Friday, August 31, 2007

Just to show I'm not completely heartless

I know my rational methodology might make me seem somewhat pitiless, so I want to first say that I do genuinely feel sorry for people who accept nonsense as if it meant something. And I do genuinely feel sorry for Steve Hays, who has been aptly described as a "middle-aged seminarian." If I had sacrificed half my entire life trying to make sense out of hopeless nonsense, I would imagine I would face at least some cognitive dissonance. I certainly felt that when I was trying to extract some sense from Joseph Campbell in my childhood. It sounded good, but when I grew up, I was forced to admit that it was hopeless. So it is with anti-Catholic polemicists; their beliefs are senseless, but they continue the futile pretense of intellectual respectability. But it's a lot like watching my wife's Bayou Bengals take on Mississippi State on Thursday. I feel sorry for the Bulldogs for being vastly overmatched, but not so much that I take my eye off the more important goal, i.e., LSU's opponent getting pounded into the dirt as convincingly as possible.

So it is with Hays. I feel bad for him that he plays for an awful team with no talent, but that's not my problem. So when he throws the theological equivalent of six interceptions, you can pretty much expect that I'm not going to stop punching the ball in the end zone.

Hays begins:

The paradoxical thing about Prejean is that he’s a Catholic apologist who never does Catholic apologetics. He never gets around to defending his own faith.I suppose that there’s a roundabout logic to his roundaboutness. After all, if Catholicism is specifically indefensible, then it would be a suicide mission to vainly defend the specifics of your faith with specific arguments.Prejean doesn’t offer historical or exegetical arguments for his faith since, if he ever got that down-to-earth, his arguments would fall prey to specific counterarguments.

I defend my faith to reasonable people all the time; when they ask why I believe some or another thing, I answer them. Hays isn't reasonable. He doesn't ask reasonable questions; he makes accusations. If you're going to make an accusation rather than ask a reasonable question, then it suffices to simply show that the accusation is unsubstantiated or irrational. That's apologetics in the literal sense: defense.

In that respect he’s several steps ahead of other Catholic apologists like Hahn, Keating, and Armstrong. Realizing the futility of their approach, he tries to put as much distance as possible between his faith and supporting arguments specific to his faith.His strategy is to dig a very deep moat, raise the drawbridge, retreat into the citadel of natural theology, and have an underground tunnel to Byzantium in case the citadel is overrun.

Here we see the contrast with Hays. I asked him what seems to be a reasonable question: justify the authority of Scripture with some compelling abductive or deductive argument. I presented an argument for why I thought that the notion of Scripture as some sort of self-authenticating authority was nonsense. Hays doesn't answer the argument (he simply accuses me of infidelity for denying Scripture as a self-authenticating authority). Hays doesn't answer the question either. Hays just calls me names and makes unsubstantiated personal attacks (e.g., accusing me of "prevaricating"), trying to divert attention from hs delinquency of duty. Complaining about my "moat" when your tent city is getting shelled rings hollow at best. It's not my fault Hays's position is indefensible.

It’s true that, in this case, I didn’t respond to his other argument ("that something can't possible serve as a formal rule unless it adjudicates exactly those sorts of hermeneutical disputes.")And that’s because I was responding to a different argument of his. I didn’t respond to that argument here, because I was responding to this argument—on what sola Scriptura allegedly entails.Notice that Prejean, instead of standing behind his argument, and explaining why his argument was not a category mistakes, simply issues a denial and then changes the subject. So he has done nothing whatsoever to rebut the charge that his contention was a category mistake. Instead, he resorted to a bait-and-switch maneuver, swapping out the argument of his I did respond to, and swapping in another argument of his.Incidentally, I do get around to responding to his other argument as well. Just not here. I’m taking his arguments one a time. If he lacks confidence in his arguments, that’s his problem, not mine.

