Saturday, June 12, 2021

An exegetical principle from Fortescue

In his book The Early Papacy: To the Synod of Chalcedon in 451, Fr. Adrian Fortescue argues that the essential Catholic claims about the authority of the pope can all be found in patristic texts from the period referred to in the title.  You may or may not agree with him about that, but the papacy is not my topic here.  What I want to call attention to instead is a general exegetical principle Fortescue appeals to at the start.  He writes:

Before we quote our texts, there is yet a remark to be made.  Nearly all these quotations are quite well known already.  This does not affect their value.  If a text proves a thesis, it does not matter at all whether it is now quoted for the first or the hundredth time…  Naturally, people who deny [what we believe]… also have something to say about them.  In each case they make what attempt they can to show that the writer does not really admit what we claim, in spite of his words… The case is always the same.  We quote words, of which the plain meaning seems to be that their writer believed what we believe, in some point.  The opponent then tries to strip his words of this meaning… The answer is that, in all cases, we must suppose that a sane man, who uses definite expressions, means what he says, unless the contrary can be proved.  To polish off a statement with which you do not agree by saying that it is not meant, and leave the matter at that, is a silly proceeding.

There is another general issue here.  These early Fathers are witnesses of the belief of their time.  Now, the value of evidence increases as it is multiplied.  We must take the value, not of one text, but of all put together.  Here we have a great number of texts that all make for the same point.  The fact that all do make for the same point suggests the reasonable interpretation of each.  All can be understood naturally, supposing that their writers believed [what we believe]… If you do not admit that, you have to find a different, often a most tortuous, interpretation for each.  The rule of good reasoning is that one simple cause that accounts equally for all the phenomena is to be supposed the real one, unless it be proved false. (pp. 53-54)

For ease of reference, I am going to give the label “Fortescue’s Principle” to the thesis implicit here, though of course I am not thereby suggesting that it was original to Fortescue.  We can formulate it as follows:

Fortescue’s Principle: If a large number of texts from a certain period are all naturally read as teaching that p, and were for centuries afterward commonly understood as teaching that p, then there is at the very least a very strong presumption that they do in fact teach that p. 

This principle is a matter of common sense.  It is, of course, possible that the natural interpretation of some particular text considered in isolation might not be the correct interpretation.  But the probability that it is incorrect decreases dramatically if lots of other texts from the same general time and place say the same thing on a natural interpretation.  To think otherwise, you’d have to believe that writers in general in that time and place just didn’t know how to express themselves clearly, and somehow all tended to misstate things in exactly the same way – which merely adds improbability to improbability.

For example, no one doubts that (say) nineteenth-century socialists were critical of capitalism and that nineteenth-century abolitionists were opposed to slavery.  If some contemporary historian came along and argued that we have for a century and a half been misinterpreting all the relevant statements from that period, no one would take him seriously.  It wouldn’t matter if he produced clever exegesis of this or that particular text that purported to show, based on nuances in linguistic usage, that some reading other than the natural one was possible.  The idea that all the relevant texts have been systematically misunderstood for that long is just too silly to credit.

Something like Fortescue’s Principle is implicit in the First Vatican Council’s teaching that “in matters of faith and morals… that meaning of Holy Scripture must be held to be the true one, which Holy mother Church held and holds” and that “it is not permissible for anyone to interpret Holy Scripture in a sense contrary to this, or indeed against the unanimous consent of the fathers.”  It is not merely contrary to common sense, but contrary to Catholic orthodoxy, to suggest that on some moral or theological matter the Fathers of the Church all misunderstood scripture or that the Church herself has for centuries done so.

All the same, Fortescue’s Principle is routinely violated by theologians who don’t like some doctrine that has always been understood to be the teaching of scripture and the Church Fathers, but who don’t want to be accused of rejecting the authority of scripture and the Fathers.  Worse, such violations of Fortescue’s Principle are shamelessly presented as if they were applications of good scholarly practice, when in fact they are contrary to it.

Here’s how the sophistry works.  First, some revisionist biblical or patristic scholar cobbles together a strained reinterpretation of a text that has always been taken to teach some traditional doctrine.  This is usually done with a great show of learning, heavy going about what the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek “really” says (never mind the fact that two millennia of theologians who also knew the relevant languages understood it the traditional way), and so on.  Then, other revisionist scholars casually and routinely cite this reinterpretation as if it has somehow established once and for all that the traditional interpretation is mistaken (when in fact the very most that can be said is that the novel interpretation might be defensible, though often even to say that much is too generous).  Similarly strained and tendentious reinterpretations of other texts are developed, and then also casually cited by other revisionists as if they too were definitive. 

Before you know it, the revisionist scholars present this jerry-rigged collection of far-fetched reinterpretations as if they constitute the settled scholarly wisdom, and as if anyone who dissents from it hasn’t gotten the news or is otherwise out of touch.  Appeals to or defenses of the traditional interpretations are dismissed as hackneyed (“Oh, that again!”), or as shallow and non-scholarly exercises in “proof-texting.”  The whole thing is a gaslighting exercise. 

For example, this is now a stock rhetorical ploy of theologians who don’t like traditional Christian teaching about sexuality, but who’d prefer to avoid contradicting scripture outright.  The tactic is to pretend that all the relevant texts have for centuries been misinterpreted, and that modern scholars have finally revealed their true import.  The proposed reinterpretations have easily been refuted by Robert Gagnon and other scholars, but that matters not a whit to the revisionists.  Their desire is not in the first place to determine whether modern attitudes really are consistent with scripture, but rather to find a way to make scripture consistent with modern attitudes – or at least to kick up enough dust that non-experts can be made to think that there is some doubt about what scripture really says.

Or, to consider examples familiar to regular readers of this blog, consider capital punishment and the doctrine of eternal damnation.  The manifest teaching of scripture and the Fathers is that the state can at least in principle licitly resort to capital punishment (even if some of the Fathers urged against its use in practice).  As Joe Bessette and I demonstrate in our book on the subject, you simply cannot reconcile the extreme thesis that capital punishment is always and intrinsically immoral (as opposed to ill-advised in practice) with scripture and the Fathers. 

Accordingly, theologians who want to push this extreme position without explicitly rejecting the authority of scripture and the Fathers have tried to come up with novel interpretations of the key texts.  None of these considered individually is terribly plausible, as I have shown in the cases of the reinterpretations defended by writers like Brugger, Griffiths, Hart, Finnis, and Fastiggi.  But even if one or two of them were defensible, the idea that the true import of all the relevant scriptural and patristic evidence has been misunderstood for two millennia is simply too silly for words, a clear violation both of Fortescue’s Principle and of the teaching of the First Vatican Council.

Eternal damnation is also manifestly taught in scripture and the Fathers in text after text after text.  In order to deny this, you have to believe that not just one or two passages, but the entire tradition has been misunderstood for centuries. 

The gaslighting and dust-kicking-up represented by violations of Fortescue’s Principle is in fact not true exegesis at all, but eisegesis – reading some meaning into a text rather than out of it.  It is bad enough when theological modernists engage in this tactic, but as some of the examples cited above indicate, it is occasionally resorted to even by otherwise orthodox Catholics.  Perhaps without realizing it, they thereby abandon a principle which in other contexts they would find essential (as Fortescue himself does) in upholding the basic claims of the Church.


  1. Professor Feser, I do like the article you wrote here, but the question then becomes: how is this different from the arguments against Sola Scriptura that you've argued against in your "Sola Scriptura and Empiricism" series you wrote a few years ago? In that article, you seemed to be against the idea that one can rely on a plain reading of the text to understand a particular Biblical passage. How do you reconcile this with the view presented here? I presume that the way you would reconcile it is by claiming that Fortescue’s Principle relies fundamentally on a plain reading as understood by a tradition rather than a plain reading as understood by modern individuals?

    1. Hello Mr. G,

      Part of the problem here is that people are operating with a cartoonish understanding of the claim that the Church is the authoritative interpreter of scripture and that private judgment is to be rejected. It doesn't entail that biblical passages are sheer unintelligible gibberish until the Church tells us what they mean. Obviously the general sense of most passages is clear enough. Rather, it is a question of how to settle the interpretation of passages that are ambiguous, how to determine exactly what principle lies behind the teaching of this or that passage, how to apply it to concrete or unforeseen circumstances, and so on.

      For example, when the Fifth Commandment says "Thou shalt not kill," the Church is not claiming that this is no more meaningful than "Blah blah blah" until an authoritative interpreter comes along. Obviously, that would be a ridiculous claim. The general meaning is clear enough. But is all killing ruled out? What does it imply with regard to self-defense? The killing of animals? Capital punishment? Abortion? Euthanasia?

      Other biblical passages can help to a considerable extent, but they can't settle every single question of this type. That's why an authoritative interpreter is necessary.

      Keep in mind also that another reason that the Church cannot mean that biblical passages are unintelligible before an authoritative interpreter comes along is that such a claim would render meaningless the Church's claim that she only ever teaches in a way that is consistent with scripture. That obviously entails that there is at least some general meaning to scriptural passages that can be grasped by the reader even before the Church puts forward an authoritative decision on ambiguous cases, application to unforeseen circumstances, etc. Otherwise we'd have the ridiculous and Orwellian situation where the Church can always claim to be consistent with scripture but only for the trivial reason that she can always just arbitrarily stipulate what scripture means.

      An analogy would be the Supreme Court's claim to be the authoritative interpreter of the U.S. Constitution. No one claims that the Constitution is strictly unintelligible until the court tells us what it means. The general sense is clear enough. Rather, the question is how to interpret ambiguous passages, how to determine what general principle underlies this or that part of it, how to apply it to new cases, etc. That's why the court is needed. The difference between the court and the Church is that the court has no special divine guidance and therefore is not infallible (very far from it, obviously!)

      The caricature of Catholic claims that I'm criticizing here is not only a favorite target of some critics of Catholicism but also, unfortunately, is assumed by some uninformed Catholics. But it is a caricature all the same. But once the caricature is put aside, it is clear that there is no conflict between what I say in the present post and what I said in the earlier post about Sola Scriptura.

    2. Professor Feser,

      I'll admit that I am one of those Catholics who hold that caricatured view of Scripture you criticize. I take it as an extension of semantic indeterminacy - the view that the meaning of words ultimately depends on some agent and cannot be understood apart from that agent's intentions. The caricatured view seems to me to follow from semantic indeterminacy. Given this fact, how can one square semantic indeterminacy with the idea that one can get a "general reading" in the sense you described?

    3. Hi Mr. G,

      One problem with that argument is that it would prove too much, for it would apply even to any statement that an agent made in order to clarify another. "What does X mean?" "It means Y." "OK, thanks. But wait, wait does Y mean?' "It means Z." "Oh, great. But wait, what does Z mean?" and so on ad infinitum. Even the statements of the authoritative interpreter would need an interpretation, and that interpretation would need one, and so on, so that nothing could ever be communicated!

      Obviously, something has gone wrong, and what has gone wrong is that semantic indeterminacy does not have the implications you think it does (at least if I understand correctly what you are referring to, which I assume are arguments of the kind associated with Kripke, Quine, Ross, et al.). Those arguments show that meaning cannot be reduced to material properties of utterances, sentences, brain processes, etc. or any combination thereof. But that doesn't entail that absolutely every utterance or statement is entirely unintelligible unless the speaker is right there to tell you what it means.

    4. Dr. Feser,

      I agree that you cannot push semantic indeterminacy too far, otherwise you will lead to total skepticism. Obviously the behaviors of others in a context of a culture and society with a common language conjoined with our subjective understanding of linguistic concepts and words will get us in the ball park for any meaning.

      But would you agree that semantic indeterminacy does pose a problem for Sola Scriptura insofar as no material statement comes with its own conceptual content? Therefore, every authoritative statement or Biblical passage can be re-interpreted or nuanced further. However, we are left with a situation whereby we must eventually accept some definite meaning of a passage (in the context of tradition, magisterium, etc.) to make the language and customs around us intelligible. And of course this is the benefit of Tradition and Magisterium. It has an infinite power to provide evidence for the meaning of a statement (for example it can excommunicate heretics).

      For example, Emperor Theodosius could have taken St. Ambrose’s blocking him from entering the Church to mean that he approved of the Massacre of Thessalonica. However, such a drastic re-interpretation would affect his ability to intelligibly respond to the actions and statements of other people in everyday life. That kind of re-interpretation is much different than interpreting something that could be taken to provide evidence for Divine Simplicity or vice versa.

      It’s not as if the behaviorists such as Quine are wrong in every way, it is just the nothing buttery that gets them into hot water. But Thomists need to be careful to not throw the baby out with the bath water.

    5. Thank you, Professor. I'll have to do some self-reflection on this.

    6. @ mr. G :-Yeah if I'm remembering Frege correctly, what your talking about Mr. G is the referent, which can be further explained by the speaker. But you must also deal with the sense which can also be elaborated upon by the speaker, but not fully, as it comes from the ineffable experience of context. Also I believe there are many parts to content that we haven't discovered; So, reducing meaning to an agents will is not the right way to go. And, if I may wax continental, smacks of incautious reductionism.

    7. @Dr Feser

      It is not just Sola Scriptura that is the problem. Luther's Perspicuity doctrine is a problem as well. Ironically I noticed the rise of a species of Gnu Atheists who try to argue against Catholicism by ad hoc claiming the fundamentalist understanding of a text should be treated as the default view.

