Friday, March 6, 2015

Confusing Our Wants With Objective Morality

Rebellion of KorahThe Rebellion of Korah

There is a tendency among Christians to fall into a logical error that can lead us astray and end up rejecting the authority of God and His Church while thinking we are actually right with God while those we disagree with are the ones in error. The problem is, it is a very subtle error and can often be confused with legitimate opposition to error.

The formal name of the fallacy is Affirming the Consequent, and it works like this.

  1. If A happens than B will happen.
  2. B Happened.
  3. Therefore A Happened.

The reason this is an error is this: Just because A can cause B to happen does not mean that the existence of B proves that A happened. B could have happened for reasons other than A.

Where I see this happening a lot when it comes to members of the Church is as follows:

  1. If [something is against Christ's teaching], [I hate it.] (If A then B)
  2. [I hate] this event in the Church. (B)
  3. Therefore this event is [against Christ's teaching] (Therefore A)

The problem with this kind of thinking is, It assumes that we only hate what is opposed to Christ’s teaching (as opposed to hating other things out of personal preference). We can illustrate the problem using an Euler Circle:

Affirming the Consequent

If we let A be things which are against Our Lord's teaching, and B be things we hate, we cannot automatically assume that something we hate is against Our Lord's teaching. We have to look to the teaching authority of the Church—which is given the authority and responsibility to protect and explain the teaching of Christ as passed on to the Apostles—in order to see if what we hate is opposed to Christ’s teaching. If it is not opposed, then we need to realize that we may be wrongly invoking Our Lord in justifying our hostility.

On one side of the political spectrum, we may have Catholics who loved the Extraordinary form of the Mass and support the Death Penalty. When the Church permits the Ordinary Form of the Mass or says that the instances of legitimate uses of the Death Penalty today "are very rare, if not practically non-existent” [Evangelium Vitae #56], their opposition is not hating something against Christ’s teaching, but hating something against their personal preferences.

On the other side of the political spectrum, we can see nominal Catholics who want to change the Church teaching on homosexuality or woman priests or abortion. They think these things are based in hatred, and hatred is against Christ’s teaching. Therefore these teachings must be against Christ. Again, the reaction is thinking something they oppose is opposed by Christ. But that doesn’t follow… especially when you consider Matthew 5:17-19

This is why I seek the teachings of the magisterium of the Church—under the headship of the current Pope—as the source I use to assess my personal preferences. It is easy to be deceived. But I have faith in the Church to be protected from error when binding and loosing (see Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18).

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