Then Hays didn't understand my argument in the first place. My point was that if the Jews had anthropomorphic beliefs in their writing, then sola scriptura entails that they will be normative. My statement wasn't that sola scriptura entails the Mormon version of Jewish anthropomorphism, but rather, that their belief that what Jewish anthropomorphism (as they understand it) is philosophically normative is entailed by sola scriptura. I assumed Hays's response, which was that sola scriptura was a "rule of faith" rather than a "hermeneutical prediction," was intended to respond to that argument by suggesting that since one could pick and choose among interpretations, it could not entail that any particular conclusions was normative. But this walked into my own argument, since the assertion that Scripture served as a "rule of faith" foreclosed the possibility there could be legitimate hermeneutical disputes on matters of faith (since a rule by definition mus adjudicate them). So the attempt to create a category error by drawing a distinction between the rule of faith itself and the actual interpretations fails, because the rule itself collapses distinctions between the authority of the source and the authority of the interpretations. Thus, we get back to my point; Jewish anthropomorphism is philosophically normative, even if there might be dispute (which ought to be definitively resolved by Scripture itself on Hays's account) as to what Jewish anthropomorphism itself entails. My point is that I am free to disregard Jewish anthropomorphism as being philosophically normative, because I'm not bound by the OT authors' philosophical conceptions.

This is an assertion in place of an argument—and a question-begging assertion at that...
i) Here he makes a gesture in the direction of explaining himself. Unfortunately, he continues to beg the question.Indeed, he’s using the same argument that atheologians like Kai Nielsen frequently use to prove (to their own satisfaction) that a timeless, discarnate being cannot be a person or personal agent: hence, God does not exist.

Indeed I am. I think Nielsen's argument would probably be correct if applied to the belief that God has real relations to people.

Prejean is assuming, without benefit of argument, that "electing" is a temporal action. Ironically, Prejean is the one who is anthropomorphizing the godhead. It is true that when human beings make choices, there is a temporal process of deliberation, as well as an interval between the mental resolve and its practical execution. But to say on this account that God cannot choose is to illicitly equate the essential nature of choice with an incidental mode of subsistence.Prejean has offered no argument to show that choice is inherently temporal, such that there would be a time before God made a choice, and a time subsequent to his choice. Same thing with "promising." Where is Prejean’s actual argument that only a temporal agent can make a promise?

I'm not talking about the manner in which choices are made. I'm talking about the sort of being that God is. God doesn't choose among things; that would posit the existence of real things among which He chose, which would deny His aseity. Likewise, God doesn't promise in terms of creating a real relation with any created things, because God is not the sort of entity who could even possibly be in real relation to any created things. Literally, these things are not true. We describe them as such in order to explain what sort of relation we experience to God, but it clearly isn't a literal description, as if God chose from among His divine ideas and elected some of what He had created, for example. If we conceived those things as a literal description of God, we would be admitting absurdity.

ii) Likewise, he fails to distinguish between a timeless cause and a temporal effect. God’s intentions are effected in time, without God himself acting in time. His intention is not, itself, temporal.

"Intentions" is another anthropomorphism. Far from failing to distinguish the two, I am pointing out that the relationship between the two is utterly asymmetric. We aren't even real enough for God to have "intentions" toward us.

iii) On a related note, Prejean also fails to take into account the use of second causes to facilitate God’s will.

"Second causes?" Care to justify that metaphysically? And "facilitate?" Is it possible to make things easier for God?

Is the idea of divine speech inherently anthropomorphic? No. Prejean is lifting this verse out of context. Indeed, this very chapter supplies the context.Who is the speaker? Samuel. Samuel is a prophet. He is speaking on God’s behalf—as a mouthpiece for God Almighty.So God uses human beings to communicate his message. There is nothing figurative about that predication or process. The prophets are divine spokesmen. Recipients of visions and auditions. And God has other conduits to convey his message. He can speak through an angel. He can speak by means of a theophany. He can cause letters to be inscribed on stone.

First, the idea of divine speech IS inherently anthropomorphic. At least, Wolterstorff's notion of endorsement of illocutional acts seems to require that, which is why I believe his response to Barth's objection that only God can reveal Himself fails. Divine speech (in the sense of endorsement) isn't actually divine revelation. Second, you have to prove that God actually did these things; saying that he could doesn't prove that He ever did.

