Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The “Malicious-Protestant” Fallacy: Protestant Logic 101

The “Malicious-Protestant” fallacy is similar to other more common fallacies such as Non-Sequitur, Ignoratio Elenchi and Missing the Point.

This fallacy is committed when one concludes or implies that a particular doctrine or practice is false, pagan, or evil because the name, circumstance, and history of that doctrine or practice/custom can be derived or associated to a pagan teaching or practice.

The Malicious-Protestant fallacy is a logical fallacy because the fact that the name, history, or circumstance of a doctrine or practice is factually or incidentally derived or associated with a pagan teaching or practice doesn’t logically mean that the doctrine or practice is also pagan. Hence, it is actually similar to Non-Sequitur (“It does not follow”) fallacy. In other words, the conclusion that “a Christian or Catholic teaching or practice is pagan” doesn’t follow from the premise that “it is associated to a pagan practice.”

I call this fallacy “Malicious-Protestant” for the following reasons. First, it is called “malicious” because to accuse something as pagan or evil one must first demonstrate that that thing is intrinsically or in itself pagan or evil. For instance, if a particular church teaches or allows divorce, we can rightly call, without committing fallacy, that that teaching is pagan and evil because divorce is intrinsically evil and against the will of God. Or if a particular church practices human sacrifice then we can call that practice evil since human sacrifice is intrinsically evil.

But to accuse something as pagan or evil simply because the name and circumstance of that practice is associated from pagan practice is simply malicious, dishonest, contrary to Christian charity, and is an insult to the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of truth.

For instance, to accuse that Christmas is pagan celebration because December 25 is the same day some pagan feasts are celebrated or to call Easter pagan because the name is derived from the name of a pagan god manifests ones malice, dishonesty, and corrupt mind. It is like calling your neighbor a prostitute just because you saw her walking around a night bar. This attitude is a grave sin prohibited in the Bible – remember the 9th Commandment!

Christian honesty, purity of mind, and charity requires one to be very strict in his reasoning. One must first prove that a practice is made in honor of a (non-existing) pagan god before one concludes that it is indeed pagan.

To prove that Malicious-Protestant fallacy is indeed fallacious, one only needs a counter example. Protestants use ring during marriage yet this is originally a pagan practice. Should we then call protestant marriages pagan? Of course not! To do otherwise is malicious and dishonest.

Another example is the name Saturday. Saturday originally means “Saturni dies” or “day of Saturn” in honor of the Roman god Saturn. Sunday also is “day of the Sun”, in honor of the Sun god. Should we then say that Seventh-day Adventists are worshipping the pagan god Saturn? Of course not! To say so is unfair, malicious, dishonest, and logically fallacious.

Second, this fallacy is called “protestant” because almost all Protestants use it repeatedly, and sadly, without the least discomfort of conscience.

So, the next time a protestant or non-Catholic commits this fallacy, tell him that he is committing the Malicious-Protestant fallacy and give him the link to this article.


Friday, April 4, 2014

The Atheists’ Last Stand

Below is how atheists will ultimately argue for their position when all their arguments are proven to be wrong. This is based on my experience of personally debating atheists.

The following is a summary of the Cosmological Argument (CA) and how atheists will make their last stand against it.

+ + +

The CA starts with an observation that the physical/natural order is in time. And what is in time has beginning in existence since time, by its very nature, cannot regress to infinity. Hence, the entire universe has beginning in existence. The CA, then asks; if the universe has beginning in existence, what causes it?

Now, we cannot answer that it came from nothing.

Next, we cannot say that the universe is eternal since it is obviously in time. And what is in time has beginning in existence.

If we answer that it came from pre-existing natural/physical things then we are simply extending our problem since all these things are still in time. And since they are in time, they too have beginning in existence. And what has beginning in existence requires a cause.

Intelligent scientists and atheists have realized this already. If they propose anything which is still in space and in time, then they are not really addressing the problem the CA raised. Whatever naturalistic explanation they propose will always remain in time and space. And whatever is in space and time will require a cause since it too will have a beginning in existence. So they figure out a solution: simply take away time and space from the natural mechanism!

Their latest attempt is to propose that there is such a primordial physical state which is “spaceless” and “timeless” but is capable of producing space and time. Thus, we hear from some that strings are bands of pure vibrating energies which are spaceless and timeless. Some have proposed a so-called UGM (Universe-Generating-Mechanism), which is spaceless and timeless yet can spontaneously produce space and time.

At least now the atheist has finally conceded to the theist that the ultimate Cause must be spaceless and timeless. This is the necessary or inevitable conclusion that the CA requires.  The theist called this spaceless and timeless Cause God.

The theist can only think of a personal God as the only candidate for “spaceless” and “timeless” Cause; since it is the only logically coherent solution. Only (persons) intellect and will can be outside space and time and yet have efficacy. If the universe have beings which are intelligent and free, then it is also more reasonable to infer that the spaceless and timeless Cause is intelligent and free.

I can imagine that I am simultaneously seeing all the things in the universe in all their details. This is one power of the human intellect which atheists have taken for granted. The fact that I, a mere human, can imagine myself to have this power shows that there’s no logical contradiction to say that an omniscient Intellect exist. And since it is omniscient, it is outside time. To be outside time is defined by classical philosophy as to know everything. When one knows everything, one is outside time since everything is present to him.

On the other hand, the atheist is pleased to deceive himself by believing that unknowing and unconscious natural mechanisms or strings which are vibrating, occupying a Planck area, or energies which moves and travels, or the UGM can be spaceless and timeless.

But the theist will object that the atheist alternatives are ridiculous since they involved intrinsic contradictions for natural mechanisms are always in space and time. I can conceive myself to know simultaneously everything in the universe in all their minute details and so I can conceive myself to be outside time; but I cannot imagine or conceive an unthinking natural thing to be outside time and space.

Thus, the atheist, not being able to deny his plight, will give his final and ultimate shot against the CA. He will exclaim: science has proven that our idea of causality is wrong and we cannot rely on logical or rational intuition! 

But even this last argument is a pretense. Time actually is only our reckoning of motion. So there really is no time; only motion. Thus, whatever is in motion is in time because we can reckon its motion as having a before and after the motion. This is precisely the reason why natural mechanisms are in time because they are in motion. 

Atheist will claim that science has proven that effects can occur even before the cause. But this is utterly ridiculous since if time is "motion reckoned", then an effect occurring before the cause would mean that the motion of something could occur before that something actually moves.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Eternal Universe and Science

by Redentor de la Rosa

At the end of his article The Eternal Universe, Garrick Bercero, former president of the Filipino Freethinkers, said:

It was perhaps impossible to have been an intellectually satisfied atheist until the discovery of relativity and quantum mechanics. The refutation of the Kalam heavily depends on the evidence that supports these theories.
Wow, that’s amazing! At last, atheists now are respecting theists and are ready to confess the rational cogency of belief in God. This is a great progress since it’s quite contrary to their prejudicial attitude in the past which is due to their illusionary belief that religion is pure fanaticism.

