The Definition of "Definition"

November 13, 2006 § 45 Comments

It is all the positivists’ fault.

Let me explain.

A definition is a formal statement about what something means.

Well, OK, but what does it mean for something to be a formal statement about what something means?

If we were positivists we would expect a definition to tell us everything pertinent that there is to say about the word or concept it defines. That is, the definition is really the same thing as the word it defines and can be substituted for it in other formal statements of things without changing any meaning. The word itself is just a shorthand way of referring to the definition.

But we aren’t positivists, because we know that positivism at bottom is a dead-end philosophy of meaning for arrogant adolescents.

Since we aren’t positivists, we understand that there is a difference between a formal statement and meaning. The formal statement doesn’t capture, contain, and completely specify all pertinent meaning; it merely points to meaning. A definition, then, is an inherently incomplete pointer to some meaning: it gives us enough of an idea to be able to understand the concept referred to, assuming that we have the intellectual capacity to do so, but it is not a complete formal representation of the concept. (We aren’t positivists, remember: so no sufficiently interesting concept has a complete formal representation at all. They aren’t even possible in principle).

Another way of putting this is that there is a difference between what someone is saying and how he is saying it. And when talking about various current events with Catholic uberblogger Mark Shea, quite a few commenters don’t seem to know whether they are disagreeing with the former or the latter.

In more general terms, people are expecting more of the formalities of language than it can deliver.

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§ 45 Responses to The Definition of "Definition"

  • A Conspicuous Protestant says:

    Zippy–While I am in complete agreement with you on the topic of torture and the use of definitions by those who want to sanction its use to justify their inhumanity to man, I find it interesting that you make this particular argument.For isn’t it the case that the the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist (and by extension, the uniqueness of Catholicism as a Christian confession) is anchored by a very strict, specific and one-dimensional (not to say positivistic) definition of the word “indeed” as it occurs in a single verse, John 6.52: “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” I believe that this sentence is contructed in some translations so that “indeed” is rendered as “true.” The point remains the same.

  • zippy says:

    Thanks for the interesting note ACP.<>For isn’t it the case that the the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist (and by extension, the uniqueness of Catholicism as a Christian confession) is anchored by a very strict, specific and one-dimensional (not to say positivistic) definition of the word “indeed”…<>Not that I am aware of. This is the first time I have ever heard of that specific theory. It strikes me offhand as odd, because we papists don’t anchor our doctrines in Scripture at all in a strict sense: that is, Scripture is inerrant, is consistent with doctrine, and indeed is materially sufficient; but we don’t expect every doctrine to have a positive Scriptural “anchor”, as it were, and we always keep in the forefront the fact that the canon comes from the Church not vice versa.(That doesn’t settle the matter as an argument, mind you, it is just an attempt to express our POV).As for me making this particular argument, well, positivism specifically and the modern mindset more generally is one of my personal obsessions. Many Catholics claim to not have a problem with modernity as something opposed to Catholicism, and I am perfectly willing to acknowledge the possibility that they are in some sense compatible (just as I am willing to acknowledge the in principle compatibility of Christianity and some kinds of Darwinism). That is to say I acknowledge that they can coexist peacefully, at least in theory, within the same person (though this probably has as much to do with our strange ability to keep breathing while intellectually in error on some point as with any per se intellectual compatibility). My issue with modernism generally (and Darwinism more specifically) is that it fails on its own terms, not that it fails on specifically Catholic terms.

  • zippy says:

    I guess I should clarify that I am not identifying Darwinism with modernism: I am holding up Darwinisn as an example of the modern mode of thinking, which itself is bound up with positivist assumptions.

  • ACP says:

    Zippy–Thank you for your prompt and thorough response. However, I had thought that John 6.52 was the biblical verse deployed in a standard way as proof against the contention of some Protestants that the Communion is a merely symbolic ceremony, and that the doctrines of transubstantiation and/or of the Real Presence, are (to put it in the nicest way possible) without scriptural basis? Since Our Lord stated that “when two or three of you come together in my name, I am there,” symbolic flesh and symbolic blood would seem to be sufficient “in remembrance” of His sacrifice. Unless, of course, that “indeed” or that “real” is taken literally, in the narrowest possible definition of those words.

