Monday, September 3, 2007

Non Sequitur is Not an Argument

In response to a comment posted by kmerian - attached to her "Catholic Quotes on the Bible" post that I've dissected here - Carrie says this:
Yes, I know.

But isn't it amazing that we can understand what the author means by using context without actually consulting the author?

God should have used men to write down his words so that we would be able to understand...oh wait, he did!
The fact that a very brief text (the quotation that she provided) written by one of our contemporaries in our own language is readily comprehensible to us in no way whatsoever demonstrates that Scripture - comprised of hundreds and hundreds of pages, in a variety of literary styles, written at least two thousand years ago (and as much as 3500 years or so ago) in one of three foreign languages and in an utterly foreign culture - is readily comprehensible to us. This is a complete non sequitur.

Indeed, Carrie ought to be able to recognize this fact, given that she and her Protestant co-religionists disagree on so much and so readily.

But even the Bible itself is not on her side in this matter. St. Peter says that there are hard things to understand in St. Paul's writings - a famous thing - but he goes on to say even more:
And regard the long-suffering of our Lord as salvation. Just as our most dear brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given him, has written to you, as indeed he did in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things. In these epistles there are certain things difficult to understand, which the unlearned and unstable distort, just as they do the rest of the Scriptures also, to their own destruction (2 Pet. 3:15-16).
If there are hard things in St. Paul's writings for an apostle, it is flatly ridiculous to pretend that we will find those things to be easy. What's more, St. Peter says that these things get distorted by the unlearned. If the unlearned then could have problems, they would arguably be even worse than for St. Peter. But if the unlearned then had problems, how much more will we have problems with them, separated as we are by 2000 years, a language, and a culture??? Again, it's simply absurd to say that we can just mosey on up to the Bible like it's a daily newspaper and claim that we can understand it just as well. Heck, sometimes scholars can't even agree as to the literary type of a Bible book! But if they can't agree on that, it's just impossible to accurately interpret it.

There is a common malady among people who have access to Greek and Hebrew language helps (like lexicons, for instance), or who have had a little bit of training in these languages. Really, it's true of almost any subject matter, not just biblical studies. They learn just enough to be "dangerous". What I mean is that they think that they know a lot, but really they don't. And they simply aren't qualified to draw the sorts of exegetical conclusions that they do. This happens all the time: I did it myself once upon a time, even though I knew better.

Basic knowledge of Greek and Hebrew is no magic talisman for opening the meaning of the Bible. This ought to be all the more obvious given the fact that the Church Fathers were no shade of Protestant. Are we seriously supposed to believe that the Fathers got it wrong, but somehow Luther, Calvin & Co. got it right? But if the Fathers got it wrong, we have absolutely no reason for believing that the Protestants have got it right: none whatsoever. Because if there is no guarantee of fidelity for the Fathers (as the Protestants would have us believe), it is surely all the more certain that Luther and Friends got it wrong, coming as they did 1500 years after the Apostles.

But all of this is simply piling on. Because fundamentally the Protestant has no rational basis for believing that the Bible is the Word of God. The fact that it says it is does not make it so. The Mormons make the same claim for their books. Why should we believe the Protestants and not the Mormons?

But the Catholic does not suffer from this problem, because he has the living voice of Christ in the Church.


kmerian said...

Great post. And, you are absolutely correct. With Carrie, however, being a former Catholic. You have to wonder how much of her postings are her trying to convince herself of the correctness of her decision to leave Catholicism as opposed to her trying to convince others?

That would explain her reluctance to go into a topic with any depth, she is afraid of the truth that is there.

Reginald de Piperno said...

That's an excellent observation, kmerian. And if that's the case, I for one (as a convert myself) could sympathize to an extent. It takes a while to fully "digest" the completely new outlook of Catholic doctrine, theology, and philosophy.

Whatever the source, though, it's very sad that she is so hostile towards the Church.

David said...

RdP, I agree with your post above.