Saturday, September 01, 2007

Clarifications for the reader

Just in case anyone is speculating about my motives in the recent couple of posts re: Steve Hays, this is strictly a matter of ontological ground for knowledge. That's it. Hays's theory of knowledge is based on the nonsensical skepticism of idealism, as if dreams and hallucinations can somehow break the ontological connection between knowledge and reality, which destroys any sort of ground for knowledge. I'm sure I'll be called anti-Scripture and all that, but my point is simply that Hays's theory provides no basis for knowing that Scripture is the Word of God, and consequently, no basis for giving normative authority to the Word of God. Moreover, the object itself is not a suitable object for normative authority given the sort of authority (namely, divine authorship/endorsement) that he attributes to it.

I suspect some people might wonder why I am being so hard on the conclusions, and my point is simply that because he has no ground for knowledge, he has no basis for knowing when he is wrong either. He can invent whatever idealistic formal scheme he wants, and because formal consistency can't be proved or disproved within a system, he's insulated from any pushback that reality would give to his Scriptural conclusions. That's what comes of denying real knowledge. Certainly, Hays might just happen to be right about some theological conclusions, but the point is that he has no reason for believing even those. It is sheer fideism.

13 Comments:

At 8:11 PM, Blogger Apolonio said...

one of my critiques of your post is that you didn't include Rutgers crushig Buffalo.

Notice how stupid Steve looks by trying to insult the university I am in. So...Hawthorne, Sosa, Goldman, Stanley, King, Parfit,Chang, Zimmerman, Klein, Code, Fodor, Lepore, etc. are not top-notch huh? Seriously, go ask Jaegwon Kim, Plantinga, Alston, van Inwagen, Swinburne, etc how good the Rutgers department is and you'll see them laugh at Steve's comment. What an idiot...

 
At 1:56 AM, Blogger TJW said...

"I'm sure I'll be called anti-Scripture and all that, but my point is simply that Hays's theory provides no basis for knowing that Scripture is the Word of God, and consequently, no basis for giving normative authority to the Word of God."

I suspect that someone will claim that nobody gives Scripture authority, Scripture has authority as a consequence of God inspiring it. And of course that is correct. I understand you to mean, consistent with this, that once a person or group of people identifies Scripture as the word of God they can then reasonably infer it's normative authority. I can foresee someone taking advantage of any ambiguity in your sentence and claiming that you are arguing that Scripture is being 'assigned' or 'deemed' to have authority when that's not what I understand you to be saying.

 
At 9:09 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Apolonio:
You're right; I would have expected Rutgers to deal with Buffalo any more mercifully. And given Hays's epistemology, ridiculous beliefs are inevitable and incorrigible. While we're on the subject though, I did find something troublesome in your response on the Epistemology of Faith thread. I think it's true that one can accept testimony of theological truth, provided that one has a ground in certain knowledge for that acceptance. But one's faith cannot be justified purely by testimony; there has to be some knowable proximate object of faith that justifies the belief of testimony in the first place. Otherwise, you would be putting faith in a merely probable judgment of the reliability of the testimony, which is irrational (beliefs can be held by faith can only through certain knowledge of the divine).

Tysen:
Good catch. You are correct.

Of course, the usual suspects can't even get the Catholic theology right.

Saint and Sinner says:
I wonder how Prejean reconciles his natural theology with 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16?

Of course, I can probably guess that he just dismisses the Biblical witness altogether.


Metaphysics as an end points out that there is something beyond reason. It's entirely the opposite of the world-directed wisdom that seeks to make man and the world its own self-measure.

Josh Strodtbeck says:
I just read the first paragraphs, but the arguments against divine choice are truly bizarre, as they contradict Catholic theology. Catholic theologians are huge on divine freedom, and Catholic dogma is deliberately ambiguous on election.

