Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Theology and practice

To understand what I have been trying to get at in some previous posts, it is important to draw a distinction between two operations of faith: faith as cognitive faculty and faith as practical guide. These two functions are not separate, being operations of the same faculty, but the formal operations are different. The distinction is the classic Aristotelian distinction between speculative and practical sciences (Maritain states it most explicitly with the futher distinction between "speculatively practical" and "practically practical" science).

With respect to what I have been discussing as the "proximate object of faith," what I mean is faith as cognitive faculty. It is the operation of faith used to study God's revelation as an intellectual object. It is the science of theology. In this respect, it operates like any other intellectual science, through our knowledge and our concepts and concepts received by sensory experience. It bears a resemblance to natural philosophy, mathematics, and metaphysics, in that it studies these objects in a manner not proper to their individuality but abstractly.

Moreover, faith studies these objects in a manner that is not apparent by any natural operation, knowable by faith only because it allows the grasp of the divine in them. Likewise, it faces inherent limitations, in that it must always return to these sensory concepts that are necessarily inadequate, which convey truth only analogically according to the creature/Creator distinction. Hence, the submission to theological truths is not compelled but rejectable by the will. Nonetheless, they are suitable to convey true knowledge regarding the things around us and their orientation to God and even analogical knowledge of God in Himself. This is faith seeking understanding, faith seeing its object in scientific terms.

There is also a practical aspect to faith; this is faith working in love. It governs the individual action to do what is right, the loving response to God. Children are the exemplars of this operation of faith; mystics and contemplatives are those who take it to its highest level. In this, the relation of God to one's own action is known experentially and intuitively. This is the form actual grace, grace directed at specific action, takes as well. Concepts are used only instrumentally in this sort of faith as a kind of means to sustain the principle of right action, so they do not convey knowlege in the scientific sense, but a sort of practical wisdom. That is a very real operation of faith, and indeed, it is by far the more essential one. For example, an apostate theologian might well retain the theological virtue of faith and all his knowledge, even while rebelling against it, but his lack of charity renders his faith dead and sterile, useless for salvation.

That example of the apostate theologian is one that illustrates how unnatural it is to find faith as cognitive faculty and faith as principle of right action separated. But the separation is unnatural in either direction. It simply isn't normal for someone having the principle of right action not to want to know God, to stretch his knowledge toward its proper object. That isn't to say that such a person will be omniscient; most people's acceptance and understanding of dogma will extend little on the conceptual level beyond a very basic notion that the concept is somehow from God. But it is practically unthinkable that someone operating under the principle of right action would not want to take the action of knowing more about God.

Because of the considerable cognitive effort required, gaining definite speculative knowledge is extremely difficult. It is not easy just because it is connatural in the ontological sense (in that the intellect by nature becomes formally identical to what is known). Indeed, it is so difficult that as a practical matter, we simply rely on what other people tell us (improper knowledge based on practical judgment) for virtually everything that we believe. But it is essential to understand that this practical judgment itself MUST be grounded in knowledge of reality, that we must really have it, even if we lack the time or motivation to investigate it. There are fundamental matters of cosmic order, both true and knowable, that provide the environment in which practical judgment operations, and to the extent one does not know them, one's practical judgment is vulnerable to error. Thus, knowledge of the faith, while of lesser importance that practical faith, is nonetheless part of the life it commends. It's our moral obligation to each do the best we can to acquire and conceptualize knowledge of the faith (which is why I have chosen to blog on theology). Moreover, truth is one; practical knowledge never contradicts speculative knowledge, and each serves to correct the other.

Worse, whatever limitations one may have in science more generally are just as troublesome in theology. If someone accepts false notions of philosophical method, science, or epistemology, all those limitations will manifest themselves. If you are intellectually lazy or immature, you will not arrive at true knowledge. So we're limited, and acceptance of all dogmas of the Catholic Church was meant comprehensive knowledge, there would not be a Catholic on earth, just as no scientist knows every scientific fact (and indeed, "list all dogmas" for a Catholic makes just about as much sense as "write down every scientific fact"). Fallibility in forming definite conceptual knowledge of anything is inevitable, and knowledge gained is precarious, and it can be lost. But despite all of these difficulties, a well-formed faith as rule of practice demands that one deploy one's intellectual ability to the best of one's ability as well. To rely on heuristics in place of knowledge, e.g., relying on the authority of others without justification, is simply intellectual laziness to avoid doing actual science. In the linked article, Dr. Carson has the following to say about the way many Protestants rely on sola fide and sola scriptura:
If both of these principles are incoherent, what is their appeal? It is too facile to point out that we live in times in which incoherence is itself taken to be a value--all you have to do is to look at the moral relativism that pervades our materialistic culture. This is too facile because, of course, the defenders of sola Scriptura are not moral relativists--usually they are quite the opposite--and it seems unlikely that their thinking is influenced by that kind of intellectual banality. I would suggest that, on the contrary, the appeal of these doctrines lies in their perceived capacity to rule out a wide range of interpretive options right from the start. In my prefatory remarks to this post (they can be found here), I suggested that these principles are the functional equivalent of the scientific principle of parsimony: they are grand simplifications that act as even grander simplifiers, rendering difficult theological questions easy and brightly delimited within boundaries of stark black and white. Reality itself is seldom like that, but if you pretend that it is you may find reality somewhat easier to deal with. This is not an intellectual attitude that is conducive to moral relativism, but it is a kind of intellectual sloppiness and laziness nonetheless, dressed up as a desire for precision and loyalty to a text.

Therefore, the quality faith provides is not infallible or comprehensive conceptual knowledge, but the recognition of a criterion of truth in reality. Effectively, it identifies a certain and definite object to be understood (a proximate object), just as our knowledge of particular things is real intelligibility in those things. As Maritain put it, "a cherry between the teeth holds more mystery than all of idealist metaphysics." Faith is that awareness of something real, the object of study that can be known definitely by theology.

This, too, is Newman's concept of development of doctrine (see Fr. Al Kimel's quote here). It is not a quest for some Hegelian ideal; it is an intellectual investigation into the reasons behind these concrete divine acts, which are themselves eminently practical (i.e., it is a speculatively practical science). The early Church was eminently practical and intuitive, without necessarily articulating or even knowing in a conceptual way why certain acts were done; the development of doctrine makes these acts objects of study to produce knowledge that can be deployed later. It is a conceptual explanation for what really is, what really subsists in the practice of the Church, and this is the sense in which Tradition is understood as a source, an object of speculative understanding. Effectively, dogmatic development isolates the reasons behind the acts: why did the Church provide this resolution to this difficulty? What was the reason for this practice? I appreciate Zubiri's correction of Newman's analogy in that regard, because the development of dogma is not natural in the sense of some internal compulsion (as the acorn grows into the oak by the very law of its nature). But rather, it is a conscious, experimental, scientific inquiry to know the object of study and to penetrate to the reality of the thing itself. It is natural to have this knowledge, but to articulate it in definite conceptual manner is nothing but toil. Faith shows us the object of that toil.

This is also the Catholic view of Scripture. Inspiration is fundamentally a practical kind of knowledge, with the author (or angel) guided by a principle of right action, but not in the anthropomorphic sense of some conceptual content being communicated to him as in human speech. The inspired agent remains an agent, not a mouthpiece, guided by wisdom and faith. Thus, they are not communicating concepts delivered to them by God; rather, they are through their own proper action expressing this practical wisdom guiding them to act. This speaks to the practical knowledge of faith, the understanding of which is a requirement for proper exegesis as well. Most people are content to use Scripture as a practical guide to their own lives, and this is perfectly legitimate, and no scientific exegesis should (or can) exclude that. But just as development of doctrine seeks to penetrate conceptually into the reasons behind the dogmas of the faith and the practical life of the Church, so does Catholic exegesis seek to penetrate into this practical knowledge of Scripture for conceptual content. Again, truth is one, and all scientific methods collaborate (including metaphysics, speculative theology, and mundane sciences) to identify truth, so the fact that knowledge is conveyed through inspiration in the practical sense (directed toward the act of the author's composition) hardly means that it is not an object of speculative study.

What I hope to convey here is that it is hardly impossible for someone to have faith outside of explicit faith in the Church. That faith may be imperfect or confused in some respects, but non-Catholic Christians can certainly be infused with right principles of action. What they lack is understanding of their faith. There is no external object of knowledge, so all they have is this practical understanding: they know when they have done something right, like being baptized or behaving in a moral fashion or loving one's neighbor or praising God. But they don't understand the "why" or the "how" behind it, and without an external object of theological science, they have no way to gain knowledge beyond this practical level. Even Scripture, as testimony, does not provide knowledge in this sense; it is at best a practical guide that will likely end up written over with one's own errors. And indeed, this might well limit the practical exercise of faith. By this, I do not mean to denigrate the practical level at all. The practical level of faith is how the vast majority of people are saved, and it is by far the more essential operation. But the separation of the practically practical from the speculatively practical, of faith as a principle of right action from faith as a principle of knowledge, is just unnatural. And that is effectively what a reflexive concept of the object of faith, such as making one's own operation of interpreting the Scriptures the object of knowledge, does. Human fallibility, the weakness of the intellect, is such that we can't know things in abstract purity. We know through concrete things, and while Scripture may be a concrete thing in terms of ink and paper, its abstract meaning is necessary grounded in our other concrete experiences, and this is what makes it the Word of God to the believer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Why can't Scripture be the proximate object of faith?

This question was asked in the comments below, and far from being "off base," I think it is a natural question that I haven't answered all that clearly.

The short answer is as follows: Scripture is just flat-out the wrong sort of entity. Scripture is communicative, and communication works according to existing knowledge. That is not in the least intended to denigrate Scripture; it is simply affirming the reality of what it is. And communication by its very nature appeals to the knowledge of the receiver. If someone uses some term that you don't recognize (say, while teaching you a language), then he has to find some concept in common experience to explain it to you in order to communicate knowledge. So that's the real crux of my argument: Where does the knowledge of God originate in order to know things by faith?

When Catholics speak of the Church as possessing "the fullness of the faith," we mean it in this way. In knowing the Church, one knows all the things that are conveyed in revelation. This is also what we mean by the preservation of the apostolic deposit in the life of the Church. In living the Catholic life, one experiences the reality grounding all of the concepts in revelation, and to the extent one knows the Church, the proximate object of faith, one also understands revelation.
That's one thing that often gets missed in the spooftexting approach to showing sola scriptura in the Fathers. When the Fathers speak both to heretics and to Christians about the sufficiency of Scripture, they always had in mind people who had learned these things from the Church (indeed, where else would one learn it?). They chastise the heretics for denying what they had learned and for making what should have been clear to one who had learned from the Church obscure. Lots of modern Evangelicals tend to anachronistically read their notion of "Christian" and "faith" to include their own modern idea of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as if there were people walking around who had spontaneously stumbled on a copy of Scripture and were filled by the Holy Spirit, but the Fathers were talking to people who had been formed in faith within the Church. Nor was the "rule of faith" *simply* a confession or a summary of Christian tenets, but a profession of faith in what the Church taught (hence, a symbol of faith in the Church). Catholics and Orthodox may disagree on what the life of the Church entails exactly, but there is no question that the Fathers considered this life the source of all formed faith.

And there's no question, based on what I said above, that someone formed in faith by the Church ought to be able to read the Scriptures to great profit, as the Scriptures themselves plainly attest (2 Tim. 3:16-17). When someone living the life of the Church reads Scripture, he sees men speaking of his own experience. On the other hand, if your knowledge of the things of God is confused, your faith unformed, then this is not the case, and that also seems to be a clear lesson of Scripture.

I'm not trying to spooftext, but I think this is actually the message of 2 Pet. 3:16 "There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures." I don't think he means "ignorant" in terms of not knowing Greek; I think he means that their faith is unformed. Of note also is 2 Tim. 3:14-15 "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." I'm not in the least saying that Scripture depends on the Church for its power in this regard; anyone with a formed faith will benefit from Scripture. But the ability to benefit does depend on the person's faith, and I find it difficult to understand how a person's faith is formed by knowledge (i.e., the faith has a proximate object) anywhere but the Church.

