as such, and probably also quite a few Mormons and Catholics. In my experience, confessionalists are people who are smart enough to see that reason would be devastating to their faith commitments if it were applied to them, but also dogmatic enough to be unwilling to let that happen.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

I doubt that Newman would ever have assented to a confessionalism defined as "basically to the rejection of reason as a measure of faith". Newman said something important in his [u]Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent[/u] which I suspect would be helpful in understanding why David would have tried to reason a Mormon back to his roots and away from modern scholarship: "I cannot convert men, when I ask for assumptions which they refuse to grant to me; and without assumptions no one can prove anything about anything." (p. 410)

What perhaps you Chris, and modern Mormons don't understand is that David and I along with the Southern Baptists you named are convinced not only that higher criticism is destructive of faith, but we believe it is destructive of right reason. I don't think Dave is hoping to make Mormons or anyone else take off their thinking caps.

Instead, I think he sees important foundational assumptions from which a Catholic such as himself could reason in the Mormonism of B.H. Roberts, Sidney Sperry, and Bruce McConkie. But the general reliability of the Protestant, Catholic, and even LDS Scriptures has been abandoned by the Barkerite Mormons and it seems unwarranted. Indeed, it seems lethal to the LDS faith.

It is through right reason, apart from miracles that we discover the existence of God. It is through right reason which follows upon the possibility of miracles and the evidence for them, that we persuade others in the reasonableness of belief in that which is supernatural, and the reasonableness of belief in that which is supernaturally revealed. When challenged of being mad himself (unreasonable), St Paul reasoned, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, if God should raise the dead?" (Acts 26:8)

Maybe Dave thought that his Mormon friends might be persuaded of Barker's errors more easily by citing LDS authorities who have demonstrated the discord between Barker and Mormonism. If the Mormon Apologetics and Discussion Board is any measure, it would seem that modern Mormons are no longer susceptible to arguments that spring from their own faith foundations. Of course, it would't do to present arguments that spring from anyone else's faith. All that is left is to academically critique Barker. But to what end and with what chance of success?

It seems to me like presuppositions that would permit a "Mormon" to side with this Barker over LDS prophets and presidents, demonstrates a depth of difference between us that is much deeper than was previously thought. At a certain distance, I think the Christian reasonably despairs of reaching agreement with those who have by their assumptions, made themselves invulnerable to any reasons except those which spring from what we consider to be a flawed school of thought.

Rory

Chris said...

Hi Rory,

I think you misjudge Newman. He wrote to his brother Charles that the contents of scripture are "not to be brought into evidence for or against revelation, because man is not in a state to judge them." He also spent a lot of time polemicizing against "rationalism", which he defined as making "our reason the standard and measure of the doctrines revealed." He asserted that "a rationalistic spirit is the antagonist of faith, for faith is, in its very nature, the acceptance of what our reason cannot reach, simply and absolutely upon testimony." The word "rationalist" he slung around like it was the worst insult imaginable.

Now, I understand that there are people like yourself who believe that you have well-reasoned objections to the findings of criticism, just as there are Southern Baptists who think evolutionary science and modern geology are genuinely shoddy work. I am convinced that such people have been horrifically misled, but they are not confessionalists in the sense I'm talking about. What I was asking David about was whether he would identify as a confessionalist in the sense of deliberately accepting traditional faith-commitments over the objections of his own reason.

Best,

-Chris

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris. Thank you for your thoughts.

Chris says:
I think you misjudge Newman. He wrote to his brother Charles that the contents of scripture are "not to be brought into evidence for or against revelation, because man is not in a state to judge them."

Rory says:
I don't necessarily find that interesting statement to be contrary to how I have judged Newman. If it is not too much trouble, I'd be thankful for some context. On the surface, he appears to be saying that any literature that is claimed to be Scripture must not be judged by man on the basis of its consistency or inconsistency with itself and other known truths. Do you think he is speaking only of the Christian Scriptures or the Koran, Book of Mormon, and other books?

Chris says:
He also spent a lot of time polemicizing against "rationalism", which he defined as making "our reason the standard and measure of the doctrines revealed." He asserted that "a rationalistic spirit is the antagonist of faith, for faith is, in its very nature, the acceptance of what our reason cannot reach, simply and absolutely upon testimony." The word "rationalist" he slung around like it was the worst insult imaginable.

Rory says:
You might have used the word "irrationalist" to describe the confessionalist. I do not believe that Newman's denunciation of a rationalist philosophy shows an antagonism toward reason. Reason itself tells us that we could never know, on the basis of reason, the supernatural (beyond nature, beyond reason) claims that are proposed in Scripture. How could we know if God has a body or if there are Three Persons in Triunity on the basis of natural revelation. When Newman says that man is "not in a state to judge them", to which you take apparent exception, it may be in reference to his understanding that faith claims are beyond the competence of reason to judge. I don't think he was denying the possibility that true science could examine and determine the extent of Noah's flood. But this is not rationalism. Such claims of Holy Scripture can obviously be examined by human means. One could determine if a prophecy were fulfilled. There is no problem with exploring the Scriptures on one side and science on the other to determine if historical writings of the Bible can be verified. However, it is beyond the competence of human reason (science) to determine if the sun stood still over Jericho, if a star stood over the manger at Bethlehem, or whether God is a Trinity. If we believe the latter claims, it is by faith alone that we could arrive at it. The rationalistic approach that I would condemn insists that no beliefs be held that are beyond its competence. I find that idea to be irrational in the extreme.

Chris says:
Now, I understand that there are people like yourself who believe that you have well-reasoned objections to the findings of criticism, just as there are Southern Baptists who think evolutionary science and modern geology are genuinely shoddy work. I am convinced that such people have been horrifically misled, but they are not confessionalists in the sense I'm talking about.

Rory says:
I am glad you see the difference. At least we still share the premise that a faith that contradicts reason is undermined. I am confident that Newman would agree with that. The First Vatican Council is best known for its issuing the decrees limiting the infallibility of the pope. However, it also dealt extensively with the relationship between faith and reason. Whatever erroneous confessionalistic theories Newman might have written to his brother Charles about, should have been corrected by 1870 when he submitted to the Council.

If time allows, I'll try to pursue some of that material to allay your concerns that we might be "deliberately accepting traditional faith-commitments over the objections of his own reason."

Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

A blessed Lord's Day to you,

Rory

David Waltz said...

Hi Chris,

After reading Rory’s and your last posts, I feel somewhat compelled to break my silence (and studies), and enter into to the type of dialogue that I had hoped to avoid until I got ‘all-my-ducks-in-a-row’.

You wrote:

Chris:>> “Confessionalism” in the sense I'm using it refers basically to the rejection of reason as a measure of faith. The inerrancy of the Bible, for example, is privileged over and above any rational examination of it, due solely to the confessional commitment of the believer.>>

Me: Your above words seem to indicate that you believe that there exists a neutral form of knowledge termed “reason”; that such knowledge is void of presuppositions. If this is your view, I reject it; if it is not view, what presupposition/s do you embrace prior to your use of “reason”? (Also, I think you need to be reminded of postmodernism’s sustained and violent attack on “reason”.)