My guess is that Mr. Bercero’s realization that the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God is really solid is only recent and that his atheism was originally inspired by not having really understood the Cosmological argument (CA) according to St. Thomas Aquinas’ thought.

Now that he had listened to how some theists defend and explain the CA (First Cause argument in Aquinas), he is ready to admit that, because of the CA, “it was perhaps impossible to have been an intellectually satisfied atheist…” But he quickly assured his atheist friends that that is true only “until the discovery of relativity and quantum mechanics.”

In other words, Mr. Bercero is saying that, although reason and logic support theism than atheism, still there is hope for atheism in this modern age – thanks to relativity and quantum mechanics.

But are the evidences which Mr. Bercero extrapolated from modern science really support his atheism? My main objective here is to show that his alleged scientific arguments prove nothing of his claims. To accomplish this, it is enough to distinguish quantum mechanics from Mr. Bercero’s “pop science”. My second objective is to refute his other logical objections.

Not everything that begins to exist has a cause

To say that something pops into existence without a cause is to say that nothingness causes it. This is irrational and is a logical contradiction (a violation of Principle of Non-Contradiction). The proposition, “nothingness causes something to exist,” is analytically false. If, in the first place, a thing is nothing (non-existent), then it remains nothing unless something causes it to existence. Hence, logically, this premise is full proof. To deny this is pure irrationality.

But good thing Mr. Bercero is honest to rationality and logic. Thus, the only strategy left to him is to attack the premise on the ground of science. Thus, he claimed that the Kalam or CA argument is not sound on the ground that its premises are now proven false by science.

He starts by claiming that not everything that begins to exist has a cause. He appealed to two examples in physics to prove this. First, he said:

When an electron increases in energy to an excited state and returns to its ground state, a photon appears. This appearance of the photon occurs spontaneously and is not a deterministic consequence. That is to say, in Stenger’s words, it is “without cause.” The same is true for the radioactive decay of the atomic nucleus. We can know the probability of decay but it is impossible to say exactly when the decay will occur.
Note that Mr. Bercero should be proving that coming into existence from non-existence without being caused is possible. But his example, which is about “spontaneous occurrence from a natural process”, is a completely different thing. Perhaps, Mr. Bercero is just too obedient to the physicist, Victor Stenger, who said that the photon emission is “without cause”. Certainly, obedience is a virtue, but it’s unworthy of the name “freethinking”.

Now here’s the science:

Electrons orbit (as standing waves) around the nucleus.  Each electron has discrete orbital or energy level (ground state). When an object is hit by light/photon (electromagnetic energy), the electrons in the surface of the atoms absorb the photon causing them to vibrate/oscillate in higher energy levels. The electrons are therefore excited. But the electrons immediately return to their original energy levels or ground state (de-excitation) and re-emit the photons. The frequency of the photon re-emitted is the same with the frequency of the original photon/light.

Light Absorption and Emission

For opaque materials, they re-emit those lights that correspond to their colors while others are absorbed and transformed into random kinetic energy, thus, causing them to become slightly warmer. Hence, materials with blue colors (pigments) re-emit the blue spectrum of light while absorbing the rest. A red rose, for instance, will re-emit the red spectrum and absorb the others.

The process obeys the law of conservation of energy. The light/photon, which came from a vibrating source (e.g., the Sun), hit an object and causing its electrons to vibrate, and are then re-emitted. The photon already existed. It was the cause of the excitation/oscillation of the electron. Nothing in this phenomenon speaks about existence without a cause! (In lamps, electrons are excited to higher energy levels by the electric energy/current).

Mr. Bercero’s second example is atomic decay (radiation). However, this phenomenon also speaks nothing about non-causal existence. Remember what he said: “we can know the probability of decay but it is impossible to say exactly when the decay will occur.” I find it mind-boggling how the probabilistic (non-deterministic) nature of atomic decay should prove his claim that “not everything that begins to exist has a cause”.

Concerning “probabilistic causes”, Mr. Bercero confuses “probably this will cause that sooner or later” with “probably it has cause or it has not.” The former is quantum physics while the latter is pop science. Bercero interpreted “probable cause” as “without cause.”

Here’s the science:

We need to understand what is happening inside the atom in order understand atomic decay. The nucleus of an atom is composed of neutrons and protons. Protons in the nucleus mutually repel each other because they are all positively (electric) charged. But protons don’t fly away because they are held together with the neutrons by the strong nuclear force.

However, atoms with nucleus having a number of protons greater than 82 are unstable. This is because the electric force between the protons may overcome the nuclear force which could lead to emission of three radiations, namely, alpha, beta, and gamma. Alpha radiation is composed of two protons and two neutrons, which is actually the nucleus of helium. The release of protons will turn the atom stable but also makes it into a different atomic element. So alpha particles already exist inside the atomic nucleus.

Mr. Bercero made another inference from the probabilistic nature of atomic decay which I rather find strange for someone reputed to have high capacity for freethought. However, I have to respond to this since it carries the illusion of scientific sophistication. He said:

…probabilistic causes, if they are “causes” at all, are possible mechanisms for the beginning of the universe. This severely weakens the notion that a personal God predetermined the moment of creation with a purpose.
Mr. Bercero seemed to be oblivious that the Cosmological Argument (argument from First Cause in Aquinas original version) does not only apply to the origin of our universe but to the entire physical order as well. If natural mechanisms exist before the universe, then the CA applies to them as well. They too have beginning in existence since they are still under time; and time cannot regress to infinity.  And the fact that Bercero’s favorite scientists can talk about their probabilistic mechanism as akin to atomic decay shows that they too are subject to the laws or description of quantum physics.

For instance, the highly imaginative and fluctuating “random quantum fluctuation” theory of the origin of the universe/multiverse, first proposed by physicist Edward Tryon and popularized by evolutionary physicist Victor Stenger, is not immune to the CA or First Cause argument. It actually offers absolute zero argument for atheism. This fluctuating quantum vacuum is imagined to have, at least, a sea of negative energy and electromagnetic energy (photons). But electromagnetic energy is a wave that travels. And what travels is in time. And in as much is this is in time and that the “quantum vacuum” is a physical entity since scientists are theorizing about it using quantum physics, it couldn't have existed eternally. They too must have been caused; and God is required ultimately.

The first cause (God) is personal, not because He is the “particulizer” to decide to create the universe at that moment and not a moment before (William Craig’s argument). Rather, the first cause, as Aquinas explained, is personal because only a personal act is capable of creation, so to speak, creation (ex nihilo) is a personal act – an act of the will. Natural mechanisms act mechanistically; hence, they act according to their nature/laws and they can only have effects which are essentially the same with their nature/laws.

If natural probabilistic mechanisms are the cause of the universe, then these natural mechanisms still belong to the temporal order. Hence, they are still finite and have beginning in existence. In order to avoid this ad infinitum dilemma, the physical order must have been created, that is, its existence was simply willed. Only in this way is producing something out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) is logically conceivable.

