Friday, June 17, 2005

What They Don't Teach in the Ivy League

Let's suppose that I think that position X on an issue is false, but agree with position Y. Along comes Author Z who, in his writings, simultaneously holds or indicates an acceptance of the conjunction of X and Y. Query: am I violating some canon of consistency by citing Author Z's endorsement of Y?

Answer: not necessarily

Helpful guidelines for those who seek true wisdom:

(1) If Y and X happen to be logically independent of each other, or if the reasoning for Y's truth does not imply the truth of X, then there is no logical problem with my citation of Author Z.

(2) Even if the truth of X were to imply the truth of Y, this wouldn't make somebody who holds Y but not X to be inconsistent. This is a mere restatement of the converse fallacy.

(3) One could challenge me to cite an author [say Z2] who, besides agreeing with Y, also finds X to be false. But then in most situations [perhaps all?], Z2 will then disagree with me on some other proposition Q. Supposing that the argumentation for Q is logically independent of that for X and Y, the imaginary interlocutor could ask why I'm citing Z2 and not some other author Z3 who agrees with me on X, Y, and Q. And the cycle could go on and on, until one can only cite somebody who agrees with him in every detail. This is a rather silly way of proceeding, methinks.

Let's apply this to when an Evangelical has the sheer audacity to cite an Early Church Father without first prostrating himself before the ECF Commissar or any other person who feels as if the ECF's are theirs to lease out to those receiving their good pleasure.

(a) It is quite one thing to say that X and Y are logically dependent on each other, and quite another thing to show it. Given the theological diversity in the ECF's --- contra the claims by the 10-minutes-per-day triumphalistic RC apologists --- it isn't a trivial matter to show that X and Y are logically interdependent.

(b) On an ethical note, I allow RC's to do the same thing with regards to ECF's. However, I'm not so arrogant to think that they have a Property of Pedantic Protestant sticker on them. Some of the ECF's agree with me on some things, others disagree. In the language of the skaters down the block: whatever, d00d.

(c) It is quite possible that an ECF who holds both Y and X [whereas I hold Y and the negation of X] is citation-quality relative to Y simply because there are good reasons for Y and not-so-good reasons for X. Example: X might be something against which one has a good scripture-based argument, whereas the ECF holds Y due to some abstract philosophizing based on questionable principles.

(d) Conservative Protestants have an objective criterion why they take certain parts of the ECF's pleasantly and other parts unpleasantly, and that criterion is Scripture. Whether or not RC's approve of this really doesn't mean anything unless they can give an argument that this criterion is a bad one, and that isn't something that can be shown in a quick-n-easy fashion.

[Yet to Edit]


Blogger centuri0n said...

I think you missed something here. The RC's are doing themselves an injustice when they are citing ECFs for a singular reason: there are almost none of those men who are speaking for or in a posotion to be speaking with the blessing of the magisterium.

See: until Nicea, there's no actual creed issued by the church as a shibboleth. In the best case, there's some kind of "oral tradition" (it's like Oral Roberts, including the part about a 900-foot Jesus) that is (allegely) informing their writing, but no papal bulls, no encyclicals, no speaking from Peter's chair. In that, there is no post-apostolic unanimous consent of the fathers (except, perhaps, on the matter of the authority of Scripture, which is ironic) -- so the effects of the alleged oral tradition is really unfound. Thus when they cite the earliest writers of the church, they have to cherry-pick to find statements that they think are just like Rome.

On the other side of the Tiber, we stand here and can see these men (the ECFs) as men who sought to deliver the truth which the apostles handed down through Scripture, and sometimes they did good and (like us bloggers) sometimes not so good.

That is why it is problematic to cite the ECFs at all -- because they are not perfect. Scripture is perfect, and we should start there.

Friday, June 17, 2005 9:02:00 PM  

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