Archive for December, 2008

Church Authority: Argument 3

December 30, 2008

Accuracy, Authority, and the Visibility of the Church

In this post, I will argue that (1) There are some reasons to think the Church’s leaders have intrinsic authority, (2) Saying our parents have intrinisic authority is compatible with questioning our parents once we incorporate the concept of “insanity” into our model of authority, (3) Authority and accuracy are two distinct things, and this is implicitly accepted by Protestants, (4) Jesus thought the Scribes and Pharisees had intrinsic authority, (5) The Church continues the visible leadership structure and intrinsic authority that the Scribes and Pharisees had.

This post is a response to a comment in a very long discussion that can be found here on the blog By Whose Authority? about private judgment in the interpretation of the Bible. David Nilsen has been arguing that the gift of the illumination of the Holy Spirit helps individuals to interpret the Bible, and that the Spirit’s infallibility can speak directly to the soul of a Christian, binding his or her conscience to believe an interpretation of the Bible. Much of the discussion has already happened on his blog, and may be good background for this post.

(1) There are some reasons to think the Church’s leaders have intrinsic authority. (more…)


On the Sacrament of Holy Chrismation in Scripture

December 30, 2008

Under the Mosaic law, only specific persons received the special gift of the Holy Spirit—prophets, priests, and kings, and other such folk. The new relationship between God and man inaugurated in Christ involves the incorporation of all citizens of the Kingdom into a participation in the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Spirit in Christians was promised by Christ (John 7:37-9). The Spirit becomes incorporated into humanity supremely in Christ’s miraculous anointing at his baptism. This is the first step in the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy that the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, for Christ sums up all flesh in himself (1 Corinthians 15, Ephesians 1:10).

To “receive the anointing” which is a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20-27) or “receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, 8:14-17, 9:6, 17-18, 19:1-7) refers to a sacrament still practiced in the Orthodox Church, Roman Catholicism, and Anglicanism to this day. The word “Anointing” is “criso” in Greek; hence “Chrismation”. (more…)

Person-Nature in St. Irenaeus' Christology

December 20, 2008

And again David says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool.’ The Lord sends forth from Zion a sceptre of power, rule in the midst of your enemies! With you <is dominion>, in the day of yoru power, in the splendour of the saints; from the womb before the morning star have I begotten you.  The Lord has sworn and will not repent, you are a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.  The Lord, at your right hand, has crushed kings in the day of wrath.  He will judge among the nations, He will fill [them with the] fallen and will crush the heads of many upon earth.  He will drink from the brook in the way; therefore He will lift up His head.”  By this, then, he declared that He is before [all], and that He rules over the nations, and judges all men and the king<s> who now hate Him and persecute His name, for these are His enemies; and calling Him an eternal high priest of God, declares His immortality.  And by saying “He will drink from the brook in the way, therefore He will lift up His head,” he indicated the exaltation with glory according to His humanity after His humiliation and abasement.

On The Apostolic Preaching, Section 48 (more…)

Intuitions, Knowledge, and Possible Mechanisms

December 20, 2008

For the particularist, the process of classifying which of one’s beliefs are items of knowledge starts with picking out specific cases.  Instead of starting with a method that will help us look at all beliefs and decide which are cases of knowledge and which are not, we begin by identifying what seem to be obvious instances of knowledge, and then (when it is possible) construct a method based on what these cases hold in common.

But things are not this simple, even for particularists (who consider themselves to be champions of common sense, mundane simplicity, and the Average Joe).  For even if we can identify various cases of knowledge without presupposing a defined method, there still may be general kinds of intellectual demands that are placed on us by what particular items of knowledge we claim to have.  For instance, if I conclude “I know that there is a brown carpet that I am standing on”, I should not hold beliefs that are inconsistent with this item of knowledge.  An example of such an inconsistent belief would probably be “no sensory perception accurately communicates information to the mind”.  It is probably inconsistent to hold both of these beliefs because, presumably, the way that I would come to know “I know that there is a brown carpet that I am standing on” would depend on the reliability of my sensory perception.  To hold there is a brown carpet that I am on and then deny “sensory perception communicates information to the mind” seems like a kind of epistemological suicide.

What this example shows us, I think, is this.  If we claim to have an item of knowledge, and this item of knowledge comes through some kind of process, then we must also claim that we know this process works.  Even if we cannot independently prove (apart from its connection to this specific instance of knowledge) that this mechanism works (ie. it grants knowledge), we must commit to the fact that it works if we claim to know things by means of it.  To intuit that I have as a particular case of knowledge some proposition p that is inferred from sensory data, and then go on to claim that my senses do not work as mechanisms for attaining knowledge, seems to be a mistake.  If I cannot point to even a possible knowledge-producing process by means of which I know that p, then it is invalid to claim that I know that p.  Thus, if I intuit a particular item of knowledge, I must be able to suggest a possible working mechanism by means of which I got the knowledge.

The above suggestion is not a kind of methodism about knowledge.  After all, the proposed demand on a knower that I have just made is not that he or she articulate a method for differentiating cases of knowledge from cases of non-knowledge.  Nor is the requirement that the knower give an explanation of exactly how the bit of knowledge is attained.  But what is needed, it seems, is for us to believe in the existence of some possible way we could have got an item of knowledge.  Perhaps a weaker requirement is all that is actually needed: given that we claim to know that p, our wider belief-system must not include beliefs which would entail we could not know that p.  So even if we don’t articulate a mechanism for how knowledge that p is possible, we must not have ruled all such mechanisms out.  It is this weaker thesis that I will take as a requirement for claiming that I have a particular item of knowledge.  I will call this requirement for claiming I have an item of knowledge the requirement of not having ruled out that I have an intuitive knowledge mechanism (hereafter IKM).

I have already applied the need for an IKM to the case of perception by pointing out that if I claim to know that p, where p is some fact about my relation to the external world, I cannot also deny that I have an IKM that could grant me knowledge of the external world.  In subsequent posts, I hope to apply this idea to other issues.  These include the direct/indirect realism debate about perception; the need for an IKM by which we gain moral knowledge; and the process of trying to adjudicate between conflicting intuitions.  Stay tuned.