Natural mechanisms necessarily operate through some pre-existing material. Without a material, the mechanism will have nothing to apply its mechanism or will have nothing where its mechanistic process is definable. The nature of mechanism intrinsically includes the process that operates or is applicable to a given material. There is no mechanism over nothing. Mechanism is always mechanism over something. A mechanism produces its effects through its mechanism, but if there’s nothing its mechanism can work on to, then there’s nothing to produce its effect. On the other hand, willing that something should come into being requires no pre-existing materials. Thus, the first cause is a personal creator.

The universe began to exist

The premise that the universe has a beginning in existence is not actually based on the Big Bang. Rather, as St. Thomas Aquinas argued, it was based on the fact that time cannot regress to infinity. In the Summa Theologica, Aquinas actually explicitly said the key to his first three arguments (motion, cause, and contingency): “it is impossible to go on to infinity.”

To say that the universe has no beginning in existence is to say that it has existed for an infinite range of time. But an infinity, by definition, means “can’t be reached”. Hence, infinity cannot be actualized nor completed. The proposition, “actual infinity can’t exist,” is analytically true. To say that time has reached infinity is a contradiction in terms and I have already proven this point here in detail.

Thus, the claim that the universe (or the multiverse) can regress to infinity is not only “counter-intuitive” (whatever that means) but is also a clear logical contradiction. However, Mr. Bercero focused only on the word “counter-intuitive” and ignores the more glaring fact that it is an unequivocal logical contradiction. He then gave his “scientific” objection:

It is important to note, however, that counter-intuitive results show up in science all the time. The greatest example of this is the discovery of wave-particle duality. A particle can be at many places at the same time. A particle can have many states at the same time. It is therefore not true that counter-intuitive results are necessarily impossible.
Unfortunately for Bercero, what he meant by science is not real science but pop science. In real quantum physics, the particle-wave duality is not “counter-intuitive”. It is perfectly logical. It doesn’t mean that a particle has both wave and particle properties at the same time and in the same respect. Rather, it means that at certain circumstance, it is best to describe or model it as a wave (when traveling for instance); at other times, it is best described as a particle (when detected for instance). 

Here’s the science:

Each single photon has wave properties as well as particle properties. But the photon displays different aspects at different times. A photon behaves as a particle when it is being emitted by an atom or absorbed by photographic film or other detectors and behaves as a wave in traveling from a source to the place where it is detected. So the photon strikes the film as a particle but travels to its position as a wave that interferes constructively (italics in the original). [Paul G. Hewitt. Conceptual Physics, 10 ed. Pearson Education, 2006. 607].
The same author explained further:

The Danish physicist Niels Bohr, one of the founders of quantum physics, formulated an explicit expression of the wholeness inherent in this dualism. He called his expression of this wholeness complementarity.  As Bohr expressed it, quantum phenomena exhibit complementary (mutually exclusive) properties – appearing either as particles or as waves – depending on the type of experiment conducted. Experiments designed to examine individual exchanges of energy and momentum bring about particle-like properties, while experiments designed to examine spatial distribution of energy bring out wavelike properties… Which part is emphasized depends on what question one puts to nature (emphases in original). [Ibid., 613].
This one is from the book The Ideas of Particle Physics: An Introduction for Scientists 3rd ed. (Cambridge  University Press, 2006) by Guy D. Coughlan, et. al.

Adoption of de Broglie’s idea requires the comprehensive assimilation of particle-wave duality. For any entity in the microworld, there will be situations in which it is best thought of as a wave and situations in which it is best thought of as a particle. [p. 19b].
What do we really mean by counter-intuitive? Does it mean counter to or against our intuitive hunches? Hunch is an intuitive feeling about something says Encarta dictionary. But we’re not talking here of hunches. The statement “infinity cannot be actualized” is not merely intuitive (whatever that means). It is purely a logical statement. It is true logically. It is like saying 2 is not 1. A circle is not a square. Infinity is not finite; hence, it cannot be reached. Only finitude can possibly be actualized. To say that science can have counter-intuitive results is to say that it can have illogical or irrational results. To say that we can accept counter-intuitive results like infinity being reached, is actually to say that we can accept results like 2 is 1 or a square is also a circle. They are all false not because we have an intuition of their falsity but simply because they say something false by their very meaning. If words mean what they mean, then a statement is false by virtue of its meaning and not because they are “counter-intuitive”; otherwise, we are just talking non-sense!

After giving his “science as having counter-intuitive results” argument, Bercero shifted the discussion by appealing once again to another “scientific” theory which claims that “the standard model of cosmology does not necessarily see the universe as beginning from a single infinitely dense point—a singularity.” Mr. Bercero said:

Taking into account the physics of quantum mechanics, which would dominate at the extremely small scales of the earliest moments of the Big Bang, Hawking says, “There was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe.”
It is completely possible, as Hawking suggests in A Brief History of Time, that the universe has no boundary in time. This means that t = 0 (where t = time) is merely in the middle of a continuous line of imaginary time (a concept necessary to describe quantum tunneling), like how the South Pole is not the end of the Earth, but just another point along the longitudes… It therefore stands to reason that time need not have a beginning, as a singularity would suggest.
Contrary to Bercero’s confidence, this theory, however, offers no argument at all against the premise that physical infinities cannot be actualized. Regardless of whether there is singularity or not, time, as explained by St. Thomas Aquinas, cannot go on to infinity. Even if the t=0 of our universe is just “the middle of a continuous line of imaginary time,” still this “imaginary time” cannot be infinite for the simple reason that infinite regress or progress cannot be reached. Even if we grant the fantasy that our universe came from particles of another universe “tunneling” to our dimension,[1] still that universe and all the other universes (including the primordial quantum vacuum) have a beginning in existence since we cannot regress to infinity. Hence, Mr. Bercero’s conclusion that “it stands to reason that time need not have a beginning, as a singularity would suggest” strike us as mindless.

The universe has a cause

Here, Mr. Bercero offered a counter logical argument against the premise that “actual infinities cannot exist”. He argued that:

This would also apply to God. God cannot have existed through an actual infinite addition of events going back to nowhere. To get around this, theologians can assert that God is eternal not in the infinite number of events sense but because he is timeless. Unfortunately for the theist, since God is timeless, there would also never have been a time when God did not create the universe. The eternal universe would also be timeless in the same sense.
While he is correct that the eternity of God is not to be understood as an actual infinite sequence of time (since actual infinite sequence is impossible), his conclusion that the timelessness of God would mean that the universe itself is also eternal is quite na├»ve. Strangely, it appears for Mr. Bercero this is his strongest argument. It led to his final argument: “there has never been a time when there was no universe.”

Actually, Bercero’s inference is simply false. St. Augustine (whom atheists may find to be primitive) already resolved this question. If God is timeless, then His acts are also timeless; hence, the universe, as an act of creation, is timeless. St. Augustine introduced the idea of “emanation”; meaning to say, the universe emanated as a temporal effect of an eternal act.

