Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Inspired and Infallible Prophets, Infallible Popes, Biblical Higher Critic Charles Adolphus Row, and Anglican Anti-Catholic George Salmon

George Salmon

A friend of mine, Vlastimil Vohanka (Catholic), brought to my attention one Charles Adolphus Row, author of the 1887 book, Future Retribution: Viewed in the Light of Reason and Revelation, were he rails against hell, the fall of man, the importance and binding nature of the Athanasian Creed, baptismal regeneration, and a number of other Christian doctrines. George Salmon (1819-1904) was an Anglican anti-Catholic who used fallacious, weak arguments as well in fighting against the Church. Vlastimil's words will be in blue, Row's in red, and Salmon's in green.

* * * * *

The issue I‘m interested is: how can we prove that God promised (by the words of Jesus, right?) to the church that He will protect her teaching (Magisterium, both ordinary and extraordinary, both popes and councils) from error under the complex conditions defined, e.g., by the 1st (and the 2nd) Vatican Council?

The fully developed theory of infallibility cannot be "proven" -- it is a matter of faith. But the principles behind it can be. I deal with various facets of infallibility on my Papacy page. As usual, it is an accumulation of many individual evidences and indications that make it compelling.

(It‘s relevant for my dissertation on the principle of dwindling probabilities in analytic philosophy of religion and apologetics. More generally, the theme of the dissertation is: can we construe a good argument showing that the contents of the Christian, or even Roman Catholic, faith are probable on the body of public evidence?)

All the evidence taken together make it exceedingly "probable" (from a standpoint of human reason alone. I think Newman's Essay on Development remains the best treatment of the overall case from the historical perspective.

2. The Anglican theologian and mathematician George Salmon, in his book The Infallibility of the Church (1899; available at archive.org), on p. 442, suggests an interesting objection: suppose that no pope ever taught an error under the conditions defined by the 1VK;

Which is, of course, true: none ever issued binding proclamations contrary to the received faith.

yet, some popes (Liberius, Honorius, and even others) vehemently supported theological errors; thus, even if formally no pope was an erroneous teacher, some popes were erroneous guides for many Catholics:
... the Christian world was not concerned with the thoughts of Liberius but with his acts ; and they who were guided by them would find themselves ranged against Athanasius and on the side of his opponents.
Catholics know enough to not equate holders of an office with the dignity of the office itself (when they fall short). We're not like Protestants, who, too often, slavishly follow leaders (Calvin, Luther) no matter how foolish their teachings.

And not to go through a host of other cases ... where the Christian world avoided heresy by following some guidance different from that of the bishop of Rome,
I deny that there were a host of such cases.

Honorius may have had in his heart, if you choose to say so, the most orthodox abhorrence of Monothelism. But all this supposed internal [or formal] orthodoxy does not alter the fact that in his capacity of guide he did all that in him lay to lead the Christian world into that heresy.
Then Protestants are in a tremendous mess, when we look at all the heresies that Luther and Calvin espoused.

So it remains proved that even if it were possible to demonstrate that no bishop of Rome had ever entertained sentiments [or formally proclaimed doctrines] that were not most rigidly orthodox, still the pope is not an infallible guide.“
This, of course, changes the definitions. Infallibility applies to what is dogmatically proclaimed, not everything a pope does, or perfection on a human level. So Salmon fights a straw man.

See B. C. Butler's refutation of Salmon.
What would be your answer, Dave?

Those are my short ones. The topics you bring up are far too complicated to answer adequately in a short space, so I'll have to refer you to my papers.

3. Are there some good reasons to think that the "keys" given to Peter and his successors would guarantee for each of them (i) papal formal infallibility (as defined by the 1VK) and would NOT guarantee for each of them (ii) protection against their own massive erroneous influence in the substantial matters of faith? Thanks!