      Which is ironic. These people mock you for holding a fundamentalist view of the Bible (i.e. you believe the Cosmos was literally made in literally 144 hours/6 days. Zombie Jewish Carpenter...yada...yada...). You tell them yer a Theistic Evolutionist and believe in an Old Earth then they mock you for not taking the "Bible seriously" for not taking the 6 days of creation literally.

      It is totally mental.

    8. Never mind St. Augustine didn’t take the six days of creation literally, and of course St. Thomas explains that this is a legitimate opinion (in fact he even goes as far as to say that demanding an overly-literal interpretation of Scripture makes the Faith subject to ridicule).

      Granted all Christians believed in a young Earth (6,000 to 10,000 years old), but that is because the only plausible alternative was an infinitely old Earth (which the pagans believed). And that is now more implausible than a 6,000 year old Earth.

    9. "No one claims that the Constitution is strictly unintelligible until the court tells us what it means. "

      The Supreme Court doesn't make the claim, they just act on the basis that it's true. . . .

  2. I think the main problem with encountering the more novel interpretations is they essentially have something like a Jochim de Flores / Hegelian epistemology and world view. It probably has to be confronted at that level. While Fr. Fotescue seems on the spot with Tradition and interpretation, I don't think those who interpret rather creatively are going to be much affected by his argument. A Hegelian- like position is essentially self fortified and can feel comfortable interpreting things the way it sees fit in accordance with the correct process and progress of the world. It is probably one reason most non Catholics these days don't really care or argue about things like the existence of God or the faulty nature of the Catholic Church, but insist that "True Catholicism" should be reformed to meet liberal democratic standards. That kind of progressive and social thinking seems to be the ultimate truth for many moderns, and the corner stone of all their analysis.

  3. I also find it interesting that these doctrines like Universal Salvation or what have you, that were largely non controversial or thought much about until somewhat recently become very heavy either/or dynamics that bring out the worst diatribes in the proponents of such doctrines and it essentially becomes a hill to die on and is the essence on what all Christian doctrine should be judged on. I have a very strong suspicion this is a feature and not a bug of such thinking, but I can't quite say why. My best off the cuff guess is it is the nature of the modern intellectual.

    1. Yes, good point. I think that part of what is going on here is the same thing that is evident in the case of other views whose defenders are extremely shrill: the actual argumentational and evidential support for the views is very weak, so that rhetorical bluster, ad hominem attacks, etc. have to do the work that reason cannot. (Of course, these tactics do no actual philosophical work at all, but it does do "public relations" and political work, which is the point with such people.)

  4. As far as I can tell it seems that the individual scriptural exegesis ought to be based on the theme of the subject matter. And this is I think where modern interpretation can shine, by using contemporary literary analysis to draw out information based on the genre. Unfortunately it seems it would take an encyclopedia of background knowledge of tradition to interpret a text in this way, because of the ease of contradicting some firmly held tradition. But perhaps it could be distilled down to methods without possibly dangerous facts. I'd be interested if anybody has thoughts.

    1. Bill, I am having a lot of trouble understanding your point. "Thematic" analysis is of course significant, but that represents only one tool in the tool box. Similarly, genre can be a useful tool (out of many), when its claims are not pushed too far, but in fact "Gospel" is probably sui generis and what can be determined from "genre" methods on the gospels It is very true that a person who wants to embark on interpreting Scripture should have vast knowledge of things like languages, archeology, history, and the writings of the Fathers.

      I seriously doubt that proper exegesis can be distilled down to any small set of formulas, because the human writers of the bible were human beings with myriad personal strengths, weaknesses, intentions, preferences, in addition to inspiration by the Infinite Being.

    2. Maybe this will help your confusion. I realized that the first sentence in my comment is ambiguous. What I meant to say is that: scriptural exegesis ought sometimes to be based on genre.

  5. Fortescue’s Principle seems sound, but I wonder if there are dramatic counter-examples buried in the Old Testament, where many of the documents are so old that the earliest written commentaries may date from centuries later. Given God's purpose in providing scripture, we may assume that no such misunderstandings will effect essential doctrines, but the misunderstandings may dramatically effect how we understand certain passages. What I have in mind in particular is John Walton's reinterpretation of Genesis 1. He argues that Genesis 1 was never intended as an account of the physical creation of the world, but rather an account of God putting the world in order, and probably was intended as a ceremonial script for dedicating a temple rather than as a teaching (Walton affirms that God physically created the world, but denies that Genesis 1 is an account of that event). I would normally discount such a dramatic reinterpretation, but his arguments are persuasive, and in any case the text can't be taken as a literal description of physical events, so some other explanation of the text is needed, and this seems to qualify.

    1. While I don't have a problem with saying "the text can't be taken as a literal description of physical events," I wonder whether that might be over-glib. Suppose, just for instance, that God gave Moses a vision of the Big Bang, and let Moses describe it.

      God said, "Let there be light." And there was light.

      Not bad for describing the first moments of the Big Bang.

      Eventually, when the energy intensity of the plasma decreased enough, and there was room for separation, and finally for particles to appear with gaps between them:

      "God separated the light from the darkness."

      OK, that works too.

      What I have in mind in particular is John Walton's reinterpretation of Genesis 1. He argues that Genesis 1 was never intended as an account of the physical creation of the world, but rather an account of God putting the world in order, and probably was intended as a ceremonial script for dedicating a temple rather than as a teaching

      This would be a lot more interesting if that's how the ancient Jews understood Genesis 1, and said so in their own works. But more importantly, because God is transcendent, he can operate on multiple levels at the same time, and so he can, for instance, have Moses write something that is both a functional account of ordering, AND an account of creation as such. To the extent the functional account is not opposed to either a young Earth or old Earth view, just to that extent it is also not opposed to a creation account either, and may therefore run alongside of such.

    2. I acknowledge that the syntax of Genesis 1:1-3 is complicated enough (beginning with the unusual first word) to allow for considerable semantic indeterminacy, as attested by both medieval and modern commentaries. Against those who deny creation ex nihilo (thus choosing panentheism over classical theism), I would argue that these verses are certainly compatible with creation ex nihilo (which is taught elsewhere in Scripture).
      I would argue against Walton that the most plausible interpretation of Genesis 1:1-3 is that God created the formless matter ex nihilo and then perfected it afterward.
      I agree with Walton that Genesis 1 is interacting with earlier texts from Egypt and Mesopotamia such as the Enuma Elish but I think that it is strongly opposing them--it is anti-mythological. The third and sixth days both have two scenes or moments so that there are nine scenes altogether. It thus addresses both the Mesopotamian idea of 7 being a number of order and the Egyptian idea of 8 being chaos and 9 being order. It discusses lights instead of using the names of sun and moon to show that they are not gods. It shows that the deep and the sea monsters are not mythological powers in opposition to God. Unlike the ANE texts, it does not have a theogeny or a gotteskampf (a birth of the gods and a struggle of the gods). There is no primordial realm from which the gods sprang. Genesis 1 is strongly antimythological. While other ANE texts affirm eternally pre-existing matter, Genesis 1 most plausibly is read as implying creation ex nihilo. For a fuller understanding of the Bible's teaching on creation ex nihilo, we need Psalms 33:6-7; 90:2; John 1:1-3; Acts 14:15; Romans 4:16-17; Hebrews 11:3; and Revelation 4:11.

    3. Both interesting replies; however, I'll try to avoid getting off the topic too far. I'd be inclined to doubt such a dramatic re-understanding of a story unless--as for Genesis 1--the current understanding is very problematic (just saying that Genesis 1 is not to be taken literally is not enough; you have to explain what the non-literal meaning of the passage is, and before Walton, I'd never seen a plausible explanation of that).

      Here is another factor that might make a significant re-understanding more plausible: if there is an explanation of how the existing understanding went wrong. After all, the contemporaries of the writer presumably understood the passage, so there has to be an explanation of when this understanding went wrong. In the case of Walton's theory, although Walton doesn't discuss this (as far as I know), one possibility is that it happened when Jewish scholars started to mix with Greek scholars in Alexandria (about 300 or 200 BC if I recall correctly). This had a dramatic influence on Jewish thought, and ever since about 600 BC, the Greeks had been discussing the physical nature of the universe--where did matter come from, was it eternal, how was it composed, etc. I emphasize that this is speculation on my part, not scholarship, but it is possible that at this time, Jews began to switch from a functional understanding of Genesis 1 to a material understanding, and that Christian scholars (many of whom were Greek anyway) just adopted this incorrect understanding.

    4. David,
      If Genesis 1 is indeed in part a polemic against such mythological texts as Enuma Elish (I would take Genesis 2:4a, "These are the offspring of heaven and earth" to be at least partly referring back on the previous passage and thus polemicize numerous pagan accounts of theogeny where the gods are born of the male sky god and the female earth goddess), then what explains the loss of that understanding is an environment where the readers no longer had access to Enuma Elish etc. Genesis 1 does lots of other things such as strongly implying creation ex nihilo and affirming many but not all of the elements of the Great Chain of Being. The Church Fathers got a lot right in their commentaries on Genesis 1. And they were clearly puzzled by the implications of what they saw as the plain reading (solar-sequential) of the passage.

    5. David,
      What I have offered is not novel. Since the discovery of various Ancient Near Eastern texts in the last 200 years, many scholars have argued that Genesis 1 is a polemic against them. There is essentially a pre-philosophical affirmation of divine aseity in Genesis 1. See Gerhard Hasel, "The Polemical Nature of the Genesis Cosmology" Evangelical Quarterly 46 (1974) 81-102.
      Other biblical texts do poetically represent YHWH as triumphing over sea monsters (Leviathan, tannim, rahab etc.) in a manner similar to Enlil, Baal or Marduk. From a canonical perspective, it is important to establish the correct theology in Genesis 1 (that there was no combat because YHWH is on a different ontological level) so that the poetic texts in Psalms and Isaiah are not misinterpreted as being read too literally.

    6. Tim, I wanted to avoid getting into the details because it seems far off the subject (and also because there is so much about the topic I don't know) but just saying that it's a polemic doesn't solve the problem I am concerned about, which is to explain how it is not deceptive. I am not satisfied with the idea that it is just a myth that counters the other creation myths of its day--that it is a false story that contains underlying truths. Presumably, people actually believed those other creation myths, and so people would have believed this one, which would make it a lie. Walton's explanation is that it is indeed polemical in nature, but he also does two other things: puts it in the context of a ceremony (which makes a lax relationship with the literal facts more acceptable) and also changes the facts that it is expressing to make it have at least some relationship to true events. What I find appealing is that it explains how in the time when Genesis 1 was written, it did not deceive people.

    7. David,
      I agree that Genesis 1 did not mislead the people who read it at the time it was written. If I gave the impression otherwise, it was unintended.

    8. Well, if one reads Kabbalists one finds interesting stuff regarding Genesis 1 and other Old Testament verses based on the fact Hebrew is originally written with consonants only and no spaces between words. This makes of the text a massive sequence of consonants which are split into words and sentences by readers following established conventions.

      Turns out then that many verses can be split into different words with other vowels added, resulting in alternate readings, which for Hebrew mystics are all valid, considered as so many additional teachings God provided those who decide to dwell deeper and deeper into it, or so I've read. And one example that I found twice was in regards to Genesis 1.1. According that, the alternate splitting provides a reading like this:

      "Taking from the always existing essence, the dual energy formed the dual heaven."

      Now, I don't know Hebrew, so I tried confirming this with a Jewish Kabbalah scholar I know, and he not only confirmed this, but was quite pleased I knew of this.

      So there's that.

  6. Re capital punishment. I agree that from a Christian perspective it is licit, and one can imagine lots of cases where it would be right (caught in the act) but I'm afraid that in the current world I do not trust the modern judicial system to be (a) always right, and (b) incorruptible. So, some innocent will always be executed unjustly.

    1. Injustices will happen, sure. But if you agree that capital punishment was licit in the past despite the possibility of mistakes, it ought to be even more justified now as technology (DNA, ubiquitous cameras, etc) has made certainty easier.

      Whether the modern world can use it with correct motivation and intention is a less obvious question.

  7. Professor, I agree with your description of sound method here. I wonder if you might apply it to one topic that I have been researching much recently: the Church's teaching on usury?

    What I have been finding is that just about all texts in the early Church, by all authorities, simply and flatly condemn usury. The medieval era produced a series of explanations and more official condemnations of usury, with (eventually) a slight measure of qualifications, narrowing the scope of those condemnations. Renaiscence and most early Modern era Church writing still condemned it, but with more qualifiers on what, precisely, was under disapproval, and with some few authors trying to model a new picture that permitted "interest" without it falling under the historical reprobation. And that continued until the 1820's, when the Vatican started telling confessors to not push energetically on people who charged interest on loans. And then in the late 19th century and nearly unanimously scholars have tried to write out usury as a moral problem, mostly by philosophical "clarifications" that often SEEM pretty good, but also could come off an awful lot like your description of "the sophistry" of bad biblical exegesis: each individual re-reading of X passage might be slightly plausible, but taken together, not so much.