That's my criticism in essence. I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit works in many ways outside the Catholic Church. But outside of what is knowable by natural theology (and many people don't even bother to learn that), there are limited opportunities outside the Catholic Church to obtain the knowledge by which faith is formed and Scripture made profitable. If someone is claiming to have this knowledge in some other way, then I am going to need to understand the manner in which he received this knowledge, because it is fairly obvious that God didn't tell him directly. And I'm by no means saying that one has to have some extraordinarily sophisticated theological or metaphysical understanding on each and every point of dogma, because even children and the unlearned can know the faith by experience, even if they can't articulate it in every detail. But even the children and unlearned who know by experience (and thus recognize their experience in Scripture) know it by the Church.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Where good apologetics goes wrong

Richard Froggatt asked "does this mean that asking a question about the canon, or how you know which books are in the canon actually hurt rather than help the Catholic argument?" and a subsequent follow-up. Because I think this is a good example of how failure to articulate a positive claim can cause Catholic arguments to be received negatively, I'm going to go through the argument in some detail in an effort to point out where I think the trouble arises.

Richard states the problem well:
I guess my complaint is the denial of the witness of the Church in one area and the rejection of that witness in others. That and the misconception/misrepresentation of the function of infallibility.

Those are both legitimate criticisms, but the problem is that Richard has skipped to the conclusion without the benefit of argument. And because he hasn't gone through the argument, he starts with a bad analogy. His Protestant interlocutor was pretty obviously confused:
If he's infallible, then you have to have a way to know infallibly whether what he said yesterday is infallible.If it is, you need to know infallibly whether that way to know infallibly whether what he said yesterday is infallible is infallible.If you solve that, you need an infallible interper to tell you the infall interp of what he said.If you solve that, you need an infallible interper to tell you the infall interp of the infall interp of what he said.If you solve that, you need an infallible interper to tell you the infall interp of the infall interp of the infall interp of what he said.

But Richard replied:
Do you even realize how ridiculous this sounds? This is like saying that my father could not have told me infallibly that he was my father because I could never know for sure because I'm not infallible and I would have to keep asking other fathers if they were my father when all I had to do was believe my real father.

That's thoroughly unresponsive to the underlying confusion, and indeed, the Protestant interlocutor picked up on it immediately:
You guys can't seem to understand the difference b/w infallible and high level of certainty. Just b/c your father says he is your father doesn't make it true. There is a level of trust and secondary factors to support the evidence that can cause a high level of certainty (your parents were married prior to your birth, you look like your father, there is no reason to be suspicious of your mother's fidelity) but a DNA test would really be needed to get close to infallible. Even then, the lab could botch up the test.

We accept most things in this world based on high levels of certainty because we are fallible. If you can be honest and accept this, then the question becomes which can be proved with a higher level of certainty, the RCC as an infallible guide or the Bible.

Ken is correct, in the end we are left with faith.

Richard's point is a perfectly adequate defense in one respect: one doesn't doubt one's own "knowledge" without reason (I've used scare quotes because I will point out that this is a loose use of the term "knowledge"). But in terms of reaching his opponent, Richard's analogy just played into his opponent's error, because it reinforces the idea that we accept most things based on high levels of certainty because we are fallible. Had Richard wanted to reach his opponent "where she lives," as it were, he would have made the point his opponent did: we rely on probable judgment for most things but not all things. There is a such thing as certain knowledge of reality; indeed, all judgment depends on it. So it simply isn't true that "in the end we are left with faith." That's a common error, but it is an error.

Note that this error is a big part of the opponent's epistemic structure:
My faith is directed at God, yours is indirect through your magesterium. To me, the fact that you need visible men to solidify your faith says something.
No, scripture is infallible because it is god-breathed. But my own belief in that is fallible - that is where faith fills in the gap between high level of certainty and infallible knowledge.

Even here, what she says isn't entirely wrong. For instance, Scripture is infallible because it is God-breathed, in the sense that it is genuinely divine revelation and can be appreciated as such by faith. But faith doesn't "fill in the gap" between certainty and infallible knowledge; it's an entirely different mode of knowledge that allows one to know what cannot be known naturally. That is not to denigrate natural knowledge, but there's no way that faith can serve as a fudge factor to transform merely natural knowledge, much less merely probable knowledge, into supernatural knowledge. Indeed, if it did, this would amount to faith in one's own certainty (hence, private judgment).

Faith has certainty not by the believer but by the object. It is in this way fundamentally different than mundane knowledge. Thus, for example, you can't believe someone else's testimony by faith unless that person is speaking on behalf of God. Likewise, you can't accept the authority of Scripture without personally knowing that God wrote it. "Infallibility" in the context of faith is not epistemic but ontological. It is an assertion that the object cannot fail to be the object of faith, i.e., that faith in the object truly is faith in God. The problem emerges immediately: one can't have faith in an object that can fail to be a suitable object. It's all well and good for one to say that one has a "fallible collection of infallible books," but to have faith, one must have knowledge of an infallible object, and one's own belief is clearly not an infallible object. It's only putting the object in one's own belief that triggers the vicious circularity and "how do you know?" infinite regress cited above. If infallibility is being put not in the self but in an external object of faith, then the circularity does not arise.

Alas, Scripture is only knowable by the act of interpretation, so there is no way for someone claiming faith in Scripture to avoid ultimately making one's own belief that Scripture is inspired the object of faith, either directly or as a supplement to merely probable judgment as described above. Likewise, the analogy with respect to law offered by Warfield and Whitaker (p. 27) fails, as no law is normative of its own force. Thus, holding Scripture as "law" is simply another way of asserting faith in one's own belief (private judgment again).

The references to "infallible interpreters" and the like seem to obscure the real force of the critique: in what do you have faith? "God" is not an answer unless one is claiming immediate knowledge of God, and I would be highly skeptical of anyone claiming to possess the constant presence of the beatific vision who isn't named Jesus of Nazareth. Short of that, claims of faith in God are simply viciously circular appeals to one's own state of belief, which is acknowledged even by those claiming it to be fallible.

With all that in mind, it seems to me that the question is not "how do you know the canon?" but "why do you have faith in the canon?" Making the issue epistemic rather than ontological simply blurs the issue, confusing faith with natural knowledge most particularly on the question of certainty and infallibility.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Catholic Pyrrhonism as anti-Thomism

Anti-Catholics have, from time to time, hung their hats on the claim that Catholic arguments amount to radical skepticism, essentially asserting that Catholic apologists simply rely on arguments that would deny certain theological knowledge altogether. This is sometimes justified by comments of Protestants of history in response to Catholic Pyrrhonism. What is important for Catholics to remember is (1) even when such techniques were used, they were still within the context of a natural theological program and (2) such techniques were intended as a reductio ad adsurdam to undermine the confidence of people who held these beliefs. In that respect, it is little different than the way in which the Calvinist Pierre Bayle used Pyrrhonist techniques, so the anti-Catholic charge proves too much if it proves anything. But one important thing to note is that this type of "meeting the opponent where he is" was entirely antithetical to the Scholastic approach, which focused on the truth that people already knew rather than trying to attack their position by attacking their confidence in knowing truth.

Here's a good description of the situation by Harry M. Bracken in "Bayle's Attack on Natural Theology: The Case of Christian Pyrrhonism" from Scepticism and Irreligion in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Richard Popkin (ed.) (available at Google Books):

Catholic theologians generally maintain that natural reason, human reason unaided by any revelation, can discover certain truths relevant to religion, e.g., the existence of God. Thomas Aquinas, for example, called such "naturally" discovered truths "preambles" to the faith. With the Reformation and the reappearance and wide dissemination by Catholics of the writings of Sextus Empiricus, a new form of natural theology arises in the course of the development of the Counter-Reformation. Thus in Montaigne or Huet, sceptical arguments are employed to destroy intellectual pride and rational pretense, so that one finally becomes totally humble. Once one's mind is a blank tablet, God may choose to write His revealed truths upon it.

In this fashion, Pyrrhonism paradoxically becomes a part of natural theology. Natural reason in the guise of Pyrrhonism is given a role in preparing one to receive religious truth. Thus the tropes of Sextus Empiricus emerge as sixteenth-century version of Thomas's preambles of the faith, albeit with this difference: Thomas took his arguments in natural theology to be constructive preparations for faith. Moreover, natural theology has always been one claim in the Church's general claim to be the world's preeminent Teacher and the custodian of the human means which may facilitate the action of the divinity. It is in this context that Christian Pyrrhonists offer a sort of "negative" natural theology. They do not wish to be any more committed to the "truth" of Pyrrhonist claims than Sextus had been, but like him, they appreciate that the tropes nevertheless have an effect on our psyches. A (negative) natural theology, while not giving us a human means to acquire a religion, nevertheless may facilitate its acquistion. By purely natural means, we are put in a state of mind which is more receptive to the acceptance of God's Word. Such natural means do not coerce the action of God, but they do prepare us for that divine intervention. The use of scepticism as a preparation for faith may fit well within the Catholic tradition, but it is not acceptable to those Calvinists who seek to remain true to Calvin's principles.

But as Bracken himself pointed out, this doesn't really fit with Catholic natural theology either, which constructively builds on truth and corrects error. In fact, what it shows is that where Catholics have deviated from the philosophia perennis, they have undermined their own apologetics efforts. We are still paying today for the lack of discipline during the Counter-Reformation. If there were ever a warning for why sticking to the Scholastic program of reason in natural theology is essential to Catholic apologetics, this would be it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I love this

Gagdad Bob has that writer's gift of seeing some particular aspect of reality in perfect clarity. Here's a great example. He has Kant pegged, and unfortunately, Kant is exactly what most people have in mind when they think about religion.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Aristotelico-Thomist Bibliography

I've had a couple of requests on what to read to get a handle on Aristotelian Thomism. Here are some of my favorites:

Leo Sweeney, Authentic Metaphysics in an Age of Unreality
Anthony Rizzi, The Science before Science
Jacques Maritain, An Introduction to Philosophy
Jacques Maritain, Degrees of Knowledge
Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Reality--A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought

I've restricted myself to works that are in print and easy to get. I like another work by a fellow Zubirian Thomist, Frederick Wilhelmsen, titled Man's Knowledge of Reality: An Introduction to Thomistic Epistemology. It's out of print, though, and you can get the substance from these others.

On the 20th century history of Arisotelian Thomism, I recommend:
Richard Peddicord, The Sacred Monster of Thomism
Ronald McCamy, Out of a Kantian Chrysalis?

Finally, if you want to see some scholarly throw-downs on some related matters, I've heard high praise for Joseph Owens (although I've not read as much of his work as I ought to have) and there are any number of works by Etienne Gilson (though I have become a bit skeptical about his claims of the necessity of Christian revelation for metaphysics, which seem a bit overstated). I can personally commend the following:
Ralph McInerny, Praeambula Fidei
John F. Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas

I welcome any suggestion of works that are currently in print dealing with Aristotelian metaphysics as deployed by St. Thomas.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A loss for her readers, but we pray for her reward

I learned from Foxfier's blog that Madeleine L'Engle has died. L'Engle was always a favorite of mine. She was brought to my attention by my aunt and godmother Sara, for whom my daughter is named. My aunt is a writer and former Episcopalian (prior to its recent doctrinal apostasy), and that gave her occasion to know Ms. L'Engle personally. I am pleased to report that my aunt always described her in the sorts of terms one would hope to hear applied to a writer whom one admires. L'Engle's appropriation of themes from Scripture and physics made her work particularly appealing to me, and I have copies of her work to share with my children, as I am sure will be the case with many of her readers. May her work continue to be a blessing, and may she receive her own blessing from the hand of our heavenly Father.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Why I love Scripture

Based on a couple of discussions triggered by my recent posts, I realized that I have been underemphasizing just how much I love and appreciate Scripture. My point in focusing on knowledge and justification of Scriptural authority is the same that it would be in focusing on knowledge and justification of any wonderful and awe-inspiring reality. I'm someone who started very early on with a child's wonder at creation, from looking up at the stars as long as I can remember to watching Carl Sagan's Cosmos and reading the book of the same name when I was very young. I would be disappointed if my subsequent knowledge of physics in any way lessened that awe and wonder, and indeed, it has not.

What I want to emphasize is that I don't in the least bit want to diminish that instinctive love that people have for Scripture. The respect for Scriptural authority, even in an inchoate emotional sense, is not a BAD thing. All I want to do is to unlock what is hidden in Scripture without knowledge of the Christian faith. It's the same thing I'd do with someone who didn't understand science. They might have real knowledge mixed with a number of "common sense" beliefs that have never been critically evaluated. My experience has been that when things are better understood, just as in the study of science, one's appreciation for the object of study only rises. That's what Jesus did with the incomplete understanding of Scripture in the Old Covenant, the meaning of which was hidden and obscured until the Incarnation.

