Category Archives: Heresy

Physics allows for the soul


-by Tara Macisaac, The Epoch Times

“Henry P. Stapp is a theoretical physicist at the University of California–Berkeley who worked with some of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics. He does not seek to prove that the soul exists, but he does say that the existence of the soul fits within the laws of physics.

It is not true to say belief in the soul is unscientific, according to Stapp. Here the word “soul” refers to a personality independent of the brain or the rest of the human body that can survive beyond death. In his paper, “Compatibility of Contemporary Physical Theory With Personality Survival,” he wrote: “Strong doubts about personality survival based solely on the belief that postmortem survival is incompatible with the laws of physics are unfounded.”

He works with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics—more or less the interpretation used by some of the founders of quantum mechanics, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. Even Bohr and Heisenberg had some disagreements on how quantum mechanics works, and understandings of the theory since that time have also been diverse. Stapp’s paper on the Copenhagen interpretation has been influential. It was written in the 1970s and Heisenberg wrote an appendix for it.

Stapp noted of his own concepts: “There has been no hint in my previous descriptions (or conception) of this orthodox quantum mechanics of any notion of personality survival.”

Why Quantum Theory Could Hint at Life After Death

Stapp explains that the founders of quantum theory required scientists to essentially cut the world into two parts. Above the cut, classical mathematics could describe the physical processes empirically experienced. Below the cut, quantum mathematics describes a realm “which does not entail complete physical determinism.”

Of this realm below the cut, Stapp wrote: “One generally finds that the evolved state of the system below the cut cannot be matched to any conceivable classical description of the properties visible to observers.”

So how do scientists observe the invisible? They choose particular properties of the quantum system and set up apparatus to view their effects on the physical processes “above the cut.”

The key is the experimenter’s choice. When working with the quantum system, the observer’s choice has been shown to physically impact what manifests and can be observed above the cut.

Stapp cited Bohr’s analogy for this interaction between a scientist and his experiment results: “[It’s like] a blind man with a cane: when the cane is held loosely, the boundary between the person and the external world is the divide between hand and cane; but when held tightly the cane becomes part of the probing self: the person feels that he himself extends to the tip of the cane.”

The physical and mental are connected in a dynamic way. In terms of the relationship between mind and brain, it seems the observer can hold in place a chosen brain activity that would otherwise be fleeting. This is a choice similar to the choice a scientist makes when deciding which properties of the quantum system to study.

The quantum explanation of how the mind and brain can be separate or different, yet connected by the laws of physics “is a welcome revelation,” wrote Stapp. “It solves a problem that has plagued both science and philosophy for centuries—the imagined science-mandated need either to equate mind with brain, or to make the brain dynamically independent of the mind.”

Stapp said it is not contrary to the laws of physics that the personality of a dead person may attach itself to a living person, as in the case of so-called spirit possession. It wouldn’t require any basic change in orthodox theory, though it would “require a relaxing of the idea that physical and mental events occur only when paired together.”

Classical physical theory can only evade the problem, and classical physicists can only work to discredit intuition as a product of human confusion, said Stapp. Science should instead, he said, recognize “the physical effects of consciousness as a physical problem that needs to be answered in dynamical terms.”

How This Understanding Affects the Moral Fabric of Society

Furthermore, it is imperative for maintaining human morality to consider people as more than just machines of flesh and blood.

In another paper, titled “Attention, Intention, and Will in Quantum Physics,” Stapp wrote: “It has become now widely appreciated that assimilation by the general public of this ‘scientific’ view, according to which each human being is basically a mechanical robot, is likely to have a significant and corrosive impact on the moral fabric of society.”

He wrote of the “growing tendency of people to exonerate themselves by arguing that it is not ‘I’ who is at fault, but some mechanical process within: ‘my genes made me do it’; or ‘my high blood-sugar content made me do it.’ Recall the infamous ‘Twinkie Defense’ that got Dan White off with five years for murdering San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.”

Love,
Matthew

“Thou shalt not be a white supremacist” really isn’t about that


-by Karlo Broussard

“When you hear the sentiment “thou shalt not be a white supremacist”—it’ll be dressed up a bit, but that’s the meaning—you can rest assured that the moral absolute being expressed here isn’t really about white supremacy. Sometimes it amounts to a form of relativism called global or total, which claims there is no truth. (You’ll find some prominent examples of “thou shalt not be a white supremacist at that link.) Other times, it stops just short of claiming that affirming objective truth is itself a marker of white supremacy—not quite, but it’s pretty close.

Consider, for example, how many cultural institutions recently have been making decisions solely on the basis of some minority status. For example, Joe Biden explicitly announced that he would replace outgoing Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer with “the first black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court.” The National Football League recently announced that all thirty-two teams in the league must hire an offensive coach who is “a female or a member of an ethnic or racial minority” for the 2022 season. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences requires racial quotas to be met for a film to qualify for the Oscar for Best Picture. An associate professor at NYU wants “a more racially balanced pattern of citation” in academic papers (and he’s not the only one), and the curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art lost his job for allowing art by white men in his galleries.

The implication in all the above examples is that if an ethnic or racial minority is not given priority in decision-making, then the decision-maker is privileging white people and thus is a white supremacist. This version of the modern absolute “thou shalt not be a white supremacist” might not be tantamount to total relativism. However, it sure is a sister of it.

Consider how truth in each of the above examples is strapped in the back seat of the car—or better yet, thrown in the trunk—and race is put in the driver seat. To value something primarily based on race implies that the truth of the thing’s value is not of the utmost importance. It’s a form of practical relativism: living as if there’s no truth, even though you might not verbally or intellectually affirm that there’s no truth.

Take President Biden’s SCOTUS choice, for example. For Biden, the truth of a person’s legal scholarship was not a primary concern. Rather, race (and the person’s sex) was most important. Even though he may affirm that there’s truth concerning the quality of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s legal scholarship, there may as well be no truth about it, since that wasn’t the primary criterion by which he made his decision, although it should have been.

The same line of reasoning applies to the other examples. The truth of a person’s offensive coaching skills is sidelined (pun intended) in the place of his ethnicity. The spotlight is turned away from the truth of a person’s acting skills in favor of his race. A person’s ethnicity is more fitting for an academic journal than the truth of his scholarship. The truth of the quality of art is replaced by the color of the artist’s skin.

These examples might not entail a total rejection of objective truth, but they do strongly imply that there might as well be no truth at all, since it’s not worth considering as a criterion for determining a course of action when it should have been.

Now, let’s clarify what we are not saying. We’re not saying white people should be given preference for the above roles. Nor are we saying non-white people should be excluded.

We’re also not saying that we should never preference a race for a film role. If you’re telling the story of the horrors of slavery of African-Americans in America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, then it’s fitting to have African-Americans, or Africans, play the slaves, since they look most like the historical victims. To look elsewhere to fill these roles would be as unfitting as, say, having a white European male play Bruce Lee. Nor are we denying the fact that some institutions may be racially biased in their decision-making, or that some institutions may have inherited practices that have roots in racial prejudice.

What we are saying, however, is that the above attempts at racial equity show that the modern absolute “thou shalt not be a white supremacist” is not really concerned with truth absolutely, because it is not concerned with the truth about justice. Choosing to hire someone or accept some good based primarily on a person’s race is an injustice. It introduces a disorder between the distribution of a good and its proper cause.

St. Thomas Aquinas tackles this issue using the example of a professorship (Summa Theologiae II-II:63:1). He notes that “having sufficient knowledge” is the proper cause for being hired as a professor, not being named “Peter or Martin,” and not being rich or a relative. Hiring someone to a professorship based on these criteria would be an injustice, since the good of being a professor is not due to someone who has a particular name or how much wealth he has. The good of being a professor is due to having appropriate knowledge for such a position

Similarly, to distribute some good—whether it be a judgeship, a coaching position, an Oscar, a journalistic citation, or a coveted slot on the wall for art—based on race is an injustice. Race is not a proper cause of such goods. Such goods are due only to those whose skills are proportionate to the goods being distributed

Just imagine if President Biden had announced, “My nominee for the Supreme Court justice will be a white man.” Surely, the entire society would have been in an uproar (except for true misogynistic white supremacists). And everyone would be justified, because being a white man has nothing to do with being elected to hold a seat on the Supreme Court.

The same goes for the other examples listed above. Gary Garrels, the San Francisco curator who lost his job, is right: we can’t allow ourselves to fall into “reverse discrimination”—that’s to say, unjust discrimination.

The above decisions not only undermine the truth of justice with regard to distributing goods based on disproportionate causes, but also amount to an injustice particularly to non-white people. This method of selection basically says, “Non-white people are not able to be a proper cause of the distributed good in question.” How is that not racist?