The same is true to all acts of God in relation to creatures.  Answered prayers, for instance, does not mean that God enters into a new act (from not-granting to granting of prayers). Rather, they are realizations in time of the eternal will of God. All acts of God in relation to creatures are included in the eternal creative will of God which absolutely comprehends all things together with all their details in a single or simultaneous and undivided act.

The “relational view of time” is not actually a new idea introduced by science or by Albert Einstein. It was, as a matter of fact, the traditional view of St. Thomas Aquinas. For Aquinas, time is “motion reckoned”. In the Summa, Aquinas explained: “the fact that we reckon before and after in movement, makes us apprehend time, which is nothing else but the measure of before and after in movement.”

Thus, on the part of God, creation is eternal (active creation); but on the part of the universe, as an effect, its moment of existence is the beginning of time (passive creation). This also explains why William Craig’s argument for the personhood of the Creator is wrong. There was no time before the universe and God did not decide on what moment in time He would create the universe since there are no moments in God and there were no moments before the universe was created.

Towards the end of his article, Mr. Bercero made his final argument. He said:

The eternity of the universe is also supported by the dependence of time on space. In other words, without the universe, there was no time. Without time outside the universe, there was never a time without a universe. Hence, the universe has always existed and a creator is unnecessary to explain its existence.
Unfortunately for Mr. Bercero, his argument holds no water. It only requires average IQ to see that his conclusion commits the fallacy of equivocation. He equivocates the meaning of “there was no time” with “eternity”.

It is true that before the universe, there was no time (if we accept that there are no prior universe existing) and there has never been a time when there was no universe. However, that is entirely different from saying that the universe has always existed (eternal). The universe did not always exist. It has beginning in existence; and it began with time and in time. The universe began to exist and that’s the start of time. From that historical moment up to today, time is counted finitely. Hence, the age of the universe is finite and is not eternal.

God is outside time because He is eternal. The universe began with time and in time. The universe is not outside time so it is not eternal.

All images here fall under "fair use" since this article is not for commercial use.

[1] There is absolutely nothing in the science of quantum tunneling that justifies even the possibility of particles, waves energy, or whatever tunneling out of an ontologically prior quantum vacuum or UGM or "neighbor" universe to produce our parallel space-time universe. Neither logic nor physics justifies such assertion so that it qualifies as a pure fantasy. Again, the problem with Mr. Bercero is he took his science from pop sci articles or atheist physicist authors, whose main intent in their books is to avoid God even at the expense of reason, rather than reading books in physics whose authors still possess the professional modesty of saying only those things that are allowed by empirical evidence and the allowed logical implications of those empirical evidence.

Quantum tunneling refers simply to the probability that a particle, modeled as wave, may tunnel through a very thin barrier. Tunneling occurs with barriers of thickness around 1-3 nanometer and smaller (Lerner; Trigg (1991). Encyclopedia of Physics (2nd ed.). New York: VCH. p. 1308). Electrons can tunnel because the the barrier is not pure solid. Atoms in a material have holes or empty space between them with diameter which can be thousand times bigger than the electron. For higher and thicker barriers, the probability decreases exponentially. And even if the probability is greater than zero, this does not mean that it can happen in reality. Probability is only a statistical number while reality is reality.

In many pop sci articles, tunneling is illustrated using bigger objects like a baseball. But this is actually an embarrassment to real quantum mechanics. While Louis de Broglie is correct in saying that all particles, including macro objects, have wave properties, the wave model is negligible in macro-objects. The wavelength, for instance, of the swiftest bacterium is billion times smaller than itself. However, in pop sci, the baseball is illustrated as if it has a wavelength longer than the width of a mountain so that it is said to possibly tunnel through it.

Not infrequently, we can even hear intolerably irrational assertions like the “universal-generating mechanism” (UGM), which is timeless and spaceless, can spontaneously produce space. And what is more intolerable is that Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is invoked to back up such bizarre assertions. But Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle has nothing to do with these claims. On the other hand, it only manifests atheists pretentiousness, gullibility and ignorance.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Why we can’t prove December 25 as the birth of Jesus Christ (UPDATED)

We really don't have a good evidence for the accuracy of Dec 25. As a matter of fact, the Church never ever claimed that Dec 25 is really the date of Christ's birth. The old (1917) Catholic Encyclopedia refuted the opinion that Dec 25 can be proven using the Bible by counting from Zachary's service in the temple (Luke 1: 5-20). This way of proving Dec 25 can easily be refuted through a simple reading of the exegetical commentaries of the verses involved. The 1917 Catholic encyclopedia explained:

Concerning the date of Christ's birth the Gospels give no help…. Arguments based on Zachary's temple ministry are unreliable…. From these untrustworthy data, assuming that Christ was born A.U.C. 749, and that never in seventy turbulent years the weekly succession failed, it is calculated that the eighth class was serving 2-9 October, A.U.C. 748, whence Christ's conception falls in March, and birth presumably in December. Kellner (op. cit., pp. 106, 107) shows how hopeless is the calculation of Zachary's week from any point before or after it. (

Zachary’s incensing in the temple did not occur at the "Day of Atonement" or Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16:33-34, 23: 23-27). The “Day of Atonement” happens only once a year and only the High Priest offers incense in the sanctuary. But Zachary was not a high priest and offered incense during the offering of the daily Tamid where incense are burnt twice a day (see also the New American Bible commentary on Luke 1-5-20). So it’s not correct to say that Zachary’s entry in the temple sanctuary happened in September 10 or Tishri 10 (see Leviticus 23: 23-27).

During Zachary's time, Annas was the high priest. Annas was the father in law of Caiaphas, the high priest who tore his garment in front of Jesus.

Zachary did not, in fact, enter the Holy of Hollies. Luke 1:9 said he entered the Sanctuary. One will find in vain an exegetical commentary of Luke 1:9 who say that Zachary entered the Holy of Hollies. The sanctuary has two compartments, the Holy Place and the Holy of Hollies (also called the Most Holy Place). The holy place and the holy of hollies are divided by a veil. Inside the holy place are three furniture: the Menorah, the Shewbread table, and the Golden Altar of Incense. The golden altar of incense is the closest furniture in the Holy of Hollies and is immediately in front of the veil. Twice every day, priests burn incense in the golden altar. This was what Zachary did.

Only the high priest can enter the holy of hollies once a year during the Day of Atonement. The high priest gets incense from the golden altar of incense and offers it inside the Holy of Hollies. The Holy of Hollies housed the Ark of the Covenant, but during the time of Christ, the Holy of Hollies is empty because the ark was lost during the destruction of the Jerusalem temple by the Babylonians.

Not a Theological Issue

The deciding on dates is not part of the Church's capacity to teach because the teaching capacity of the Magisterium is for doctrinal and moral matters only like the teaching that God incarnated, born of the virgin, resurrected from the dead, etc. But dates for celebrations are not matters of faith. Whether Dec 25 is the most probable date or not doesn't really matter. The Church can even change this in the future if the real date is established. And this doesn't mean that the Church erred in matters of faith. What the Church cannot change is the doctrine that God incarnated, born of the virgin, suffered and died in the Cross, resurrected, etc.

