Fixed two broken links to Kepha
When I've allowed myself the time to visit with Mormon (Later Day Saints) missionaries part of their approach is always "Read the 'Book of Mormon' and you will know the truth of it in your heart." I usually don't get much further than that with them, because I launch into "the truth is just what I feel?" etc.. I firmly reject the idea that I personally have the ability to figure out what is, or isn't true based on how I feel. I also do not believe that I am, or ever will be spiritual enough for God to infuse me with His spirit so I can interpret scriptures and know the truth. I believe that my faith in God, in Jesus, in the Resurection, the Virgin Birth, the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility is not and can not be based only on my personal feeling.
Unfortunately I have been reading too many blogs. There are a lot of people out there who are trying to figure out the Truth about the Catholic Church. On Fides Quaerens Intellectum one of the contributors is a Catholic Theology student trying to find a rational foundation for his faith - right now it looks very possible he could lose his faith. Kepha's blog contains a pile of incredibly useful arguments and debates between Theology students from diverse view points. On another blog Almost There Stacey is a non-Catholic, married to a Catholic who is drawing close to the faith, although not at the high altitude level of Kepha and his bunch, Stacey is struggling with the same discussions. Yet another blogger the InternetMonk is a Southern Baptist Minister whose wife is in RCIA. IMonk is not going to become Catholic, but he has spent much of the last year struggling with similar questions to Kepha and Stacey.
Following all of these stories over the last year has forced me to examine my own faith. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not doubting my faith, or going anywhere. My interest is in understanding why some very intelligent and relatively open minded people fail to find faith in the Catholic Church, and why some well informed people lose their faith. Also, I examine and try to understand what it was that tipped the scales for me. I'd like to be able to tip the scales for someone else.
When I look back on my own 'conversion' to orthodox Catholicism I find that I am pretty similar to Stacey and Kepha. I read and studied about all the claims and teachings of the Church. I started out inclined to listen to the dissenters, but eventually became convinced by the defenders of the faith. I became convinced, and am even more convinced now, of the truth of the Catholic Church. But has my conviction grown out of the irrefutable superiority of the Catholic position? No, it hasn't. My faith rests on something less, and at the same time something more than logic and scholarship.
I am not a skilled or well informed Theologian and I am not particularly inclined to extremely systematic research. Kepha and IMonk provide very thorough, and sophisticated debates. One thing is clear to me, there is no argument for the Catholic Church that can overcome every objection. A key quote from a post on Kepha's blog:
Catholics, not excluding learned ones, are far more disposed to seek modern consensus as a sign of primitive authenticity, than they are to seek in primitive authenticity a ground for modern consensus. This will appear as either a vicious circle or a begging of the question unless it be viewed in the full light of all that the Church means to the Catholic, a light that is neither wholly nor principally the light of natural reason. Thus Newman in 1837: “How hopeless then it is to contend with Romanists, as if they practically agreed with us as to the foundation of faith, however much they pretend to it! Ours is Antiquity, theirs the existing Church.” And thus Newman in 1874: “For myself, I would simply confess that no doctrine of the Church can be rigorously proved by historical evidence: but at the same time that no doctrine can be simply disproved by it.”
The context of that quote is towards the end of a long, deep discussion of the dogma of the Assumption and the application and understanding of Newman's theory of doctrinal development. Soon after Kepha expressed his frustration with the logical foundation of the Church's claims in this dialogue demonstrating what is referred to as "Catholic Presuppositionalism":
- Rome: I’m the one true Church.
- Paul: How do I know this?
- Rome: Because I’m telling you.
- Paul: You realize that Orthodoxy claim this as well?
- Rome: Yes, but they’re not.
- Paul: How do I know that?
- Rome: Because I’m telling you.
- [Paul begins looking through some books.]
- Rome: What are you doing??
- Paul: You apparently think much of yourself, so I’m searching and testing your claims according to the Tradition.
- Rome: That’s a rationalist approach! You can’t expect there to be proof for my claims.
- Paul: Are you saying there is no proof?
- Rome: I am the proof!
- Paul: I understand you believe that, and that is why I want to see what others have said about you, as well as what you have previously said about yourself.
- Rome: You tacitly assume that the content of Tradition can be fully and reliably identified independently of what I tell you.
Similar issues arise in both of the other blogs I have mentioned. The number of times IMonk has accused me and other Catholic commentors of "presupposition" lead to a series of inside jokes.
After all this, I am forced to admit that my belief in the Fullness of the Truth proclaimed by the Catholic Church is based on more than mere logic. My faith is not weakened in the least, but I have to ask "Am I Catholic only because it FEELS true to me?"
Now I'd like my friends in the Blogosphere (all three of them?) to answer that question also That means you too Jason.