There are solid biblical reasons why we think the keys confer a sublime authority:

The Biblical, Primitive Papacy: St. Peter & the "Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven": Scholarly Opinion (Mostly Protestant) (+ Part II)

Protestant Scholars on Mt 16:16-19 (Nicholas Hardesty)

I noted you defend the claim that the OT prophets were infallible when speaking what they regarded as the "word of the LORD." An interesting, probably Anglican, 19th century theologian Charles Row has something relevant to say, especially on pp. 55-63 of his book Future Retribution.

He argues there that even in the NT "when a prophet spake in the congregation, the others who possessed the prophetic gift were to sit by and discern the nature of his utterance. This implies that they were to determine how far it was in conformity with the Divine Spirit, or how far a human element was mixed up with it."

According to Row, the same holds, a fortiori, for the OT prophets. What would you say?

According to the OT, the prophet was to be judged by whether his prophecies came true or not. If they did not, he was regarded as a false prophet and stoned. That was the criterion of truthfulness, and a strong motivator for a person to be sure he was a prophet before claiming that!

I would say the NT covenant was fundamentally different insofar as all were now filled with the Holy Spirit; thus had much more of a power of discernment than the masses under the Old Covenant.

Therefore, the standard then was simply whether a person spoke verifiable truth or not.

I guess Row would reply that generally even sayings of the authentic prophet, a receiver of real revelation, and confirmed by fulfilled prophecies, must be sifted -- even when they present them as the word of the LORD.

[he then presents a long series of Row citations in consecutive combox entries: one / two / three / four / five]

I am deeply interested in your reply (and deeply sorry for the length of the comments). No cavils. Just FQI (fides quaerens intellectum).

Many things going on here. You wrote:

Your argument, Dave, is that some of the OT prophets were infallible; so, a fortiori, popes and councils are infallible. Row seems to me to have it the other way round -- early Christian prophets were fallible, their sayings had to be sifted; so, a fortiori, the OT prophets were fallible, their sayings had to be sifted, too -- even when they presented them as the word from the LORD:

The argument is not that simplistic. I have never presented it in that way. I explained exactly what I think the nature of the argument is, and its strength, at the end of chapter three of my book, Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths. I made roughly the same arguments in another paper of mine, still online:

Biblical Evidence for Papal and Church Infallibility

In a nutshell, the argument is (as I stated in my book):

“If prophets spoke with inspiration, then popes can plausibly speak infallibly, since the latter is a far less extraordinary gift than the former.” Or, from a different angle: “if those with lesser gifts can do the great thing (inspired utterance), then those with greater gifts can certainly do the lesser thing (infallible utterance).”

Certain parts of the argument are indisputable. There were prophets in the OT. These did speak the Word of the Lord, which was not only infallible, but in retrospect, inspired, too, insofar as they are now recorded in inspired Scripture.

It's a simple analogy: there is such a thing as a de facto infallible person in the OT; there also is such a thing in the NT. The presence of false prophets in both covenants does not nullify that. It simply means there are false prophets! The true ones do not cease to exist because there are fake ones; imitators.

I am arguing for the existence of infallible authority; not the non-existence of fallible authority or illegitimate authority. Both can clearly exist simultaneously. Therefore, the presence of such fakers (freely conceded) constitutes no disproof at all of my analogy.

This guy Row clearly doesn't believe in biblical inspiration. He manifests the typical liberal understanding of biblical writings, according to an anthropological notion of biblical development. Hence, for him, all Bible writers were strictly pawns of their times.

He makes basic category mistakes, such as that God commands evil, because of a certain manner of speaking in the Bible whereby God's providence is referred to as allowing evil in the free acts of men. Atheists and "higher critical" types often misunderstand this because they assume the Bible was written by dumb, ignorant men way back when, who couldn't possibly have expressed such a sophisticated concept. But so they do. And at the same time, these critics routinely misunderstand the nature of multifaceted biblical literature. I've written about this:

Supposed Contradiction Between 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 (God or Satan as Cause?)

