Monday, September 4, 2023

Contending For The Faith---Part 19


In St. Jude 1:3, we read, "Dearly beloved, taking all care to write unto you concerning your common salvation, I was under a necessity to write unto you: to beseech you to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." [Emphasis mine]. Contending For The Faith is a series of posts dedicated to apologetics (i.e.,  the intellectual defense of the truth of the Traditional Catholic Faith) to be published the first Monday of each month.  This is the next installment.

Sadly, in this time of Great Apostasy, the faith is under attack like never before, and many Traditionalists don't know their faith well enough to defend it. Remember the words of our first pope, "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." (1Peter 3:16). There are five (5) categories of attacks that will be dealt with in these posts. Attacks against:

  • The existence and attributes of God
  • The truth of the One True Church established by Christ for the salvation of all 
  • The truth of a particular dogma or doctrine of the Church
  • The truth of Catholic moral teaching
  • The truth of the sedevacantist position as the only Catholic solution to what has happened since Vatican II 
In addition, controversial topics touching on the Faith will sometimes be featured, so that the problem and possible solutions may be better understood. If anyone has suggestions for topics that would fall into any of these categories, you may post them in the comments. I cannot guarantee a post on each one, but each will be carefully considered.

Worlds Apart: Naturalism
Continuing from last month when pantheism was examined, I'm going to be explaining various worldviews.  What is a worldview? In the simplest terms, a worldview may be defined as how one sees life and the world at large. In this manner it can be compared to a pair of glasses. How a person makes sense of the world depends upon that person’s vision, so to speak.  The interpretive lens helps people make sense of life and comprehend the world around them. Worldviews also shape people’s understanding of their unique place on Earth. This month the worldview of Naturalism will be explained.

As stated in last month's post, a well-thought-out course, or worldview, needs to answer seven ultimate concerns that philosophers identify as “the big questions of life:"

 1. Ultimate Reality: What kind of God, if any, actually exists? 

2. External Reality: Is there anything beyond the cosmos, or is what we perceive all there is?

3. Knowledge: What can be known and how can anyone know it? 

4. Origin: Where did humanity come from? 

5. Morals and Values: How should I live, and what things are important in life? 

6. Problem of Life and Resolution: What is wrong with the world? How can humanity’s problem be solved? 

7. Destiny: Will I survive the death of my body and, if so, in what state? 

(Sources were many, and of special mention:
Dooyeweerd, Herman. Roots of Western Culture: Pagan, Secular, and Christian Options.Trans. John Kraay. [2003]; Harris, Robert A. The Integration of Faith and Learning: A Worldview Approach. [2004]; Sire, James W. Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept, [2004]. I take no credit except for the compilation and condensation of the material into a concise post.---Introibo). 

Naturalism Defined
Naturalism, as traditionally defined, is the worldview system that regards the natural, material, and physical universe as the only reality. The world of nature is viewed as the sum total of reality, the whole show, all that actually exists.

The Britannica Concise Encyclopedia defines naturalism as “the theory that affirms that all beings and events in the universe are natural and therefore can be fully known by the methods of scientific investigation.” Naturalists typically view the universe as a closed and uniform system of material causes and effects with nothing existing outside the realm of nature. All reality is located within the exclusive domain of the spatiotemporal world of physical objects, events, processes, and forces. The universe stands ontologically on its own—complete, self-contained, self-sufficient, and self-explanatory. 

Naturalists reject both a supernatural realm of existence and immaterial agencies or realities such as God, angels, and immaterial human souls. Naturalist scientist Carl Sagan expressed the position of strong naturalism in a famous statement from his television series, Cosmos: “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.”

Atheism is a subset of Naturalism. All naturalists are atheists, but not all atheists are naturalists. Atheism is the denial of the existence of a Supreme Being. There are some atheists who, nevertheless, believe in all things occult, only denying God. Naturalists deny everything outside the scope of the material world. 

Naturalism and Ultimate Reality
Ultimate reality is matter. Matter exists eternally and is all there is. God does not exist. Nothing comes from nothing. Something is. Therefore something always was. But that something, say the naturalists, is not a transcendent Creator but the matter of the cosmos itself. In some form all the matter of the universe has always been. Or so naturalists have traditionally held. Some more recent naturalist philosophers and astrophysicists, however, reject the logic that holds that something has always had to be. 

The universe may rather have originated out of a singularity at which space-time curvature, along with temperature, pressure and density, becomes infinite. Space and time (all we know of reality) come into being together. Moreover, nothing spiritual or transcendent emerged from this cosmic event. It makes no sense to say there was a before before the singularity. In short, matter (or matter/energy in a complex interchange) is all there is. Ours is a natural cosmos. 

