Certainty beyond the individual…

Here is the error of our Protestant friends. They recognize no distinction between reason and private judgement. Reason is common to all men; private judgement is the special act of an individual…. In all matters of this sort there is a criterion of certainty beyond the individual, and evidence is adducible which ought to convince the reason of every man, and which, when adduced, does convince every man of ordinary understanding, unless through his own fault. Private judgement is not so called … because it is a judgement of an individual, but because it is a judgement rendered by virtue of a private rule or principle of judgement…. The distinction here is sufficiently obvious, and from it we may conclude that nothing is to be termed ‘private judgement’ which is demonstrable from reason or provable from testimony.

— Orestes Brownson, Brownson’s Quarterly Review, October 1852, pp. 482-3 (emphasis added).

About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Certainty beyond the individual…

  1. Tony Jokin says:

    Very nice distinction. I think it applies not just to Protestantism but in many cases, every religion assented to on the whim of some personal judgement.

  2. MP says:

    Have you been reading “MICHAEL DAVIES AN EVALUATION”?


  3. I’ve read a few excerpts. Otherwise catching up on some Wire posts and a 2002 audio debate between Daly/Lane and Matatics.

  4. Brother, how can ABS be expected to see Mr. Brownson quoted words and not think of these words in regard to the spirit father of Vatican Two;


    We waive, here, all considerations of this theory so far as it is intended to apply to Christian discipline and theology, and confine ourselves to it solely as applied to Christian doctrine. Under this last point of view, we object to the theory that it is a theory, and not a revealed fact. The truth of an hypothesis can never be inferred from the fact that it meets and explains the facts it is invented to meet and explain; and therefore the admission of any hypothesis into Christian doctrine would vitiate the doctrine itself. Mr. Newman begins his work by telling us that
    Christianity has been long enough in the world to justify us in dealing with it as a fact in the world’s history. It may legitimately be made the subject-matter of theories: what is its moral and political excellence, what its place in the range of ideas or of facts which we possess, whether it be divine or human, whether it be original or eclectic or both at once, how far favorable to civilization or to literature, whether a religion for all ages or for a particular state of society, these are questions upon the fact or professed solutions of the fact, and belong to the province of opinion.

    But in this he must be mistaken. Whether Christianity be divine or human is not a question of opinion, but a question of fact, and so is it with all the questions he enumerates. Christianity is a fact in the world’s history; this is a fact. But is Christianity what it professes to be? Is this a question of opinion, to be answered only by a theory? or is it a question of fact, to be taken up and settled, one way or the other, as a fact? If it is a matter of opinion, and if it is answerable only by a theory, what foundation is there or can there be for faith! Christianity is a fact, not only in the world’s history, but in itself, or it is not. If it is, it cannot legitimately be made the subject- matter of theories, any more than may be the fact that it is a fact in the world’s history. Christianity, if received at all, must be received, not as a theory, but as a revealed fact; and when we have established it as a revealed fact, no theory is needed or admissible, for we must then believe the fact precisely as it proposes itself.

    But even if a theory might be introduced, Mr. Newman’s would not satisfy us. We are not satisfied with his tests of a true development. He gives seven tests:

    Preservation of type or idea;
    Continuity of principles;
    Power of assimilation;
    Early anticipation;
    Logical sequence;
    Preservative additions;
    Chronic continuance.

    The sixth, second, and first are all resolvable into one, the simple preservation of the original type or idea. The third, which implies development by assimilation or accretion, is fatal to the sufficiency of the original revelation, by necessarily implying that the developed idea contains what was not in the idea as originally given. The fifth, logical sequence, in itself is no proof of development. The fourth, early anticipation, as far as it goes, is proof positive against development. And the seventh, chronic continuance, is as applicable to corruptions as to true developments; for Mr. Newman fails entirely to show that corruptions are short-lived and transitory, as he alleges. Some writers date the origin of the Pelagian heresy, which is as rife as ever it was, as far back as the garden of Eden; and Mr. Newman himself admits that it remains to be seen “whether Mahometanism external to Christendom and the Greek Church within it” are not yet living, and capable of chronic continuance and activity.