    1. Tony, when I go in my office I shall try to find some resources that discuss some of the medieval debates on that topic (I went to Acton University a couple of times and they had a lot of material). "Usury" might be bad by definition--it might mean excessive interest. Muslim societies that banned interest entirely end up employing legal fictions. By some point in the middle ages, they decided that interest was excessive if it was more than could be justified by inflation, a reasonable employment rate for handling the money, and risk. What this means is that over 90% of present credit card companies are usorious.

    2. Tony,

      Context is the key. If we are 13th century subsistence farmers and I charge you two eggs for every one I lend to you, I have caused a hardship for you for my own advantage. In modern economies where value is a function of the system itself, that is not the case. You might say that the interest, in this case, is the egg itself.

    3. Aristotle, the Church Fathers, and Aquinas thought that objects had a fixed "just price". Suppose I wanted to buy 10 rations of bread for one day's wages, but I do not have the money available. A middle man could buy the bread for me, and even sell it to me, but according to the Medieval just price theory, he can't sell the bread for more than a day's wages, otherwise he'd be cheating me. Aquinas' precise words are, "Selling a good at a rate higher than THE JUST PRICE is a manifest case of usury because a good's value is not worth more because of a delay in payment."

      Over time economists, beginning with the School of Salamanca, realized that the "just price" of a good had a far greater range than previously thought because of the laws of supply and demand. It's reasonable to buy 10 rations of bread for a day's wages, take the bread to a nearby town, and sell the bread for 1.5 day's wages. However, there IS an upper limit to how much you can sell the bread for. If someone will starve without buying the bread, and you're the sole supplier, you can't lock him into a loan where he'll pay 10 day's wages over a period of time.

      It's not always easy to tell how much latitude you have in selling a good for a price that doesn't exceed the "just price". But it seems clear that merchants can charge higher prices for a good when payments are spread out over time. If the merchant charges a price for a good at a rate above the "just price" (whatever that may end up being), he has committed usury. But a small surcharge for payments made in installments is justified today because we now understand goods don't have a single fixed price. Selling a good above the "just price" is still usury and is still immoral. The difference today is we know the just price has an element of subjectivity to it (even if it's not completely subjective).

      I think this explanation justifies moderate interest rates for houses, cars, goods purchased with credit cards, and college tuition (so long as the interest rates do not exceed the "just price" of the goods being purchased). I'm not convinced lending money directly to a person and demanding interest upon repayment is justified, because money is the one thing that does not have subjective value. $10 is worth $10 as a matter of tautology. But I suspect Aquinas would agree with mild interest rates when banks act as middle men to buy goods if he had known what we know about the subjectivity of prices due to supply and demand.

    4. Aquinas' argument against usury (which is the best I know of) implicitly assumes that the just price of a promise to deliver a thing at a future date is equal to the just price of the thing itself. Unfortunately there is no good reason to assume this, and good reason to think otherwise. It isn't the notion of "just price" as such that's the issue. It's that the expectation of a good just isn't the same kind of thing as the good itself.

      I'm thinking here of ST II-II, q78, art2, reply to objection 7: "If a man wish to sell his goods at a higher price than that which is just, so that he may wait for the buyer to pay, it is manifestly a case of usury: because this waiting for the payment of the price has the character of a loan, so that whatever he demands beyond the just price in consideration of this delay, is like a price for a loan, which pertains to usury. In like manner if a buyer wishes to buy goods at a lower price than what is just, for the reason that he pays for the goods before they can be delivered, it is a sin of usury; because again this anticipated payment of money has the character of a loan, the price of which is the rebate on the just price of the goods sold." Aquinas is completely correct on the facts - the essence of a loan is to pay for a good some time before receiving it. It's the reason given why that's sinful which fails on analysis.

      I rather think the Church gave up on condemning usury because all the traditional arguments against it turned out, on examination, to be fallacious - just as the unanimous condemnation of Aristotle by the early Church Fathers was abandoned after Aquinas reconciled him with Augustine.

    5. Tim and TN and Neophyte, I have read a pretty good share of those resources you mention - that's the reason for my question. I get context, and I get that modern economic theory regards pricing issues differently than some ancient theories. As Michael indicates, St. Thomas's model against usury is one of principle rather than one about the difficulty of "locating the just amount of fees to charge" on top. St. Thomas is against ANY fee in excess of a return of capital (for mutuum loans, that is), and constructs a principled argument against it. The problem with the Church seeming to no longer follow that is that the Church DID follow St. Thomas for hundreds of years after him, as well as for 1200 years before him, i.e. since the beginning. So, either the Bible and the early Church were FAR MORE AMBIGUOUS AND OBSCURE about just what is wrong in usury than all the Doctors (who addressed the issue) from about the 700s to about the 1500s seemed to think (and they got important critical points wrong in interpreting the Bible and the Fathers), or all modern commentators are inappropriately dismissing the Doctors' explanations of principle.

      Note: I have read probably 6 or 7 modern attempts to thread the needle by saying both that "the Fathers were right...basically", and that "but today we can charge interest in a moral way". I am strongly inclined to think the needle can indeed be threaded, but I also think that all of these attempts have been rather less than adequate. Some badly so. And I have to admit that my inclination might be wrong, because when you look at the Fortescue Principle, it's unlikely, and the burden of proof is against the morality of interest-charging.

    6. Tony, do you agree with Zippy's condemnations of interest-bearing full recourse loans?

    7. Neo, I have agreed with MANY of the things Zippy said about usury, and have (repeatedly) suggested that there are additional elements of the issue that he failed to notice and address, and because of these, many loans he would condemn as usurious full recourse loans may not be morally wrong. As two examples of the issues (I think) he failed to note sufficiently: (1) money (and, especially, modern types of money such as bank notes and money-of-account) may not constitute the kind of thing that is properly understood to be "consumed" in its use, therefore may not be the subject of a "mutuum" loan that is the proper matter for the condemnation of usury. (2) The proper measure of the loan transaction is not wholly satisfied by measuring "the amount (of money, or other valuable good) lent", in that there are other factors involved in the transaction (e.g. risk): this implies that measuring the just amount to be paid back is also not wholly measured by the amount lent. Many complicating ramifications flow from not measuring the loan (event) by the amount lent.

      As an aside, I have read many reference to St. Thomas (and Aristotle) as saying they thought objects for sale had a fixed and determinate "just price"; I have also read at least one account that asserted that they DID NOT think that, rather that they believed what is much more like the modern account, that there is a range of fair prices that depend on the individual buyer's and seller's own determinations of their marginal benefit in making the transaction vs. not making the transaction, and that such a range of fair prices licitly varies according to other market changes as well. I have not been able to locate the truth of the matter with confidence. Do you have good textual references to decide which is more right?

    8. Another interesting economic rule coming from the Bible is the Jubilee Year, an Old Testament commandment that every 49 or 50 years all debts to all debtors must be forcibly pardoned and erased. This makes a lot of economic sense considering debts grow more than inflation due to interests or, even if there's no interest, due to fines or just due to life being in general hard to most, so a periodic reset would quite cleanly and nicely realign the economy.

    9. Tony, I'm afraid that neither of your examples is valid. Aquinas classifies money as a consumption good because it's used by being exchanged (and this is correct - that's the defining trait of money) so, as far as an individual owner is concerned, money is lost when it's used. That's just as true for highly abstract forms of money as it is for coined metal.

      As for risk, the main thing that separates a societas from a mutuum is that in the latter all the risk is borne by the borrower, while in the former the investor bears the risk. That implies that, if the cost of risk were combined with the real interest rate to give a nominal rate, the rate on a mutuum would be lower than that on a societas - and, if the traditional view were right, that a mutuum would have to carry a negative interest rate to be just. Hence risk can't justify a positive interest rate; it cuts the wrong way.

      At the same time, I strongly disagree with Zippy's analysis, but this comment box is too short to explain its defects.

      Alexander: The main problem with the jubilee year is that, in the year just before a jubilee, it would become impossible to get credit, because the creditors would know that any new debts couldn't be collected. Thus the approach of a jubilee would seriously disrupt the economy; it would not be a clean break. Cancelling debts is better done for individuals (as in bankruptcy law) than wholesale.

    10. Michael, I agree that money is alienated when used in most uses. There are other uses, though, (e.g. as security) that don't require alienation, and indeed St. Thomas even allows that there are such uses, though he distinguishes them as being not the "primary" use. But I believe there is a real question whether "alienation" serves the same functional place in the model as "consumption" does for mutuum loans of apples, flour, wine, etc. St. Thomas, on his part, merely asserts the alienation as if it were functionally equivalent to consumption, and does not elaborate.

      It is fundamentally impossible that the borrower takes ALL the risk in a mutuum loan: If the borrower cannot repay because he has been completely bankrupted, or even obliterated (say by a nuclear bomb), no repayment will be made and nothing can be done to force repayment. Thus in ALL mutua, the lender bears some risk.

      Furthermore, the notion of "full recourse" loans for a mutuum has been fundamentally attenuated by the fact that via bankruptcy courts, a borrower MAY be legally relieved of some or all of a debt, i.e. short-circuiting the "recourse to the person" assumption implying that the lender will get his repayment.

      I agree that this commbox is inadequate to address the issues in full.

      I also agree that the jubilee year would disrupt credit. Indeed, it would be even more severe than you suggest: for 5 to 15 years before the jubilee, long-term credit would completely dry up, meaning all larger, long-term productive activities that (normally) would need long-term loans could not take place. Meaning that the economy would be gravely stifled. It would be such a severe interference to normal modes of economic (and social) organization that I strongly wonder whether the jubilee was ACTUALLY put into practice, after Israel was a settled and going concern with most property held stably. My suspicion is that it did in fact take place once or twice, or maybe a handful of times, and after that it was more or less of a pretense with certain amounts of hand-waving and explanations of "oh, no, this wasn't a LOAN, it gifts separated in time!" I would like to hear if there is actual historical evidence that it was held and enforced regularly and forthrightly. And if so, what they did about the lack of credit leading up to the jubilee year.

    11. But my MAIN point, in reference to the OP, is that after centuries of the Church condemning usury, the Church went from first telling confessors to stop pushing hard against usury as, in principle, always wrong (in the 1840's) and eventually dropping the universal condemnation of interest in the 1917 Canon Law, not even mentioning usury in the 1983 CL, nor mentioning it in the Catechism. But the explanations by which this change is justified are anything but consistent with the old teaching or with each other,'s more than a bit of a mess in terms of the Fortescue Principle. What seems even more difficult to square with the principle is that nobody would imagine that the popes in 1840s or 1917 should be charged with playing loose with doctrine, like the modernists should be charged with doing.

    12. I think we all agree on the following points:

      1. The Church is infallible when issuing definitive judgments on faith and morals.

      2. The Church has made a definitive judgement of usury as a grave sin on par with pornography through ecumenical councils, the universal agreement of the Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the consistent papal denunciations, and the common opinion of the faithful for two millennia.

      3. Usury is defined as charging interest on a loan.

      4. The modern world is full of interest bearing loans, and while the Church hasn't approved them in any official document, the Magisterium doesn't seem to be scandalized by interest bearing loans.

      I think these four claims can be reconciled. The problem is, we shouldn't be the ones that have to piece together the Church's stance on interest bearing loans. Finance is complicated, and so is morality. Trying to decipher the Church's teachings on usury (or capital punishment for that matter) is a very Protestant way of practicing theology. As Catholics we are supposed to submit to the Magisterium, but we haven't been given a moral decree to submit to. And it makes it easy for Modernists to say, "See, the Church was wrong on usury and capital punishment. It's wrong on contraception and fornication and homosexuality and transgenderism as well. Get with the times, bigot!"

      I think the just price theory is a better explanation than the relativism of the Modernists. But a note in the Catechism would be much appreciated.

    13. Tony: It'd be impossible to get credit, yes, but on the other hand, people would know the availability of credit would shrink in predictable ways nearing a Jubilee year, and would plan accordingly on how to get by without credit. That's in fact part of the economic reset intended by a Jubilee Year: both offering and taking loans ground to a halt, and then are reborn from a fresh start. In fact, doing it individually is precisely the opposite of that, since that doesn't provide for the economic zeroing the policy intends.

      Also, if I remember right the Hebrews practiced this to the letter for at least 400 years, probably more, before being forced into the Babylonian exile, and their economy didn't really suffer for it.

      But my more general point is, if one believes those commandments are of divine origin and describe how and absolute, all-knowing God wants human society to operate, then the benefits they bring outweigh the downsides. This would be similar to how the absolutely preferred system of government God commands there is the Judging system, with Monarchy coming only at a very distant second place, complete with a barrage of warnings on how bad it is compared to Judging.

    14. "3. Usury is defined as charging interest on a loan."

      I think I would dispute that. The Fifth Lateran Council does define usury, as the practice of charging rent for the use of money, or any other consumption good, separate from the price for owning the good. (I'm paraphrasing, but not distorting, I trust.) I think the medieval canon lawyers were wrong to believe that this is what's happening in a mutuum - it's simply not the case that a lender continues to own the money he lent. But that's not a moral question, or a matter of faith, so it isn't covered by the Church's infallibility.

      Alexander, before the Babylonian exile the Hebrews were, by and large, not merchants, and it would surprise me if they had an economy that ran on credit. Hence the disruptions that followed on the Jubilee cancellation of debt affected only a small minority. We couldn't do it today without abandoning long-term credit for nearly everybody, which would cause a lot more suffering than the present state of affairs.