Nothing I've said contradicts Catholic theology. What I said is that defining divine freedom in terms of literal libertarian choice is anthropomorphic. The medievals defined aseity not in terms of libertarian choice, but ontological dependence. Because no created thing can impose any sort of dependence on God, God is absolutely free with regard to any property of creation. That's what separated potentia absoluta from potentia ordinata. It wasn't until nominalists got hold of the concept that the modern view of viewing what "might have happened" in the real world (something we can't actually know) and using these "possible worlds" as a definition of divine omnipotence came into fashion. That's exactly the sort of anthropomorphic idea that I'm trying to answer with the Thomist view. The problem is that people interpret medievals as if they were making the same mistake, so they see references to divine freedom and read them literally rather than ontologically.

 
At 1:36 PM, Blogger Apolonio said...

Yo Jonathan,

I think it would be best if we discuss this on the phone or something.

You're getting into the non-reductionist vs reductionist debate. I lean towards the non-reductionist position. Send me an email at:

AVBCL111 at aol dot com

we'll discuss some more.

 
At 5:03 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Apolonio;
I must be misunderstanding, because I don't even see how reductionism is relevant. If you've got something in mind, feel free to email me at the address in my profile.

 
At 8:02 AM, Blogger Joseph said...

Jonathan,

Why are comments off in the previous post? Your comment here,

**OK, to be fair, Joseph was only dealing with an argument that is logically equivalent to your argument, not your actual argument.**

basically expresses what I was trying to get across.

Steve, I apologize for not taking the time to be a lot more specific. I was only trying to trot out how everyone I've ever heard defend your position has actually done so, fused with a sense of humor. Also, I'm not Catholic.

Strictly speaking, the most serious error here seems to be equivocating the Bible and the Word of God. They are not the same. The Word of God is a person, and the Bible is a written record of that person. I wish I had all day to argue this stuff, because to be quite honest, it's a lot of fun. But alas, I am at work and can only comment as time permits. Please do not fire off an more ad hominems at me, and I will likewise try to be more careful in how I want to critique your thought.

Joseph

 
At 8:09 AM, Blogger Joseph said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 8:34 AM, Blogger Joseph said...

and also,

**I’m sorry that Joseph’s philosophy prof. is so inept. I guess that Joseph attends the same school as Apolonio.**

That professor I mentioned is an Evangelical. I would buzz him to see what he thought of this exchange, but he is busy finishing up a metaethics paper to be *read at Oxford* later this month. He's quite inept.

 
At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Ben Douglass said...

Dear Jonathan,

You state: I have no doubt that "pre-philosophical" OT authors might have literally meant what they intended here [i.e., anthropomorphic descriptions of God which are not literally true]

No doubt? You ought to have certain knowledge to the contrary. The sacred authors cannot have intended any meaning in the text which is false, since according to the Catholic dogma of biblical inerrancy, everything the sacred authors affirm, state, or imply must be affirmed, stated, or implied by the Holy Spirit. God is the author of the entire Scripture, not just parts of it, so this leaves no room for obiter dicta.

Also, how can you maintain that "the notion of divine speech as caused human communication" is absurd? I offer two quotes, the first from Leo XIII's Providentissimus Deus, and the second from Benedict XV's Spiritus Paraclitus:

"For, by supernatural power, [God] so moved and impelled them to write-He was so present to them-that the things which He ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth. Otherwise, it could not be said that He was the Author of the entire Scripture. Such has always been the persuasion of the Fathers. 'Therefore,' says St. Augustine, 'since they wrote the things which He showed and uttered to them, it cannot be pretended that He is not the writer; for His members executed what their Head dictated.' And St. Gregory the Great thus pronounces: 'Most superfluous it is to inquire who wrote these things-we loyally believe the Holy Ghost to be the Author of the book. He wrote it Who dictated it for writing; He wrote it Who inspired its execution.'"

"If we ask how we are to explain this power and action of God, the principal cause, on the sacred writers we shall find that St. Jerome in no wise differs from the common teaching of the Catholic Church. For he holds that God, through His grace, illumines the writer's mind regarding the particular truth which, 'in the person of God,' he is to set before men; he holds, moreover, that God moves the writer's will - nay, even impels it - to write; finally, that God abides with him unceasingly, in unique fashion, until his task is accomplished."

