Philosophy, Politics, Wolfgang Smith

The Ideology of Scientism & Progressive Politics

Wolfgang Smith QuoteWolfgang Smith cuts through the ideology of scientism with some intellectual realism, “We need to transcend what we have been taught in schools and universities to discover on our own what we are never told: only thus can we begin to perceive the full picture. To place The Grand Design within the context of the existing culture, it is above all imperative to get over the notion that science is simply a quest in search of truth: open, unbiased, and fair. We need to realize that the enterprise has an ideology, an agenda, an establishment, and vested interests to protect; as anyone past childhood should realize, “politics” does enter the picture.”

Richard Lewontin perfectly expresses the mindset that Smith is exposing and the ID theorists have committed themselves to defeating (emphasis added):

“We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill some of its extravagant promises for health and life, in spite of the toleration of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

The legitimacy of science has been transformed into an ideology, a scientistic alchemy that fits the political motives of progressivism, secularism, and nihilism.

Consider this video by Bill Nye, where he pretends that his scientific credentials (whatever those might amount to other than his old identity as the “science guy”) lend approval to the gender fluidity of the sexual revolutionaries. What is consider to be science is really a secular theological and philosophical interpretation of nature masquerading as objective verification of empirical reality.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Apologetics, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Psychology, Phenomenology, & Cognitive Science, Seraphic Orthodoxy, Theology

Seraphic Orthodoxy, Hylomorphism, & Personal Identity

Seraphic Orthodoxy, Hylomorphism, and Personal IdentityThe discussion of abortion is usually approached from the context of “rights” following the judicial precedent instituted by Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood. One of the philosophical presuppositions undergirding the precedent of a right to abortion is the idea of bodily autonomy. For contemporary American culture absolute bodily autonomy is now an unexamined philosophical foundation protected by quips and slogans rather than sound reasoning. Those in disagreement with Roe and the succeeding precedent are faced with the difficult challenge of combatting sophists dedicated to sloganeering while at the same time being expected to perfectly articulate the pro-life position within an often-interrupted sound bite. Attempting to articulate a thorough refutation of abortion rights requires a Sisyphean effort when your arguments are kicked back down the hill every time some feminist shrieks, “My body! My Choice!” or “Free abortion on demand and without apology!”

In order to engage the abortion debate in a meaningful way the philosophical dispute must first be properly identified. The point of stasis is not at the level of political rights, but at the theological and philosophical level of personal identity, or what constitutes personhood. Moreover, to properly discuss personal identity at the philosophical level, metaphysical and ontological commitments must be discussed, which inexorably requires analysis at the theological level. To be sure, theology, metaphysics, and ontology are entirely wrapped up in the discussion of personal identity so these deeper issues are unavoidable.

When discussing issues of personal identity (or personal agency) our culture is systematically trapped in a strict either/or dichotomy. Either our personal identity is associated with our psychological attributes or it is associated with our bodily attributes. In our modern political discourse, there is no middle way offered to untie this tightened secular knot.

Professor Robert P. George argues,

Either the body is a part of the personal identity of the human being, in which case the human person, properly speaking, is a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit, or the body is a sub-personal dimension of the human being that functions as an instrument at the service of the conscious and desiring aspect of the self – the ‘person,’ strictly speaking, who controls and uses the body. The secularist position on issues such as abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia straightforwardly treats the body as a sub personal reality: a living human body is not a person, or, at least, is not a person until it comes to be associated (somehow) with a mind or other center of conscious self-awareness; and a living human body ceases to be a person not necessarily by dying, but ay any point at which it loses this association, which may be long after death. The body, as such, according to secularists, lacks the dignity of personhood – that is why they believe it isn’t necessarily wrong to kill ‘pre-personal’ or ‘post-personal’ human beings (fetuses, handicapped infants, the irreversibly demented, or other human ‘nonpersons’).[1]

Professor George continues,

“The dualism of orthodox secularism is not erased by the materialist insistence that the attributes of personhood are, ‘entirely a function’ of the physical structure of the human organism. For secularist liberals, it is the conscious, desiring, self-aware, and future directed part of the human being that is truly the ‘person’; it is the psychological attributes of consciousness, self-awareness etc. that confer ‘moral standing.’ By contrast, the living body, as such, is not part of the personal reality of the human being. And it is the status of the body as sub personal that accounts for the willingness of secularists to authorize the killing of human beings before they become ‘persons’ (fetuses and even infants) and after they cease being ‘persons’ (the demented, the permanently comatose, etc.) The dualism of orthodox secularism consists in treating the ‘person’ and the ‘mere living body’ as really separable. ‘Persons’ have dignity and rights; (their) ‘mere’ living bodies do not.”

Secularists, then, have tied themselves in an incoherent, ad hoc metaphysical knot that only recognizes rights within the dualistic nature of the functional human person (as they conceive of functioning) while denying this same dualistic nature to those they consider pre or post persons. In addition to this confused position, the supposed right to an abortion is associated with the concept of individual bodily autonomy while at the same time personhood is arbitrarily recognized only when conscious self-awareness is attained. To make matters even worse, the secularist view often influenced by materialist presuppositions, usually commits to a form of mind-body monism concerning consciousness, whereby the mind either emerges from matter or under the pretense of functionalism the mind is reduced to physical sensory inputs and outputs. What seems to follow from this secular materialist position is an incoherent appeal to consciousness as the defining attribute of personhood while at the same time reducing consciousness to an effective material illusion derived from biological operating features of the body. For the orthodox secular progressive, the person is defined by a consciousness that is nothing more than a physicalist illusion of chemical interaction.

Only a true orthodoxy, a Seraphic Orthodoxy, guided by the light of the Catholic faith can overcome the dilemma that has enslaved our contemporary modernist culture. In this essay I will articulate a view of personal identity which unshackles itself from the contemporary either/or tradition when considering these issues. After defending this view of personal identity, I will briefly examine how it can be informative when considering moral issues in the public square.

Seraphic Orthodoxy and the Human Person

Why should we utilize Seraphic Orthodoxy on issues concerning personal identity? Why should we seek guidance from the Patristic Doctors of the Church, and the medieval scholastic theologians and philosophers when we are living in a modern, scientific era? The primary reason for doing so is to offer a philosophical view that is able to break free from the picture of reality our society seems to be trapped in; an unexamined either/or dichotomy between the mental and material instead of considering a both/and approach to personal identity. Moreover, these public policy issues demanding moral clarity are resting upon a more fundamental ontology of person than our public discourse allows. Seraphic Orthodoxy, in my view, is able to untie this tightened knot.

Seraphic Orthodoxy is committed to the theory of hylomorphism.[2] A hylomorphic philosophy of nature is an important component of the traditionally informed worldview, and emphasizes a specific structure and organization of the materials that make up the world we live in.[3] Most importantly, the hylomorphic philosophy of nature is ontologically hierarchic, metaphysically cogent, is consistent with the light of human reason, and participates on the spectrum of revealed truth concerning the created order. The emphasis of a dynamically unified, hierarchic composite structure and organization of the natural world provides ontological explanations for why various organisms possess distinguishing aptitudes for growth and development, reproduction, perception, movement, and cognition.[4] A philosophy of nature informed by the classical tenets of hylomorphic theory not only reconstitutes how it is that we can begin to understand our created reality, it appropriately challenges the mechanistic view of nature that has been popular since the Enlightenment.[5]

The distinctive philosophical principles of the hylomorphic theory of nature important for investigating personal identity are form/matter and potentiality/actuality. Things (objects) in nature are a combination of form and matter. To visualize this, Edward Feser gives an example of a red rubber ball.[6] The matter of the ball all by itself cannot be the ball because the rubber material could be something other than a ball, such as the sole of a shoe. Moreover, the form by itself is not the ball because the form is merely an abstraction that informs the material substance of the thing, in this case it is the red rubber ball. Since this is the case, only the form combined with the matter can give us the red rubber ball.

The red rubber ball can also be utilized in order to understand potentiality and actuality.[7] The red rubber ball has the potential to become a puddle of red rubber goo if heat is applied. When this occurs the red rubber ball’s potential capability of becoming red rubber goo becomes actualized. It is important to note that a potentiality can only become an actuality by something that is already actualized. For example, a match has the potential to melt the red rubber ball, but if the match exists only in the state of potentially hot it cannot melt the red rubber ball. Only when the matches’ potential to become hot is actualized can it then actualize the red rubber ball’s potential gooeyness.

These elements of a hylomorphic philosophy of nature are imperative for understanding the ontology of a person. On this view, man is a perfect, dynamic, and unified composite structure of form and matter, or body and soul. The ontology of personhood is not the body alone because not all bodies (matter) possess life, and it is not the soul (form) alone because the matter individuates the form. Henri Renard says,

“The soul is the active principle of life in the nature of man. It cannot be a body, since many bodies do not live. It is a form, not composed, not extended, not divisible, but simple; for it has neither essential nor quantitative parts.” He continues, “Man is a perfect unit, a composite of soul and body – two principles which form a natural, substantial unit, because they are transcendentally related to each other as act and potency. The soul actuates, the matter individuates; the soul is the principle of intellectual life, but it needs matter in order to know. It’s knowledge, which is primarily that of the corporeal world, is acquired though the instrumentality of the senses. For this reason, the soul needs the body for the extrinsic stimulus, without which it could never perfect itself.”[8]

From this standpoint, the hylomorphic view conflicts with the contemporary emphasis on the psychological component of the person as well as the emphasis on a bodily or “animal” component. Indeed, man is not the soul, but a composite of body and soul and the soul is the act and form of the body.[9]

Now that we have explained the hylomorphic philosophy of nature and the proper framework for the ontology of a person, we can posit the necessary and sufficient conditions for personal identity needed to persist through time.

On Seraphic Orthodoxy, a person X is identical to Y if and only if the soul and body are unified in a composite structure of body and soul. This conception of the person is able to direct our real world investigations of personal identity issues in a way that relates to our common intuitions.

How Do Our Intuitions Relate to the Seraphic Orthodox View of Personal Identity?

