Who or What has the Final Authority?


#1

I have been engaged in a dialogue with a Protestant pastor regarding “authority” on matters of faith and morals. He of course contends that Scripture is the ultimate authority. But he is intellectually honest and admits that he is engaged in circular reasoning when he uses Bible passages to support sola scriptura. However, he says that I am engaged in faulty reasoning when I use the Bible and the Church Fathers to prove that the Church is the ultimate arbiter. After all, he says, the Church is using its own interpretation of Bible passages to prove its own authority; and the Church Fathers could have simple made up their statements to support their desire to promote the Church’s authority. Does anyone have any thoughts about how to answer him?


#2

One of the problems one encounters in these discussions has to do with the origins of the church and Holy Scripture.

Ultimately, each has authority because that authority flows from the same source - God Himself. God the Holy Spirit inspired Holy Scripture. God the Son founded His Church and gave it authority, and protection from error in teaching faith and morals.

The Church neither gets, not gives, authority to Holy Scripture. She guards the deposit of the faith, and therefore interprets Holy Scripture and protects it from erroneous interpretation. And Holy Scripture does not give authority to the Church. Jesus, God the Son Himself did that.

So the authority of Holy Scripture and the Authority of the Church are not dependent on each other. Both flow from God.

Blessings,

Gerry


#3

karl keating in fundamentlism vs. romanism shows that the catholic church’s view on authority is a spiral argument and not circular like the protestants.

i think it’s here:

catholic.com/library/proving_inspiration.asp

A Spiral Argument
Note that this is not a circular argument. We are not basing the inspiration of the Bible on the Church’s infallibility and the Church’s infallibility on the word of an inspired Bible. That indeed would be a circular argument! What we have is really a spiral argument. On the first level we argue to the reliability of the Bible insofar as it is history. From that we conclude that an infallible Church was founded. And then we take the word of that infallible Church that the Bible is inspired. This is not a circular argument because the final conclusion (the Bible is inspired) is not simply a restatement of its initial finding (the Bible is historically reliable), and its initial finding (the Bible is historically reliable) is in no way based on the final conclusion (the Bible is inspired). What we have demonstrated is that without the existence of the Church, we could never know whether the Bible is inspired.


#4

The common ground is the Bible, so we could start with a passage that is very clear:

The Gospel of John tells us that “the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeks such to worship Him. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4, 23-24) God could not require us to worship in truth unless He gave us a means of knowing, with certainty, what the truth is.

It makes sense that we must worship God in truth, because God is Truth. If we have errors in belief about God, then the God we are worshipping is not the true God…it is a distorted view of God.

Conclusion: We must be able to know objective truth if we hope to know, love and serve God, who is identified as The Truth.

Okay. The question to the Protestant then is this: How do you know for sure what is true and what is not true?

He will not be able to answer this question with regard to Sola Scriptura because it always requires the person to make his/her own decision as to what is true. All beliefs are therefore reduced to likelihood or mere human opinion. And we know this method doesn’t work because of the hundreds of denominations who profess Sola Scriptura, each of whom teaches different and conflicting beliefs. Therefore, Sola Scriptura cannot be the means by which we can know objective truth, and therefore God.

So, either objective truth cannot be known, (which means God’s expectation for us is unreasonable), or there must be another way that can be shown to work.

Here we present the Catholic teaching about Papal authority. Yes, when we describe this we are indeed interpreting what the scripture means, in order to justify our belief. But the big difference is that the method we are describing works. The Catholic Church has taught the same things for 2000 years now, and has remained unified. The teaching does not conflict with the Bible. The teaching is suported by the writings of the first Christians. The belief is logical (necessary for certainty of faith). And we can see it works.

With this being said, can someone pose another possibility? How else might we know with certainty what is truth? Is there another method out there that can be shown to worK? That is to say, can anyone explain how another method actually leads a person to truth with certainty (a method that stands up to logic, history, and the Bible)? Not that I’ve found.


