Thursday, August 28, 2008

Objection: Begging the Question!

Since the time I have been annointed as an apologist in the service of Rome by Professor White, I have been accused at times of reading things into what people write. Unfortunately, it would appear that it is a trait that some Protestant apologists suffer from as well.

Over on Turretinfan’s blog, TF suggests that Catholics believe that Islam is salvific. He states:

“Question for my readers who follow Vatican 2's proclamation that "the plan of salvation includes" Muslims: Can you see from the example above that zealously following Islam leads to eternal destruction? If so, how do you justify to yourself your church's claim? Can you not admit that your church has erred on this point?”


TF’s brief remarks above grossly distort what the Catholic Church teaches. Moreover, his questions as written as are a prime example of fallacy known as Plurium Interrogationum more commonly known as "begging the question". Simply put, one engages in Plurium Interrogationum when he asks a question which contains a false, disputed or question-begging presupposition as its premise. The obvious example law students are taught is, “Did you stop beating your wife?” The question first presupposes 1) you are married and 2) that some time prior to the question being asked, you beat your wife. Now, the problem is that the form of the question only allows the responder to answer the question two ways. If the responder says ‘yes’ then he has admitted that he has beaten his wife. If the responder says ‘no’, then an ambiguity arises from which the fact-finder or audience can infer that the responder has not stopped beating his wife when in fact the responder in all likelihood is actually stating that he never had beaten his wife in the first place. When such questions are used rhetorically, the writer is hoping to create in the mind of his audience a false impression that someone adheres to a view that they, in fact, do not adhere to. If an advocate used such questions in a court of law, the trial judge would sustain an objection to their use and order such questions stricken from the record.

In the case at bar, Turretinfan hopes to create the impression in the minds of his audience that the Catholic Church teaches that Islam is salvific when in fact it does not so teach nor has it ever taught that a person who is a zealous follower of Islam can be saved.

Proof of my contention that TF's questions are based on a false premise is as follows:

One of the basic documents of Vatican II is The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church also called Lumen Gentium (LG). At LG 16, it does indeed state that God’s “plan of salvation” include Muslims. Here is the full text as opposed to the snippet offered by Turretinfan:

Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues. But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature", the Church fosters the missions with care and attention. (Emphasis mine).


A close reading of the section states why Muslims are included in the plan of salvation: because they claim to profess a belief in the God of Abraham. A proclamation indicating a belief in God is a step closer to accepting the fullness of His Gospel even if there is much error in what a Muslim may otherwise believe. If we accept that Muslims do in fact believe in the God of Abraham, then such a belief would make them more receptive to accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thus be saved. As noted above, “Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.”

Scripture, itself, demonstrates that the truth contained in a pagan religion can prepare adherents to accept the Gospel of Christ. After all, did not St. Paul state to the pantheistic Athenians: "For passing by, and seeing your idols, I found an altar also, on which was written: To the unknown God. What therefore you worship, without knowing it, that I preach to you." The entire pericope may be found at Acts 17:16-34.

Further documentation that TF has misstated the Church's position is as follows:

In Dominus Jesus (2000) a magisterial document released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith one may find the following:

"It would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her" (DJ 21).
And

"If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation" (DJ 22).


Likewise, Pope John Paul II in Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994), wrote:

"Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Qur'an, but he is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us. Islam is not a religion of redemption. There is no room for the cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Mohammed. There is also mention of Mary, his Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent. For this reason not only the theology [doctrine of God] but also the anthropology [doctrine of man] of Islam is very distant from Christianity." (Emphasis added) See, pp. 92-93.


I would also note that Catholic apologists have addressed the premises raised in Turretinfan's rhetorical questions. For example, David Armstrong, a noted Catholic apologist, addresses the premises of the questions written by Turretinfan on his educational blog, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism here.

Thus, the underlying premise of TF’s rhetorical questions to Catholics is misleading and simply untrue. To restate: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH DOES NOT BELIEVE THAT A PERSON CAN BE SAVED THROUGH ADHERENCE TO ISLAM.

With the above statements in mind, I, a follower of the proclamations of Vatican II, would simply answer TF’s rhetorical questions with an objection and trust that such an objection will be sustained by you the audience, acting as the trier of fact.

I ask Turretinfan as a brother in Christ to correct the false impression his questions give his audience in regards to what the Catholic Church teaches.

10 comments:

Mike Burgess said...

Paul,
I'm glad you addressed this, and I hope TF is or has been made aware of it. I'm sure you know he doesn't necessarily consider you and I "brothers in Christ" (he's been somewhat coy in that regard when I've pushed the issue).

Anyway, well done. Really enjoying the blog!

