In a discussion yesterday over at TitusOneNine, a commenter made a remark about so-called false teaching in the Episcopal Church. I responded that it'd be a useful exercise for all of us to answer the following questions, as though we were answering an essay question in an exam. My own tentative answers are interpolated.
QUESTION 1-A. Please explain what truth criteria you personally use to determine whether a particular teaching is ‘false.’
DCT response: My principal truth criterion dates back to Deuteronomy 18.18-22: "If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken."
In other words, what matters most is what actually happens in the real world that God wrought, as best as we can discern it, not merely what we mortals conceive has happened or will happen.
That's not to say that a given idea is necessarily false just because it can't be proved to be immutably true.
But the Deuteronomy truth criterion does mean that our assertions about 'truth' can never be more than provisional. They must always be subject to reexamination as more evidence is revealed to us.
For thousands of years, humans thought the sun traveled around the earth. Back then, that 'mental model' fit the available observations just fine. As more astronomical evidence was revealed to us, it was no shame for us to reexamine and adjust the mental model accordingly.
QUESTION 1-B. Please ‘drill down’ as necessary — for example, if you regard a particular authority as one of your stated truth criteria, please explain why that authority is entitled to such status.
DCT response: I like the Deuteronomy truth criterion because historically it seems to have produced more reliable results than any other. We see that truth criterion at work in 'critical realism,' manifested most visibly in the scientific method and the evidentiary rules of the law.
The Deuteronomy truth criterion enjoins on us a core discipline of facing the facts — that is, adjusting our mental models to fit our observations of the real world, instead of the other way around.
QUESTION 2. Please explain whether you think the title of ‘catholic Christian’ is reserved for those who adopt the criteria you set out, and if so, why.
DCT response: No, I don't think that. The title 'Christian' is available to all who practice the Great Commandment and Summary of the Law, no matter what religious beliefs they happen to hold. An observant Jew, a devout Hindu, a charitable Muslim — all could claim the title if they wished. As far as the 'catholic' part goes, I don't ascribe a lot of value to catholicity.