Tuesday, July 06, 2010

We Walk by Faith and not by.....

The Apostle Paul contrasts faith with sight, not faith with proof or reason. Sight is a particular type of proof, one that we lack for a lot of things like electrons and dinosaurs.


bossmanham said...

Great point, Dr. Reppert. I am podcasting an apologetics course by Douglas Groothius right now where he makes the point that Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles constantly appealed to evidence and philosophical reasoning to make their points. It's a symptom of fideism and Biblical illiteracy to think otherwise.

klatu said...

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Gregory said...

Perhaps St. Paul is drawing attention to the notion that "first principles" are not the sort of items that can be, logically speaking, proven; rather, they are the things by which we formulate "proofs". Let me quote Dr. Hackett on this point:

"All the concepts that intelligibly apply to the same subject of thought must be logically consistent in meaning, both with each other and with that subject. It follows that all the propositions that can meaningfully be thought to be true at the same time must likewise be consistent and therefore free from either explicit or implicit contradiction. Of course, the truth of this principle cannot be proven, since it is itself a part of the basis of every reasonable proof without exception."

--from "The Reconstruction of the Christian Revelation Claim"

And to put it more poetically:

"But the mysteries are delivered mystically, that what is spoken may be in the mouth of the speaker; rather, not in his voice, but in his understanding."

---from the "Stromata" by Clement of Alexandria

So, perhaps St. Paul is simply affirming the Latin theological dictum:

"Credo Ut Intelligam"


"I believe in order that I may understand"

That is one way of looking at it. However, there is yet another way of understanding this verse. I think some lines from St. Augustine might help explain:

"For it is one thing to see the land of peace from a wooded ridge...and another to tread the road that leads to it."

The theme of 2 Cor. 5 is the stark, existential contrast between "mortality" and "redemption". Paul notes that he has confidence that God will raise the dead because he has given the Spirit as a guarantee. By "guarantee" in v.5, I mean an epistemic guarantee....meaning, that we can know, by the Spirit of God, that God will raise the dead. In fact, a careful reading of 2 Cor. 5:5 will show that Paul is distinguishing the "fact" that God will raise the dead, from "knowing" that God will raise the dead. The Spirit does not guarantee the "fact" that God will raise the dead. The verse contains 2 distinct ideas:

"He who has prepared us for this very thing (i.e. resurrection) is God" (i.e. the "fact")


"who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee (i.e. that which gives us 'confidence' of this)".

So the statement "we walk by faith..." is an apologetic. Let me try to re-phrase it so the logic of Paul's thought is made more explicit.

"We struggle with our mortality, each wanting to be wrapped in eternal life. We greatly long for this while we are still mortal. Yet, the very God, of whom will bring about this eternal life, has also given us His Spirit so that we may have confidence that this is so. And why shouldn't we have this sort of confidence? After all--and by analogical reasoning--we are not moved to action by the things that we "sense", but by the things we cannot "sense" (i.e. our soul)." Or, to paraphrase from the Gospel:

"It is not what goes into a man, that makes him unclean. Rather, it is what comes out of a man's heart....that is what makes him unclean."

St. Paul could also be contrasting Christian confidence in the resurrection, which is based in "facts" and "understanding", from the pagan superstitions that arose from "fate", "stargazing" and "astrological soothsaying".

Anyway, I think that's the gist of 2 Cor. 5:1-7.

Gregory said...

I just thought of this little ditty as an afterthought on the subject.

If scientific principles, alone, were used as the basis of judgment in Criminal trials and Court proceedings, then things like "motive", "intentions", "premeditation" and "culpability" become irrelevant qua causal explanations. Because a "scientific explanation" concerns things like the positions, rotations and trajectories of subatomic particles. Or things like the falling rate of gravity and the curvature of space around objects of relative mass. And so on. That is what would be reckoned in the determination of the nature of the events that led to the trial. C'est La Vie.