In the end, the modern absolute “thou shalt not be a white supremacist” turns out to be the thing it claims to despise: white supremacy. And such absurdity is due to displacing truth from the driver’s seat when truth and truth alone should be determining the course of our actions.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Woke Relativism

“Truth cannot contradict truth.” -Aristotle’s First Principle of Non-contradiction, Metaphysics IV (Gamma) 3–6, especially 4

Quid est veritas? – Pontius Pilate to Jesus, Jn 18:38

“What is truth? Pilate was not alone in dismissing this question as unanswerable and irrelevant for his purposes. Today, too, in political argument and in discussion of the foundations of law, it is generally experienced as disturbing. Yet if man lives without truth, life passes him by; ultimately he surrenders the field to whoever is the strongest.”
—Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) from Faith and Politics

The anagram of “Quid est veritas?” is “Est vir qui adest” (“’It is the man’ before you.”).


-by Karlo Broussard

“For many years, relativism was the craze in apologetic circles. It was a primary target for apologists because it was part of the modern cultural landscape. “You have your truth, I have mine” was the catchphrase.

Some have suggested that relativism is long gone. David Brooks, a political commentator, argued a few years back for The New York Times that although American college campuses used to be “awash in moral relativism” as late as the 1980s, it is not so anymore. Rather, Brooks argues, “college campuses are today awash in moral judgment” and are a hotbed for what some have termed the “shame culture”—a culture in which unmerciful moral crusades are initiated against those who violate the absolute moral values of inclusion and tolerance (oxymoron). You can’t shame people and be a moral relativist at the same time, so it’s said.

This idea that relativism is dead seems to have gained traction even among some Christians, non-Catholic and Catholic alike.

But I’m not sure this is entirely true.

It’s obvious that most people today affirm certain moral absolutes—“thou shalt not be a white supremacist,” “thou shalt not be intolerant,” “thou shalt not be a judgmental, hateful bigot,” etc. On the surface, people who say these things don’t seem to be relativists of any sort, whether intellectual or moral. But when examined more closely, such moral absolutes turn out to be code for some form of relativism.

Consider, for example, “thou shalt not be a white supremacist.” In 2017, the president of Pamona College (Claremont, California), David Oxtoby, wrote an email to the entire campus in response to protesters who had shut down a speech intended to be given by Black Lives Matter critic Heather Mac Donald. In the e-mail, Oxtoby expressed his disapproval of the shutdown, arguing that it conflicted with the mission of Pamona College, which is “the discovery of truth” and “the collaborative development of knowledge.”

A group of students responded to the e-mail with an open letter, claiming that “the idea that there is a single truth. . . is a myth and white supremacy.” The letter, written by three self-identified black students and signed by at least thirty others, further stated that “historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity . . . as a means of silencing oppressed peoples.” The implication of these statements seems to be that there is no such thing as objective truth, which is what philosophers call global or total relativism, the most universal relativism of all.

Other institutions express this idea, too. For example, in 2021, California’s Instructional Quality Commission proposed for a mathematics curriculum framework the use of a document entitled “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction.” This manual gives a list of indicators of “white supremacy culture in the mathematics classroom,” one of which is a focus on “getting the right answer” and teaching math in a “linear fashion.” The manual goes on to state, “The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false,” concluding that “upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuates ‘objectivity.’” Apparently, for this California Commission, the truth that two plus two doesn’t equal five is false, and to claim otherwise is white supremacy. This is global relativism at its height.

Another example is the Minnesota Department of Inclusion and Community Engagement. On its website, the department provides a “list of characteristics of white supremacy culture.” Like the California Commission, it lists “objectivity” as an indicator of white culture and defines it as “the belief that there is such a thing as being objective.” If there’s no such thing as being objective, then there doesn’t seem to be any room for objective truth.

Now, someone might say “objectivity” here doesn’t mean objective truth, but only freedom from biased or cultural influences. Perhaps. But the language of “objectivity” seems to be coming from the same echo chambers as the California Commission, which clearly identified “objectivity” as pertaining to right and wrong answers.

Moreover, the document says other things that suggest it’s denying objective truth. Just a few lines below, under the same heading “Objectivity,” it identifies “white culture” as “requiring people to think in a linear fashion and ignoring or invalidating those who think in other ways.”

Well, to think in a linear fashion is to argue for true conclusions based on true premises. If such thinking is white supremacy, and thus morally repugnant, then seeking to know objective truth is morally repugnant. It’s hard to see how seeking objective truth would be morally repugnant unless you’re denying the existence of objective truth.

But let’s grant for argument’s sake that by “objectivity,” all the document means is freedom from biased or cultural influences. What would be the implication? If the implication is that what we think is true is mere cultural conditioning, then it amounts to a form of cultural relativism. If the implication is that we can’t ever be objective enough to know what objective truth is, then it at least amounts to a form of skepticism, which makes objective truth irrelevant, since we can never know it. That’s not relativism, but it’s definitely a sister!

So much for “thou shalt not be a white supremacist.” What about “thou shalt not be intolerant”?

Suffice it to say here that what many people mean by tolerance is the acceptance of everyone’s beliefs as equal and valid. Let that one sink in for a moment! If all beliefs are equal and valid, can there be such a thing as absolute truth? Of course not! There can be no objective truth if all beliefs are just as good as another. Therefore, when decoded, “thou shalt not be intolerant” is nothing more than masked relativism, and its global form at that.

Now, if by “tolerance” someone simply means that we ought not to coerce people into believing what we believe, then we have no qualms. But most of those who tout this moral absolute don’t have this kind of tolerance in mind. It’s more of the egalitarian tolerance mentioned above.

This sort of decoding also applies to the modern absolute of “thou shalt not be a judgmental, hateful bigot.” But for our purposes here, such a moral absolute is code for we must accept everyone’s lifestyle choices, as if they’re all equal and valid—a similar line of reasoning to the tolerance absolute above, just restricted to moral choices.

Now, lifestyle choices can be equally permissible only if there is no objective truth about such choices. But if there’s no objective truth about lifestyle choices, then there’s no such thing as objective morality. That’s moral relativism. And if the charge is meant just to demand approval of certain sinful sexual behaviors, then that’s not moral relativism—it’s just special pleading, wrapped in a cloak of moral relativism.

So relativism might be dead for some who jump on the bandwagon of modern moral absolutism. But for many, relativism is still alive, coded within the language of modern moral absolutes. We just need to decode such absolutes and expose them for the relativism they are.'”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Goldilocks, Antinomianism, & Legalism


-please click on the image for greater detail


-by Jimmy Akin

“Two terms that often appear in Protestant discussions of faith and works are legalism and antinomianism. The first is giving law too much emphasis, and the second is giving law too little emphasis.

The law in question is God’s law, and in the Bible, the most famous expression of God’s law, was given through Moses. It contains the Ten Commandments, as well as all the other regulations that were part of the Mosaic covenant.

This expression of God’s law became so prominent in Jewish thinking that it is referred to as “the Law of Moses” (Josh. 8:31; Luke 2:22; 1 Cor. 9:9; etc.) or even simply as “the Law” (Matt. 22:36; Luke 5:17; Rom. 2:12; etc.). The latter term also came to be applied to the first five books of the Bible—the Torah or Pentateuch—which contain this law. It is thus spoken of as “the Law,” in contrast to “the prophets,” which are the other major part of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17; Luke 16:16; Rom. 3:21; etc.).

Traditionally, Jewish theologians have divided the commandments of the law into two classes: those that require an action (“thou shalt”) and those that forbid an action (“thou shalt not”). However, Christian theologians have distinguished three types of commandments, based on the nature of what they require or forbid.

The first are moral commandments, which convey ethical principles (e.g., “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery”; Exod. 20:12-13). The second are ceremonial precepts that governed the ritual life of Israel (e.g., killing the Passover lamb or the distinction between clean and unclean foods; cf. Exod. 12; Lev. 11). The third type are often called the judicial or civil commands. These regulated the civil life of Israel. They include things like building codes (Deut. 22:8), penalties when one has committed theft (Lev. 6:5), and the establishment of safe zones where a person who has committed accidental homicide may flee (Num. 35:9-15).

Since the Law was given to the Jewish people, a key question for Christian theologians has been which of these commandments remain binding. One of the first controversies that faced the Church was whether Gentile converts to the Faith needed to be circumcised. The Church quickly determined that the answer was no (Acts 15; cf. Acts 10-11; Gal. 2). It was also established that Christians did not need to keep Jewish dietary laws or observe Jewish feast days (Col. 2:16; cf. Mark 7:19).

However, Jesus indicated that other commandments found in the Mosaic Law were binding, saying, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments,” and going on to explain, “You shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 19:17-19).

It thus appeared that certain commandments were binding on Christians, but others were not. Since the commandments that Jesus cited were moral in nature, whereas the ones Christians were not bound to observe were ceremonial, the solution adopted in Catholic circles was that it is God’s moral commandments that apply to all peoples.

