Thursday, February 14, 2008

Faith, Doubt, and Certainty

(be and lyian, to hold dear).
That state of the mind by which it assents to propositions, not by reason of their intrinsic evidence, but because of authority.”

“But there is another very general use of the term belief in which it is taken to designate assent complete enough to exclude any practical doubt and yet distinguishable from the assent of knowledge. In this use no account is taken of authority. We have many convictions resting upon evidence that is not sufficiently clearly presented to our mind to enable us to say we know, but abundantly sufficient for us to produce a practically unqualified assent. ”

“this would seem to fall under the Scholastic head of opinion”

(Latin dubium, Greek aporí, French doute, German Zweifel).
A state in which the mind is suspended between two contradictory propositions and unable to assent to either of them.

I am not in a position of doubt with respect to the objects of Catholic Faith: I assent to them. Yet this assent is attended by doubts, i.e. by the existence of recognized evidence to the contrary. It is not, obviously, doubt whether some thing God said is true, that would be absurd and anathema. Necessarily, if God said it, it is true, no room for doubt remains. Thus when “faith” is used to name the assent we have to the truths of revelation it excludes not just a state of doubt—inability to assent—but the presence of any doubts—recognized evidence to the contrary.

However, what God has revealed is not a matter of necessity but is a contingent truth and must be attended by what Vatican I calls “external signs” or natural evidence. The doubts which attend my faith therefore are not doubts about God’s knowledge or veracity but rather doubts about whether for some particular thing, God has revealed it.

From the old Catholic Encyclopeia on certitutude.
“As regards certitude concerning the fact of Divine revelation, the Vatican Council teaches that the proofs are not, indeed, such as to make assent intellectually necessary (De Fide, cap. iii and can. v), but that they are sufficient to make the belief "agreeable to reason" (rationi consentaneum),”
And concludes “It is, then, moral certitude that is attainable by the reason as to the fact of Divine revelation.”

If God in fact said it, then I may have the highest degree of certainty. As to whether God said it, some doubts might remain. I take it that God can grant one faith so that one may be certain that He has said some thing, but, as usual, Grace works with nature and not against it, and, sadly and obviously enough, what is ours by faith is not always achieved.

Let us pray for the gift of faith and for the grace to let that faith have it's full effect in us. Let our hearts be convicted by the Holy Spirit to drive us to reconciliation so that that grace may be operative in our lives.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this!


Monday, February 18, 2008 2:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What would you say about Tim McGrew's admitting of taking moral certainty as exceeding the probability value of 0.9999 (i.e., 99.99%)?

See , and search for "moral".

Is not such a moral certainty too high for "the fact of Divine revelation"?

What would be your preferred lower and upper bound for moral certainty as applied to this fact (or, e.g., as applied to the Resurrection of Jesus, or to the whole, standard, Christian creed)?



Monday, February 18, 2008 3:52:00 AM  
Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

V, that value is waaaaaaaaayyyy too high. I remember reading some scholastics who said that moral certainty was enough certanty to act in good conscience (and, I'm assuming, not using Pascalian wagering). So I think it could be much lower, but of course vague or context-sensitive.

Monday, February 18, 2008 10:10:00 AM  

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