On the Alleged Contradictions of 2 Samuel 24, and 1 Chronicles 21 and 27
Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart? (Does God Positively Ordain Evil?) (vs. atheist "DagoodS")
The other basic hermeneutical aspect that he fails to understand is anthropomorphism and anthropopathism, whereby God represents Himself as having human emotions or various physical characteristics by analogy, so He could be understood. I've written about this, too:

The Catholic Dogmas of God's Immutability and Transcendence of Time

God's Immutability, Omniscience, Timelessness, & Impassibility / Anthropomorphism / Can God "Change His Mind"? Does God Have "Emotions"?

Church Fathers on the Immutability, Simplicity, Atemporality, and Impassibility of God

Biblical Evidence for Anthropopathism and God Condescending to Human Limitations of Understanding

Four Arguments Against God "Changing His Mind," From Existing Catholic Dogmas, and One Regarding "Divine Emotion"

These two things alone explain much of what troubles him. Because of the false premises involved, he'll go around (as these types of minds always do) spouting off scores of alleged biblical contradictions. At times I have dealt with these charges, and have debated atheists who think they are experts on the Bible but who are, in fact, abysmally ignorant of many things biblical.

It's okay for a time, but one can only devote so much time to playing ring around the rosey with those who are operating on false first principles. These principles have to be thoroughly examined first, or dialogue will accomplish nothing whatsoever. It'll be a wild goose chase. Solve one proposed biblical "problem" and the skeptic will simply come up with a hundred more, ad infinitum . . . Such a person needs to learn the nature of biblical literature, and how to do proper exegesis. But if one approaches the Bible like a butcher approaches a hog, there is little motivation to do that. And that is one of the fundamental problems in the first place.


Vlastimil Vohánka said...

Thank you very much, Dave.

By the word "prove" I meant to "present an epistemically good argument" (not necessarily one clearly deductively valid and with all the premises being self-evident).


I explored the links you gave tome (and also some parts of your books, and also some parts of some apologetical books by few other authors) presenting reasons why to think that God promised to the church the sublime, infallible, epistemic authority (both ordinary and extraordinary; WRT the latter, both to popes and councils).

WRT the infallibility of popes, esp. the keys given to Peter, there really is SOME evidence for the following claims:

(1) the keys confer, at least, an epistemic authority to TEACH. For some evidence on this, note, e.g., that even some Protestant scholars (cited in the linked texts in your thread) agree with this;

(2) the epistemic authority to teach is sublime at least in the sense that it is CONFINED to EXERTING the teaching OFFICE:

For some evidence, cf., e.g., Daniel Lyons, Christianity and Infallibility (www.archive.org/details/christianityandi00lyonuoft ), 1916, p. 138: "Our Lord prays for the Infallibility of Peter's faith because He was to commit to him, as Chief or Leader, the office of confirming the others in the faith. "And when thou art converted confirm thy brethren." The prerogative of Infallibility, then, was not personal, but official. It was bestowed on Peter,
not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of the Church which was to be built on him as its foundation, and over which he was to be placed as Supreme Pastor."

(3) the holder of the keys is prevented from failing at least in the sense of failing WHEN exerting the TEACHING office. For some evidence, see, e.g., Lyons, ibid., pp. 96 and 136ff.

In brief, the keys given to Peter confer a sublime (see (2)) epistemic authority to teach (see (1)) without failing (see (3)).

Now, my intellectual problems:

(i) even if any of the items (1)-(3) is QUITE POSSIBLE and MAKES SENSE (on the adduced evidence), it is not (to me) clearly PROBABLE;

(ii) even if ANY OF the items (1)-(3) is probable, it is not clear that the CONJUNCTION of (1)-(3) is probable. (The problem of dwindling probabilities of conjunctions.)


WRT the infallibility of councils (under defined conditions), you say on p. 56 of your book on Sola Scriptura:

„A) The early Church's government is shown to be of a certain nature in the New Testament, in the book of Acts.
B) It stands to reason that this is a model for later Christians.
C) The Jerusalem Council is stated to have arrived at an infallible decision.
D) Therefore, given A, B, C, and other corroborating teachings, such as apostolic succession, papal primacy, and patristic consensus, it is plausible to posit that Church councils throughout history were intended by God to also be in fallible."