The Bernard Williams essay, The Self and the Future, presents us with two thought experiments that lend support for the defense of a unified view of personal identity. The first thought experiment (scenario) provides two agents – person A and person B.  These agents have a “mentalistic” transfer of memory data. After the transfer takes place, the data from person B is in the A – body and the data from person A is in the B – body. Before the transfer takes place each person is able to choose which body will be tortured and which will be given $100,000. After the transfer either the A – body containing person B’s data or the B – body containing person A’s data, will have been tortured or received $100,000. The second scenario involves only one agent – person A. This agent is presented with the fact that he is going to be tortured the following day, but before being tortured their memory will be erased. The key element to consider from these two scenarios is that in scenario 1 the torture is far less of a concern than it is in scenario 2. This is based on whether a “mentalistic” component or a “bodily” component is tracked with regard to personal identity. Williams finds there are “first – personal” and “third – personal” concerns with questions about personal identity. Moreover, there are also “mentalistic” and “bodily continuity” considerations involved in examining issues concerning personal identity. Also, with this in consideration, Williams thinks these scenarios should run parallel to one another; the first-personal approach should focus on mentalistic criterion of personal identity and the third-personal approach should focus on bodily continuity. What actually occurs is to the contrary of Williams’s intuition. In the third – personal approach of scenario 1 we track a mentalistic criterion and in the first – personal approach of scenario 2 we track a bodily criterion.[10]

Following the thought experiments, a 6-stage examination of these two scenarios is presented to us in an intensified manner; (i) Person A has an operation resulting in total amnesia; (ii) add character changes; (iii) add fictitious memories; (iv) previous character changes and fictitious memories match someone else’s, namely, person B; (v) not only do the changes and memories match person B they are derived from person B; (vi) same as (v) but done for A to person B’s body.[11] On Williams’s view, there is no reason, in stages (i) – (vi), that we should deny the A-body person is identical to A. Hence, for Williams, there is no reason to deny the A-body person is identical to A in stages (i) – (vi).

Stages (i) – (iii) highlight the fear rationally obtained within scenario 2, that even if we have our memories erased prior to being tortured we still have good reason to fear the pain following the operation resulting in amnesia. Moreover, stage (iv) does very little to change the scenario in a material manner since the only change of condition is the introduction of person B into the stages. According to Williams, we can track our fear through all of these stages. Not only is there no material significance in change from (iii) to (iv), there is no causal condition introduced. Stage (iv) is merely saying we have character traits and memories that match another person’s, but it says nothing of their causal nature, that is, how we acquired them. Having character traits and memories of another person is not enough to introduce meaningful changes to individual personal identity. Williams lucidly points this out in addition to the immaterial nature of change between stages (iii) and (iv). The same can be said from stages (iv) to (v). Although a change persists insofar as a model of causal relation is concerned with character changes and fictitious memories, there is still no material significance between (iv) and (v). Significant qualitative changes have taken place, but there is nothing numerical to lose track of, as far as personal identity is concerned. Since this is the case, according to Williams, there is no reason the fear should be tracked from (i) – (v) but not continue to stage (vi).[12]

Our intuitions are related to the ontic-constraint provided within the scenarios life presents us with. The ontic-constraint can be understood as the ontological idealization of any thought experiment or model of reality being presented in order to examine personal identity issues. If the ontic-constraint is loosened to such a degree that its relation to “how-the-world-works” becomes less conceivable the thought experiment becomes ineffective. On the other hand, if the ontic-constraint is constructed in such a way that it closely matches our intuitions of “how-the-world-works” the thought experiment becomes effective.[13]

Scenario 1 represents a thought experiment that is ineffective. In scenario 1, the presentation can be likened to an amusing science fiction “what if”. The ontological construction of the thought experiment is fashioned in such a way that under consideration it is not taken seriously. This is the case for two reasons; first, the language employed is from the third person perspective making it less personal. We are not considering the data transfer or the element of torture as something happening to us. The second reason is that nobody believes such a thing is even likely to occur. It is not even conceivable to believe that scientists will ever be able to accomplish a data transfer such as this unless the human person and personal identity are mistakenly reduced to the operating functionality of a computer. It may be popular to analyze the mind/body problem from the perspective of hardware and software, but this thought experiment presupposes the legitimacy of modernist dualism. The empirical component of the thought experiment needs to relate to a plausible philosophy of nature. The first thought experiment fails this criterion because it lacks the ability to capture the body as a vital component of our personal identity; namely, it assumes the body (matter) can exist without the soul (form) and under the Seraphic Orthodox tradition being offered this cannot occur. Our identity is not merely tied to the mentalistic or formal aspect of our human nature, but also, the medium by which our mentalistic content is acquired, which are the senses via the body. The empirical plausibility must relate to the ontic-constraint of the thought experiment in a meaningful way in order to properly grasp the metaphysical nature and ontological structure of personal identity.

Scenario 2 represents a thought experiment that becomes effective because it is related to our personal identity via direct acquaintance in a dynamically unified manner. The ontic-constraint is in line with how our intuitions and experiences are related to the world. The fear derived from scenario 2 is exponentially greater because the ontological structure of the thought experiment strikes at the heart of our direct and privileged access to our identity. This is the case for two reasons; first, the language employed is in first person. Instead of only thinking about some impersonal agent possibly being tortured it is us we have to worry about. And despite all of the qualitative changes that will take place in the experiment, no numerical changes in personal identity occur. If they did, there would be nothing to worry about, yet a lingering fear of being tortured remains. The second reason is the comparative presentation of the scenarios provides adequate reason to believe an operation could be performed that erases my memory, which is then followed by torture. Not only do we fear losing our memory, but we also fear our post-torture qualitative status shaping our metaphysical identity in ways unimaginable pre-surgery and pre – torture.  It is not that we cease to exist and a new identity obtains, rather, it is the case that our qualitative status has changed in traumatic fashion, which all persons deeply fear. The question is not if I will exist; the question is how I will exist. In this scenario the empirical plausibility closely relates to the ontic – constraint of our intuitions and experience of the world. Hence, we are able to detect the importance of a bodily and mentalistic criterion with regard to personal identity, or rather; the Seraphic Orthodox conception of personal identity being a dynamically unified composite structure of body (matter) and soul (form) is not violated.

Applying Seraphic Orthodoxy to Different Moral Scenarios

These considerations are beneficial for investigating real world questions pertaining to personal identity. Consider the question of abortion. Often times the arguments in favor of abortion in some way, shape, or form deny the personhood of the fetus. According to Seraphic Orthodoxy this is mistaken. Since the human person is necessarily a dynamically unified composite structure of body and soul, and these two elements exist at conception, the fertilized ovum all the way to delivery is a human person. The necessary and sufficient conditions for personhood are obtained at the moment of conception. An argument to the contrary of this position would not only ignore the hylomorphic philosophy of nature being endorsed, it also “ignores the fact that the development of the human body is a specifically human function, and therefore requires a human soul.”[14] Hence, we were all once fetuses, and we can successfully track our numerical identity along with our qualitative development if left alone to persist through time. Cutting off this path of development negates the potentiality of consciousness from being actualized in the human person. If we were to associate personhood to an economic actualization such as property ownership, while preventing a human life from actualizing this potential by denying the freedom to “develop” into a property owning person, the system has been arbitrarily rigged in favor of an ad hoc status. To claim a moral right to terminate a life because it has not actualized conscious self-awareness is to presuppose a dubious metaphysical picture of a supposedly recognizable demarcation of life and person.

Another question that is relevant for personal identity is whether or not a person’s identity remains while existing in a vegetative state. On the Seraphic Orthodox conception of personal identity the answer is, yes. As long as the person is functionally alive, whether naturally or artificially, the body and soul would still be present, which preserves the existence of personhood from time t-1 to time t-n. Some may argue a person in a vegetative state would not be functioning as a human and therefore, even under the Seraphic Orthodox conception of personal identity, personhood would become obsolete. Although this is something to consider, the argument forgets the important component of potentiality and actuality in the classically organic philosophy of nature. If a human person is unable to actualize a potential function it does not follow that personhood is lost. If this were the case, one could argue that if a person cannot actualize their potential to walk their personhood is lost. After all, the inability to walk is arguably a missing human function. For the same reason this argument would be rejected, the argument applied to a person existing in a vegetative state is rejected as well. Admittedly, losing the function to walk may be too simplistic because a person that is unable to walk may still possess conscious awareness. Instead of the inability to walk, we can consider a person’s inability to use their reason properly. A person that is severely mentally handicapped will never be able to actualize the potential to reason well, but this person is consciously aware of their existence, their surrounding environment, and experiences all the same realities other conscious human persons experience. What they lack is the ability to use their reason. If we were to substitute consciousness with the ability to reason as the defining factor determining personhood, something immediately strikes our moral intuition that it is intrinsically immoral to end the life of a mentally handicapped person because they may never be able to put together a well-formed syllogism.

Another important question is how does Seraphic Orthodoxy examine what happens at death? On this view of personal identity, the person no longer exists actually; rather, the person exists residually.[15] Person A exists as a composite of F/M (Form/Matter), or F/M unified brings forth the actuality of person A’s existence. At death, F/M are separated, and since the necessary condition for person A to persist through time is the unity of F/M the person cannot be identified solely as F or M. Hence, the person exists residually and not actually.[16]

Finally, we need to briefly examine what we are personally responsible for with regard to our actions. According to Seraphic Orthodoxy, it doesn’t make sense to talk about “actions of our bodies,” “decisions made by our minds,” “or things we only remember doing.” To ask the responsibility questions this way is to fall into the either/or dichotomy we are looking to avoid. Only human persons act, think, or remember. For example, if a person were to consume too much alcohol, become intoxicated and black – out they would still be responsible for their actions while being blacked – out, even if they did not remember anything in this altered psychological state. Remembering an action is a cognitive feature that can be altered or hindered while under the inebriating effects of alcohol. Nonetheless, it is still the person who acts while inebriated because the soul and body are united. Seraphic Orthodoxy, then, suggests that there is no way to divide the psychological and bodily components of action, thought, or memory that would relinquish responsibility of actions even while under the influence alcohol.