Scripture doesn’t describe divine speech in anthropomorphic terms. Rather, it describes a number of different, but literal modes of divine speech. When God inspires a prophet, he forms a set of verbalized thoughts in the mind of the prophet. This is divine speech because God inspired the words and sentences. We can predicate the speech to God because God inspired the words the prophet is uttering. There’s an exact match between what the prophet says and what the Lord caused him to say. Nothing the least bit figurative or anthropomorphic about that correspondence.

Since you have no actual knowledge of any of these things, your assertion is worthless. Suppose that I think you're making it all up and nothing the Scripture describes actually happened. Prove that it did.

Prejean has a very crude, philosophically na├»ve, and Biblically uninformed idea of what divine speech amounts to. That’s because he disdains the Bible, so he doesn’t make any effort to even understand the nature of the claim.

My concept of divine revelation isn't philosophically naive. Basically, unless you personally experience God doing some act, you have no cause for faith. I consider the notion that you can have faith in someone else's testimony philosophically absurd (and likewise, the notion of divine speech as caused human communication equally so). It's not disdain for the Bible, but disdain for your reasons for believing it, that causes me to disregard your assertions.

So he frankly admits that, from his standpoint, the OT authors were simply mistaken. They meant well. And they genuinely meant to attribute these mental states and actions to God. But they were wrong.We know better. Natural theology has falsified their claims.I’m not going to take the time, here and now, to argue with Prejean’s low view of Scripture. It’s sufficient to merely highlight his infidelity. I appreciate the way in which he candidly distinguishes his Catholic faith from Bible-believing Evangelicalism. He presents the alternatives is refreshingly stark terms.

Evidently, Hays is happy to taunt people for failing to be an apologist, but when he has an opportunity to actually (gasp) argue for his beliefs, he says nothing. I've candidly made the distinction; I've flat out said that his view is absurd. His answer is that he won't take the time to defend it.

It would be viciously circular if I were arguing with an atheist. But when two professing Christians get into a debate, is it viciously circular to assume that both sides take the self-witness of Scripture as a given? Historically, Catholicism does acknowledge the Bible to be the word of God. So, when I’m debating with a Catholic apologist, how is it viciously circular for me to take a doctrine for granted that we both share in common?Or do we? It’s clear from Prejean’s reaction that Catholicism and atheism are interchangeable. Hence, it would be viciously circular to grant the identity of Scripture as the word of God when debating with a Catholic apologist. File that for future reference.Once again, I appreciate Prejean’s frank infidelity. It’s a real time saver.

Of COURSE it's viciously circular when the reason for Scriptural authority is the matter in dispute. You can't take the conclusion for granted when you dispute the reasons, and since Catholics don't see Scripture as having authority outside the context of the Church, you can't take Scriptural authority for granted in your arguments. That's the whole point; you have to prove up the authority of Scripture. Of course we don't have faith in sola scriptura, and you haven't presented a single argument for why we should. In that respect, of course atheists and Catholics have in common that we don't agree with your reasons for granting authority to Scripture.

Prejean is prevaricating. This is what I actually said, in full: "Strictly speaking, there’s no such thing as natural theology. What we have, rather, is a bewildering variety of natural theologies." Notice that he quotes the first sentence, but omits the second sentence—which qualifies the force of the first sentence. So what I actually said is that there’s no such thing as natural theology (singular) because what we have instead is a variety of competing models of natural theology.But Prejean is too dishonest to quote me in full since that would ill-serve his purpose. Not that one must always quote someone in full, but when you partially quote someone in a way that deliberately leaves a false impression, then that is dishonest. Which is fine with me. If Prejean can’t defend his position by honest methods, that’s a tacit admission that his position is indefensible.

