Friday, September 7, 2007

Fallible Certainty: Answers to jswranch

Jswranch left a rather long comment on The Canon: Fallible Certainty post which was really just pointing to a post Ellen made where she worked off another post on Parchment and Pen. I believe jswranch was mostly responding to Ellen’s post, but starting with the initial post that spurned Ellen’s may have brought some clarity.

All that said, let me try to briefly answer some of jswranch’s objections.

(Original post in italics, jswranch’s comment in bold, my reponse in regular type)

The smoke screen of epistemological certainty that seems to be provided by having a living infallible authority (Magisterium) disappears when we realize that we all start with fallibility...

Why? Just because I am fallible does not mean the HS didn't institute an infallible institution to do its will. Wasn’t Moses the infallible teacher anointed by God to instruct His people in truth?

No, the HS didn’t institute an infallible institution because nowhere in scripture is such a thing ever mentioned. The point of the epistemological argument is that an infallible organization can never provide 100% certainty because the followers are still fallible.

I believe this plays out in two ways. First, your personal fallibility means that your determination that the RCC IS an infallible organization instituted by God is a fallible decision. You can never be 100% certain that you are correct. Second, even if there were an infallible, visible organization, you can never be 100% certain that you will properly interpret what they have to say because you are still fallible.

The Catholic position is really no different than the Protestant position. We each have our own infallible authority (for Cats the magisterium, for Prots the Bible), but neither can be 100% certain that their source of authority is true since our own personal decisions are fallible. After that, neither can be 100% certain that we are understanding/interpreting the words/directions of our authority properly because again, we are fallible. Instead we must go with the highest amount of certainty and this is where Protestants pull ahead (from an epistemological POV).

So the point is that the whole need for an infallible, earthly organization is not only unscriptural, but it really doesn’t solve anything. Because of personal fallibility, you can never have 100% certainty.

As far as Moses being the “infallible teacher”, really? Is this the new Catholic apologetic argument to try to read an infallible leader into the Old Testament? Moses was not infallible, so this really doesn’t affect anything.

I’ll continue with this later…


Reginald de Piperno said...

Question-begging is not an argument. And it's not an "answer," either.

Carrie said...


I think you are missing the point that this is an epistemological argument. To say that you are 100% certain about the RCC is not understanding the limitations of knowledge and/or not comprehending the definition of faith.

Reginald de Piperno said...


I think that you must not have read my post with sufficient care, since a) I addressed the epistemological issue, and b) I discussed the definition of faith, c) I discussed how it is that we know with 100% certainty.

What you have neglected to do, however, is to address the question-begging that characterizes your post.

-- Reginald

Carrie said...

Okay Reginald, I read through your post again and think you are over-stating the "begging-the-question". I am simply responding to jswranch's comment based on the other articles, not writing a whole dissertation to defend my position.

I see a few flaws in your post, but I don't have time to respond to them now. I have only made it through the first part of jswranch's comment and still have a way to go.

Lastly, I see that you have many posts about me and what I have written here. Unfortunately I don't have time to read through them all or engage your issues.

May I suggest you visit - they have a good size group of men over there that can engage you - I just don't have the time right now.

That said, if I ever have some time I'll try to stop by your blog again and deal with your rebuttals.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Overstating it?

jswranch said, "Just because I am fallible does not mean the HS didn't institute an infallible institution to do its will," to which you responded that God didn't do such a thing because the Bible doesn't say he did.

But you haven't proven that it was necessary for God to put it in the Bible in order for him to have done it. You have simply assumed it in your response. It is a question-begging answer, because sola scriptura is at the root of the epistemological issue at hand.

As for flaws in my post: if there are only a few I would be grateful :-) As always, I gladly submit to the authority of the Catholic Church and renounce anything that I have written that contradicts the teaching of the Church.

As for posts of mine related to your blog: Rather than hog your comboxes I thought it made more sense to put them in my own place. I don't expect you to go through them all, just as I don't go through everything that you post. Heck, I don't expect you to go through any of them. You're not answerable to me, and I am sure that you have better things to do than read anything that I write.

Carrie said...

to which you responded that God didn't do such a thing because the Bible doesn't say he did.

I was just stating my position, not making a full defense. Again, you are taking a choppy, small response to someone's comment - it wasn't meant to address all issues. Sometimes all I have time for is a "you're wrong".

I don't expect you to go through them all, just as I don't go through everything that you post.

Yeah, I didn't think you had that expectation, but you do appear interested in discussions on these issues and I wanted to offer you a forum for such.

And thank you for not hogging my combox :)

Now, I think that saying we can have 100% certainty about God is foolish and from there the rest of your argument unravels. If you can't admit your fallibility in these matters then it is obviously why you cannot see the flaw in the infallible authority arguement.

Ellen said...

Can you infallibly prove that your certainty is 100% certain? Is your certainty infallible?

In other words, you don't need faith...but you do need works.