I should probably wait for your response to the above before I forward any more questions, but I shall cast aside wisdom, and ask one more: can reason ‘alone’ bring one to break free of pure naturalism, and embrace supernaturalism?


Grace and peace,

David

Anonymous said...

Hi again Chris,

You apparently are troubled at the idea that "the word 'rationalist' he slung around like it was the worst insult imaginable," by Newman. To be a rationalist, in the sense it was understood among 19th Century Catholics was more than an insult, it was anathema, according to the First Vatican Council.

"If anyone shall have said that no true mysteries properly so-called are contained in divine revelation, but that all of the dogmas of faith can be understood and proved from natural principles, through reason properly cultivated: let him be anathema."---Canon 1 on Faith and Reason, Session III, April 24, 1870

While I believe in mysteries, this truth is calculated to the common sense of the truck driver that I am. It takes no theological virtue to understand that the created intellect is from the light of what is naturally revealed, incapable of analyzing the mysteries that are claimed to be supernaturally revealed. The rationalist insists that he be permitted to judge that over which he has no competence.

Perhaps it would be well to briefly try to show the distinction drawn between truths which can be known by reason, and those which are called in Scripture mysteries: "By enduring agreement the Catholic Church has held and holds that there is a two-fold order of knowledge, distinct not only in principle but also in object: in principle, indeed, because we know in one way by natural reason, in another by divine faith; in object, however, because, in addition to things to which natural reason can attain, mysteries hidden in God are proposed to us for belief which, had they not been divine revealed, could not become known."---Session III, Chapter 4, April 24, 1870

This statement is beautiful in its clarity and brevity. To dispute it because one believes that what the Church calls mysteries, are not hidden in God but are rather discernible as true or false by the light of the created intellect is to fall into the error of rationalism. Rationalism is that error which teaches that everything that can be known is accessible by reason enlightened by nature.

We haven't spoken of an equally dangerous but opposite error, fideism. This would be the error to which in my opinion, Mormons are highly susceptible. That so many of them become atheists when they become convinced that the LDS Church is false shows that they lack a foundation based on reason which discerns the existence of God by nature. They think that they only know that there is a God by faith alone. They think that the hidden God of mystery, made a created world which hides His very existence. All theology to a fideist is mystery. When they lose faith in their church, they lose their faith in God. The Catholic Church condemns this error as vigorously as it opposes the idea that mysteries are attainable by reason: "If anyone shall have said that the one true God, our Creator and our Lord, cannot be known with certitude by those things which have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema."---Canon 1 on Revelation, against those denying natural theology, Session III, April 24, 1870

The Church teaches natural and supernatural theology. The first is known by reason, the second is known by faith. I hope this might explain a little better why a good Catholic could see rationalism in any but a pejorative sense. But that cannot be understood to imply that the reason has no place of employment in the assistance of faith. It is for this reason that since ancient times, the church has employed the maxim, "Philosophy (right reason) is the handmaid of theology."

Anonymous said...

One edit:

"I hope that this might explain a little better why a good Catholic could see rationalism in any but a pejorative sense"

should read

"could NOT understand rationalism in any but a pejorative sense"

In the quote from Session III chapter 4 of the Council, "divine revealed" should read "divineLY revealed".

Thanks, Rory

Chris said...

David,

You asked,

>>Your above words seem to indicate that you believe that there exists a neutral form of knowledge termed “reason”; that such knowledge is void of presuppositions.

That isn't what I'm suggesting. It is not possible for us humans to break out of our cages of limited understanding or to think "objectively" about anything. However, I think experience has shown that the sort of inference we call a syllogism is generally valid, and that when employed with "true" premises it can lead us to useful conclusions. This kind of reasoning has sufficiently proven itself by producing scientific advances that I think I'm willing to take its validity for granted.

Now, producing "true" results obviously requires having "true" premises. This unfortunate fact has been the bane of philosophers since the beginning of time, for the truth of a premise is notoriously difficult to judge. The scientific and historical disciplines, among others, have had to produce whole volumes full of strict critical standards in order to assure the truth of the propositions they're reasoning from. Again, these generally seem to produce useful and correct results, so I'm for the most part willing to take them for granted.

What does not seem to produce useful results is leaving beliefs unchallenged and unexamined. I am not willing to beg the question as confessionalism demands, because begging the question has resulted in a whole world full of people with such strongly-held beliefs that they're willing to kill for them. Reason leads people to differing beliefs as well, but it is also capable of forging consensus. I think that reason is the world's only hope of forging some kind of shared future without one ideology extinguishing the others through violent means.

I will probably reveal my discredited, old-fashioned, Kantian/Platonic perspective here, but I also find appealing the observation of Samuel T. Coleridge that logos among the Greeks referred to pure light and reason, and that the rejection thereof is therefore a form of blasphemy. Similarly, Matt Arnold wrote that faith without reason is "mere power worship; and power worship may be devil worship." This remark is relevant to Newman's argument about "credentials" rather than "content" being the judge of revelation, cited below.

I think it's extremely important to be aware of the limits of reason and to keep track of the probability that each of one's premises might be incorrect. This exercise will help to keep us conscious of the tentative nature of all our conclusions, and will help us remain open to perspectives that differ from our own. However, I also think it's important that we not be cowed by postmodern pessimism about the functioning of reason. I won't be bullied out of my commitment to reason by a Richard Rorty, a David Earle Bohn, an Ezra Taft Benson, or a John Henry Newman.

>>I should probably wait for your response to the above before I forward any more questions, but I shall cast aside wisdom, and ask one more: can reason ‘alone’ bring one to break free of pure naturalism, and embrace supernaturalism?

I think it can, so long as one has premises to reason from that would lead to that result. Like all conclusions, however, an arrival at supernaturalism through scientific or rational means would have to be tentative and subject to reexamination.

I should add that I do not hold to a strictly positivist epistemology. I do not think that a particular hypothesis has to be "proven" before we can believe it. Rather, I hold to Popperian falsificationism, which means we formulate what we think are likely hypotheses and then subject them to tests to determine whether they can be maintained. The existence of God is such a hypothesis, and probably a finally untestable one. The phenomena he has frequently been adduced to explain, like the complexity of creation, our consciousness of good and evil, and the Big Bang, can probably be explained other ways. But until and unless further evidence for or against either the natural or supernatural explanations is produced, both perspectives will remain tenable.

Rory,

>>If it is not too much trouble, I'd be thankful for some context.