  • ACP says:

    Zippy–Problems with Darwinism (or a lack thereof) are, of course, common to some Protestants and to some Catholics, for many of the same reasons. Differing views on the Eucharist, however, are exclusionary. And, so far as a basis in Scripture is concerned, that one word seems to be decisive for the Catholic doctrine, and to be based entirely on one, narrow definition of its meaning. I don’t believe that one can make an argument for the literal truth of transubstantiation from any other scriptural speech made by Jesus with reference to the bread and wine in other Gospels. In fact, in all other cases, the less speculaltive conclusion to be drawn from His words is that He intended the Communion to be a *remembrance*, with the bread and wine as symbols of his sacrifice. So the very specific definition of that one word becomes indispenable.(Never mind the occasions upon which He refers to Himself metaphorically as “bread from heaven” in contexts not referential to the Crucifixion.)

  • Tom says:

    <>However, I had thought that John 6.52 was the biblical verse deployed in a standard way as proof against the contention of some Protestants….<>In my very casual encounters with Catholic apologetics, I haven’t noticed a particular focus on that single verse, much less that single word. The whole Bread of Life discourse, though, is certainly one of the main passages employed.Still, my opinion is that viewing Catholicism from the perspective of Catholic apologetics contra Protestantism gives a very poor idea of the Catholic faith. In this case, for example, the reason Catholics believe the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus is not because the word “<>αληθης<>” can be found in a certain verse of the Gospel According to St. John. Most Catholics, I suspect, would be baffled by the suggestion that it does, even as [I hope] they would recognize the doctrine of the Eucharist in that verse.

  • ACP says:

    Tom–Not being a theologian, but more of a former literature major, burdened, perhaps, by an habitual expectation of being able to derive the meanings of words from their context within a sentence, and the meaning of the sentence from its context within a paragraph, and so on, I am very ready and willing to be educated on the source of the doctrine of transubstantiation, if is *not* dependent on that definition of that word in that sentence in that chapter of that book.

  • zippy says:

    <>However, I had thought that John 6.52 was the biblical verse deployed in a standard way as proof against the contention of some Protestants that the Communion is a merely symbolic ceremony, and that the doctrines of transubstantiation and/or of the Real Presence, are (to put it in the nicest way possible) without scriptural basis?<>Well, like I said, I’ve never heard that before. I take your word for it that it is an important argument in favor of the Real Presence for some group of people. I am not (or was not prior to this discussion) even in the group that is aware of the argument’s existence, let alone the group who considers it definitive.As a general thing apologetic arguments like that are I am sure useful for people who are used to anchoring the doctrines they believe in a text and considering other doctrines suspect. But I just don’t think that way about the relation between text and truth in general, let alone when it comes to the specific issue of the truth of Christian doctrines.

  • ACP says:

    Zippy–If John 6.52 is not the source of the doctrine (and John 6.52 would certainly seem to be the best source of the doctrine, if the source of the doctrine is scriptural) then is it understood to be an oral tradition? perhaps originally a secret one, that was handed down through the apostolic succession? Is it known when it first became openly proclaimed, and by whom?

  • Tom says:

    ACP:The source of the doctrine of transubstantiation is Jesus.Now, I could refer you to Matthew 26:26, but I’m afraid you would think I meant you should go off and study that verse, determine the various senses in which it can be interpreted, pray over it, and conclude that it means what the Catholic Church has always said it means (i.e., “This is My Body” means, “This is My Body”).But I wouldn’t mean that. I would mean that Matthew 26:26 proves, not that the Eucharist is Jesus’ Body, but that Jesus told His disciples the Eucharist is His Body. In other words, that Jesus is the source of the doctrine of transubstantiation.

