Infallibility of the Faith
#61
(06-23-2014, 09:46 PM)Melkite Wrote: It's not in the idea that concepts share all the same criteria where my doubt lies.  It is simply in "what would I consider crazy about Catholicism if I were not Catholic?" at the time.  What in Catholicism asks us to suspend reason in order to believe them.  Even if ismah is not a direct parallel to papal infallibility, believing papal infallibility still asks us to suspend rational thought to believe it.  It's not a naturally occurring phenomenon.  We have to accept that the laws of nature are somehow working differently here than on any other human being.

When the Pope invokes a special authority promised by God, he speaks as the Vicar of Christ teaching, who since Christ is God cannot be wrong. How is that "suspending rational thought". I would say rather, it uses rational thought. God cannot be wrong, this man speaks with the authority of God in this specific situation, therefore, this man cannot be wrong in this specific situation.

(06-23-2014, 09:46 PM)Melkite Wrote: They're not written about anywhere else.  For example, there are no reports from other sources of all the tombs in Jerusalem opening and the dead walking the streets.  There are no other sources that talk about the veil in the temple being torn in two (not really miraculous, but significant).  If these didn't really happen, how can we be sure the rest did?  And, again, believing that they happened requires one to at least momentarily suspend rational thought.

While yes, there are some miracles recorded in the New Testament which lack corroborating support, they still have very solid support from ration thought (no suspension necessary).

Many scholars defend the historical reliability of the gospels from different perspectives. Most center around the manuscript evidence from early copies of the New Testament. Others take this evidence and look historically at the early Church:
- The authors of the New Testament were eyewitnesses of the events they describe, or at least immediate disciples of eyewitnesses with peer-review from eyewitnesses,
- The authors had nothing to gain from inventing a God-Man since this only brought them labor, persecution and death. Each was willing to die for his message, and all but St. John did, who himself was exiled.
- The writings undoubtedly date from the first century,
- The doctrines of the New Testement could not have come from the religious imagination of a Jewish writer (e.g. hypostatic union, True Presence, no more Mosaic Law) hence it could not be a product of pious invention,
- The New Testament has historical integrity, since it was public from very early along in liturgical reading and any change would have been controversial.

If the New Testament is more historically reliable and better established than any other work of ancient literature, then why should the miracles within be doubted. Further, during the violent persecutions know falsity of any of the miracles would have quickly disproven this new faith and been a great boon for the Jews, yet NO ONE questioned the historical authenticity of the miracles during the persecutions, they only deny a divine power for them.

The historical reliability of the NT demonstrates the miracles to be true. As a good friend put it once, the Gospel without the miracles is like the Lord of the Rings without the ring. For example, Christ allegedly raised Lazarus, which won him the ire of the Pharisees who plotted to kill him, and the renown of the people, which led the the Palm Sunday entrance, which increased his fame and further increased the Pharisee's desire to kill him. Yet if Lazarus did not rise from the dead there would have been no Palm Sunday, and no reason for the Pharisees to want to kill Christ. The historically provable events assume the truth of the miracle. No miracle, no crucifixion.

Further, the whole Sabbath controversy was about Christ miraculously healing people on the Sabbath, but if He did not heal anyone, then there was no controversy. If there were no miracles why did crowds follow Christ everywhere, and why are the Pharisees powerless to stop Christ? Why were the crowds bitter on Good Friday, because based on the miracles, they expected Christ to deliver them from the Romans, and instead he was killed, but if there were no miracles then there would have been no reason to expect that Christ was the Messias.

So, while corroborating data would be nice, we don't need it to show that some miracles happened.

(06-23-2014, 09:46 PM)Melkite Wrote:
Quote:And somehow scientific studies can detect supernatural effects? Isn't science about the natural, observable world, not about the supernatural (i.e. non-observable world).?

No.  Science can detect when there is no difference between a control group and a test group that is supposed to have supernatural effects taking place.  In studies where people were asked to pray for a group of people that had cancer to be healed, and there was a control group where no one received prayer, there was no difference in the incidence of cancer going into remission or being spontaneously healed in the two groups.  Studies like this have been replicated multiple times.