    15. "3. Usury is defined as charging interest on a loan."

      I think I would dispute that.

      Yeah, me too. It's considerably more nuanced than that, as Michael distinguishes. And like Micheal, I do think there are ways out of the thicket that allow for at least SOME modern interest-bearing loans. Probably for at least some that are also full recourse.

      Tony: It'd be impossible to get credit, yes, but on the other hand, people would know the availability of credit would shrink in predictable ways nearing a Jubilee year, and would plan accordingly on how to get by without credit.

      Yes, I imagine they would. This does not imply these methods wouldn't be a huge pain in the neck. Take, for instance, the practice of getting married and buying a house. Today, you can get a 30-year loan. But let's suppose that this is itself greatly exaggerated. Let's say it is much more reasonable to think that a house for a newly married couple should run no more than they can pay off in 10 years. Don't like 10 years? Let's say 5 years. Well, that STILL means that new couples looking to move out of Mom & Dad's house to start a family CAN'T GET CREDIT for it for 5 years before the jubilee. Let's see: are they supposed to (A) wait 5 years to get married? Or (B) get married but wait 5 years to start having kids? No, no, no: Christ tells us himself: "this is why a man leaves his father and mother to cleave to his wife." In effect, the jubilee forces the couple to depend utterly on the good will of others for several years just to have a place to live, before they can start to own their own place.

      This is just one stone in a whole mountain of issues.

      Also, if I remember right the Hebrews practiced this to the letter for at least 400 years, probably more, before being forced into the Babylonian exile,

      Between Moses and the exile there was around 800 years or so. Plenty of time for jubilee to be practiced for a while, and then NOT practiced for a while too.

    16. Michael: "We couldn't do it today without abandoning long-term credit for nearly everybody, which would cause a lot more suffering than the present state of affairs."

      Not necessarily. There are societies, such as current day China, that don't have as a cultural habit people taking credit. The custom there is for people to obsessively save money, usually about 50% of their income, living on the other 50%. This way, when it comes time for the big purchases, medical expenses, retirement etc., they have the money in hand, they don't depend on taking it as loans.

      The modern adoption of the Jubilee Year, set to happen, let's say, 50 years from today, would give a LOT of time for people to adjust from a lending mentality into a saving mentality. It'd be harder for those in societies that don't already practice heavy saving, yes, but then, they'd have about two generations to get there, which is plenty of time.

      Tony: Let's see: are they supposed to (A) wait 5 years to get married? Or (B) get married but wait 5 years to start having kids?

      It's one of alternatives (C) they save money to then marry and buy their house, or (D) they rent a house, and in parallel save money to then buy their own house.

      And, if they wanted to save some of money needed on this, they well might do as my parents and grandparents used to do it until about 30 years ago: they purchased the terrain and built their houses (plural) themselves.

      My paternal grandfather built four, all on weekends. His main one in one town, another in the neighbor town (which he gave to his son when he married), a third as a small ranch, and fourth as a beach one. His sister's husband, my great-uncle, did similar, except he built five. Both were lower middle class, and paid contractors as helpers, while doing the heavy lifting themselves on weekends. As for his other sister's husband, he was richer and had his main house fully made for him by 3rd party contractors, but he still went the path of buying the terrain and having the construction made there to his exact specifications, rather than purchasing an already existing one.

      As you see, these are all cultural adaptations. If society has moved in a way that makes taking loans so to speak "obligatory", that's still a social option, not a real need, and society could easily change again if its members so desired.

    17. Alexander, let's take a case that's much harder for you. It's routine, in modern business, for someone starting a new business to pay for the land, equipment, etc. the business needs by taking out a loan, secured by the business's assets. In the years just before a jubilee, such loans would not be made - which means that, in those years, no new businesses would be started.

      You may reply that new businesses could be funded by selling shares of their ownership to investors. And they could - but that hands over control of the business to the investors, which they might not even want (and certainly the founders won't.) Creditors have no right to direct what debtors do with the money lent them, and to most creditors that's actually an advantage.

      And imagine, if you can, a world in which banks had to own shares in businesses to put money into them. Bankers would be a lot more powerful than they are now.

      Actually, we don't have to imagine it. The zaibatsu system in Japan before WWII worked like that; with the result that four families controlled most of Japan's economy. While it functioned pretty well, I doubt that's a model you want to imitate.

    18. Michael: "It's routine, in modern business, for someone starting a new business to pay for the land, equipment, etc. the business needs by taking out a loan, secured by the business's assets."

      That routine would necessarily cease to be such. In a scenario with Jubilee Years, new businesses would need to be funded the way they always were before the modern loaning mindset settled in: by a) first making the money and then investing it into developing a new business; and/or b) starting a smaller business and funding the bigger one; and/or c) pooling a large enough amount from several partners to the new business.

      "While it functioned pretty well, I doubt that's a model you want to imitate."

      There are variations on that idea. If coupled with anti-usury laws, an investment bank would become a partner at n% of the business, and by extension earn n% of the profits (and lose n% if/when things went down) for as long as the investment lasted, with the original owner always having a right to pay more than those n% back to the bank, thus reacquiring control over their business until it were 100% back into their own hands.

      Such a system would strictly prevent the investment bank from being able to earn more than the "just price" of its investment. And when a Jubilee Year came the relationship wouldn't change, as there's no loan involved, nor interest, nor nothing of the sort, just a very legit partnership.

      The downside would be that at any point the investment bank might want to pull off if the business owner proved a bad manager causing the bank to lose money. This would be mostly fair, as long as it didn't cause their (former) partner, as well as the other stakeholders (employees, if any; the community in which the business operates; its clients with ongoing contracts etc.), to end up in penury. Hence, a good balance would be the legal framework granting a Distributist principle I refer to as "autonomic preservation", that is, the bank would be allowed to back off from the partnership up to the point it didn't leave stakeholders without the means of production needed for their economic autonomy.

      Combine all these elements and you have investors in investment banks able to fairly profit from the risk they take, business owners to fairly obtain and start operating the means of production their businesses require, and little risk of a zaibatsu-style concentration of economic power.

    19. The problem isn't that the investment bank will amass more wealth than is just. It's that the banks will control all new enterprises. No legal framework can mitigate that, because it's the whole point of the proposal. Those wishing to found new businesses in competition with existing firms would have to surrender control over their businesses to their investors.

      While this would be mostly harmless in an economy where capital was widely distributed among the people at large, what would happen in one where capital was held by a small minority? In effect, founders of new businesses would have to give control to ... the existing firms they'd be competing with. I trust you see why that would be a problem?

      No, on balance, disallowing long-term credit gives those who already have capital a stronger hand over those who don't. It would work against your stated goals, and therefore is a bad idea. Similarly, the lead-up to a jubilee year, if that were instituted, would "reset" the economy ... to favor the already wealthy at the expense of potential challengers. To be sure, the jubilee itself would work in debtors' favor, but there wouldn't be many debtors to take advantage of it, so that wouldn't matter.

    20. Tony: Let's see: are they supposed to (A) wait 5 years to get married? Or (B) get married but wait 5 years to start having kids?

      Alexander: It's one of alternatives (C) they save money to then marry and buy their house, or (D) they rent a house, and in parallel save money to then buy their own house.

      @ Alexander: so, your option C is effectively the same as my option A: they wait 5 years while saving, get married, and buy a house. I'm not saying this is impossible. I am suggesting that it is not a picture of a good social arrangement, in that the young man and young woman are otherwise ready to marry but must delay it for many years.

      And option D means MOST people rent for a while, which perpetuates other social difficulties. Not impossible ones, perhaps, but problems nonetheless. It requires also that rents be low enough so that they CAN save enough to buy their own eventually, which is not simply a matter of choice: With lower pressure from young people not being readily able to buy their own, rents will increase to equalize demand. A rental economy has as many downsides as a loan economy.

      And, if they wanted to save some of money needed on this, they well might do as my parents and grandparents used to do it until about 30 years ago: they purchased the terrain and built their houses (plural) themselves.

      Yes, my grandfather did the same. This works in a great big open country that is thinly populated. Not so well in a long-settled like in Italy or Japan, where there is simply no plausible space for a new house on fresh land that doesn't in effect displace some other establishment.

      Look, I am not too keen on the modern American model of buying a house on a 30-year loan, and I strongly advise young couples to shoot for a lesser term if nothing else. But home loans have been around for a good deal longer than 30 years, and the jubilee model will generate as many (or more) problems as it will solve in getting people into owning their home.

      As Michael's comments indicate, I think the jubilee can ONLY work (or rather, "work") in a situation where the "economy" is effectively primitive because most people make their own stuff and trade a very small portion of their productive output. (Which may have described Israel for 400 years after Moses.) But as a society develops, and as people specialize in their professions, and (consequently) as wealth grows toward the sheer possibility of some degree of leisure and the pursuit of arts, sciences, philosophy and theology, it ceases to be as fully adequate for the needs.

  8. I agree with that principle, Ed. As you have described it, if both conditions (straightforward understanding of p in several passages in primary sources AND widespread agreement of p over centuries in secondary sources interpreting those primary sources), then there is a very strong presumption in favor of p.
    With regards to the Hebrew Scriptures, Fortescue's principle means that the interpretations of scripture found in Second Temple Judaism, and the tannaitic and Amoraic periods are also important.
    Also, I think that Fortescue's principle as stated would allow that the discovery of new materials contemporary to the primary sources and near in proximity (the Dead Sea Scrolls for example on some aspects of New Testament Interpretation) would be relevant for interpretation.

  9. Ed,
    I have some good quotes on certain other topics that were pretty unanimously interpreted in certain ways until the last 100 years or so. This is one:
    "Here is a staggering truth: the ontology of the human person currently embraced by the most vocal Christian scholars working on the issue is a view that almost no Christians thought plausible only 100 years ago.... Here is another staggering truth: this certain-defeat-of-dualism narrative is demonstrably false" (Brandon Rickabaugh).

  10. Interesting post, the principle does seems pretty reasonable. Now, what to do with Genesis? From what i understand, the church fathers seem in most part to believe in a young earth and even in the world only having seven millenia before the Second Coming, having as basis that Psalm verse about a millenia being like day to God.

    It is true that the fathers did not care much about history when reading Genesis, but i'am pretty sure that the majority did believe in a young earth. Would the Varican I quote apply here as a theological question where one can't disagree with the fathers or we can defend that their centuries(or more) diference from the book, their complete diferent cultures and they having to rely on translations of Genesis* makes their opinion unrealible?

    Not that i think that this question is as important as the yec make it seem, the church fathers seemed to care about Genesis more in simbolic ways, like in finding images of Our Lord hiding in the text or things like theopanies.

    *i think that only St. Jerome could read hebrew

    1. Talmid,
      That is one issue that I immediately thought of. One could grant that a solar-sequential interpretation of Genesis 1 is more straight forward than any other interpretation and that it had a majority of early and medieval support. It therefore has strong presumption in its favor. However, there are several possible objections to a solar-sequential interpretation, including the parallels between days 1 and 4, days 2 and 5, 3 and 6; that "day" does not mean a 24 hour period in Genesis 2; the difficulty of explaining the light before the creation of the sun on day 4 (Augustine questioned whether days 1-3 could be 24 hour periods, for example); oddities in the numbering of days in Hebrew, etc. So the overwhelming geological evidence in favor of an older earth is not the only factor in the acceptance of a new interpretation; also included is that other biblical texts do not make a point of saying that the earth was created X years ago, and that this is not in any creedal statement so does not seem to be a huge issue for either the biblical writers or the Church.

    2. I agree that the literal meaning is full of holes even if we only look at the text and that this questions was not even important back them, my dificulties would be more:

      1: What to do with the fact that all or most of these that read Genesis did believe in a young earth?

      Using the principle, them the young earth reading of Genesis would have more evidence on its favor. Not that this one matter that much, for people like Inspiring Philosphy has some interesting arguments about Genesis actually being silent on the age of the Earth if we understand that the genealogies are not meant to be understood as completely literal(something obvious on Genesis 10). In fact, even on the Gospel of Matthew you got that thing about Our Lord genealogy being seperated in exactly three groups of 14 guys, so maybe the jews did not care.

      The real problem is 2: CAN we disagree with the fathers on the Earth age?

      On the "no" side there is the possibility that how to understand Genesis could be a theological question, where we can't disagree with they(as says the Vatican 1 quote). On the "yes" side there is the fact that they did not really care for that question, so maybe we can disagree with they. So i think that the bigger problem would be here, if we can or not disagree about the age of the planet.

    3. The Fathers all gave different ages of the Earth ranging from 4000 years to 10000. That is hardly Unanimous Consent. Also Unanimous Consent doesn't apply to the Fathers holding a common opinion. The teaching has to be handed down from Christ and no Church Father claims Christ told us the true age of the Earth.

      "The Unanimous Consent of the Fathers (unanimem consensum Patrum) refers to the morally unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers on certain doctrines as revealed by God and interpretations of Scripture as received by the universal Church."

      There is no such thing as a Catholic doctrine of a "Young Earth" revealed by God. It is absurd. First of all to a Timeless Infinite Being the concept of Old vs Young is meaningless. God has been around from eternity so technically even a 13 Billion Year Old Cosmos is "young" compared to him.

    4. Thanks, Son, i did look things up thanks for your tip and now i think i got the concept of Unanimous Consent. Probably very few passages pass the test, and yea, yec does not pass.