In this essay I have articulated a view of personal identity associated with Seraphic Orthodoxy and a hylomorphic philosophy of nature. The strengths of this view are its unification of the human person, constructing thought experiments according to the effective ontic-constraint criterion, and providing philosophically relevant answers to questions about abortion, euthanasia, death, and responsibility of action. Hopefully, this view will become more influential because I think it can yield interesting advancements in contemporary philosophy, as well as more practical matters of public policy and human rights.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] The Clash of Orthodoxies, Pg. 34

[2] “The term ‘hylomorphism’ is a compound of the Greek words hyle and morph, which are typically translated ‘matter’ and ‘form’ respectively.” (Philosophy of Mind: A Comprehensive Introduction, Jaworski, Pg. 270)

[3] This fundamental understanding of nature has its roots in Patristic thought, and was endorsed by every major Scholastic thinker. St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas, both Doctors of the Church, endorse a hylomorphic philosophy of nature despite their nuanced differenced due to commitments with the Platonic and Aristotelian traditions respectively.

[4] Philosophy of Mind: A Comprehensive Introduction, Jaworski, Pg. 270

[5] The orthodox mechanistic ontology of nature is beginning to be challenged by various philosophers. Some of them are Edward Feser, David Oderberg, William Jaworski, Tuamoa E. Tahko, and E.J. Lowe. Although it may not be formally recognized as such, a structural view of nature similar to hylomorphism is popular among philosophers of biology, biologists, and other scientists. William Jaworski references this situation in his book, Philosophy of Mind: A Comprehensive Introduction, Pgs. 271, 275, 276, 284, and 285. Even Thomas Nagel challenges the mechanistic understanding of nature in his highly controversial book, Mind and Cosmos.

[6] Aquinas, Feser, Pg. 13

[7] Feser also uses the red rubber ball to explain potentiality and actuality, and I am using his example.

[8] The Philosophy of Man, Pg. 37, 38

[9] The Philosophy of Man, Renard, Pg. 40, 42

[10] Williams, Bernard (1970). The Self and the Future. The Philosophical Review, 79(2), 179

[11] Williams, Bernard (1970). The Self and the Future. The Philosophical Review, 79(2), 172

[12] Williams, Bernard (1970). The Self and the Future. The Philosophical Review, 79(2), 17, 172, 174

[13] The term ontic-constraint and the phrase “how-the-world-works” is taken from Uskali Maki’s essay “The Way the World Works (www): Towards an Ontology Theory Choice.”  This essay is found in Maki’s book The Economic Worldview: Studies in the Ontology of Economics.  In this essay Maki employs these terms to argue when choosing between models of economic theory the ontology of the model is highly relevant for which theory is the better theory. I find this to be an important insight when considering thought experiments in personal identity issues.    

[14] Reasonable Faith, Haldane, Pg. 138

[15] This could be understood as “continuity” vs. “connectedness.” At death, we would no longer exist in continuity as person A. Our residual personhood at death would only have features of connectedness to person A.

[16] John Haldane explains death in the Thomistic perspective in a way similar to this. I am borrowing his terminology to explain it in a way that better fits this essay, Reasonable Faith, Pg. 158.

Bibliography

Feser, E. (2009) Aquinas. Oxford, England: Oneworld

Jaworski, W. (2011) Philosophy of Mind: A Comprehensive Introduction. West Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley – Blackwell

Benignus, B (1947) Nature, Knowledge, and God. Milwaukee, WI: The Bruce Publishing Company

Renard, H. (1948) The Philosophy of Man. Milwaukee, WI: The Bruce Publishing Company

Williams, Bernard. The Self and the Future. The Philosophical Review, 79(2)

Maki, Uskali.  The Way the World Works (www): Towards an Ontology Theory Choice.  The Economic Worldview: Studies in the Ontology of Economics

Haldane, J. (2010) Reasonable Faith. New York, NY: Routledge

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Apologetics, Philosophy

Greg Bahnsen’s Philosophical Confusion

Greg BahnsenProponents of presuppositional apologetics possess a habitual inability to get things right when it comes to philosophy. Greg Bahnsen’s interpretation of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and his treatment of the cosmological argument are good examples of philosophical confusion in order to prop up a faulty apologetic methodology. For now, I want to focus on Bahnsen’s interpretation of Wittgenstein.

Within this statement is a footnote referencing Wittgenstein, “If the apologist treats the starting point of knowledge as something other than reverence to God, then unconditional submission to the unsurpassed greatness of God’s wisdom at the end of his argumentation does not really make sense.”[1] The footnote says this,

“Ludwig Wittgenstein confessed that a devastating incongruity lay at the heart of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. If he was correct in his eventual conclusions, then the premises used to reach that conclusion were actually meaningless: ‘Anyone who understands me eventually recognizes [my propositions] as nonsensical, when he has used them –as steps- to climb up beyond them.  (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)’ In similar fashion, evangelicals sometimes utilize an autonomous apologetical method. Instead of assuming the authority of Christ, they use that method like a ladder to climb up to acceptance of Christ’s claim, only then to “throw the ladder away,” since Christ is now seen as having an ultimate authority that conflicts with that method.”

It is incredible that Bahnsen would take this passage and somehow associate it with apologetic methodology. In order to properly understand Wittgenstein’s statement, you have to understand what Wittgenstein was attempting to accomplish with his philosophical endeavors.

Let’s take a very brief look at Wittgenstein’s thought.

In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein believed he had successfully solved the problems of philosophy. On Wittgenstein’s view, the mistake of previous philosophical thought was imbued with the error of attempting to say the unsayable. For Wittgenstein, the task of philosophy was to show what cannot be said, and what cannot be said are philosophical or metaphysical propositions.[2] An immediate retort could be that Wittgenstein’s entire Tractatus is caught in a trap because the propositions therein are exactly the kinds of propositions that cannot be said. While this is entirely true, it is not a flaw in the Tractatus, but the purpose of it. The Tractatus is meant to be a ladder by which you climb up, and upon reaching the top something should occur to you; if you have understood its purpose you can thank Wittgenstein for allowing you to get along with your life. You have been freed from worrying about philosophical problems because they have been traps from the very beginning. When philosophy has been buried, we can now focus on things that are more meaningful, which happen to be propositions associated with the hard sciences.

Bahnsen’s claim that an incongruity exists in Wittgenstein’s thought is simply incorrect. The depiction of a ladder that needed to be thrown away in the Tractatus, as Bahnsen claims, wasn’t a literary device constructed in order to represent an understanding of faulty presuppositions leading to unintelligibility. The steps of the ladder are the propositions of the TractatusThe ladder is philosophy itself. Wittgenstein was trying to get rid of philosophy. The deepest problem of philosophy, on Wittgenstein’s view, is philosophy, and not faulty presuppositions, as Bahnsen would have you believe. Since this is a more accurate representation of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, any comparison of it to apologetic method is ineffective.

Unfortunately for Wittgenstein, he was unsatisfied with his conclusions in the Tractatus.  The arguments provided in his early work did not drive the stake far enough into the heart of philosophy, so he embarked on a different strategy with the same goal in mind – to bury philosophy once and for all.

When entering the world of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, we immediately recognize that it is much different than the Tractatus. In the Tractatus there is a theoretical formal structure of language, the ontological foundation is atomism, the structure of language is to be considered completely independent of our socio-cultural relations, we cannot pry language and the world apart because of the picture that is shared with the world, and science is the ultimate standard for our propositions. In Philosophical Investigations, there is no formal structure of language, there is no ontological foundation, language is entirely influenced by our socio-cultural relations, we cannot pry language and the world apart because meaning is dependent upon use, and “language games” are the cornerstone of explanation and description.  

While meaning in the Tractatus is reference via picture to world connection; meaning in Philosophical Investigations is dependent on use. Meaning depends on the use of the words, and words are like a toolbox affording us the right tools given the context of the language game. Instead of working towards building a theoretical structure of language, Wittgenstein emphatically insists that we look at how language is used.

Like the Tractatus, the aim of the Investigations is meant to make philosophical problems go away. In paragraph 133 of the Investigations he says, “For the clarity we are aiming at is indeed complete clarity.  But this simply means that the philosophical problems should completely disappear.” The only way to have complete clarity is to take off the philosophical lenses we view the world through, and actually look at what is going on. Wittgenstein continues in the same paragraph, “The real discovery is the one that makes me capable of stopping doing philosophy when I want to. The one that gives philosophy peace, so that it is no longer tormented by questions which bring itself in question.” One wonders if we could replace the word “philosophy” in the sentence, “The one that gives philosophy peace…” with Ludwig himself.  After all, it seems as if it was Wittgenstein himself seeking peace from the torments of philosophy.

In the end, the Investigations are as self destructive as the Tractatus. This of course isn’t a problem for Wittegenstein, it is his purpose. Each system has this specific aim; one is to show the person out of the fly bottle, and the other is a ladder to climb up in order to throw it away. The problem is, what if you find yourself in another fly bottle or once you climb the ladder you turn around to only find another waiting to be climbed. What if the world is one big fly bottle? What if it is ladders all the way up?  What if it is true that philosophy always buries its undertakers? What if?

Bahnsen misses all of this, badly misinterprets Wittgenstein, and makes illegitimate use of this passage in an attempt to bolster his apologetic methodology.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] Van Til’s Apologetic, Pg. 3

[2] The Twentieth Century to Quine and Derrida, Jones, Pg. 235

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Philosophy, Political Economy

Heresy, Alchemy, and Economics

Inventers of the Modern World

“In Newton’s universe, bodies have no telos because they have no substance other than mathematically described extension. As a result, all motion results from external force, which is ultimately attributable to arbitrary will.

The change in motion Newton wrought by making force the central concern of his physics would have profound political and economic implications. Once inertia became the fundamental principle of the universe, strife would become central to all subsequent expressions of the English ideology based on Newtonian physics. According to Adam Smith’s reading of Newton, greed or self love is an instinct which is analogous to inertia in that each body in space seeks its own good without regard to any other body. Greed, which would lead to chaos, is held in check by competition, and the result is Smith’s version of perfect motion, otherwise known as the ‘invisible hand’ which assures that private vice is transformed magically (or alchemically) into public good.

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is another example of the English ideology derived from Newton, which also claims that strife – or, as Darwin would say, competition for scarce resources leading to natural selection – is the fundamental principle of the universe. Darwin, like Newton, ‘frames no hypotheses.’ He looks at nature and discovers that ‘strife’ is its fundamental law.”

