Circular logic & faith


#1

Last year I spent a lot of time and thought on whether or not to be baptized, and finally joined the church at Easter.

This year, the closer we get to Easter the more I wonder if I really made the right decision.

There are a bunch of assorted theological points that have me doubting my alignment with the church again, but I think we could wrap them all up in the blanket of “circular logic” to make this easier. For example:

There is absolutely no way to know whether transubstantiation actually exists.

  1. We believe it occurs because the church tells us so
  2. We believe what the church tells us because it is “the one true church.”
  3. We believe it is the “one true church” because the Bible/tradition says so.
  4. We believe the Bible/tradition because they were inspired by God.
  5. We believe they were inspired by God because … the church tells us so?
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 ad infinitum

You could replace transubstantiation with any church doctrine here. I just used that as an example. But what reason do any of us have for believing church teaching that does not somehow come back to already believing in church teaching?


#2

The starting point should be Jesus.

Did he historically exist - yes.

Did his followers establish what evolved into the Church - yes.

From there, we can begin to assess the reasonableness of various claims. The primary one being the question of Christ’s resurrection - nothing else matters if this didn’t actually happen. Did Jesus really die and rise from the dead?

That is the question each of us faces at some point(s) during our lifetime. The answer can be difficult to believe. But why, if it didn’t happen, were so many of his followers prepared to die arguing for it? Why did the Church survive at all if its founder died on that cross and didn’t rise again?

Hopefully that provides another perspective to consider all this from.


#3

I too, think that a lot of apologetics arguments are circular. But if the Apostles had made it all up, they would have chickened out. There’s no evidence of that. Even if they had and still died for a lie, their narrative would have faded into oblivion. If none of what they said was true, Jesus would be, at best, an obscure footnote in ancient history textbooks.


#4

That’s sort of where I was last year. Why WERE people willing to die for it if it weren’t true?

But then I got thinking about the Branch Davidians, and the people at Jonestown, and those weird UFO/comet suicide pact people, and suicide bombers, etc. etc. and it seems that history is full of people who really did exist who were perfectly willing to die for something they THOUGHT was true whether it was really true or not. Heck, the Mormon church and Scientology both have huge followings, and the founders of both are proven frauds whose falsehood was well documented in more-ore-less modern times. And yet people still follow them …

So yes, Jesus certainly existed. And yes, there were people willing to die because of their relationship with him. But how do we know they weren’t just the 33 AD equivalent of some of these other groups? And if we’re right, and he did rise again, how do we know that church doctrine is necessarily right, regardless, since that expectation is based on the church’s own interpretation of certain Bible passages?


#5

Nope. I don’t think there’s ‘circular logic’ in play here.

There is absolutely no way to know whether transubstantiation actually exists.

With all due respect, you’re wrong here. I think, maybe, that you mean that “there is absolutely no way physically to prove that transubstantiation occurs” – and you’d be right, there! – but that doesn’t mean that we can’t know about it.

The grounds of our belief and knowledge aren’t “because the Church tells us so”, but rather, what grounds our belief is God. God sent His son; the words and deeds of His son are recorded in the Bible; He gave authority to the Church. We believe in God; the rest follows. It’s not circular.

  1. We believe it occurs because the church tells us so

Actually, we believe in the Eucharist because Jesus gave it to us.

  1. We believe what the church tells us because it is “the one true church.”
  2. We believe it is the “one true church” because the Bible/tradition says so.
  3. We believe the Bible/tradition because they were inspired by God.

So far, so good. But, to be fair, we believe it is the “one true Church” because Jesus founded it. That foundation is both recorded in the Bible and attested by Christians beginning with those who witnessed Jesus’ life on earth.

  1. We believe they were inspired by God because … the church tells us so?

No. I think this is where you go off the rails. We believe in the Tradition (that is, ‘Apostolic teaching’) because it proceeds from Jesus and from His promise to the Apostles. We believe in the Bible because it is logically consistent; and because Jesus believed in the OT and His words are recorded in the Gospels; and because He promised the protection of the Holy Spirit to the Church – under whose auspices the Epistles and Revelation were written. Again… no circular logic. :wink:


#6

This still seems like a long and complicated way of saying “because God/the Church says so”.