I have to say that I have literally never been accused of lying about what someone said in a statement immediately following a direct quote of what the person said, although Eric Svendsen came close once. It's not even clear to me how that is possible, which is why I have taken to quoting every single line of anti-Catholic posts to foreclose even the possibility of being subject to this accusation. I guess logical impossibility is no obstacle to mudslinging. But to be accused of being too dishonest to quote him in full when my remark followed a direct quote of the entire sentence, particularly when the accuser is someone who himself used a dishonest tu quoque argument against me and then lied about what Peter Geach said to justify it, is somewhat akin being lectured on the immorality of betrayal by Judas. I suppose Hays would know what lying looks like, but then again, I'd pretty much expect him to lie about it, and that's what he did here. If my position is so indefensible, one wonders why Hays has to lie about me to defend his own.

What is particularly incredible here is that he has even trumped up the idea that I made an accusation against him at all. What I said was "That's so obviously false that I'll assume that Hays isn't speaking strictly, but instead means that there is a bewildering variety of conclusions of natural theology." I can't see how that charitable interpretation is any different that Hays's own interpretation of his own words: "So what I actually said is that there’s no such thing as natural theology (singular) because what we have instead is a variety of competing models of natural theology." I suppose Hays might actually be so confused that he didn't see this, but having been accused of prevarication and dishonesty multiple times and given Hays's history, I'm not giving him a break this time. I think he's just a liar who deliberately makes false accusations to cover his failures to answer arguments.

Wow, how’s that for a closely-reasoned argument [JP--referring to my statement that innate ideas are nonsense].

If they aren't, you should be able to give a perfectly good argument for them. I'll happily line up with Maritain and Garrigou-Lagrange, who take exactly that position based on act and potency.

i) Another assertion in lieu of an argument. In addition, I didn’t say that indirect realism uses innate idea. Indirect realism is a theory of perception. My immediate point is that some of our knowledge is innate, while some of our knowledge is acquired—via perception.ii) At the same time, there is a relationship between the two modes of knowledge. Unless we were endowed with an innate classification system, we would be unable to classify raw sensory input. You can’t bootstrap a classification system. Without some preexisting categories to sort out the raw data, it remains a jumble. Some slots must already be in place to mentally organize, analyze, and synthesize the input.

I'm aware that indirect realism is a theory of perception. My point is that if you are asserting that knowledge is a mix of innate ideas and perception, and if you are asserting that the innate ideas are required to organize the perception, then you've already broken the logical connection required for Augustinian exemplarism (which is Aristotelian) and alethic realism. You don't need preexisting categories if order is in the things themselves, and that's exactly what the Aristotelian hylomorphic theory of knowledge says. A priori categories, by contrast, make no sense at all.

Natural theology is not generally correct (or incorrect) since there’s no such thing as natural theology in general. To assess the correctness of natural theology, you must begin by selecting the correct version of natural theology.

Saying that there are "versions" of natural theology is like saying that there are "versions" of truth. There's only one reality; natural theology is simply the commitment that one can know things about God from it. The only thing that it presupposes is knowledge about reality, but since you seem to endorse a theory of knowledge that doesn't permit it, I can see where this might be a problem for you.

Yes, if you have a criterion for continuity and progress. Yet he is citing natural theology as his criterion. But when you have a number of competing models, then it begs the question to cite natural theology as the criterion. What is his criterion to distinguish the correct version from the erroneous versions?

How does one decide among competing models in science? By whether they describe reality! Same thing here.

To the contrary, I’m addressing Prejean on his own grounds. He’s the one who is using natural theology as an interpretive grid which he superimposes on Scripture.So, yes, the onus lies on him to specify and defend which version of natural theology functions as his interpretive grid.But, as usual, his response is to indulge in evasive maneuvers. When you confront him on his own grounds, he pushes the eject button and parachutes out of his flaming plane. If I were in his situation, I’d be tempted to do the same thing. But it would be even better not to put yourself in that situation in the first place.

