Friday, August 29, 2008

Response to Paul Hoffer - Salvation of Muslims

This article is in response to one by Paul Hoffer (link to PH's article). I had written:

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?


Mr. Hoffer has characterized my statement by claiming that "TF suggests that Catholics believe that Islam is salvific." Let's leave aside whether Mr. Hoffer's ability to extract suggestions is correct, for now.

Assuming this to be the case, Mr. Hoffer complains for a full paragraph about how this is an "prime example" of "plurium interrogationum." Again, for the moment, we will leave aside whether Mr. Hoffer has actually found a p.i. or not.

Mr. Hoffer proceeds by stating what he believes to be my motive: "Turretinfan hopes to create the impression in the minds of his audience that the Catholic Church teaches that Islam is salvific ...," meanwhile disputing as untrue this impression that he supposes I intended to convey. Again, let's set aside, for the moment, whether he has correctly divined my intent.

Mr. Hoffer then offers "Proof" of his "contention that TF's questions are based on a false premise ... ."

Mr. Hoffer first confirms that my quotation "plan of salvation" is accurate, and provides a context for that quotation. I appreciate the fact that he has acknowledged that I accurately quoted the document, and I think it is fair to observe that the quotation must be understood as it was intended in context, and not simply according to what serves one's apologetic or polemic needs.

Mr. Hoffer provides the following excerpt:

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 Mr. Hoffer's).


The first sentence that Mr. Hoffer highlighted makes sense: it is the sentence from which my quotation was taken. I found Mr. Hoffer's second highlighting an odd choice. I would have thought in fairness he should highlight second, "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."

I would think that sentence, and particularly that phrase, and most especially that word "also" would inform the reader that the comment about the people in the two previous sentences (1) "in the first place" the Muslims and (2) "those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God ... ," were comments about people who "can attain to salvation."

Mr. Hoffer, however, argues that the reason is that "they claim to profess a belief in the God of Abraham" and that this is "a step closer to accepting the fullness of His Gospel even if there is much error in what a Muslim may otherwise believe." Mr. Hoffer goes on to claim that, "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." We'll return to this briefly.

Mr. Hoffer then tries to support the idea that truth contained in a pagan religion can prepare adherents to accept the Gospel of Christ. Of course, I don't think anyone doubts this. That is to say, God can use truth contained in anything to prepare people for the Gospel.

Mr. Hoffer, however, does not rest on this argument, but quotes from Dominus Jesus (2000), which states that "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." I found it a bit odd that Mr. Hoffer (after seemingly chastising me for providing only a snippet) does not even quote the whole sentence. Since he would doubtless not be opposed, I provide the entire paragraph:

21. With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council limited itself to the statement that God bestows it “in ways known to himself”.83 Theologians are seeking to understand this question more fully. Their work is to be encouraged, since it is certainly useful for understanding better God's salvific plan and the ways in which it is accomplished. However, from what has been stated above about the mediation of Jesus Christ and the “unique and special relationship”84 which the Church has with the kingdom of God among men — which in substance is the universal kingdom of Christ the Saviour — it is clear that 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, even if these are said to be converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God. (emphasis in original, though form of emphasis changed from italics to bold)


What is especially interesting is the tail of the sentence that Mr. Hoffer snipped off, the part about these other religions "converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God." Also of note is the initial sentence of paragraph, "With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council limited itself to the statement that God bestows it “in ways known to himself”."

Mr. Hoffer also provides another quotation, from the next paragraph, "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" (emphasis omitted by Hoffer restored). This quotation seems rather helpful to the idea that in fact followers of other religions receive divine grace, even if they do not have the fullness of the means of salvation.

Mr. Hoffer provides a further quotation from John Paul II, in which the pope notes that "Islam is not a religion of redemptino." Mr. Hoffer, however, appears not to appreciate the fact that JP2 is simply describing Islam for what it is (forgiveness of sins in Islam is arbitrary, not based on redemption), not suggesting that Islam cannot serve as a means of divine grace.