“This brings us to the mendacity at the heart of the English ideology. Proponents of British empiricism claim with Newton that they frame no hypotheses, while at the same time smuggling covert occult principles into their systems. They subvert the notion of essence; they promote the destruction of substance; and then at the last moment, rather than accept the consequences of what they have wrought, introduce some mathematical deus ex machina or scientific ‘law’ which saves the universe from the chaos which is the natural consequence of their subversion, and reintroduces an order which is totally confected (or framed) and which turns out to be nothing more than a projection of the English economic status quo, which began with theft, onto the universe. The common denominator of the various projections of the English ideology which Newton, Smith, Malthus, and Darwin share is Capitalism, the economic version of strife, which is the fundamental principle of the universe.

Confronted by increasingly strident complaints from the continent which accused him of smuggling occult forces into his system, Newton responded by declaring apodictically, ‘hypotheses non fingo.’ Subsequent proponents of the English ideology would make the same rhetorical move, by claiming that ‘science’ allowed them to view nature as it actually was, without any intervening conceptual framework. In reality, the proponents of the English ideology were doing nothing but projecting their own culture onto the very thing that needed to be explained. This is precisely the charges which Mirowski levels, when he claims that the physicists in question (and this certainly applies to Newton as well as the economists who imitated him) were guilty of ‘reconceptualizing the universe as a reflection of our social and somatic selves.’ In fact, Mirowski continues, ‘physicists have been doing just that for centuries.’”

– E. Michael Jones, Barren Metal – 

– Lucas G. Westman


* These passages are taken from the chapter, Newton and the Capitalist Universe

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Augustinian Intellectual Tradition, Philosophy, Psychology, Phenomenology, & Cognitive Science, Saint Augustine, Theology

Augustinian Participation & Divine Illumination

Saint Augustine in EcstasyAugustinian philosophy has three primary principles: interiority, participation, and immutability.[1] For now, I would like to highlight the second principle of participation and the theory of divine illumination flowing out of it; and to do this I will quote Johannes Quasten’s explanation at length,

“2. The second principle which enters into the essential nucleus of Augustine’s philosophy is that of participation, which is also a well known doctrine. Follow the De mor. eccl. cath. 2, 4, 6 the principle can be stated as follows: every good is either good by its nature and essence or is good by participation: in the first case it is the Highest Good, in the second it is a limited good. The same principle, with explicit reference to creation, can also be stated in another way: ‘Every good either is God or proceeds from God’ (De v. rel. 18, 35). But since in the unity of the human spirit life takes on a triple form, i.e., being, knowing and loving, so does the principle of participation take on the same form and thus becomes the participation in being, in truth and in love. From this triple form of participation there arises the notion, which is so frequent in Augustine, of God as the cause of being, the light of understanding and the source of love (De civ. Dei 8, 4; 8, 10, 2). There also arises the three-fold division of philosophy into natural, rational and moral (De civ. Dei 2, 7; 8, 4) and, finally, the essential solution of each of these three parts in creation, illumination and beatitude which are, then, the three modes of expressing the one doctrine of participation.”[2]

As indicated by the above reference, illumination is part of the Augustinian philosophical principle of participation. Quasten continues to clearly explain Augustine’s theory of divine illumination in the following passages,

“The second fundamental solution of Augustinian philosophy which is closely bound to the first is the theory of illumination. It is another aspect – the second – of the doctrine of participation (cf. p. 408). ‘Our illumination is a participation in the Word, that is, in that life which is the Light of men’ (De Trin. 4, 2, 4). In order to facilitate the understanding of this theory, which has proved to be a constant problem for interpreters, some of its essential points will be presented here.

Since it is an aspect of participation, illumination cannot be understood apart from the doctrine: if God is the source of being, He is also the light of understanding. He is, therefore, the interior teacher who instructs man in the truth (De mag. 12, 39-14, 46), He is ‘the sun’ of the soul (Solil. 1, 8, 15) ‘in which and from which and through which all intelligible things shine in an intelligible way on the soul who understands’ (ibid., 1, 1, 3). It is ‘in the Truth itself…in God that we see the immutable ideal of justice according to which we judge it is necessary to live’ (De Trin. 8, 9, 13). Indeed, ‘If we both see the truth of your assertions and both see the truth of mine, where do we see this? Certainly not you in me, nor I in you but both precisely in the immutable truth which is above our understanding’ (Conf. 12, 25, 35). The classical text on this matter is the following: ‘…the nature of the rational soul has been made in such a way that united to intelligible things according to the natural order arranged by the Creator, it perceives them in a special incorporeal light in the same way that the bodily eye perceives that which surrounds it in ordinary light since it has been created capable of receiving this light and has been disposed towards it.’ (De Trin. 12, 15, 24)

This doctrine has been interpreted in terms of Platonic memory, of ontological intuition, of innate ideas and of the scholastic concept of abstraction. The first three interpretations do not correspond to the texts. In fact, the doctrine of illumination: a) was proposed in order to take the place of that of Platonic reminiscence (ibid.); b) excludes the immediate knowledge of God – we know God per speculum, i.e., through images (ibid., 12, 8, 14) – and thus excludes the knowledge in God of both sensible (De Gen. ad litt. 5, 16, 34) and intelligible realities (ibid., 4, 32, 49); c) supposes that the mind does not have ideas preformed in itself, but rather acquires them: ‘The human mind has thus been made that it first recognized created things as it is able, then seeks their causes, existing as immutable exemplars in the Word of God, and seeks in some way to perceive them and thus to see the invisible realities by means of created things” (ibid.).

With regard to the fourth interpretation, however, a distinction must be made. If there is intended the illuminative function of the active intellect of the scholastics conceived as a ‘participated similarity of uncreated light’ the comparison can be maintained, and it is truly a case of doctrinal continuity. Augustine insists that the human mind cannot be a light for itself (Serm. 67, 8; 183, 5). It is a light which illumines because it has itself been illuminated (In Io. 25, 3), that is, it has been created (C. Faustum 20, 7; De pec. Mer. Rem. 1, 25, 36-38). God alone is light unto Himself, and thus is the true light (In Io. 14, 1). The divine illumination establishes the certainty of our judgments and attributes to them the characteristics of universality and necessity, and thus Augustine is insistent on this illumination.”[3]

Lydia Schumacher’s work, Divine Illumination: The History and Future of Augustine’s Theory of Knowledge, can lend a hand in explaining the theory of divine illumination,[4]

“In this writings, Augustine suggests that the function of illumination in cognition is five-fold. Illumination serves as the source of the cognitive capacity, cognitive content, help with the process of cognition, certitude, and knowledge of God. The quotations below are organized according to these categories. Many of these passages became common citations in medieval scholastic works.

Cognitive capacity

Truth is found, “in truth itself, the light of the mind.”

‘There is a mind capable of intellectual light, by which we distinguish between right and wrong.’

Cognitive content

‘If both of us see that what you say is true and that what I say is true then where I ask do we see this? I do not see it in you, nor you in me, but both of us see it in the immutable truth which is higher than our minds…the light from the Lord our God.’

‘The things which we behold with the mind we directly perceive as present in that inner light of truth. If one sees what is true, one is being taught by the realities themselves made manifest by the enlightening action of God from within.’

‘We contemplate the inviolable truth in the light of the eternal types.’

‘The ideas are certain original and principle forms of things, i.e. reasons, fixed and unchangeable, eternal and existing always in the same state, contained in the Divine Intelligence. Though they themselves neither come into being nor pass away, nevertheless everything which can come into being and pass away is formed in accord with these ideas. It is by participation in these that whatever is exists in whatever manner it does exist. The rational soul can contemplate these ideas by a certain inner and intelligible countenance, indeed an eye of its own. In the measure that the rational soul has clung to God it is imbued in some way and illumined by Him with light, intelligible light, and discerns those reasons called ideas, or forms, or species.’

Cognitive process

‘The earth is visible and light is visible but the earth cannot be seen unless it is brightened by light. So, likewise for those things, which everyone understands and acknowledges to be most true, one must believe they cannot be understood unless they are illumined by something else as by their own sun. Therefore just as in the sun one may remark three certain things, namely that it is, that it shines, and that it illumines, so also in that most hidden God whom you wish to know there are three things, namely, that He is, that He is known, and that He makes other things to be known.’

‘He who teaches us, namely, Christ is the Wisdom which every rational soul does indeed consult. If the soul is sometimes mistaken, this does not come about because of any defect on the part of the truth it consulted just as it is not through any defect in the light outside us that our bodily eyes are often deceived.’

‘The nature of the intellectual mind is so formed as to see those things, which according to the disposition of the Creator are subjoined to intelligible things in the natural order, in a sort of incorporeal light of its own kind, as the eye of the flesh sees the things that lie about it in this corporeal light, of which light it is made to be receptive and to which it is adapted.’

‘You have seen many true things and you distinguish them by that light which shone upon you when you saw them; raise your eyes to that light itself and fix them upon it, if you can. It is impossible, however, to fix your gaze upon this, so as to behold it clearly and distinctly.’

Cognitive certitude

‘That light revealed to our interior eyes these and other things that are likewise certain.’

Knowledge of God

‘It remains for it to be converted to Him by whom it was made more and more to live by the fount of life to see light in His light and to become perfect, radiant light, and in complete happiness.’

‘The light by which the soul is illumined in order that it may see and truly understand everything is God himself. When it tries to behold the Light, it trembles in its weakness and finds itself unable to do so. When it is carried off and after being withdrawn from the senses of the body is made present to this vision in a more perfect manner, it also sees above itself that Light, in whose illumination it is enabled to see all the objects that it sees and understands in itself.’”[5]

Schumacher continues to provide a lengthy description of the Augustinian theory of divine illumination,

Defining Augustinian illumination

What has been said to this point serves to bolster the contentions that illumination for Augustine is the source of an intrinsic cognitive capacity rather than any sort of intellectually offensive extrinsic conditioning. So construed, illumination evades the problems commonly associated with the claims that the divine light interferes in the process of cognition or that it imposes the very content or certitude of thoughts. By defining illumination as the source of the mind’s ability, however, I do not intend to imply that Augustinian illumination has no bearing on cognitive processes, content, or certainty. This is manifestly not the case, inasmuch as the cognitive capacity is one that must be gradually recovered as the mind cultivates a habit of reasoning in the light of faith in God.