The identification of historical dates is not part of the teaching (Prophetic) role of the Church. However, the imposition of common observances is part of the disciplinary or governing (Kingly) role of the Church. When the Church decides on a date, all Catholics should obey. But what is required is not the virtue of FAITH but the virtue of OBEDIENCE. Hence, for instance, a Catholic historian and archaeologist definitely established the true date of Christ' birth; he is obliged to believe in his findings because the Church never required his faith on Dec 25. However, he is obliged to observe Dec 25 as the day of celebration for the sake of ecclesial unity. The church did not decide on Dec 25 as a matter of fact but only as a matter of "which is the older tradition." And the older tradition is Dec 25 since it goes back to the disciple of the Apostles (183 AD).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to Defend Papal Infallibility: An Exchange with Gerald P. Soliman on Private Judgment and Sola Scriptura


I am thankful to Gerald P. Soliman for giving me an opportunity to write a defense explaining why the Pope's Infallibility is necessary to the Christian faith and why the Protestant doctrine, Sola Scriptura or "Bible alone," is a false teaching, not to mention, a shallow one. Gerald Soliman is considered by many as the best Protestant apologist in the country today, and I certainly agree with them. Not only he possesses a keen intelligence, he is also a rare example of a true gentleman. Gerald is a Calvinist and maintains a Christian apologetic blog here.

Note: Gerald Soliman’s words are in blue while mine are in black.