Charles had alleged that the Bible was full of "error and evil and meanness and folly." Newman was responding to this content when he suggested we're in no state to judge scripture. Newman also argued (in the words of Francis McGrath), "The very idea of revelation implies the 'revelation of something' beyond reason whose genuineness is sanctioned by its credentials and not by its contents. If content is the only criterion, then authentic revelation would be virtually impossible. Revelation stands or falls by its credentials and not by the 'practice of measuring' its contents by 'any preconceived ideas or morals or philosophy'" (John Henry Newman: Universal Revelation, p. 29) This kind of thinking may resolve the problem of divinely-ordained genocide in the Old Testament for the Bible inerrantist, but it also resolves the problem of divinely-ordained unbeliever-killing for the Muslim Brother. And of course, he applied it selectively. Although our conscience shouldn't be allowed to judge the content of scripture, Newman was more than willing to adduce conscience as an evidence for the existence of God.

>>On the surface, he appears to be saying that any literature that is claimed to be Scripture must not be judged by man on the basis of its consistency or inconsistency with itself and other known truths. Do you think he is speaking only of the Christian Scriptures or the Koran, Book of Mormon, and other books?

Newman wrote of the conscience that "in a heathen country, it will be able to discriminate with precision between the right and the wrong in traditionary superstitions" (University Sermons, p. 17). But he apparently only thinks that this sort of discrimination is valid under the "Dispensation of Paganism". Since we now have and accept Christian revelation, we no longer have any right to judge it. This is what is commonly termed "question begging" and "a double standard".

Newman later extended his confessionalist reasoning to include the atonement and the Trinity, which he couldn't particularly make sense of but decided he couldn't abandon. These he chalked up to "mystery" and made them inaccessible to reason. Blanco White objected that "The mysteries to which the reason of the Unitarian objects are not mysteries proved, are not even mysteries positively stated in divinely authorized language, but mysteries conjectured to lie concealed in that language: they are not unfrequently verbal contradictions, which no rational language can be supposed to contain." That Newman agreed with White can be seen in his oft-repeated conviction that rationalism leads inevitably to either skepticism or Socinianism, the latter of which was his favorite label for Unitarians.

All of this is basically to say that I think Newman was really just constructing an ideology that would insulate his religious beliefs from criticism.

-Chris

David Waltz said...

Hi Chris,

I sincerely appreciate the time you took to elucidate your thoughts on these matters at hand. I suspected that your use of the term “reason” was nuanced, hence my request, which you so eloquently answered. After affirming your commitment to the use of logical syllogism/s you wrote:

>>What does not seem to produce useful results is leaving beliefs unchallenged and unexamined. I am not willing to beg the question as confessionalism demands, because begging the question has resulted in a whole world full of people with such strongly-held beliefs that they're willing to kill for them. Reason leads people to differing beliefs as well, but it is also capable of forging consensus. I think that reason is the world's only hope of forging some kind of shared future without one ideology extinguishing the others through violent means.>>

Me: I too embrace the need, dare I say, necessity of the use of “reason” when dealing with religious issues. Though I am a presuppostionalist, I, like Gordon Clark, embrace the ‘law of non-contradiction.’ But “reason” has limits, and one realizes quite quickly that basic, unprovable presuppositions are brought into play by every “reasonable” paradigm, and as such, every paradigm in a very real sense betrays some allegiance to “confessionalism.” Hence, I would argue with Greg Bahnsen, that one needs to compare paradigm with paradigm, and discern which makes the most “sense” of ALL the raw data that a finite being can muster, and bring to bear.

>>I will probably reveal my discredited, old-fashioned, Kantian/Platonic perspective here, but I also find appealing the observation of Samuel T. Coleridge that logos among the Greeks referred to pure light and reason, and that the rejection thereof is therefore a form of blasphemy. Similarly, Matt Arnold wrote that faith without reason is "mere power worship; and power worship may be devil worship." This remark is relevant to Newman's argument about "credentials" rather than "content" being the judge of revelation, cited below.>>

Me: I shall reserve my comments on Kant and Plato for a later date…

>>I think it's extremely important to be aware of the limits of reason and to keep track of the probability that each of one's premises might be incorrect. This exercise will help to keep us conscious of the tentative nature of all our conclusions, and will help us remain open to perspectives that differ from our own. However, I also think it's important that we not be cowed by postmodern pessimism about the functioning of reason. I won't be bullied out of my commitment to reason by a Richard Rorty, a David Earle Bohn, an Ezra Taft Benson, or a John Henry Newman.>>

Me: Given your above comments, I think you will find the following from Newman’s pen quite interesting:

“Moreover, I found a corroboration of the fact of the logical connexion of Theism with Catholicism in a consideration parallel to that which I had adopted on the subject of development of doctrine. The fact of the operation from first to last of that principle of development in the truths of Revelation, is an argument in favour of the identity of Roman and Primitive Christianity; but as there is a law which acts upon the subject-matter of dogmatic theology, so is there a law in the matter of religious faith. In the first chapter of this narrative I spoke of certitude as the consequence, divinely intended and enjoined upon us, of the accumulative force of certain given reasons which, taken one by one, were only probabilities. Let it be recollected that I am historically relating my state of mind, at the period of my life which I am surveying. I am not speaking theologically, nor have I any intention of going into controversy, or of defending myself; but speaking historically of what I held in 1843-4, I say, that I believed in a God on a ground of probability, that I believed in Christianity on a probability, and that I believed in Catholicism on a probability, and that these three grounds of probability, distinct from each other of course in subject matter, were still all of them one and the same in nature of proof, as being probabilities—probabilities of a special kind, a cumulative, a transcendent probability but still probability; inasmuch as He who made us has so willed, that in mathematics indeed we should arrive at certitude by rigid demonstration, but in religious inquiry we should arrive at certitude by accumulated probabilities;—He has willed, I say, that we should so act, and, as willing it, He co-operates with us in our acting, and thereby enables us to do that which He wills us to do, and carries us on, if our will does but co-operate with His, to a certitude which rises higher than the logical force of our conclusions. And thus I came to see clearly, and to have a satisfaction in seeing, that, in being led on into the Church of Rome, I was not proceeding on any secondary or isolated grounds of reason, or by controversial points in detail, but was protected and justified, even in the use of those secondary or particular arguments, by a great and broad principle. But, let it be observed, that I am stating a matter of fact, not defending it; and if any Catholic says in consequence that I have been converted in a wrong way, I cannot help that now.” (Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Sheed and Ward, 1978 printing of the 1865 edition, p. 134.)


Grace and peace,

David

Anonymous said...

Hi again Chris. I have already written my post, so I might as well send it. Here goes...

>>Charles had alleged that the Bible was full of "error and evil and meanness and folly." Newman was responding to this content when he suggested we're in no state to judge scripture.

