Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Bob wrote back. Here's his email and mine.

>From: "Bob" [bob@edsredeemingqualities.com]
>To: "JB O"
>Subject: not offended
>Date: Mon, 5 Aug 2002 22:50:29 -0700
> I don't find your reply sarcastic or snippy at all. I hope you didn't
>find my questions to be so, though they are obviously pointed.
> The problem as reason and logic must see it, though, is that your answer
>is evasive. It falls under the category of an Argument from Authority -
>simple assertion without evidence or demonstration, or a circular argument.
>Which makes much Christian faith a matter more of ideology than experience.
> Strangely enough, as I explain in my blog today, it makes the Christian
>ideologue the obverse of the atheist. The atheist ignores the absurdity of
>his contradiction in terms; whereas the religious ideologue ignores the
>absurdity of his circular argument from authority; but both substitute
>themselves for God in the final analysis.
> Are you able to examine the case against religious ideology with
>disinterest or are you rather committed to the irrational interpretations,
>speculations, pieties, and theologies of the Catholic ideology?

All Christianity is an argument from authority. That is, if Christ is who He said He was, then we have the authority straight from the top, as it were. And if we therefore take the Gospels to be and mean what they say (but not in a fundy sense) then we have to take the idea of the Magisterium seriously.

You and I take all sorts of things "from authority" and no one ever questions it. I take it from authority that Napoleon existed and tried to conquer Europe. Likewise Hitler. I was not alive for either of those periods, but people concur that they happened. I take it on authority that the reason the lights in my office work has to do with the creation of electric fields made in power plants far away, and the transmission of those fields through wires. I can put my hand in a socket and get zapped, but that only proves that the force that lights the lights is there. I rely on authority to explain it.

It would be one thing to say that no one has ever observed God, and then argue from authority. But to be Christian is to accept certain first principles and proceed from them, just as to be a physicist is to do likewise. Some people once observed certain phenomena, and sought to categorize them. They wrote down what they saw, and passed it down to us, and we argue all sorts of things from those. The only difference between the physicist and the Christian (or the historian, for that matter) is that the physicist deals in repeatable phenomena and the Christian and historian deal in unique ones.

If we are going to go around rejecting arguments from authority, merely because they are from authority, we are going to have to spend a lot of time every morning probing around the bedroom before we can safely walk to the kitchen to make the coffee. The question is, which authority, and how reliable, and why should I believe that particular one?

My additional comment is, read Matthew 16:19. It is not my own Authority, but Christ's. Now, one can challenge that authority, of course, but there is nothing circular about it. Einstein was right, or Einstein was wrong. Paul Kennedy is right, or Paul Kennedy is wrong. Christ was right, or he was wrong. I believe He was right, and many things flow from that. But the authority of the the Magisterium is not circular or self-referential. It comes from Christ.


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