  11. Dr Feser
    Learned Evangelical biblical theologians, like Dr Gagnon whom you referenced, defend the authenticity of the Bible and they know the Church Fathers and Patristic texts quite well.

    Nevertheless, despite "Fortescue's Principle," they do not recognize the authority of the Pope or believe that the Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church. And Dr. Gagnon himself is a Presbyterian.

    1. I'd say that's because they're (consciously or otherwise, I don't intend to be uncharitable) cherrypicking the texts supporting what they already believe, and ignoring the ones that are inconvenient.
      It's intellectually impossible to read St Cyprian of Carthage (for example) and remain a Protestant. And if you read them all, and apply the "Fortescue Principle"... the case for the Catholic Church is even stronger.

  12. “These people merely take the modern mood, with much in it that is amiable and much that is anarchical and much that is merely dull and obvious, and then require any creed to be cut down to fit that mood. But the mood would exist even without the creed. They say they want a religion to be social, when they would be social without any religion. They say they want a religion to be practical, when they would be practical without any religion. They say they want a religion acceptable to science, when they would accept the science even if they did not accept the religion. They say they want a religion like this because they are like this already. They say they want it, when they mean that they could do without it.” --GK Chesterton

    1. This made me remember the secular interpretation thing that one sometime sees being done with ancient thinkers. Take something like secular buddhism, where all the supernatural stuff is reinterpreted as alegories* or the secular interpretations of something like the numerous platonic references to reincarnation. Come on, look at the context these guys lived and what their disciples understood, they were not naturalists.

      *ignoring the fact that if buddhism and naturalism are both true them becoming a mass murderer is actually pretty cool, for no rebirths means that death = end of suffering

    2. Leave it to Chesterton to make something pithy when in my own words they'd be ponderous. I suppose that's an example of a genius vs someone who is merely serviceable. I would have to write a whole rambling book, he'd just have to write a well constructed phrase.

  13. Many of the questions and comments here in the comment section are answered by Cardinal Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, which gives several litmus tests for whether a development is authentic or contradictory. Of course nuance is the nature of this beast, but the general categories are: Preservation of type; continuity of principles; assimilation; logical sequence; etc.

    In other words, we have ways of knowing that a baby squirrel does not become an alligator. One may object that a frog doesn’t look like a tadpole, but then obviously such a person knows that tadpoles turn into frogs by some means so this objection undoes itself.

    But real-life problems are complex and difficult! Yep.

  14. Wow, a courteous discussion of the OP, without any resorting to ad hominem attacks. I hold my breath in hope that it may continue.

    1. You haven't seen what I haven't let through comment moderation. But happily, I haven't had to delete too much lately.

    2. Well, you're doing a crackerjack job of the moderation, then, because this is really clean. Thanks.

    3. Thanks, Tony. A downside is that it sometimes takes me a while to get to approving comments. But we'll see if I can improve that.

    This is an excellent Protestant critique of quotations by the early Church Fathers used to prove that Matthew 16:18 establishes the founding of the Roman Catholic Church.

    1. I read the guy's interpretation of Tertullian and found myself rolling my eyes. The quote he cited as "definitely showing that Tertullian rejected the papacy" did anything but that. The whole essay in general reads like a giant cope, with the author twisting words to fit his preconceived notions, reading into the text what he wants even when it isn't there, etc.

    2. And that proves the point...

  16. The counterexample is geocentrism. The natural reading of the relevant passages is that of a central, unmoving earth, the Fathers and other learned Scriptural commentators clearly interpreted them that way, and for two centuries after Galileo's time the Church expressly forbade the teaching of a moving earth. Yet they were wrong. You may respond that Fortescue's principle doesn't claim absolute proof, but only a strong presumption. Fair enough, but I'm not convinced of even that.

    "It is, of course, possible that the natural interpretation of some particular text considered in isolation might not be the correct interpretation. But the probability that it is incorrect decreases dramatically if lots of other texts from the same general time and place say the same thing on a natural interpretation. To think otherwise, you’d have to believe that writers in general in that time and place just didn’t know how to express themselves clearly, and somehow all tended to misstate things in exactly the same way – which merely adds improbability to improbability."

    No, you'd just have to believe that writers in general in that particular time and place had a lot of the same biases and prejudices and unspoken assumptions which led them to interpret the text in the same way.

    1. "No, you'd just have to believe that writers in general in that particular time and place had a lot of the same biases and prejudices and unspoken assumptions which led them to interpret the text in the same way."

      Which, giving that we are supposing a case where the original text and the comments on it are from the same context, actually make the argument stronger. If the average writer from the context has these biases and pressuppositions, them the one that writed the original text likely has these too, meaning that the possibility of the traditional interpretation being correct is even stronger.

      This can be wrong, of course. A exemple is Kant transcendental idealism. That seemed to be understood by his fellow of the time by means of the two-worlds interpretation while Kant itself likely understood it as something like the two-aspect interpretation and was just a horrible writer.

      About geocentrism, the interesting part is that the Fortescue Principle likely does not apply, for the church fathers, let alone the medievals, where not from the same context of the Old Testament texts, except maybe some of the deuterocanonicals.

    2. Anon1,

      I think you don't seem to understand. Fortescue's Principle is about understanding the meaning of a text. Obviously, the correct meaning of a text is more likely to be determined by what people closer to the time the text was written thought it meant. This is because the authors would've shared those "biases and prejudices", those "unspoken assumptions" with the people surrounding the author and would therefore be less likely to communicate with those people in a way that they'd understand. If the author means to communicate P and knows that the biases of the people at the time will incline them to take the written sentence Q as P, then he will write Q.

      The alternative to this is believing we can discern the author's true intentions outside of the context of his era by using our modern understanding. This is... questionable, at best.

    3. Theological geocentrism, along with Divine Right of Kings, are both originally Protestant doctrines that have been misattributed to Catholicism. Unfortunately, syncretism between Catholicism and Protestantism (which tends to be unidirectional, that is, Protestantism -> Catholicism) has caused these doctrines to be accepted by some Catholics, which is why you see the Kolbe Center advocate for geocentrism and many politically-minded Catholics believing that some presidents are God's annointed.

    4. Theological geocentrism was originally a Protestant doctrine? That would have been news to Bellarmine himself!

    5. Yea, that one suprised me too. Maybe you,BTO, is talking about some particular type of geocentrism?

    6. But didn't Bellarmine say if ir could be proven the Earth moved around the Sun then the verses which seem to say otherwise would have to be interpreted differently? Thus it was hardly a doctrine to him now was it?

      I mean could Bellarmine say "should it be proven the Son of God was not of the same substance as the Father then the verses which indicate his divinity must be given a different meaning"? No he couldn't have said without being a heretic because the Deity of Christ is an infallible dogma as taught by Nicaea.

      Galileo technically was charged with being suspected of heresy.

      So yes we do fault the Protestants for Geocentracism. Justly so. The Church following the Augustinian Principle bowed to the science in 1824.

    7. Ya'Kov,

      Actually Bellarmine said that if it could be demonstrated that the Earth moves then we would simply have to say that we do not understand the Scripture (not that we should give it a different interpretation).

      In his letter to Foscarini (which you can find online) Bellarmine clearly states that holding to the movement of the earth would render Holy Scripture false. In fact, he even states there that it is a matter of Faith (!) just as Jacob having twelve children is a matter of Faith since it is dictated by the Holy Spirit in Scripture.

      It was most certainly a doctrine for him.

      So when Bellarmine talks about what would follow upon a demonstration of the motion of the Earth, I take him to be speaking counterfactually, just as we would be if we talked about what would follow upon God not existing. Bellarmine is simply saying that truth cannot contradict truth.

      And yes, Bellarmine could say the same thing about the Deity of Christ, mutatis mutandis. It's a subjunctive counterfactual. "If P would be the case, then Q would be the case". It says nothing about P actually being possible.

      So no, Geocentrism is not by any stretch a Protestant doctrine. It's a traditional Catholic doctrine espoused by the Church Fathers.

      1824 was the Church allowing people to believe what had already been condemned by the Holy Office as formally heretical and contrary to Scripture! Oops.

    8. Albinus

      Here is the quote if you wish to quibble over particulars.

      “I say that if a real proof be found that the sun is fixed and does not revolve round the earth, but the earth round the sun, then it will be necessary, very carefully, to proceed to the explanation of the passages of Scripture which appear to be contrary, and we should rather say that we have misunderstood these than pronounce that to be false which is demonstrated."

      So how would it not require a different interpretation?

      The Augustinian principle still holds.

      "When there is a conflict between a proven truth about nature and a particular reading of Scripture, an alternative reading of Scripture must be sought.”

      Or alternately.

      "“When there is an apparent conflict between a Scripture passage and an assertion about the natural world grounded on sense or reason, the literal reading of the Scripture passage should prevail as long as the latter assertion lacks demonstration.”

      So obviously this applies to the movement of the Earth and thus in principle it cannot be irreformable doctrine. Since this deals with natural science not revealed truth. Note the known natural scientific truth trumps a literal reading of scripture.

      >In his letter to Foscarini (which you can find online) Bellarmine clearly states that holding to the movement of the earth would render Holy Scripture false. In fact, he even states there that it is a matter of Faith (!) just as Jacob having twelve children is a matter of Faith since it is dictated by the Holy Spirit in Scripture.

      >It was most certainly a doctrine for him.

      Clearly not an infallible one. Also he is clearly wrong. Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange strong Benazian Thomist that he was, thought Bellermine's Congruism views on the relationship between Grace and Free Will was incorrect. Since when are all of Bellermine's opinions isolated from the rest of Tradition binding dogma? They are is not.

      So if he can be wrong about that(in the opinion of Thomists)....just saying.
      I mean the Molinists and the advocates of Congruism where often frantic that Thomists views on Grace and Free Will where just Calvinism with Rosary beads (a view I once held till I switched). But till the Church definitively rules the matter is open to opinion. Bellermine's frantic view not withstanding.

      Not every doctrinal theory is a binding dogma and all we got in the Galileo was a temporary prohibition to teach this view which at the time had no hard science to back it up. Science which would not come for centuries. Not long after Galileo's death it was permitted to teach heliocentricism as a theory. But you could not claim it was a fact till we had proof.

    9. part II

      Geocentracism was the interpretation Bellermine accepted because he had no counter factual evidence at the time but clearly he admitted it was possible.

      >And yes, Bellarmine could say the same thing about the Deity of Christ, mutatis mutandis.

      No sir clearly not. The Deity of Christ is not a matter of science. It is not a truth about the natural world known by natural science or reason per say. It can only be known by divine revelation. So the Augustinian principle cannot apply here and it is irreformable dogma unlike the movement of the Earth.

      Bellermine could not even speculate contrary to that view without committing heresy.

      >So no, Geocentrism is not by any stretch a Protestant doctrine.

      Everything is a Protestant doctrine since each Protestant is Pope unto himself.

      >It's a traditional Catholic doctrine espoused by the Church Fathers.

      Nope! Not according to the Augustinian principle. Sorry but no.

      >1824 was the Church allowing people to believe what had already been condemned by the Holy Office as formally heretical and contrary to Scripture! Oops

      Nope Galileo was pronounced "suspected of heresy". The movement of the Earth (or not) was a feature of the natural world and the default was to go with the literal reading till it could be shown scientifically otherwise. Opps! This sounds like Sungenis yer giving me not Catholicism.

      Cheer man. Peace be with you.

    10. "1824 was the Church allowing people to believe what had already been condemned by the Holy Office as formally heretical and contrary to Scripture! Oops."

      When did the Holy Office condemned it? If it is because the catholics back them did agree with it, that is not enough:

      Bellarmine was probably a very smart fellow, but what he thinked is not exactly dogma.

    11. Talmid

      Around 1822 some Priest petitioned the Holy Office to teach the Heliocentric view as a fact no just as a theory. After Galileo's death the Church relaxed the prohibition on teaching the heliocentric view. It was permitted to teach it as a possible theory of the movement of the Earth. Thus Albinus's claims it is "traditional doctrine" are clearly false. As per my analogy Bellermine could not entertain the Theory Jesus was not really the Incarnate Word of God like he could the Heliocentric view. Just like the Church couldn't allows Catholics to teach Arianism as a theory as that would still be heresy.

      He is just plain wrong.

      But it would take centuries for science to actually prove the Earth moved.

      Galileo didn't prove it. He was a ponce. He was over rated. He guessed correctly nothing more. Ask Michael Flynn sometime. None of his arguments for the movement of the Earth are scientifically valid.

      In 1824 the Holy Office said Catholics could teach the heliocentric view as a fact.

    12. Ya'kov and Talmid,

      The Holy Office condemned the motion of the earth during the Galileo affair. Yes, penally, Galileo was pronounced "suspect of heresy", but that's not the whole picture.

      Here is an excerpt from the sentencing of Galileo during his trial in 1633 (the document can be found online).

      Whereas you, Galileo[...]were in the year 1615 denounced to this Holy Office for holding as true the false doctrine taught by some that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable and that the Earth moves, and also with a diurnal motion[...] [for] following the position of Copernicus, which are contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scripture
      [...] by command of His Holiness and of the Most Eminent Lords Cardinals of this supreme and universal Inquisition, the two propositions of the stability of the Sun and the motion of the Earth were by the theological Qualifiers qualified as follows:

      The proposition that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from its place is absurd and false philosophically and formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scripture.