As the mind does this, Augustine relates that it begins to employ the innate ability the Son gave to think in terms of unifying categories, in ultimate terms of the existence of one God, and thus to think in the way the Incarnate Son Himself exemplified: in the Spirit that glorifies God the Father. In the sense that the mind seeking to recover its capacity must follow Christ’s example concerning how to think, Christ affects cognitive processes, not by performing them on behalf of the mind but by putting the mind in the position to perform them of its own accord by way of the example He set at His Incarnation.

As the mind imitates Christ’s way of knowing, it gains greater insight into the object of His knowledge, which is the goodness of God the Father – not yet directly, of course, but indirectly, as it realizes the impact faith in Him has on its efforts to form ideas about reality. By forming ideas in the way the Father does, namely, through the Son and in His Spirit, the intellect increasingly participates at its own initiative in an eternal life that consists in contemplating the idea of God. While the search for God’s Truth may be in the making of the mind that undertakes it, the Truth that is discovered is not the mind’s invention. Rather, the mind through its own workings conceptually alights on an aspect of the way God has made things to be: good.

For this reason, one can affirm that illumination bears on the content of thought, not because God imposes thoughts on the human mind but because the intellect, to the extent it has recovered its capacity, comes to know what God already knows in full, which is quite simply the goodness of God, as it can be perceived through the mediation of natural experiences scrutinized from the standpoint of faith. Although the knowledge of Truth is something that is sought after ‘from below’ or through the use of the natural capacity to comprehend natural reality, one can still affirm in a qualified sense that it is something that is received from above, to the extent that the mind acknowledges that the employment of its natural capacity represents a participation in the knowledge of what is above.

The more the mind participates in the knowledge of God as it presently can, learning to see the signs of God’s goodness everywhere it turns to look, the more the mind becomes confident in the veracity of the idea it entertained from the beginning, which is that God is good. The ‘proof’ for the truth of the doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation, consequently, is in the effects the application of those doctrines on the mind that uses them to find the good – and God – in all things, overcoming in the process the idea that the circumstances can make or break happiness while discerning how to make the best of all circumstances and find happiness in them.

As the truth of Christian faith is reinforced for the believing mind by these means, the opportunity to demonstrate its viability in the face of unbelievers also arises. For the capacity to put all things into a perspective that locates the good in them – the capacity to ‘redeem’ them – is a testament to the powerful effect that faith in the Triune, Incarnate God can have whenever it is invoked. While those who are aware that God is an all-inclusive good can identify the sense in which God can bring good from virtually anything, and in that, find a way to overcome difficulties and reconcile differences in perspective, those that are not aware of the all-inclusive nature of that light, who tend to reduce it to some finite light, do not have the resources to embrace all that surrounds. By making use of the resources of faith to redeem the circumstances and incorporate the ideas of others, as Augustine did with the ideas of the Platonists, for example, the people of faith acquire a charitable attitude of open-mindedness that is conducive to promoting unity and peace and that serves as the source of their faith’s pervasive power.

That attitude is one of the effects of faith in God, which provides perhaps the most convincing evidence for the truth of Christian doctrine that can be produced in an order where God Himself is never fully disclosed. Since those effects can only be identified by a human mind that is affected by faith and that is prepared to give an account of the object of faith by which it is affected – the Triune God – and how it is affected – through the Incarnation of God’s Son – Augustine insists that those wishing to lead others to belief in God must go about this in the way Christ modeled: not by shining the light of faith on the eyes of those who reason in the dark, but by showing how effective it is to walk in the light of what makes the way forward clear and fosters fellowship with others. He urges his readers to persuade others to believe through the application of the belief in the goodness of God, which produces certainty about the goodness of all that happens in reality, which in turn reinforces belief in the goodness of God. Here, illumination can be said to afford cognitive certitude not because this is imposed from the outside but because the mind that recovers its capacity inevitably experiences a directly proportional increase in certainty with respect to belief in God. The certainty that results from seeing reality by the light of faith doubles as the confidence in the Light Itself that remains as yet unseen but will surely be seen by the eyes that adjust to it by faith.

All this may be summarized by saying that divine illumination is the source of an intrinsic intellectual capacity all human beings have to illumine the nature of God. So construed the theory evades the problems typically associated with interpretations that treat the divine light as though it were some sort of intrinsic force. Those interpretations have not done justice to the later developed theological context of the account Augustine most famously mentions in early ‘philosophical’ works. Inasmuch as the capacity that comes through illumination is one that must be gradually recovered, however, it is possible to affirm that illumination enters into cognition in the three other ways Augustine admittedly mentions, namely, as an ongoing help in the cognitive process and as the source of cognitive content and of certitude. This is not because Christ the illuminator directly instigates or interferes with the cognitive process or imposes ideas and certainty about them, but because the human mind can only recover its capacity by following the example He set through engagement in a process of cognition that is analogous to His and that results in a growing understanding of and certainty about the Being of God that He always knows in full.

With all this in view, one can conclude that the illumination of Christ does not bear on cognition in any way that undermines the autonomy or integrity of the intellect but in a way that reinstates it, at least for the intellect that stokes rather than extinguishes His light through a decision to work with faith in Him. On Augustine’s account, all that comes to the intellect from the outside is the power to be renewed on the inside; this is the power to illumine the divine being that is received through divine illumination – the power to know like God and thus know God. Here at last is the logic of Augustine’s claim that divine illumination is the condition of possibility of all human knowledge comes into relief – for unless God gives the capacity to know Him and it is used to the end of knowing Him, there is no such thing as knowing or knowledge at all. After all, there is nothing to see in the dark.”[6]

While these authors provide a good starting point for analyzing Augustine’s theory of divine illumination, there is still much left to investigate. In addition to coming to grips with Augustine’s theory, an exploration into how his thought shapes the theological and philosophical projects of important figures such as Anselm, Aquinas, and Bonaventure is significantly relevant for the formulation of Seraphic Orthodoxy.

In my view, Quasten’s passage referenced above is much closer to the proper understanding of Augustine’s theory because his interpretation doesn’t allow for the autonomy that Schumacher’s version introduces. Autonomy of any sort cannot be squared with the principle of participation. Any suggestion of autonomy, whether metaphysical or epistemological, is a step away from the Augustinian tradition. Consequently, Quasten’s view can be read in continuity with the Franciscan Bonaventure, which is a tradition that is more faithful to the Augustinian heritage. Schumacher’s interpretation dissociates the Augustinian heritage from Bonaventure and places it in the system of Aquinas. And while Augustine has a significant impact on the system of Aquinas, I am highly skeptical of a maneuver that legitimates a dissociation of Bonaventure from Augustine, even if it is the matter of only a few degrees.

Despite these nuances, participation and illumination are necessary features of any cogent system of traditionally orthodox Catholic theology and philosophy.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] “In order to reconstruct the fundamental lines of Augustine’s philosophy it is useful to keep in mind the principles which inspired and qualified it. In the judgment of the present author these principles are substantially the following three: interiority, participation, immutability.” Patrology Volume IV, Quasten, Pg. 407

[2] Ibid, Pg. 408

[3] Ibid, Pg. 420, 421

[4] This text is useful in understanding Augustine’s theory, however, it follows an unnecessary trend in academia attempting to link Augustinian theological traditionalism to Aquinas at the expense of the Franciscans, especially Bonaventure and Scotus. While it is the case that Scotus moved away from illuminationism, making Bonaventure and Aquinas out to be theological competitors on the veracity of their Augustinian approach to their thought creates an illegitimate divide between these two great Saints and Doctors of the Church.

[5] Schumacher, Pg. 4 – 7

[6] Ibid, Pg. 62 – 65

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Apologetics, Catechism, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy

Life on Earth is Spiritual Warfare

Life Upon Earth is WarfareAfter the serpent deceived our first parents Adam and Eve, God revealed his plan to thwart the great enemy of those made in his image and likeness, “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”[1] In the fullness of time, Jesus Christ crushed the serpent’s head through his suffering, death, and resurrection; himself being wounded on the heel.[2] Christ’s Blessed Mother participated in the crushing of the enemy’s head by her fiat at the annunciation. Adam and Eve failed to properly do battle against the serpent, the New Adam and the New Eve soundly defeated that ancient enemy, the Devil. Being filled with hatred, and knowing his time is short, the Devil now wages war against holy Mother Church, “And the dragon was angry against the woman: and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”[3]

The Devil and his demonic battalions prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. And while the soldiers of Christ follow their General in his command to baptize the nations, the Devil’s mercenaries are looking to subvert the order of the Great Commission. The weapons used by Christ’s enemies are as diabolical as they are numerous, but they only inflict damage when the soldiers of the Church Militant are unprepared to counteract the deceptive vilifications from the accuser of God’s people.

Christ has exposed the true nature of the devil as the father of lies, “You are of your father, the devil, and the desires of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he abode not in the truth: because the truth is not in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof.”[4] From the beginning of time to our current age, those who do the bidding of their father the devil will speak only lies against Christ and his Church, which is the “pillar and bulwark of truth.”[5] Truth cannot be defeated or proven false, so the only way to attack truth is to deceive and lie about the nature of truth. All truth participates in divine Truth. Those who are the enemies of truth do evil against its divine source. And because truth cannot be proven false, the only way to fight against it is to employ methods of tactical sophistry to confuse and lead people into the snares of sinful spiritual error. The devil did this with Eve in the Garden of Eden when he purposely confuses the command of God to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, eventually fooling her into believing his deception rather than following the will of God. Another examples is when the devil attempts to exploit Jesus’s bodily weakness after extensive fasting in the desert by misquoting the Sacred Page and challenging his omnipotence. And the devil now looks to twist and bewilder the minds of men so they might become comfortable in their sin, deny the faith, and disregard truth for the comfort of autonomous relativism.