Thus, Paul can speak of Gentiles who do not have the Law of Moses but who nevertheless “do by nature what the Law requires,” for “what the Law requires is written on their hearts” (Rom. 2:14-15). Since these moral commands are part of human nature, they constitute a “natural law” that all, including Christians, are bound to observe.

Christians are not bound to observe the ceremonial requirements of the Mosaic Law. These requirements pointed forward to the coming of Christ but have now been superseded (Col. 2:17). In their place, Christ has given us other ceremonies, such as baptism, which replaces circumcision and is thus “the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11-12). Christians are thus bound not by the Law of Moses, but by “the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2).

At the time of the Reformation, some Protestants did not like the concept of natural law, which they thought violated the principle of sola scriptura by encouraging us to look to human nature to figure out moral questions. However, other Protestants retained natural-law reasoning.

All Protestants have held that Christians are bound to observe God’s moral commandments, and most have agreed that Christians are not bound to observe the ceremonial and civil precepts of the Mosaic Law. But not all agree.

For example, Seventh-Day Adventists have held that Christians are obliged to observe certain laws traditionally considered ceremonial, such as the requirement to keep the Jewish Sabbath (i.e., Saturday).

Similarly, some Reformed (Calvinist) Protestants have advocated a view known as Christian Reconstructionism or Theonomy, which holds that the civil law of modern societies should be informed by the civil commandments of the Mosaic Law. This includes the use of Mosaic penalties for various crimes, and some authors have advocated the use of the death penalty for adultery, homosexuality, blasphemy, witchcraft, and belonging to a false religion.

In addition, there have been many disputes in Protestant circles about whether particular practices are compatible with God’s law—including ones mentioned in the Bible (e.g., drinking alcohol, dancing, gambling, wearing makeup) and others not mentioned (e.g., smoking).

When two groups of Protestants have different views of how God’s law should be applied, the group seen as requiring too much of Christians is likely to be accused of legalism, whereas the group seen as requiring too little is likely to be accused of antinomianism (from Greek roots meaning “against the law”).

In addition, these terms are applied to those who are seen as requiring too much or too little for salvation. Thus, those who think repentance from sin or baptism are required may be accused of teaching “works salvation” and legalism by those who do not, and the latter will be accused of antinomianism by those who do.”

Love,
Matthew

The Catholic Church, which Christ founded, determines the canon of the Bible


Devin Rose

“I have found that the canon of Scripture is the single most fruitful topic to discuss with Protestant friends. The canon is the set of books that make up the Bible—Scripture’s “table of contents”—and it is one of the most important issues between Catholics and Protestants for two reasons: first, because the Catholic and Protestant canons differ (Catholics have seventy-three books in their canon and Protestants have sixty-six); second, because Protestants believe in a doctrine called sola scriptura or “the Bible alone.”

Sola scriptura means that only the Bible is the sole, infallible rule of faith and the sole source of public revelation given by God to man. Under this doctrine, Scripture is the first, best, and ultimate depository for divine truth, as well as the only one that is without error, having been inspired by God himself, who cannot lie.

But for sola scriptura to be true, we must first be able to know which books, exactly, make up Scripture (i.e., the biblical canon). We must also know this biblical canon with a certainty strong enough to bind our consciences. After all, if we believe that God inspired books to be written such that they are without error but we don’t know which books those are, we are left in the unacceptable position of not knowing whether a given book is inspired (and therefore inerrant) or whether it is just another book written from the mind of a human being.

Martin Luther was not afraid to challenge the canon of Scripture. He relegated four New Testament books to an appendix, denying that they were divinely inspired. Though this alteration of the New Testament wasn’t adopted by the Protestant movements, his alteration of the Old Testament was, and by the end of the Reformation Protestantism had removed seven books (the deuterocanonicals) from the Old Testament canon.

This means if Protestantism is true, God allowed the early Church to put seven books in the Bible that didn’t belong there.

Why Protestants changed their canon

The Protestants rejected the books for several reasons, two of which we will focus on here. The first was a “problematic” passage in 2 Maccabees, and the second was their desire to go “back to the sources”—ad fontes—which to them meant using the same books that the Jews had decided upon.

2 Maccabees included a laudatory reference to prayers for the dead, a practice that the Catholic Church had encouraged for assisting the souls in purgatory. Recall Luther’s protest of the sale of indulgences to remove the temporal punishment due for already forgiven sins—punishment that must be paid before a soul would be fit to enter heaven. Luther and the Reformers rejected purgatory, so all that was connected with it also had to go: indulgences, prayers for the dead, and the communion of saints (which includes those both living and asleep in Christ).

The Reformers pointed out that these seven books were not included in the Jewish Hebrew Bible. For that reason, they argued, the books should not be accepted by Christians. Some Protestant apologists seek to bolster this claim by mentioning the theory that, around A.D. 90, a council of Jews at Jamnia explicitly rejected these books. (The consensus among modern scholars is that the Jews closed their canon closer to the end of the second century A.D.)

Others like to point out that some Church Fathers rejected one or more of these books. They strengthen this argument with the testimony of Josephus and Philo—two Jews from the first century—who also did not accept them.

Why the deuterocanonicals are inspired

Because Catholicism is true, the church Christ founded, and not the Jews, possessed the authority and divine guidance to discern the Old Testament canon.

A little historical background is needed here. The first Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, used during Jesus’ time, was called the Septuagint. It was an evolving set of books that was added to from the third century B.C. until the time of Christ. It remains the most ancient translation of the Old Testament that we have today and so is used to correct the errors that crept into the Hebrew (Masoretic) text, the oldest extant manuscripts of which date only from the ninth century.

The Septuagint was used extensively in the Near East by rabbis, and in the first century the apostles quoted prophecies from it in the books that became the New Testament. It was accepted as authoritative by the Jews of Alexandria and then by all Jews in Greek-speaking countries.

By the time of Christ, the Septuagint contained the deuterocanonical books. The majority of Old Testament quotes made by the New Testament authors come from the Septuagint. In fact, the early Church used the Septuagint as its primary Old Testament source until the fifth century. Its importance cannot be overstated.

Historical evidence also shows that there were multiple, conflicting Jewish canons at the time of Christ. Protestants claim that the Hebrew canon was closed at the time of Christ. But let’s stop and think about that: How could the Jews close their canon when they were still awaiting the advent of the new Elijah (John the Baptist) and the new Moses (Jesus)?

Recall that Malachi 4:5 tells us that God would send a new Elijah the prophet: “Behold I will send you Elias the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” We know from John 1:19-25 that the Jews were eagerly awaiting this new Elijah, as well as the new Moses.

Since many prophets in the Old Covenant had been inspired by God to write books, it only makes sense that the Jews would expect these two great prophets to write books as well. Closing the Hebrew canon before the prophets’ advent, then, would have been unthinkable.

Timothy Michael Law, in his new book When God Spoke Greek, has demonstrated that the Jews did not close their canon until the second century A.D. This fact renders the (alleged) Jewish council’s decision at Jamnia moot. It should be noted that most scholars today doubt that any such council ever took place.

But even if it did, would Jewish leaders possess the authority to make a decision binding upon the Christian Church? Those Jews who had accepted Christ had already become Christians. The remainder had no authority to decide anything about divine truth, as that authority had passed to those filled with the Holy Spirit (i.e., the apostles). The same goes for the opinions of Josephus and Philo. The Jews did not have the authority to decide the canon. The Church did.

Law also shows that the Greek Septuagint is a witness to an, at times, even more ancient textual stream of the Hebrew scriptures when compared with the Masoretic text. Ironically, this meant that the Reformers goofed when they relied upon the Masoretic text and the (truncated) Hebrew canon in their attempt to go “back to the original sources.” They should have used the Septuagint translation and included the seven deuterocanonical books! Thus the argument that Christians should base their Old Testament off of the Hebrew Bible rather than the Greek Septuagint is dubious.

Regarding Church Fathers doubting the deuterocanonical books, it is true that several rejected one or more of them or put them on a level lower than the rest of Scripture. But many, including those with doubts, quoted them as Scripture with no distinction from the rest of the Bible.

The broader fact is that the testimony of the Fathers was not unanimous on the Old Testament canon. Even Jerome, the great biblical scholar, early in his career favored the Hebrew canon but then changed his mind and submitted his opinion to the wisdom of the Church, accepting the deuterocanonicals as Scripture (ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf203.vi.xii.ii.xxvii.html).

Finally, it should be pointed out that Protestants seeking to defend their canon based on historical evidence—even if they are convinced they have found sufficient proof—run into an insurmountable problem: Nowhere in Scripture does it say that this is the way to know which books belong in the canon. Such a criterion for choosing the canon in fact contradicts sola scriptura, because it is an extra-biblical principle.