Newman's doctrine here was not his own, but the ancient unchangable Catholic Tradition. It sounds like Pope Pius IX was speaking of Charles Newman in his encyclical Qui Pluribus in 1846: "Hence, by a preposterous and deceitful kind of argumentation, they never cease to invoke the power and excellence of human reason, to proclaim it against the most sacred faith of Christ, and, what is more, they boldly prate that it (faith) is repugnant to human reason." ---Denzinger's #1635

I would suggest that your quarrel is not with one prominent man, but the Roman Catholic Church as a whole which taught him that it is on the authority of God revealing that we believe the sacred mysteries: "For who does not know, or cannot know that all faith is to be given to God who speaks, and that nothing is more suitable to reason itself than to acquiesce and firmly adhere to those truths which it has been established were revealed by God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived." ---Qui Pluribus, Denz. 1637

Notice that our faith in "God revealing" needs to be established. What is this? "But how many are the proofs at hand by which human reason ought to be entirely and most clearly convinced that Christ is divine, and that every principle of our dogmas has received its root from above, from the Lord of the heavens, and that therefore, nothing is more certain than our faith, nothing more secure, that there is nothing more holy and nothing which is supported on firmer principles."---Qui Pluribus, Denz. 1638

The foundation of our faith is not some authoritarian decree, but it is by reasonable proofs that the hand of God drawing us, our wills are melted with love for the only thing that can satisfy an immortal soul. I'll try to speak of how reason is not disappointed further down.

>>This kind of thinking may resolve the problem of divinely-ordained genocide in the Old Testament for the Bible inerrantist, but it also resolves the problem of divinely-ordained unbeliever-killing for the Muslim Brother. And of course, he applied it selectively. Although our conscience shouldn't be allowed to judge the content of scripture, Newman was more than willing to adduce conscience as an evidence for the existence of God.

The Christians cannot account for the activities of Muslims who like faithful Catholics, do not presume to make their conscience lord over their own Scriptures. I also doubt that either of us could demonstrate that "unbeliever-killing" is the inevitable result of trusting the Koran.

If Newman was selective, it is because he was unconvinced that Islam was true. It isn't because he would dispute a principle which declares that human reason is incompetent to judge supernatural mysteries.

Apparently, Newman brought an argument for the existence of God out of the natural order. With this, Newman denied that the supernaturally revealed law of God was subject to the created conscience. You seem to be suggesting that because Newman believed the created conscience to be subject to God's revealed law, that it disqualified him from pointing to his created conscience as proof of a Creator? Did I understand you correctly? If so, I don't see how that follows.

>>Newman wrote of the conscience that "in a heathen country, it will be able to discriminate with precision between the right and the wrong in traditionary superstitions" (University Sermons, p. 17). But he apparently only thinks that this sort of discrimination is valid under the "Dispensation of Paganism". Since we now have and accept Christian revelation, we no longer have any right to judge it. This is what is commonly termed "question begging" and "a double standard".

The conscience is accountable to distinguish between that which is and isn't contrary to natural and supernatural law. The pagan isn't accountable for what is supernaturally revealed to be God's law because he doesn't have it. The Christian is accountable because he has it. What question is being begged here? There are two standards for two different circumstances.

-----------

I don't know what Christian, being convinced of the naturally revealed history of Christ and His Church, seeing the holy fruits of 2,000 years of faith in the authority of God revealing, beginning in the Gospels, continuing with the martyrs, with ongoing miracles, heroic sanctity, and fulfilled prophecies, would be doing questioning the deposit of faith reverently handed down to him from those he so ardently admires.

St. Augustine said that he believed in order to understand. One can ponder the sacred mysteries with faith or with doubt. I think I am familiar with the results of both kinds of pondering.

One kind of pondering makes the heart take flight. One kind of pondering inspired St. Francis of Assisi to give up all of his wealth and stow away on a crusader ship to go preach the Gospel to the Saracens. One kind of pondering led St. Ignatius of Loyola to sacrifice vain dreams of military glory and found the Society of Jesus. But where do I stop? I admire what I see in the unquestioning pondering of a simple child like St. Bernadette of Lourdes as much I do in the obedient faith of an humble thinker like St. Thomas Aquinas.

I haven't even touched on anything except miracles of grace. Even as prophecies and miracles have never ceased, I honor the lives of those who have pondered the Christian revelation with the greatest faith, whose faith was often the most tested. It seems reasonable to me that I can omly find joy if I pursue truth and goodness and beauty imitating the same faithful, sacrificial way. For all this and so much more, I am convinced I have to ponder God's revelation with the faith of Augustine, that one might understand, without regard for the doubts of Margaret Barker, that one might believe.

Sincerely,

Rory

Chris said...

Hi Rory,

Pondering with faith also led some young men to fly planes into buildings and thousands of Christians to march away on a quest to retake the Holy Land. If we're to be realistic, I think we have to admit that aside from a few romantic examples we've imbibed because they're faith-promoting, unquestioning faith has tended to produce significantly more physical and spiritual poverty than saints.

Newman's argument from conscience was that our experience of conscience tells us that we are designed with an awareness of a higher law with eternal consequences. The trouble is that my conscience, at least, tells me that the genocide of the Canaanites and the killing of women and children that God allegedly demanded of the Israelites in the Old Testament is evil and contrary to the law of which I seem to be instinctively aware. How can Newman argue that conscience reflects an eternal law but then forbid it from judging the content of our holy books? That is the inconsistency I perceive.

David,

I've not read a lot on the theory behind presuppositional apologetics, but what I have read doesn't make much sense to me. I mean, I understand why a presuppositional approach to apologetics makes more sense than one that claims to be neutral. Apologetics is a fundamentally defensive and therefore basically presuppositional field. But why do apologetics at all? It seems to me more productive, courageous, and candid to approach the question under dispute with a mind as open to both sides as one can manage.

>>But “reason” has limits, and one realizes quite quickly that basic, unprovable presuppositions are brought into play by every “reasonable” paradigm, and as such, every paradigm in a very real sense betrays some allegiance to “confessionalism.”

Confessionalism would describe a system in which certain beliefs are privileged over reason rather than one in which beliefs are inaccessible to it. In other words, confessionalism is a deliberate unwillingness to allow reason to challenge a belief rather than a flustered feeling that you don't know how to test it. A refusal to test biblical inerrancy, which most certainly can be tested, would be confessionalism. A failure to test "I exist", which I haven't the slightest clue how to examine, would not qualify.

>>Hence, I would argue with Greg Bahnsen, that one needs to compare paradigm with paradigm, and discern which makes the most “sense” of ALL the raw data that a finite being can muster, and bring to bear.

I agree. I have failed to fit a lot of data into either the Catholic paradigm or the EV one in which I grew up. There are several paradigms I could replace it with that seem to make better sense of the data, but I haven't really decided on one yet. At the moment I lean toward something like Christian pluralism or Christian Unitarianism.

Best,

Chris

Chris said...

Oh yeah, David, I forgot about your Newman quote. I've read that before, but can't make much sense of it. Is there a Reader's Digest version?

Anonymous said...