And this proves what exactly? That they did not detect a supernatural effect? That people die of cancer, even when people pray for them? Did they measure whether the prayers affected the dispositions of the patients and the holiness of their deaths? Is not such a test exactly the contrary of Faith? Why would God answer prayers which are offered as part of a research study meant to test Him?


(06-23-2014, 09:46 PM)Melkite Wrote: If this is true, then what is the purpose of supplicatory prayer?  If God acts outside of time, then our prayer can in no way alter that action.  It is worthless to ask of God anything.  It would also mean that predestination is true, even more fully than what the Calvinists propose, and that every evil that falls upon us, even if only passively so, was planned and created by God.

God at the same time sees the merit we will earn, penance we will do, prayers we will offer, and the operations of the universe are contingent on these things just as much as on the natural law. God saw that man A would commit a grave sin, allowed it, and also saw that man B would offer penance and prayer in reparation for this sin and the conversion of man A. That, for God, was seen from all eternity as well, and His grace was planned based on this as well. So certain things are contingent on our prayers, but God does not hear them as you and I, sequentially and in time.

In fact that's the complete opposite of Calvinist predestination, which says our prayers and good actions merit us nothing. Rather the Catholic says, that God from all eternity planned certain things based on the prayers and good actions He knew we would do, and without which He would not have acted. We don't then really change His will, but instead we correspond to His will by offering the prayers He willed we would offer so that certain graces He will to grant would be granted.

[Edited by Vox to remove extraneous quoting that made it look as if Melkite's words were those of MagisterMusicae]
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#62
Going to butt in, as your comments about deism vs. Christianity sparked my interest, and I wanted to reply to some things you said.

Quote:For deism, I don't understand it the same as you do.  Although I used to.  When I say deism, I don't mean God created the universe and walked away.  God is the ground of all being.  If his attention looked away from us for a moment, we would cease to exist.  I believe that wholeheartedly.  So I do believe that he is loving and merciful, and I do believe that he is concerned with us, but I don't believe he alters the flow of the universe for us . . .  If he is constantly interfering with miracles, then it's not the brilliant creation of his that its supposed to be.  It would mean he created a faulty universe in the beginning that he constantly has to tweak because of the bugs in the program he apparently wasn't omniscient enough to prevent in the beginning.

Your conception of the cosmos as it relates to God is peculiar. First, God does not "alter the flow of the universe" by any traditional account. To change something he had previously created would require God himself to change, which is impossible. Rather, one would say that the universe alters its flow around God. Christ, for instance, did not somehow change the divine essence by becoming man. He changed the essence of man. Miracles are in principle no different.

Quote:He doesn't intervene to stop evil.  He doesn't heal amputations.  He doesn't (as of yet) resurrect from the dead, or even prevent death.  Multiple studies have shown zero efficacy to supplicatory prayer. I think just observing life, for whatever reason, shows that God wants the universe to unfold as it would.
Something about the statement "Multiple studies have shown zero efficacy to supplicatory prayer" seems very disturbing in a subtle way. It is disturbing in almost exactly the same way as the third stanza of this Auden poem is disturbing. On the one hand, to do a study on the efficacy of prayer strikes me as a very cold, mechanical, and scientific analysis of something that is alive--it is the same as the  arrogance to presume that one can understand a frog better by killing and dissecting it rather than by sitting and watching it. It is fundamentally an affront to humanity to think that one can prove something significant about prayer by studies. On the other hand, to submit prayer to statistic is like submitting the existence of God to empirical evidence.

Ultimately, prayer cannot be about the fulfillment of human desire. It is rather the battleground upon which the war over human desire is fought out. If my mother is dying, and I pray to God that she be healed, there are only two options: she will either get better, or she will die. Whichever happens is the will of God. Yet in my praying that God heal her, I would be doing two significant things--first, I would be bringing Him into the matter in my mind, which is important. One ought always think about God. Second, I am, by praying to him, admitting to myself that God can do as he pleases. Yet the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike--thus, those who pray may not receive what they ask for, and those who do not pray may receive what they do not ask for. All healings and all deaths occur according to the divine will, and this is why we have supplicatory prayer in the first place.


