In Seriously Have we Been Captured by Satan?, I sketched out a conceptual model or philosophical theory on humanity being captured by Satan. What is the purpose of such a model? Most Catholics who hear about the temptations of Christ, demonic possessions or hell have no interest in such abstract discussions. We read the words of scripture and hear homilies. We accept the words and, more or less, heed the instructions not to take any images as portraying spiritual realities. We need not rely only on own own imaginations for imagery to set aside. We enjoy an immense artistic tradition illustrating Satan and his “works and pomps.” For instance, see Temptation of Christ by Vasily Surikov (1872) and Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel . What is the value of all of this imagery? Of course, much of it has artistic value although, for the most part, not by presenting what is beautiful.
It must be emphasized that the imagery of Satan et al. is to be ignored for purposes of representing what was the case in natural and supernatural reality. The religious value of the imagery is as a heuristic to lead us to take the words of scripture seriously. By catching our imaginations we pay attention to the words. It must also be emphasized that imagery is not be ignored. In so far as, the imagery helps appreciate and follow the words of scripture and doctrines developed from scripture, the imagery is valuable.
What is the value of the scripture and doctrines?
The scripture and doctrines tell of our relation to God and how we are to live our natural lives so that we can be happy with God in heaven. The scripture, doctrines and heuristic imagery of Christianity form a vast conceptual scheme. It is a way of speaking and living. Here the attention is on the speaking. As a twentieth century philosopher who wrote his Ph. D. dissertation* on Wittgenstein, I class the Catholic way of speaking as at least a language game . There is no need to digress into the literature on language games. Here the important point is about what is the right thing to say. The word “game” suggestion that what is right or wrong in the game is contained in the game’s rule, explicit or implicit. The language game specifies what is correct to assert and correct to deny. Reality beyond the game need not be consulted on how to play the game, viz., say the right thing. Call the right thing to say “warranted assertions.”
I write mostly of Catholicism. But what I write can be applied to other religions.
Catholic faith is trust that the warranted assertions of the Catholic teaching and practice, the Catholic language game, tell us what is the case with the natural and supernatural and how to live properly in it. Simple faith is trust that the warranted assertions tell the truth without any consideration of what it would be like for them to have truth conditions in reality – to represent what is the case.
It might be proposed that Catholic faith is trust that the warranted assertions of Catholicism tell us what is true, and not merely warranted, because they come from a language game developed from the reality of Jesus’s teaching, crucifixion and resurrection. However, there is a problem of understanding how the first century reality of Jesus’ teaching, death and resurrection justify, outside our Catholic language game, assertions in the twenty first century. This is a problem which calls for a philosophical model.
Faith seeking understanding is hope that we can have some understanding of what it is like for there to be truth conditions for the warranted assertions. In particular, the value of conceptual models of Satan is to sketch out how there can be truth conditions for talk of Satan.
However, the conceptual models will be ignored by most, unverifiable by any empirical tests and controversial amongst the few who pay attention? (There is always quarrelling about any philosophy.) The fact that there are philosophically minded Catholics who are trying to understand how assertions about the transcendent and supernatural can be true becomes part of the language game of Catholicism. This contribution to the Catholic outlook, the Catholic language game, is an antidote to non-cognitivism about religious belief and, in particular, in Catholic religious belief.
Roughly, the non-cognitivist interpretation of religious assertions is that they do not tell us the truth about a reality independent of the religious beliefs. The purpose of religious assertions is to guide conduct and lead us to having a purpose driven life. Truth and falsity are irrelevant. Explicit non-cognitivism held by a large number of the members of a religion will be the end of that religion.
Non-cognitivism requires another post to appreciate its appeals and perils. It suffices as a conclusion to this post to claim:
The value for Catholicism of there being some awareness of a few Catholics pondering how doctrinal claims can be true in addition to being orthodox, viz., warranted assertions, is protecting claims that truth is being taught from being mere rhetoric.
* An improved version of my dissertation examining Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Remarks on the Foundation of Mathematics is in my book: Strict Finitism, The Hague 1970