#5

This doesn’t answer your question. If the Bible is his absolute and final authority, ask him how it is that he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt which books should be included in the Bible. If he starts giving various reasons, ask him how he can trust these reasons when only the Bible is his authority, and the Bible itself never tells us which exact books belong in the Canon. As well, if the Bible alone is the final authority, how can he be so sure of this if the Bible itself does not claim to be the final authority? (The Church is called the Pillar and Foundation of Truth in 1 Tim 3:15, for example, and Paul exhorts the Corinthians to obey teachings conveyed by both letter and oral teaching of the apostles in 2 Thes. 2:15). Catholic Answers, this website, has some stuff on this, and Dave Armstrong’s megasite have quite a bit at ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ345.HTM#III.%20Social,%20Ethical,%20and%20Political%20Issues%20Index.


#6

[quote=oat soda]karl keating in fundamentlism vs. romanism shows that the catholic church’s view on authority is a spiral argument and not circular like the protestants.

i think it’s here:

catholic.com/library/proving_inspiration.asp
[/quote]

Dear oat soda,

Thanks for the link. I read this article, and it is probably the best worded explanation I’ve seen so far. My own belief in the Bible came in a way similar to one the article claims is rare, and interestingly I came to believe in the Bible while on somewhat of a haitus and listening to non-Catholic preachers on TV::

It is a rare Fundamentalist who, even for sake of argument, first approaches the Bible as though it is not inspired and then later, upon reading it, syllogistically concludes that it must be.

When I first started reading the Bible, it was because I was convinced after listening to a tv preacher (Fred Price) that the book had information in it useful to living a good life. It was after reading and studying it quite a bit that I gradually came to believe that the wisdom in it was too high level to be from any particular human author.

The explanation given at the link above was excellent in many ways, and confirmed mu suspicions about the typical reason people believe in the Bible, but is has one step that can only be established through faith, I believe. The step between establishing that the Bible was historical, and that Jesus was either divine or crazy, to the step where the Church established is infallible is hardly convincing to me at this point. I’m not saying it isn’t true, but I don’t believe it’s logically conclusive exclusive of faith.

For the problem posted by the OP, I’d say he has found an honest Protestant and I would like to hear about that Protestant’s take on the explanation given on CA. Perhaps I have a mental block keeping me from making the jump across the step from history to infallibility. Personally I think the authority is established only by faith in the minds of each individual believer. Personally and at this exact moment I am without absolute conviction of final external authority such as Church or Scripture, but I am still seeking and still participate in Catholicism to at least the degree most other parishioners do. I do occasionally have “mystical experiences” which temporarily convince me of many things including God’s sovereignty and his Church’s value and bring me great peace, but eventually doubt takes over and makes everything uncertain again. I guess I have more flip-flops than John Kerry.

Alan


#7

Alan,

I truly enjoy your posts! For my own part, I can’t honestly say I believe something because it was impressed on me as a child or in some conversion experience later on, and that I can therefore just accept it without critical re-examination. To do that would require me to deny that I’ve changed both mentally and emotionally since then, that my perceptions are what they were 50, 10 or even 2 years ago, and that’s simply not the case.

In other words, I can’t say, “I believe this or that because the Bible, church doctrine (or whatever) says it is so.” Ultimately, I’m the final judge of what’s true for me, and there’s really no way any of us can wiggle out of that. Even when I acknowledge someone else as an authority on any given subject, it still comes down an intuitive decision based on personal and unspecifiable criteria whether I accredit that source as trustworthy and credible or not.

So belief hasn’t turned out to be an unchanging and unquestioning acceptance of some institutional view of things, nor is it reliance on stronger persons and trying to get some sort of vicarious or second-hand certitude from their spiritual experience. Much as I wanted that to be true when I was younger, belief has turned out to be always a work in progress, the creative integration of all my experiences, past, present, doubts and all, and the final arbiter of their validity is inescapably my own internal radar. At one time (a very brief insanity, thank God) I even thought I knew what everybody else had to believe. Just because I wanted the answers to life’s most urgent and perplexing questions handed to me on a platter, I simply assumed that everyone else did too and would thus be both delighted and grateful that I had saved them the trouble of working things out for themselves.

But I outgrew little ego trip too, once I realized that everyone else is entitled to the same freedom to choose their beliefs that I had exercised in choosing mine. Why shouldn’t they be? By what right, then, can any of us seek to deny to anyone else the very same freedom of inquiry, thought and choice that brought us to where we ourselves now stand? And if someone claims to have that right, why isn’t it eminently reasonable to look askance at his motives? I’m assuming, of course, that our beliefs are in fact our own and that we have conceded as much to our innermost selves.