The devil has been diligently working against the Church ever since her birth at Pentecost. Whether it is violent persecutions or damnable heretical movements, the Church has always been assailed by her greatest enemy and those willing to do his bidding. From the errors of Arianism to the synthesis of all heresies in modernism, the Church Militant has done battle for the sake of Truth, and she stands ready still for spiritual combat.

Modernism is the heretical plague of our current era, and a relatively recent expression of this heresy can be found in the New Atheist movement. This movement began as a rhetorically powerful battering ram for those looking to undermine religion in the culture and the public square. It has transformed into an aggressive program looking to employ its own antichrist evangel. Peter Boghossian provides a lucid description of the next generation of the new atheist movement,

“Street Epistemology is a vision and a strategy for the next generation of atheists, skeptics, humanists, philosophers, and activists. Left behind is the idealized vision of wimpy, effete philosophers: older men in jackets with elbow patches, smoking pipes, stroking their white, unkempt beards. Gone is cowering to ideology, orthodoxy, and the modern threat of political correctness.”[6]

He continues,

“Enter the Street Epistemologist: an articulate, clear, helpful voice with an unremitting desire to help people overcome their faith and to create a better world – a world that uses intelligence, reason, rationality, thoughtfulness, ingenuity, sincerity, science, and kindness to build the future; not a world built on faith, delusion, pretending, religion, fear, pseudoscience, superstition, or a certainty achieved by keeping people in a stupor that makes them pawns of unseen forces because they’re terrified.”[7]

Following this description, Boghossian provides a brief historical sketch of the movement and the direction he would like to take it,

“The immediate forerunners to Street Epistemologists were ‘the Four Horsemen,’ each of whom contributed to identifying a part of the problem with faith and religion. American neuroscientist Sam Harris articulated the problems and consequences of faith. British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins explained the God delusion and taught us how ideas spread from person to person within a culture. American philosopher Daniel Dennett analyzed religion and its effects as natural phenomena. British-American author Christopher Hitchens divorced religion from morality and addressed the historical role of religion. The Four Horsemen called out the problem of faith and religion and started a turn in our thinking and in our culture – they demeaned society’s view of religion, faith, and superstition, while elevating attitudes about reason, rationality, Enlightenment, and humanistic values.

The Four Horsemen identified the problems and raised our awareness, but they offered few solutions. No roadmap. Not even guideposts. Now the onus is upon the next generation of thinkers and activists to take direct and immediate action to fix the problems Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, and Hitchens identified.

A Manual for Creating Atheists is a step beyond Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, and Dennett. A Manual for Creating Atheists offers practical solutions to the problems of faith and religion through the creation of Street Epistemologists – legions of people who view interactions with the faithful as clinical interventions designed to disabuse them of their faith

Hitchens may be gone, but no single individual will take his place. Instead of a replacement Horseman, there are millions of Horsemen ushering in a new Enlightenment and an Age of Reason. You, the reader, will be one of these Horsemen. You will become a Street Epistemologist. You will transform a broken world long ruled by unquestioned faith into a society built on reason, evidence, and though-out positions. This is work that needs to be done and work that will pay off by potentially helping millions – even billions – of people to live in a better world.”[8]

There you have it, a declaration of war. It is a confrontation between the army of atheistic horseman and the Church Militant.

Let’s do battle.

Peter Boghossian’s Manual begins by highlighting the importance of defining the terms within the debate, “One could easily fill an entire book with faith deepities – many, many authors have. Christians in particular have created a tradition to employ deepities, used slippery definitions of faith, and hidden behind unclear language since at least the time of Augustine (354-430).”[9] Before presenting his definitions of faith, Boghossian says, “The word ‘faith’ is a very slippery pig. We need to get our hands on it, pin it to the ground, and wrap a blanket around it so we can have something to latch onto before we finally and permanently subdue it. Malleable definitions allow faith to slip away from critique.”[10]

On Boghossian’s view then, it is important to properly define what “faith” actually means so that it can be thoroughly refuted by a well-trained organization of motivated Street Epistemologists.

Without further delay, here are the two definitions of “faith” provided by Boghossian:

  1. Belief without evidence.[11]

And

  1. Pretending to know things you don’t know.[12]

In an attempt to bolster the justification for the first definition, Boghossian quotes atheist John W. Loftus, “My definition of faith is that it’s a leap over the probabilities. It fills in the gap between what is improbable to make something more probable than not without faith. As such, faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities.”[13] In summary agreement with Loftus, Boghossian argues, “’Faith’ is the word one uses when one does not have enough evidence to justify holding a belief, but when one just goes ahead and believes anyway.”[14] Finally, Boghossian says, “If one claims knowledge either in the absence of evidence, or when a claim is contradicted by evidence, then this is when the world ‘faith’ is used. ‘Believing something anyway’ is an accurate definition of the term ‘faith.’”[15]

In order to explain the second definition, Boghossian suggests that when the Street Epistemologist hears the term ‘faith’ used in a sentence, they should translate the word within the context of the sentence to mean, “pretending to know things you don’t know.”[16] Admittedly, this will make the sentence more “clunky,” but according to Boghossian, this translation will bring out the transparent irrationality of the faith claims being made.[17] In order to properly train his army of atheistic antichrist evangelists, Boghossian offers a useful table demonstrating what he means by such a translation,[18]

Faith Pretending to know things you don’t know
“My faith is beneficial for me.” “Pretending to know things I don’t know is beneficial for me.”
“I have faith in God.” “I pretend to know things I don’t know about God.”
“Life has no meaning without faith.” “Life has no meaning if I stop pretending to know things I don’t know.”
“I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” “I don’t pretend to know things I don’t know enough to be an atheist.”

 

Alternatively, if atheist is defined as “a person who doesn’t pretend to know things he doesn’t know about the creation of the universe,” the sentence becomes, “I don’t pretend to know things I don’t know enough to be a person who doesn’t pretend to now things he doesn’t know about the creation of the universe.”

“You have faith in science.” “You pretend to know things you don’t know about science.”
“You have faith your spouse loves you.” “You pretend to know things you don’t know about your spouse’s love.”
“If everyone abandoned their faith, society would devolve morally.” “If everyone stopped pretending to know things they don’t know, society would devolve morally.”
“My faith is true for me.” “Pretending to know things I don’t know is true for me.”
“Why should people stop having faith if it helps them get through the day.” “Why should people stop pretending to know things they don’t know if it helps them get through the day.”
“Teach your children to have faith.” “Teach your children to pretend to know things they don’t know.”
“Freedom of faith.” “Freedom of pretending to know things you don’t know.”
“International Faith Convention” “International Pretending to Know Things You Don’t Know Convention.”
“She’s having a crisis of faith.” “She’s having a crisis of pretending to know things she doesn’t know.”

 

Alternatively, “She is struck by the fact that she’s been pretending to know things she doesn’t know.”

These two definitions and their subsequent explanations direct the Street Epistemologist toward the proper understanding of the claim that faith is an intrinsically faulty epistemology. If these two definitions appropriately capture what it is people mean when they use the term “faith”, then it stands to reason that faith as a system of knowledge is not adequate to provide human beings with the suitable tools for comprehending our surrounding reality.

Boghossian’s critique of faith as an alternative epistemology, however, entirely depends on whether or not he has properly defined the word. Even a rudimentary examination of his definitions will uncover the fact that he has misidentified the term. But let’s go beyond a basic fact-checking mission and thoroughly analyze what the headmaster of this legion of Street Epistemologists is offering.

Consider the first definition – belief without evidence. I take this to mean that a belief is held without any evidence whatsoever concerning a specific truth claim about reality. In this context then, and according to Boghossian’s definition, belief in God or having faith that God exists, is held without a single shred of evidence in the affirmative for this belief. Rather than a gentle tilt, the scales of evidence would tip dramatically to the side of atheism. If asked where the evidence is for faith in God, the person claiming to believe through faith would be forced to answer, “I have no evidence, as the scale clearly indicates.” There is a significant difference, however, between belief without evidence and belief despite sufficient evidence. From the definition to the explanation, Boghossian moves from the former defined position to the latter explanation. Moreover, the quote offered by Loftus in support of the definition discusses an irrational leap over the probabilities, but an unjustified leap over the probabilities is different than taking a blind leap without probabilities in the affirmative for a specific belief. In agreement with Loftus, Boghossian suggests that “faith” is the term employed when belief is going to be held without enough evidence for said belief. Again, this is much different than believing without evidence.

The first definition is not only incorrect; it is totally confused. On the one hand the definition states that “faith” entails belief without evidence, and on the other hand, it is considered to be a leap over the probabilities, or when a belief is held without enough evidence. This is confused for at least two reasons. Loftus’s statement fundamentally misunderstands the potential relationship between what it might mean to use the term “faith” in light of specific probabilities of a belief being true. If it is believed that event X is 90% likely to take place, the missing 10% is not filled in by faith, as if probabilities were an epistemic container for justification. All this probability suggests is an increased justification for the likelihood of event X to take place. Acting on this probability is to trust in the methods informing the 90% probability of the event’s actualization.

The second reason this definition is confused is based on Boghossian’s shift from belief without evidence to belief without enough evidence, indicating that the term ‘faith’ could be defined differently than he has advocated. Belief without enough evidence alludes to the possibility that there is in fact evidence for a belief, but that the claims being made given the evidence publicly available are not warranted. For example, an evidence based claim for the existence of God could be the realist identification of design intrinsic to the natural order. An atheist may counter this view by suggesting the design we see in the natural order is illusory, and any theistic explanation of the illusion of design lacks epistemic plausibility. However, this explanation provided by the atheist would mean that belief is being held with insufficient evidence rather than the total absence of evidence. This example also hints at something important for the sufficiency of evidential claims, and that is the philosophical interpretation of what actually counts as evidence in the first place. An atheist claiming that design does not count as evidence for the existence of God due to an anti-realist metaphysical commitment toward the concept of design does not amount to the demonstration of a lack of evidence for the claim. What is actually taking place is the application of a differing philosophical interpretation of the evidence that is available.

The first definition then, is considerably muddled. It offers no substance to the debate because it is itself trapped between two different misunderstandings of what the term “faith” might mean when examined with malicious intent. Additionally, it presupposes a philosophical interpretation of what counts as evidence that lends a favorable hand to the atheistic naturalist position. So the first definition is not only wrong, it also begs the question concerning the nature of evidence.