      The proposition that the Earth is not the center of the world and immovable but that it moves, and also with a diurnal motion, is equally absurd and false philosophically and theologically considered at least erroneous in faith.

      [..."false doctrine" ..."false opinion"]

      And in order that a doctrine so pernicious might be wholly rooted out and not insinuate itself further to the grave prejudice of Catholic truth, a decree was issued by the Holy Congregation of the Index prohibiting the books which treat of this doctrine and declaring the doctrine itself to be false and wholly contrary to the sacred and divine Scripture.

      [...] "false opinion of the motion of the Earth and the stability of the Sun" [...] "an opinion can in no wise be probable which has been declared and defined to be contrary to divine Scripture.


      [...]the declaration made by His Holiness and published by the Holy Congregation of the Index has been announced to you, wherein it is declared that the doctrine of the motion of the Earth and the stability of the Sun is contrary to the Holy Scriptures and therefore cannot be defended or held. [...] said opinion is contrary to Holy Scripture [...]


      Invoking, therefore, the most holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ and of His most glorious Mother, ever Virgin Mary, [...]

      We say, pronounce, sentence, and declare that you, the said Galileo, by reason of the matters adduced in trial, and by you confessed as above, have rendered yourself in the judgment of this Holy Office vehemently suspected of heresy, namely, of having believed and held the doctrine—which is false and contrary to the sacred and divine Scriptures—that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west and that the Earth moves and is not the center of the world; and that an opinion may be held and defended as probably after it has been declared and defined to be contrary to the Holy Scripture and that consequently you have incurred all the censures and penalties imposed and promulgated in the sacred canons and other constitutions, general and particular, against such delinquents. From which we are content that you be absolved, provided that, first, with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, you abjure, curse, and detest before us the aforesaid errors and heresies and every other error and heresy contrary to the Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church in the form to be prescribed by us for you.


      End quote.

      Pretty powerful. The Catholic apologists tend to not draw your attention to this (many of them have probably not read it) and instead just focus on Galileo being accused as "suspected of heresy". As you can see, it goes much deeper than that. I was shocked myself the first time I read it.

    13. Pretty weak. I am sorry Albinus but you remind me of the wee young Socialist undergrad waggs I would sometimes chat with back in college(this is not a jab at yer politics I dina about them) who would protest in conversations to me that there was “Freedom of Religion” in the Old Soviet Union because Article 52 of the Soviet Constitution granted freedom of religion.
      Except as I said elsewhere to you ye can hold the First Amendment next to Article 52 and pretend freedom of religion was the policy in the USSR but history tells a different story.

      Now were the Soviets ignoring their own Constitution when they repressed religion in their nation? No, rather they didn't interpret their Constitution according to the post enlightenment Classic Liberal principles of Thomas Pane like we do with the First Amendment. They interpreted it according to Marxist ideology and dialectical materialism philosophy and as a result they interpreted it to mean old superstitious religious throw backs are granted the right to go to Christmas and Easter services in a Russian Orthodox Church. But good luck letting Billy Graham have a crusade during the height of the cold war pre Gorbachov.

      All you did was quote a document and read yer own ideas into it. I read it with the mind of the Church and Tradition.

      > The Catholic apologists tend to not draw your attention to this (many of them have probably not read it) and instead just focus on Galileo being accused as "suspected of heresy".

      Obviously you where not around when Bob Sungenis a “Catholic” Apologist and a revert from Fundamentalist Reformed Christianity (who apparently didn’t leave his Protestant mindset behind when he returned) was pushing the idea Geocentracism was in fact a dogma. He quotes all these texts and Traditionalist and Conservative Catholics alike dealt with his novel claims.

      > As you can see, it goes much deeper than that. I was shocked myself the first time I read it.

      I am not, everything here is consistent with the Augustinian principle. Notice nowhere in this decree are the faithful instructed not to try to disprove Geocentracism? Bellermine didn’t think it was possible but we would have to wait centuries for the science to catch up. Meanwhile the facts on the ground are after Galileo and before 1824 the Church did lift restrictions. Galileo’s books where on the index (no big loss he was a pounce) but Copernicus’ books where taken off. It was permitted to teach Heliocentracism as a theory. Which if Galileo had done in the first place he would not have gotten in trouble. The Church by contrast STILL cannot ever allow Arianism to be taught as a Theory without heresy. So I stand by my claim based on the Norms of Catholic Tradition and teaching. Geocentracism is not a formal doctrine.

    14. @Albinus

      I agree that the language is pretty impressive, that is true. But i still have problems with your argument here, i still do not see this as proving that geocentrism was taught as dogma by the guys responsable for the trial. Maybe they were disposed to accept Gallileo reinterpretation of Scripture if he had evidence of his claims, Augustine would do it.

      Now, since i dont want to just parrot SoY argument i ask a diferent question: since when the trials of the inquisition were infallible? If they were, something like St. Joan of Arc corrupted trial would had falsified catholicism long before Gallileo was born. Even things done on concils could be fallible in certain cases, i think, imagine a mere trial...

    15. Talmid,

      Here is a concept. The Church is not infallible when it says Nestorious is a heretic. But She is infallible when at Ephesus or Chalcedon She and unambigously formally says Nestorianism(the actual doctrine that bears his name) is heresy.

      At the time Galileo made a claim that appeared to contradict Scripture and he had no proof to back it up. People who think that old pounce was a martyr for SCIENCE(good Heavens Miss Sakamoto yer beautiful and all that....) miss the fact his Science was awful.

      According to the Augustinian Principle "“When there is an apparent conflict between a Scripture passage and an assertion about the natural world grounded on sense or reason, the literal reading of the Scripture passage should prevail as long as the latter assertion lacks demonstration."

      Galileo didn't produce that and it would be centuries before Science could muster the proof.

      OTOH if one wishes to be a jerk(& I do). Einstein's relativity in a sense vindicates the Inquisition. Motion according to Special relativity depends on the viewpoint of the Observer. We live in an A-Centric Universe and if you models Special Relativity in an extreme way then the center of the Universe is whereever you are standing. So in that sense Earth is the "Center" and Galileo was "wrong". I read this analysis not from Sungenis(who abused this concept) but in my secular textbook on Physics from college.


      I still have that Textbook from college. I know the author by anecdote once told his class he was a Pantheist and thought God was a She. At least that is what my friend who took his class told me. I miss college.

      So Bob's yer uncle. In a sense Geocentracism could be "true".

      Mind you I do not endorse Bob Sungenis' wacko'ness.

      Cheers all.

    16. Ya'Kov,

      If that's the best you've got in response to what any unbiased observer can see is an extremely powerful piece of evidence that the Church Herself considered heliocentrism as heretical, contrary to Scripture, and gravely harmful to the Faith, then clearly you have no argument. I can sympathize with you not wanting to accept that this is (was) in fact the official position of the Church, the Pope, the Holy Office, and her highest Doctors and theologians, but that doesn't change the reality. I'm done.

    17. Talmid,

      I have never claimed that the Galileo affair (or more broadly the Church's position on heliocentrism) falsified the infallibility of the Church.

      However, I DO think it makes it less probable that Catholicism is true, just more on the grounds that I find it implausible that God would allow His Church to make such an egregious if God wanted His Church to be a laughing stock.

      Sure, maybe God has "reasons". That's fine. I don't think the Galileo affair is, on its own, a take down argument. But it's one part of the evidence to be taken into consideration when attempting to adjudicate whether Catholicism being true is more plausible than Catholicism being false.

    18. Albinus

      >If that's the best you've got in response to what any unbiased observer can see is an extremely powerful piece of evidence that the Church Herself considered heliocentrism as heretical, contrary to Scripture, and gravely harmful to the Faith, then clearly you have no argument.

      No it is still weak sauce IMHO. But suit yerself.

      Yer "unbiased" sir? Are you sure? I think not. Yer a skeptical polemicist looking for an argument to justify yer claim. So I think yer hardly unbias IMHO but again suit yerself.
      I don't judge you do you.

      But IMHO it clearly is NOT the Church Herself considering heliocentracism heretical. It is this court of the Inquisition who has made this tentative judgement at the time based on the information at the time.

      Or more precisely it considered Galileo's view of heliocentracism false and technically speaking, if we go by the modern science, it was clearly wrong.

      I mean Albinus if you want to be literalistic and fundamentalist(which I think is yer hidden unconscious presupposition here) then well Galileo was still wrong wasn't he? The Sun isn't fixed in the center of our solar system it orbits on the Galactic plain around the Supermassive Black Hole at the center of our Galaxy.

      We don't technically go around the sun but the Solar Mass point etc...

      If Fermi's Paradox suggests we are alone in the universe and are the only intelligent life observing it well then we really are the center now aren't we?

      > I can sympathize with you not wanting to accept that this is (was) in fact the official position of the Church, the Pope, the Holy Office, and her highest Doctors and theologians, but that doesn't change the reality. I'm done.

      Rather I understand you have a need to find fault here where none exists but I've been down this road before with Extremist Radtrads who have tried to claim with a straight face the Church teaches Geocentracism.

      Their "arguments" did not convince me and you have not convinced me either but I wish you well.


    19. I will comment on this and Talmud can weight in.

      >However, I DO think it makes it less probable that Catholicism is true, just more on the grounds that I find it implausible that God would allow His Church to make such an egregious if God wanted His Church to be a laughing stock.

      By that logic why would God ever allow sexually immoral men to become Pope(Alexander VI, Sergus III and John XI etc)? Why would God allow evil? etc etc...(see Brian Davies for the Problem of evil)

      Also a "laughing stock"? That is just the triumph of propaganda over truth. Galileo was still a pounce. His arguments for heliocentracism where godawful (no pun intended) and did not prove the Earth moved. If anything his own extremism set science back. Also by the standards of modern science Galileo was still wrong about most of the particulars.

      He wasn't a great scientist. He made a lucky guess on one or two details. Nothing more.

      Reminds me of Richard Dawkins' debate with John Lennox. I paraphrase from memory.

      Lennox. "Science has finally showed contrary to previous opinion held by philosophers and scientists the Cosmos had a beginning. Like the Book of Genesis tells us."

      Dawkins" "Well Genesis had a 50/50 chance of it being one or the other and just happened to guess correctly it seems."


      I normally don't give Dawkins credit because he is a philosophical incompetent like most New Atheists. But I will give him that.

      Of course I don't see how Galileo was better? Cheers again.

    20. @SoY

      I agree with you, the Augustinian Principle was likely working to the guys doing the judging. If Gallileo had actual evidence* them he would never had gotten in trouble. people would just be like "oh, that is cool, them we need to interpret Scripture better", like it happened way latter.


      Oh, sorry them, i understood you wrong. It is just that if the Church had actually infalible declared a wrong thing true them catholicism would be falsified, so the stakes are pretty high here.

      About the geocentrism thing making the Church less convincing as the Bride of Christ, i do agree with that. I see the affair having very limited weight on the scale, but i think i get your reasoning.

      Giving a similar example, i also see the Churh infallibility claim never being falsified, as far as i know, with so much time passing and so much crap happening as just incredible if it is just a human institution, but i would not say that this proves that catholicism is true.

      Also, as i said before, i do find weighing the probability of catholicism being true a bad idea if you are not metaphysically ready to accept it, if you don't think it is a real possibility. If i remember right, you do not agree with the catholic view of God as a person, so i don't see why discuss catholicism, really. The evidence required to make you give up your metaphysical view is likely pretty high, after all.

      *or if he was not a idiot, really. sure he had guts, but come on, the shape of the universe is not THAT important

    21. Talmid,

      ...i also see the Churh infallibility claim never being falsified, as far as i know, with so much time passing and so much crap happening as just incredible if it is just a human institution...

      It doesn't seem that incredible to me because the scope of infallibility is so narrowly defined. And, there is no motivation to those in power in the Church to contradict something infallibly defined as that would be ecclesiastical suicide.

      , i do find weighing the probability of catholicism being true a bad idea...if you don't think it is a real possibility. If i remember right, you do not agree with the catholic view of God as a person...

      No, I certainly think Catholicism being true is a real possibility. I can imagine evidence sufficient to convince me. It wouldn't even have to be super strong, just stronger than the difficulties associated with Catholicism. My metaphysical view is not something I take as certain but is only provisional based on the evidence. In any case, I would certainly say that personhood exists in God in a super-eminent way, since personhood is a perfection. But it's not as if you can necessarily deduce from that alone that God intervenes in the world or answers our prayers.

      Besides, I'm fully willing to grant whatever Catholic metaphysics you'd like. I think the difficulties still remain. I do not reject a Catholic (Aristotelian-Thomistic) metaphysics a priori. Not by any stretch. In fact I mostly still identify with that tradition.

    22. I disagree completely that there is no incentive to change dogma or infallible teaching, all you have to do is look at how the modern world attacks the Church for it. almost a century ago a lot of protestant churches just gave up on the traditional view on contraception and are today changing their views on a lot of other issues to try to adapt to modern society or because the average protestant, being born in this era, just see nothing wrong with the new ideas.

      The catholic church is attacked day and night by the beliefs it defends and has a lot of liberals inside it, specially on the elite, it is strange that it continues to stomp its foot on the ground and insist that nothing will change if it is purely human. But i don't see this argument as that strong to a non-christian, so i won't comment it further.