Quote:So death is natural, it's the way things are supposed to be.  Our death is natural, it's not the punishment of a forefather's sin.  God's choice to not interfere is loving, because it guarantees absolute free will, without w hich love of him is impossible. This explains pointless suffering, why babies die, and everything that calls into question how a loving God could let that happen when he is powerful enough to stop it.  If he intervened, even once, he would destroy our free will.
On the topic of death being natural, I disagree. Death is the most unnatural and evil thing there is. Based on you name "Melkite," I assume you have been to Divine Liturgy, and I imagine you have heard the Pascal Troparion:

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling down death by death
And on those in the tombs bestowing life.

Death is the last enemy that shall be destroyed--and so long as you continue to view death as natural, you will not find a way to reconcile yourself to Christianity, for Christ "gave himself up for the life of the world." I do not mean this as an indictment, but rather as a statement of fact.

And on this topic, I know no better recommendation than Fr. Alexander Schmemann's short book O Death, Where Is Thy Sting? He's Orthodox, and presents very well the Eastern Orthodox view of death. While we're on the topic of Schmemann, I would also recommend reading For the Life of the World, which is probably the most profound book I have ever read. It sort of acts like a sequel to the other one, though I think he wrote them in the reverse order. If you go to an Orthodox church, I'm sure you can borrow them from someone, or the church library should have them.

As for divine intervention, if God's intervening destroys our free will, then God's existence destroys our free will. Divine intervention is a particular way in which the world relates to God, and as such is not in principle different from the normal mode of relation to God.

Quote:So apparently, our free will is of the utmost good, relative to us, in this universe.  This is another reason why I completely reject predestination.  The evidence of life demands absolute free will.  We cannot be judged for our sins without a will that is not absolutely free.  We cannot love God without an absolutely free will.   We cannot repent of our sins without an absolutely free will.

An absolutely free will--what does that even look like? Every attempt I have heard to separate the will from the human person and deem it free has simply resulted in bad philosophy. The whole dichotomy between free will and predestination just requires all the wrong presuppositions in order to even arise as a question. The question  "Are our wills free or predestined?" can be rephrased as "Are we free to choose, or does God choose for us?" Yet to phrase it so leads to more questions: what is it to be free to choose? Certainly I can't choose to make a square circle, or to fly, or to be a bat. The first is logically impossible, while the second is only impossible given man's essence. The third is possible, but it does not happen to be the case. I suppose what people mean when they speak of a free will is something like choosing to have or to not have ice cream or whiskey or sex. To which it seems that the only reasonable answer is, yes, you can choose to have ice cream, whiskey, sex, or any combination of the three. This is clear by the fact that people obviously do eat ice cream, drink whiskey, and have sex, all without any apparent divine intervention. Yet if someone prevents me from any of these things, I do not claim that my free will has been violated. And if subliminal advertising somehow causes me to will all three (or really just variations of the last one disguised as other things), I also do not claim that my free will has been violated.

Talking about real things, people are much more reasonable about free will. It's when they talk about Platonic hyperspace that everything get's confused. This is because, when talking about free will versus predestination, people somehow separate man's ego from his actual instantiated reality. The only way of talking about things like human will and the soul that seems reasonable is something like Aristotle's claim that the soul is the form of the body. The will cannot be like a quantum particle, for that is randomness, not freedom. The will has to be actually instantiated in a living person, which makes freedom something other than the ability for the will to act in any manner as regards its object. That just doesn't make sense, because that is not how any actual living person actually works.

Ultimately, free will and predestination are just two sides of a coin that doesn't exist.
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#63
(06-23-2014, 12:24 PM)Clare Brigid Wrote:
(06-23-2014, 11:18 AM)Melkite Wrote:
(06-23-2014, 11:12 AM)Clare Brigid Wrote: Melkite, would you consider reading the chapter on the Eucharistic Sacrifice in Christ, the Life of the Soul, by Bl. Columba Marmion?  I have never read such an illuminating explanation of why sacrifice is necessary to worship and why it is eminently spiritual.

I'll give it a go.  Can it be found on the internet or would I have to purchase the book?

I'll scan it tomorrow and provide you with a link to download it.