    Furthermore, before we can proceed to apply tests to determine whether this or that is a development or a corruption of Christian doctrine, we must have a clear, distinct, and adequate knowledge of Christian doctrine itself; for how can we say the original type or idea is preserved, if we do not know what it is? If we do know what it is, what is the use of the tests or their application? The whole process of the historical application of the tests is, then, at best, regarded as an argument, a mere paralogism. We need all the knowledge of Christian doctrine as the condition of concluding any thing from the application of the tests, which their successful application can give us; for there can be nothing in the conclusion not previously in the premises. Mr. Newman, like professors of natural science, has been misled by what in these times is called “Inductive Philosophy,” a philosophy which had never had “a local habitation or a name,” more than other “airy nothings,” if it had been borne in mind that we have no logic by which we can conclude the unknown from the known. When your conclusions go beyond what you have established in the premises, they may, sometimes be a guide to observation, but they have in themselves no scientific validity.

    But, waiving these considerations, we object to Mr. Newman’s theory, that it is an hypothesis brought forward to explain facts which are not facts. His problem is no problem; for it presupposes what no Catholic can concede, and what there is no warrant in the facts of the case for conceding. Mr. Newman proceeds on the assumption, that there have been real variations in Christian doctrine. “On various grounds, then, it is certain,” he says,
    … that portions of the Church system were held back in primitive times; and of course this fact goes some way to account for that apparent variation and growth of doctrine, which embarrasses us when we would consult history for the true idea of Christianity; yet it is not the key to the whole difficulty, for the obvious reason, that the variations continue beyond the time when it is conceivable the discipline (disciplina arcani) was in force.

    And the view on which his book is written, he adds is,

    That the increase and expansion of the Christian Creed and Ritual, and the variations which have attended the process in the case of individuals and Churches, are necessary attendants on any philosophy or policy which takes possession of the intellect and heart, and has had any wide or extended dominion; that, from the nature of the human mind, time is necessary for the full comprehension and perfection of great ideas; and that the highest and most wonderful truths, though communicated once for all to the world by inspired teachers, could not be comprehended all at once by the recipients, but, as received by minds not inspired, and through media which were human, have required only the longer time and the deeper thought for their full elucidation. This
    may be called the Theory of Developments.

    We shall find ourselves unable,” he says again, “to fix an historical point at which the growth of doctrine ceased. Not on the day of Pentecost, for St. Peter had still to learn at Joppa about the baptism of Cornelius; not a Joppa and Caesarea, for St. Paul had to write his Epistles; not on the death of the last apostle, for St. Ignatius had to establish the doctrine of Episcopacy, not then, nor for many years after, for the canon of the New Testament was still undetermined; not in the Creed, which is no collection of definitions, but a summary of certain credenda, an incomplete summary, and, like the Lord’s Prayer or the Decalogue, a mere sample of divine truths, especially of the more elementary. No one doctrine can be named which starts omnibus numeris, at first, and gains nothing from the investigations of faith and the attacks of heresy. The Church went forth from the world in haste, as the Israelites from Egypt, ‘with their dough before it was leavened, their kneading- troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.’“ “Butler of course was not contemplating the case of new articles of faith, or developments imperative on our acceptance, but he surely bears witness to the probability of developments in Christian doctrine considered in themselves, which is at present the point in question.

    Thus we see how, as time went on, the doctrine of Purgatory was opened upon the apprehension of the Church, as a portion or form of penance due for sins committed after baptism: and thus the belief in this doctrine and the practice of infant baptism would grow into general reception together.
    These passages do not appear in their full strength, detached, as they are, from the context; but we think there is no mistaking the doctrine they inculcate. They prove clearly that Mr. Newman does not mean simply that there has been a growth in theological science, a variation or expansion of outward discipline, but that there have been in the teachings of the Church herself real variations of doctrine, an increase and expansion of the Christian creed,  a real progress of the Church in her own apprehension and understanding of the sacred deposit of faith committed to her charge, and which she received the command to teach all nations even unto the consummation of the world. She went forth in haste, her “dough unleavened,” her creed incomplete, her understanding of her faith imperfect, ignorant, in part at least, in regard to every article of faith, of the precise truth she was authorized to teach. New definitions are new developments, and indicate that more of Christian truth is opened upon the apprehension of the Church. Before she defines the article, she herself does not clearly and distinctly apprehend what, on the point defined, is the revelation she originally received. As if she had only a confused notion, an intense feeling, and no distinct apprehension of the consubstantiality of the Son to the Father when she drew up the symbol, and not till she defined it against Arius at Nicaea; and when she defined the “two natures in one person” against Nestorius, she had not yet fully learned the “one person in two distinct natures,” which she asserted shortly after against Eutyches. All may have been implied in the original revelation, but she knew it not; and it is only as time goes on, as mind acts on mind, as controversies arise, as urgent necessities press, that she gradually develops it, and fixes it in her definitions. Thus in her understanding there is a perpetual growth, or a continued increase and expansion of Christian doctrine. The decision of the rule of faith, he tells us, “has been left to time, to the influence of mind upon mind, the issues of controversy and the growth of opinion,” and remains, he supposes, even to this day, “more or less undeveloped, or at least undefined by the Church.” Infant baptism was “unprovided for by the revelation, as originally given.” It is left undecided, “unless by development or growth” of revelation, what is the resource of those who sin after Baptism, and the doctrine of Purgatory appears to have been a late development. [We cannot resist, here, the temptation to quote a passage from a recent Protestant work published in this country, –The Principle of Protestantism in its relation to the Present State of the Church, by Professor Schaff, of the German Reform Theological Seminary, Mercersburg, Pa., a German, lately from Berlin, and in part attached, we believe, to the school of Neander. He is a young man of very superior abilities. His work has many remarkable affinities with Mr. Newman’s. Both works adopt very nearly the same fundamental principles; but one concludes in favor of Protestantism, the other Catholicity. The passage we quote seems to us a clear and distinct statement of Mr. Newman’s leading doctrine, and a much better statement than Mr. Newman himself has anywhere formally given.