What about the second definition? Does it offer anything of substance for the person looking to become a Street Epistemologist motivated to talk people out of their faith?

Not even close.

The suggested characterization of faith as – pretending to know something you don’t know – is nothing more than an accusation of moral ineptitude, rather than a realistic attempt to define word. To claim a person is pretending to know things they do not know is tantamount to calling them a liar. It is itself an accusation requiring sufficient evidence to be credibly warranted as an epistemic indictment.

In addition to the sheer stupidity of the proposed definition, it is loaded with philosophical problems.

First, the Street Epistemologist must in fact know that a person is pretending to know something they don’t really know. In order to accomplish this they would need to have direct acquaintance with the reasons a person might have for a specific belief, which of course they do not have. And because the Street Epistemologist does not have direct acquaintance for the reasons a person might hold to a specific belief, they are the ones who are awkwardly pretending to know things that they in fact do not know. Second, the Street Epistemologist must know what it is a person is pretending to know before they can accurately say that any person is pretending to know something they don’t know. And if the only thing they would have to go by is the incoherent definition and explanation provided above as their justification for making this claim, then they are operating far outside the parameters of their own epistemic justification. Maybe the person is pretending to know something they don’t know, but the Street Epistemologist who is working from an inherently faulty definition of faith doesn’t actually know what it is that they are claiming a person is pretending to know. Third, the only way the fervent Boghossianite would know with any amount of plausibility that a person of faith is nefariously pretending to know something they don’t know is if their own philosophical presuppositions were themselves adequately examined and justified in their own right. Unless the Street Epistemologist can offer some alternative standard for truth that does not beg all the important questions, and can offer a worldview that does not violate its own standards of rationality, can they even begin to impugn a person of faith with an intrinsic moral fault such as pretending to know things they don’t actually know. Finally, to take the hubristic position that the Street Epistemologist knows that a person of faith is pretending to know something they don’t really know, is to transform themselves into an omniscient being that can probe the complex inner sanctum of the believer’s own subjective conscious cognitive capacities. They unwittingly claim to transcend the irrationalities of faith while being imminently present in the mind of the believer. This strangely eerie delusion hearkens back to the ambitions of Lucifer looking to dethrone God. In order to refute faith in God, they have made themselves gods, or as Scripture says, “professing to be wise they became fools.”[19]

So the second definition of faith offered by Boghossian – pretending to know things you don’t know – is an even worse failure than the first definition – belief without evidence.

Not only has Boghossian failed to properly define exactly what it is he is looking to refute, but he also advises his followers to ignore the actual point of contention between a theistic understanding of reality and its atheistic counterpart, namely, the existence of God. It is remarkably telling that Boghossian implores his followers to avoid disputes in the realm of metaphysics. He says,

“A solid strategy for lowering your conversational partner’s self-placement on the Dawkins’ Scale, and one that I repeatedly advocate throughout this book, is to focus on epistemology and rarely, if ever, allow metaphysics into the discussion. This is even more important in discussions about God – a metaphysical entity.”

Boghossian continues,

“In other words, focus on undermining one’s confidence in how one claims to know what one knows (epistemology) as opposed to what one believes exists (metaphysics/God). Instead of having a discussion about the actual existence of metaphysical entities that can neither be proven nor disproven, direct the discussion to how one knows that these alleged entities exists. (This may also avoid one of the most common retorts among uneducated, unsophisticated believers, ‘You can’t prove it not to be true.’)”[20]

Contained in these paragraphs is an endnote, further explaining why the Street Epistemologist must avoid metaphysics,

“Metaphysical discussions center on the furniture of the universe – what exists or does not exist. Bringing metaphysics into a discussion is usually fruitless and may even be counterproductive, in some cases pushing people further into their faith and metaphysical delusions. Conversations about what there is, as opposed to how one knows what there is, cannot gain cognitive traction because the entities in question (God, angels, demons) have no attributes that leave a footprint in the natural realm. Given this starting condition, there’s nowhere for the conversation to move. Consequently, these discussions almost invariably devolve into he said, she said.

One reason many people assign belief in God a high number on the Dawkins’ Scale is because they started with metaphysics and worked their way back to epistemology. That is, people started with the belief God exists and then asked themselves how they know this. This is confirmation bias. No discussion of alternative formulations of what there is (maybe there’s a God but it’s somehow limited, maybe there is a God but in creating the universe it extinguished itself) will divorce this self-interested bond with metaphysics.”[21]

These paragraphs further expose the explicit philosophical mark of sophistic pretentiousness among the New Atheist movement. Boghossian waxes laboriously against the allegedly deluded maniacs holding to a faulty epistemology of faith, which is comfortably defined in such a way that lends support to his atheistic presuppositions so that serious interaction can be altogether avoided, all while begging the most important metaphysical questions. It is transparently absurd to suggest that the very thing under dispute, namely, the existence of God to which faith would be extended given this metaphysical reality, should be ignored as a topic of conversation so that the seeds of epistemic doubt can be planted in the mind of a believer. If God is in fact among the objects of our metaphysical reality, it cannot be rationally suggested that belief in the existence of God is intrinsically delusional. Rather than entering into a serious, sophisticated, intellectually honest discussion with a religious believer, Boghossian is training his army of Street Epistemologists to openly engage in egregiously vapid and dishonest sophistry. Truth is not on the table in these interactions, rather, winning an argument against less astute adversaries is the goal. Nobility, then, has no place among the character of the Street Epistemologist. They are charlatans eager to spread lies.

Moreover, Boghossian ignores the fact that metaphysics is always in the philosophical driver seat. Every epistemological theory is going to presuppose a metaphysical understanding of the surrounding reality we participate. For example, the Cartesian “cogito” rests squarely upon the metaphysical bifurcation of reality according to the presuppositions of substance dualism. An externalist epistemology coupled with a functionalist solution to the mind/body problem presupposes metaphysical naturalism/physicalism. Boghossian shows his metaphysical cards when he asserts, “God, angels, and demons do not have the attributes which leave a footprint upon the natural realm.” This statement presupposes an unexamined metaphysical naturalism, which is also being coupled with a self-referentially incoherent epistemic scientism.

The metaphysical naturalism of the atheistic worldview is viciously circular in its statements concerning the nature of reality and how we attain knowledge about this reality. The circularities of the atheist goes something like this – science explains everything about reality, which we know because anything that science cannot explain doesn’t exist, which we know because whatever exists must be explicable by science, which we know because science explains everything about reality.[22]

Despite all of these devastating faults of the Street Epistemologist project, there is more damage to be levied against their fatuous game of semantic trickery.

Prior to the now recognizably defunct definitions of faith, Boghossian says that this term is notoriously problematic to define due to the slipperiness of meaningless religious deepities. This too is a false claim.

Consider these references for proper definitions of faith:


“In preparing and instructing men in the teachings of Christ the Lord, the Fathers began by explaining the meaning of faith. Following their example, we have thought it well to treat first what pertains to the virtue.

Though the word faith has a variety of meanings in the Sacred Scriptures, we here speak only of that faith by which we yield our entire assent to whatever has been divinely revealed.”[23]

Student: What is Faith?

Teacher: Faith is the first of the Theological virtues regarding God. It is His proper office to enlighten the intellect, rouse it to every belief which God reveals to us through His Church, even if it might be very difficult and more sublime than natural reason.”[24]

“Faith is man’s response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man, at the same time bringing man to a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of life.”[25]

“By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God. With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, ‘the obedience of faith.’”[26]

* The Catechism of the Catholic Church goes on to provide two individual examples of perfect exemplars of what it means to have faith, that is, assent to what God has revealed.

“To obey in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself. Abraham is the model of such obedience offered us by Sacred Scripture. The Virgin Mary is its most perfect embodiment.”[27]

Faith is a grace – “When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come ‘from flesh and blood,’ but from ‘my Father who is in heaven.’ Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. ‘Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.’”[28]

Faith is a human act – “Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act. Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed are contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason. Even in human relations it is not contrary to our dignity to believe what other persons tell us about themselves and their intentions or to trust their promises to share a communion of life with one another. If this is so, still less is it contrary to our dignity to ‘yield by faith the full submission of…intellect and will to God who reveals,’ and to share an interior communion with him.”[29]

“Faith is a personal act – the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself.”[30]


These definitions and descriptions tell us a number of things about the true nature of faith while simultaneously exposing Boghossian’s incompetent mishandling of the subject.

First, they provide a very clear, concise, and easily understood definition of the term – faith is an assent to what has been revealed by God. Far from being the impossible task of wading through the theological and metaphysical ‘deepities’ of superstition, the definition is easy to discover and comprehend if a person is willing to charitably interact with the relevant material. The fact that Boghossian relies on the support of an incoherent characterization offered by an embittered former evangelical is a manifestation of his own laziness rather than astute intellectual capability.

Second, these definitions and descriptions indicate just how wildly far off the mark Boghossian is in his treatment of the term. Faith is not based on a series of evidential probabilities weighed by the rationalist dictates of secular reason, but an assent to what God has revealed about himself, reality, and the salvific path toward beatific vision. The content and methods of faith are not the same as those utilized by the physical sciences, nor can the content and methods of faith be reduced to the standards of empirical verification. To suggest that a reduction like this is even possible is to fundamentally misunderstand the topic under discussion. A feat such as this would be as misguided as attempting to determine the qualitative literary properties of Tolkien’s work by bringing Lord of the Rings to a chemistry lab for empirical testing. Boghossian is recognizably guilty of committing a disastrous category error.

Third, these definitions and descriptions expose a central mistake expressed in the pontifications of Boghossian’s project, which is the treatment of faith as being a one-sided event in the life of the believer. Contrary to this mistreatment, faith is an assent toward something, namely, revelation. On Boghossian’s specious view, faith is treated as a leap into the irrational abyss of metaphysical nothingness. But this is not how the believer understands faith. There are two sides to the coin. On one side is the object of revelation – God – and on the other is man’s capacity to move in authentically free, and submissive obedience toward that object by an act of faith.