(i) plausibility (in the sense of being quite possible and making sense) does not entail probability;
(ii) that Jerusalem Council was infallible is plausible (in the given sense), but is it clearly true or probable? Not to me. Not to the extent excluding every reasonable doubt.

Please, note that I am not claiming that the probabilities are (objectively) low or that Catholics (including myself) are unreasonable (epistemically unjustified) in their Catholicism. I'm just wondering how to turn my purportedly correct, offhand, Catholic estimates into something more scholarly rigorous.

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

Now, what would be, according to you, a promising argument for the infallibility of the ordinary (as opposed to the extraordinary) magisterium? Does it have to have a proclamation of the extraordinary magisterium (pope, council, under certain conditions) as a premise? Or is there some other way?



Charles Adolphus Row is NOT skeptical about substantial parts Christian historical apologetics. Yet, he is quite critical to some versions of historical apologetical arguments (e. g., for the resurrection of Christ). Row claims that moral miracles and extraordinary moral and spiritual effects of Christianity are more easily known, especially by modern people, than physical miracles (which took place long time ago), though the reality of the physical miracles, according to Row, may be known, although with greater difficulties, and after updating works of people like Paley. (Which is contrary to what my Professor of fundamental theology believes: the physical miracles are the more easy way to a scholarly good Christian, and even Catholic, apologetics. I guess you agree with my Prof. Yet, it seems to me that the evidence of most Christians is rather of the kind preferred by Row.)

How do you know he was a Unitarian? I did not think so. Maybe I did not notice that.


My formulation of your argument was not entirely correct, I agree.

I should have said rather:

"Your argument, Dave, is that the TRULY INSPIRED OT prophets were infallible at least WHEN presenting what they publicly regarded as the "word of LORD"; so, PLAUSIBLY, popes and councils are infallible."


I think Row DOES believe in inspiration as something really special, yet, at the same time, as not entailing infallibility. Even the inspired "word of the LORD", as presented by the truly inspired prophet, must be sifted. The words of truly inspired OT prophets, maybe even when presented as the "word of the LORD," still are, at least sometimes, a raw material.


Row does not believe that God commands evil. On the contrary, he believes that He does not.

Row also defends that the pertinent OT passages need not to be interpreted as claiming that God commanded evil.

Row likely employs a similar hermeneutical strategy when treating the alleged biblical contradictions: the appropriate passages need not to be interpreted as claiming contradictions.


I take Row's position to be the following:

The authors of the discussed, ethically problematical, thorny OT passages wrote with the goal of creating a historical account, within limits of the genre of the ancient Jewish historiography, yet it is quite possible (plausible) that they did not affirm that God directly ordered or caused the harsh events, although they wrote in the mood which, primace facie, suggests that God ordered them directly.

WRT the truly inspired OT prophets presenting the "word of the LORD," the authors of passages reporting these prophetic sayings present these sayings as truly inspired, within the "genre" of the OT prophecy, yet it is quite possible (plausible) that the authors (and maybe even some of the prophets) AT LEAST SOMETIMES do not affirm that God approves everything in the sayings, although the authors write (and the prophets speak) in the mood which, primace facie, suggests that God does approve everything in the sayings.

This would be different from the infallibility of the magisterium (in "genre," so to speak): God approves ALWAYS approves EVERYTHING the magisterium says under the given conditions.

Maybe one could reply that God always approved everything the truly inspired OT prophet publicly presented as the "word of the LORD" WHEN certain further conditions were satisfied. But, then, what are these conditions?

romishgraffiti said...

We're not like Protestants, who slavishly follow leaders (Calvin, Luther) no matter how foolish their teachings.