Along those lines, it's not as if Israel's respect for Scripture was wrong; it was simply like the understanding of a child compared to an adult. One can think of the Father's dealings with Israel as a human father's dealings with an infant who lacks the capacity to understand what he was saying. Children can still be bad, in the sense of failing to do what is in their capacity, and that was true with Israel as well. God allowed that failing to illustrate the fundamental need for Him, because unlike human parents, we always need our heavenly Father (in that sense, our faith is always the faith of a child).

All of this probably sounds patronizing in the most literal way, but spiritual fatherhood is how we Catholics view our Christian evangelical vocation. The Pope is the Holy Father, the ancient Christian witnesses are Fathers, our priests are called Father, and our spiritual vocation of marriage is the model for the lay apostolate. As a Catholic, you NEVER outgrow the need for spiritual fatherhood, so the notion that this sort of fatherhood is an accusation of immaturity, something that you should in some sense "outgrow," is as far from the Catholic mind as it could be. I can see where Catholic talk of "fullness of the faith" comes off as "patronizing," but the entire Catholic belief is that one ought to accept spiritual fatherhood, and even Catholics need this spiritual fatherhood. That's not to say that we don't grow in knowledge; one does attain a maturity of faith in terms of faith seeking understanding. A mature faith understands why one consents to one's spiritual fathers; an immature faith simply obeys that spirtual guidance through instinct without being able to articulate why it is so. But this never excuses one from the obligation to obey, even if one does not understand why. One never gets out from under the authority of one's heavenly Father, as delegated in various ways to the spiritual fathers on earth (even down to one's natural father).

That is honestly how we view our separated brethren: we have a common Father (and so we are brethren), but the separated brethren refuse to accept their Father's word unless He justifies Himself to their own sensibilities. In that respect, we view them as "sophomores" in both the classic and the modern sense: people who know just enough to be dangerous. Picture the teenager who believes himself to be wise enough to judge the wisdom of his parents' command but who really lacks the wisdom to make such decisions; he becomes mature by learning enough through his own experience to actually have that wisdom. Likewise, much of Catholic apologetics is directed at critically evaluating the areas where one believes rightly, where one has obeyed the Father's Word, but without having thought through why (having received knowledge, but not judgment). This is not in any way to denigrate or discourage belief; on the contrary, it is intended to build up one's adherence to that belief by showing the reasons behind it, which the separated brother might know only partially if at all. Nonetheless, it is genuinely motivated by respect of the other person as being reasonable, capable of investigating these matters and drawing conclusions based on knowledge and experience. It is an effort to build up judgment by appealing to existing knowledge, not an effort to break down that knowledge. And note that this is the SAME approach we would take with Catholics who do not understand some area of their faith, and it is the same approach by which I myself have learned my faith from Catholics. So we really don't in the least intend to be condescending in the approach; rather, it is the pedagogical technique that we have seen to work over and over again.

To come full circle to my recent apologetics efforts, I'll wrap up with an anecdote in which I learned wisdom from a spiritual father. I had the opportunity to hear and speak with Fr. Pat Mullen, a professor of Biblical studies, on the subject of how to answer fundamentalists from a Catholic perspective. While he did point out a number of instances in which a fundamentalist reading of Scripture was just plain wrong, the main thrust of his advice was to give the following answer: "I love Jesus, and I sincerely want to do His will to the best of my ability." He maintained that this was a good answer for two reasons. First, if someone has a sincere motivation for your spiritual well-being, then their primary concern is likely that you are consciously spurning Jesus, not that you simply have a well-intended misunderstanding of Him. Hence, if you can simply affirm your sincerity in what you believe, that might well address the emotional side of their concerns sufficiently to allow a reasonable discussion. Second, anyone who won't accept that statement from you is likely beyond rational discussion, and it would be unwise to invest the effort mounting a rational argument against someone who isn't willing to discuss things on a rational basis, particularly given that a sincere denial of a charge suffices in cases where the opponent doesn't prove his case in the first place. Afterward, Fr. Pat explained to me that this should apply equally to scholars who make assertions based on unjustified (fundamentalist) authority principles to label those who disagree with their authority principle as deniers of the authority of Scripture. Given that Fr. Pat is himself a Biblical scholar (unlike any of the anti-Catholics with whom I routinely deal) who is familiar with the goals and limitations of his discipline, I believe that his observations concerning even scholars "talking out of turn" are good ones.

Upon further reflection, the wisdom of Fr. Pat's advice seemed undeniable. Someone who isn't going to respect your sincerity enough to heed what you say is not going to listen to a reasonable answer or to accept your advice. For such people, there is nothing to do but to wait on God's grace. Thus, my recent efforts have been to note that the anti-Catholic argument boils down to the assertion of an unjustified, polemical authority principle to attack the sincerity of the Catholic belief in Scripture (and more generally, the Catholic belief in its own principle of authority). This is more or less to do what Catholic apologetics directed to primarily separated brethren is intended to do, i.e., to show an uncritical acceptance of beliefs without a real understanding of WHY those beliefs are held. Thus, it is for the benefit of sincere Protestants who will be inclined to think about their own justification. But it serves a twofold purpose, in that it also demonstrates that the attacks on Catholicism are irrational and unjustified, showing that the charges lack substantiation. In this way, it shows the ineffectiveness of the polemical argument as well, which amounts to name-calling without an explanation of why the other person's belief is irrational or insincere. I hope that my recent efforts have both documented that the anti-Catholic M.O. has been to challenge the sincerity of Catholics based on unjustified authority claims and encouraged both Protestants and Catholics to consider the reasons for their own dogmatic beliefs.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The argument from prophecy

For some odd reason, the argument from prophecy has been advanced as sufficient proof for Scriptural inspiration (as opposed to mere confirmation of an existing, justified belief in inspiration). Given that is the case, I must have been inspired. I said "I'm sure I'll be called anti-Scripture and all that." Hays saith, "Prejean is too contemptuous of Scripture to acquaint himself with Scripture" and "I would add that Jason [Engwer] and I have had many rounds with Prejean in the past, so the substantiation for my charge is quite extensive." Bridges saith, "if that's true, then, yes, that makes him contemptous of Scripture, for he is using something other than Scripture for an interpretive grid and then imposing that on the text." Evidently, had I claimed that God told me that these things would happen, I would have proved my own inspiration.

Or we might simply point out that the argument from prophecy doesn't actually prove anything absent an explanation of why the prophecy is true, which assumes one's theory of divine revelation from the beginning. It doesn't provide a source of the belief or a ground of belief in knowledge; it simply provides confirmation of an existing belief. In the case of my accurate statement about the future, I had good reason grounded in my knowledge of human habit to think what I did (although I wasn't absolutely certain), and reality proceeded according to those expectations, confirming my previous knowledge and judgment. Likewise with prophecy: the reason it bolsters one's conviction in Scriptural authority is that one already has a reason to accept Scriptural authority.

The arguments for my supposed contempt for Scripture are no better supported than the arguments for Scriptural authority in the first place:

For example if Prejean is correct, then this has serious consequences for inerrancy. If he rejects inspiration on the notion that it involves God "coopting the will," then that's a problem - and by the way that's a problem for libertarian action theory as a whole, for, if God makes men "robots" if we don't have libertarian freedom, then men were "robots" when Scripture was inspired. If you reject nonlibertarian freedom on such grounds, then you ultimately will reject inerrancy.

Note the implicit (and gratuitous) assumption that if men are free, they will necessarily err. I believe that when natural operations are properly oriented to their supernatural end, there is no possibility of error, just as there is no possibility of sins for the saints in Heaven. That's not a matter of determination, in the sense of the natural faculty being overridden or used as an instrument, but a matter of correct natural function. That is the Catholic understanding of grace and freedom as well. The author preserves his full natural integrity in his action; he does what he does freely. God simply enables Him to this supernatural purpose, which the author freely performs. In that sense, both the human author and God are authors, but each in their respective order.

Prejean's grid for interpreting Scripture is natural theology - which version, we don't know, because he won't tell us - but if that's true, then, yes, that makes him contemptous of Scripture, for he is using something other than Scripture for an interpretive grid and then imposing that on the text.

The version that involves the law of non-contradiction (i.e., no thing is both in being and in non-being in the same respect at the same time). As I said, if that is a problematic position from which to interpret Scripture, then I find it hard to understand how any rational person can avoid being contemptuous of Scripture.

So, on that model, we can have faith in what God does, but not testimony about what He does. Since Scripture is that testimony, we can only conclude that he doesn't believe we can believe Scripture. Only the raw events, and not the record of the events, is an object of faith in his view.

For someone who criticizes people for jumping into the middle of a series, Bridges is not doing very well himself. I never said that we can't have faith in testimony about what God does. What I said is that testimony can't be the proximate object of faith. In other words, that can't be the starting point for your knowledge. Once you have faith in some proximate object, then you can believe other things based on the starting point, because your faith is grounded in certain knowledge. For example, if I know that God is omnibenevolent from natural theology, and I witness a certain sign that people are acting as God through faith, then I can draw certain conclusions about the veracity of revelation and the like. But unless you have a proximate object, your knowledge of inspiration, etc., is ungrounded. It's illogical to have faith in divine inspiration unless you have actually seen God do something in a way that provides information about inspiration. All knowledge is from experience or logical relation to experience.

And, yes, that is, ironically, precisely what you hear from theological liberals and the Neo-Orthodox - both of which have a low view of Scripture.

Indeed, and why? Because they reject natural theology, and they vest their entire faith in purely human action (witnessing, in Barth's case; even vaguer ideas for postliberals like Milbank). I consider Barth an excellent Protestant theologian, but his irrational hostility to natural theology prevents him from actually attaining what he seeks: Christ Himself as the object of faith. By contrast, I have an extremely high view of Scripture. Indeed, I think it has supernatural powers of divine operation to those with faith well beyond the reach of its human authors, which is why I consider it to be pregnant with meaning that the GHM simply disregards. In my view, Scripture is not even its own limiting principle, but only what meaning can be realized in Scripture by the faith of the Church.

But I don't START with the authority of Scripture, which is logically and ontologically absurd. Rather, I must have certain knowledge of Scripture's authority from some other basis before I can make an argument from Scripture. That's why I am disinclined to make Scriptural arguments to people who are making pure arguments from authority from Scripture. Given that you don't have a rational basis for faith in Scripture in the first place, it would simply be exploiting a mistake. Moreover, most of the exegetical errors result from depending on bad metaphysics anyway, but those are unlikely to be uncovered absent a critical metaphysical evaluation (which is what Perry Robinson keeps trying to get y'all to do).

Ultimately, what I have never seen is a Protestant justification of Scriptural authority from certain knowledge of first principles. Those sorts of proofs abound among the Scholastics and the Fathers, but they are entirely lacking in the viciously circular arguments of anti-Catholics. It's an extremely simple task: state a coherent basis for certainly knowing that the Scripture is the Word of God based on some ontologically valid theory of knowledge. Is that so hard?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Protestant fideism, not Catholic deism

I'll give Steve Hays credit for trying, but his reliance on some of the lamest objections to Aristotelico-Thomist epistemology render his effort fruitless at best. Certainly, whatever charm he has wore thin about the time he accused me of prevarication, but I will make an example of him for his lack of substance. In particular, he can't seem to get his head around the difference between ontological knowledge (the "first act" of intellect in Aristotelian parlance, the actual identity between knower and the thing known) and one's crticial awareness of this knowledge (explicitly identifying just what it is that one knows, proceeding from the "second act" of the intellect).

i) Prejean is one of those debaters, of which there are a surprising number, who can't keep track of his own argument.He said that "experience" is the criterion which enables us to distinguish between what is real and what is unreal. And that's the context in which I brought up dreams and hallucinations. I'm answering him on his own grounds.When we dream, we have an experience of a dream. It's a genuine experience. When we hallucinate, we experience a hallucination. It's a genuine experience.It is not a veridical experience of the real world, but it is a real experience, and as long as the percipient is in that altered state of consciousness, that's the way in which he does. Indeed, experience the world, however distorted that may be.And that's a problem for Prejean's theory of knowledge. He is the one who appealed to experience as the broker. It is his theory of knowledge that results in scepticism, not mine. Prejean talks like a radical empiricist. And radical empiricism has sceptical consequences. How does raw experience distinguish between reality and an illusion of reality? That's a question that arises from his own criterion. Where is his answer?