  • M.Z. Forrest says:

    It wouldn’t be proper to say that the Eucharist is part of the oral tradition. The Eucharist has and always was celebrated as the body and blood of our Lord. Generally, it helps to have the foundation being the mass as a sacrifice. It is quite rare to find someone who believes in the Real Presence who doesn’t believe in the Sacrifice of the Mass. (I believe the Church of Christ may do so, but I may be mistaken.)

  • ACP says:

    Tom–Yes, the source of the doctrine most certainly is Jesus, unless it is not; but that’s what we’re discussing. Why, for instance, after “this is my body…this is my blood” does He then say: 26:29 But I tell you that I will not drink of *this fruit of the vine* from now on, until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s Kingdom”, referring to the wine again as wine?I’m wondering if the doctrine of transubstantiation is mentioned, either directly, or by direct implication, in either the book of Acts or in the epistles of St. Paul?

  • <>But I tell you that I will not drink of *this fruit of the vine* from now on, until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s Kingdom”, referring to the wine again as wine?<>What makes you think the “fruit of the vine” means wine ?No, he’s not refering to the consecrated wine as wine because it’s now become his blood, as he says.He’s refering to the consecrated wine, the substance of which has now become his blood, as “fruit of the vine”.It started out out a grape, became wine, and then became his blood. Transubstantiation is the process of transforming the substance (what it really is) of matter from one substance into another substance. The substance of the fruit of the vine is transformed into the substance of Christ’s blood.But the Catholic understanding of the eucharist isn’t based only on the meaning of some words.Christianity is not a religion built on words but a faith built on a person. On an intimate and personal relationship with the person of Christ.Christian mystics know that transubstantiation is true because they have experienced it for theselves. They have seen or in some other way experienced the real presence of Christ in the eucharist.Our faith is built on an intimate personal relationship, not mere definitions of words, which, as St Paul notes, can be endlessly argued about.God Bless

  • Tom says:

    <>Yes, the source of the doctrine most certainly is Jesus, unless it is not; but that’s what we’re discussing.<>What <>I’m<> discussing is the Catholic faith itself, not whether the Catholic faith is true. The Catholic faith itself is perfectly clear on the question, and finds support in numerous Biblical passages (including, since you ask, 1 Cor 11), but which cannot have the Bible as its source since it predates the Bible.And I’m discussing the Catholic faith itself, rather than whether the Catholic faith is true, to correct the error you made regarding the Catholic faith itself in your first comment on this post:It isn’t the case that the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist is anchored by a very strict, specific, and one-dimensional definition of the word “indeed” as it occurs in a single verse.If it <>were<> the case, then Catholics would think just like Protestants, and they don’t, as this discussion demonstrates.

  • ACP says:

    Tom–1 Corinthians 11! Excellent. Read within the context of this discussion it provides more convincing testimony to the doctrine of transubstantiation than do any of the Gospels. That may not be important from your perspective, but still I thank you. I did not intend that this should be a discussion of doctrine, but was originally only trying to make a point about the, at least occasional, importance of definitions. I hope that nothing I’ve said has offended.

  • Rob says:

    Tom/Zippy:If you searched the archives of Disputations (or, perhaps of Zippy Catholic, but I don’t think so), I certain that you will find somebody telling yours truly that that very verse about flesh indeed/food indeed, etc., is proof that the Eucharist is not merely symbolic. Does that now ring a bell?

  • zippy says:

    Ask not for whom the bell rings, Rob: it rings for thee.I really have no recollection at all of ever encountering that argument. (It doesn’t mean that I haven’t: just that if I ever did, I didn’t consider it important enough to remember. And you might be amazed at the depth of irrelevant stuff I remember in general).Maybe it came up some time at Disputations. Alas, though I would be a better man for it I am sure, I have not read everything ever written there.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–I’m pretty sure that you were in the mix, though. I remember the thing so well because I considered it to have been a pretty arugment, from Scripture, against my position. It caused me to rethink the whole matter, actually.I think that it was on Disputations. And I think that it was back during the time when there were a couple of other Protestants posting regularly there. Another guy also named Rob, and a guy whose name I forget. Also a couple of women. I don’t think you were the person in question, btw, who cited that verse for that purpose. But I do think that you were in the discussion.