#8

Dear Cherubino,

It is nice to feel so understood on these important issues. It isn’t something I experience very often. People understand parts of what I say, but I really like your writing style, plus the things you write are things I would like to have written, and your stories sound so much like my own they often could have been about me. You tell them with just enough abstraction to show their importance while still applying to the details I’ve experienced – such as the belief that I had all of life’s important answers at one time.

This issue of final authority is something I have really been searching lately. I have a great respect for all the excellent scholarly work and dedication of the religious, the faith and miracles of the saints, and so forth, but my life experiences are such that I used to have a trust-until-proven-otherwise attitude toward people and institutions, and found out the hard way that actually believing and complying with what “superiors” ask of me – as opposed to learning how to behave like I’m expected to act – is a sure way to get mocked, ridiculed, cast out, and without understanding it or having a good spiritual director it can even lead to apparent insanity.

It is exactly my obedience, trust and naivety (sp?) of my past that brought me to the point where I now have completely different ways of looking at things than most people seem to. It is amazing to me how often seemingly intelligent people are trying to explain something to me and as I ask questions to probe it for a deeper understanding, suddenly I hit a land mine and am accused of being disobedient. It’s amazing; the conclusion I came to is that many of the things that others try to explain to me, they must not have really probed that deeply themselves and they think they have to defend against a non-attack by me because they have grown up thinking that they will get punished if they can’t answer a question or something like that.

Anyway it becomes increasingly clear to me that authority for any given person is completely individual, and I’m not so certain most people even know what their authority figures are. They say it is the Pope, or the president, or death, or God, or money, or whatever it is at any given time, but when all the dust settles I am faced with the uneasy fact that I am it. Same with others.

For example, many say they are completely obedient and submissive to Church officials, and even quote Catherine of Siena, but when I apply her statement “even if he were a demon incarnate” that she would remain obedient, to the possibility that could even mean a child molester, they all of a sudden find a way for this absolute obedience to become relative. Does any human being really want to surrender his will completely to another human being or group of human beings? Maybe Catherine did.

Alan


#9

Alan,

When I was about 8 or 10, I was taking Sunday school classes from the Mothers of the Sacred Heart. But I wasn’t exactly warming up to this Heaven stuff, because they weren’t talking about anything I could relate to as happiness. So I decided to put this malarkey to a fair test. I raised my hand and asked, “Mother, will there be ice cream in Heaven?”

Without hesitation, Mother replied, “If you want ice cream in Heaven, there will be ice cream in Heaven. But keep in mind that by then your tastes will probably have changed, and you’ll want something even better. Why settle for what you can imagine today?”

I’ve never forgotten that, and in hindsight it’s about the most practical piece of spiritual advice I’ve ever gotten. All you have to do is live long enough, and eventually you’ll simply outgrow the perception of God, Christ, Heaven, etc. as entities outside yourself to be worshipped or anticipated as future events in time, as well as the reliance on authority figures, role models and doctrinal propositions that stem from that perception. Wnen we’re young, the mind naturally focuses on facts and the future, self as an object in time. But as we age, memories & metaphors take over, and that just happens without our consent.

So like it or not we geezers come to realize that these doctrines, etc. have no meaning unless we say they have meaning, the authority figures have no authority until we invest them with it, and that we ourselves have been the architect of that reality all along. So what does a Christian do then? I’ve seen some devout Catholics, including a 92 year old Trappist monk and my own father at 86, think they’d lost their “faith” at that juncture and spend their last days in terrified bewilderment. That’s why I think it is so important to get beyond things, likethe idea of Heaven in which there will be an “I” being “happy” at all, for the simple reason that once you get beyond a certain age, it just stops making sense. And to put this in the Christian idiom, what if that’s simply because God made us that way? It’s what Eckhart meant by taking leave of “God” the idea for God the experience.

Oops, I almost forgot. Eckhart’s a heretic too.


#10

When we are young, I believe we are programmed to be that way. We are taught by means of reward and punishment with the presupposition that reward and punishment is necessary because our motives are inherently naughty and selfish. Little kids are led through their entire upbringing as with a carrot on a stick hoping that eventually their chase will lead them to a prize that is never forthcoming. As astute adults, we religious types protect ourselves from being discovered at this game by holding the carrot out beyond their death.