Mike

David Waltz said...

Hi Paul,

I concur with Mike…well done!

Concerning Mr. White’s label: “I have been annointed as an apologist in the service of Rome”, be thankful—James’ fellow Reformed polemists at the Triablogue blog have recently informed me that I am a “liar”, ”fuzz-brain”, and Catholic serial killer !!!


Keep up the good work…


Grace and peace,

David

BJ Buracker said...

Paul, thanks for this. Interesting read, and quite informative.

From my understanding of your post, you are claiming that, "The plan of salvation includes..." religion/philosophy 'x' simply means that there are aspects of grace/knowledge of some aspect of the Gospel within in religion/philosophy 'x'. Is that correct?

If so, then why did Vatican II use language that can so easily be read as, "Adherence to religion/philosophy 'x' leads to salvation?"

For instance, if I said that my family's plan of vacation included the Bahamas, most everyone would understand that I mean that my family plans to go to the Bahamas on vacation (among other places).

Why then does, "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims" not imply that salvation will come to Muslims, even before others (non-Christian religions).

I understand what you are saying, and it seems consistent with much Catholic teaching that I have read. However, Lumen Gentium's and the CCC's statements (841) are very confusing and do not easily lead to your interpretation.

Can you provide any official or at least episcopal interpretations of these statements? I would enjoy reading them and find them helpful.

Blessings in Christ our Lord,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Mike and Dave, I appreciate the favorable comments.

In regards to the name-calling engaged in by certain Protestant e-apologists, you have to give them some credit for these kind of statements-they are imaginative, if not actionable in a defamation suit. Accusing someone of being a serial murderer is "mala in se" defamation. I have sued people and won for less defamatory comments.

Calling you a fuzz-brain could be seen a some sort of a compliment, I guess. At least he acknowledged that you have some kind of a brain which is something some apologists have denied I have. One fellow 11 or 12 years ago wanted to know if my brain was good for anything other than to keep my ears apart.

Professor White has been more congenial to me at least. He only accused me of practicing "Taqiyya," the Moslem practice of dissimulation, while serving Rome.

Personally, I think that there is some sort of mail-order/internet college that these guys go to that teaches them that sticks-and-stones apologetics is a proper methodology to address arguments raised by Catholics. But, in all fairness, I have been called names just as noxious by some liberal and cafeteria-Catholic types.

I take great comfort in the fact that most Protestants that I interact with do treat me with courtesy and respect. As for the others, the best way to deal with the less-than-kind folks is to say a prayer for them. Mary's Stuart's Prayer is one of my favorites.

BJ, thank you for your kind words. Addressing your questions in order:

You asked: "From my understanding of your post, you are claiming that, "The plan of salvation includes..." religion/philosophy 'x' simply means that there are aspects of grace/knowledge of some aspect of the Gospel within in religion/philosophy 'x'. Is that correct?

Answer: Yes. St. Paul, himself, notes this in Rom. 1 and Acts 17 where he even quotes a pagan philosopher in support of his argument for the Gospel.

You asked: "[W]hy did Vatican II use language that can so easily be read as, "Adherence to religion/philosophy 'x' leads to salvation?"

My thought is that this is some poor translation. I have read the Latin original (as best as my grade school, altar boy, and legal mumbo-jumbo Latin will allow me) and I am not convinced that English version of Lumen Gentium actually says the exactly same thing that the Latin says. I intend to explore this point much further to try to satisfy my own curiosity.

You asked: "Why then does, "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims" not imply that salvation will come to Muslims, even before others (non-Christian religions)?"

Answer: The political science major in me says this is an example of being diplomatic. One must remember that Vatican II was an exercise of "Aggiornamento," that is trying to make the Church open and more inviting to Protestants as well as non-Christians. If they had said something as blunt as G.K. Chesterton had said about Islam, the Church in the Middle East would be persecuted far worse than it is now. I will try to find out if my thoughts are close to the mark or not.

You asked: "Can you provide any official or at least episcopal interpretations of these statements?"

I will try to provide some meat and potatoes to satisfy your very reasonable request~sooner as opposed to later, too. I do have some commentaries on Lumen Gentium and some of the other texts pertaining to Vatican II. I will see how well they fit the bill.

God bless!

Anonymous said...

A short comment. Most who take issue with, "The plan of salvation includes ..." will only cite CCC 841. It is good that BJ asks in a congenial tone and I have always read his comments to be as an honest truth-seeker (albeit one who may disagree on several points) rather than as one who asks questions in order to accuse.

