Monday, November 14, 2011
Two Questions About Certainty
The reality is that is what happens. Nobody will admit it but it is true. I know I would never have admitted it as a protestant. That I never really gave all the non-Calvinist forms of Christianity a fair hearing. I had my proof texts and I was confident. I knew the truth. I was not rude like some protestants but it took me a long time to even start to doubt that it was true. Even when I could see the philosophical foundations were weak. Even when I could not find a principled difference between my position and those I considered obviously wrong. Still I was sure Calvinism was very close to the truth.
So I asked myself two questions. The first was, how does that happen? How do you get people so sure without actually giving them solid reasons for being sure? Is it something about biblical exegesis? That trying to get truth from the bible without sacred tradition is going to produce many contradictory doctrines but it is also going to produce camps with rock solid certainty about the truth of each of those doctrines. Is it the nature of human reason and religion? That we need certainty and therefore our minds manufacture it. So we declare controversies to be settled. We pretend it is a matter of faith but the object of our faith is not God or even the scriptures. It is ourselves. It is the discernment of our faith community. This is why you can have this phenomenon among atheists. They can have faith in themselves and in their fellow atheists just as much as Calvinists can.
The second question I asked was, is it a good thing? Should I wish Catholics could be as sure of themselves as protestants and atheists. Sure some Catholics have a lot of confidence but I don't see the phantom argument thing happening. Most of them are converts and they have sweated the details. That is a different kind of confidence. But should we have faith in ourselves and our fellow Catholics? Sort of. The Church is a proper object of our faith. So if our faith is in the Church and not some fringe element within the Church then it is healthy. Faith in the church is ultimately faith in God and the promises He has made regarding the Church.
Somehow our legitimate faith in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church often pales in comparison to a Protestant's or atheist's faith in his community of human tradition. Why is that? When the church teaches something we have very good reason to believe there is a solid argument backing it up even if we don't know that argument very well. Yet most Catholics don't act like they expect the Church's explanation to make sense. They are afraid. They think the atheists and the protestants probably have better arguments. They often don't want to convert but they have lost their faith anyway. By not believing the Catholic doctrine is logical and defensible they are essentially doubting it's truth. You even hear talk about religion being true in a different way. That is nonsense. There is only one kind of true. The kind that stands up to any questioning and not only survives but shines. Do you believe the Catholic church has that or do you not? If you do then act like it. Assure people answers are there. Learn how to find them when you need to find them. Do not be ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for our salvation.