It's not a "problem" for my view, because even dreams and hallucinations are veridical reports on reality. That's the whole point of Aristotelian epistemology: there is not any knowledge that doesn't come from reality. In the case of dreams, the cognitive suppression of your intellectual faculties due to sleep is being reported. In the case of hallucinations, a real physical imbalance in your biological sensory apparatus is being reported. There is a real cause for these things, and if one has enough knowledge and critical reflection, one can even discern what that cause is (how could doctors use hallucinations to diagnose diseases otherwise?). It's the gratuitous postulate of idealism that knowledge can be a distorted image; the Thomist view is that all knowledge reports on something. Hays assumes (from his idealist critique) that there is such a thing as an "illusion of reality," and the Aristotelian Thomist is meticulous that there is no such thing. Even dreams and hallucinations are caused by something in reality.

ii) Prejean also acts as if you can't know anything unless you have a theory of knowledge in your back pocket. And one of the problems with this internalist constraint on knowledge is that it signs its own death warrant. For unless we enjoyed some measure of pretheoretical knowledge, we wouldn't know enough to theorize about our pretheoretical knowledge.Epistemology is not the source of knowledge. A theory of knowledge is not our source of knowledge. A theory of knowledge takes pretheoretical knowledge for granted, and then attempts to explain how much we know and how we know it.

Indeed, and all pretheoretical knowledge is a true identity, a real relation between a knower and and what is known. It's the denial of this most basic truth, as if there is any object of knowledge that is not grounded in a real thing, that is the basic error of all idealism. All theories of knowledge that start anywhere but actual identity between the object of knowledge and existing things are radically false. You've simply pointed out why it is that most epistemological theories are radically false. My point is exactly to identify quite specifically what pretheoretical knowldge is and why it counts as knowledge.

iii) How many Catholic laymen have a theory of knowledge? Prejean can only deny knowledge to the Protestant by denying knowledge to any Roman Catholic who is not a professional epistemologist.

Hays is confusing the ontological conditions for knowledge with critical awareness of one's knowledge. My point is that Protestantism doesn't even meet the ontological conditions for knowledge through faith, because it lacks a proximate object. Indeed, Hays goes further and denies the ontological conditions for knowledge of anything in his epistemology. In so doing, he fails even to understand what he actually knows (which is why he thinks he knows things by faith that he really doesn't). Hays knows a great deal; he just has no consistent way to know what he does and doesn't know.

iv) Indeed, it's worse than that because, of course, there are many competing theories of knowledge. So, for him, you don't know anything unless you hit upon the correct theory of knowledge.And there are rival theories of knowledge within Catholicism, as between, say, Franciscans and Dominicans—or the different versions of Thomism.

I have no more love for Catholic epistemological theories that don't start from reality. It's not as if Protestants have a monopoly on error. But at least Catholics have the virtue of an actual proximate object of faith, which means that they know more even if they aren't aware of the fact.

i) This is a debate over the rule of faith. Is sola Scriptura the rule of faith or the Magisterium?The standard Catholic objection to sola Scriptura is not over the truth of Scripture, but the meaning of Scripture. Since Scripture is not self-explanatory, we need a divine teaching office to authoritatively interpret Scripture: otherwise, anarchy will ensue.That's the stock argument. Indeed, Prejean himself is fond of using that argument. Alice in Wonderland is meaningful without being truthful. And there are true or false interpretations of fiction. Therefore, the hermeneutical question is distinct from the alethic question.

Hays is constantly conflating my arguments and then accusing me of making the error that he himself created by misinterpretation. The point is that first of all, the object of faith must be real and knowable. That's the "faith" part of "rule of faith." Second, for the object of faith to serve as a normative rule of faith, it must formally adjudicate all disputes of faith, else it's just a suggestion. That's the "rule" part.

The statement "we need a divine teaching office to authoritatively interpret Scripture; otherwise, anarchy will ensue" completely misrepresents both arguments. I'm not aware of any Catholic argument that requires interpretation by an infallible Magisterium in the sense of being able to read Scripture and figure out what its authors had in mind. Anybody can do that, provided they remain within the confines of the discipline. My point is rather simple; one can't have faith in meaning, just like one can't have knowledge of what one has not personally sensed. You might believe something through some opinion of trustworthiness, but you don't actually know it. We use "knowledge" rather loosely, but technically, anything you accept on hearsay is not proper knowledge; it is just opinion or probable belief. Opinion or probable belief might be usable for some practical arts, but it is inadequate for certain knowledge in both metaphysics and theology (not to mention mathematics or logic). In law, we routinely make a distinction between "knowledge" and "information and belief," but the distinction has been blurred in most other fields.

ii) There are various ways of arguing for the truth of Scripture. I myself have done so on many occasions.

And my entire point of raising this issue is that none of them actually answer the Catholic objections, which are essentially what I said before (knowledge by faith requires a proximate object, and normative rules must adjudicate all disputes within the formal range of the system).

But one thing we must avoid is to lay down a restrictive principle which would deny knowledge to broad classes of humanity—like Jews and proselytes. Did a Jew need a theory of knowledge to know that Scripture was true? Did a proselyte need a theory of knowledge to know that Scripture was true?Did King David have a theory of knowledge? Did the Virgin Mary have a theory of knowledge? Did Mary Magdalene have a theory of knowledge? Did the Samaritan woman (Jn 4) have a theory of knowledge? Did Cornelius have a theory of knowledge? Did the Philippian jailor have a theory of knowledge?

Hays can't seem to avoid confusing knowledge with knowing that you know. Did all of these people meet the ontological conditions for knowledge? Absolutely. Did they realize that they met the ontological conditions for knowledge in terms of having a fully justified critical epistemology? Almost certainly not.

Does Prejean's internalist constraint on knowledge allow God's people (e.g. Jews and proselytes), including the hoi polloi, to know that Scripture is true? Or is such knowledge limited to Thomas Aquinas, Xavier Zubiri, and Jonathan Prejean?

If they wish to critically evaluate their own epistemology, it provides knowledge in that sense as well, but critical self-evaluation is not a precondition to knowledge. One knows before one knows that one knows. The problem is that the Protestant thinks he knows that Scripture is true, but he doesn't really.

iii) Here is one way in which a Catholic theologian answers Jonathan's query:
"We should not, moreover, be afraid to affirm a high view of the historical value of the Bible—both the New Testament and the Old Testament...Kenneth Kitchen's book On the Reliability of the Old Testament should satisfy critics who are familiar with the state of academic research...N. T. Wright is a profound and prolific expositor of the historical content of the New Testament."
In the endnotes, the same theologian also mentions a book by Walter Kaiser. So, in fielding the sort of question broached by Prejean, this Catholic theologian can do no better than refer his readers to the best in Evangelical scholarship on the historicity of Scripture. And who am I to take issue with his recommendations?Perhaps, though, what is good enough for a Catholic theologian isn't good enough for a Catholic layman like Jonathan Prejean. Perhaps, in his eyes, Hahn is not properly grounded in natural theology or Catholic theological method. Which of them speaks for Catholicism at this juncture? Pope Prejean or Dr. Hahn?I could repeat some of my own reasons as well (e.g. the argument from prophecy, the argument from religious experience), but for present purposes I'll stick with Hahn.

The argument from prophecy and the argument from religious experience (assuming that means one's own internal mental state) are exactly what I have in mind by unjustified assertions of faith. I have no qualms about the historical content of the New Testament. What I have qualms about is that the historical content of the New Testament can justify faith; it cannot. So while I am greatly appreciative of any investigation of the historical content of the New Testament, from the perspective of theological or metaphysical truth, it proves nothing.

Unfortunately, this statement is fatally ambiguous, for it could mean either of two different things:i) Jewish writers were consciously anthropomorphic in some of their depictions of the divine, presenting God in human terms in the full awareness that their depictions were anthropomorphic.ii) Jewish writers were unconsciously anthropomorphic in their depictions of God, presenting him in human terms which they took literally.Sola Scriptura entails that whichever of these is correct is also normative. But it doesn't, of itself, favor one over the other. Prejean thinks that (ii) is correct, whereas I've argued for (i).

Actually, I think (i) is the case with respect to bodily anthropomorphism and (ii) with respect to mental anthropomorphism. I don't believe that they actually thought of God as having a body, although some might have. But it does seem that they thought of God as making decisions, having mental states, etc., in a human way that would be absurd upon rigorous metaphysical consideration. Normatively, we can give effect to the literal meaning by reading it as a true image, but not a literal affirmation (IOW, we deny that God has "thoughts" or "mental states," but we affirm the statements in the sense that they are analogously true, whether or not the author rigorously knew the philosophical bounds of metaphysical predication). By taking into account human limitations and divine properties, each known from natural theology, we know in what respect such affirmations are true (as descriptions of the human experience of God) and yet false if taken as if God Himself had made the statement. Our concept of inspiration, divine-human synergy, is therefore informed by natural theology; we distinguish the human and divine parts.

JP> 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.

This simply begs the question in favor of Catholicism. According to Catholicism, that may be what a rule of faith requires, but Prejean is now assuming the very point at issue. Hence, he is making no effort to argue for the Catholic rule of faith. Rather, he is stipulating that his position is true by definition. Which is another way of saying that Prejean's rule of faith is a form of make-believe. Sola Scriptura is like a traffic light. A traffic light tells you when to stop, go, or slow down. But a traffic light doesn't prevent a driver from running a red light. He is free to disregard the signals, although there a number of potentially deleterious consequences if he does so.Some drivers respect traffic lights because they appreciate the need for traffic lights. Other drivers respect traffic lights because they fear the consequences if they run a red light, viz. an accident or a ticket.Other drivers disregard traffic lights. Is a stoplight useless unless it actually prevents everyone from running a red light? Hardly.

I'll take an aside using Hays's analogy to point out that this isn't a Catholic requirement for a rule of faith; it's a logical requirement for anything to serve as a normative rule. Normative rules issue normative conclusions. The state doesn't put up stoplights as a source of public information or to beautify intersections. Stoplights aren't suggestions; they are commands issued in the name of a normative authority. When somebody runs a stoplight, he runs afoul of the normative commands of the state, and the state in turn is justified in levying punishments. And while there might well be hermeneutical disputes, there is also a method for resolving such hermeneutical disputes and enforcing the law (i.e., courts). Normative systems of formal authority that don't provide for authoritative resolution of hermeneutical disputes aren't really normative at all, meaning that a "rule of faith" that doesn't resolve hermeneutical disputes isn't really a normative rule by definition.

In analyzing this issue, one can't confuse the normative authority itself with respect for the normative authority. It's a fact that the state has issued a law with its normative authority by passing traffic laws and putting up stoplights. Law-abiding citizens may respect that with no regard to the penalties, and scofflaws and others might simply respect them out of penalties or physical consequences of what the law-abiding folks do. But none of that will change the formal act that the state took in accordance with its authority.

I call that an aside because ISTM that Hays is using the analogy in a far more basic way: just as stoplights don't ensure that people don't run them, so sola scriptura does not ensure the right conclusions. But that wasn't my objection in the first place. My objection was that sola scriptura can't say that conclusions are "right" without vicious circularity, self-justifying normative authority. Sola scriptura fails not only to ensure the right outcome but also to provide any rational justification for the normativity of any conclusion. Basically, it can't even say whether to stop or go, because its statements have no normative force. It's as if someone put up a stoplight without there being any laws on the books concerning stoplights.

No, on my account, sola Scriptura does not mean that interpretive issues ought to be definitively resolved by Scripture itself. Prejean pulled this out of his hat.Not all interpretive questions are susceptible to definitive resolution. Some interpretive questions remain open questions. In other cases, some answers are far more plausible than others. But sola Scriptura isn't predicated on the assumption that we can definitively resolve all interpretive questions by Scripture alone. Conversely, this doesn't mean that they are definitively resolvable, but by something other than Scripture alone (e.g. the Magisterium).Sola Scriptura isn't predicated on a specific outcome. One of the problems with the high-church apriorism is that our high churchman assumes he already knows what a rule of faith is supposed to do. And by prejudging the answer, he comes up with the wrong answer. He's dictating when he ought to be listening and learning.

If "rule of faith" means "normative authority," then Scripture would have to specify what interpretive questions can be resolved and resolve all of the ones that can. Moreover, the rational justification of normative authority can't be viciously circular. If you don't require these things of Scripture, then you are simply denying that it is rational for Scripture to be treated as a normative authority. Of course, you can give normative authority to whatever you want by a sheer act of will, but absent a rational basis, it's just as sensible as making your decisions based on the daily horoscope.