My point is that natural theology isn't superimposed on anything. It's inherent in reality, so if Scripture is in reality, then Scripture abides by natural theology as well. This is like saying that gravity is an interpretive grid superimposed on Scripture in light of which I interpret it. It doesn't even make sense.

i) Once more, this reveals quite a lot about his view of divine revelation, does it not? Reality is one thing, and revelation is another. ii) Of course, from a Christian standpoint, in contrast to Prejean’s, divine revelation is a revelation about reality. iii) And what about his appeal to "experience"? Does "experience" distinguish what is real from what is unreal? Don’t we experience dreams? Isn’t a hallucination a real experience? I didn’t hallucinate that I was hallucinating.
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But you can dream about a pair of stilts. Or hallucinate. How does raw experience adjudicate between real stilts and your stilted dream or hallucination?

The point was exactly that reality ISN'T one thing and revelation another. The point is that they can't conflict, because revelation is a part of reality. If revelation is a revelation about reality, then it better not conflict with reality. And the appeal to hallucinations to justify skepticism is the oldest trick in the book. In fact, hallucinations do tell you something about reality; they demonstrate the presence of hallucinogens, brain damage, unconscious perceptual processing, and the like. If you think dreams are the standard of reality (which would fit into that whole psychopolis nonsense), then that shows an error in your thinking, but it's hardly a basis for concluding that experience doesn't map onto reality.

In what sense was the OT rule of faith a failure? What does it mean for something to fail?i) Suppose your hard drive fails. We might chalk that up to a design defect. And the next model should correct for that failure.ii) But suppose it’s one of those counterterrorist scenarios. The jihadis threaten to blow up New York unless we hand over a computer with sensitive military schematics.And suppose the Pentagon gives into the demand, but with a catch. It builds a design flaw into the hard drive to ensure that the hard drive will fail. And this buys us time to track down the jihadis.Was this a failure? The question is ambiguous. In this case, it was designed to fail—like planned obsolescence. iii) And let’s remember the larger context of our debate. The high-church contention is that sola scripture is a false rule of faith because it "fails."Yet Prejean just told us that the OT rule of faith was a "failure." Indeed, it was "doomed" to fail."Does this mean the OT rule of faith was a false rule of faith? Does this mean that God did not institute or constitute the OT community of faith? If the OT rule of faith "failed," that is not because it was flawed. To the contrary, if it failed, then it did so because it was designed to effect that particular outcome.In fact, the OT rule of faith was a success. It succeeded in achieving the purpose that God meant for it.iv) In addition, the word of God was never intended to yield a uniform result. The word of God serves more than one purpose. It is instrumental, both in preserving the elect and hardening the reprobate. It is also instrumental, up to a point, in restraining sin—even among the ungodly.

All of this actually supports my point. People were given rules and allowed to fail in order to demonstrate that human failure is possible even when God Himself is generous. None of that requires that the system was flawed by design. It simply means that it didn't force success. The larger point was that it wasn't even adequate for success (in terms of salvation), nor was it intended to be. It was intended to show what would actually be required for salvation and to show the inadequacy of people even to obey to obtain temporal blessings, leaving aside the spiritual question. But one would expect the new covenant to at least be workable in principle, which the Old Covenant was not.

i) And why didn’t the old covenant work? Did it not work out because the old covenant was never meant to be the true rule of faith for God’s people, at that time and place? Let’s review the church-argument once more:a) The true rule of faith cannot fail.b) Sola Scriptura is a failure.c) Therefore, sola Scripture is not the true rule of faith.Let’s transfer that argument to the OT. Is the Catholic or Orthodox apologist prepared to carry his argument to its logical extreme?ii) Where does Prejean locate the superiority of the new covenant? There were apostates under the old covenant. There are apostates under the new covenant. There were schismatics under the old covenant. There are schismatics under the new covenant. There were heretics under the old covenant. There are heretics under the new covenant.There is no doubt a sense in which the new covenant is better than the old covenant. But that’s not the issue. The issue is whether it is more "successful"—as the high churchman defines success.And, of course, there’s also something to be said for defining success and failure in Biblical terms.