Fourth, by misunderstanding the interactive relationship between revelation and faith, Boghossian has entirely misrepresented any meaningful understanding of what a Christian epistemology might philosophically entail. The comparison of his cartoon version of faith as a faulty epistemic theory with that of his unjustified atheistic scientism is an exercise of duplicity.

Fifth, as previously indicated, the approach Boghossian takes on this topic begs the most important metaphysical question, which in this case is whether it is true that God exists. He takes it for granted that God does not exist, mocks the notion that a rational demonstration may be possibly articulated, criticizes erudite philosophical articulation of demonstrative arguments for the existence of God as nothing more than sophisticated semantic delusions, implores his followers to avoid even discussing the topic due to its metaphysical complexities, incorrectly treats faith as an illogical jump into a metaphysical chasm of absurdity, and shifts the dialogue from being a philosophical interaction to a psychological intervention. To say that this is philosophically problematic would be a significant understatement.

What is clear following this analysis is that Peter Boghossian is arming his battalions of Street Epistemologists with dull and damaged weaponry. The interactive maneuvers recommended in this Manual may have an affect on those who are uninformed and ill equipped for the battle, but they do not stand a chance against the Church Militant committed to doing spiritual warfare.

The Sacred Scriptures tell us that, “The life of man upon earth is a warfare.”[31] St. Paul advises us to,

“Be strengthened in the Lord an in the might of His power. Put on the armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high. Therefore take up the armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and stand in all things perfect.

Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of justice, and having your feet shod with the readiness of the gospel of peace, in all things taking up the shield of faith, with which you may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take for yourself the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, that is, the word of God. With all prayer and supplication pray at all times in the Spirit, and be vigilant in all perseverance and supplication for the saints.”[32]

If we do not put on the full armor of God when meeting those who look to do battle against us, whether it is the devil, the demons, or a Street Epistemologist preaching an antichrist evangel, we may fall prey to their wicked stratagems. To safeguard against this potential scenario, let us arm ourselves with the truth, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The victory has already been won, now we must boldly walk toward the fire of spiritual warfare.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] Gen. 3:15

[2] Douay-Rheims Holy Bible Commentary

[3] Rev. 12:17

[4] John 8:44

[5] 1 Tim 3:15

[6] A Manual for Creating Atheists, Pg. 16

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid, Pg. 17, 18

[9] Pg. 22

[10] Pg. 23

[11] Pg. 23

[12] Pg. 24

[13] Pg. 23

[14] Pg. 23

[15] Pg. 24

[16] Pg. 24

[17] Pg. 24

[18] Pg. 25, 26

[19] Rom 1:22

[20] Pg. 79

[21] Pg. 98, 99

[22] A version of this circular explanation of naturalism can be found in David Bentley Hart’s book, The Experience of God.

[23] The Catechism of the Council of Trent, Pg. 11

[24] Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine, Pg. 191

[25] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed., Pg. 17

[26] Ibid, Pg. 44

[27] Ibid, Pg. 45

[28] Ibid, Pg. 47

[29] Ibid, Pg. 47, 48

[30] Ibid, Pg. 52

[31] Job 7:1 Douay-Rheims

[32] Eph 6:10-20

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Catechism, Pope Saint Pius X, Saints, Theology

Catechism of Pope St. Pius X: Preliminary Lesson – On Christian Doctrine and its Principal Parts

Catechism of Pope Saint Pius XCatechism of Pope St. Pius X: Preliminary Lesson – On Christian Doctrine and its Principal Parts

Q. Are you a Christian?

A. Yes, I am a Christian, by the grace of God.

 

Q. Why do you say: By the grace of God?

A. I say: By the grace of God, because to be a Christian is a perfectly gratuitous gift of God, which we ourselves could not have merited.

 

Q. Who is a true Christian?

A. A true Christian is he who is baptized, who believes and professes the Christian Doctrine, and obeys the lawful pastors of the Church.

 

Q. What is Christian Doctrine?

A. Christian doctrine is the doctrine which Jesus Christ our Lord taught us to show us the way of salvation.

 

Q. Is it necessary to learn the doctrine taught by Jesus Christ?

A. It certainly is necessary to learn the doctrine taught by Jesus Christ, and those who fail to do so are guilty of a grave breach of duty.

 

Q. Are parents and guardians bound to send their children and those dependent on them to catechism?

A. Parents and guardians are bound to see that their children and dependents learn Christian Doctrine, and they are guilty before God if they neglect this duty.

 

Q. From whom are we to receive and learn Christian Doctrine?

A. We are to receive and learn Christian Doctrine from the Holy Catholic Church.

 

Q. How are we certain that the Christian Doctrine which we receive from the Holy Catholic Church is really true?

A. We are certain that the doctrine which we receive from the Holy Catholic Church is true, because Jesus Christ, the divine Author of this doctrine, committed it through His Apostles to the Church, which he founded and made the infallible teacher of all men, promising her His divine assistance until the end of time.

 

Q. Are there proofs of the truth of Christian Doctrine?

A. The truth of Christian Doctrine is also shown by the eminent sanctity of number who have professed it and who still profess it, by the heroic fortitude of the martyrs, by its marvelous and rapid propagation in the world, and by its perfect preservation throughout so many centuries of ceaseless and varied struggles.

 

Q. What and how many are the principal and most necessary parts of Christian Doctrine?

A. The principal and most necessary parts of Christian Doctrine are four The Creed, The Our Father, The Commandments, and The Sacraments.

 

Q. What does the Creed teach us?

A. The Creed teaches us the principal articles of our holy faith.

 

Q. What does the Our Father teach us?

A. The Our Father teaches us all that we are to hope from God, and all we are to ask of Him.

 

Q. What do the Commandments teach us?

A. The Commandments teach us all that we are to do to please God – all of which is summed up in loving God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.

 

Q. What does the doctrine of the Sacraments teach us?

A. The doctrine of the Sacraments shows us the nature and right use of those means which Jesus Christ has instituted to remit our sins, give us His grace, infuse into and increase in us the virtues of the faith, hope, and charity.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Catechism, Saint Robert Bellarmine, Saints, Theology

Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine: Chapter I

Catechism of Robert BellarmineThe Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine: Chapter I

Student. So that I may grasp the understanding of Christian doctrine that is necessary for salvation, I especially long for you to tell me: what is Christian doctrine?

Teacher. Christian Doctrine is like a short compendium, or a summary of all those things that Christ our Lord taught when He showed us the way of eternal salvation.

S. What principal parts of this doctrine are most important?

T. There are four, namely, the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Seven Sacraments.

S. Why are there only four parts and not a great many more, or fewer?

T. Because the first three principle parts correspond to the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. The Apostle’s Creed is necessary for faith itself since it teaches us those things that we ought to believe. The Lord’s Prayer is necessary for hope itself, as you see it proposes to us what is to be hoped for. The Ten Commandments teach us those things that are necessary for charity, what we must do to please God. Lastly, the Seven Sacraments are necessary because they are the instruments whereby we might recoup and preserve the virtue which we already said was necessary to salvation.

S. Would you give a parable through which I may better understand the necessity of these parts?

T. St. Augustine uses a parable about a house. Just in the way that the placement of a foundation is necessary to the structure of a house, then from there the building of the walls, and next the construction of the roof and different hardware; so also in the structure of salvation it is necessary to lay the foundation of faith, the walls of hope and the roof of charity, and lastly, the hardware which is the holy Sacraments themselves.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

 

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Saint Thomas Aquinas, The Blessed Virgin Mary

St. Thomas Aquinas: To the Most Blessed Virgin Mary

St. Dominic & St. Thomas

To the Most Blessed Virgin Mary

O most blessed and sweet Virgin Mary,

Mother of God, filled with all tenderness,

Daughter of the most high King,

Lady of the angels,

Mother of all the faithful,

On this day and all the days of my life,

I entrust to your merciful heart

my body and my soul,

all my acts, thoughts, choices,

desires, words, deeds,

my entire life and death,

So that, with your assistance,

all may be ordered to the good

according to the will of your beloved Son,

our Lord Jesus Christ.

Be to me,

my most holy Lady,

a comforter

and an ally against the stratagems

and traps of the ancient enemy

and of all those

who harbor ill intentions against me.

For your beloved Son,

our Lord Jesus Christ,

request for me

the grace to resist firmly

the temptations

of the world, the flesh, and the devil,

and a constant resolve

to sin no more

and to persevere in your service

and the service of your beloved Son.

My most holy Lady,

I also beseech you to obtain for me

true obedience and true humility of heart

So that I may recognize myself truly

as a sinner – wretched and weak – and powerless

without the grace and help of my Creator

and without your holy prayers,

to do any kind of good work

or even to resist

the unrelenting assaults of evil.

Procure for me also,

O my most sweet Lady,

perpetual purity of mind and body,

so that with a pure heart and chaste body

I may be strengthened

to serve you and your beloved Son

through the Dominican Order.

From Him,

obtain for me a spirit of poverty

willingly accepted

with patience and tranquility of mind,

so that I will have the strength

to sustain the labors of this Order

and to work for my own salvation

and that of my neighbors.

Obtain for me as well,

O most sweet Lady,

true charity with which

from the depths of my heart

I may love

your most holy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

and, after Him,

love you above all other things,

and love my neighbor

in God and because of God.

Thereby may I

rejoice in his goodness,

sorrow over his evils,

despise no one,

never judge rashly,

and never in my heart exalt myself over anyone.

Grant, O Queen of Heaven,

that ever in my heart

I may have fear and love alike

for your most sweet Son;

That I may always give thanks

for the many blessings bestowed upon me

not for my merits

but by His kindness;

And that I may ever

make a pure and sincere confession

and do true penance for my sins,

in order that I might deserve

to obtain His mercy and grace.

I pray also that, at the end of my life,

you,

Mother without compare,

Gate of Heaven,

and Advocate of sinners,

will not allow me, your unworthy servant,

to stray from the holy Catholic faith

But that you will

protect me with your great piety and mercy,

defend me from evil spirits,

and obtain for me,

through the blessed and glorious Passion of your Son

and through your own intercession,

received in hope,

the forgiveness of all my sins.

When I die in your love and His love,

may you direct me

into the way of salvation and blessedness.

Amen.

– Lucas G. Westman

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