A consistent Protestant argument for selecting the canon of Scripture, then, must itself come from Scripture, which would create a circular argument. Unfortunately—but providentially—no such instructions from God exist. No table of contents is found in any biblical book. No scroll with a table of contents is considered inspired by Protestants (or by Catholics).

The self-authenticating canon

Most Protestant apologists realize that all their stalwart arguments have iron-clad rebuttals. And so many have abandoned those arguments and cling to their last remaining bastion: They claim that the inspired books authenticate themselves. This idea is so widely used that it is worthy of a lengthy explanation.

The self-authenticating canon means that a true Christian can read a given book and easily tell whether it is inspired by God or not. The Holy Spirit dwelling within the Christian would witness to the book’s inspiration. This theory did away with the need for trusting the corrupted early Church or for tracing the messy history of the canon’s development. Instead, you as a faithful Christian simply picked up your Bible, read the books, and listened for the inner witness of the Spirit telling you that the books were inspired by God.

Similarly, you could theoretically pick up a non-canonical epistle or Gospel from the first or second century, read it, and note the absence of the Spirit’s confirmation of its inspiration. As Calvin described it:

It is utterly vain, then, to pretend that the power of judging Scripture so lies with the church and that its certainty depends upon churchly assent. Thus, while the church receives and gives its seal of approval to Scripture, it does not thereby render authentic what is otherwise doubtful or controversial. . . . As to their question—How can we be assured that this has sprung from God unless we have recourse to the decree of the church?—it is as if someone asked: Whence will we learn to distinguish light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter? Indeed, Scripture exhibits fully as clear evidence of its own truth as white and black things do of their color, or sweet and bitter things do of their taste. . . . those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and Scripture indeed is self-authenticated (Institutes of the Christian Religion, I, vii.1, 2, 5).

Calvin makes two claims here. First, that the Church does not give authority to Scripture but rather Scripture has authority by the fact that God inspired it; second, that a Christian can know the canon from the Holy Spirit’s testimony within him, not by trusting a decision of the Church.

Calvin’s first claim has never been contested by the Catholic Church, the Orthodox churches, or any Christian. It is a straw man: The Church teaches that it received inspired texts from God (through human authors) and that God guided it in discerning which among many texts were truly inspired. The Church is thus the servant of written revelation and not its master.

Calvin’s second claim has become the common answer from Protestants who can’t concede that a corrupt Church selected the canon. There’s an element of truth to it: Surely the Holy Spirit does witness to our souls when we read the Bible. But Calvin sets up a false dichotomy here: Either the Church, by discerning the canon, imagines itself in authority over Scripture, or the canon is self-evident to any Christian. Calvin replaces the belief that God guided the Church in selecting the canon with the belief that God guides me or you in selecting it. He forces his readers to choose between these options, but in fact they are both false.

History contradicts Calvin’s claim

There is no principled reason, in Scripture or elsewhere, to believe that God would guide me or you in this discernment but not the Church. Moreover, Calvin’s subjective criterion for discerning the canon is surely impractical and unrealistic. How would a person seeking truth but not yet indwelt by the Holy Spirit know which books to read to find truth? What about a new Christian who had not learned to distinguish the inner voice of the Spirit from his own? At what point after his conversion would a Christian be considered ready to help define the canon? If two Christians disagreed, whose inner judgment would be used to arbitrate their dispute and identify the real canon?

Another problem with Calvin’s claim is that the facts of history contradict it. As we have seen, the selection of the canon was not an easy, debate-free process that ended with the close of written revelation in the early second century. Rather, the canon emerged slowly through a laborious process, with differing canons being proposed by different Church Fathers during these centuries.

If the canon were obvious and self-evident, the Holy Spirit would have led each of them to the same canon. Yet even these faithful, Spirit-filled men, so close to the time of the apostles and Christ himself, proposed different canons. It was not until almost A.D. 400 that the canon was settled, and it contained the seventy-three books of the Catholic Bible. When, more than 1,100 years later, the Reformers changed the canon by rejecting the seven deuterocanonical books (and Luther unsuccessfully tried to discard others), it was another example of intelligent and well-meaning Christians disagreeing about the “self-authenticated” canon.

The books of the canon are not obvious merely from reading them. Martin Luther should prove that to Protestants, since he was the founder of the Protestant Reformation, and yet he tried to jettison four books from the New Testament.

The Church discerns the Old Testament

This means that neither the New Testament nor the Old Testament is self-authenticating. And so we come full circle back to the question of the deuterocanonicals. Weighing this evidence, any open Protestant should be able to admit that the only thing keeping him back from considering these books as inspired by God is the Protestant tradition that rejected them. Is that tradition from God or from men?

The Church’s careful discernment of the canon settled on including the deuterocanonical books. And, with some occasional doubts, the books were consistently included in the canon from the 300s through the 1400s. In fact, the ecumenical council of Florence in the mid-1400s reaffirmed their inclusion in the Old Testament canon. This was long before Martin Luther and the first Protestants and lends further evidence that the Church accepted these books as inspired and did not “add” them to the canon in response to the Reformation, as many Protestants claim.

If Protestantism is true, then for more than a thousand years all of Christianity used an Old Testament that contained seven fully disposable, possibly deceptive books that God did not inspire. He did, however, allow the early Church to designate these books as Sacred Scripture and derive false teachings such as purgatory from their contents. Eventually, God’s chosen Reformer, Martin Luther, was able to straighten out this tragic error, even though his similar abridgment of the New Testament was a mistake.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Sola Scriptura 2


-by Jimmy Akin

“One of the stickiest points in Catholic-Protestant debates is what is meant by the Protestant term sola scriptura, or “Scripture alone.”

Protestant apologists assert the doctrine but are often reluctant to offer a precise definition of it. Most will say that it does not mean certain things and will make a general stab at saying what it does mean, but I do not know of a Protestant apologist who has offered a complete and precise definition.

Thus, Catholic apologists are left in the unenviable position of critiquing an imprecise assertion. They commonly critique what they perceive most Protestants to mean by sola scriptura, which brings on nigh-inevitable charges of misrepresenting “the Protestant position.”

The problem is that there is no single Protestant position on sola scriptura. The term is used different ways, the details of which vary. But there seem to be two major ways the idea is interpreted.

Two Definitions

At times the phrase is taken to mean that we must be able to derive from Scripture alone all of the theological truths that God wished to reveal to mankind—and even all of the religious practices in which Christians should engage (i.e., that Scripture is “sufficient for faith and practice”).

Other times a more restricted claim is made: that we can derive from Scripture alone all of the truths that are needed for salvation.

When the doctrine of sola scriptura is not under cross-examination, though, a more robust understanding is employed, and Evangelical Christians are trained to ask reflexively for a biblical basis whenever any theological idea or religious practice is proposed. Thus when Evangelicals talk with Catholics, they identify a particular Catholic doctrine or practice they disapprove of and then ask, “Where’s that in the Bible?” For example, an Evangelical may select a topic such as purgatory (a theological belief) or praying to saints (a practice) and demand a biblical basis for it.

Necessary for Salvation

Note that, strictly speaking, neither of these appears to involve a truth that is necessary for salvation: God exists; God is a Trinity; Jesus is God the Son; Jesus died on a cross for our sins; and we need to repent, believe, and be baptized to be saved—in other words, truths connected directly with the gospel.

Purgatory is not connected with the gospel in that way. Neither is praying to saints. A Protestant asking for biblical bases for these would seem to be using a more expansive understanding of sola scriptura than just the idea that Scripture states or implies all truths necessary for salvation. He seems to be expecting Scripture to contain bases for all theological truths and religious practices.

If the same individual retreats, when sola scriptura is being questioned, to the more modest understanding of it, then it is fair for the Catholic to note the inconsistency and ask him to choose one understanding of the doctrine and stick with it.

If he chooses the more expansive understanding, then he endorses a position that is much more difficult to defend. As many works of Catholic apologetics have shown, nobody in the pages of Scripture itself operated on the principle that all belief and practice should be derivable from Scripture alone. It’s hard to find passages that could be construed as teaching this idea, and it is easy to find passages that indicate the contrary, such as Paul’s exhortation to his readers to heed all of the traditions they had received, whether they were written in his letters or conveyed orally (2 Thess. 2:15).

If, though, the Evangelical chooses the more modest interpretation of sola scriptura, then he will have to let go of many common Protestant objections to Catholicism. If only truths necessary for salvation have to be given a biblical basis, then he would not be able to object to purgatory or praying to saints or Marian doctrines or other Catholic beliefs and practices that have been criticized since the Reformation. He might still disagree with Catholics on these, but he would not be able to fault a Catholic for not providing a biblical basis for them.