    “It must be remarked, that, when we speak of advance or progress, we do so with reference only to the previous apprehension of Christianity in the Church, and not to Christianity itself, as exhibited in its original, and for all times absolutely normal character, in the writings of the New Testament…. ….In its own nature, as a new order of life, Christianity has been complete from the beginning; and there is no room to conceive that any more perfect order can take its place, or that it may be so improved as, in the end, to outgrow entirely its own original sphere. But notwithstanding this, we are authorized to speak of advance or progress in the case of the Church itself, and on the part of the Christianized world; and of this not merely as extensive, in the spread of the Gospel among pagans, Mohammedans, and Jews, but as intensive, also, in the continually growing cultivation and improvement of those four great interests of the Church, doctrine, life, constitution, and worship. The Church, not less than every one of its members, has its periods of infancy, youth, manhood, and old age. This involves no contradiction to the absolute character of Christianity; for the progress of the Church, outward or inward, is never in the strict sense creative, but in the way only of reception, organic assimilation, and expansion. In other words, all historical development in the Church, theoretical and practical, consists in an apprehension, always more and more profound, of the life and doctrine of Christ and his apostles: an appropriation, more full and transforming always, of their distinctive spirit, both as to its contents and its form. Only so far as a doctrine or ordinance of the Church bears this character may it be allowed to have formative and enduring force.”

    This is bold, manly, and consistent in a Protestant; it is something else in a Catholic.

    Now, in regard to all this, we simply ask, Does the Church herself take this view? Does she teach that she at first received no formal revelation,  that the revelation was given as “unleavened dough,” to be leavened, kneaded, made up into loaves of convenient size, baked and prepared for use by her, after her mission began, and she had commenced the work of evangelizing the nations? Does she admit her original creed was incomplete, that it has increased and expanded, that there have been variation and progress in her understanding of the revelation she originally received, and that she now understands it better, and can more readily define what it is than she could at first? Most assuredly not. She asserts that there has been no progress, no increase, no variation of faith; that what she believes and teaches now is precisely what she has always and everywhere believed and taught from the first. She denies that she has ever added a new article to the primitive creed; and affirms, as Mr. Newman himself proves in his account of the Council of Chalcedon, that the new definition is not a new development, a better understanding of the faith, but simply a new definition, against the “novel expressions” invented by the enemies of religion, of what, on the point defined, had always and everywhere been her precise faith. In this she is right, or she is wrong. If right you must abandon your theory of developments; if wrong, she is a false witness for God, and your theory of developments cannot make her worthy of confidence. If you believe her you cannot assert developments in your sense of the term; if you do not believe her, you are no Catholic. This is sufficient to show that Mr. Newman cannot urge his theory as a Catholic, whatever he might do as a Protestant.

    +++++++++++++++++++++ en dof quote ++++++++++++++++++++

    But, ABS, doesn’t this acid test dissolve your assertion there really is full and partial communion with the One True Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church?


    Then why do you do such thjngs, even in public, in here, knowing that Brother Elliot not only knows all of this (and more) but understands all of this far better than does ABS?</I.

    Ease-up, man; ABS is just thinking out loud; just thinking out loud, while revealing that he is in full communion with flummification

Be kind, be (relatively) brief, be clear...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s