      About metaphysics, that is cool. I probably misunderstood you or mistaken you for someone else. In this case, feel free to investigate. Things are probablu more baseyan, them.

      A advice that i give is to not make your jorney only intellectual. Take a look at the saints lifes and see the ones you like, maybe try praying, do not stand close to toxic catholic groups and make sure you live a life at least close to what catholic morality requires*. The average internet skeptic would respond to that with rage, but the idea that we can easily come to accept something that the heart rejects is ridiculously naive. If you are already doing it, them you truly are smarter that i was!

      Anyway, good luck there!

      *Which, giving your metaphysics, you likely already do

    23. Talmid,

      Fair point. I guess I was thinking more in terms of dogmatic theology (as opposed to morals) when saying there was no incentive for the Church to change its teaching. Though even here there could be some. Like for ecumenical reasons (Cf. the modern church on "no salvation outside the Church" vs the Council of Florence).

      But I also had in mind a contradiction at the level of supreme authority. For example, an anathema issued by a Council that anathematizes a previous canon. There doesn't seem to be a huge incentive for the Church to do this though there could be incentive for the Church to water down her teaching and effectively neutralize it. (Again, see "no salvation outside the Church").

      On morals, it's not as clear as to what is truly infallible. For example, I can't think of any anathemas issued by a Council or any ex cathedra pronouncements targeted specifically at morality.

      Also, one could argue that the Church through Francis has caved on capital punishment. Possibly also on usury. Even if neither of those were pronounced with the highest level of authority. Which brings us back to my point that infallibility is so narrowly defined.

      (Not that I intend to open the cans of worms on capital punishment or usury here, but I just wanted to be clear on my meaning.)

      On your last paragraph: thanks. Yes, I do pray. Even the Rosary with my family and going to Mass. I think that it's at least a good opportunity to reorient ourselves to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful regardless of whether particular Catholic teachings are literally true. (And also for social reasons, like I want my children to be part of the group.) Maybe it's not the best solution, I don't know, but it's what seems best to me at the moment. And I do admire many of the saints.

      Anyway, I suppose at this point I've gotten way off of the OP, though I guess it was a semi-organic development? Ha!

      Thanks for your comments. Best wishes.

  17. That's the most protestant thing I've ever heard.

    1. This shows that my Protestant mind-control ray (pointed in Dr Feser's SoCal direction) is working!

      To be serious though, I don't see anything said that defies common sense or that I'd disagree with. Naturally we'll argue about the ultimate authority or source of authority, but the playing field described by Dr Feser is one that I can vouch for.

      FWIW from the nobody peanut gallery.

    2. Tanner,

      I talked about the "Protestantism" of Feser's position here.

    3. Tanner and Eric,

      Only if one is thinking in terms of a caricature of Catholicism (as I explained in response to Mister Geocon's comment above).

    4. Dr Feser, are you contending that you're just espousing or endorsing what I would call common sense, and my Protestant mind-control death ray is NOT playing a role here?

      (Cariacture or not, I have over the decades encountered various exponents of RCism who in their zeal would appear to say what you wrote is extremely Protestant. Just reporting the phenomenon, not making any sort of argument from it.)

      Again, what you your write and the principles cited seem completely common-sensical to me and agreeable, much like what the guys at Aquinas 101 say in their videos.

  18. Look, think about the early church fathers and the patristic texts this way: Conservative Protestant biblical scholars (unlike liberal biblical scholars like Bart Ehrman) do defend the authenticity of the Bible, the divinity of Christ, the Virgin birth and the Resurrection. They can read Latin, Greek, and Hebrew as well as German and French and other languages. But they remain unconvinced that the Roman Catholic Church and all its doctrines are true.

    William Lane Craig is not only a distinguished philosopher, he is also an esteemed biblical scholar. He took his doctorate in theology at the University of Munich. His book defending the Resurrection, "Assessing the Historicity of the Resurrection," is a 500 page book and cites sources in all the languages I mentioned above. But he has said on a number of occasions that he disagrees with Roman Catholic doctrine. So do all other conservative Protestant biblical scholars. Obviously, the evidence is open to interpretation.

    1. Obviously, the evidence is open to interpretation, but that doesn't mean there isn't a right answer at the end of the day. That the Catholic Church has some worthy intellectual opponents does not mean that the truth of Catholicism is suspect. It only means that Catholics ought to rise up to meet that challenge.

    2. Of course it is, but if Catholicism was true and an omnipotent being desired humans to believe this, it would not be. Therefore Catholicism is not true.

    3. If Catholicism was true and an omnipotent being desired all humans to believe this as being wholly indisputable, it would not disputed. Therefore, the omnipotent being doesn't desire humans believe this as being indisputable.

      The act of faith by design is different from the act of knowledge. If God wanted us to know that Catholicism is true, that would leave the act of faith out of the picture.

    4. Tony, just because a truth is disputed doesn't mean we can't know what the truth is.

      A truth can be indisputable by those purely acting with right reason. The fact that someone not acting with right reason disputes it doesn't change that fact.

      Knowledge and faith are not opposites of each other. We can know X, and from X have faith in Y.

      We can know that the Catholic church is the true church of Christ, and we can have faith in what the church teaches to be correct.

      Just as someone can KNOW that their physicist friend knows his physics and it honest, his friend can tell them some fact in physics that the person may not fully understand how or why, but he can have FAITH in what his physicist friend is telling him to be correct.

    5. Tony

      The problem is not that Catholicism is not wholly indisputible, but that it is eminantly and very reasonably disputable, as is evidenced by the fact that so many learned fellow Christians do in fact dispute and reject it, never mind other stripes of theists and philosophical atheists. Stop making silly excuses.

    6. Since William Lane Craig was mentioned, we can use his answer to a similar problem, for this objection is pretty much the same thing*:

      The Devil knows that catholicism is true but is still the Devil, so...

      *it is the same thing, look:
      if god them people believe p
      people believe not-p
      no god

    7. Sorry Tony, my comment should have been directed at FreeThinker.

      FreeThinker, being disputed doesn't imply that something is indisputable, if the disputing is irrational.

      There are people who dispute 1+1=2 or the principle of non-contradiction. So what? It doesn't following that it isn't indisputable. It follows that these people either are not understanding these correctly, or deliberately misinterpreting them.

    8. Tony, you say:

      "The act of faith by design is different from the act of knowledge. If God wanted us to know that Catholicism is true, that would leave the act of faith out of the picture."

      But if one can know that miracles have occurred and that these miracles can only have a divine cause and this this necessarily means divine approval of Catholicism, then it seems one can in principle know that Catholicism is true.

      What makes faith different from knowledge of the strict sort is not faith's (supposed) lower degree of certainty but rather that the act of faith depends on relying on the authority of another whereas knowledge of the strict sort does not.

      For example, if God reveals that He is Trinitarian (and if it can be known with certainty that God cannot deceive) then it can be known with certainty that God is Trinitarian. Though absolutely certain, this is still an act of faith because the only way you can know that God is trinitarian is because he reveals it. It's sort of like the difference between a demonstration "quia" and a demonstration "propter quid". Or the difference between what is per se nota and what is not.

      Which is to say, I don't think your distinguishing between act of faith and knowledge helps you here since the act of faith is fully compatible with the evidence overwhelmingly pointing to Catholicism's truth. Bringing up "act of faith" in order to explain why the evidence isn't stronger than it is doesn't make any sense.

    9. This sounds like a definition of "faith" that I have heard: "Faith" is believing that X is true because God has said X is true.

      I like that definition very much. (It of course brings up the question of what X is in a given situation, or if God has really said X, but the definition itself seems nice and tight to me.)

    10. What makes faith different from knowledge of the strict sort is not faith's (supposed) lower degree of certainty but rather that the act of faith depends on relying on the authority of another whereas knowledge of the strict sort does not.

      Albinus, perhaps we are using the terms differently. In my parlance, the act of faith does not arrive at lower degree of adherence to a proposition than the act of (proper) knowledge. In both cases, the adherence is unreserved. The cause (exteriorly) is different in that in faith we rely on the testimony of another, as you indicate. The cause (interiorly) is also different, in that with the act of faith, it is the will directing the intellect to assent, rather than the assent being elicited by the natural light of reason. (But according to the Fathers and Doctors, faith is more certain than knowledge, not less.)

      However, perhaps because we cannot observe and directly apprehend ALL of the causes of an event in, say a miracle, it remains possible for the intellect to say, of a miracle, that "I don't KNOW (in the proper, disctinct sense of know) that God and God alone caused this aside from natural causes." And in fact, this is what atheists and (habitual) agnostics say when they read accounts of such miracles - even when they don't explicitly doubt the bona fides of the account, that is. "Maybe I myself don't know how other (natural) causes might have brought this about, but that doesn't rule out there there MIGHT BE such causes."

      However implausible it might be to adhere to the possibility of there being "some other cause", in fact many people continue to so adhere as grounds for not accepting that God is behind the miracle. This points to the fact of the remaining space for the evidence to not bring everyone to say "I know it was God" and mean the proper, distinct sense of "know" in that. If the ONLY POSSIBLE conclusion, under the light of reason, was that God did it, then it would be the subject of scientific demonstration (in the A/T sense), and we would indeed know it; yet this is not what we say of such things.

      The Church herself suggests both that (a) God has, in generation after generation, gifted the Church (in her apostles and missionaries and confessor) with "adequate" evidence in the form of miracles, while (b) leaving room for individuals to doubt the evidence as not being definitive proof. He COULD have given overwhelming evidence, in every generation and indeed to every single individual, but Christianity (from the very beginning) has relied on the testimony of some to persuade others, not on each person receiving DIRECT confirmation from God. "Faith comes through hearing", not through "seeing". Since this is the model of all Christianity from the beginning, it would be odd to say of Catholicism specifically that it should have to submit to a higher standard than that.

    11. Albinus

      I seem to recall that several posts ago you were at the centre of a discussion about Jesus' Gospel claim that not all those then alive would have passed away before his second coming. I believe that you were less than convinced by the various suggestions which had been made to render this as anything other than falsified, with all that would imply.

      I am just curious, but how are you progressing with your research here, and have you found a way to be reconciled to Catholicism, or do you think that you are increasingky likely to reject it in the end?

    12. If it helps, the notion of faith as a form of belief originates, if I'm not mistaken, with Kant. Before that it was understood as a form of trust, not belief.

      Consider that in ancient times people didn't usually doubt any specific god existed. An Ancient Greek or Roman might not have any particular interest in the god worshipped by the Hebrews, but he didn't think that god to be non-existent. In fact, they practiced Interpretatio Graeca or Romana, which consisted in figuring out who the god of another people was in the Greek/Roman pantheon. Those who did pay attention to Hebrew matters thought it reasonably evident they worshipped Zeus/Jupiter, but that was it. Hence, the matter of believing the Hebrew (and, by extension, Christian) God to be real was a non-issue. For them he was, almost by definition, real. In fact, they thought of Jews and Christians as atheists, since *they* were the ones denying validity to the pagan gods.

      Hence, when the subject of faith came up, it was in the sense that, if you were to follow the Hebrew/Christian god, which usually came after you saw/hear/experienced something that convinced you he was the one to follow, you most definitely should, by extension, *trust* him, and thus trust all the things he said about all the stuff neither you nor anyone can personally experience. Which, evidently involves some level of belief, such as in that the pagan gods aren't real/are demons, that there will be a Judgment in the future, that some will be saved and others won't etc.

      But the gist of it that the belief itself isn't the important part, the important part is the trust, and in particular that you should trust that, if you persist in following him and doing what he told you to do, you'll be okay. That in the end he'll protect you and place you among the saved.

      "Faith as belief" is thus, at best, an oversimplification of the deeper notion of "faith as trust".

    13. Tony,

      Thanks. And I mostly agree. My understanding of the Catholic teaching on the act of faith is that God moves the will with his grace to accept the faith. In parallel with this, the intellect can see that there are sufficient motives for belief (miracles etc) and that there is nothing in the Faith that is contrary to reason.

      Maybe I was reading into you, but it seemed to me that you were originally saying something like "In providing us with evidence that Catholicism is true, God doesn't exceed a certain threshold because if He did it would take away the merit of faith."

      I think that line of thinking is absurd because something qualifying as faith instead of knowledge has nothing to do with the amount of evidence but rather with its acceptance being on another's testimony.

      In other words, to keep the merit of faith God needn't feel constrained to minimize the evidence. That was my point.

      The way I see it, taking away the merit of faith would involve something like God not giving us a Divine Revelation and instead just bestowing the Beatific Vision as soon as we come into existence. Which, of course, is precisely the reason (per Aquinas) that Christ never had Faith.

      If God has a reason for minimizing evidence (or for not providing greater evidence than he supposedly has), then it lies elsewhere. Perhaps so as to "permit" a sufficient number of people to be damned so as to glorify His Justice? (Yikes)

      Or perhaps the answer is simply that God, on account of his Transcendence, is not even the sort of being that "cares" about providing us with evidence?

      I'm much more inclined to the latter, for several reasons, but I suppose I shouldn't get too far off OP (which is a great article.)