But let's examine a scenario where the determination of "guilt" is not quite so easy to discern. Let's take a look at this scenario from multiple angles so that we get a good idea of what I'm talking about.

The scenario is that 2 men are on trial for murder. One is accused of "masterminding" the crime (Criminal A; C-A from now on), while the other was accused of being the cold blooded executioner (C-B). There were witnesses present at the initial suggestion of murder, which link C-A and C-B together as the crime duo in question. Now let's take a view the initial scene, where the instigation/suggestion took place, from the point of view of those witnesses and the nature of the "causal" connection involved in the act:

1) After a friendly jest suggesting that no one should mess with C-B, C-A jokingly responds with "C-B wouldn't hurt anyone...not even Joan" (i.e. a reference to C-B's ex-wife--the likes of which he had a nasty divorce). The next day Joan is found dead. The police investigation reveals that DNA evidence, and the discovery that the bullets and handgun responsible in the death of Joan are also owned by C-B, strongly link C-B to the murder. C-A was questioned about the incident and he explained that his remark about killing Joan was in jest.

2) This second view is the same as the first, except that, in the case of C-A's joking remark, C-A really did want C-B to kill Joan. C-A was already aware of C-B's seething hatred for Joan, and used the remark to fuel C-B's anger....to the point of murder. C-A's undisclosed tryst with Joan, and his realization that Joan is extremely promiscuous, gave C-A two "reasons" to desire Joan's death. Jealousy and fear of the repercussions, should the affair become known.

3) In this setting, the witness are present when C-A jokingly tells C-B to "go kill Joan". Like the previous two views, Joan is found dead the next day...etc. In this version, C-A really was only kidding.

4) Same as the last view, except that when C-A says to C-B "go kill Joan", he really means it. And for all the complicated reasons from point of view #2.

Gregory said...

When deciding the culpability of the crime, on what grounds would we have in adjudicating between these hypothetical scenarios if we only factored sense perception in our analysis? What "fact", presented to our faculties of sensation, can resolve this matter?

Hume's "Enquiry" and "Treatise" both argue that sense perception is unable to ascertain what the causal link is between two phenomenon that appear in close proximity to each other. At best, after repeated experiences we form a disposition to believe that there is such a causal connection. This disposition, of course, is not based on any perceived connection between things we observe, but, rather, by "custom" or "habit".

That being the case, then any determination of criminal culpability in the "Joan's Town Murder" case is stultified by the impotence of Hume's empiricism.

But even if we were to ascend beyond such crude epistemology, climbing, as it were, up into Plato's heavenly "Form", upon what "rational" basis could we determine actual guilt with respect to C-A....given the 4 possibilities I mentioned above?

I am sure that some will violently disagree with me on this, but I think the problem of determining what a person's "intentions" and "motives" are---as illustrated in my hypothetical murder case---is, a foritori, even more problematic than Hume's epistemology of causation.

We must make many working assumptions about what we think the "evidence" is, and draw inferences from those suppositions and bits of data gathered by crime investigators, in order to reach some sort of verdict in the case. And, certainly, a jury can be deadlocked and "hung" because of the even split of opposing opinions in this case; and this "deadlock" stems, ultimately, from the very possibilities I presented above.

In other words, C-A's fate isn't decided by "evidence", per se. Rather, C-A's fate is decided by a complex state of affairs involving notoriously non-empirical things like "possible motives" and "intentions"---and these assumptions aren't, strictly speaking, open to investigation. If that's the case, then how can we possibly, in good conscience, proceed with a guilt/innocence verdict?

With that said, it is still true that we will...nay, we must...go on with enforcing the law and prosecuting criminals. Don't get me wrong. But I wonder if, perhaps, many of the activities that we consider "reasonable practices" aren't really as robust or reasonable as we might have supposed.

But I am not alone here. Even Hume, himself, found no logical nor empirical grounds for believing in the principle of "the uniformity of nature". It seems that it must be a "faith" principle for the Humean mind. Imagine that!!!