Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Practicing my Boghossian, Catechism of Trent Edition

After reading Peter Boghossian's thought-provoking book, A Manual for Creating Atheists, I thought it would be rather interesting to engage in an exercise he recommends. Specifically, I am taking a piece of text and changing out the word "faith" for the phrase "pretending to know things one doesn't know," taking some license with the grammar for smoother reading. Because I think it would be good for more of this kind of thing to be out there, I encourage this behavior heartily.

I used the opening part of the Catechism of Trent from 1566, a bit of Catholic dogma that still defines Catholicism in large part. The results are predictably hilarious and, at times, go a long way toward clarifying the meaning of the Catechism. Please enjoy below the dashed lines.

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In preparing and instructing men in the teachings of Christ the Lord, the Fathers began by explaining the meaning of faith. Following their example, we have thought it well to treat first what pertains to that virtue.

Though faith has a variety of meanings in the Sacred Scriptures, we here speak only of that kind of pretending to know what one doesn't know by which we yield our entire assent to whatever has been divinely revealed.

Necessity Of Pretending to Know What One Doesn't Know

That pretending to know what one doesn't, thus understood, is necessary to salvation no man can reasonably doubt, particularly since it is written: "Without pretending to know what one doesn't know, it is impossible to please God." For as the end proposed to man as his ultimate happiness is far above the reach of human understanding, it was therefore necessary that he should pretend that it be made known to him by God. This knowledge, however, is nothing else than pretending to know what one doesn't, by which we yield our unhesitating assent to whatever the authority of our Holy Mother the Church teaches us to have been revealed by God; for those who pretend to know what they do not know cannot doubt those things of which God, who is truth itself, we pretend to be the author. Hence we see the great difference that exists between the kind of pretending to know what one doesn't know which we give to God and that which we yield to the writers of human history.

Unity Of Pretending to Know What One Doesn't Know

Pretending to know what one doesn't know differs in degree; for we read in Scripture these words: "O thou who only pretends to know a little of what one does not know, why didst thou doubt;" and "Great is thy pretending to know what one doesn't;" and "Increase our pretending to know what we do not." It also differs in dignity, for we read: "Pretending to know what one doesn't know without working upon that is dead;" and, "Pretending to know what one doesn't know that worketh by charity." But although pretending to know what one does not know is so comprehensive, it is yet the same in kind, and the full force of its definition applies equally to all its varieties. How fruitful it is and how great are the advantages we may derive from it we shall point out when explaining the Articles of the Creed.


The Creed

Now the chief truths which Christians ought to hold are those which the holy Apostles, the leaders and teachers of that which they pretend to know but do not, inspired by the Holy Ghost, have divided into the twelve Articles of the Creed. For having pretended to know that they had received a command from the Lord to go forth into the whole world, as His ambassadors, and preach the Gospel to every creature, they thought it advisable to draw up a formula of the Christian brand of pretending to know what one does not know, that all might think and speak the same thing, and that among those whom they should have called to the unity of the manner of pretending no schisms would exist, but that they should be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment.

This profession of hope and the Christian kind of pretending to know what one doesn't know, drawn up by themselves, the Apostles called a symbol; either because it was made up of various parts, each of which was contributed by an Apostle, or because by it, as by a common sign and watchword, they might easily distinguish those who stop pretending to know what they do not know and false brethren unawares brought in, adulterating the word we pretend is of God, from those who had truly bound themselves by oath to serve under the banner of Christ.

Division Of The Creed

Christianity proposes to those who will pretend to know what they do not know many truths which, either separately or in general, must be held with an assured and firm commitment to pretending to know what is not known. Among these what must first and necessarily be pretended to know by all is that which is pretended that God Himself has taught us as the foundation and summary of truth concerning the unity of the Divine Essence, the distinction of Three Persons, and the actions which are peculiarly attributed to each. The pastor should teach that the Apostles' Creed briefly comprehends the doctrine of this mystery.