  • zippy says:

    <>But I do think that you were in the discussion.<>That is entirely possible; and even likely, if you recall it to be the case.

  • Tom says:

    Rob:Yes, I <>have<> seen John 6:55 quoted by Catholics when discussing the Eucharist with Protestants. I may well have quoted it myself. As I wrote above, “The whole Bread of Life discourse [< HREF="http://usccb.org/nab/bible/john/john6.htm#v35" REL="nofollow">John 6:35-59<>]… is certainly one of the main passages employed” in Catholic apologetics contra Protestantism.What I’ve been saying here, though, is that, <>regardless of any particular attempt at Catholic apologetics<>, the Catholic Church does not anchor its doctrine of the Eucharist in the definition of the word “indeed” as it occurs in John 6:55.Part of the problem, if not the whole of it, is that Catholics and Protestants mean different things when they say a verse is “proof” of some doctrine, because they have very different understandings of the nature of Holy Scripture.

  • Rob says:

    Tom–Thanks for letting me know that I wasn’t having hallucinatory pseudo-memories.In what *does* the Catholic Church anchor its doctrine of the Eurcharist (with regard specifically to transubstantiation), if not in revealed Scripture? Or, are you saying that the Catholic Church *simply does not* solicit “proof” by means of applying analytical reason to the meanings of words in revealed Scripture to “anchor” doctrine at all; that all “proofs” are in the possession of the Magisterium and consist entirely of the authority of the Magisterium to pronounce them to be the case, without regard to their origin, where such origin is not patent?

  • Tom says:

    Rob:From the Catholic perspective, it’s pretty much nonsensical to speak of “revealed Scripture” and “the Magisterium” apart from one another. The Magisterium is a teaching authority; what it has the authority to teach is, in part, the meaning of revealed Scripture.As my own bishop put it in his < HREF="http://www.cathstan.org/news/current/5.shtml" REL="nofollow">weekly column<> today (the link is good for the next week), “Members of that body look to its visible head, the pope, the bishops and their teaching office, for an authentic rendering of God’s word as understood and applied to today’s world. Just as it has the exclusive ability to distinguish which writings constitute the Bible, so too the Church alone possesses the means to understand and interpret Scripture infallibly.”So the Magisterium can say, “The correct understanding and interpretation of John 6:55 is that the bread and wine at Mass become the true Body and Blood of Christ.”What it doesn’t say is, “Having correctly understood and interpreted John 6:55, we conclude that the bread and wine at Mass become the true Body and Blood of Christ.”I’m not explaining myself very clearly, I’m afraid. I don’t know how to explain the Catholic view of Scripture without making it sound to a Protestant like a dimunition of Scripture.

  • Rob says:

    Tom–Maybe it would help if you could explain why these two consecutive sentences of the article you linked do not contradict each other:“Just as it has the exclusive ability to distinguish which writings constitute the Bible, so too the Church alone possesses the means to understand and interpret Scripture infallibly. “The Church urges us to read the Bible and to do so in the full context of centuries of reflecting on its meaning under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”If I have the Holy Spirit guiding me (and I believe that I, in fact, do!) when I read the Bible, how can it be that the Church “alone possesses the means to understand and interpret Scripture infallibly”?Does the Holy Spirit play little mind games with me because I’m only a pawn and not a bishop?

  • Silly Interloper says:

    rob, I think you misunderstand the intentions of each line. The first provides for the authority of interpretation, without which Biblical scriptures can have dozens of reasonable interpretations that contradict each other. This is sort of like the role of teacher.The second refers to the Bible as a source for learning and spiritual growth. There is not a book ever written for the purpose of learning that does not require some follow-up and clarification (and practicum). They are not useless just because they are not infallibly read. Reading the Bible independently is taking the role of student.Learning is always an imperfect process as we fill our minds with discussions and refine them as we go along. Half the battle is simply bringing the relevant discussions to mind.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    “Does the Holy Spirit play little mind games with me because I’m only a pawn and not a bishop?”I think this is a question of humility. Do I evoke (demand?) all authority of the Holy Spirit in interpeting scripture, or do I humbly request his *guidance* in my fallible learning process? Guidance that may require more of me, rather than me of Him.To do the former is to blame the Holy Spirit for every error you have ever made in interpreting Holy Scripture while you thought He was guiding you.