Hey, that's not fair! They don't follow Calvin or Luther's defenses of the perpetual virginity of Mary despite the fact that there has been no new data or argument since then. I'd say it is not quite slavish so much as like the Soviet Politburo in which certain people fall out of favor. :) (Of course it raises the question: If Calvin and Luther are wrong about perpetual virginity, what else are they wrong about?)

Scott W.

Vlastimil Vohánka said...
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Vlastimil Vohánka said...
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Vlastimil Vohánka said...

My well-read Anglican friend e-mails:

"... was Anglican, the Prebend of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. To call him a "biblical skeptic" and a Unitarian is, in my opinion, a slander.

Row was unhappy with attempts to explain incarnation in the elaborate and abstruse metaphysical definitions given in the Athanasian Creed, with its seventy-two explicit clauses concerning matters such as double procession. But I have no evidence that he had even mental reservations about the doctrine contained in the original form of the Nicene Creed."

There were a number of historically and biblically non-skeptical (at least WRT to the miracles)
"... (old-fashioned) unitarians ..., including Nathaniel Lardner, Joseph Priestley, John Relly Beard, Andrews Norton, Frederic Huidekoeper, Ezra Abbot, and the authors of the Rakovian Catechism. I have no sympathy for their Christology. But Row was most definitely not among them."

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Vlastimil,

I don't have the time to pursue this in the depth you require. I'm already way behind in several book and audio projects that I need to do in order to generate needed income.

In general, I will say that supernatural faith is always required. You'll never be able to "prove" Christianity or Catholicism to the satisfaction of skeptical academics. The faith doesn't reduce to epistemology. Faith is always required. It's not an irrational faith, but it IS faith, which is not mere reason.

Catholicism holds that unless one accepts all the doctrines of the Church, one will lose the supernatural virtue of faith. Once that happens, we are on our own and we won't be able to attain to faith by our own reason alone, since it is by essence supernatural and a gift from God.

I will modify some of my language concerning Row. Again, it was a time issue that didn't allow me to read his entire book; hence possible inaccuracy. He's certainly not an orthodox Christian, at any rate.

Dave Armstrong said...

As examples of what I refer to, you write in your replies:

"(i) even if any of the items (1)-(3) is QUITE POSSIBLE and MAKES SENSE (on the adduced evidence), it is not (to me) clearly PROBABLE;

"(ii) even if ANY OF the items (1)-(3) is probable, it is not clear that the CONJUNCTION of (1)-(3) is probable. (The problem of dwindling probabilities of conjunctions.)"

And you will likely continue to think this way if you exclude faith from the equation. You're treating the Bible and Catholicism as if they were merely species of philosophy. They are not. You specialize in philosophy, so it is natural for you to do this, but you have to remember that religion doesn't reduce to philosophy, and contains lots of elements extraneous to it (miracle, mystery, faith, experience, intuition, revelation, etc.).

(i) plausibility (in the sense of being quite possible and making sense) does not entail probability;
(ii) that Jerusalem Council was infallible is plausible (in the given sense), but is it clearly true or probable? Not to me. Not to the extent excluding every reasonable doubt.

Again, you won't be convinced otherwise on philosophical grounds alone. But the problem is that very premise that you seem to have adopted.

I think the way to go is Alvin Plantinga and his "properly basic beliefs." That will at least provide a solid philosophical rationale for Christianity in general.

Please, note that I am not claiming that the probabilities are (objectively) low or that Catholics (including myself) are unreasonable (epistemically unjustified) in their Catholicism.

Good, then you sounded worse than you actually are! :-)

I'm just wondering how to turn my purportedly correct, offhand, Catholic estimates into something more scholarly rigorous.

I think this project or goal will fail if you approach it in the way you seem to have been doing. It has to be on a different basis, getting away from the hyper-rationalism to something different, like Plantinga or Polanyi or Newman's "illative sense" and the reasoning in his Grammar of Assent.

Most of my work, by the way, especially concerning the Bible, presupposes biblical inspiration and hence, the internal consistency of the Bible.