For, as has been observed by our predecessors in pretending to know what they did not, who have treated this subject with great accuracy and devotion to pretending to know what they did not, the Creed seems to be divided into three principal parts which must be pretended to be known, though they are not: one describing the First Person of the Divine Nature, and the stupendous work of the creation; another, the Second Person, and the mystery of man's redemption; a third, the Third Person, the head and source of our sanctification; the whole being expressed in various and most appropriate propositions. These propositions are called Articles, from a comparison frequently used by the Fathers; for as the members of the body are divided by joints (articuli), so in this profession of pretending to know what one does not know, whatever is to be pretended to be known distinctly and separately from anything else is rightly and suitably called an Article.

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Now, because it holds a special place in my heart (Cf. God Doesn't; We Do: Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges), I will include a few paragraphs from the first Article of the Catechism, hoping that others will take the time to read through and do more. I assure you, it's worth it. To make that clearer, I will include the various section headings as well, translated, of course.

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Pretending to Know What One Doesn't Know Excludes Doubt

The knowledge derived through pretending to know what one does not know must not be considered less certain because its objects are not seen; for the divine light by which we pretend to know them, although it does not render them evident, yet suffers us not to doubt them. For we pretend that God, who we pretend commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath himself shone in our hearts, that the gospel be not hidden to us, as to those that we pretend are different from us because they will perish.

 
Pretending to Know What One Doesn't Know Excludes Curiosity

From what has been said it follows that he who is gifted with this heavenly knowledge that he pretends to know but does not know is free from an inquisitive curiosity. For when God commands us to pretend to know, He does not propose to us to search into His divine judgments, or inquire into their reason and cause, but demands an unchangeable state of pretending to know what one does not know, by which the mind rests content in the pretend knowledge of eternal truth. And indeed, since we have the testimony of the Apostle that God is true; and every man a liar, and since it would argue arrogance and presumption to disbelieve the word of a grave and sensible man affirming anything as true, and to demand that he prove his statements by arguments or witnesses, how rash and foolish are those, who, hearing the words we pretend are of God Himself, demand reasons for His heavenly and saving doctrines? Pretending to know what one doesn't know, therefore, must exclude not only all doubt, but all desire for demonstration.

 
Pretending to Know What One Doesn't Know Requires Open Profession

The pastor should also teach that he who says, "I believe," besides declaring the inward assent of the mind, which is an internal act of pretending to know what one doesn't know, should also openly profess and with alacrity acknowledge and proclaim what he inwardly and in his heart pretends to know but does not. For he who pretends to know what he doesn't know should be animated by the same spirit that spoke by the lips of the Prophet when he said: "I pretend to know what I do not; and therefore did I speak," and should follow the example of the Apostles who replied to the princes of the people: "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." They should be encouraged by these noble words of St. Paul: "I am not ashamed of the gospel. For I pretend it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that pretendeth to know what one doesn't;" and likewise by those other words; in which the truth of this doctrine is expressly confirmed: "With the heart we pretend to know what we do not know unto justice; but with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

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Some other section headings (those including the word "faith"), thusly translated, in the first Article of the Catechism include:
  • Knowledge Of God More Easily Obtained Through Pretending to Know What One Doesn't Know Than Through Reason,
  • Knowledge Of God Obtained Through Pretending to Know What One Doesn't Know Is Clearer,
  • Knowledge Of God Obtained Through Pretending to Know What One Doesn't Know Is More Certain,
  • Knowledge Of God Obtained Through Pretending to Know What One Doesn't Know Is More Ample And Exalted, and
  • Advantages Of Pretending to Know What One Doesn't Know Concerning God's Omnipotence

2 comments:

  1. That is funny or sad depending on your point of view. Great idea

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  2. Nice. It really highlights the silliness of it all.
    I think that in addition to rephrasing "faith", we should also rephrase "prayer" to "talking to myself". Example: "Oh, your grandmother is sick? I will talk to myself for her."

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