GS: I'd like to pose a challenge to everyone who believes that their church is the one established by Christ. Without using PRIVATE INTERPRETATION (of Scriptures, Tradition, and History), please tell me how did you arrive at your judgment that the Catholic Church is church established by Christ.
RD: I'd like to clarify first to GS that I don't agree with the responses, which he has been familiar with, of Catholic apologists on this issue. My response will be based on Dogmatic Theology. The correct Catholic response, for his information, is that first we employ private interpretation (since there's no other means available) in our search for the true Church, but after we've decided on what Church to join, our faith must be a dogmatic faith (faith in the true sense of the word), that is, assent to a doctrine as infallibly true.
It is impossible for one to assent that a doctrine is infallibly true if one does not hold that the Church proposing the doctrine is infallible. John Henry Newman, the great Anglican convert to Catholicism, said that the person whose beliefs are based on private judgment doesn’t actually possess the virtue of faith. Why? Because faith is assent that a doctrine is infallibly true. Assent that a doctrine is infallibly true means that the person, when assenting, believes that a doctrine is absolutely true. If he entertains any doubt or if he entertains, no matter how imperceptible, the possibility that a doctrine might be proven wrong someday, then he has not really assented; then he really has not faith. But the person, who has private judgment only, knows that he is not infallible in his judgments; it follows therefore that he cannot assent to any doctrine, which he has arrived through his private judgment, with an assent of faith. It follows further that he has not faith. Thus, Newman concluded that the strongest beliefs of Protestants are merely an Opinion; and, as a matter of fact, many of them are merely a prejudice. They lack the virtue of Faith. Protestants do not really believe in their doctrines in the true sense of the word. What keeps them holding onto their beliefs is not faith but prejudice against Catholicism because of the many "horrible myths" and "diabolical and idolatrous superstitions" about the Catholic Church which were bombarded unto them by their pastors when they were yet young.
But if there is no Church which is infallible or if God did not gave us a living infallible guide, then it follows that Christianity is merely a religion of (personal) opinions and not really of faith. If a pastor's belief is only his opinion, then he cannot, with modesty demand from me an assent of (dogmatic) faith. If he will not tell me that he is infallible and that I should believe in everything he say as infallible truths, then I have no business listening to him at all. I'd be equally justified in making my own personal beliefs. If we should not believe with infallible faith that Christ is God, and that we should believe it only as a matter of opinion and conviction, then those who believe, with conviction as strong as ours, that Christ is not God are equally morally meritorious in their beliefs. Then there is really nothing wrong in false beliefs and false teachings; and God, if He is truly just, cannot punish us for holding them.
If there is no infallible Church, then there's no true church at all. Then there's no true teaching at all; there's nothing which is really true. We can only have an opinion of those "true teachings" or of what is true and of which is the true church, but we cannot really have faith on the true church.
If Christ is intelligent, that is, if he is truly God, then he will not allow his people to be in this faithless and truthless predicament. If teachings matter for salvation, then he must have founded an infallible Church. A Church which demands from us an assent of (dogmatic) faith, so that we can truly possess and exercise the true act of faith, without which it is impossible to please God.
GS: I don't think my question is relevant anymore to this discussion since you seemingly agree that private interpretation is involved in deciding which the true church is. Your argument now shifted to the necessity of an infallible interpreter. Do you wish me to proceed under this new premise? By the way, how is this going to end?
RD: Yeah, you're correct bro Gerald. Please proceed. The proposition now is "Christianity requires an infallible living teacher."
GS: By infallible interpreter you mean other than the Holy Spirit. Very well. My comments on Mr. De la Rosa's argument can be summarized in two words: false dichotomy. Either the church is infallible or we're doomed. That's how his argument works. There is no more opening for another option.
God already gave us an infallible guide, the Holy Spirit. He takes the place of Christ after the latter's ascension. Why does God need to make an infallible interpreter in person of the pope and his magisterium? Well to paraphrase the common response of Catholics: "We have no assurance that what we’re reading and hearing is the truth."
And I keep asking: How do you know that your magisterium is infallible? How sure are you if you have picked the right institution over the other institutions that also make the claim that they're telling the truth? At the end of the day, a Catholic relies on his/her fallible judgment to say that the church he/she belonged tells the truth. That's why it's useless to have an infallible interpreter in the form of people.
If we do have an infallible magisterium, it's useless to even read the Bible because we could be in danger of misinterpreting it. The solution of needing an infallible magisterium is just to keep taking their word for it without questioning. After Paul had preached to the Bereans, they had to verify what Paul said (Acts 17:11). Obviously the early church at that time do not believe that the apostles are infallible. Paul couldn't have told them: "Take my word for it because you're not capable of understanding Scripture infallibly."
Let's say a person who is presumed to be infallible interpreted John 11:35 as "Jesus is gay here because he is crying over a man." You may find it absurd but you're in no position to say that because you're not infallible. But does fallibility prevent anyone from arriving at the truth? Certainly not. Yes, teachers play a part in helping understand Scripture. We can rely on them not because they are infallible but because they are trained to study the word of God.
RD: Bro Soliman, sorry for this long reply. 
//God already gave us an infallible guide, the Holy Spirit. He takes the place of Christ after the latter's ascension.//
This doesn’t make any sense at all. This statement completely misses the point of what we’re discussing. God (the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) is our infallible teacher and guide – yes of course. But what does it tells us? It tells us nothing! This is completely irrelevant to the issue.
//And I keep asking: How do you know that your magisterium is infallible? How sure are you if you have picked the right institution over the other institutions that also make the claim that they're telling the truth? At the end of the day, a Catholic relies on his/her fallible judgment to say that the church he/she belonged tells the truth. That's why it's useless to have an infallible interpreter in the form of people.//
You’re correct here bro Gerald. At the end of the day, it is the private judgment of the person that tells him the Church he had chosen is the right one. However, you’ve missed again the point here. Actually, I am not yet arguing that the Catholic Church is the true Church. And I am not yet arguing that by establishing that the true church must be infallible, we can already know which is the true Church. What I’m arguing yet is that the nature of the Christian religion is an evangelical religion, that is, it demands from anyone who desires to enter it the assent of faith. Thus, it demands an infallible faith. In deciding which church to join, the individual, of course, should use his intelligence and private judgment. But once he had decided to join Christianity, he should at once, abandon his private judgments. He ought to believe in everything or else he had not believed at all. If he believes in one, but doubts another, then he has not really believed in Christ’s church, but has only believe in himself – on his private judgment of which is right and which is not. In that case, he had not really joined the Church.
If such is his mental disposition, he can never be said to have joined any church. He had not really faith in anything – he had only an opinion about everything. Again, I am not arguing here yet of which is the true Church. What I am saying only is that, if there is a true Church, then it must be claiming that it’s infallible. Hence, if there are many churches which claim to be infallible, then they are candidates for the true church. They would then be valid competitors of the Catholic Church. But we are not yet to discuss on that matter. What I’m arguing here first is that if there’s a true church, it must include in its official teachings the doctrine that it is infallible. The point here is that any churches or any preacher who does not claim to be infallible is, by default, not included in the candidates for the true church. This means that private judgment is immediately eliminated in the equation.
A person, of course, could be wrong in choosing this church which is claiming to be infallible over the other churches also claiming infallibility. However, he is not wrong in choosing a church claiming infallibility over others which do not. Again, the point here is to establish that private judgment is wrong.
//If we do have an infallible magisterium, it's useless to even read the Bible because we could be in danger of misinterpreting it.//
I see no argumentative value here.
//The solution of needing an infallible magisterium is just to keep taking their word for it without questioning.//
No argumentative value.
//After Paul had preached to the Bereans, they had to verify what Paul said (Acts 17:11). Obviously the early church at that time do not believe that the apostles are infallible. Paul couldn't have told them: "Take my word for it because you're not capable of understanding Scripture infallibly."//
They had to verify, yes. But they’re yet in the initial stage of choosing where private judgment is, of course, needed. But after they had confirmed Paul’s teachings and have also considered many other warrants, they are now ready to follow Paul. Once they are in this second stage, then they have to abandon private judgment. If some of them will still be verifying Paul’s teachings, and compare his teachings on their own inquiries about the truth and scriptures, then such persons have not really given an assent of faith yet to Paul’s teachings. They are really not Paul’s disciples yet. They are not yet Christians. One single doubt renders one incapable of giving the assent of faith. If they had assented to Paul’s teachings only because what he said coincide with their weighing of the truth, then they only have an opinion of the truthfulness of Paul’s teachings; and they have not really faith on his words as absolutely true. They have not really faith on Paul as being sent by Christ.
The early Christians did not explicitly talked about whether the apostles are infallible or not, but they considered them or their teachings to be so. The apostles themselves demanded from and commanded their hearers the assent of faith – so much so that they even insists that whoever hears them hears Him who sent them. Only a person who considers his words absolutely true, that is, infallibly true, can demand from his hearer an assent of faith. And no protestant preacher, unless if he is psychotic, can do the same. Thus, the apostles never said that they are infallible, but they believe that what they are preaching are infallibly true, and that they are infallibly correct in their teachings; and further, they infallibly believe that they were sent by God.