Infallible Teachings

An Evangelical might say, “Wait a minute: If a Catholic denies the existence of purgatory, which the Church has taught infallibly, that would be a grave sin. If he did it with adequate knowledge and consent, his grave sin would become mortal, and he would lose his salvation. Thus, for a Catholic, things such as purgatory are necessary for salvation.”

It’s true that a Catholic would commit a mortal sin under the circumstances just named, but that does not make purgatory a truth “needed” for salvation. If you have mere moments to evangelize a dying man, there are certain things that he needs to be told for the sake of his salvation: the truths mentioned above about God, Jesus, and how to respond to God’s offer of salvation.

Purgatory is not one of those. Purgatory may be an imminent reality for the dying man, but it is not necessary for him to know about it in order to accept God’s offer of salvation. If he has a while to live, he should be taught the fullness of the faith, including purgatory. But if he is in danger of death, he most needs the core facts of the gospel.

Ya Gotta Have Faith

Purgatory and similar beliefs are related to salvation in a different way: The reason it would be sinful to deny them is that it involves a rejection of the virtue of faith. God has taught them and empowered the Church to propose them infallibly to the faithful. Because that has happened, our faith in the working of God demands that we give assent to them. To refuse to do so, with adequate knowledge and consent, is to reject faith in God. One might still believe in the existence of God—and any number of other individual teachings of the faith—but the virtue of faith that unites us to God is extinguished if we reject his authority to teach us in the manner of his choosing.

A parallel can be proposed in an Evangelical context: The Bible clearly teaches many things that are not directly required for salvation. For example, it teaches the existence of angels. The reality of angels is not itself something that you need to know to get into heaven.

If you have a short time to evangelize a dying man who, by some fluke, has never heard of angels, you don’t have to take time away from telling him about God to make sure he knows about angels. Angels may be about to escort him to the pearly gates, but he doesn’t need to know about them in advance. The existence of angels is thus something that Scripture teaches, but it is not a truth necessary for salvation.

But suppose the dying man knows that the Bible teaches the existence of angels but refuses to believe it. Suppose he also knows that God is the author of the Bible and that God teaches the existence of angels, yet he still refuses to believe it. Does that man have faith in God? He may acknowledge God’s existence, he may want to be saved by God, but classical Protestant theologians would not say that a man who acknowledges God’s existence but refuses to accept what he knows to be God’s word has faith in God—certainly not saving faith.

Modest Interpretation

The question for the Evangelical thus remains whether such beliefs require a biblical basis. If they do require one, then we arrive back at a hard-to-defend interpretation of sola scriptura whereby everything we are expected to believe must have a biblical basis.

But what if the Evangelical really were willing to stick with the more modest interpretation? Suppose he said, “Okay, I don’t agree with Catholics on teachings such as purgatory, but I recognize that they are not necessary for salvation, so I won’t demand that Catholics produce a biblical basis for them.”

He might also say, “In Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8, Paul makes it clear that a person can sin by violating his conscience even when he mistakenly believes he is required by God to do or not do something. Paul even speaks as if such individuals may not be saved. So I can acknowledge that a person who believes the Catholic Church has been authorized to teach infallibly for God would sin and jeopardize his salvation if he rejected the ‘infallible’ teachings of the Church, even if they are not necessary in themselves for salvation.

“I just want to maintain,” he might conclude, “that there must be a biblical basis for every teaching that is in itself necessary for salvation. That’s all I mean when I talk about sola scriptura. What would a Catholic say about that?”

A Catholic Perspective

I don’t know any Evangelicals who are this startlingly consistent in advocating the modest interpretation of sola scriptura.

A Catholic would not use the term sola scriptura—which is historically contentious and highly prone to misunderstanding—but he certainly can agree that the basic facts of the gospel and how to respond to it can be derived from Scripture. A Catholic would add that these facts need to be understood in the light of Sacred Tradition and that the Church’s intervention may be necessary to make sure they are understood correctly.

Indeed, Peter warns that “no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” (2 Pet. 1:21) and says of Paul’s writings that “there are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures” (3:16). But despite these qualifications, the basic facts necessary for salvation can be given a biblical basis.

It would be interesting to know how far such an Evangelical would be willing to rethink matters: If he’s willing to confine sola scriptura to just the basic facts needed for salvation, then what principles are to be employed in determining the rest of his theology?

The Catholic Church has a few he might want to consider.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Refuting relativism & the argument from disagreement


-please click on the image for greater detail

Relativists will deny there is objective truth simply because people do not agree. There are three ways to refute this.


-by Karlo Broussard

“First, consider how the argument reasons from the fact of disagreement to the conclusion that there is no absolute truth. Such an inference can be made only if the following premise is true: if there were such a thing as absolute truth, then there would be no disagreement. Here’s how the reasoning looks in the form of a syllogism:

Premise One: If there were such a thing as absolute truth, then there would be universal agreement (the hidden premise in the argument stated above).

Premise Two: There is no universal agreement (the fact of experience appealed to).

Conclusion: Therefore, there is no such thing as absolute truth (the relativistic claim).

The problem here is that the relativist must assume the truth of premise one if he wishes the argument to go through. But, of course, assuming that premise one is true falsifies the relativism that is being argued for, since the relativist would be affirming at least one absolute truth—namely, universal agreement is a criterion for absolute truth. Therefore, the argument is self-defeating.

There’s a second way in which the argument is self-defeating. Notice that disagreement is that which the relativist thinks grounds the claim that there’s no absolute truth. Well, if disagreement entails no absolute truth, then our disagreement with the claim of relativism necessarily makes relativism a belief that’s not absolutely true.

Now, perhaps the relativist doesn’t care that his relativism is not absolutely true. Maybe he’s okay with saying that it’s true only for him. But if that’s the case, then his claim becomes trivial. There are three ways to see this.

One: He’d only be expressing a mere preference or taste, something we don’t need to be concerned about.

Two: For the relativist to say that the statement “there is no absolute truth” is relatively true for him means that it happens to be a member of his personal set of beliefs and opinions. By saying his belief that relativism is true is among his personal beliefs and opinions, the relativist is implying such a belief is not among the personal beliefs and opinions of non-relativists. It amounts to saying, “I don’t myself believe in absolute truth, but other people do.” But this doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. Thus, it’s trivial.

Three: His appeal to disagreement as an argument for relativism would be futile. Why argue for something if you don’t think it describes the way the world really is? Why try to convince the non-relativist that there’s no absolute truth when the idea that there’s no absolute truth is true only for the relativist?

There’s one more thing to say in response to someone who says he doesn’t care that relativism is not absolutely true since it’s true only for him. Recall what we said above: To say relativism is true only for me amounts to saying, “I don’t myself believe in absolute truth, but other people do.” Well, this means relativism is essentially recognition of the fact that people disagree.

But disagreement is what the relativist appeals to in the argument from disagreement. Remember, the argument states, “There’s no absolute truth because people disagree.” If relativism is essentially an affirmation of the fact that people disagree, and the argument from disagreement appeals to disagreement among people to justify relativism, then the argument from disagreement is tantamount to saying, “People have different beliefs because people have different beliefs.” That’s called circular reasoning, which is not kosher logic.

A third way in which the argument from disagreement is self-defeating is that some disagreements necessarily presuppose an absolute truth. Consider, for example, the belief that God exists and the belief that God doesn’t exist. Given that these are two contradictory beliefs (A and not A), we know at least one truth: that one is true and the other is false. God either does or doesn’t exist. We might not know which is true or false. But we know that one is true and the other is false—unless someone wants to say it’s both true and false, at the same time and in the same respect, that God exists.

For most, however, denying the principle of non-contradiction (something can’t be both true and false at the same time and in the same respect) is too high a price to pay. Moreover, the principle can’t be denied in thought (even if people can voice words denying it), since to say it’s false necessarily presupposes that something can’t be true and false at the same time and in the same respect.

So the next time someone tries to convince you that disagreement about absolute truth means there can be no absolute truth, you can offer a simple syllogism of your own:

Premise One: Any argument that’s self-defeating is a bad argument.

Premise Two: The argument from disagreement is a self-defeating argument.

Conclusion: Therefore, the argument from disagreement is a bad argument.

There’s nothing relative about that!”

Love,
Matthew

Islam, Asharites, Asharitism, Averroes, Averrosim, Ockham, Ockhamism, Nominalism, Luther

“Two divergent and opposing schools of Islamic thought emerge. One school is called the Mutazilites, whom we will call the reason party. On other side are the traditionalists, known as the Asharites, (Asharitism, aka voluntarism, occasionalism) whom we will call the irrational party.

The reason party embraces Greek philosophy and attempts to interpret Islamic revelation to fit reason. It proposes that truth can be known not only through the Quran, but also through human reason and through the consideration of creation. The irrational party sees Greek philosophy as un-Islamic. Its members insist that Allah is so transcendent that he can be known only through Islamic revelation, not reason, nor can reason uncover any truths about God.