 
At 12:18 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

You ought to have certain knowledge to the contrary. The sacred authors cannot have intended any meaning in the text which is false, since according to the Catholic dogma of biblical inerrancy, everything the sacred authors affirm, state, or imply must be affirmed, stated, or implied by the Holy Spirit.

I agree with the doctrine, and nonetheless, I see no contradiction with what I said. Anthropomorphism is not literally true as a metaphysical description of God. It is analogically true, and on that account, it can be a literally true description of human experience of God. That is all I believe to be true of the Jewish assertion of anthropomorphism, and it is all I believe the Holy Spirit to be asserting of it. But if we took the proposition as if God Himself had uttered the self-same proposition that the author did (which is how I take the notion of authority being asserted in sola scriptura), then absurdity would ensue, since God is clearly not affirming the literal proposition that he has thoughts, makes decisions, etc., which is contradicted by Isaiah 55:8. It's the identity of subject that is troublesome; God need only affirm the truth of human propositions to the extent they are being asserted by a human, not to the extent they would be true if He Himself were making the statement.

Also, how can you maintain that "the notion of divine speech as caused human communication" is absurd?

I mean deterministically caused in the way I described, so that it is as if God Himself were dictating the sentence, effectively commandeering the human will. Divine inspiration is a synergistic activity, and there is a distinct human component in the affirmation of propositions that ought not be confused with the inspiring activity of the Holy Spirit. The authors you cite take care to keep the supernatural causation of God distinct (although not separated, as in the case of mere divine endorsement) from the human activity. As with any case of divino-human activity (e.g., the working of grace), it is essential to maintain our Christological focus and to avoid confusion or separation of the distinct natural and supernatural modes of activity.

 
At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Ben Douglass said...

Dear Jonathan,

Thank you for clarifying what you meant when you rejected "the notion of divine speech as caused human communication." That's enough for that issue.

Regarding anthropomorphism and biblical inerrancy, on the other hand, I still have reservations about your position.

We should be able to take every proposition in Scripture as if God Himself had uttered it, since He is the primary author of Scripture. God is just as free as we are to use analogical and metaphorical language, therefore, even if we predicate every proposition in Scripture to God as if He had uttered it in the first person, this should not necessitate seeing Genesis 3:8 as a literal, metaphysical description of God.

Also, your original statement implied that the sacred author of Genesis could have understood his anthropomorphisms as a literal description of God, as He is. This is not compatible with the Catholic doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy since the Holy Spirit affirms everything at least as far as the author does. The Spirit does not make a mental reservation and affirm a statement only to a limited extent which the human author affirmed to a fuller extent. Therefore, the sacred author must have understood his anthropomorphic language as analogical, not literal.

 
At 8:37 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Also, your original statement implied that the sacred author of Genesis could have understood his anthropomorphisms as a literal description of God, as He is. This is not compatible with the Catholic doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy since the Holy Spirit affirms everything at least as far as the author does. The Spirit does not make a mental reservation and affirm a statement only to a limited extent which the human author affirmed to a fuller extent. Therefore, the sacred author must have understood his anthropomorphic language as analogical, not literal.

That's a helpful observation, and I think it does demand a clarification on my part. What you say about "analogical" predication is simply an acknowledgment of human limitations in one's speech. If the position is that the authors knew that they were expressing a mystery that was beyond their understanding, then I agree that their opinion was analogical. Whether they explicitly understood what analogical predication entailed is another issue (I believe they did not). But literally, the Holy Spirit cannot as subject affirm that He has human limitations. So it's important to remember that the Holy Spirit is affirming the statement of the author Himself and not making a separate statement on His own behalf. That is, I believe, the correct interpretation of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit's authorship, and I don't believe that this doctrine can be taken so literally that the Holy Spirit becomes an author according to the human mode. That is what I mean by anthropomorphism: the identification of divine authorship (the divine process of "speech," only analogously so) with human authorship (the human process of speech).

 
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