#7

You are the poster child for exactly the sort of logic I’m talking about :slight_smile: I say “we believe because the church tells us.” You say “No, we believe because of God.” Well, who told you that God did/said all this stuff? … the church! But, no, you say, “It’s all written down in the Bible.” But who wrote/edited/interpreted the Bible? … the church!


#8

Sure, there are people who will die for a cause, and die for the promise of some reward - eg virgins in heaven. They don’t find out that the reward is not real until after the fact.

But to die claiming that you are the follower of a man who rose from the dead, if he didn’t actually rise, is a step beyond this. And for that movement to still be thriving 2000+ years later…well, it certainly deserves strong consideration.

Right, well, Jesus is step one. If we can believe in him, then we can start to delve into claims about him and things he said in the bible. And from there explore the more complex matters of faith that divide Catholics from other Christians. But the point is that it’s no longer merely circular - we now have a foundation for everything.

Anyway, just some food for thought. I don’t have the answers. Ultimately, there *is *something circular in our faith, since the Church teaches us that faith itself is a gift from God.


#9

Nah… you’re just enamored with your take on it. :wink:

I say “we believe because the church tells us.” You say “No, we believe because of God.” Well, who told you that God did/said all this stuff? … the church!

Here’s the thing: today, 2000 years after it all happened, it looks to you like it’s all “the Church”. That’s a fair enough misunderstanding; after all, if you don’t look at it closely, that’s exactly how it appears. But, that logic absolutely would not have worked at the beginnings of the Church. After all, if that were the response in the 100’s AD – and if people who had been around said differently – then the Church never would’ve had any credibility. Think about it – if ten of us say “the Church says so” and you and other witnesses say “umm… we were there, and that’s not at all what happened”, who would have the greater credibility? So, it’s clear that it’s only because eyewitnesses gave their assent – explicitly or implicitly – that “the Church says so” has any credibility!

So, you can say “the Church says so” is a weak argument… but that only works if it’s only the Church who has ever said so, over the past 2000 years. That’s like complaining that the Civil War never took place, because it’s only history books and historians who say so. :wink:


#10

When it all comes down to it, is there any greater authority than “God said so”? If so… what might that authoritative voice be?


#11

Transubstantiation is definitely one of the mysteries of faith however I would suggest reading up on Eucharistic miracles. Also if you have an adoration chapel near you spend sometime in prayer with the physical presence and ask Christ to make himself known and it won’t be circular.

He won’t deny you but be patient He works in His own way and own time.


#12

Besides the claim that Christ rose from the dead, Christ himself made explicit claims about the rewards that awaited those with the good sense enough to devote themselves to him and his message. So, his disciples weren’t simply representing Christ’s resurrection as being true, just because it was true. There was a clear incentive for the true believer to affirm the claim, and a polarized disincentive to avoid denying it, including (and especially) on pain of death. Christianity just isn’t unique in this respect.


#13

Sure, there are rewards and punishments. But if Christ had not risen, his followers (surely) would have moved on, dispersed, found something else to do, etc. The failure to rise from the dead would have been sure proof against the very religion they were helping to establish, and sacrificing their very lives for it.

Anyway, I didn’t come here to “prove” Christianity to anyone, nor enter into such debates. Just to offer some thoughts. And I suggest that whether you think Christianity is unique or not in its claims, I think the actions of its early followers are worthy of some attention.

One can only lead a horse to water…


#14

QuasiCatholic #1
Last year I spent a lot of time and thought on whether or not to be baptized, and finally joined the church at Easter.
This year, the closer we get to Easter the more I wonder if I really made the right decision.

Christ established ONLY ONE Church – the Catholic Church. Did you not learn that?
**All four promises to Peter alone: **
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18)
“The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven." ( Mt 16:19)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) [Later, also to the Twelve].

**Sole authority: **
“Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
“Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

No other sect or religion was founded by the Christ.

There are a bunch of assorted theological points that have me doubting my alignment with the church again, but I think we could wrap them all up in the blanket of “circular logic” to make this easier
But what reason do any of us have for believing church teaching that does not somehow come back to already believing in church teaching?

You have been hoodwinked by imbibing a false circular argument. Jettison such a fallacy and learn the truth.