Obviously it wasn't meant to be the true rule of faith because it didn't even provide for eternal salvation. If someone had obeyed the Law perfectly, he still wouldn't have been in Heaven, because the point of the Law wasn't to save souls. It was simply a shadow. And again, I do not say that there cannot be apostates, heretics, and schismatics. What I say is that there must be something in which people who aren't apostates, heretics, and schismatics CAN have faith, a suitable object. My point is that sola scriptura doesn't even give a suitable object. It fails by definition.

i) This assumes that the Messiah was not the object of faith in OT piety. But I’ll pass on that for now.ii) More to the issue at hand, how does Prejean’s explanation militate against sola Scriptura as a rule of faith? If the dispensational improvement lies in a better object of faith, then that, of itself, does nothing to secure faith in the object of faith. A rule of faith doesn’t ingenerate faith in itself and by itself. Making Christ the object of faith doesn’t forestall "anarchy" or "chaos."The rule of faith is objective to the believer. It presents the mind with something to believe. But whether you believe it or not depends on your subjective predisposition to believe it or not. Prejean’s rule of faith is an abject failure according to his very definition of success.

I defined the object in terms of suitability for faith, not whether it produced uniformity among all those having faith in it. The bit about "presents to the mind" just buys into the same conflict on knowledge. I don't believe you can know anything without a proximate object; there must be an actual thing in reality to present this to the mind. The OT believers might well have had a proximate object of faith, but it wasn't the Messiah. Likewise, Christ isn't around bodily, so the only way to know Him is to encounter His action in something outside oneself. Otherwise, there's no external object to know.

Only one problem: I never said what Prejean imputed to me. Prejean is the one who said that "intrinsic authority" and "inherent credibility" are meaningless, nonsense in the most basic meaning of the term.So all he’s done is to draw a conclusion from his own premise, not mine. And, in that respect, his statement is another damning admission with respect to his contemptuous view of Scripture. I’ll have more to say about this at a later point.

Obviously, you're not going to SAY that. I am, as you noted, arguing that you have implicitly said it. And while you have more to say, you haven't answered the premise or presented any argument against it. You simply used a nasty pejorative about my "contemptuous" view of Scripture.

Okay, so his view of Christ is different. But that wasn’t the question. How does this make his view of Scripture any different?Like Prejean, the English Deists also subordinated Scripture to natural theology. They were only prepared to believe as much of Christian doctrine as they could authorize via natural theology. Prejean is a methodological Deist. He has adopted the very same theological method as they did.

If I believe that Christ is present in the Church, then I believe also that licenses me to accept by faith the Church's dogma whether or not it can be proved from natural theology. That distinguishes me from deism. We share the belief that no Christian dogma can conflict with natural theology.

See how Prejean is having to retreat from his original claim.
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What I mean is how God views his own utterances in Scripture.
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Once again, Prejean refuses to stand behind his original argument.

My argument was always that sola scriptura cannot justify knowledge from Scripture, because it can't justify the authority of Scripture. In all of the examples you gave, the individuals DID HAVE a justification for the authority of Scripture. It's not a change in my argument; it's consistently saying that your view lacks a justification that other views have.

At best, his appeal to objective authority would only supply a necessary, but insufficient, condition of knowledge. There is still a weak link in his chain (indeed, countless weak links) unless he can take the next step by showing how the Catholic rule of faith is able to suffice as a condition of knowledge. Remember, there was more to his original claim than the bare possibility of knowledge. He made a claim about "arriving" at theological truth. Prejean’s position is like saying, I’m deeply in debt, but I’ve got a million bucks in my safe. Unfortunately, I forgot the combination, so I can’t actually get to my money and pay my bills. But I’m "objectively" rich. Or like saying, I’ve got a million bucks in a Swiss bank account, but I forgot my account number and I lost my ID. Herein lies the vast superiority of the Catholic rule of faith.

Of course I made a claim stronger than the bare possibility of knowledge, because I think it quite obvious that plenty of people do have certain knowledge about the faith from the Church. Even the people who aren't rich aren't broke either. But outside the Church, to the extent they have anything, it's only because they've borrowed from the Church, and the paucity of even that loan is pretty pathetic. They have no proximate object of faith, so they can only stumble about based on hearsay, holding most theological opinion as merely probable rather than the certain knowledge of faith.

i) One of the problems with this statement is that much of Christian doctrine is not confirmable by natural theology alone. Much of Christian doctrine deals with unique historical particulars or invisible realities. You can’t intuit Christian theology from the being of Being—or is it the Being of being? ii) He’s not going to find the presence of Christ in the Church from natural theology. For that he is reliant, at best, on revealed theology.