  • Rob says:

    Silly Interloper–Not at all (the moniker, I mean).Assuming that I am reading the Bible with the Holy Spirit guiding my understanding, why would the Holy Spirit not give me the whole, perfect, and infallible meaning? Now, it is very possible that the Holy Spirit having done so, I would prove to be not a big enough cup to hold that much Truth. But, that being the case, I won’t be able to hold any more Truth when the Bishop rings me up to tell me the same things again. I would think that an infallible Truth would logically need to be a Whole Truth, no?This suggests to me, therefore, that the second sentence is not meant as sincerely as is the first. The first implies (but does not say) that probably I’d be better off if I just followed the prescribed rituals and left the reading of Scripture to the pros. The second sentence implies (but does not say) that unless I’ve got “the full context of centuries of reflection” at my mental fingertips, I’d probably be better off reading C.S. Lewis, or something else a little more suited to my intellectual speed.

  • Tom says:

    Rob:If you doubt the sincerity of my bishop, there’s little point in talking about this.

  • Rob says:

    Tom–I only doubt that he’s smarter than C.S. Lewis. Or the Holy Spirit, for that matter.

  • zippy says:

    <>I would think that an infallible Truth would logically need to be a Whole Truth, no?<>What precisely does that <>mean<>, Rob? (And remember, you are passing through a ‘no positivism’ zone, so if it means a <>complete<> truth then that is a non-starter).

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–Okay. Let’s not say “complete truth.” Let’s say an avowed truth that if sliced into cross-sections reveals naught but truth, all the way through every slice.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    Rob writes:“Assuming that I am reading the Bible with the Holy Spirit guiding my understanding, why would the Holy Spirit not give me the whole, perfect, and infallible meaning?”Why would he not just give you that “whole, perfect, and infallible meaning” inborn? Why didn’t he give it to you in that Cracker Jack box? It is not my place to tell the Holy Spirit how much or little truth He should give to you or to me at any given time or situation. It is also not my place to hold the Holy Spirit bound to guiding my understanding in that way (the way that I want). Taking that a step further, it is not my place to hold the Holy Spirit responsible for every error that I make in seeking that understanding. Rob [altered according to his later modification]:“I would think that an infallible Truth would logically need to be [an avowed] Truth, no?”Since you sliced it and diced it, I guess you would have to observe it according to the accuracy of the magisterial “slice.” No text or verbal clarification is going to encompass the entirety of meaning. So your implication that the bishop cannot hand you that entirety of meaning seems disingenuous when setting him against a textual scripture which certainly cannot do it either.Rob:“This suggests to me, therefore, that the second sentence is not meant as sincerely as is the first.”Since you haven’t really put it to the test, I question the “sincerity” in which you question its sincerity. (Not to be a jerk, but it was quite striking to me the way you judge its sincerity when you haven’t even fully explored its intent.)Rob:“The first implies (but does not say) that probably I’d be better off if I just followed the prescribed rituals and left the reading of Scripture to the pros.”Why would you think that? It seems to me that it simply tells you where to find the “pillar and bulwark of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) so that you can deal with the problems of multiple interpretations, disagreement, and just plain difficulty in understanding. It is profitable for a beginning student to read a textbook in quantum physics; however, it is often necessary to seek guidance in the interpretations of it from those who are advanced in knowledge and experience.Rob: “The second sentence implies (but does not say) that unless I’ve got “the full context of centuries of reflection” at my mental fingertips, I’d probably be better off reading C.S. Lewis, or something else a little more suited to my intellectual speed.”Again. Why would you think that? It explicitly encourages the reading of Scripture, but likewise encourages some humility in the process by taking into account where it came from and not imposing your personal pet interpretations upon it. As a Catholic, I see the doctrines of the church represented deeply and profusely in scripture. (A fully Catholic interpretation is a perfectly reasonable interpretation. And I am constantly asking the Holy Spirit for guidance. If I hold Him responsible for all of my interpretations and you hold Him responsible for all of your interpretations, are we being deceived by Him with our contradictory understanding? Or are we just abusing His authority by pretending it is our own?) In that context, my interpretations are guided in a way that I can plumb the mysteries ever more deeply. The text draws me in to a greater learning process, which develops insights, questions, sometimes confusion, and sometimes personal revelations – all of which is helpful in the learning process, but none of which has any great authority until I bring it to the Church and examine it with the teaching authority. As with QED, it is profitable to read about it extensively even if it requires the humility to go to the professor for further understanding of it. (He encourages us to talk it through, he corrects us when we go astray, and he clarifies things for us. Sometimes he will go deeper into the knowledge when he recognizes your hunger for truth.) Unless you favor doing away with all text books because they simply cannot convey the truth about QED effectively?Do you find it a little ironic that you are personally imposing interpretations upon these lines in a discussion that presumes to personally impose meaning upon Scripture? There are many possible interpretations of them, yet you automatically focus in on the “insincere” ones.