>>Pondering with faith also led some young men to fly planes into buildings and thousands of Christians to march away on a quest to retake the Holy Land.

Rory:
I do not know the Koran well enough to say that the terrorists of 9/11 were or were not well-formed in their understanding of what the Koran teaches.

As for the Christians marching to the Holy Land, it was in response to their Christian brothers who were being overwhelmed by Islamic peoples whose aggression mirrored that of the terrorists. That some of the sad and sinful actions of western crusaders toward Eastern Christians has mitigating circumstances is debatable. But a negative judgment is no argument in favor of allowing the Moslems to roar across the Pyrenees from the south, overrun Vienna from the East, or even take control of the Holy Land.

If by chance someone thinks pacifism is always the proper response to Islamic terrorism, I will also agree with them that wherever they get that, it doesn't come from pondering the Christian Scriptures with faith.

Rory

Anonymous said...

Chris says:
>>If we're to be realistic, I think we have to admit that aside from a few romantic examples we've imbibed because they're faith-promoting, unquestioning faith has tended to produce significantly more physical and spiritual poverty than saints.


Rory says:
If we're to be realistic, we need to be talking about the same things. I suggested that one can ponder the mysteries of revelation with doubt or with faith and that the record shows that faith yields great results. Here I am thinking about Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist and other wonderful distinctives of the Catholic faith and you start talking about crazed Moslems!

As I alluded to in my last post,
I have no interest in defending people like the 9/11 terrorists. Likewise I am uninterested if non-Catholics like Lenin, Presley ("The King"), Luther, Sagan, Truman, Winfrey, or Bonds had unquestioning faith in things that led to spiritual poverty. Catholics agree that unquestioning faith in something false is counter-productive.

Do you also believe that even within the Catholic faith, a doubtful, "Barkerite" approach to the Catholic Mysteries yields the better spiritual result?

I am saying that meditative faith in things which cannot be tested by reason such as the communion of saints, the Nicene Creed, guardian angels, episcopal succession, the seven sacraments, and other Catholic teachings leads to goodness that can only be despised because it happens to be the fruit of Catholic faith.

I suggest that you don't have very many examples of when someone became spiritually destitute who claimed to be following Catholic teaching in any questionable action. I suggest that you don't have any examples of one whose spiritual meditations on the mysteries of the Catholic faith actually led to spiritual poverty. If we're to be realistic, I would say the actual score might range somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5 billion to zero against spiritual poverty as the result of meditation on the Divine Mysteries of the Catholic faith.

Rory

Chris said...

Rory,

I suspect that the things I define as spiritual poverty resulting from unquestioning faith in certain Catholic principles, you would not define as such. I also suspect you would be unsympathetic to any argument that unquestioning faith in Hinduism, Protestantism, Buddhism, and a variety of other traditions has resulted in the creation of saints whose spiritual stature apparently equals those in Catholicism. If we define spiritual bankruptcy as anything not in accord with Catholicism and a "saint" as someone who lives his/her life in accord with Catholic principles, then we're already begging the question. So unless an independent standard of saintliness can be adduced that doesn't automatically assume the truth of a particular tradition, the argument that I'm-going-to-assume-the-truth-of-my-tradition-because-it-produces-saintliness
doesn't actually get us anywhere. A Muslim or a Protestant or a Hindu or a Buddhist could make the same argument by using a different standard: one that accords with their own assumptions about saintliness. And so we arrive at a perpetual impasse, in which no one can justly criticize someone outside their tradition for refusing to consider conversion. After all, how can one criticize another for something they'd be unwilling to contemplate, themselves?

Reason appeals to me over and above confessionalism because it appears to offer an independent standard that has at least produced measurable results in terms of technological progress that we can all see and agree on. It offers a way beyond the impasse. But those who are committed to a confessional perspective aren't interested in a way beyond the impasse, because it might threaten their own tradition.

-Chris

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

Allow me to consider your most recent comments for a couple of days. I am pretty sure we can agree on this part: "So unless an independent standard of saintliness can be adduced that doesn't automatically assume the truth of a particular tradition, the argument that I'm-going-to-assume-the-truth-of-my-tradition-because-it-produces-saintliness
doesn't actually get us anywhere."

But I want to first attempt a reply to the following:

>>"Newman's argument from conscience was that our experience of conscience tells us that we are designed with an awareness of a higher law with eternal consequences. The trouble is that my conscience, at least, tells me that the genocide of the Canaanites and the killing of women and children that God allegedly demanded of the Israelites in the Old Testament is evil and contrary to the law of which I seem to be instinctively aware. How can Newman argue that conscience reflects an eternal law but then forbid it from judging the content of our holy books? That is the inconsistency I perceive."

It might be a couple of days. As far apart as we seem to be, I am pleased you have so far thought it worth your time to monitor my comments. More to come...

Rory

Chris said...

Rory,

I really do want to understand, and I appreciate your bearing with me despite the obviously adversarial nature of my posts. I think that civility is critical for meaningful communication, and you and David seem not only to be civil, but to have the intelligence to back it up. It's refreshing after the frustrating polemics I have so frequently encountered elsewhere.

I look forward to your reply. Best,

-Chris

Anonymous said...

Chris:
"Newman's argument from conscience was that our experience of conscience tells us that we are designed with an awareness of a higher law with eternal consequences.

Rory:
I have not extensively studied the arguments for the existence of God. I have believed in God without religious instruction and without knowing any arguments. If the question of the existence of God depends on a keen intellect equal to analyzing the various arguments for and against, I don't believe in that. The God in which I believed apart from any religious instruction corresponds closely to what is found in the Christian Scriptures where it is claimed that the heavens declare God's glory and the firmament shows his handiwork (Ps. 19). It is also related that God has so far shown His authorship of creation to those said to be made in His image, that those who do not arrive at belief in the existence of God, are ordinarily culpable (Rom.1). This would seem to indicate that we can't need to be brilliant to arrive at this truth. However, it seems reasonable that this truth must be defensible philosophically. Obviously some say it is, Newman for instance in regard to our consciences. Speaking for myself, I tend to see in everything, beginning with myself to the ends of my sense experience, traces of what seems to me an Author. My personal belief in God could not be said to hang upon any major piece of evidence, but upon what St. Hilary of Poitiers called "declarative being", the theory that all things that have existence, speak, as obviously imperfect contingent beings, of that Being which is pure existence.

Chris:
The trouble is that my conscience, at least, tells me that the genocide of the Canaanites and the killing of women and children that God allegedly demanded of the Israelites in the Old Testament is evil and contrary to the law of which I seem to be instinctively aware. How can Newman argue that conscience reflects an eternal law but then forbid it from judging the content of our holy books? That is the inconsistency I perceive."