I would never claim that my biblical argumentation is philosophically rigorous on the academic plane that you are on.

But once having accepted inspiration, I think we can definitely understand exactly what it is that the Bible teaches, and I don't think there are inexorable problems there, as many seem to think. There are difficulties to work through, of course, but these do not destroy a supernatural faith that is already present.

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

Dave, thanks.

Do you think that the search for a proof beyond any reasonable empirical doubt for the contents of faith from public evidence is wrongheaded?

If you do, isn't that in a tension with the following RC passages?

CCC, §156: "So "that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit." Vatican Council I, Dei Filius: 3 DS 3009. Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church's growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability "are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all"; they are "motives of credibility" (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is "by no means a blind impulse of the mind". Dei Filius: 3: DS 3008-3010; Cf. Mk 16 20; Heb 2:4."

CCC, §812: the "... historical manifestations are signs that also speak clearly to human reason. As the First Vatican Council noted, the "Church herself, with her marvellous propagation, eminent holiness, and inexhaustible fruitfulness in everything good, her catholic unity and invincible stability, is a great and perpetual motive of credibility and an irrefutable witness of her divine mission." Vatican Council I, DS Filius 3: DS 3013"

Cath. Enc. 1911: "... the motives of credibility ... afford us definite and certain knowledge of Divine revelation ..." (Of course, not a source of the magisterium.)

Aeterni Patris: "Reason declares that from the very outset the Gospel teaching was rendered conspicuous by signs and wonders which gave, as it were, definite proof of a definite truth ..."


Of course, another question is whether a scholarly rigorous proof for Catholicism (or even mere Christianity) has even been explicitly construed. If it hasn't, Richard Swinburtne's books "Revelation" and "Faith and Reason" could serve as a general model. I highly recommend them. Maybe some early modern Catholic apologists (like Bellarmine), who were quite technical, as my colleagues exploring baroque philosophy told me, could supply one with the appropriate scholarly impetus, too.

(Swinburne is a Greek Orthodox, of course.)

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Vlastimil,

My views are perfectly in accord with what you quoted. I'm all for rational defense of the faith. It's what I do for a living, after all.

My point, on the other hand, was that secular academia will always discount all of the non-rational (not IRrational) aspects of the faith, such as (from §156): "Revelation . . . internal helps of the Holy Spirit . . . miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church's growth and holiness . . ." it all works together for the person with the eyes and heart of faith. That's why we are compelled by the reasoning and the non-believer is not. We have supernatural faith and are not irrationally hostile. It's like how Jesus said that for certain skeptics, even if someone rose from the dead they would not believe. Nothing was sufficient for them.

I think reason alone is insufficient (in practical terms) to prove the faith to one who stands outside of it. And by definition reason by itself can never prove a religious faith.

I think Catholicism is exceedingly certain based on the cumulative power of many many different things, including these above and lots of others. I'm as confident of its truth as I am in anything in this world. But this is the "certitude of faith": not the end result of syllogisms or elaborate reasoning chains or endless retorts to supposed biblical contradictions alleged by men who don't have a clue of how to properly read or interpret the Bible.

Dave Armstrong said...

I think Swinburne (what I know of him) would be a good way to approach the general problem, alongside Plantinga, Polanyi, Newman, Alston, and other believing philosophers who have set forth a post-positivist, post-rationalist worldview. They make an attempt to seriously grapple with , e.g., religious experience, rather than dismiss that and sneer at it, as secularists do.

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

Hi, Dave,

Thanks again.

1. Even if the grace of supernatural habit of faith would be needed to appreciate intellectually the scholarly rigorous cumulative case from the body of public evidence (including the evidence we would not have without the revelation) for the contents of Christian (and Catholic) faith, the case can be construed by a human, right?