Which means that Prejean regards these OT depictions as errant. He isn't bound by their depictions in spite of what the authors meant:

Not to the extent they simply reflected the authors' philosophical limitations. Natural theology determines how we accept the intent of the author as normative.

I would simply note in passing that if you deny the inerrancy of Scripture, then there's no reason to stop with Scripture. If you deny that Scriptural assertions are inerrant, then you might as well deny that Magisterial assertions are inerrant.

Considering that papal infallibility is a purely negative protection against teaching error, I likely would deny that Magisterial assertions are "inerrant" in the sense of being perfectly clear expositions of truth justified by unassailable reasons. Indeed, the way I interpret Magisterial documents is much the same way I interpret Scriptural documents, and probably even more restrictively. That is typically how Catholics reconcile documents like Unam Sanctum or Cantate Domino with Vatican II.

Pius IX literally meant what he said about the Immaculate Conception, while Pius XII literally meant what he said about the Assumption, but original intent, even of the ex cathedra variety, lacks philosophical normativity.

I would certainly evaluate the document according to external standards on what is normative about the intent. In the case of papal documents, the reasons given for the opinion may well not be normative, and in that respect, the "intent" is not binding. In other words, it's irrelevant if they relied on some or another historical basis for doctrine that turned out to be wrong, for example, because their opinion is not normative on those matters.

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

Fine. Let the admission stand—for all to see.

Again, sure. I'll even repeat it so that people can see what the admission was. I wonder if you would so clearly concede the correctness of Leibniz, Kant, Descartes, and Hume when you rely on their arguments.

No it wouldn't. God is omnipotent. As such, there are any number of things he can do—not all of which he does. So he chooses from among the many things he can possibly do (since not all possibilities are compossible). This in no way infringes on God's aseity. To the contrary, it's an implication of his omnipotence.

His power to do otherwise clearly doesn't depend on choosing, for choosing requires objects, and the only object of God's choice is Himself, which is identical with His will and His knowledge. Indeed, it is precisely because of that property that He can create, meaning that it contradicts God's omnipotence to view God as "choosing" or exercising some power as between alternatives before Him.

To begin with, you have a rather abstruse definition of a promise. Did God make a covenant with Abraham? Did God communicate the terms of the covenant to Abraham? Will God honor the terms of his covenant? A promise is simply a verbal assurance about a future event—that something will or will not take place. Does God will the future? Does God effect the future? Does God communicate to some people (like Abraham) what is going to happen?If you reject all this as anthropomorphic, then how do you retranslate the covenant of Abraham (to take one example) in your own metaphysical categories? What does it literally amount to?

If a promise is simply a verbal assurance about a future event, then surely there is something rather different about God's actual knowledge of the future versus ours. My point is that if one views a covenant as a promise TO DO something, then God clearly doesn't make promises in that sense; they are promises only in the sense that God is entirely independent of creation and creation is entirely dependent on Him. What the covenant of Abraham literally translates to is that God as perfect goodness does not destroy the goodness that He produces. As a omnipotent promissor, God could be the ultimate cheater, because He could annihilate what He has created in some respect (like changing the past) without anyone knowing but Him (and even then, how can one break a promise to a nonexistent entity?). But we know as a matter of natural theology that God is good, and indeed, if He were not all-good, nothing would exist. Only infinite goodness can be a Creator, so we know that He will not negate the good He has created; He will respect His creation for the (finite) good intrinsically within it.

What is absurd? That God has ideas? If so, why is that absurd?Or that God chooses to objectify some of his ideas in time and space? If so, how is that absurd?

Analogically, it isn't. Literally, if it isn't obvious that God does not have an intellect in the sense that humans have an intellect or a will in the sense that humans have a will, I'm not sure how I can explain it. For one thing, it's not possible for our will to be identical to our intellects and that to be identical to ourselves, when this is necessarily the case with God. It's clearly reaching to attribute such mental attributes to God, although it's the best we can do.

i) If you want to get technical about it, the question is not, in the first place, whether God has intentions toward "us," but whether he has intentions towards himself by choosing to enact one scenario of which he is capable rather than another scenario of which he is capable.

But you've phrased it as an intention toward some scenario, and that clearly isn't possible. That's not at all what St. Thomas had in mind with the divine ideas, which were modes of participation in the divine essence, not free-standing "scenarios."

ii) In what sense are we not "real enough" for God to have intentions towards us? We can be "real" in two different ways:a) God's idea of us.b) God's objectification of his idea of us.

God's "idea" of us is relative to Him; likewise, God's "objectification" of us is only relative. It is completely unlike our intentions with respect to things that really are not us.

iii) Even fictions can be the object of intentions. A novelist has intentions with respect to his fictional characters. They are what he intends them to be. They do whatever he intends them to do.

God doesn't need "beings of reason" for His knowledge either.

Notice how Prejean treats the Bible the way the Gnostics treated the Bible. The Gnostics didn't outright deny the Bible. Instead, they treated the Bible as if it was written in a code language, and they ran the Bible through their metaphysical grid, so that the meaning of Scripture was transmuted into Gnostic categories.Prejean does the same thing. He has his metaphysical scheme, from some version of natural theology, and he launders the Bible in his vat of metaphysical dye until he's bleached out the original meaning and colored in what he's prepared to believe—apart from Scripture and in defiance of Scripture.

And what was the answer to the Gnostics? The answer to the Gnostics was that there was a real proximate object of faith in the Church and that the Gnostics were just making it up. That's how Irenaeus answered the Gnostic hermeneutic, recognizing that anyone could make Scripture into whatever they wanted if they denied the source of its normative authority. Sola scriptura licenses Gnostic hermeneutics.

Every birth is not a virgin birth.

Did I say God uses second cause to make things "easier" on himself? No.But God doesn't create every tree ex nihilo. Rather, he creates a set of seed-bearing trees ex nihilo, while they, in turn, create other trees via ordinary providence.

Why? And in what sense are these things causes? It seems to me that they cause nothing, that ordinary providence is the only cause.

Was I offering a running commentary on Wolterstorff? No. Rather, I gave my own account.

No, the problem is that you HAVEN'T given an account. Why is Scripture authoritative?

i) I didn't say he did these things. I'm taking my examples from Scripture. This is how the Bible describes the modalities of divine communication.

And why is Scripture's description normative?

ii) Do I have to prove to you that God uses various media like angels, prophets, and visions to communicate his will? If you're an atheist, and I'm trying to persuade you, then, yes, the onus would be on me. Are you an atheist, Jonathan Prejean?

It's got nothing to do with my position. Everybody's got to start from the ground up in justification, and to the extent that the justification is incompatible, everybody's got to make an argument for his. I believe in angels, prophets, and visions because I believe the authority of the Church, and the Church says that there are. Period. Finito. I've never seen an angel, a prophet, or a vision myself. If the Church didn't tell me that Scripture was inspired, I wouldn't know it.

iii) Or is the business about angels, prophets and visions in Scripture just another anthropomorphism which you launder in your vat of metaphysical dye?

Nope. I think those things by and large happened, but only because the Church says that they did. If the Church didn't say so, I certainly wouldn't.

i) Prejean keeps piling on corroborative evidence to show that when an Evangelical gets into a debate with a Catholic, he must treat the Catholic as an atheist. I appreciate your concession, Jonathan, but that doesn't leave me with much to prove. If Catholicism is equivalent to atheism, then you've dynamited your position from within before I ever fired a shot.

Everybody's got to prove his case in the end. Hard to say that I've dynamited my position when you haven't even built one. I fail to see where the similarity in respect to reason, where everybody has the same cognitive requirements, concedes the equivalence of atheism with Catholicism. Reason is part of human nature, and everybody has it.

ii) As usual, Prejean can't keep track of his own argument. The question at issue, as he himself has framed it, is whether the notion of divine speech is inherently anthropomorphic. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that none of these Biblical examples actually happened. They'd still show that there's nothing inherently anthropomorphic about the notion of divine speech.

If there is some identity being asserted between the speech itself and some conceptual content in God's "mind," then it surely is anthropomorphic. If the term is being used analogously, so that it isn't "speech" in the sense that we "speak," then it's not. The question is whether the idea preserves divine transcendence in the sense that God "speaks" or "acts" only in an analogous sense.

iii) Remember, that was his original challenge when I cited these verses. Now, having lost the first round, he is trying to change the scoreboard after the game is over and the players went home.What he's now discussing is not whether verses draw a conceptual distinction between literal and anthropomorphic predication, but whether they were actually spoken by Moses or Samuel. Or whether there was a real person by the name of Daniel or Ezekiel who saw inspired dreams and visions. When you answer Prejean on his own grounds, he shifts ground. Of course, two can play this game. Prove to me that Mary was immaculately conceived. Prove to me that Mary was assumed into heaven.Since you have no actual knowledge of any of these things, your pious assertion is worthless. Suppose that I think you're making it all up and nothing the sacred tradition describes actually happened. Prove that it did.

Hays has misconstrued the argument. I'm not arguing that it matters whether there was a Moses, Samuel, Daniel, or Ezekiel actually wrote those books (it matters that some person was inspired, but that's not the focus of my argument). What I'm saying is that with respect to divine revelation, like anything else, there has to be a ground in your actual knowledge. You can't accept on testimony that God acted in some or another way if you have no personal knowledge of God acting. That's just irrational.

In Catholicism, the proximate object of faith is the Church. We perceive by faith that the Church actually DOES something in consecrating the Eucharist, ordaining Her priests, and the like. It is that knowledge from which we draw other conclusions. Where do you get the knowledge from which you evaluate theological truths? The only way that you could give normative authority to Scripture in that way is if you actually witnessed it being inspired. Now, it might be that you were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, meaning that you have the supernatural gift of faith and that it is possible that you could have perceived something or another at some point. But because you have no rational epistemology, you could never make such beliefs explicit or rationally justify them.

i) Did you personally observe Pius IX compose Ineffabilis Deus? Did you witness Pius XII compose Munificentissimus Deus?And even if, ex hypothesi, you did observe them do this, did you personally experience their unction? Did you experience their infallible charism?

No, but I have a beginning in my knowledge from which it is rational to accept those things.

ii) Given Prejean's statement, we can also discount the testimony of all the church fathers to apostolic tradition as untrustworthy. And since their testimony regarding the Church is unreliable, we cannot appeal to the authority Church to ground their testimony in the authority of the Church. So he cannot bootstrap either one from the other. This is from a man who accuses Evangelicals of irrationality!

On the contrary, they testify of the same sort of direct experience of the apostolic succession. They have the same basis I do: the Church.

i) I've taken the time to defend the Bible on numerous occasions. I'm more than happy to compare my archives with Prejean's on that score.ii) But it can also be helpful to highlight the grotesque alternative.

Not in any way that isn't viciously circular with respect to the normativity of Scripture. And your judgment that the alternative is "grotesque" is simply the obverse of your viciously circular concept of Scriptural normativity.

i) Once again, I've argued for sola Scriptura more times than I can count.

In a way that isn't viciously circular? Warfield's inductive argument doesn't even touch the issue, for example, and every argument from presuppositionalism and Reformed epistemology is an irrational appeal to idealism. What justification have you given responsive to the Catholic critique?

ii) Notice, by contrast, that Prejean is derelict in the very thing he accuses me of failing to do—although I've done so umpteen times. Where is his argument for Scripture? Where is his argument for the church?

It's a pretty simple claim in the end: (1) Jesus commissioned people to act as He Himself, members of His own Body, and to commission other people to do so; (2) there are still people today so commissioned acting as Christ Himself in their respective capacities; and (3) we know that they are acting in this manner by the supernatural faculty of faith, that allows us to perceive and know spiritual things. You might accept that claim; you might reject it. But it is at least a coherent claim regarding how one knows revelation. My point would be that we can readily discard any Christian claims that don't provide such a basis, including at least your version of Protestantism, and restrict ourselves to those claims that at least make a colorable claim of divine action actually traceable to Jesus.

iii) Prejean is also confounding faith in Scripture with faith in sola Scriptura. His problem is that he's equally faithless on either count.

No, I have faith in Scripture. I just don't have faith in Scripture inherently, as if my faith in Scripture were not dependent on my faith in the Church.

iv) At the moment I'm merely arguing along the same lines as another Catholic theologian recently reasoned. As he put it:
Jump back a few chapters for a moment. Why did we exclusively use the language of reason and experience when preparing to witness to atheists? Why not let loose a storm of Scripture quotes? Quite simply because atheists and agnostics do not accept the authority of the Bible. So such testimony would be likely be fruitless. With nonbelievers we do better to use the common language of common sense. With non-Catholic Christians, however, Scripture itself can provide a common language and a common ground for meeting one another. We must begin from the Bible, because the New Testament is indisputably the most complete and reliable record of first-generation Christianity. It is our fail-safe starting point. We can fortify our biblical witness with the interpretations and confirmations of the generations immediately after the apostolic era, but we always return to the Bible—which always leads us in turn to the Church.