My own father was so loving that even though he did occasionally punish me (yes, and he used a belt) that it wasn’t until I got into Catholic grade school that I was exposed to this presumed guilt. Until then I obeyed authority figures just because I thought it was the right thing to do. It took me decades to realize that the “real world” pays lip service about doing what is really right, but then uses many conflicting enforcement systems of reward/punishment that have nothing to do with what is right but with getting caught – and by whom, and under what circumstances, and depending on what mood they are in and probably the phase of the moon. And that goes for the thought police too and “hate” crimes. What a screwed up mess the world is. No wonder good people go crazy trying to be honest.

So like it or not we geezers come to realize that these doctrines, etc. have no meaning unless we say they have meaning, the authority figures have no authority until we invest them with it, and that we ourselves have been the architect of that reality all along.

Gasp! Sputter! Can you just come right out and SAY that? :stuck_out_tongue:

So what does a Christian do then? I’ve seen some devout Catholics, including a 92 year old Trappist monk and my own father at 86, think they’d lost their “faith” at that juncture and spend their last days in terrified bewilderment. That’s why I think it is so important to get beyond things, likethe idea of Heaven in which there will be an “I” being “happy” at all, for the simple reason that once you get beyond a certain age, it just stops making sense. And to put this in the Christian idiom, what if that’s simply because God made us that way? It’s what Eckhart meant by taking leave of “God” the idea for God the experience.

Oops, I almost forgot. Eckhart’s a heretic too.

It wasn’t until after my dad died a few years ago at age 76 that I found out he himself was conflicted in his faith. He spent the last years of his life feeling like a hypocrite but religiously attending Mass and following the Church for the benefit of his children for fear of misleading us (and probably out of respect for his mother, a very devout Catholic).

If I understand you right, none of this is to say that heaven or hell don’t exist, of course. Just that in order to find peace we might as well recognize that for each of us, we are our own final authorities, even if by proxy to another human authority or even to God. I can have peace if I freely choose to follow the Pope or God, but not if I do so because I am commanded to under fear of “the loss of heaven or the pains of hell” as we say in the act of contrition. The legalistic attitude of mandatory this and that and infallibility and all the other proddings make it difficult to actually decide through free will.

Cherubino, the more I enjoy your posts, the more you seem to bring out the evil in me. So if I get in trouble I’m blaming it on you! :smiley:

Alan


#11

AlanfromWichita and Cherubino,

I have enjoyed reading your posts. Though we perhaps see things a bit differently, I admire that both of you exhibit a genuine need to know why you believe what you believe.

However, I have concern about the underlying beliefs that you seem to be describing. If I understand your position correctly, what you are ultimately saying, as I mentioned in my previous post (Post #4 on this thread) is that objective truth is not attainable. You say that truth is essentially in the eye of the beholder and that true objective authority only exists in those with whom we give authority.

There is a problem with this philosophy, in my opinion. I agree with you that it is faith that leads a person to belief in Jesus Christ, and the authority of the Bible. Christians can present all kinds of logical and historical information about the authenticity of the Bible, and thereby derive more comprehensive beliefs, but ultimately, there is a leap of faith to bring one to accept the Word of God as truth. Once a person has faith in Jesus Christ and the validity of the Bible though, objective truth becomes attainable. Christians are not left to their own faculties to determine with what is and what is not true, as you seem to be suggesting.

You have indicated that you are advocates of probing deep into our reasoning. I therefore encourage you to respond to the issue I raise in my previous post: God is identified throughout the Bible as The Truth. The Bible also tells us that God expects us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. With this information known (assuming you do have faith in Jesus Christ and the Bible), there are only two possibilities: Either we cannot know objective truth (in which case God’s expectation would be unreasonable), or the objective truth is in fact attainable…to which I ask how?

In the end, if truth is subjective, then you cannot even argue that there is a God. For if truth is in the eye of the beholder, God is in the eye of the beholder. Taking this logic to its conclusion, you could never argue that someone should believe in the God of Christianity, because polytheism, or pantheism are just as legitimate…if truth is subjective.