The divide between the two parties will not only affect the future of Islamic countries, but also ultimately culminate in a full-blown revolt against reality in Western civilization…

Separating God’s will [what He chooses to do] from his nature [reason/will/wisdom/intellect/Who He is] effectively separates God’s will from His wisdom and his wisdom from creation. If God creates however He wishes, then our ability to know God through his creation is snuffed out. Everything would depend on the unknowable God’s disposition, and the only way to know that is through positive revelation. (Ed. i.e. Natural Law does not exist and God cannot be known by anything except what He strictly reveals. Creation is not indicative of God. God is just, but does not need to be just in His actions. God is good, but God does not need to be good because of His nature. God is just, but does not need to be just. God’s will takes on an extreme position even in violation of Who He is, His nature.  There is no philosophy.  Name your favorite Muslim philosopher?)

…The Asharites oppose [the concept of free will]. People, like the rest of creation, live under divine compulsion. God’s will makes it so. To suggest something like free will would be tantamount to claiming there is something beyond the power of the Almighty. Seeing human freedom as somehow in competition with the sovereignty of the Creator will return during the Protestant Reformation…

…Since things in the Asharite view have no nature, however, one cannot apprehend them in this way; they are only momentary assemblages of atoms…When pushed to its logical limits, God’s unbounded will destroys the possibility of science. Since God’s will does not necessarily reflect His nature, creation reflects only what an unbounded will wished to produce. A thing’s nature, therefore, has no innate power. Everything is immediately caused by God. This means that the combination of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen makes water, not because of the nature of the atoms, but because Allah wills it to be water. Allah could equally will that the combination of these same elements make a donkey or an orange…

…The laws of nature, therefore, are not effects produced by the overall structure and properties of things in the universe, but merely a pattern of occurrences that God habitually causes through his arbitrary will for reasons known only to Himself. Therefore, God [can have the appearance of] two kinds of will: one that is regular and orderly [only because He seems to will things to be in a consistent way, but could change His will at any moment] and [consequentially] another that [could seem] unpredictable [Ed. water is no longer water it at any moment because God changed His mind]. But if everything around us is a projection of God’s changeable will, then the only the thing that really exists, despite appearances, is God…

If God is the only reality; then accepting the reality of the world becomes a form of polytheism—placing the real in competition with the only real.

The expansion of Islam brought new Greek philosophical works to the Latin West, along with Islamic commentaries on them. The reception of these texts, and especially Aristotelian philosophy, was so positive that many teachers and students began to embrace uncritically everything Aristotle taught. True, Aristotle was a great philosopher, but he made some serious errors (pantheism, the uncreated eternal cosmos, all humans share one intellect, etc.). The confusion was compounded by Islamic commentators, such as Averroes, who followed Aristotle in some of these errors.

Double Truth

One way academics try to avoid the contradiction of embracing both Aristotle and the Faith is to adopt something called double truth (also known as hard Averroism). Double truth separates faith and reason into exclusive spheres of knowledge [Ed. i.e. faith OR reason, NOT fides et ratio, faith AND reason.  Truth is truth.  First principle of non-contradiction, truth CANNOT contradict truth, otherwise it is an oxymoron.  There is no such thing as truth.  God is truth.  Wherever and however truth is or can be found, God is there and revealed in it.  There is no distinction between truth and God, since God is the source and author of all truth.]

God’s Unconstrained Will

Like the irrational party (the Asharites) in Islam, according to the Franciscan [fraticelli, or] spirituals, God’s will is separated from His nature. God wills the good not because He is goodness itself, but rather because He decided to will it at that moment. Later, God could call the same thing evil…The spirituals argued that God could will that property is a good in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, He chose to will the opposite. Ockham’s thought has striking implications: There is no immutable law or reason. Every order is simply the result of God’s absolute will and can be disrupted or reconstituted at any moment. Indeed, Ockham even maintains that God can change the past if He so desires.

According to this view, reality is not a coherent whole, like a fabric comprising individual threads woven into a tapestry. Reality is more like a computer screen made up of individual pixels. Each pixel is isolated, disconnected, and separate from the others and can change to produce different pictures on the screen.

Therefore, God’s establishment of creatures “according to their kind” is turned into a kind of fiction. Universals (like animality and triangularity, 2+2=4, etc.) are nothing more than names (Latin, nomina) we assign to things for the purpose of comprehending the incomprehensible multitude of radically individual things. For Ockham, “divine omnipotence, properly speaking, thus entails radical individualism.” By rejecting the God of reason and replacing Him with a god of will, Ockham—like the Asharites—essentially rules out the possibility of knowing God through the things He has made.

Divine Deception

There is a deeper and more insidious implication to Ockham’s view. It opens the possibility that God can deceive us: Divine omnipotence, however, raises a fundamental epistemological problem, since it opens up the possibility of divine deception. . . . For Ockham, the idea of divine omnipotence thus means that human beings can never be certain that any of the impressions they have correspond to an actual object. Heaven and earth separated by God’s unbounded will make it impossible for us to know what anything truly is.

Ockhamism (also known as nominalism) separates God’s wisdom [intellect/reason] from His will [what He chooses to do] and God from creation, and it dissolves our ability to know what is real. [And opens up the potential for God to deceive.]

Revelation Alone

If God cannot be known through the things He has made, the only way to know the unbounded will of God is through revelation. The outward appearance of things becomes meaningless…Ultimately, our union with God is reduced to faith alone…

…Christ’s humanity isn’t denied, but it is seen as arbitrary. When Ockham’s nominalism is pushed to its logical conclusion, there can be no real (ontological) union with Christ, since Christ’s humanity is merely something God willed with no rhyme or reason. He could have assumed a nature that is radically different from our own. And if Christ’s humanity is arbitrary, then the apostolic witness of what was seen, heard, and touched is meaningless. Christ’s body—the Church—is nothing more than a name we give to a collection of similar individuals. [Ed. there is also the implication that while God could have saved in any infinite number of ways, His choosing to become human has direct implication to the redemption of humanity, and, ergo, any alternative suggests less or a lesser redemption of the children of Adam & Eve and Original Sin.]

The Moral Law

The natural law and the moral law fare no better under Ockham’s nominalism:

“The moral law is in this sense radically subordinated to divine choice and completely beyond the capacity of human reason to deduce or explain. . . . God is indifferent to what He chooses and the moral law is good not in itself but only because He wills it. Moreover, there is no limits set upon what God can demand. He can even command that we hate Him. Whatever His commandments may be, they are by definition good and binding. God’s will alone determines what is good and evil, and He is not even bound by His own previous determinations.” [Ed. a fickle, capricious god, just like the pagan gods of myth]

Lastly, nominalism ushers in a new form of radical individualism that mirrors the nominalist god. “For Ockham, individual human beings have no natural end, and there is no natural law such as Aquinas had imagined to govern human actions. Man, like God is free . . . opening up this realm of freedom not merely by rejecting the scholastic notion of final causes, but also by rejecting the application of efficient causality to men. For Ockham, man in principle is thus free from nature itself.”

The outworking of nominalism will ultimately come to full bloom in the twenty-first century with the insanity of feminism, bodily autonomy, abortion, and gender identity. The god of Ockham is the antithesis of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. The Incarnation proposes that God’s wisdom permeates all and that His love binds us as one body.

[The Holy Roman Emperor, Louis IV, Ludwig of Bavaria, 1282-1347, begins a revolt against the papacy going so far as to invade Rome on January 11, 1328, crowning himself emperor as the pope had refused to do so.]

The pope fights back against Ludwig with the spiritual sword. He issues a series of excommunications extending down to kindred with Ludwig to the fourth degree. He also places whole countries under the interdict.

“Germany alone was under interdict for twenty years, which means that no public religious service could be held, no sacrament could be publicly administered, no bell could sound. The more often these ecclesiastical penalties were imposed, the blunter grew the spiritual sword. Inevitably the religion and morality of the people suffered serious damage, their sense of the Church was weakened, their sympathies were alienated from Christ’s vicar.

The pope also fills all the vacant sees and offices in Germany with his supporters, which fosters more alienation between the German people and the Church.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther (1483–1546) is the son of a peasant miner. His father hopes young Martin will become a lawyer, but his direction changes at Erfurt, where he decides to study philosophy and religion. Erfurt is considered a via moderna stronghold. It is here that Luther encounters nominalism and, to a lesser extent, scholasticism…

“In his [Luther’s] later words, “Life is as evil among us as among the papists, thus we do not argue about life but about doctrine. Whereas Wycliff and Hus attacked the immoral lifestyle of the papacy, I challenge primarily its doctrine.” Or to put it in a more startling way, even if the ecclesiastical hierarchy had been exhibiting exemplary holiness at the time, Luther would, it seems, have attacked its doctrine as fundamentally flawed.”