So Hahn affirms everything that Prejean denies. For Hahn, the Bible is common ground between Catholics and Evangelicals, in contrast to atheists. We "must begin from the Bible." "It is our fail-safe starting-point."He reasons from Scripture to the church—not vice versa. Of course, Prejean is free to disagree with Hahn. Hahn is not the pope. But, then, neither is Prejean.

Nothing mystifying here; Hahn is simply used to dealing with Protestants with a broader definition of Scriptural authority than you have. Hahn doesn't have significant dealings with anti-Catholic fundamentalists, unlike me. Given that I have, I start from first principles, just as I would with an atheist, and take nothing from granted.

This is a fundamental problem in Catholic apologetics. Since Catholic apologetics is left unregulated by the Vatican, you keep bumping into different official versions of Catholic tradition. Sungenis v. Keating. McElhinney v. Armstrong. Hahn v. Matatics. And, all the while, they decry Evangelical "anarchy!"

Difference of opinion is not anarchy. People have differences of opinion over how exactly to interpret some or another law, particularly in certain applications, and the law still works. If there were no law but what each person considered to be the law, it would be a different situation entirely.

iv) When you say that Catholics don't see Scripture as having authority outside the context of the Church, what does this circumlocution mean, exactly? a) Are you saying that the Scripture, as the Word of God, has no authority in its own right? That it only has a delegated authority, arbitrarily assigned to it by the church?Why would the Word of God have a merely delegated authority? Or do you deny that Scripture is the Word of God? If so, does traditional Catholic dogma share your denial?b) Why does Catholicism appeal to Biblical prooftexts like Mt 16:18 or 1 Tim 3:15 if the Bible has no authority outside the church? Isn't the point of this appeal to validate the claims of Rome? But if the Bible has no authority outside the church, then the appeal is viciously circular.

The only basis for knowing the Scripture is the Word of God is the Church. Catholicism appeals to Biblical prooftexts within Catholicism. With respect to heretics, schismatics, and the like, one appeals to whatever the opponent happens to be willing to grant, because even opponents typically know some truth. It depends on how much or how little knowledge the particular opponent has. That's why I say that it might well be the case that Scott Hahn deals with people who accept Scriptural authority on matters that are more useful for his purposes than the anti-Catholics with whom I deal.

What you did was to quote one sentence while omitting the succeeding, epexegetical sentence. You then did a little riff on the first sentence in which you drew forth the alleged implications of the first sentence in deliberate defiance of what I clearly meant given the qualifications I immediately introduced in the succeeding sentence.

Except that in my subsequent, epexegetical sentence, I explicitly denied the construction that you accused me of making in the sentence that you quoted. Not the first time you've played the hypocrite on this point, and I'm sure it won't be the last.

You're rewriting history. You originally fell into the popular fallacy of treating all tu quoque arguments as fallacious. I then quoted from Peter Geach, a Catholic philosopher and logician, to demonstrate your ignorance of logic.You then had to scramble for some way to save face by pretending that you knew about this all along, even though it was no part of your original claim.

You lied about both what I said and what Geach said, and you're continuing to do it with the statement that I "fell into the popular fallacy of treating all tu quoque arguments as fallacious." First, tu quoque arguments are just plain fallacious as a defense unless the positions being held are identical. Second, Geach did not license all tu quoque or ad hominem arguments or even deny that they were fallacious; he licensed tu quoque or ad hominem arguments that were directed to demonstrating the inconsistency of the person's belief. Formally, that's fallacious, because a person's holding one or another belief is irrelevant to the truth or falsity of his other beliefs, even if they are inconsistent. But people generally don't like to profess inconsistent beliefs, so it's ordinarily within the bounds of reasonable argumentation to point out the inconsistency of two beliefs that a person holds, even though it is formally fallacious to do so. Unfortunately, James White (at your prompting) wasn't even using it that way, because to use a tu quoque argument in that way, one must concede at least the validity of the argument and the soundness as applied to your opponent's position. So that case wasn't even an honest use of the tu quoque exception that might otherwise be exercised.

And I could line up a preexisting literature on our intuitive knowledge of abstract objects like logical and mathematical truths from writers like Leibniz, Poincaré, Cohen, Gödel, Penrose, et al. And I could cite other paradigm-cases as well. However, this debate is far removed from the rule of faith.

It's actually the whole idea of the rule of faith from the Catholic perspective; that's the point of this whole thing. Considering that Aristotelico-Thomism is the only philosophical system given official papal endorsement and considering that this is what practically every Catholic I know has in mind with respect to the vicious circularity of sola scriptura, one would think that you might actually want to answer Catholic objections stemming from this philosophy. From that perspective, the people you cited are all wrong and irrational in their beliefs; Maritain goes after Leibniz and Poincare specifically. More to the point, perhaps, I'm not sure that any of them held your view on Scriptural authority.

As writers like Hume pointed out a long time ago, basic categories like relations, causality, and necessity are not imprinted on the empirical phenomena themselves. So blank slate is unable to register the objective order of things. However, this debate is far removed from the rule of faith. It's just a stalling tactic on your part.

Yes, and Hume was obviously wrong about this. Again, from the Aristotelico-Thomist perspective, this is EXACTLY what the debate on the rule of faith is about. As I said above, I have two arguments: sola scriptura is neither a "rule" nor is it "of faith." This is the "of faith" part.

i) Wrong. Natural theology is a specific interpretation of what can be known about God from nature. And there are many competing interpretations. You have yet to state and justify which one you adopt, even though that is central to your gestalt.You are confounding natural theology with natural revelation. There is only one natural revelation, but there are many natural theologies—for natural theology is a human interpretation of natural revelation. Natural revelation is embedded in reality in a way that natural theology is not. ii) I don't deny natural revelation. And I don't deny that natural revelation can be explicated in some version of natural theology. But I'm not the one making natural theology the filter for Scripture. So you have more to prove than I do.

You're simply begging the question on whether knowledge is knowledge of reality. I consider the statement that natural revelation is distinct from natural theology to be senseless. What is your argument for their distinction?

If we had direct access to reality, we wouldn't have competing models of science in the first place. So you're using one flimsy argument to prop up another flimsy argument.

Non sequitur. This is the gratuitous assumption of idealism. Competing models of science simply mean that someone has erred, and this error will in turn be detected based on our direct knowledge of reality.

Wrong again. Natural theology isn't inherent in reality. At most, natural revelation is inherent in reality. But natural theology is a human interpretation of reality, and is further limited to that slice of reality conterminous with natural revelation. Natural theology is our interpretation of God's revelation in nature. Natural revelation and special revelation intersect to some degree, but they don't coincide. And even where they do intersect, it hardly follows without further argument—conspicuously absent at your end—that natural theology is the lens through which we view special revelation.

Again, the distinction between natural theology and natural revelation is spurious. Moreover, the category "special revelation" must itself be grounded in some knowledge of reality, meaning that natural theology regulates this definition as well. That's why I consider Hays's view of Scripture irrational.

But you don't allow revelation to tell you what reality is. Rather, you begin with your preconception of reality, and then proceed to muzzle revelation so that you only permit it to say whatever dovetails with your preconception of reality.

Say "certain knowledge" in place of "preconception," and you have grasped the argument. Revelation is muzzled by the law of non-contradiction; if it contradicts reality, it is not revelation.

i) As usual, Prejean is unable to follow his own argument. I'm not using hallucinations to justify scepticism. Rather, I'm answering Prejean on his own terms. He appealed to experience as his criterion. I'm citing hallucinations as a limiting case on such an appeal.The problem is not with reality, but with our perception of reality. If experience is our only window onto reality, and that window is made of tinted glass rather than plain glass, then we don't perceive reality as it is in and of itself.Dreams and hallucinations are genuine experiences. They are ways in which we experience the world. Does a hallucinatory experience map onto reality? Or does it distort our perception of reality? And yet it's a real experience. But is it a real experience of reality?That's the problem with Prejean's criterion, for there's a difference between a real experience and an experience of reality—if, by the latter, we mean to perceive the world as it objectively exists.Experience qua experience does not and cannot adjudicate between the two. Because the percipient qua percipient cannot crawl outside his own experience to compare his experience with what the world is like apart from experience.

The distinction between reality and perception of reality is spurious; there are no differences between the two. EVERY perception reports on reality. Hallucinatory experiences certainly DO map onto reality; it's not a "problem" for anyone.

ii) Now, there are certain ways to escape this conundrum, but Prejean has debarred himself from using the exits.a) Some form of innate knowledge would give us a standard against which to compare or contrast our raw experience. But Prejean's radical empiricism excludes that option.b) Special revelation would also supply an intersubjectival standard of comparison, since God knows the world apart from experience, and he can communicate some of his knowledge to us. But Prejean's subordination of special revelation to natural revelation excludes that option.

Correct on both counts. Being precedes knowing, and Hays's attempt to escape the consequences of his idealism by resort to nonsense (innate ideas) or unjustified appeals to special revelation won't do. But he has finally grasped the point; I consider Hays's escapes from idealism just as ineffective as the idealism itself. I cheerfully concede "radical empiricism," and I consider it the only possible rational position. That's what Hays apparently just doesn't grasp; most Thomists would dismiss all of these appeals to idealism out of hand.

i) None of this supports his point since the Catholic apologist is arguing for the necessity of a Magisterium to preclude "failure." But if, by his own admission, the old covenant was a divine institution, and if, by his own admission, the OT rule of faith was a calculated "failure" on God's part, then a Catholic apologist cannot infer the necessity of a magisterium from the outcome, where the magisterial safety-net is not in place. He cannot infer that sola Scriptura is not the true rule of faith given the consequences, since we have parallel consequences under the OT, using a God-given rule of faith.

As you note below, this isn't a consequentialist argument against sola scriptura. My point is that it's a necessary consequence of sola scriptura that its normative authority is unjustified.

ii) And we also have similar "failures" under the new covenant, viz. apostates, heretics, schismatics.iii) I'd add that the NT does not articulate the Catholic rule of faith. There is no Catholic magisterium on display in the NT—which is why the Catholic apologist must resort to the development of doctrine.The argument for the Catholic rule of faith was never anything more than a presumptive argument. It worked with the a priori assumption that God would not allow a certain outcome to ensue. But the history of God's dealings with his people doesn't justify that presumption. To the contrary, divine precedent creates, if anything, a presumption to the contrary.

I beg to differ; it seems fairly clear that there are explicit reasons in the NT for why we should expect a more workable rule of faith (not to say that it is perfect, but that it could be for people who were actually faithful). But that is all subjective anyway. The point is that Hays is arguing that there is no rule of faith, because his purported rule can't serve as a formal authority on all matters of faith, and he has no justification for its normative authority in the first place.

So all the Jews were damned.

No, they went to the bosom of Abraham, which appears to be a suburb of Sheol, until Christ's resurrection.

So the Jews didn't have a suitable object of faith. Is Prejean a Catholic or a Marcionite?

They had various suitable objects of faith, all of which were denied at some or another point. My point was only that the content of Scripture was only justified as being authoritative with reference to these other divine activities in Israel.

Fine. But at that point you jettison the standard Catholic objection to sola Scriptura, which attacks it on consequentialist grounds precisely because it allegedly leads to disunity rather than unity.

As I understand the argument, it isn't that sola scriptura leads to disunity so much as given disunity, it provides no hope of normative resolution; it is an inadequate normative authority. I don't say that they are completely unrelated, but I gather that the "standard" argument views disunity as accidental evidence of the failure rather than an essential flaw.

Externally proximate in what sense? Are abstract objects proximate objects of knowledge? If not, how do you know about abstract objects? And it won't do to ostensively point to concrete objects that exemplify concrete objects, for—to take one example—relations are inaudible, invisible, and intangible. To borrow an illustration from Gassendi, we don't actually hear a clock strike four. We don't hear a series of tones. All we hear is a discrete tone, and another discrete tone, and another and another. The relation between these tones which forms a series isn't something we sense, but something we apprehend thanks to our innate grasp of numerical relations.