2. My fundamental theology professor, one of the most orthodox people in the Roman theological faculty staff at the Czech university in my town, seems to deny that supernatutral faith would be needed. He suggested in his lectures something like this:

-- Without the (external) signs (that is, the miracles and the like), we couldn't know the fact of revelation.
-- From the signs we can infer (not necessarily deductively) by natural reason the credibility of and the duty to believe in that what was revealed.
-- Of course, the great epistemic strength of the signs can be known after the conversion by the believer due to his faith.
-- God often supplies specific graces of concentrating the attention or suppressing the passions by which the subject is helped in making the mentioned inference.
-- If the subject knows the signs only partially (that is, not enough of them) and their strenght is, consequently, not great or sufficient, God can supply the grace of a supplementary, non-public, miraculous sign or revelation.
-- If the (objective epistemic) strength of the signs known by the subject is great or sufficient, but the subject currently does not see or appreciate it, God can supply the grace of healing his natural reason (intellect).
-- Yet, strictly speaking, such graces are not (identical to) the grace of faith -- lumen fidei, as it is sometimes called. They are rather the final preparations for faith. And they are not necessary for the knowledge of the fact of revelation. To deny that is to contradict the intention of Aeterni Patris (§5) and the Vatican Council I.

Vlastimil Vohánka said...


(Aeterni Patris, §5: "... reason declares that the doctrine of the Gospel has even from its very beginning been made manifest by certain wonderful signs, the established proofs, as it were, of unshaken truth; and that all, therefore, who set faith in the Gospel do not believe rashly as though following cunningly devised fables, but, by a most reasonable consent, subject their intelligence and judgment to an authority which is divine. And of no less importance is it that reason most clearly sets forth that the Church instituted by Christ (as laid down in the Vatican Council), on account of its wonderful spread, its marvellous sanctity, and its inexhaustible fecundity in all places, as well as of its Catholic unity and unshaken stability, is in itself a great and perpetual motive of belief and an irrefragable testimony of its own divine mission."

Ad the Vatican Council I
CCC, §156: "So "that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit." Vatican Council I, Dei Filius: 3 DS 3009. Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church's growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability "are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all"; they are "motives of credibility" (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is "by no means a blind impulse of the mind". Dei Filius: 3: DS 3008-3010; Cf. Mk 16 20; Heb 2:4.")

-- Faith is something extra, special; a supernatural habit. The Compendium of the CCC, §28: "Faith is the supernatural virtue ... The act of faith is a human act, that is, an act of the intellect of a person - prompted by the will moved by God - who freely assents to divine truth.")

What do you think? I wonder whether there is some evidence that this position is heterodox (at least from the Roman Catholic view), and/or whether there is some approving evidence for it in the (Roman Catholic) tradition and/or magisterium.

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

Dave, off-topic, but important,

Discussing the epistemic possibility of the Holy Trinity on Maverick Philosopher, I recently suggested this scenario as not at all absurd:

Suppose (i) a Christian believes that there is such a proposition that the council fathers expressed it by the sentences of the Athanasian Creed, and (ii) the Christian does not entertain the proposition (directly), and (iii) the Christian believes the proposition is true.

Dale Tuggy, the author of the SEP entry on the Trinity, answers:

"What Vlastimil suggests ... has been discussed on trinities, parts 4, 5, and 6 here:


I argue in the "Stalin" post that it is a dead end. As I understand it, Catholic theologians have come to this conclusion as well."


Is Dale right about Catholic theologians?

Dave Armstrong said...

Again, I don't have the time to deal with all this. I've been trying to get back to some work I have to do for three weeks now (as I said to the Mormon in another thread). It's too involved of a topic and I can't "compete" with professors of philosophy on technical epistemological issues. I wouldn't even want to try.

I think a very strong "case" can be made, yes. Catholicism is entirely reasonable. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that all men know there is a God (Romans 1), but it also says in the same context that the truth is suppressed because of sin and wickedness. Therefore, the manifest truth is not believed. Sin affects reasoning ability.

That's why supernatural assistance (However it is classified) is necessary to believe, as the example of your professor showed also. It has to overcome the resistance of rebellion and the fall.