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  #1  
Old Feb 6, '12, 7:56 pm
PermanentMarker PermanentMarker is offline
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Default What is the probative force of the motives of credibility?

I am confused on the probative force of the motiva credibilitatis. My understanding of Church teaching is that we can have - indeed, we must have - certain knowledge of the fact of Revelation prior to the assent of faith. Hence, Innocent XI condemns the following proposition:

" The supernatural assent of Faith necessary for salvation is compatible with merely probable knowledge of Revelation, nay even with doubt whether God has spoken."

How can we acquire this certain knowledge? The Church seems to teach that it is acquired from a scientific investigation of the motiva credibilitatis. The First Vatican Council, for example, decrees that the divine origin of the Christian religion can be known and proven by "certain signs" (i.e., the motiva credibilitatis). And the Catholic Encyclopedia article on fideism harshly criticizes the view that the motiva credibilitatis provides only probable knowledge of the fact of Revelation:

"As to the opinion of those who maintain that our supernatural assent is prepared for by motives of credibility merely probable, it is evident that it logically destroys the certitude of such an assent."

It is clear to me, then, that the Church teaches that we can and must have certain knowledge of the fact of Revelation prior to the assent of faith and that the motiva credibilitatis furnishes this knowledge.

Here is the problem. The Church also seems to teach (or, at least, her theologians) that the motives of credibility only furnishes probable knowledge of the fact of Revelation, directly contradicting what I showed above. Of course, this discrepancy could only be apparent and due to a misunderstanding on my part, but I have hard time resolving it. Take a look at the Catholic Encyclopedia article on faith. Under the section "Motives of Credibility," you'll find this apparent discrepancy. It quotes the earlier condemnation of Innocent XI, but then it goes on to limit the probative force of the motives of credibility to a mere "accumulation of probabilities," in agreement with Newman.

Take a look at another apparent discrepancy from "A Manual of Catholic Theology" (emphasis mine):

"The Catholic Church therefore teaches...that these external and manifest facts which accompany the proposition of Revelation can produce a <b>perfect certitude</b> of the fact of Revelation in the minds of all." (124)

vs.

"Besides this primary liberty of Faith, there is also a secondary liberty, arising from the non-cogency of the motives of credibility, which allows the will to withhold its consent and leaves room for doubt and even denial" (132)

"In order to elicit an act of Faith, we must know Revelation... the fact... of Revelation,"

"perfect certitude"

vs.

"non-cogency"

What gives? Can we have certain knowledge of the fact of Revelation or not? And do the motives of credibility provide that knowledge or not?

Also, on a related issue. Assuming that we can have a certain knowledge of all these things prior to the assent of faith, what room does that leave for the freedom of the act of faith? Doesn't one come under an obligation to have faith after having that kind of knowledge?
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  #2  
Old Feb 7, '12, 3:23 pm
thenobes thenobes is offline
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Default Re: What is the probative force of the motives of credibility?

Quote:
Originally Posted by PermanentMarker View Post
I am confused on the probative force of the motiva credibilitatis. My understanding of Church teaching is that we can have - indeed, we must have - certain knowledge of the fact of Revelation prior to the assent of faith. Hence, Innocent XI condemns the following proposition:

" The supernatural assent of Faith necessary for salvation is compatible with merely probable knowledge of Revelation, nay even with doubt whether God has spoken."

How can we acquire this certain knowledge? The Church seems to teach that it is acquired from a scientific investigation of the motiva credibilitatis. The First Vatican Council, for example, decrees that the divine origin of the Christian religion can be known and proven by "certain signs" (i.e., the motiva credibilitatis). And the Catholic Encyclopedia article on fideism harshly criticizes the view that the motiva credibilitatis provides only probable knowledge of the fact of Revelation:

"As to the opinion of those who maintain that our supernatural assent is prepared for by motives of credibility merely probable, it is evident that it logically destroys the certitude of such an assent."

It is clear to me, then, that the Church teaches that we can and must have certain knowledge of the fact of Revelation prior to the assent of faith and that the motiva credibilitatis furnishes this knowledge.

Here is the problem. The Church also seems to teach (or, at least, her theologians) that the motives of credibility only furnishes probable knowledge of the fact of Revelation, directly contradicting what I showed above. Of course, this discrepancy could only be apparent and due to a misunderstanding on my part, but I have hard time resolving it. Take a look at the Catholic Encyclopedia article on faith. Under the section "Motives of Credibility," you'll find this apparent discrepancy. It quotes the earlier condemnation of Innocent XI, but then it goes on to limit the probative force of the motives of credibility to a mere "accumulation of probabilities," in agreement with Newman.