Next, Mr. Hoffer links to an argument from Mr. Armstrong, which I plan to address some other time. Since Mr. Hoffer does not reproduce the argument, and since it appears to reflect Mr. Armstrong's rather unique views on the subject, I trust Mr. Hoffer will not mind me passing it by for now.

Mr. Hoffer concludes his line of thought by stating in bold capital letters (not shown here): "The Catholic Church does not believe that a person can be saved through adherence to Islam." Even if that is true, it is somewhat moot. After all, a good adherent of Catholicism will insist, consistent with the following, that the "Catholic Church does not believe that a persona can be saved by adherence to" Catholicism:

However, “all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be more severely judged”.93 (Dominus Jesus, 22)


The question is whether God graciously rewards those who follow Islam, not whether adherence to Islam is itself meritorious in the sense mentioned in the above block quotation. Catholicism claims not to believe in such salvation through meritorious adherence to religion.

Now, let's return to some of those issues we previously deferred.

1) "TF suggests that Catholics believe that Islam is salvific."

In response, I should point that many Roman Catholics do actually believe that following Islam will save you. "I believe that all roads lead to the same place," is the way I once heard a very elderly Roman Catholic put it. That, however, is a moot point. Inclusivism, as popular as it may be amongst the laity, is not (as such) official church dogma, at least not yet.

Next, I should point out that saying that Muslims who practice Islam faithfully will be saved is different from saying that Islam itself is salvific. In fact, given the emphasis on grace, a consistent, conservative Roman Catholic would be hard-pressed to argue that even Catholicism itself is salvific (since salvation is by grace, not adherence to religion).

Finally, I should note that Mr. Hoffer doesn't ever seem to dispute that Muslims who are Muslims (not Muslims who become Christians) are able to be saved as such. Furthermore, that is the best and plainest sense both of Vatican 2's Lumen Gentium and JP2's Dominus Jesus (which, again, Mr. Hoffer does not seem to expressly dispute).

2) This is an "prime example" of "plurium interrogationum."

No. This is not a prime example. Even if it were what Mr. Hoffer suggests, it would not be a prime example, because of the fact that (at a minimum) Mr. Hoffer seems to have overlooked an alternate premise upon which the questions can be founded, namely that practicing Muslims (as such) can be saved (i.e. that Muslims can be saved without becoming Christians). That lesser premise Mr. Hoffer only reaffirms via his quotation of church documents. Thus, even if I were guilty of what Mr. Hoffer tries to charge (i.e. loading the question), this is not a prime example.

3) "Turretinfan hopes to create the impression in the minds of his audience that the Catholic Church teaches that Islam is salvific ... ."

No. I actually directed the question to those who hold to Vatican 2. I was assuming that my audience would be familiar with Lumen Gentium, and consequently place the snippet quotation I provided in its proper context. I assumed (perhaps rashly) that the reader would recognize that modern Catholicism does seem to teach that non-Christians can be saved, without becoming Christians, as demonstrated above.

In fact, popular apologist for Catholicism, Jimmy Akin recently (about two years ago) stated:

Thus any atheist who could say, "I don't think that God exists, but if I was shown convincing reasons to believe that he does then I would go and get baptized immediately and become one of his devout followers" then this person's heart is such that God will not hold his ignorance against him and will allow him to be saved.

On the other hand, if an atheist says, "Even if there is a God, I'll still refuse to believe in him and I'll spit in his face when I die" then this person is toast.

Between the two would be atheists who display some openness to God but who also to one degree or another resist compelling reasons to believe that he exist when they encounter such reasons. These individuals would seem to be in an ambiguous condition. If their openness to believing in and following God is their more fundamental motive then they would be open to his grace and be saved. If their resistance to believing in or following God is their more fundamental motive then they would be closed to his grace and thus lost.(emphasis changed from italics to bold)


(source)

At the end of the day, I'm afraid I feel that Mr. Hoffer's comment in his first paragraph, "I have been accused at times of reading things into what people write," is supported by the present illustration. Mr. Hoffer read something into what I wrote, and got it somewhat wrong.