#12

[quote=Chris W]AlanfromWichita and Cherubino,

I have enjoyed reading your posts. Though weperhaps see things a bit differently, I admire that both of you exhibita genuine need to know why you believe what you believe.

However, I have concern about the underlyingbeliefs that you seem to be describing. If I understand your positioncorrectly, what you are ultimately saying, as I mentioned in myprevious post (Post #4 on this thread) is that objective truth is notattainable. You say that truth is essentially in the eye of thebeholder and that true objective authority only exists in those withwhom we give authority.

There is a problem with this philosophy, in myopinion. I agree with you that it is faith that leads a person tobelief in Jesus Christ, and the authority of the Bible. Christians canpresent all kinds of logical and historical information about theauthenticity of the Bible, and thereby derive more comprehensivebeliefs, but ultimately, there is a leap of faith to bring one toaccept the Word of God as truth. Once a person has faith in JesusChrist and the validity of the Bible though, objective truth becomesattainable. Christians are not left to their own faculties to determinewith what is and what is not true, as you seem to be suggesting.

You have indicated that you are advocates ofprobing deep into our reasoning. I therefore encourage you to respondto the issue I raise in my previous post: God is identified throughoutthe Bible as The Truth. The Bible also tells us that God expects us toworship Him in spirit and in truth. With this information known(assuming you do have faith in Jesus Christ and the Bible), there areonly two possibilities: Either we cannot know objective truth (in whichcase God’s expectation would be unreasonable), or the objective truthis in fact attainable…to which I ask how?

In the end, if truth is subjective, then youcannot even argue that there is a God. For if truth is in the eye ofthe beholder, God is in the eye of the beholder. Taking this logic toits conclusion, you could never argue that someone should believe inthe God of Christianity, because polytheism, or pantheism are just aslegitimate…if truth is subjective.
[/quote]


#13

Dear Chris W,

Thank you for your reply. I am still developing my beliefs, and these exchanges with Cherubino represent the first time I’ve actually discussed some of these ideas with another human being, so I’ll try to clarify for you as much as I can.

I believe there are objective truths, and at least some of them can be attained. Since they are absolute, these kinds of truths are not subject to experience of any given beholder, although in order to communicate these truths with language certain assumptions will have to be made which, hopefully, are themselves sufficiently absolute to convey the message.

The word “authority” has similar roots as “author.” If I speak on my own authority as Jesus did, then I am not claiming to quote for or speak for anyone else. I am the “author” of my own words. If I speak by the authority of the king, then I claim the king has empowered me to speak as if it were the king himself speaking, and may as well have been the author of my words. If I speak with the authority of the Bible, then I’m claiming the Bible will back me up. Finally, if I ostensibly speak with the authority of God, then I’m claiming that what I am saying is infallible because God Himself has given me go-ahead to speak for Him. Whether you believe I have the authority I claim, or whether you accept my claimed authority as objectively truthful in any given situation, is up to you. You may feel compelled for various reasons to comply or reject what I say for various reasons – peer pressure, preconceived notions, contradictory information, threats or bribes – other than your acceptance of my claimed authority but that’s a different issue.

There is a problem with this philosophy, in my opinion. I agree with you that it is faith that leads a person to belief in Jesus Christ, and the authority of the Bible. Christians can present all kinds of logical and historical information about the authenticity of the Bible, and thereby derive more comprehensive beliefs, but ultimately, there is a leap of faith to bring one to accept the Word of God as truth. Once a person has faith in Jesus Christ and the validity of the Bible though, objective truth becomes attainable. Christians are not left to their own faculties to determine with what is and what is not true, as you seem to be suggesting.

I agree with you here, and I do not think Christians are left on their own. They do have worldly experts, they have the Church, and they have the indwelling Spirit.

What I do not accept, is that there is a specific man in this world who, because he has been elected according to a certain religious/political process, is THE one go-to man who can, in fact, speak as if he were God Himself to my specific issues. He may be the best qualified man in the world to help me see truth on any given issue, or maybe not. But I don’t believe any one man, or group of men, can constitute an infallible authority – at least not one I’m ready to buy into for purposes of basing my whole life on. It might be different if the Pope were a personal friend I got to speak with every day, but all I know about the Pope is whatever comes to me through his writings, PR machine, and other fallible people.

