We had an incredible warm spell in March in the Chicago area. One sunny eighty-five degree day I was driving down a familiar road, when I saw a man in his front yard with some Christmas lights. I thought to myself, “It’s a bit late, but what a perfect day to take down Christmas lights.” I then began to think; maybe he was not a bit late, but a lot early putting up his lights for next Christmas.
I did not actually observe him taking down the lights, but only holding the lights. Taking the lights down was an assumption on my part. Driving by, I had no way to know or prove what he was doing or not doing with the lights. However, based on certain premises from past experience, it would be MORE reasonable to say the man was taking down the lights and LESS reasonable to say he was putting them up, although both are within the realm of possibility. (Yes, I often have strange thoughts like this).
Other examples of such things:
• Speaking of driving, what do we do as we approach a green light? We drive through it assuming the other drivers on each corner of the intersection will stop on red. The red light is in no way connected to their brakes and there is nothing physically stopping them from running the light, but it is more reasonable to think a car will stop at a red light and less reasonable to think a car will run a red light, although both are within the realm of possibility.
• Are your parents really your parents? Suppose you had no access to a birth certificate or DNA test and you don't even look like them. Your parents say they are your real biological parents, but you have no proof. Why do you believe them? If you have learned to trust your parents over the years, it is more reasonable to believe them and less reasonable to assume they are lying.
• How about this one? Someone suffering from paranoia says, “Everyone wants to kill me.” You respond, “I don’t want to kill you." The person answers, “Of course you would say that to keep your evil plan a secret.” There is some logic there, but the premise is unreasonable.
There are many things in life we simply cannot prove; some argue that we cannot prove anything at all. We certainly cannot prove things like dogmas, philosophies, ideologies, morals, values, goodness, badness, justice, purpose, etc. using a scientific method, so what should we do? Premises are certainly a key; given certain premises we should logically move toward what is more reasonable and step away from what is less reasonable. Also, the more assumptions one needs to make a premise true, and the more complex they are, the less reasonable the premise becomes.
For the atheist, a premise needs to be that the universe comes from nothing for the purpose of nothing. More specifically, it comes from nothing intelligent for no intended purpose. This is a good definition of an accident; the universe is a perfectly fine tuned accident.
Making something from nothing actually defies the laws of physics and we must be careful not to redefine “nothing” to be some scientific “something”. Also, something unintelligent or non-rational making or becoming something rational under its own power and direction contradicts our general experience. I would need to call either of these two unreasonable or at least LESS reasonable when comparing to what St. Thomas Aquinas proposes in his contingency theory for example. See posts Aquinas Regarding Contingency & Fr. Spitzer on the Existence of God.
Scientism holds that truth can ONLY be found through the scientific method. This poses a problem because we cannot use the scientific method to prove the previous sentence is true. This defies a principle in logic called the principle of non-contradiction. Bible Christians hold that we know what is true through the bible ALONE. The difficulty here is that this teaching cannot be found in the bible, so it is unbiblical. This too fails the principle of non-contraction. See post All Statements are False.
This brings us to the Church in the modern world. Those who do not study Catholicism do not understand the premises for what is taught. From the existence of God to the teachings on Mary, one premise logically flows to the next. For example, let’s look at Mary’s title “Queen of Heaven”. If we accept the premise that the Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament, then we can see how the ancient Kingdom of Israel foreshadows the new Kingdom of Christ, and the King of Israel foreshadows Christ the King of Heaven. In the ancient Kingdom of Israel, the queen was always the mother of the king (not the wife or wives) and part of her role was to bring petitions to the king (see 1 Kings 2:13-20). Given this premise, it is reasonable to say Mary is the Queen of Heaven and part of her role is to bring our petitions to Christ, in fact, it would be strange if it were otherwise.
Many run with the assumption that Church teaching is a bunch superstitious hooey from the dark ages; this then becomes a premise. Once we have this premise, Catholicism is instantly dismissed. As a result, we search elsewhere for ultimate truths. We look to other Christian denominations, religions of the East, science or make-up our own. How did we become so arrogant that we automatically dismiss centuries of careful thinking from thousands (millions?) of Catholic intellects without even objectively exploring the premises?Bishop Sheen once said that we all have “a philosophy”. We all believe things we can't prove. Spend time exploring the premises for your beliefs. What assumptions are you making for your premises to be true? How complex are they? Always ask “why?” Are you using true reason or reason based only on the premises/assumptions you like best?
|Bishop Fulton Sheen|