The historian Eusebius in his Church history, 4.3, 1.2, tells us that writing about 123 A.D., apologist Quadratus cited those in his day who had been cured or raised from the dead by Jesus of Nazareth – prime witnesses – long after the miracles, crucifixion and death of the Son of God.

The spiral argument is logical and complete:
Fact 1: There was a man called Jesus.
Fact 2: He claimed to be a messenger sent from God.
Fact 3: He did enough to prove that He was such a messenger – His many miracles.
Fact 4: Crowds followed Jesus and He had an inner circle to whom he spoke much more.
Fact 5: He commissioned His followers to continue His teaching and founded His Church.
Fact 6: Jesus affirmed that God would protect that teaching.

The writings of these facts—the Gospels – are comparable with other ancient documents from writers such as Caesar, Tacitus, Thucydides and others, they are all reliable as history.

Historically, they prove that the messenger sent from God worked many miracles to support His mission and teaching to the extent of forgiving sins. God as Truth cannot provide such power to prove falsehood, so the claims of Jesus are true, culminating in the fact of His resurrection from the dead.

So from the reliability of the Gospels as history, we now know that:

  1. An infallible Church was founded by the Son of God
  2. That infallible Church teaches that the Bible, as She has given us, is the inspired Word of God.

The authority for the Bible is the Church. There is nothing “circular” about this reality.


#15

The obvious reason is a firm belief that God as Creator can interact with His human creatures.

:smiley:


#16

There is very little talk about Faith here…

No one is forced to believe anything about the Catholic Church.

The ones who do believe, I hope, believe not because of fear or because they are automatons, but because they have recognized and experienced God in their life…

then they listen to what the church says, and they test it out, ‘Is this the way that God has shown himself is in my life? Yes!’

And the ones who have a little faith, God will give them more faith, sometimes they get SO faithful, that they forget people struggle in this area, and then they just start saying “Because God!” and then they don’t understand why you don’t understand…


#17

Unfortunately, I think the crux of the matter for the OP is much more serious than his consideration of any reasoned support of this or that Church teaching. Rather in aggregate, I think the expressed comments and questions reflect a much more basic / veiled question of what is the proof for the existence of Christ (as we know Him, through the mind of the Church) and validity of His Church.

I do not wish to be uncharitable, but nothing in the OP’s arguments suggest a substantive Christian belief. We all need conversion daily, and all of us are at different stages of our conversions. Hopefully we are all progressing in the right direction.

In response to such basic questions what is needed is milk, not meat.

Faith is a gift

The law of God is written on our hearts

All creation speaks of the existence and splendor of the creator

Then
…then revelations of God, witness of the Saints, documented historical proofs, etc.

Prayers for the OP and everyone on CA!


#18

Another reason to believe the Bible is because of the vast number of copies of the bible from early AD that survive today. We take as fact various things about history that we only have a few incomplete transcripts on. If you look at the Bible as a historical document, we have so many more copies from early on then we do other manuscripts that it seems silly to me to not take the Bible as fact when we do so for things about ancient civilizations that we have comparatively little information about.


#19

The Bible is “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”

The Catholic Church has its basic instructions and foundations for the instructions in properly declared doctrines duly proclaimed. These doctrines are formulated by the wisdom and guidance of the Third Person in the Most Holy Trinity – the Holy Spirit, chapter 14, Gospel of John.

  1. We believe they were inspired by God because … the church tells us so?

What is missing in point 5 is the simple explanation of how the Catholic Church tells us that the Bible was inspired by God. Since the key point is missing in point 5, the entire argument fails.

You can throw out the blanket of “circular logic” and be at peace.


#20

I agree with you! I think the OP has to go back to the beginning and decide what basic tenets he agrees with, before even touching transubstantiation. Is there a God -> Is there one God -> Is He the God of the Old Testament -> Is Jesus God’s Son, does Jesus fulfill the Old Testament…and on from there.

OP, If you find yourself doubting because of the lack of “hard evidence”, I recommend asking St. Thomas for his prayers! :thumbsup: Also spending some time sitting in front of the tabernacle, clearing your thoughts and attitudes and doubts and expectations, just live in the present moment and listen.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.