I need to take a break. I’ll post this and respond further later. I really appreciate your questions because most of this I’m kind of putting together as I go, so you are helping me clarify and even develop my own beliefs.

Peace,
Alan


#14

To me, this pretty much proves Alan’s point - polytheism, pantheism, etc DO say that they have all the truth and all the answers - Christianity does not have a monopoly in this area. Thus its truth is not any “truer” than that of other religions since what is truth is totally defined by the religion itself. Again we are back to the eye of the beholder concept.

Pat


#15

I would simply remind him that the Bible came from the Catholic Church and not the other way around. To whom or what did the early Christians take their concerns prior to the institution of the Bible? I’ll give you one guess, there was only one Church in town!!!


#16

[quote=Victor]I have been engaged in a dialogue with a Protestant pastor regarding “authority” on matters of faith and morals. He of course contends that Scripture is the ultimate authority. But he is intellectually honest and admits that he is engaged in circular reasoning when he uses Bible passages to support sola scriptura. However, he says that I am engaged in faulty reasoning when I use the Bible and the Church Fathers to prove that the Church is the ultimate arbiter. After all, he says, the Church is using its own interpretation of Bible passages to prove its own authority; and the Church Fathers could have simple made up their statements to support their desire to promote the Church’s authority. Does anyone have any thoughts about how to answer him?
[/quote]

Find a copy of St. Irenaeus’ Against Heresys. He sets out to refute the Gnostics. He’s not trying to establish any doctrine. He’s just pulling together what the orthodox Christian Church has been teaching. He talks about authority coming form bishops that have succession from the apostles. He also talks about the sacred writings not being more authoritative than the apostles successors. He was in Gaul. Other people on the other side of the empire were saying the same things. The fact that people hundreds of miles apart are saying the same things give some credibility to them. Also, ask him to produce somebody in the early church that thought differently. He won’t be able to produce any writings, besides the gnostics.


#17

Now that I’ve paid a couple overdue bills, I’ll pick up where I left off…

First, I am like 99% convinced that the Bible is the inspired word of God, but also pretty sure it is dangerous to take any particular English translation so literally that parsing words makes a significant difference.

I found the section I think you’re referring to near John 4:24. That is such an excellent passage I’ll quote it:

People have told me many times that I should not try to, or presume to be able to understand, but just believe, and leave the “understanding” to the experts. It sounds like the Father will seek those who crave understanding.

You ask “how” the truth is attainable? I believe we must study our scripture and the teachings of the Church, pray, and be transformed. As we continually strive for deeper union with Christ to His very core and motivations and not just be able to quote words from the Bible that he says, we will be increasingly guided by the Spirit of Truth which will teach us all things.

In the end, if truth is subjective, then you cannot even argue that there is a God. For if truth is in the eye of the beholder, God is in the eye of the beholder. Taking this logic to its conclusion, you could never argue that someone should believe in the God of Christianity, because polytheism, or pantheism are just as legitimate…if truth is subjective.

If truth is totally subjective, then you cannot argue at all because our very language presupposes an absolute structure and a certain common understanding of logical discourse. Belief doesn’t create truth, but may or may not acknowledge it. Just as believing 2+2=5 doesn’t make it so, neither is the existence of God up to any particular person’s belief in Him. If nobody believed in Him, then the Church is on its way to a collapse because people will only go along with the gag for so long based on empty threats and promises.

Even if truth were relative, I believe you could argue for different Gods depending on the previous beliefs of the person with whom you are arguing, their intelligence, and their method of reasoning. For example, if they believe in the historicity of the Bible then you could use the CA argument that either Jesus was crazy or was divine. I would assume if you believe its historical value you would have to believe He was divine because of the miracles, unless you think He was just a really good magician or there was mass hypnosis or something. Ultimately, though, I don’t think I can give a “bulletproof” argument for Christ any more than a polytheist of pantheist could convince me of their beliefs, because of the faith that is needed.

Alan


#18

[quote=patg]To me, this pretty much proves Alan’s point - polytheism, pantheism, etc DO say that they have all the truth and all the answers - Christianity does not have a monopoly in this area. Thus its truth is not any “truer” than that of other religions since what is truth is totally defined by the religion itself. Again we are back to the eye of the beholder concept.