Rory:
If Newman's argument for God from our conscience was based on the necessity that everyone's conscience is properly informed, it cannot stand in my opinion. My incredulity toward the idea that the skeletal structure of animals occurs apart from a Designer is unmoved if an animal wounds a limb. Likewise, I would suggest that Newman's use of the conscience must be similarly free from assuming that every conscience is perfectly healthy and informed. The major factor which makes the conscience susceptible to error is that nature itself teaches that although we have the powers of reason, we do not always use it rightly, we can sometimes deceive our consciences by the process which is called pejoratively, "rationalization". Used pejoratively, the word is used of one who designs false arguments for his conscience so that it will not accuse him of doing something wrong. I think Newman's argument from conscience probably stems from the fact that from Nero to Napoleon, and from Diocletian to Dahmer (forgive my poor poetry, but where else can a truck driver indulge an occasional literary inspiration, however pedantic?), they seldom just said, I am going to make people suffer because I can and I will. Before such a monstrous thing can happen, a troubling process has to occur for him who would pursue evil whereby actions ordinarily questionable, criminal, or heinous cannot be performed without first making excuses to that pesky conscience. That the conscience is by no means an inviolable guide, I am sure Newman would agree. Most likely, he would point to how that the meanest villain, invariably makes excuses at the beginning and usually to the end. No one can live with a continuously nagging conscience. If this is what he meant, I agree with him. The conscience, as a non-material, universal component of each human person, is yet another wonderful indication that more is at work in our existence than random, amoral, material forces.

Now in regard to John Henry's comments to Francis, it was in the context of being convinced in the evidence for the truth of the Apostle's Creed. This would be arrived at mainly through pondering the likelihood of other explanations for the Christian phenomenon. With many others before, and more to follow, being preceded by a belief in God in no way affected by religious claims, the circumstances pointed in Newman's opinion to the probability that the biblical claims in the New Testament which include witnessed miracles being proclaimed by those who saw them, as the most likely reason for the perseverance of the Apostles, whose perseverance has been renewed from generation to generation down to our own time. (He apologizes for his use of the mere word probability in one of his books. He does not suggest that he is speaking for the Church when he uses that kind of language, but not having seen him censured, I discreetly follow him in his unassuming way). We must ask ourselves why Christianity took root so stubbornly in a most hostile environment? It is the accumulation of pieces to this puzzle that permits us to arrive at a level of reasonable certainty in the claims of Christ and His Apostles. The Church probably says that given the problem of original sin, we cannot arrive at this point apart from grace helping our wounded nature. If so, I agree, but I also insist that our faith must withstand the assaults of reason. As our consciences will not let us rest in moral error, so our intellects are restless in irrational beliefs. God help me, I do not want to harm my conscience or intellect on account of my love for a religious belief. I do love my faith, but only because in my subjective opinion, it permits me to maintain integrity between my heart, my intellect, and my conscience. But I digress.

For the one who has arrived at reasonable certainty concerning the claims of Christianity, it remains to be determined what moral laws and revelations Christ and His Apostles approved. The Pentateuch, historical books, the Psalms, and Prophets of the Old Testament together seem to have been part of the faith which Christ embraced along with Blessed Mary, St. Joseph, and the family of John the Baptist. No word from the New Testament authors gives a disparaging picture of any portion of the Old. It is here, long after the foundation and bottom floors of the mansion have been built that a well-meaning soul like Francis Newman, or you arrives saying that their conscience is violated by something of which Christ apparently approved. Margaret Barker and others of similar persuasion try to maintain some faith in Christ while explaining theories that permit us to distance ourselves from Joshua's invasion, but cannot be reconciled with the Holy Family carefully following details of the law of Moses, and Jesus sending healed lepers to the Levitical priests as prescribed, while calling Herod's Temple, "My Father's house".

To much had already been undergone before which gives the Christian so long exercised as John Henry Newman was, with the possibility of reevaluating everything which has so far been approved because his brother's conscience says that some of the Apostolic deposit is mean! Probably John said the wrong thing to him, forgetting that his brother could not possibly say such a thing to him if he shared his foundations. J. H. Newman had arrived, as I think I have, at the point where we believe that the safest refuge for maintaining a pure conscience is in its being conformed to the morality of the Scriptures and Traditions recommended by the Catholic Church, which is yet another storey of the structure which is a story (more poetry, heh) unto itself. What he said to him was true, but only when followed from many long steps to the next. Understandably, Newman's brother couldn't get his mind around the idea that he couldn't question the morality of the Scriptures, and neither can you.

In my opinion, continuing the analogy of a building that I have been using for part of this post, most of the misunderstanding between traditional Catholics and other religious people is that the Catholic needs to remember at what stage of the building his questioner resides. There seem to me to be about five major steps which need to be taken in order, before one can begin to make significant advancement toward supernatural Christian perfection, which properly, is truly a goal for which no sane person could disapprove. (This would be my point of departure toward an agreed upon standard for saintliness which you most recently mentioned). We have to go to the roots of our differences, not the fruits of our differences. Good night…what an awful saying…but do you see what I mean? Our primary differences create secondary differences. John Henry should probably have gone to the primary differences with Francis.

I think Francis needed something a little easier to grasp than that faithful Christians don't have a right to question the Scriptures. Before continuing, I think I need to clarify that there is a kind of revelation which is beyond reason, in that we can't question it, not because it would be bad to do so, but literally because there is no way to analyze the claim. This would refer to revelations dealing with the nature of God or the sacramental actions of the Church for example. It would have been unreasonable for Francis to ask John to explain the hows and whys of supernatural claims that only reveal the facts. In my opinion, the question of the purging of the Canaanites from the Holy Land is not such an unreasonable question. Thankfully also, there is no such Christian doctrine alongside the Mystery of the Holy Trinity named the Mystery of the Purging of the Canaanites. My next post, Lord willing, will I hope, be slightly more satisfying to those like Newman's brother and you, who are properly suspicious of such blood spilling combined with claims of divine authority. I only say "slightly" because my aims are very modest. I do not hope that you will think the Catholic faith is even probable. I would be happy for you to advance in your thinking to something like, "remotely possible", or "not impossible", that would enable a really bright, conscientious young guy to keep an open mind for a while.

Regarding the inconsistency for which you complained, John Henry Newman would not find your conscience, which objects to claims of divine authority for murder, to be troubling, or even in error. If there is error on John Henry's part, it would be in failing to appreciate why one such as his brother, who had not first obtained reasonable belief in God, Christ, the Apostles, the Church, and Revelation in that order, should be inclined to such confidence in the book of Joshua as he himself had.

May we love what we believe is true, before all other reasons, because we really believe it IS true. Toward a clear conscience with a hungry, happily fed intellect…

Yours Truly,

Rory

Anonymous said...

Regarding my most recent post before this...a correction:

>>What he said to him was true, but only when followed from many long steps to the next.

Should say:

What he said to him was true, but only EVIDENTLY TRUE when followed from many long steps to the next.

Rory

Anonymous said...