Luther holds to the same nominalist distinction God’s unbounded absolute [unrestrained/capricious/fickle] will and His habitual ordained [according to His nature, reflecting Who God is] will.  [Ed. I know the stove is hot, but I, somehow, choose to touch it anyway.]

Scripture Alone

It’s not surprising that Luther’s nominalism, as with the Islamic Asharites before him, leads to restricting our knowledge of God to positive revelation alone. This is the first step toward displacing the perpetual witness of Christ’s visible body, the Church, as the norm through which we have fellowship with God (1 John 1:1–2) with the Bible. No longer do we hear Christ by hearing the apostolic Church; we are to hear Christ solely through inspired Scripture.

HUMAN INTEGRITY AND VALUE
Faith Alone and the Body-Soul Dichotomy

Luther’s view of God also affects his view of how sinners are made acceptable to God in justification:

“The Church’s classical doctrine of grace, presents grace as a movement of divine love, entering into the penitent soul and delivering it from the bonds of its fallen nature. In contrast with this, grace in Ockhamism remains strictly transcendent. Justification consists solely in a relatio externa, a new relationship of mercy between man and God established by God’s love, by means of which all man’s religious and moral acts, though remaining in themselves human and natural, are accounted as salvific acts in the eyes of the merciful God. . . . Human activity only becomes salvific by God’s recognition of it, by his act of acceptance. But this recognition and validation does not in any way affect man’s spiritual powers. It remains completely outside him and is simply seen and assented to by faith.”

According to nominalism, God gives us the Law to follow and subsequently approves whatever moral acts we do, as He pleases—a view that comes close to denying the doctrine of original sin. Luther’s struggle to earn salvation, the nominalist way, pushes him to the point of hating God. His crisis is alleviated by reading Romans 3:28: “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.” The law, Luther thinks, is given to drive us to our knees in despair, knowing we can never be righteous in the sight of God and that when we place our faith in Christ, He declares or treats us as if we were righteous.

Catholicism teaches, however, that the just God wills justly. Therefore, when God calls an individual just, the individual is changed and becomes just because God’s Word is a creative Word (Rom. 5:18–19; 1 John 3:1). [Ed. That is the great distinction between the divine and the human word.  The divine word creates reality in being spoken.] Being united to Christ in justification, as a branch to a vine, we bear good fruit—that is, good works that are pleasing to God (John 15:1–6; 1 John 3:7)—because it is God Who produces these good works that are pleasing to Him (1 Cor. 15:10; Eph. 3:8–10; Phil. 2:12–13).

Luther considers justification, as the nominalists do, as completely external to us: God declares us righteous even though we remain unrighteous in ourselves. Unlike Ockham, however, Luther asserts that man is incapable of doing any truly good work, since Adam’s sin utterly corrupted our nature.

By reducing justification to faith alone, we—as soul-body composites—are treated in a dichotomous way. Fidelity to God is split into two opposing camps: faith alone (i.e., trust in God’s promises) is what pleases God and justifies us, as opposed to anything we do. God accepts the soul’s assent of faith. As for our bodily acts of obedience, God either ignores them or takes offense at them.

Luther’s Contrary Truths

Since justification is an external decree of God, Luther describes those justified as being simultaneously “just and sinner” (simul justus et peccator). As Luther writes in his Lectures on Galatians (1535):

“Thus a Christian man is righteous and a sinner at the same time, holy and profane, an enemy of God and a child of God. None of the sophists will admit this paradox, because they do not understand the true meaning of justification.”

In this view of justification, God is said to treat us as if we were righteous and worthy of salvation even though in reality, we are unchanged (profane, sinful, damnable). The Church teaches something very different: a real transformation occurs in justification, where the sinner ceases to be a profane enemy of God and, being grafted to the New Adam (Jesus), becomes holy and righteous.

Luther’s view vaguely parallels the dualism we saw earlier with the Gnostics, whose salvation consisted of the soul discarding the materiality of the body by obtaining secret knowledge.

Free Will

Where Ockham believed that man had a bestowed freedom, Luther denies free will outright, famously likening it to a beast of burden:

“If God rides it, it goes where God wills. . . . If Satan rides it, it wills and goes where Satan wills; nor can it choose to run to either of the two riders or to seek him out, but the riders themselves contend for the possession and control of it.”

We saw a similar error with the Islamic irrational party, who claimed that everything except God acts under compulsion.”

-from Michuta, Gary. Revolt Against Reality: Fighting the Foes of Sanity and Truth- from the Serpent to the State (p. 77-79, 81, 83-84, 104, 108-111, 113, 118-122). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

Luther, Calvin, and Knox worked hard to avoid suffering for their beliefs


-the execution of William Tyndale (194-1536), please click on the image for greater detail


-by Joseph Heschmeyer, a former lawyer and seminarian, he blogs at Shameless Popery.

“Declaring that “faithful men stand up” and “speak up,” Josh Buice, the founder of G3 Ministries, argues that

we can be certain that Luther, Calvin, Knox, Tyndale and other figures of the Reformation were not making decisions about defending the faith by calculating their career advancement and protecting their platform.

Buice’s message about basing our actions upon faith, rather than political calculation, is a good one, but (with the possible exception of Tyndale, the only one of the four to die for his beliefs), he could hardly have chosen worse examples than these Protestant Reformers.

In a May 30, 1518 letter, Martin Luther wrote to Pope Leo X to insist that he wasn’t rejecting papal authority and that the accusations against him were false:

I know, most holy father, that evil reports are being spread about me, some friends having vilified me to your Holiness, as if I were trying to belittle the power of the keys and of the supreme pontiff, therefore I am being accused of being a heretic, a renegade, and a thousand other ill names are being hurled at me, enough to make my ears tingle and my eyes start in my head, but my one source of confidence is an innocent conscience.

Insisting that these accusations against him are untrue, Luther concludes the letter by promising that “my cause hangs on the will of your Holiness, by whose verdict I shall either save or lose my life. Come what may, I shall recognize the voice of your Holiness to be that of Christ, speaking through you.”

But when Leo decided against Luther in June of 1520, Luther changed his tune. Rather than recognizing the voice of the pope to be that of Christ speaking through Leo, Luther instead denounced the pope as the Antichrist, publishing Against the Execrable Bull of the Antichrist in November of that year. Before taking this step, Luther shrewdly drummed up political support. In the summer of 1520, he wrote an “Address to the Nobility of the German Nation,” playing on German nationalism, and urging the secular authorities to take greater control of the Catholic Church. Unlike his theological writings (which were in Latin), this was written in German. In the letter, Luther rejected the idea “that the temporal power has no jurisdiction over the spirituality” on the grounds that since “the temporal power is baptised as we are, and has the same faith and gospel, we must allow it to be priest and bishop.”

Therefore, he offered a number of suggestions for how secular authority could control the Church, including consolidating or abolishing religious orders like the Dominicans (“Let no more mendicant monasteries be built! God help us! there are too many as it is. Would to God they were all abolished, or at least made over to two or three orders!”); abolishing or tightly controlling the ability of the German faithful to go on pilgrimage to Rome (“Pilgrimages to Rome must be abolished, or at least no one must be allowed to go from his own wish or his own piety, unless his priest, his town magistrate, or his lord has found that there is sufficient reason for his pilgrimage”); and banning of most of the books written by that “blind heathen teacher, Aristotle.” Luther even suggested that “the temporal authorities” should convene their own ecumenical council, and if the pope should resist this secular council, “we must not respect him or his power; and if he should begin to excommunicate and fulminate, we must despise this as the doings of a madman, and, trusting in God, excommunicate and repel him as best we may.”

Protestants are free to make of Luther’s ideas whatever they will, although I suspect that the idea of turning control over the churches to secular authorities no longer sounds as attractive as it did to Luther. My point is simply that between 1518 and 1520, Luther executed a remarkable 180-degree reversal. He pledged fealty to the pope “come what may” when he thought that would benefit his cause, and when it didn’t, he denounced the pope as the Antichrist and pledged support to the worldly authorities instead.

In 1558, John Knox wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women to denounce the Catholic Queen Mary. Knox denied her legitimacy as queen of England, insisting that women “may never rule nor bear empire above man,” because “woman by the law of God, and by the interpretation of the Holy Ghost, is utterly forbidden to occupy the place of God in the offices aforesaid, which he has assigned to man, whom he has appointed and ordained his lieutenant in earth, excluding from that honour and dignity all women.”