Thomism 101: all abstract knowledge comes from knowing concrete particulars in an immaterial mode. The grasp of quantity isn't innate; it's the most basic aspect of any existing thing that we might encounter, and we know quantity immediately upon knowing anything else. The relation between those tones is perceived by mathematical reasoning coming straight from having abstracted quantity from the things that you perceive. In effect, mathematics is immaterially knowable in everything that exists. To deny this is to deny certain knowledge; it's that simple.

But you just said that OT believers did not have a "suitable" object of faith. So are you now claiming that they had an unsuitable proximate object of faith?

What I said was that sola scriptura did not establish a suitable object of faith, and that it wasn't the Messiah either. In point of fact, they had a number of suitable objects of faith, concrete instances of divine activity. Often, these things were taken away from them as punishment for denying them, to be restored or replaced later. They weren't stable, and given that they weren't provided for eternal salvation, there was nothing particularly surprising in that fact.

So we can't come to know him by reading an inspired record of his person and work. We can't come to know him by reading the Gospels. And Prejean is the one who accuses me of scepticism. Isn't that rich?

It's not clear to me how you know anything given this notion that knowledge can be about something other than reality. That seems pretty skeptical to me. But yes, it's true that one can't know anything by reading about it. You might believe it, but you don't know it. On the other hand, I am not skeptical about the Church. I know it; I don't just think that I do.

I do present an argument in response to Joseph.

But not one that defends the logical coherence of "inherent credibility" of Scripture.

I do more than that, but, yes, I'm also drawing the attention of Catholics and Protestants alike to what your Catholic view of the Scriptures amounts to. By your own admission you have no faith in God's Word. You don't regard the Word of God as a suitable object of faith.

Not as a suitable proximate object, no. It simply tells you what someone said; it doesn't provide any direct knowledge of what is described.

You only have faith in your denomination. And you only believe the Bible to the degree that your denomination authorizes faith in Scripture. Your attitude towards the Word of God is worlds apart from Biblical piety itself.I pick on you because you're very clever, and you tend to carry your points to their logical extreme. So you're a test case of the best case for Catholicism.And what you end up illustrating is that Catholicism is like King Tut's sarcophagus. On the outside is this bejeweled, solid gold surface. But when we lift the lid and unwind the mummy, all we find is dust and decay.

I think the people described in the Bible had good reasons for thinking that Scripture was the Word of God. I think that anyone who has faith in the Church since then does as well. What I have trouble understanding is how one could have faith in what someone says about something else without having some concrete knowledge to back it up. That doesn't strike me as a "logical extreme" so much as a basic consequence of what knowledge is. Ultimately, we actually know only what we verify through our own experience; nothing on which we take anyone's word is knowledge. If that's skepticism, then I hardly know why; it seems like exactly the opposite: confidence in one's knowledge to the point that one need not trust another without justification.

And why do you believe that? Even if we were to grant traditional Catholic exegesis, since you reject testimony as a suitable object of faith, you reject the testimony of the Scriptures to Christ and the church alike. In that event, why believe that your denomination is a divine and dominical institution? You can't very well ground Scripture in the external or proximate object of the church unless you have some independent reason for believing that your denomination is, indeed, the church that Jesus founded. And what would that be if not the witness of the NT (assuming traditional Catholic exegesis)? And if you fall back on the church fathers, the same objection applies.If the Bible cannot license the church, because the church must license the Bible, then what "suitable," "proximate," and "external" object licenses your church? What is grounding your faith in the institutional church?

I have faith that the Church does divine acts. I've been present when they were worked. It's that simple. If the Church doesn't do divine acts, and indeed, if anyone doesn't do divine acts, then you shouldn't accept his testimony of divine revelation. Simple, logical rule. Since you like Hume so much, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I believe that God has made His divine acts accessible to people today, knowable by faith, to prove His Son's claims. If He didn't, I wouldn't believe them. It's that simple.

Wherein lay their justification?

Witnessing the concrete results of divine acts.

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.
That's inadequate to your original claim. Sorry to keep reminding you of what you said and then holding you to your own words:
Every allegedly divinely revealed conclusion is only as good as its weakest normative link, and there is not even a coherent way of defining what the normative principles are. Unless God has invested some definite class of people with formal divine authority (and there might be legitimate disputes of judgment as to who those people are, but one has to at least think that there are such people), the situation for arriving at theological truth outside of natural theology is hopeless.
The fact (for the sake of argument) that plenty of people do have certain knowledge about the faith from the Church tacitly grants that there are also plenty of people (including nominal or lapsed Catholics) who do not. So all the weak links remain in place at the concrete level of actually "arriving at theological truth."

Where you're confusing my original argument with one of your own making is in affirming the inverse. I said that an insufficient normative rule of faith renders normative conclusions impossible. The inverse is not that a sufficient rule of faith renders normative conclusions necessary, but merely possible. However, I would point to the fact that people have correctly arrived at normative conclusions as evidence that the rule does actually, not merely possibly, produce correct normative conclusions. That suffices to demonstrate my claim. They do so by starting from certain knowledge, actually knowing by faith that the Church does divine acts. There's no "weak link;" they actually know this even if they don't know that they know. In that respect, faith is just like any other sort of knowledge; one can have a critical perspective on the knowledge of faith just like anything else.

Except for the fact that "arriving at theological truth" is subjective knowledge. And having "certain knowledge about the faith" is subjective knowledge.What's the value of having a chain without any objectively weak links if, as soon as you lower the chain into a real world situation and attach it to real men and women, it comes apart in practice due to so many subjectively weak links?Prejean's church is a beautifully preserved museum piece which is only as good as the airtight display case. As soon as you remove it from its hermetically sealed objectivity, it begins to putrefy in the sunshine.

Apart from the gratuitous separation of "subjective" from "real," this doesn't really say anything. Objective identity between knower and known establishes a certain ontological connection. There aren't any weak links either in object or subject; people know it even if they don't know that they know.

Another category mistake. Natural theology tells you absolutely nothing about Christology or ecclesiology. That's the domain of revealed theology, not natural theology.

True. But it does tell you what can and can't be a suitable proximate object of faith, and in the real world, what suitable objects of Christian faith exist.

I appreciate your concession. Traditionally, the conflict with Rome was over the meaning of Scripture, not the truth of Scripture. The Catholic contention is that Protestants can't be sure of what the Bible means—absent the teaching office of the Magisterium.You, however, have blurred the distinction between meaning and truth. After I point out that the meaning of a consciously fictitious work like Alice in Wonderland is irrespective of its real world correspondence, you're having to back down. One doesn't need natural theology to interpret a document.Of course, Scripture is not fictitious, but I cited the fictional genre as a limiting case to illustrate the difference between meaning and truth, interpretation and verification.Contrary, therefore, to your original argument, a Protestant can ascertain the meaning of Scripture without recourse to natural theology. Natural theology is not the prism through which we construe the sense of Scripture. Likewise, that's not the way we need to distinguish between literal depictions and anthropomorphic depictions.

I beg to differ on several grounds. First, the conflict is over the normative status of the meaning of Scripture. The truth of Scripture is simply a conclusion on its normativity, because it isn't ordinarily being independently verified in every proposition.

Second, you've come to exactly the opposite of the correct conclusion on Alice in Wonderland. One establishes the meaning by correspondence to real things, even in the intellectual exercise of discerning the meaning of fiction. Even in terms of understanding the author's knowledge, one appeals to concepts grounded in one's own knowledge of reality to understand what they had in mind. Thus, natural knowledge (including natural theology) is essential for all interpretation. You can't even grasp the concepts in someone else's head without mapping them to what you know, which is thoroughly from your own experience of existing things. One knows that Alice in Wonderland is fiction by juxtaposing felinity and invisibility and making a judgment that there is no conformity between the two concepts as known in real things. If you had no concept of felinity or invisibility, you wouldn't even understand what was being said, much less be capable of making a judgment on its assertions. Nor would you be capable of judging error, such as if someone asserted some biological property of a phoenix, not knowing that such things don't exist.

Third, this notion of natural theology as a "prism" begs the question on idealism. On Thomist grounds, there is no "prism" between knowledge and reality; knowledge of reality is immediate. If it's knowledge of reality, then all judgments about reality must conform to it.

In other words, Catholicism is unable to get everything it needs to warrant its theological embellishments from honest exegesis of Scripture, so it must abandon the grammatico-historical method for allegorical substitutions and patently anachronistic reinterpretations of the text.

There's no abandonment of the GHM inherent in the acceptance of allegorical substitutions and anachronistic reinterpretation (all typology with respect to future events is inherently anachronistic, for example). I will freely concede that the inspired meaning is not limited to the author's intent.

So natural theology doesn't "superimpose," but it does "supervene." Uh-huh.

I suppose one might say that reality "superimposes" the law of non-contradiction on things. I'd say that they are simply the same thing, that the law of non-contradiction supervenes on what it means for something to be real.

How does that follow in the least? If you can't know that God said something unless you actually heard him say it, then how can you know that Christ is present in the church unless you actually saw him there? The church cannot furnish a proximate sign of Christ's presence unless you already know that your church evidences the presence of Christ. If the church is a sign of his presence, then where the church is, he is. And how to you propose to verify your premise? Not by invoking the authority of the church, I trust, since that would be viciously circular. And not by appealing to the testimony of the NT, for you've already foreclosed that option.

I know it by faith, so I know of no way to convey that knowledge to you. It's a spiritual faculty, and just as I can't give a blind man eyesight, I can't give you the power to know spiritual things. Only God can. My point is that, from the Aristotelico-Thomist perspective, you haven't even advanced a coherent knowledge claim. Even your claim to have "faith" in Christ is not meaningful as a knowledge claim.

A couple of problems:i) All you've done is to push the question back a step. If you can't accept the authority of Scripture without the church, then how can you accept the authority of the church apart from Scripture? ii) Is your appeal to Augustine and the other church fathers an argument from authority? If so, what suitable, external, and proximate object is grounding their testimony? Surely not the church—if you're invoking the church fathers to validate the authority of the church in the first place. So which is prior to which? Does patristic testimony validate the church, or does the church validate patristic testimony?

Patristic testimony can at best support probable opinion that the proximate object of their faith was the same as the one today. There's nothing wrong with probable opinion, but it can't provide certain knowledge. Ultimately, it is all based on the actual existence of that proximate object, and that can only be known for certain by faith.

And yet it's child's play to simply redirect your objection to the church itself. Have you ever seen a single pope—much less every pope—actually pen a single encyclical—much less every encyclical? Did you witness the Tridentine Fathers in deliberation? And you can't very well fall back on the testimony of others, for you already dynamited that escape route by grounding testimony in the authority of the church—without which you deny that it's even rational to put your faith in testimony.

It's rational to accept the testimony of God based on actual knowledge. I have actual knowledge by faith that Christ actually subsists in the Catholic Church, and since I know Christ, I can rationally accept His testimony. Likewise, the OT men and women who actually witnessed divine action (or the direct products of divino-human action, like the Ark) could rationally be certain of the testimony of Scripture.

Hays continues:

1.In my response to Prejean, I wasn’t defending the inspiration of Scripture. I’ve done that on many other occasions, but that was not my stated aim in response to Prejean. I was merely highlighting the consequences of his position.Whether the denial of inerrancy is acceptable or not will depend on the theological commitments of the individual. If you’re a theological liberal, then you don’t have a problem with that consequence.But it’s worth noting that Prejean can only defend Catholicism by attacking the inerrancy of Scripture.

Except that I didn't attack the inerrancy of Scripture. What I attacked was any construction of Scriptural inerrancy in which the intent of Biblical authors is allowed to conflict with reality in any way. If a literal assertion on the part of a Biblical author conflicts with reality, then we are compelled to limit the assertion of that author to what he himself was capable of asserting, some description of his own experience or knowledge, for example. Anthropomorphic discussions are perfectly fine to discuss one's experience of God, but if interpreted as literally describing God's attributes, they are obviously false.

1.With all due respect, that tells me that your experience is pretty limited. You haven’t made an effort to acquaint yourself with standard Evangelical apologetics, even though that material is readily available.2.The “argument” you trot out is a stock caricature of the Christian position by unbelievers. This is the way a militant atheist will typically caricature the Christian argument for the inspiration of Scripture. It’s not how a typical Christian apologist will defend the inspiration of Scripture.

I find this odd, because the arguments that Hays cites (Montgomery, Warfield) seem no less viciously circular than "I believe the Bible because the Bible says so." I've found that the "typical Christian apologist" simply couches the circularity in the larger context of epistemological idealism, which is simply inscribing a small circle within a big one.