Next correction. The following sounds terribly pompous:
>>The Church probably says that given the problem of original sin, we cannot arrive at this point apart from grace helping our wounded nature. If so, I agree, but I also insist that our faith must withstand the assaults of reason. As our consciences will not let us rest in moral error, so our intellects are restless in irrational beliefs.

Please permit this commentary:
I sound as though my view above that "our faith must withstand the assaults of reason" is some axiom that I have arrived at independently of and if need be, in spite of the Church. Happily and humbly, I can report that I think I am neither original, nor at odds with the Catholic faith in saying this.

Rory

Anonymous said...

Hi chris,

Thanks for your patience while I continue to give this subject careful thought. I promise I will not say that God is sovereign so He can do what He wants. Still, maybe after all, I am only a confessionalist as you described above. I'll try to make my confession on Saturday...(in more ways than one!).

See you then, Lord willing.

Rory

Chris said...

Hi Rory,

I agree with some of your comments, but not with others. I hear you about our consciences possibly not being properly informed, but then it stands to reason that if the most revolting "sin" of which my conscience is aware (i.e. genocide) is not actually a sin, this whole "conscience" thing probably isn't all it's cracked up to be. If our ethics are actually socially conditioned and our sense of right and wrong are learned rather than inherent, then conscience doesn't make much of an argument for the existence of God.

There's also the question, even if we concede that my conscience is ill-informed, of why the genocidal God of the Joshua narrative seems so incommensurate with the merciful and loving God of the New Testament.

I agree with you that Newman would have done better with his brother Francis to attend to first principles. But then, how does a confessionalist talk to a rationalist about first principles? It seems to me that he would need somehow to bridge the gap and to "convert" the rationalist to confessionalism. This is what I'm fishing for in my comments here. How does one justify a confessionalist framework?

-Chris

David Waltz said...

Hi Chris,

You said:

>> There's also the question, even if we concede that my conscience is ill-informed, of why the genocidal God of the Joshua narrative seems so incommensurate with the merciful and loving God of the New Testament.>>

Me: IMHO, you are ignoring the numerous statements of judgment in the NT, especially Jesus’ harsh words to His fellow Jews who reject His claims, as well as the import of hell.

Oh, and let’s not forget that at Christ’s second coming ALL of the tares are destroyed!

I could list dozens of NT passages that sure seem commensurate with the God of judgment of the OT; but I think you probably know most of them…


Grace and peace,

David

Chris said...

David,

You're right, of course. Anti-Semitism and the promise of eternal hell (as well as injunctions for women to shut up and sit down) are aspects of the New Testament that really bother me. Like much of the Old Testament, they seem incommensurate with the God who "is love". I was vaguely aware at the time of writing the above that the OT/NT dichotomy was superficial, but it seemed like a useful shorthand at the time. :-)

So, David, how do you deal with this troubling issue?

-Chris

Anonymous said...

Chris said:
I agree with you that Newman would have done better with his brother Francis to attend to first principles. But then, how does a confessionalist talk to a rationalist about first principles?

Rory:
I cannot speak for Newman, but the Church says that supernatural revelation is made credible by external signs. Mere claims are not credible. The claimant needs to affirm the claims with signs and wonders which are not deceptions or delusions.

“However, in order that the ‘obedience’ of our faith should be ‘consonant with reason’, God has willed that to the internal aids of the Holy Spirit there should be joined external proofs of His revelation, namely: divine facts, especially miracles and prophecies which, because they clearly show forth the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are most certain signs of a divine revelation, and are suited to the intelligence of all. Wherefore not only Moses and the prophets, but especially Christ the Lord Himself, produced many genuine miracles and prophecies; and we read concerning the apostles: ‘But they going forth preached everywhere: the Lord withal working and confirming the word with signs that followed’.” Vatican Council I, Session III, chapter 3, April 24, 1870

If one is skeptical about the natural facts recorded in the New Testament regarding how Christ and His Apostles gained a following and the Church subsequently grew through signs and wonders, there is no possibility of agreement to accept the Christian revelation merely because God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived says anything. But once one believes that Christ is God raised from the dead, and His Apostles saw and believed Him after His death it follows that it is unreasonable to distrust them. It seems unreasonable to believe in the supernatural acts that are seen, while doubting the supernatural words to which they testify.

------

A note on M. Barker

Today is called Candlemas, or the Feast of the Purification because it is now 40 days since Christmas, when those Jews who hadn’t heard of Margaret Barker’s theories still brought their first born sons to the Temple for ceremonies prescribed in the law of Moses. It seems impossible to excise the Old Testament from the New. But you admitted in your last post to Dave the artificiality of the common dichotomy which proposes the Old Testament God of Judgment versus the New Testament God of Mercy. If I have the problem of defending the purging of Canaan, the problems Barker’s theories bring could not permit me to believe the Nativity narratives, which seem pointedly written to show that there is strong continuity with Moses. I don’t know what of the so-called Good News would be left after we have stricken every reference to Moses and judgment from the New Testament. If the Good News is that there is no hell who needs Jesus the Savior? And why didn’t this guy make it a little clearer to his followers that he wasn’t going to rise from the grave, neither was his mother a virgin, nor is there a hell? If Jesus was merely a good example and moral teacher, why did his followers teach the exact opposite?

Chris says:
It seems to me that he would need somehow to bridge the gap and to "convert" the rationalist to confessionalism. This is what I'm fishing for in my comments here. How does one justify a confessionalist framework?

Rory:
I agree. If I understand it, I do not like Kierkegaard’s blind leap of faith even though the Apostle to the Gentiles said that “we walk by faith, not be sight”. There is a veiledness to it which makes faith knowledge less perfect than sight knowledge. But we can and need to see, using our reason to get us to that point. Even if Catholics are so far disposed to trust in the revelations given to the Church without critical analysis, there is an even more radical form of confessionalism which the Church condemns:

“If anyone shall have said that divine revelation cannot be made credible by external signs, and for this reason men ought to be moved to faith by the internal experience alone of each one, or by private inspiration: let him be anathema." Canon 3, Session III, On Faith

The external signs are the bridge by which one retains a rationally founded faith in things beyond critical analysis.

As promised…on to the Pentateuch…

First, let me know if I need to prove that Canaan was the land promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob according to the Old Testament. This land flowed with the proverbial milk and honey, in stark contrast to the abhorrence with which God’s people were to hold toward all things Egyptian. It was the difference between things of this world, and things of paradise. The problem was that while the sons of Jacob were in Egypt, others came and defiled their promised land.

After sins against nature, the people are exhorted to avoid these: “Do not defile yourselves by any of these things, for by these the nations I am casting out before you defiled themselves; and the land became defiled, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.”---Lev. 18:24, 25

St. Paul in the first chapter to the Romans reiterates that the God of the New Testament has an unchanging moral code in regard to some of the most heinous sins against nature which include, killing your own baby, homosexual acts, and sex with beasts: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known of God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them (by natural revelation)”. This isn’t the wrath of God for failing to be baptized, but for defiling oneself with actions that provoke God by not only denying God but perverting their own natures. There is no discontinuity. From Moses to St. Paul, God reveals Himself to be offended by the same sins which “cry to heaven for vengeance”.