Sure. But natural theology can tell me that it's irrational to claim faith if Christ ISN'T acting in the Church. Natural theology can tell me that faith without a proximate object can't deliver certain knowledge.

i) One of the problems with this statement is that much of Christian doctrine is not confirmable by natural theology alone. Much of Christian doctrine deals with unique historical particulars or invisible realities. You can’t intuit Christian theology from the being of Being—or is it the Being of being? ii) He’s not going to find the presence of Christ in the Church from natural theology. For that he is reliant, at best, on revealed theology. For that matter, the fictional genre doesn’t even claim to be realistic. Is The Martian Chronicles grounded in reality? No.Does this disconnect render The Martian Chronicles is unintelligible? No.Same thing with the Divine Comedy or Lord of the Rings. Exegeting Dante or Tolkien or Bradbury doesn’t depend on how well grounded they happen to be in reality. There are right and wrong interpretations of Dante—irrespective of whether his science is right or wrong.

Which only highlights the point that truth is a matter of correspondence to reality, not meaning. I don't deny that there are right and wrong interpretation, but one thing to consider is that Scripture is believed by Catholics to have content that goes beyond authorial intent, so mundane techniques of identifying meaning would be inadequate anyway.

The Bible makes self-referential claims as well as constantive claims. Prejean uses natural theology to verify or falsify the constantive claims, and then—in turn—uses the constantive claims, duly verified or falsified, to verify or falsify the self-referential claims.Several problems:i) He’s done nothing to establish natural theology.ii) He’s done nothing to establish that natural theology should validate or invalidate revealed theology—as if natural theology is a source of knowledge, while revealed theology is not.iii) He confuses interpretation with verification.

On the contrary, my point is that one can't conclude anything about the truth of Scripture apart from verification either of the facts or its authority. Establishing natural theology isn't required; it supervenes on the fact that we know things about reality, and some of the things we know about reality are about God.

Now for the bottom line. In a different thread, Prejean went so far as to say that:
You can't rationally have faith in anything but divine acts, not accounts of divine acts, not description of divine acts.
This exposes the depth of his infidelity. According to Prejean, you can’t have faith in what God says, but only in what he does.Could anything be more at odds with Biblical piety? For Prejean, it’s irrational to take God at his word, to trust in his promises. But what is Scripture if not, in large part, an account of divine deeds? It’s a running narrative of God’s creative, judicial, and redemptive deeds—from OT history through the Gospels and the Book of Acts.Historical descriptions of what God has said and done. And yet, according to Prejean, this is not an object of faith. Only the raw events, and not the record of the events, is an object of faith. Just in passing, I wonder how many of the church fathers or scholastic theologians would agree with him.

To be clear, I'm saying that you can't know what God SAID unless you heard Him say it. I don't think Biblical piety ever tells anyone to believe God without some proximate sign. Indeed, it seems to say quite the opposite. I've got a proximate object of faith (Christ in the Church), so I have warrant for believing the historical descriptions. On account of my knowledge in faith, I can trust the rest. I think that is exactly what Augustine meant when he said that he would not accept the authority of Scripture without the Church, so I doubt any of the Fathers would disagree.

To defend my commenter:
i) I’m sorry that Joseph’s philosophy prof. is so inept. I guess that Joseph attends the same school as Apolonio.

It's not Joseph's fault that "inherent authority" is an oxymoron, and his philosophy professor was good enough to point it out. Insulting Tier One universities doesn't do much for one's intellectual credibility, not that this matters for the veracity of your argument.