Take a look at another apparent discrepancy from "A Manual of Catholic Theology" (emphasis mine):

"The Catholic Church therefore teaches...that these external and manifest facts which accompany the proposition of Revelation can produce a <b>perfect certitude</b> of the fact of Revelation in the minds of all." (124)

vs.

"Besides this primary liberty of Faith, there is also a secondary liberty, arising from the non-cogency of the motives of credibility, which allows the will to withhold its consent and leaves room for doubt and even denial" (132)

"In order to elicit an act of Faith, we must know Revelation... the fact... of Revelation,"

"perfect certitude"

vs.

"non-cogency"

What gives? Can we have certain knowledge of the fact of Revelation or not? And do the motives of credibility provide that knowledge or not?

Also, on a related issue. Assuming that we can have a certain knowledge of all these things prior to the assent of faith, what room does that leave for the freedom of the act of faith? Doesn't one come under an obligation to have faith after having that kind of knowledge?

Sounds like a problem of a person being logical enough to see that myriad only "probable" events, when taken as a whole, lead to a extremely probable Source of those events, giving one a sense of certainty of the existence of that Source.

"Revelation", in this scenario, is the totality of numerous individual instances of revelation.

peace
steve
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  #3  
Old Feb 23, '12, 12:45 am
Blue Horizon Blue Horizon is offline
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Join Date: February 22, 2012
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Default Re: What is the probative force of the motives of credibility?

Hello PM
Just came across your query here - as you say, some common themes!

I believe you have got confused over some ambiguous expressions below and also may not quite have grasped the unique way Aquinas views the nature of certitude wrt the assent of faith.

e.g. In " indeed, we must have - certain knowledge of the fact of Revelation prior to the assent of faith." ... I think "certain" here means "some" not "certitude."

(1) The certitude he speaks of wrt faith has nothing to do with that certitude which comes from reason. If I had the intellect of an angel (or a devil for that matter) I would unwaiveringly know (by the evidence of creation) that God existed by intellectual certitude alone, not by faith. In this context intellectual "seeing" is not "believing."

(2) Motives of credibility: In the end I understand the MOC to be another form of intellectual "certitude." I say certitude in brackets because it is not of the same quality as intellectual "metaphysical" certitude (e.g. 4+4=8) but is, as Newman maintains, probably best describes how the human mind works in the world when it acquires a feeling of conviction/certitude in practical affairs. And again, because it is primarily based on the operation of the intellect (rather than the will) it is not to be confused with faith (faith is a total assent of the will regardless of the quality of intellectual certitude) . However MOC can be a springboard for faith. Some people seem to call a "certitude" (not all people have such a "certitude") based on based on MOC "aquired faith." But it is not true faith and can easily fail when we leave the environment/cosy-club which supports it.

(3) Faith: The certitude of faith seems to derive from a pure act of the will (under the action of infused grace) responding to the self evident authority of the One who speaks. Therefore, under such powerful circumstances, to refuse to believe is sinful. What is actually spoken (which may have very minimal intellectual content) is therefore secondary - it is not the source of this assent/certitude. The assent of the will in an act of faith is directed at this Person who speaks. Aquinas says somewhere that the actual intellectual content ("the articles of revelation") of such an act of faith may be quite confused (maybe "unformed" or "as yet unrealised by the believer" is a better way to put it). The absolute minimal intellectual content of such a faith encounter must of course by definition be the "revelation" of the existence of God - who is that Person communicating. One cannot experience a "call" to believe by something that doesn't exist and hence cannot "call."


WRT "the Church teaches that we can and must have certain knowledge of the fact of Revelation prior to the assent of faith and that the motiva credibilitatis furnishes this knowledge" ... I have never come across that before. Sounds like something has been lost in translation ... maybe I am wrong but the obvious meaning of the words used doesn't ring any bells for me. Of course we must accept the possibility of revelation before an occasion of actual "revelation" hits us otherwise we will not see it or reject it. I do not think the understanding/purpose of MOC is to supply us with raw material (let alone pre-existing intellectual certitude about it) for a later call of faith - though that may happen. Surely completely new intellectual material (revelation) may be revealed by the Revealer at the time of His revealing? This is the explicit position of Balthasar in his famous theological analogy of the Mother's Smile.

Anyhow, that is my take on it ... having researched this matter quietly for the last 20 years.
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