[/quote]

Dear Pat,

I’m not sure I made that point, but maybe I did. If you are saying Christianity is not the only ones who claim to have the God-given truth, I agree with you. Each of us has grown up in a culture that typically stresses one form of belief over another, so it is very difficult to make an unbiased decision. Like a fish in water, we don’t even realize the presuppositions that our own culture has on our thinking unless we can effectively “get out of it” and look at our culture from the outside. This is one reason I so enjoy talking to people of other religions; it’s like looking at a video feed of what I, as a Christian, look like.

Who is to say which of us, if any, is right? This is a terrible problem because each of us, being ingrained in our own culture, is biased on ways that are hard to comprehend. The Christian may say, “well it’s perfectly obvious that our truth is the correct one,” and the Hindu or the Wiccan could say the exact same thing. In each case, the judge and the advocate are the same, which would not do in a court of law.

This is why I say, when all the dust settles, what matters is you. What do you, personally, believe? You cannot force somebody to believe in Christianity, although you can exert enough pressure over a long enough time that it may become so ingrained that they may believe it without even realizing it.

I also like to talk to converts to Catholicism as well as those who have left Catholicism, because they have insights about what Catholics look like from the outside that I, as a cradle Catholic, cannot.

Alan


#19

[quote=patg]To me, this pretty much proves Alan’s point - polytheism, pantheism, etc DO say that they have all the truth and all the answers - Christianity does not have a monopoly in this area. Thus its truth is not any “truer” than that of other religions since what is truth is totally defined by the religion itself. Again we are back to the eye of the beholder concept.

Pat
[/quote]

Sorry for any confusion here. But I started by saying that I am assuming the Christian has accepted the Bible as authentic, and authoritative and believes in Jesus Christ. If the Bible is accepted at authentic and historical, then a case can be made, as Alan pointed out, about Jesus being either crazy, evil, or God. No other religion in the world, that I am aware of centers around a prophet who claimed to be God. Therefore, Christians can indeed provide evidence for their belief in the God of Christianity (because Jesus is a proven historical figure who claimed to be God), whereas polytheism and pantheism cannot.

That is not to say I will convince a pantiest, but the evidence supporting the various world religions is not all on the same level, where one is just as reasonable as another.


#20

Alan,

Sorry if I afflict the comfortable whilst merely trying to comfort the afflicted! All I’ll add here is something that occurred to me some months ago, namely that we don’t really have a developmental cognitive psychology that goes beyond Piaget’s famous stages with the emergence of formal operations in early adolescence. Well, that’s OK as far as it goes, but the mind changes its focal priorities as we continue to age. As I suggested above, the curiosity of youth is focused on facts and the future. The past, insofar as it captures our interest, is still meaningful only as it relates to our futures and the bearing it has on the concrete casings of our physical lives and egos. But with encroaching geezerism (new word), there’s a subtle shift. Listen to a bunch of us chewing the fat around the shuffleboard scene, and you’ll find that we’re far more focused on personal and shared memories as the metaphors that give meaning and vitality to our lives, not on the storied & anticipated glories of the hereafter.

In other words, we generally no longer care nearly as much about where we might be going, in this world or in some hypothetical next one, as we do about where we’ve been. And we recall stuff that happened 40 or 50 years ago in vivid detail, while we have trouble remembering the name of that dentist we went to last summer. So what might we call this, if not the gradual emergence of the tacit dimension of the mind, a perfectly natural liberation from the perception of self as an object caught up in the cause-and-effect driven world of time and all those scary worst-case scenarios that kept us glued when we were younger to the job or the pew in hopes of some future Shangri-la?

Yet this is the developmental mindset that Christian religiosity appeals to, even though those dogmas certainly don’t turn back the clock for us geezers and revitalize those salad days of youthful piety. And it simply doesn’t work to try to force ourselves to concentrate on some imaginary, concretized best-worst case eschatology, for these no longer hold our attention. Nor do we all fancy that our lives are any poorer for that-- I wouldn’t want to be 19 or even 49 again if you paid me.

So, young feller, if you want to beat the rap of having a geriatric “crisis of faith,” start building a life worth remembering right now:)


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