I have scanned and posted to my Google+ page Chapter 7, "The Eucharistic Sacrifice," from Christ, the Life of the Soul by Bl. Columba Marmion:  https://plus.google.com/1150782623528884...dcpmwCxDtW

This chapter considerably deepened my own understanding and appreciation for the teaching of the Catholic Church on the spiritual significance and necessity of sacrifice.  Melkite, I hope that it will be of some help to you.
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#64
(06-24-2014, 12:00 AM)Beardly Wrote: Your conception of the cosmos as it relates to God is peculiar. First, God does not "alter the flow of the universe" by any traditional account. To change something he had previously created would require God himself to change, which is impossible. Rather, one would say that the universe alters its flow around God. Christ, for instance, did not somehow change the divine essence by becoming man. He changed the essence of man. Miracles are in principle no different.

That's a bit of a loose understanding, even though in a sense it is correct. The universe, however, is not self-motive. The old axiom applies: Quidquid movetur ab alio moventur (Whatever is moved is moved by another). The universe doesn't really "alter its flow around God", but because God from all eternity designed it to act in certain ways at certain times, secondary caused (parts of the universe) move other parts of the universe. Ultimately the causality ends up back at God Himself.

Miracles are not the "interference" but rather part of the plan, but outside of the normal course of what would naturally happen. Just because naturally something would not happen does not mean that God causing something beyond this (like the temporary suspension of the effect of a natural process) is changing his mind. Rather, He knew and planned to do this. It only appears to us to be God stepping in and changing things. For God it was always planned this way. He never changed His mind at all, just did what he had planned.

So, yes, in a way you're right, but I just wanted to offer some more precision.
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#65
(06-24-2014, 12:33 PM)MagisterMusicae Wrote:
(06-24-2014, 12:00 AM)Beardly Wrote: Your conception of the cosmos as it relates to God is peculiar. First, God does not "alter the flow of the universe" by any traditional account. To change something he had previously created would require God himself to change, which is impossible. Rather, one would say that the universe alters its flow around God. Christ, for instance, did not somehow change the divine essence by becoming man. He changed the essence of man. Miracles are in principle no different.


Miracles are not the "interference" but rather part of the plan, but outside of the normal course of what would naturally happen. Just because naturally something would not happen does not mean that God causing something beyond this (like the temporary suspension of the effect of a natural process) is changing his mind. Rather, He knew and planned to do this. It only appears to us to be God stepping in and changing things. For God it was always planned this way. He never changed His mind at all, just did what he had planned.

Please excuse my simple-minded ignorance, but this is where I start to get confused with predestination or predetermination.  ??? ??? 

Also, Melkite used in one of his posts the observation that there are no known instances of a "miraculous" healing of an amputated limb.  Is this true?  And, if so, well....I'm not quite sure what to make of that.  So, once again... ???


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#66
(06-24-2014, 12:33 PM)MagisterMusicae Wrote:
(06-24-2014, 12:00 AM)Beardly Wrote: Your conception of the cosmos as it relates to God is peculiar. First, God does not "alter the flow of the universe" by any traditional account. To change something he had previously created would require God himself to change, which is impossible. Rather, one would say that the universe alters its flow around God. Christ, for instance, did not somehow change the divine essence by becoming man. He changed the essence of man. Miracles are in principle no different.

That's a bit of a loose understanding, even though in a sense it is correct. The universe, however, is not self-motive. The old axiom applies: Quidquid movetur ab alio moventur (Whatever is moved is moved by another). The universe doesn't really "alter its flow around God", but because God from all eternity designed it to act in certain ways at certain times, secondary caused (parts of the universe) move other parts of the universe. Ultimately the causality ends up back at God Himself.

Miracles are not the "interference" but rather part of the plan, but outside of the normal course of what would naturally happen. Just because naturally something would not happen does not mean that God causing something beyond this (like the temporary suspension of the effect of a natural process) is changing his mind. Rather, He knew and planned to do this. It only appears to us to be God stepping in and changing things. For God it was always planned this way. He never changed His mind at all, just did what he had planned.

So, yes, in a way you're right, but I just wanted to offer some more precision.

I'm attempting to convey a paradigm that is implicit in the more precise way of talking about the issue but also covered over by said precision. As for it being a loose understanding, at least as involves Christ (which is what I assume you are referring to) the Eastern Orthodox understanding, and the understanding of many of the Church Fathers. As for the rest, I am familiar with Aristotle and Thomistic theology. I just decided not to use it, for the sake of clarity.
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