  • Rob says:

    Silly Interloper–Please understand that my impertinent humor, as expressed in the stuff about C.S. Lewis, etc., was meant more as humor than as impertinence, and is the result of having been chased around this particular bush by both Tom and Zippy in the past; it was directed at them and nobody else.You seem to assume that I’ve developed my interpretations of Scripture based entirely upon my own cold readings of the text, in complete isolation from all theology, Catholic or Protestant. Not so.It also seems that, by your understanding of the revelation, the simple people who gathered at the foot of the hill to hear Our Savior deliver the Sermon on the Mount had little hope of understanding any of it, since its meaning would remain hidden until finally deciphered by the officials of a Church not yet founded, many years hence.If there are many partial interpretations which may be imparted to the reader by the Holy Spirit, yet the one I arrive at it wrong, am to conclude that it was Satan who prompted me to pick up the Bible and who peered over my shoulder whispering lies in my ear that caused the Truth of the words to rearrange themselves into lies?Scary stuff.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    Rob:“Please understand that my impertinent humor, …”I could use a sense of humor. But from what I understand, they don’t come cheap.Rob:“You seem to assume that I’ve developed my interpretations of Scripture based entirely upon my own cold readings of the text, in complete isolation from all theology, Catholic or Protestant. Not so.”I don’t think that’s the point. You made the claim that your guidance from the Holy Spirit is the same as that of the Church, and inasmuch, you should be just as infallible as the Church. Whether or not you are in “isolation” with your readings seems pretty irrelevant to that claim.Rob:“It also seems that, by your understanding of the revelation, the simple people who gathered at the foot of the hill to hear Our Savior deliver the Sermon on the Mount had little hope of understanding any of it, since its meaning would remain hidden until finally deciphered by the officials of a Church not yet founded, many years hence.”The officials of the Church at that time were founded by Christ. There were 12 of them. And it is an entirely different thing to say: “You have witnessed something great and understand some, but the Apostles can help you understand it more.” And to say: “Just go away, you can’t possibly get anything out of this.” It is also a different thing to say: “You have read much in the Bible, and understand some, but the Church of the Apostles can help you understand more.” And to say: “Just give up on the Bible, you can’t possibly get anything out of it.”Why do you insist on interpreting things in the most extreme possible way? Everything seems to be an either/or proposition for you. You seem to be saying: “Either the Bible makes you Pope, or the Bible is worthless.” Or worse, you seem to be saying, “Either the Holy Spirit is my slave, or He has abandoned me.”You also seem to be forbidding the Holy Spirit from working in any other way.Rob:“If there are many partial interpretations which may be imparted to the reader by the Holy Spirit, yet the one I arrive at it wrong, am to conclude that it was Satan who prompted me to pick up the Bible and who peered over my shoulder whispering lies in my ear that caused the Truth of the words to rearrange themselves into lies?”Perhaps it is was the Holy Spirit who prompted you to pick it up, then Satan whispering into your ear to insist upon making unreasonable demands of the Holy Spirit and the Bible, instead of allowing yourself to be guided in humility. As with any sin, He gives you the free will to listen and fall.If you simply acknowledge in humility that you do not lay claim to the Holy Spirit’s absolute authority and that you are not incapable of error, there is no problem with any of this, and Satan’s lies will languish in your humility. Also in your humility, you will start receiving and learning more and meting out less.Rob:“Scary stuff.”Yes. The kind of stuff that separates millions of people from the Sacraments that Christ intended for them.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    I wrote:“…then Satan whispering into your ear to insist…”Another way to look at it is that the Holy Spirit guided you to Scripture, but with the Saboteur whispering in your ear you ungratefully insisted on immediate absolute certainty instead of acknowledging your ignorance and fallibility. You wanted immediate omniscience and to be equal to the Holy Spirit in that respect, rather than having to follow in humility and be fed by that knowledge.Note that I am not trying to paint you as any more ungrateful than me or anyone else. I’m certain the Saboteur is whispering in my ear, too, and any time the Deceiver is successful, it will reflect badly upon us. We will be “ungrateful,” and exhibit the avarice of Adam and Eve.