Against Mr. Akin and Vatican 2, I insist that the only way to be saved is by explicitly believing on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. Thus, I deny that non-Christians can be saved as such. Of course, the only sense in which "the plan of salvation includes" non-Christians is in the sense that there are some non-Christians today who are among the elect: men for whom Christ died, who will - some day - come to a saving faith in Him and be justified by faith alone in Christ alone, thereby being saved by grace alone.

Glory to the One Name under Heaven whereby men are saved, Jesus,

-TurretinFan

P.S. It is something of a pet peeve of mine to note that what Mr. Hoffer has called "Begging the Question," is more properly called the fallacy of the "complex question" or more colloquially, "asking a loaded question." In logic, the fallacy of "begging the question" normally refers to petitio principii, where an argument is made in which the conclusion is smuggled in as a premise. I am especially sensitive to this, because of the rampant abuse of the phrase "begging the question" to mean simply "raising the issue." Mr. Hoffer, thankfully, does not fall into that ditch. Likewise, the example of the question, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" is a prime example of the plurium interrogationum fallacy, although it can take several forms. Incidentally, "plurium interrogationum" literally conveys the idea of "many questions" - hence the English "complex question."

Update: Mr. Hoffer, in a new post (link) seems to miss the point of my correction of his irregular use of the term "begging the question" to describe plurium interrogationum. So that things are clear for him, I'm saying that his accusation/objection should have been to "complex question" or "loaded question" if he was objecting to a fallacy of plurium interrogationum (and I have assumed that it was his intent to object to plurium interrogationum, as petitio principii would be an even less appropriate, for the formal reasons Mr. Hoffer outlines in his post). The phrase "begging the question" derives from the petitio principii fallacy, not the plurium interrogationum fallacy. As well, the preferred spelling of petitio principii is ending with two "i"s (i.e. four total "i"s in the word).

Update: In yet another new post (link), Mr. Hoffer has tried to continue to insist on his nomenclature. The fact that "begging the question" derives from the petitio principii fallacy, not the plurium interrogationum fallacy is something that would be obvious to anyone who knows Latin. I commend to Mr. Hoffer's reading the following:
  • "Fallacies" by Alfred Sidgwick (link), particularly p. 175
  • "The Laws of Discursive Thought, Being a Text-book of Formal Logic" by James McCosh (link) particularly p. 184
  • "An Elementary Treatise on Logic" by William Dexter Wilson (link) particularly p. 184
  • "Logic" by George Hugh Smith (link) particularly pp. 174 and 189

Additional rudimentary books on Logic could be brought to bear to establish by authority what should be plain to everyone by now.

3 comments:

Carrie said...

Well done!

I am glad you took the time to walk through some of those documents and highlight the areas that clearly seem to suggest "another road". It would seem sorta silly if all these references to Muslims in Catholic documents was only meant to show that Muslims would be saved by the gospel - isn't that true for everyone? Why point out the obvious?

I enjoy this honest excerpt from a Catholic Answers article:

"Catholicism recognizes that people in other religions may be in good conscience with respect to God, who will honor that fact. As a result, it acknowledges that a convert’s still-Muslim relatives may be saved even if they do not become Christians." source

Turretinfan said...

Thanks, Carrie!

natamllc said...

Apparently Mr. Hoffer reads a different translation of the Bible than mine?

Here is what mine says about "Israel":

Isa 1:9 If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.
Isa 1:10 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!


and

Isa 3:8 For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence.
Isa 3:9 For the look on their faces bears witness against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves.
Isa 3:10 Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.


and

Jer 23:13 In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray.
Jer 23:14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah."
Jer 23:15 Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: "Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land."
Jer 23:16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.
Jer 23:17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, 'It shall be well with you'; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, 'No disaster shall come upon you.'"


But just if we are thinking this Word is "only applicable before" the Crucifixion of Our Savior consider these words:

Rom 11:21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.
Rom 11:22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.


That Word from Paul came well after the Crucifixion of Our Savior. I wonder what Mr. Hoffer thinks about these verses of Scripture now?