Thus, they acted as infallible teachers, except, of course, in cases where they expressly say that their followers are free to decide on their own. When the apostles teach something about Christ, they never ever entertained the idea that what they were saying was only a product of their private judgment and that their hearers should weigh them according to their own judgments and thus only accept them as true in so far as they see or judge them to be true.
An atheist, for instance will use his private judgment in deciding which Christian church he should join. This is the first step. Once he had decided to join a Christian church, he should already understand that since the church he is joining is Christian, his faith is being required. This immediately means that he has to give up his private judgment. He can investigate into the rationale of the church’s doctrines but he cannot inquire as to their truths. If he has not given up his private judgment, then by analysis of his mental constitution, he has not really given his assent of faith. He has only accepted some doctrines in so far as they coincide to what he saw as true. In this case, he had not really joined the Church yet. He had not yet become a Christian.
In the same way, we cannot really say that a pastor in your church, who has long been with you in communal worship, belongs to your church; and also, he cannot really be said to have faith in your church. Why? Because he had only accepted the opinions of his senior co-pastors as true in so far as he sees the (limited) evidences currently available to him supporting their opinions. He had not really faith in them. In order for him to have faith in his church and thus to belong truly in his church, he must abandon private judgment and accept the doctrines preached in his church as infallibly true, that is, as true because it has been proposed to him as true and as coming from God and not because he had seen or judge them to be true. The point here is that private judgment and faith, as mental acts, are mutually exclusive of each other.
//Let's say a person who is presumed to be infallible interpreted John 11:35 as "Jesus is gay here because he is crying over a man." You may find it absurd but you're in no position to say that because you're not infallible.//
Again, a preacher or church claiming infallibility doesn’t make him/it the true church. Nonetheless, they are the only valid candidates for the true Church. Any preacher or church preaching about private judgment is by default, eliminated.
//But does fallibility prevents anyone from arriving the truth? Certainly not. //
One can arrive at the truth yes; but one can do so only coincidentally. A person may happen to arrive at the truth; but he is not infallibly certain that he has arrived at the truth. In that case, he cannot, without losing modesty, demand from anyone to have a faith in him. Can any protestant preacher demand from me an assent of faith? Can you, Bro Gerald Soliman, demand from all of us here an assent of faith to your opinions? Can you tell us here, with no doubt absolutely, that you are sent by God or that your words should be taken as the voice and will of God Himself. The Catholic Church is doing that. But can you? If you cannot, then you really did not come from God and, hence, please stop already telling us about which opinion is true and which is not.
Do you really honestly believe Bro. Soliman that there is a single soul in your church who really has faith in your church as the true church? How about yourself? Do you honestly believe that you have faith in you church as the true church? Note that when we say that you have faith in your church, it means that you believe without doubt that all its official teachings are infallibly true. “Infallibly true” actually has no special meaning. It simply means “true”. Using a phenomenological analysis of our minds, when you say that a thing is true, it means you hold that its true until the end of time, and that it’s true because it’s simply true and not because you see it as true. Because if your basis of saying that it’s true is your intellectual weighing of it as true, then you have not really believed that it’s true, but has only an opinion of its truthfulness. Cardinal John Henry Newman called it “INFERENCE” and not “ASSENT.” Meaning, you have only inferred that it’s true, and did not really assented or believed that it’s true. Inference and assent are two distinct acts of the mind.
//Yes, teachers play a part in helping understand Scripture. We can rely on them not because they are infallible but because they are trained to study the word of God.//
I can’t see any argumentative value here. Let me go back to your first statement.
//My comments on Mr. Dela Rosa's argument can be summarized in two words: false dichotomy. Either the church is infallible or we're doomed.//
Actually you’re the one who’s making the false dichotomy. The options are not between “the church is infallible” and “we’re doomed.” If there’s no infallible church, Christ may still save us through other means. But that is not already Christianity; that’s already humanism. My argument is either the church is infallible or there’s no true church at all and no true preacher as well.
Even if we can arrive at the truth, still we can never have faith in ourselves. Why? Because we know that we're not infallible. Even in your own opinions, you cannot give an assent of faith - the virtue of faith often mentioned in Scriptures. Only to somebody who tells us that he is infallible, or at least, that his words are infallibly correct and that he infallibly believes that he is sent by God, can we give our assent of faith. Faith cannot be elicited by anyone who only shares their opinion. No matter how much we force our will, the act of faith can never occur if we know that that person is only proposing his opinion.
Can anyone here tell us to have faith in his words when he himself cannot say that he is infallibly correct?
GS: Excuse me but I'm really not comfortable with you saying there are no argumentative value in most of my arguments. Before we had this discussion, you are seemingly confident that the assertions that I made in my blog are answerable. Now, you're telling me that there is no argumentative value in my arguments.
Take for instance you asserted that there is no argumentative value in my argument: "If we do have an infallible magisterium, it's useless to even read the Bible because we could be in danger of misinterpreting it."
But in your response, you said: [Even if we can arrive at the truth, still we can never have faith in ourselves. Why? Because we know that we're not infallible. Even in your own opinions, you cannot give an assent of faith - the virtue of faith often mentioned in Scriptures.]
That's just it. If there is an infallible magisterium, it is useless for us to even read the Bible because of the reason you said ("we can never have faith in ourselves" and "because we know that we're not infallible"). That's the implication of having an infallible entity: you can't trust yourself so let the infallible entity do it for you.
I'm sorry but your opinion that my statements have no argumentative value is uncalled for.
//Take for instance you asserted that there is no argumentative value in my argument: "If we do have an infallible magisterium, it's useless to even read the Bible because we could be in danger of misinterpreting it."//
Do you really think this has an argumentative value bro Soliman? You're kidding me. If there's an infallible authority, does it mean that it's useless to read the Bible? Does it? I don't see any sense in that assertion.
//That's the implication of having an infallible entity: you can't trust yourself so let the infallible entity do it for you.//
Even if there's a person who is super intelligent and can arrive at the truth in all of his conclusions, still, if he is to become a Christian, he has to abandon private judgment and make an act of faith. Again, faith means, believing that a thing is true because it has been proposed to you as true and not because you have seen it to be true. Private judgment, on the other hand, is intrinsically contrary to faith. Private judgment means accepting (not believing) that a thing is true because you have seen it as true based on the evidences currently available to you. Again, a phenomenology of such a type of mental act tells us that it is not faith (assent) but only inference. And as an act of inference, it is merely opinion. The point of requiring infallibility is not because we can't trust ourselves but because Christianity is an evangelical religion. It is a proclamation! It is proposed for acceptance with absolute assent (faith). The response to the Christian message is not private judgment of the evidences but faith. It is a message to be proclaimed and its hearers are invited to have faith. It is not for anyone to judge whether it’s true or not; rather, it is for us to receive with faith. However, the Christian, after receiving the Gospel with faith, may study on the rationale, warrants, basis of his faith for him to understand and love them more. That's basically the meaning of "faith seeking understanding" (fides querens intellectum.") Theology is faith seeking understanding. It is studying the reason behind ones faith, not so that a person will believe, but in order that, by understanding his faith, he may love them more.
//The point of requiring infallibility is not because we can't trust ourselves but because Christianity is an evangelical religion. It is a proclamation! It is proposed for acceptance with absolute assent (faith).//
That's why you can't say that my argument of not reading the Bible is invalid. You're not infallible. You don't even have the competency to verify what the infallible authority tells you. Your infallible authority has defined it for you and there is nothing more you can do except say: "Yes master!"
While I may have an idea how you define private interpretation, for me it simply means how an individual understands the things he reads and hears. Our brains process whatever information fed to us and we come up with an understanding. That's private interpretation and it cannot be avoided.
Let me ask you: How do you validate the infallible authority?
//That's why you can't say that my argument of not reading the Bible is invalid. You're not infallible. You don't even have the competency to verify what the infallible authority tells you. Your infallible authority has defined it for you and there is nothing more you can do except say: "Yes master!"//