However, equally important to the issue are the several paragraphs which surround CCC841. These paragraphs put that particular one into context. They also state that one who is not of the Christian faith are in grave danger and that we have the task to evangelize and preach the Gospel to them. 841 is not meant to be taken on its own as a stand-alone doctrine. Rather it is one paragraph which must be taking in context of the greater whole.

I am at work right now on a break. So I do not have the CCC available to me at the moment. I will try to post at a later time the paragraphs which I feel put 841 into a better context.

In His Name,

Jamie Donald

BJ Buracker said...

Paul and Jamie,

Thanks for the kind words. Indeed, I am sincerely interested in your answer(s).

Paul, I'd love for you to let me know about the Latin. I'm surprised that TF didn't incorporate that into his post, since he reads Latin. Oh well...

Jamie, I agree about context, but the context for this still doesn't define, "Plan of salvation." Plus, the original context is the section in LG. Plus, most interpretations of LG and CCC seem to imply that faithful Muslims, etc. are by default headed towards heaven, since they are included in the plan of salvation AND/OR since they are ignorant of the Truth of Christ.

Regardless, the language is very confusing, and it appears at face level that the Church teaches salvation for Muslims, although I think Paul has done a good job at showing that such is not the case.

Peace,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Anonymous said...

BJ,

I admit that I am not well read as regards to LG. When time permits, I will remedy that deficiency. However, having re-read (several times) the section which Paul places in his blog, I do not see a different meaning from context than I find in the CCC. Furthermore, since the CCC draws from the whole of Tradition, it places the quote squarely into the context of the whole of Church teaching. So, hoping you do not object, I will attempt to answer primarily from the CCC.

...[M]ost interpretations of LG and CCC seem to imply that faithful Muslims, etc. are by default headed towards heaven, since they are included in the plan of salvation AND/OR since they are ignorant of the Truth of Christ. This seems to be a specious argument. "Most" is not readily defined. Most Protestant interpretations? Most Catholic? Most coming from the Bedrock Water Buffalo Lodge? I pointed out earlier that my own personal experience has been that few, if any, non Catholics take CCC 841 in the context of the many paragraphs which surround it. You agreed that context is important and did not disagree with the concept that few take this passage in concert with the larger context. So "most" interpretations would be inaccurate or incorrect (and you do not dispute this).

I would also say that at my own first reading of this section of the CCC, I did not come to the conclusion that those of other faiths were "by default" saved based on their adherence to their own nonchristian religions. Since I come from a different background than you do, with different experiences, it's not too surprising that my own first reading of this passage would render an interpretation different than yours. However, this would mean that I would disagree with your assertion that LG and the CCC "at face value" teach salvation of nonchristians as an automatic.

When I read CCC 842 & 843, I see the Church teaching that God calls all humans toward him. Some, when answering this call, answer it imperfectly and incompletely, introducing error. However, they also express some truth. Some of these truths include that God does exist. In the specific case of Muslims, that the true God is the God of Abraham. And Truth must be acknowledged as Truth where ever it is found.

But the CCC does not stop at acknowledging whatever amount of Truth they may possess. In paragraph 844, the Church tells us that they also possess errors, and that these errors comd from the Evil One himself. In CCC 845 we see that one of the purposes and missions of the Church is to seek out these people and evangelize to correct these errors. By implication, not doing so leaves them subject to the Evil One (844) and their souls at risk.

Paragraphs 849-856 go into detail on this mission of evangelization. CCC 856 re-presents the concept that Truth must be acknowledged as Truth and seems complement, without echoing, CCC 843 when it quotes LG as saying that whatever truth is found in another religion is a preparation or a foundation for the introduction of the full Gospel.

So I would most likely arrive at the same conclusion as our host, Paul, and say that the Muslim part in God's plan of salvation is their truth brings them somewhat closer to the full Truth of the Gospel. However, like Paul, I do not see any teaching that a Muslim (or anyone else for that matter) is saved simply by being a good Muslim (or other religion).

I sincerely hope this better puts CCC 841 into a better context. And as I said at the beginning, I do not see a different meaing in the CCC from what I see in my (limited) read of LG.

In His Name,
Jamie Donald

Reginald de Piperno said...

Paul, this post is fantastic. It's a simply fabulous demolition of this canard. Thank you!

I'll be saving this and bookmarking it for future reference :-)

-- RdP

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi RDP, thank you for your kind words. I hope you will like the expanded version I am posting now.

Kelly said...

I more or less agree with your claim. Simply because both have a concept of the same God, doesn't mean both express to the same degree of reality, this Being's nature. That the God of Islam is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, does not mean that they understand him the same way, and does not mean that such an understanding is redemptive.

Let me know if TurretinFan takes you up and offers a correction for the misinformation his blog spreads regarding Catholicism?