  • zippy says:

    <>Why do you insist on interpreting things in the most extreme possible way?<>That’s Robeneutics. You get used to it after a while, to the point where it is almost endearing.

  • c matt says:

    <>Assuming that I am reading the Bible with the Holy Spirit guiding my understanding, why would the Holy Spirit not give me the whole, perfect, and infallible meaning? <>Maybe He is trying to teach you humility, to turn you toward the proper source. You know that old saying, some things you have to learn for yourself (usually after many failures). Seems He won’t just spoonfeed you all knowledge of Scripture. I am sure there is a reason for that.

  • Rob says:

    Concerning this use of John 6:52-56 against arguments for a symbolic usage of “bread” and “wine” for body and blood, btw, the Catholic Encyclopedia provides this:“The impossibility of a figurative interpretation is brought home more forcibly by an analysis of the following text: “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed” (John 6:54-56).” The prosecution rests.http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05573a.htm

  • Silly Interloper says:

    Rob, I would like to follow the “prosecution,” but I’m really not sure what you are trying to say. Could you explain and elaborate, please?

  • Rob says:

    S.I.–It was claimed earlier in the discussion by two of the principals, that neither of them had ever heard the verses quoted used as a proof text against the concept that the bread and wine were to be understood only symbolically. But the Catholic Encyclopedia uses it that way, with emphasis–which is the way that defense witness, A Conspicuous Protestant, claimed that it was used in Church apologetics. I’m just pointing this out for the record.

  • Rob says:

    Actually, I guess, ACP is a prosecution witness, not a witness for the defense, to extend that silly metaphor.

  • zippy says:

    <>It was claimed earlier in the discussion by two of the principals, that neither of them had ever heard the verses quoted used as a proof text against the concept that the bread and wine were to be understood only symbolically.<>And for the record, it was not merely <>claimed by<> me that I did not recall ever hearing it: it was in fact <>true<> that I did not recall ever hearing it. I expect I am not unusual among Catholics in that regard, notwithstanding its presence in one of the many thousands of articles at New Advent.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–Touchy, touchy. Your recollection, like Caesar’s wife, is above reproach. But, are you now also denying that you’ve committed New Advent to memory?

  • […] good definition can’t capture everything about a thing, but it will point us toward the essence of a thing; a […]

  • […] good definition can’t capture everything about a thing, but it will point us toward the essence of a thing; a bad […]

  • […] of that thing. Therefore, it is suggested, objections to completeness claims are irrational: definitions just are complete specifications of essence a.k.a. species, else definition is not possible.  If […]

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