    14. Freethinker,

      Thank you for asking but I don't want to get too far off OP, so will just say that I am now basically as I was several posts back. :-)

    15. Alexander Gieg,

      Yes, that is helpful. I do indeed think that at the bottom faith ultimately has to be understood as trust. Faith as belief follows upon faith as trust. And the "trust" part better captures the influence of the will.

    16. The (mis)interpretations of the text that says Jesus would return during the Apostles' lifetime is weak sauce. It is an old objection and has been answered.

      Also the complaint about God not giving "sufficient evidence" for belief is weak sauce IMHO because we already know God does not hold the disbelief of the invincibly ignorant against them as sin. It is possible for non believers by negation to be saved if they follow the extra ordinary Grace God gives. I think the evidence for the Catholic is reasonably sufficient for reasonable belief. That is all you need.

    17. Ya'Kov,

      It's not weak sauce at all because it calls Divine Inspiration of Scripture into question (See my comments on Feser's recent post on Lacordaire). Any unbiased observer can see this for themselves.

      Would you claim that people like William Lane Craig, or N.T. Wright are invincibly ignorant of the claims of Catholicism? If so, then that's a laughable claim and makes invincible ignorance meaningless. If not, then clearly invincible ignorance is not the only concern when discussing "sufficient evidence".

    18. @Albinus

      Sorry but IMHO it is weak sauce even if no gods exist.

      So let us take Matt 24:34.
      "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."

      My Haydock commentary says of this verse:

      This generation; i.e. the nation of the Jews shall not cease to exist, until all these things shall be accomplished: thus we see the nation of the Jews still continue, and will certainly continue to the end of the world. (Tirinus) — Then the cross, which has been a scandal to the Jew, and a stumbling-block to the Gentile, shall appear in the heavens, for the consolation of the good Christian. Hoc signum crucis erit in cœlo, cum Dominus ad judicandum venerit. — If it be to be understood of the destruction of Jerusalem, the sense may be, this race of men now living; if of the last day of judgment, this generation of the faithful, saith Theophylactus,[4] shall be continued: i.e. the Church of Christ, to the end of the world. (Witham) — This race, I tell you in very truth, shall not pass away till all this be finally accomplished in the ruin of Jerusalem, the most express figure of the destruction and end of the world. (Bible de Vence) — By generation, our Saviour does not mean the people that were in existence at that time, but the faithful of his Church; thus says the psalmist: this is the generation of them that seek the Lord. (Psalm xxiii, ver. 6.) (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxxvii.)"END QUOTE.

      I note elsewhere some Evangelical Protestant commentaries say the Greek Word translated "generation" here can also mean "race". So given that fact I think that clearly settles the matter.

      Either that or Jesus is just referring to the current generation of Jews seeing the destruction of the temple since the very next two verses Matt 24:36 "But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son,[a] but only the Father."

      So Jesus is telling us when the second coming is happening and then he says he doesn't know? That seems implausible the writer of NT fiction would make such a glaring mistake when making this all up? That would be very very incompetent.

      One has to give the writer of Matthew some sophistication even if one denies it's divine origin for "reasons".

    19. part II

      There are other problems as well. Liberal scholarship tells us Matthew was written after the Destruction of the Temple? So the NT fiction writer failed to notice Jesus didn't come after the destruction of the temple and thought his readers wouldn't notice it? That seems silly.

      If it was written before then well it is interesting how it fore told events but "generation" can still mean race and or if it means the current generation then Matt 24:36 is the qualifier Jesus makes showing he is not refering to the Second Coming per say but the destruction of the temple.

      So yeh weak sauce.
      I note yer argument on the other thread assumes the word means "generation" in the sense of oh let us say Generation X (me and mine) or Millennials or GenZ etc. That is the people living at the time. But I see no reason for that interpretation? Matt 24:34 is a clear paraphrase of Mark 9:1 which says "1 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with[a] power.”RSVCE

      Which is normally taken to mean the establishment of the Church. Also that verse proceeds the Transfiguration where the Apostles see Christ in glory.

      So it is hardly conclusive Jesus was actually saying He would come in the Apostles lifetime. It is clearly weak sauce even if there are no gods. "Coming soon" well to an Eternal Timeless Being 2 million years is soon.

      >Would you claim that people like William Lane Craig, or N.T. Wright are invincibly ignorant of the claims of Catholicism?

      Pope Pius IX said only God is fit to judge wither or not a particular individual is invincibly ignorant or not and we are forbidden to use the possibility someone is so predisposed as a pretense not to share the gospel.

      So you are asking a question I cannot in principle answer. You might as well ask me what Craig is thinking right this second. By the time I find and contact him he will be thinking about something else. So it is impossible.

      >If so, then that's a laughable claim and makes invincible ignorance meaningless.

      That is not a rational argument. That is just an ad hoc statement. We cannot know who is invincibly ignorant or not only God can know. How do you know what people are thinking? Are you telepathic? "Judge not etc
      > If not, then clearly invincible ignorance is not the only concern when discussing "sufficient evidence".

      Why? God is not going to condemn somebody who didn't know something threw no moral fault of his own?

      Sorry but Catholics are not wee fundamentalists whose beliefs are more suited to yer polemics. They are non-starters to us.


    20. As I said above near the beginning of this thread Catholics reject Luther's perspicuity error.

      I can get a Reformed Christian who cites a collection of verses that teaches eternal security and I can get a Baptist to agree with him but then I mention Infant Baptism and they are at each other. I can then drag in the Methodist and Lutheran who both will tell them Eternal Security is knackered.

      As a Catholic why believe any of their interpretation over the Church. It is just their fallible interpretation vs ours. Unless the Holy Spirit protects the Church.

      I am not interested in an Atheist prooftexting the Bible to claim Jesus said he would come in the Apostles lifetime. That appears not to be the case at all even if no gods exist.

  19. There are some further problems with yer argument.

    >Further, what do you make of Matt 16:27-28 which I quoted above? Note in particular the all caps part. Does not that imply a Final Judgment and its juxtaposition with v.28 imply that a non-preterist interpretation is not at all implausible?

    Again Haydock says "er. 27. Shall come in the glory. Jesus Christ wishing to shew his disciples the greatness of his glory at his future coming, reveals to them in this life as much as it was possible for them to comprehend, purposely to strengthen them against the scandal of his ignominious death. (St. Chrysostom)

    Ver. 28. Till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. Some expound this, as fulfilled at his transfiguration, which follows in the next chapter. Others understand it of the glory of Christ, and of his Church, after his resurrection and ascension, when he should be owned for Redeemer of the world: and this state of the Christian Church might be called the kingdom of Christ. (Witham) — This promise of a transitory view of his glory he makes, to prove that he should one day come in all the glory of his Father, to judge each man according to his works: not according to his mercy, or their faith, but according to their works. (St. Augustine, de verb. apos. serm. 35.) — Again, asks St. Augustine, how could our Saviour reward every one according to his works, if there were no free will? (lib. ii. chap. 4. 5. 8, de act. cum Fœlic. Manich.) (Bristow)

    As with Mark 9:1 text this proceeds the Transfiguration where some of the Apostles see Jesus in glory. Given the context in both Jesus is clearly referring to the Transfiguration not the Second Coming. The Transfiguration is a preview of the Final Glory which the Apostles clearly can see presently before an actual second coming.

    So again weak sauce.

  20. Finally yer problem is obvious Albinus.

    You write anachronistically, channeling yer inner Lutheran/skeptic hybrid view to a bunch of Catholics.

    >My argument is not that the Scriptural text must be able to be perfectly understood or that it *cannot* be understood in heretical ways but simply that as rational creatures we should expect God to structure the text in such a way that interpretations with dire ramifications are excluded from the text (for example, Jesus being a false prophet).

    A distinction without a difference. Also this presupposes Luther's perspicuity doctrine that the text is suppose to be clear for purposes of being read by the masses? Paul (2 Tim 3:16-17) tells us Scripture is a tool for the "Man of God"(ie a Priest or Prophet) used to instruct others. Not an instruction Manuel to be given to others to read plainly and interpret for themselves because as Peter warns Holy Writ can be twisted to one's own destruction.

    > If we do not take this approach, then it implies either that Divine Inspiration of Scripture is false or else that God doesn't really care all that much about ensuring we have proper Faith.

    That would be a meaningful criticism for the folly of Protestantism. If God meant to give us a book alone sans a Tradition and a Church that would be self-defeating. But he didn't give us that. He gave us a Church which is the Pillar and Ground of Truth (1 Tim 3:15).

    You also said of Matt 16:27"it's implausible that Jesus, knowing the future, would say "Some of you will be alive when X happens" and then X happens merely a few days later. "

    Why? That is ad hoc. So Jesus cannot use rhetorical flourish? He can't be overly dramatic? He is Jewish!!!! Just saying..... OTOH "taste death" does he mean sin? Because Apostles would sin later on.

    I believe you are personally sincere when you claim you are trying read Catholicism in an unbiased manner. I just think it is impossible for you to do so.

    Ever read the First Amendment side by side to Article 52 of the Soviet Constitution? A plain reading of both suggests citizens of those countries have freedom of religion and conscience. But then we ask why was there so much religious repression in the USSR? Well it is obvious! The First Amendment presupposes the enlightenment tradition of Thomas Pane and post enlightenment classic liberal thought. Article 52 of the USSR constitution presuppose the traditions of dialectical materialism. Long story short it merely means elderly throwbacks in the USSR can attend Eastern services at the pleasure of the Communist Party. Nothing more...

    You cannot read the Bible plainly apart from Tradition and God did not give us a plain Scripture alone. I will say this, yer arguments prove to me Protestantism is futile.

    1. Ya'Kov,

      Actually, the part about Jesus not knowing the day causes a whole 'nother problem. (since traditional Catholic theology holds that Jesus knows the day even as man) but in any case Jesus not knowing the day and hour is fully compatible with him knowing that it will take place within a certain broader time-frame.

      Main my point in the other thread, though, Ya'Kov, was NOT that there isn't some way to avoid Jesus being a false prophet but that Divine Inspiration of Scripture is called into question. (maybe you need to hit "load more" at the bottom to see those comments). I also specifically mentioned and dealt with the Transfiguration there. Positing the Church as the interpreter of Scripture doesn't help at all. In fact, it runs afoul of Fortescue's Principle. :-)

      On invincible ignorance: The point is that people like Craig know at least as much about the evidence for Catholicism as you do and are still unconvinced. Which suggests, as Anonymous pointed out above, that the evidence does not clearly point to Catholicism but is instead open to interpretation. Which suggests, the evidence isn't sufficient. Sure, maybe everyone like Craig is just blinded by their vices or is otherwise dishonest and malicious but that seems highly implausible. So what you're left with is an appeal to God as working in mysterious ways, that God for reasons known to himself just hasn't given him the grace to see it yet. Which, again, suggests that it isn't actually about the evidence.

      Cheers to you also.

    2. Albinus

      >Actually, the part about Jesus not knowing the day causes a whole 'nother problem.

      Only if you deny the traditional Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation and the two natures. Jesus has a human and divine nature united in one divine person. But the human intellect of Jesus is finite in knowledge not omniscient and Jesus only reveals to us the knowledge infused in his human intellect. The "day and the Hour" are not in his human intellect and thus not His to reveal or "know" via that intellect even though as God in the Divine Intellect He knows the day and the hour.

      But I know Catholic Tradition and I apply it. I don't confess the twin errors of scripture alone and perspicuity.

      So there cannot be a problem unless you wish to impose upon me a non-Catholic view of the Incarnation which I don't think you would do as it would be a foolish counter argument.

      >Positing the Church as the interpreter of Scripture doesn't help at all. In fact, it runs afoul of Fortescue's Principle. :-)

      Then Fortescue's principle has not been adequately explained in light of Luther's perspicuity heresy.

      >On invincible ignorance: The point is that people like Craig know at least as much about the evidence for Catholicism as you do and are still unconvinced.

      But we don't know or cannot know all his reasons for belief or disbelief in Catholicism & wither or not his reasons are merely erroneous views held in good faith or wither he is resisting truth out of sinful malice.

      We can only speculate on his inner life or argue with him to change his mind. We cannot know his heart.

      >Which suggests, the evidence isn't sufficient.

      I would say the evidence for belief in evolution is sufficient but there are ID critics and others who doubt it. So this objection is trivial.

      I don't see how you can test wither or not Craig truly knows the arguments for or against Catholicism. Unless you challenge him to believe and have it out with him. Like I am having it out with you(in a good natured way).


      >Which, again, suggests that it isn't actually about the evidence.

      Yeh I don't know why people deny the existence of God or evolution or think Positivism is a valid concept and don't get me started on Biden voters ;-). But I don't think that really prove the evidence of Catholicism isn't sufficient.

      Cheers and Blessings.

  21. But when you have a principle such as Papal authority which has also been plainly taught for centuries, what happens when there is an apparent conflict between papal authority and another "plain" teaching?

  22. im curious, what reinterpretations of christian sexuality are we talking about?
    sry for being out of the loop

  23. "There is another general issue here. These early Fathers are witnesses of the belief of their time."

    Imagine that the Southern Baptist Convention merged with the government. Then it persecuted all the other denominations and burned books. Thousands of years later historians are reading the church literature from 2020 and all of it agrees with Souther Baptist principles. This is because those fathers were witnesses of the belief of their time....right? Well, no, absolutely not. Once one realizes this, patristics mean a lot less.