We're dealing already with the role of theologians here bro Gerald. This has been extensively discussed already in theology. Theologians, of course, have contributed in the development of Christian doctrine, in its articulation, understanding, in giving proofs, synthesis, and even in arriving at new insights. But at the end of the day, the theologian submits his research for consideration by other theologians until such time that a consensus is arrived. But it is not his or their role to teach and propagate to the faithful that his or their opinion should be accepted by all and that he or they should be believed over the Pope. They have to present their findings, debate on it, not only read but study seriously the bible and fathom its true and original meaning by reading the original language, doing historical and literary criticism, etc. Hence, reading the Bible is not only useful but even becoming a biblical scholar is necessary, as well as a lot more free and independent intellectual endeavor, research, scholarship, including the study of philosophy, theology, and other scientific disciplines. The infallibility of the Pope or the theologian's submission to the Pope's final and infallible authority, has never and will never interfere on the theologian’s independent intellectual endeavor. What is the laity's' role in the development of Christian doctrine has been also discussed by Newman. Actually, the Christian religion, based on its universal message and based on the intention of Christ, is a religion for the masses. And we cannot expect the masses to have the same intellectual interest in inquiring about the complexities of Christian faith? Their role, and what Christ required from them, is to be believers and to live their faith in charity. They are sheep and they have to listen to the shepherd.
//Let me ask you: How do you validate the infallible authority?//
You don't validate the infallible authority. You simply accept it. If that infallible authority is false, then you'll know that sooner if not latter - and you'll have to leave. But if it is authentic, then your faith will work and gradually you'll arrive at Certitude of your faith, just as I have arrived at the certitude that the Pope is infallible and is the true leader of the true Church. But in Protestant churches where private judgment is the paradigm, nobody will ever arrive at certitude, for in the first place their churches never told them, with infallible stress, that their church is really the true Church. What keeps them in their churches then? The answer is simple: 1) Prejudice against the RC because of the many Vatican myths, Popish legends, and superstitious idolatries told to them about RC. In other words, they sell their products not because they believe that their products are good, but by pulling down the products of others. 2.) Attachments. They remain in their churches because of emotional attachments, to their way of life, to their co-members, and to their properties.
We can of course use and read the bible for our own personal edification. During bible sharing, we can give our own reflection and interpretation of the Bible. We can be mistaken or we can be correct. But there's nothing wrong with that since you're not proclaiming your interpretation as the truth. You and your listeners understand that you are only sharing your reflection. You're not teaching; you're not putting yourself as the "Interpreter." Hence, your personal interpretation is not incompatible with your recognition that there is an official infallible magisterium. But you might say: "but that is only what I mean by "private interpretation." To this I will answer: No it's not. Protestants are putting private interpretation as the source of truth and the means at attaining it. Private interpretation is the basis of their beliefs and of teaching others.
By analysis, we can distinguish two kinds of reading or interpretation of the Bible which are allowed in the Catholic Church. 1) The true or correct interpretation, and 2) The "true interpretation for me" - or correct in as much as my reflection on it to my experiences is concerned. The first (1) interpretation or reading of the Bible is broken down into two: 1.a) Interpretation according to its Literal Sense, (1.b) Interpretation according to its Spiritual or Mystical Sense. 1.b or Spiritual Sense is further broken down into three: (1.b.i) Allegorical sense, (1.b.ii) Anagogical sense, (1.b.iii) Moral Sense. These four interpretations are subject to the final judgment of the Magisterium. The theologians and biblical scholars' role is to do exegesis (for unclear or controversial passages) in order to arrive at the best interpretations of Scripture according to these four senses. But it is the Church's authority to proclaim to the faithful. Sometimes, the Pope is an excellent theologian, so his opinion can count as a good theological opinion (by the way, the Pope can propose his opinions as a private theologian). Number two (2) interpretation is for private reading of the Bible - the one I mentioned just above this comment. We read the Bible as an act of personal devotion or share it with our church-mates as a matter of reflection. In this case, there is no right or wrong but only what is meaningful or edifying to you or to me.
GS: Based on my experience this is how Catholics define private interpretation: Any interpretation that contradicts the infallible magisterium. It doesn't really matter as to how many kinds of interpretation you can enumerate. As long as the interpretation is not supportive of Rome, it is private interpretation. I really appreciate your technical analysis on this one but the subject of private interpretation is really no rocket science.
When Paul said in 1st Corinthians 10:15
"I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say."
In order for a person to judge something he must analyze the word he read/heard and compare it with a standard. Doesn't that sound like private interpretation? Unlike what you told me: "You don't validate the infallible authority. You simply accept it."
RD: The Church has been doing the same. It depends on the audience. The audiences of the Gospel have different needs and personalities. The preacher, thus, needs to accommodate their differences. Again we're talking here of the initial phase of invitation of the gentiles. The Christian preacher has to present credibilities or warrants in order to attract the listeners and thus possibly consider the Christian message. For some people, a miracle done by the preacher is credible enough for him to consider Christianity; for another, the good example of the believers; for another, the happiness he sees in them; for another, he needs more intellectual arguments for the claims of Christianity like the moral superiority of Christianity, etc. An atheist for instance needs to be convinced first of the reasonableness of belief in a supernatural Being. Thus, the preacher has to address their needs. But again, once they accept Christianity, they already understand that they have to give an assent of faith. In this stage, they don't validate infallibility, they need to accept; otherwise, they remain a seeker and never a believer. If they accept baptism and yet after that, still question and weigh whether each doctrine proposed to them is correct or not, then in what sense they have become a believer? For instance, If I agree to your conclusions about the Bible, and then receive baptism in your church. Yet every day the pastor is teaching us, I am inquiring as to the truth of his teachings. Do you think I have become his disciple? Do you think I have become a Christian? Even if in the end I have concluded that all and each of the pastor’s teachings are correct, still I have not really believed in him since I only accepted his words only in as much I have judge them correct. Again, this is not faith or assent, but inference.
And what if at the course of my inquiry, I arrive at an opposing opinion about one particular thing? What do you think will I do? Either I remain for the sake of our friendship, attachment, etc., or I leave and found my own Church. If I leave, did I experience a new conversion? Did I lose my old faith to him? The answer is no. Why? Because I really never became a believer. Why should I lose a faith when I haven’t had it from the very beginning? If I found my own church, did I found a new faith? The answer is: Impossible! How can I have faith in myself when I know that I'm just making things according to my best judgments? I can only have an opinion of my correctness, but I can never have faith in my own self – in my own church. But I will do everything to build my church – for its material gain – and I will always want to argue and prove that others are wrong. Because that is the only way that I can keep convincing myself that I'm correct. Proving that others are wrong is my only means of escaping, avoiding, and hiding from the shadow of my restlessness and anxiety borne by my incapacity to arrive at certitude because deep in my heart, I know that I really don’t know and that I'm really unsure of myself and where I'm in –because I have not really possessed the virtue of faith – faith that rewards – without which, it is impossible to please God.
Sorry bro Gerald, but 1 Cor 10:15 is not private interpretation. Paul was simply saying that if they are to be wise or sensible, then they have to agree with his statements. I ignored this verse since it doesn't really say anything in favor of protestant private judgment of the Scripture. To be frank with you, you cannot trick me with cheap shots. I know what I am saying and I understand what I am reading. That verse doesn't have any consequence against my statement that you don't validate infallible authority. If the Pope, for instance, will say to other Bishops during meetings to judge for themselves what he say, it will not mean that they have become protestants relying on their private judgment on doctrinal matters. It only shows that the teachers/preachers, like Paul or the Pope or any authority may appeal to the sensibilities of their members in order to remind them of the wrong they had done. What Paul did was a charitable way of admonishing his listeners. His strategy was to let them reflect on the wrong they have done. We are not talking here of teaching a particular doctrine which needs to be accepted by faith.
Paul was not saying that they should put themselves as the judge of the truth of his preaching. What he meant is that they themselves can recognize that what they have done is wrong. In tagalog, ganito ang sinasabi ni Paul: "kayo mismo, nakakaintindi na tama ang sinasabi ko na mali ang nagawa ninyo."
GS: As far as I know the Greek construction of the grammar suggest an instruction. I read the text for what it is, especially its context. Your paraphrasing of Paul's statement is not supported neither by the Greek grammar nor context. Common sense will even tell us that wise men are capable of rendering judgment. Needless to say, Paul will never instruct foolish men to judge what he says. It is as simple as that, no rocket science involved. Therefore, how can they judge Paul if they don't analyze for themselves what they are saying? It definitely involves private interpretation.
I think the question that should be answered is: Does a person, be it a member of the church or a seeker of truth, have any right to analyze for himself the things he read and hear from an institution claiming to have the truth?
RD: Of course he was also instructing. But more than that he was reprimanding them; and he argued against them that they themselves actually understand that what he’s saying is true based on their common sense (as wise men) and on what they know already as the teaching of Christ. Paul was not proposing a new doctrine which he submits to their judgment; rather, he was reasoning from an already accepted doctrine to the evilness or wrongness of what they've done. And even if (which is not really the case) that it was an instance of private judgment, still, it does not in any way support a protestant private judgment - which is methodical and systemic. Of course any Catholic can analyze teachings proposed to them - they can debate about them. I have been doing that for many times; but when all debates have been done, and the Pope deemed it to settle the issue (based on the results of the debates and after years of listening, study, and discernment), proclaim an opinion as the true one, then all should submit. This is actually the meaning of "Rome has spoken, the case is closed."