They didn’t obey to the full, the command to thoroughly exterminate those who had defiled the land. But neither do many Christians, when we are exhorted to be ruthless regarding the worldly sins and pleasures which tempt us away from God. The reason why the Israelites were so commanded is the same as for why we should avoid every occasion of sin, “that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices which they have done in the service of their gods…” (Deut. 20:18)

The desire to know who your people are is natural, and it is strong. I have an American Indian friend, a fellow truck driver, a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, who still seeks his spirituality in the beliefs of his ancestors. It is not to punish the innocent, but for the preservation of Israel that they were forced to this one time extreme. Immediately preceding the unique command to thoroughly destroy this devilish religion which had placed itself in the land promised to Abraham, merciful norms are laid down for other just occasions of war. (v. 10-15)

I know now that it doesn’t appeal to your sense of justice to tell you that the Canaanite children who were slain escaped the eternal hell that would almost certainly have been their fate if they had continued in their parent’s religion. Of course, God could have done this or that to intervene to be sure that they didn’t so continue. But such conjecture is useless for the theist. If an omnipotent God is no longer good unless He saves innocent children from the sword, (even if they are eternally saved), it follows that God is obligated to provide justice in this life. Only the “deserving” should be struck by cars and lightning. Children should never die before they can do something wrong. Presumably, you believe in an omnipotent God that allows human and natural acts to occur that are contrary to strict individual justice.

This problem, in my opinion is only resolved with understanding how that God judges men individually and communally (In Adam, or in Christ). Communal guilt never results in eternal hell individually, but it certainly allows for many temporal pains. The New Testament message, as I understand it, accords with this concept of communal and individual guilt or merit. I don’t think it is controversial to say that Americans are highly individualist. Our consciences have the greatest difficulty in accepting the justice of community guilt and merit. I don’t see how Christianity can make any sense to one who rejects the concept of community guilt and merit. Besides being in accord with my faith, it is the best way that I can understand why a little one, individually innocent, ever suffers pain now, in the presence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God.

So...why do I stretch to put it in the best light? I believe that the early Christians were animated by reasonable evidence to their faith which fueled their resolve to maintain the truth to the point of blood. This reasonable faith has not been without miracles both moral and external for these many centuries. I believe in the circumstantial evidence for apostolic and continuing miracles. They help keep my faith warm. Do you think there is sound evidence for the bodily Resurrection of Christ? If you do, show me how to separate that Jesus, from the One who spoke to Moses about the Canaanites.

I have to quit now. The hours are quickly passing. Please overlook my inevitable typos and bad grammar. I don’t think I have been articulate and I do not think that I will persuade. If I had not more or less promised, I would press “delete”. It has been a pleasure for the most part discussing with you. What motivated me is where you said you really wanted to understand. I believe you. Maybe I can get you to see that there is a slight difference between Catholic confessionalism, and that of say, a Mormon. Many Mormons I have spoken with deny that there can be evidence because they believe that it would destroy faith. Of course that is contrary to what the Church said in that Vatican I canon I quoted.

I am very grateful that I never went to Canaan. I am still troubled by what it would do to the soul of the soldier who carried out such orders as was commanded. I am probably a moderate confessionalist. The command has to be good under that circumstance and I will continue to ponder it. I realize I only deflected the problem to others at best when I discuss the problems of an omnibenevolent God who allows catastrophes. I also hope that to some extent, Dave and I have highlighted a few problems encountered in trying to establish the truth of the New Testament with a condemnation of “Moses’ books”.

In closing, I would ask, present company excluded, if you hold that the academy is totally unsusceptible to a species of confessionalism?

God bless,

Rory

Anonymous said...

So Dave...what about Sozomen? You're going to argue with those Mormons about consubstantiality? What a waste of time!

Well...I had no intention of extending the comments here. Dave, one of my children gave me this kit that makes alcoholic drinks for Christmas. And it works real well. After a couple of Bloodys Mary before and some Brandys Alexander after, and a couple of other things with my salad...I am emboldened...probably beyond what is merited. Anyway, I'll be giving up drink for Lent...two more days and I'll be on water for such a long time...Also that NutriSystems thing with Dan Marino, Don Shula and Mike Golic...Oh...but it is a light penance for my terrible sins. And yes...I am a miserable sinner. I am serious. You have no idea Dave. I don't mean to say it is mortal. Praise be to God...I think I'd go to purgatory if I died right now...and hopefully...if I live a little longer I can shorten that.

Hi Chris. Anyway...what I meant about "academic confessionalism" was...Do you think the graduates really analyze how the Christian religion got so quickly thinking Jesus was God's Risen Son?

What kind of teacher has proteges (spelling) that are so kooky as Jesus' followers, to say their teacher was Almighty and that he was dead and then alive and then never take it back even when threatened with death? Are the graduates and their teachers really convinced it was hysteria or old-fashioned deception? I am thinking that maybe in academia the presumption against miracles is stronger than it should be. I am thinking that there is a kind of "academic confessionalism" that isn't quite capable of rational analysis of claims of miracles.

R

PS: I have heard M. Barker doesn't believe the Resurrection. That doesn't seem very inspiring...Anyway, I think I am sure I'll stand by everything I have said when Lent comes and I am less confident...but if I've said something I'll be sorry for...go ahead and make the most of it. I deserve it. Or most likely...just let it go. It never pays to argue with a drunk. If you win you lose! Heh.

Happy Trails to you...(Roy Rogers)

RR

Chris said...

Hi Roy,

>>I am thinking that there is a kind of "academic confessionalism" that isn't quite capable of rational analysis of claims of miracles.

I think you're right about that. I recently read an excellent article in which this very point was argued very effectively. Unfortunately, I am also a little wary of miracle stories, myself, if only because of my study of Mormonism. If it weren't for all the mitigating factors in the case of JS and his witnesses, I'd say we can't deny that the three witnesses really did have a vision of golden plates. In the case of the 12 disciples, they are so far removed from our time that we only get the "official" story. We don't have access to the kinds of mitigating factors that make such a big difference in Joseph Smith's case. That's why I don't think that the external evidence of the apostles' testimony is evidence enough to base one's faith upon. The claims of Christianity are extraordinary enough that it seems to me that if one is to swallow them, one had better have some really extraordinary and undeniable miraculous experiences of one's own to take as evidence.

-Chris

Anonymous said...

I accidently stumbled on this and it reminded of your series of posts here. Just thought you might be interested.

http://www.templestudy.com/2008/05/03/john-welch-on-margaret-barkers-temple-studies/#comments