Be that as it may, notice that Joseph has simply substituted his own caricature for what I actually said. Did I say "Why is the Bible the Word of God? Because it says so. Why trust the Bible? Because God wrote it. How do you know God wrote it? Because the Bible says so...etc...etc...etc..."No, that was not my argument. So, if you want a textbook example of Joseph’s sloppy thinking (of which his philosophy prof. is equally guilty), here is a blatant straw man argument.

OK, to be fair, Joseph was only dealing with an argument that is logically equivalent to your argument, not your actual argument. I suppose that he should have demonstrated explicitly that your argument and the one he was critiquing are the same as a matter of courtesy.

ii) And that’s not the only textbook example of Joseph’s sloppy thinking (of which his philosophy prof. is equally guilty).There’s such a thing as an argument from authority. That is a valid argument when two disputants share a common authority.Now, if I were debating with an atheist, an appeal to the intrinsic authority of Scripture would beg the question. But, at least traditionally, Roman Catholics claim to honor the authority. Indeed, they get very irate with Protestants who routinely deny that Catholics honor the authority of Scripture.Since I was debating a Catholic apologist rather than, say, Richard Dawkins, I didn’t start from scratch.

But you logically should have, because when two disputants don't share a common authority for the same reasons, it's fallacious to appeal to the authority.

However, it’s apparent from the reaction of Joseph and Jonathan that Catholicism is synonymous with atheism. Therefore, when debating with a Catholic apologist, the Evangelical apologist must equate Catholicism with atheism, and mount a preliminary argument to establish the identity of the Bible as the Word of God.

It's not synonymous with atheism. Atheism and Catholicism have in common that we don't accept your justification of Scripture. Atheism and Catholicism also have in common that we don't accept Islam. How that makes atheism synonymous with Catholicism is beyond me.

iii) And here is still another textbook example of Joseph’s sloppy thinking. In the statement he quoted from me, I didn’t say that we should trust the Bible because God wrote it. I didn’t say we should trust the Bible. And I didn’t say that God wrote it.Rather, all I did was to point out the consequences of Prejean’s position. And Joseph has done nothing at all to show that those consequences do not flow from Prejean’s position. What I offered was a description of his implicit position rather than a value-judgment. I left it to the reader to judge the results.I said that, for Prejean, Whatever authority we credit to Scripture is a purely secondary and derivative authority which is conferred on Scripture by some extrinsic locus of authority."What has Joseph offered to overturn that characterization? Nothing.

Except for that part of accusing me of "candid infidelity." That's a judgment, not merely a consequence of my position. And presumably, it is intended to be justified by the conclusion of your position. Joseph's point was that if your argument is "purely secondary and derivative authority" -> "infidelity," then by contraposition, "fidelity" -> "not purely secondary and derivative authority." If "inherent authority" is nonsense, then there is no logical position different from "purely secondary and derivative authority," meaning that "fidelity" is illogical. Sure looks to me like you made the very argument Joseph critiqued.

iv) Finally, let’s finish with his statement: What in the world can it mean for Scripture to have "intrinsic authority" or "inherent credibility?"Why does he think that’s such a hard question to answer? a) God is the supreme authority figure. God has intrinsic authority. The Word of God partakes of God’s authority. It is authoritative because he is authoritative. It’s authoritative because it’s the word of an authority figure. Intrinsically authoritative because it’s identical with God’s will for what he intended to communicate.b) As to the question of inherent credibility, is he challenging the notion in general, or only its application to Scripture?If this is a general challenge, then it follows that the church lacks inherent credibility. And it also follows that natural theology lacks inherent credibility.If nothing is inherently credible, then nothing can warrant belief in something which may be otherwise true, but lacks inherent credibility. Bad news for Catholicism.If, however, his challenge is limited to Scripture, then why would he affirm that other things are inherently credible, but deny that Scripture is inherently credible?

Objects of knowledge can be inherently credible. God can be inherently credible. But you have no way of knowing that God wrote Scripture, because you didn't see him do it. You might believe that he did, but you have know way of knowing it, either by knowledge or by faith (because you have no proximate object of faith). In a Church that provides a proximate object of faith, such belief is rational. Absent that object, it isn't.