3.Even on its own grounds, let’s consider the argument for a moment. i) Instead of the Bible, let’s construct a parallel argument: Who wrote A Farewell to Arms? Earnest Hemingway. Why do you think Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms? Because it says so.Would that be an example of sloppy reasoning? No.If you were reading A Farewell to Arms, and a friend asked you who wrote it, you would say Earnest Hemingway. And if your friend asked you how you knew that, you would show him your copy of the book, which says that Hemingway was the author.Is that an unreasonable answer to his question? No. Is it viciously circular to appeal to the title itself? No. ii) Of course, this is not a compelling argument for authorship. It’s possible that the conventional attribution is false.But if the publisher gives Hemingway as the author, that is prima facie grounds for believing that Hemingway is the author, is it not?That, all by itself, is evidence for the authorship of the novel, and you wouldn’t have any reason to question that attribution unless you had evidence to the contrary. Do you know for a fact that Hemingway wrote the novel because it says so? No. The ascription could be mistaken.But, absent evidence to the contrary, it’s reasonable for you to believe that he wrote it simply because it says so. And that’s because, to doubt his authorship, you’d have to assume some sort of conspiracy to palm off this novel as the work of Hemingway, even though the publishers were in a position to know better.Now, conspiracies do occur. But you would need specific evidence to justify your belief in a conspiracy. Absent evidence of a conspiracy, it’s more reasonable to take the ascription at face value.

And absent some grounding in one's real knowledge of nature and sorts of activity, it would be just as unreasonable to take such a claim at face value. If Hemingway claims he is God, then it isn't reasonable for me to accept that claim absent some basis in certain knowledge for that claim. Moreover, it wouldn't be irrational to withhold judgment even now, precisely because one doesn't know for a fact. By admitting that the argument isn't compelling, Hays shows the rationality of his own position by licensing agnosticism. Lastly, is Hays claiming that he believes Scripture is the Word of God or that he knows it? Because quite frankly, I would think it ridiculous to accept anyone's word that God authored something if even the person making the claim didn't know it for a fact.

iii) If God intended to communicate with the human race, don’t you suppose that he would identify himself as the speaker? What would be the point of a divine communication if we didn’t know the source? If this was from God, but we didn’t know it was from God, then we would treat it like any other human communication. Suppose the Bible never identified itself as the Word of God. Would we pay the same amount of attention to Scripture? No.If it never said it was the Word of God, we would have no particular reason read it or consider it to be the Word of God. After all, there are far more books in the world than anyone has the time to read. So how do you choose? How do you know what’s important?

And Hays accuses me of a priorism? Personally, I would expect God to give me more than a probable opinion if He actually expected me to believe that it was God's own communication. If I had to figure it out by authorship claims and reading through ever self-proclaimed work of divine origin, I would certainly be inclined to draw the counter-inference that God didn't intend to communicate through ANY of them. The simpler explanation is to expect that God doesn't communicate in this fashion at all absent some certain knowledge to the contrary.

iv) Is a divine self-ascription sufficient reason to believe that a document is inspired by God? No.But a divine self-ascription does make a document a candidate for divine revelation. We will judge it on that basis, whereas—if it never made such a claim in the first place—it wouldn’t even be a candidate for divine revelation.

This is doubly false, in that divine self-ascription is neither necessary nor sufficient to make a document "a candidate for divine revelation." Hays's approach is illogical from the start. The logical way to start is to first identify what is known about God (i.e., natural theology) and judge claims of divine revelation based on their consistency with that knowledge.

So the self-witness of Scripture is quite germane to the overall case for the inspiration of Scripture. The self-witness of Scripture is not a sufficient reason to believe that Scripture is what it says it is, but it’s no more unreasonable to take that claim as your starting point than it is to begin with Hemingway as the stated author of A Farewell to Arms.

Hays has made some outrageous claims in his day, but this is probably the most gratuitous I have ever heard. It's just as plausible to accept claims of divine authorship as that Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms? There's nothing less reasonable about a claim of divine authorship than human authorship, despite everyone's overwhelming personal experience with human authorship and complete lack of experience with divine authorship? This is where idealism gets you; empirical knowledge, what you actually know about things, doesn't count, even though it's flamingly obvious from any degree of common sense that it does. Hays has put all the emphasis on belief and none on knowledge.

4.And how do we validate the claim? You say the only argument you’ve heard is a viciously circular argument: the Bible is the Word of God because the Bible says so. But that is not the standard argument for the inspiration of Scripture.i) One argument is the traditional argument from prophecy. This has been around for centuries. It was used by the subapostolic fathers. Indeed, you find it in Scripture itself.Have you never heard of this argument before? If so, you really need to get out more often, enlarge your social circle, and do some basic reading in the standard apologetic literature.

The "traditional argument from prophecy" doesn't actually prove that Scripture is inspired. It could only, at best, prove that particular statements were inspired. It's not a proof of inspiration; it's a confirmation that one's existing belief in inspiration is not unreasonable. It doesn't provide a reason to believe in inspiration in the first place.

ii) Another popular argument of more recent origin is a stepwise argument. It basically goes like this:a) The NT is a primary source of 1C history. It’s a collection of 1C documents that furnish a historical witness to certain 1C historical events.As such, we can approach the NT the way we would any analogous source, like Tacitus or Josephus. You don’t have to believe that Tacitus or Josephus is divinely inspired to treat them as historical sources for the period they recount. You merely treat them as fairly reliable historians.There is a prima facie presumption that they are accurate unless you have evidence to the contrary. They are writing about roughly contemporaneous people, places, and events. So they’re generally in a position to know what they’re talking about, and they generally have no motive to deceive.

Except that one ordinarily judges the veracity of historical claims based on experience (indeed, there is no other way to judge veracity), so one has no basis for the judgment of reliability with respect to these sorts of claims. Indeed, the judgment that they are "generally in a position to know what they're talking about" is based on your common knowledge of experience and one's knowledge of the universality of human nature. And the judgment that "they generally have no motive to deceive" is purely probable, and it would be completely rational to withhold judgment on that point absent a compelling demonstration to the contrary.

b) In addition to the prima facie presumption, there is a lot of corroborative evidence for the NT from archeology.

Same problem vis-a-vis historical judgments. One's judgment of credibility is based on one's actual knowledge, and it is always merely probable.

c) The next step is to say, in light of (a)-(b), that the NT gives us a reliable account of who Jesus is, what he said, and what he did (or will do).

And since neither knowledge claim in (a) or (b) is justified, (c) isn't justified either. Moreover, the fact that Jesus says something doesn't make it true unless you have certain knowledge that Jesus is God, which hasn't been proved either.

d) The next step is to point out that, among other things, Jesus made statements about the OT. He affirms the inspiration of the OT.e) I’d add that the OT is a forward-looking book, so at this point you could also insert the argument from prophecy. f) The final step is to point out that Jesus also affirmed the inspiration of the Apostles—beginning with the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

And since neither this argument nor the argument from prophecy justifies inspiration, nothing is proved here either.

Have you never heard of this argument? It’s been around since J. W. Montgomery—if not before—and widely popularized by his successors.

Fallacious then, and fallacious now.

iii) Then there’s the argument from religious experience. Most Christians are not high-powered intellectuals. They don’t believe the Bible because they have a set of arguments for Scripture which they can whip out at a moment’s notice.But they find the Bible compelling. They simply believe it. They can’t help themselves.And—what is more—they also find the Bible true to their own experience. As they live according to Scripture, year in and year out, it comes true (so to speak) in their own life-experience—and the experience of fellow believers.

Yes, and people who believe in astrology simply believe that it's true. And Muslims simply believe the words of the prophet Mohammed are true. That's not an argument; indeed, it's not even a coherent knowledge claim because it doesn't reference anything external to the person (it would be asserting self-created knowledge). It's simply biography.

No, “strictly speaking,” you’re the one who’s equivocating here, not me.i) It’s true that “the Word of God” is, among other things, a Christological title. But that is not it’s only referent. It also denotes the Bible.You need to do some reading on the self-witness of Scripture. Here’s a good place to start: Bible is the Word of God because the Bible is, among other things, a record of God’s verbal self-revelation. Indeed, it’s an inspired record of divine revelation. Inspired at two levels: the record itself, as well as the recorded content.

Warfield? Is that a joke? People actually believe his argument? I suppose people will believe anything, but it's clearly not rational. The gratuitous assertions regarding Scripture as an "inspired record" are noted and denied until Hays actually proves them.

ii) To say the Bible is a written record of Jesus is a considerable overstatement. The Bible contains many passages that are not a record of who Jesus is, or said, or did. Although the Bible is Christologically structured, the Bible is not all about Jesus all of the time. Do you think that Exod 21-22 is specifically about Jesus? Do you think that Deut 19-24 is specifically about Jesus?There’s a mock piety, of the Harold Camping variety, that sees Jesus in every verse of Scripture. But this isn’t a properly Christ-honoring approach to Scripture. Every bush is not a burning bush. Sometimes a bush is just a bush.

I'd say that the entire process of inspiration is a Christological process, in that Christ is the sole model of theandric action. In that respect, one's very theory of inspiration had better be Christological, meaning that every bit of Scripture is inherently Christological.

Hays rambles on:
So, even if we confine ourselves to Roman Catholic versions of the Bible, how does Isaiah contradict the thesis that God literally has thoughts? It doesn’t.Rather, it says that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, which is quite different than saying that God has no thoughts at all.

On the Catholic interpretation, the contrast between divine and human informs the interpretation of the passage, so this contrast has that meaning. Begging the question as between the rules of interpretation doesn't actually show that the passage doesn't mean that. Moreover, I made the statement as a Catholic to another Catholic, so we already have a common interpretive rule in this regard.

So Prejean’s prooftext doesn’t prove what he says it does. It is not setting up a metaphysical disjunction between human beings, who have thoughts and intentions—in contrast to God, who doesn’t have thoughts and intentions. But, of course, that comes as no surprise. God’s Word means nothing to Prejean. The source of his theology lies elsewhere. Wherever he actually gets his theology, whether from Zubiri or George Lucas—he isn’t getting it from Scripture.So his appeal to Scripture is just a bit of window-dressing to camouflage the extrascriptural source of his theology.

The appeal to natural theology by a Catholic to another Catholic would not be viewed as an extra-Scriptural appeal. Since I didn't make the appeal to you, but to someone who would actually understand it, it wasn't "window-dressing" in the context of my conversation.

Prejean is like a compulsive gambler on a losing streak. He can’t bring himself to leave the table.The Protestant alternative does not subscribe to a dictation theory of inspiration. There never was a dictation *theory*, only a dictation *metaphor*.Rather, the standard theory, as represented by the Old Princeton school of theology (among other representatives), is the organic theory of inspiration, involving a concursus between the primary author (God) and the secondary author (the apostle, prophet, &c.).The human will isn’t “commandeered” by God. Why should God commandeer his own handiwork? God is man’s Creator. God created the human will. He created the will of the apostle or prophet. So he doesn’t need to “commandeer” it—any more than Enzo Ferrari needs to commandeer the sports car he designed.

The "concursus" is precisely what I mean, a combined operation in which the outcome is determined by the divine will. It's monergistic, not synergistic. The will is a mere instrument designed for the purpose.

What we see in Prejean is self-reinforcing ignorance. He is to Catholic apologetics what Dawkins is to militant atheism. Just as Dawkins is too contemptuous of the opposing position to acquaint himself with the opposing position, Prejean is too contemptuous of Scripture to acquaint himself with Scripture, and too contemptuous of Protestant theology to acquaint himself with Protestant theology.

Except that I know the arguments of Warfield, Leibniz, Descartes, Kant, and Hume, but Hays does not appear to know the arguments of Maritain and Garrigou-Lagrange, else he would not have made the ridiculous parade of question-begging arguments that he has.

I begin to wonder what Hays's point in continuing this is. If he is never going to bother to present an argument for the authority of Scripture that is valid and sound, that is not viciously circular and that doesn't appeal to impossible forms of knowledge (like innate ideas, the magical ability to judge the reliability of claims on subjects with which has no experience in the same way that one judges mundane authorship, etc.), then why is he even in this business? He seriously advocated that divine revelation must include a claim of divine authorship and it was logical to start with these books in looking for divine authorship, without even first proving what divine revelation is and why anyone would expect to look for it. If anyone sounds like someone who is wasting time reading books that don't mean anything, it's Hays, who has as much justification for his views as an astrologer or a psychic. He's just a fideist who can't even advance a coherent knowledge claim for his position.