[Turing 2012] Christian Answer #5

This is the fifth entry in the Christian round of the 2012 Ideological Turing Test for Religion. In this round, the honest answers of Christians are mixed in with atheists’ best efforts to talk like Christians. It’s your job to see if you can spot the difference. The voting link appears at the end of the entry, and you can look at all entries in this round here.


When (if ever) have you deferred to your philosophical or theological system over your intuitions?

As a Catholic I believe in truth. I think there is one truth, that truths don’t contradict each other, and that truth flows directly from being, i.e., from reality. Now, as a human being, I’m naturally limited in knowledge to what I can learn from sense experience, and it’s possible to make mistakes when judging based on sense experience. Moreover, what one apprehends to be the case may not actually be so. However, since in matters that admit confusion or error we make recourse to more fundamental principles to clarify and correct less certain conjectures, and since the origin of faith is God, who is also the originator of all being and the supreme knower of creation, if faith contradicts an intuition, then I should prefer faith (as a higher and more perfect principle of truth) and try to see where my intuition goes astray. Faith doesn’t contradict rational truths but sometimes leads us to them when they’re difficult to find otherwise. So, yes, there have been occasions, (e.g., predestination) but these are always chances for deeper investigation and clarification — not for blind submission and the repression of contrary impulses. And I investigate with the assurance (so far never proven wrong) that things will resolve themselves in a non-contradictory way.


Are there people whose opinions on morality you trust more than your own? How do you recognize them? How is trusting them different than trusting someone’s opinion on physics?

There are people whose opinions I trust on morality more than my own. I trust them based on demonstrated personal sanctity and sometimes the authority of a person’s teaching office. So, for example, an older priest I know is trustworthy because I know him to be a good and humble man who has spent much of his life developing an understanding of the human person in relationship with God and the various ways that virtues, passions, vices, etc. contribute to the perfection of that relationship. A moral authority is different from a physicist in the nature/acquisition of their knowledge and the way in which it’s recognized. The physicist’s knowledge is based on experimental data that I will never be able to replicate, and yields mathematical models that are wildly counterintuitive and sometimes incomprehensible. The moral authority’s knowledge is based on clarity of thought and a recognition of the good, which can be verified with considerably less difficulty, if not through immediate reflection, then through moral development and experience.


Can you name any works of art (interpreted pretty broadly: books, music, plays, poetry, mathematical proofs, etc) which really capture the way you see life/fill you with a sense of awe and wonder? You can give a short explanation or just list a few pieces.

Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, especially the first two movements. Mahler’s symphonies (esp. 5,8,9). Psalms 69, 144, 97. The Magnificat. Sonnet 29. Bernard of Clairvaux on the degrees of pride.


Click here to judge this entry, and, once you’ve voted, feel free to speculate and trade theories in the comments or look at other entries in this round.

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  • Mahler 8? Ayyyyyyy-theist. I kid, I kid. But in all seriousness, atheist. Sounds awfully Protestant to be a Catholic to my untrained ear (lot’s of “faith” rather than “revealed truth” or “doctrine”).

    • *lots. Where did that apostrophe come from?

      • Joe

        If this one is an atheist he/she deserves to win for sure!!

  • Tim Andrews

    I would have voted Christian, if it were not for the fact that he/she, as a “Catholic” included predesti nation…

    • Kyle

      The Catholic understanding of predestination is much more nuanced and mysterious than the Protestant one. Check out the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Predestination and particularly look at the “Theological Controversies” section.

      Definitely a Catholic and definitely a Thomist.

      • Kyle

        And if I’m wrong, then this guy wins for sure, but I’d love to see his rebuttal of himself.

    • deiseach

      Yep, although is it Augustinian single predestination or Calvinist double predestination? If the latter, then not Catholic and probably an atheist pretender who is familiar with American evangelicalism; if the former, possibly a Catholic – although the caveat makes me think they’re thinking of double predestination (i.e. that some people are damned because of God’s omniscience and absolute sovereignty).

      I chose Christian, but I’m open to persuasion on this one for the above reason.

  • I would be inclined to say a Thomist-leaning Catholic.
    And Kyle, I heartily agree with your second point.

  • Aaron

    Totally a genuine Catholic.

  • deiseach

    Oh, grief. Since he/she comes flat out and says he/she is a Catholic, we have to accept that he/she is a Christian.

    Unless he/she is an ex-Catholic atheist who sneakily knows that baptism is an irreversible ontological change 🙂

    Also, please someone invent a functional neuter third-person pronoun in English or I wil have to start using the French on (I can’t use English “one” because that makes the user sound like a bad imitation of the Queen’s Speech at Christmas: “One’s husband and one would like to wish one’s subjects a very happy Christmas.”)

    • Use the inclusive masculine: he.

      • MaNonny

        Many people find “he” not very inclusive in this day and age. There are many up-and-coming third-person pronouns in English:


        I have seen “ze” for “he/she” and “hir” for “his/her” most commonly.

        Alternatively, singular “they” is coming into style as well.

        • I like “they” because I and most people I know tend to use it that way, anyway, when we’re not trying to be pedantic. Unfortunately, in trying to be consistent with it I keep coming across places where it just doesn’t work.