But then an awkward thing happened: Mary died, and her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth I became queen. Would Knox continue his principled opposition to female empire? He would not. He quickly wrote to the unhappy queen, addressing her as “the virtuous and godly Elizabeth, by the grace of God, queen of England,” and insisting that nothing in The First Blast “is, nor can be prejudicial to your grace’s just regimen,” a reign for “which most I have thirsted, and for which—as oblivion will suffer—I render thanks unfeignedly unto God.” Elizabeth remained unmoved by Knox’s sycophancy, forbidding him from entering England.

As the nineteenth-century novelist Robert Louis Stevenson points out, John Knox (who wrote his treatise from Geneva) had first approached “his great master, Calvin, in ‘a private conversation,’” in which Calvin admitted his own position that “government of women was a deviation from the original and proper order of nature, to be ranked, no less than slavery, among the punishments consequent upon the fall of man.” Once Elizabeth acceded to the throne and Knox fell out of favor, however, Calvin wrote to her adviser Sir William Cecil to insist that he “had not the slightest suspicion” that Knox was planning to publish a book, and that “it had been published a whole year before [he] was aware of its existence.” To the Swiss Reformer Heinrich Bullinger, however, Calvin admitted that Knox “had talked over these matters with me before he came among you.” This same Calvin critiqued the Church (rightly) for allowing boys as young as ten to become bishops, yet he dedicated two of his biblical commentaries (the Commentary on Isaiah and Commentary on the General Epistles) to the boy-king Edward VI, Elizabeth’s predecessor and elder brother.

This is not to suggest that the Reformers were entirely unprincipled, but it is to suggest that there’s a reason that Tyndale was executed and the other three were not. In an age in which both Catholic and Protestant authorities were willing to violently suppress perceived heresy, men like Tyndale (and, on the Catholic side, St. Thomas More) were willing to die for what they believed. In contrast, Luther, Calvin, and Knox avoided physical suffering in no small part by ingratiating themselves to the politically powerful, even at the cost of some of their own inconvenient principles.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Heresy


-the burning of the pantheistic Amalrician heretics in 1210, in the presence of King Philip II Augustus. In the background is the Gibbet of Montfaucon and, anachronistically, the Grosse Tour of the Temple fortress. Illumination from the Grandes Chroniques de France, c. AD 1455–1460. Please click on the image for greater detail.

Obsequium religiosum is a Latin phrase meaning religious submission or religious assent, particularly in the theology of the Catholic Church.

The Latin term is used in the Latin original document Lumen gentium of the Second Vatican Council regarding the duty of the faithful to give obsequium religiosum (Latin for “religious submission”) of will and intellect to certain teachings of the Magisterium of the Church. The Magisterium is a reference to the authoritative teaching body of the Roman Catholic Church.

The phrase appears in Lumen gentium 25a in the following context, here translated as both “religious assent” and “religious submission”:

Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

The magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church are graded according to a “hierarchy of truths”. The more essentially linked a proposed “truth” is to the mystery of Christ (the “Truth”), the greater the assent of the will to that truth must be. The document Donum Veritatis[1] teaches the following concerning this gradation of assent:

When the Magisterium of the Church makes an infallible pronouncement and solemnly declares that a teaching is found in Revelation, the assent called for is that of theological faith. This kind of adherence is to be given even to the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium when it proposes for belief a teaching of faith as divinely revealed.

When the Magisterium proposes “in a definitive way” truths concerning faith and morals, which, even if not divinely revealed, are nevertheless strictly and intimately connected with Revelation, these must be firmly accepted and held.

When the Magisterium, not intending to act “definitively”, teaches a doctrine to aid a better understanding of Revelation and make explicit its contents, or to recall how some teaching is in conformity with the truths of faith, or finally to guard against ideas that are incompatible with these truths, the response called for is that of the religious submission of will and intellect. This kind of response cannot be simply exterior or disciplinary but must be understood within the logic of faith and under the impulse of obedience to the faith.

In its next section, Donum Veritatis states that “some judgments of the Magisterium could be justified at the time in which they were made, … (but) only time has permitted discernment and, after deeper study, the attainment of true doctrinal progress”.

The document, ″Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio fidei[2] (scroll down to find document), gives a detailed description of these three “categories” of truths and gives examples of each.

Withholding assent

Donum Veritatis also allows that, “When it comes to the question of interventions in the prudential order, it could happen that some Magisterial documents might not be free from all deficiencies.” However “it would be contrary to the truth, if, proceeding from some particular cases, one were to conclude that the Church’s Magisterium can be habitually mistaken in its prudential judgments.”

It acknowledges that a given theologian, “might have serious difficulties, for reasons which appear to him well founded, in accepting a non-irreformable magisterial teaching.” In such a case “even if the doctrine of the faith is not in question, the theologian will not present his own opinions or divergent hypotheses as though they were non-arguable conclusions,” and is to “refrain from giving untimely public expression to them,” and “avoid turning to the mass media,” but with a humble and teachable spirit it is his duty “to make known to the Magisterial authorities the problems raised by the teaching in itself, in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even in the manner in which it is presented,” with “an intense and patient reflection on his part and a readiness, if need be, to revise his own opinions and examine the objections which his colleagues might offer him”, prayerfully trusting “that if the truth really is at stake, it will ultimately prevail.”

In so doing it makes a distinction between dissent as in public opposition to the Magisterium of the Church and the situation of conscientious personal difficulties with teaching, and asserts that the Church “has always held that nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will,” while the Virgin Mary’s “immediate and unhesitating assent of faith to the Word of God” is set forth as the example to follow in submitting to Catholic teaching.

While the theologian, like every believer, must follow his conscience, and Joseph Ratzinger (as a priest-theologian) taught that “over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else,” it is not “an autonomous and exclusive authority for deciding the truth of a doctrine,” and the Catholic is obliged to form it according to Catholic teaching.


-by Br Linus Martz, OP

“The Church has always identified a variety of acts as sins, including heresy. A sin in the fullest sense (that is, a grave sin), is any choice that cannot co-exist with Christian love; a serious sin is incompatible with our share in the life of God. Even apart from this supernatural perspective, many outside the Church might still agree that some sins exist. But what about heresy? How could holding wrong beliefs about God be harmful, let alone sinful? Why does the Church continue to teach that real heresy is a real sin, and a serious sin at that? Heresy is an unhappy topic, but considering it abstractly will help us see more concretely the divine origin of true faith.

Heresy, according to the Code of Canon Law, is “the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith” (CIC can. 751; cf. CCC 2089). The very name “heresy” implies a “choosing,” and a baptized believer falls into heresy when he consciously, knowingly, and obstinately chooses to reject a revealed truth (ST II-II, q. 11, a. 1). Whenever it occurs, this choice wounds the soul deeply.

Heretical choice—that is, choosing to believe what one knows contradicts faith—wounds the soul because it radically separates the chooser from God. It forsakes the firm, familiar knowledge of God that faith provides. This happens because when one rejects faith, even faith in a single doctrine, he destroys faith completely.

Why does heresy do this? Why can’t we have faith in just part of revelation? Faith is “faith” when someone believes something because God himself, “First Truth,” has revealed it. When God speaks to us through the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church, his own Truthfulness is the “mean” of faith, the source of our knowledge (ST II-II, q. 5, a. 3). It is the cause or the reason why we believe something. But someone who knowingly disbelieves something God has revealed leaves behind this “mean” of faith. One no longer believes something because God has revealed it if he disbelieves anything that he knows God has revealed. Because God cannot lie, to reject what he says about one truth is to reject his truthfulness completely.

To reject one revealed teaching, such as the reality of original sin or the Real Presence, is to substitute human choice for divine authority. But divine authority is the only sound basis for our faith, so whatever truth the heretic retains apart from God he holds without a good reason.

Saint Paul, after warning Saint Timothy about some teachers in Ephesus who were teaching a “different doctrine,” gives us the image of a “shipwreck” of faith (1 Tim 1:3, 19). One breach in the hull will compromise the whole ship’s integrity. So too, a faith that assents and dissents according to personal preference is not faith at all: by definition, heresy sinks the ship of faith and leaves only human opinions.

…We hold the truths that we profess in the Creed only because God has spoken. Human arguments can never replace God’s self-revelation because, left to ourselves, we cannot bridge the span of heaven and touch God’s throne. To conflate faith and reason, therefore, is to sail on dangerous waters. To replace faith with reason is to sink the ship of faith.

God’s mercy and grace can touch the most hardened of sinners, and he can easily repair even the shipwreck of faith through the “second plank” of sacramental Confession. But the faith God infuses and restores isn’t primarily about choosing to believe this or that fact. It’s an assent, through these propositions, to God in Jesus Christ. It’s a choice to believe God. Our life in faith cannot be lived if we choose half-portions. Rather, taking our cue from Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, we approach the banquet of Wisdom and choose all, because we choose Jesus, in whom “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” is given to us (2 Cor 4:6).”

Love,
Matthew