The word matter is to be understood in a rather general way, for since the eighteenth century, science has refined its understanding. In the eighteenth century scientists had yet to discover either the complexity of matter or its close relationship with energy. They conceived of reality as made up of irreducible “units” existing in mechanical, spatial relationship with each other, a relationship being investigated and unveiled by chemistry and physics and expressible in inexorable “laws.”

Later scientists were to discover that nature is not so neat, or at least so simple. There seem to be no irreducible “units” as such, and physical laws have only mathematical expression. Physicists, like the late Stephen Hawking, may search for nothing less than a “complete description of the universe” and even hope to find it. But confidence about what nature is, or is likely to be discovered to be, has almost vanished. The cosmos is ultimately one thing, without any relation to a Being beyond; there is no “God,” no “creator.”

Naturalism and External Reality
The cosmos exists as a uniformity of cause and effect in a closed system. It is not open to reordering from the outside—either by a transcendent Being (for there is none) or by self-transcendent or autonomous human beings (for they are a part of the uniformity). The Humanist Manifesto II (1973), which expresses the views of those who call themselves  “secular humanists,” puts it this way: “We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural.” Without God or the supernatural, of course, nothing can happen except within the realm of things themselves. Writing in The Columbia History of the World, Rhodes W. Fairbridge says flatly, “We reject the miraculous.”(See John A. Garraty and Peter Gay, eds., The Columbia History of the World, [1972], pg. 14). Such a statement, coming as it does from a professor of geology at Columbia University, is to be expected.

Naturalism and Knowledge
Through our innate and autonomous human reason, including the methods of science, we can know the universe. The cosmos, including this world, is understood to be in its normal state. From a cosmic standpoint, reason developed under the contingencies of natural evolution over a very long period of time. From a human standpoint, a child is born with innate faculties which merely have to develop naturally. These faculties work on their own within the framework of the languages and cultures to which they are exposed. At no time is there any information or interpretation or mental machinery added from outside the ordinary material world. 

As children grow, they learn which of their thoughts help them understand and enable them to deal with the world around them. The methods of modern science are especially helpful in leading us to more and more profound knowledge of our universe. Human knowledge, then, is the product of natural human reason grounded in its perceived ability to reach the truth about human beings and the world.

Naturalism and Origins
Human beings are complex “machines;" personality is an interrelation of chemical and physical properties we do not yet fully understand. As human beings we are simply a part of the cosmos. In the cosmos there is one substance: matter. We are that and only that. The laws applying to matter apply to people. Humans do not transcend the universe in any way.

Of course people are very complex machines, and their mechanisms are not yet fully understood. Thus people continue to amaze one another and upset expectations. Still, any mystery that surrounds humanity's understanding is a result not of genuine mystery but of mechanical complexity.

Naturalism and Morals/Values
Morality is related only to human beings. Ethical considerations did not play a central role in the rise of naturalism. Naturalism rather came as a logical extension of certain metaphysical notions —notions about the nature of the external world. Most early naturalists continued to hold ethical views similar to those in the surrounding culture, views that in general were indistinguishable from popular Christianity. There was a respect for individual dignity, an affirmation of love, a commitment to truth and basic honesty. Jesus was seen as a teacher of high ethical values.

For a theist, God is the foundation of values. For a naturalist, values are constructed by human beings. The naturalist’s notion follows logically from the previous propositions. If there was no consciousness prior to the existence of humans, then there was no prior sense of right and wrong. Ethics and values are subjective human standards (there are no objectively true morals; there is nothing eternal and external to the subjective human experience in which morality can be grounded). The only ethical standards are pleasure (good) and pain (evil), relative to the individual (i.e., hedonism). Standards of morality vary according to person, place, time, and culture (i.e., moral relativism).

Naturalism and the Problem of Life
Life is ephemeral and has no objective meaning. In the words of atheist biologist Dr. Richard Dawkins, the only purpose humans have is to "propagate DNA." All events are chance (there are no ultimate explanations). The universe is doomed to extinction by entropy, yet human beings are the center of all things. They can face the universe heroically and responsibly with dignity and idealism.

Naturalism and Destiny
Death is extinction of personality and individuality. This is, perhaps, the “hardest” proposition of naturalism for people to accept, yet it is absolutely demanded by the naturalists’ conception of the universe. Men and women are made of matter and nothing else. When the matter that goes to make up an individual is disorganized at death, then that person disappears forever. The Humanist Manifesto II states, “As far as we know, the total personality is a function of the biological organism transacting in a social and cultural context. There is no credible evidence that life survives the death of the body.”

The concept may trigger immense psychological problems, but there is no disputing its precision. The only “immortality,” as the Humanist Manifesto II puts it, is to “continue to exist in our progeny and in the way that our lives have influenced others in our culture.” Yet, entropy ensures that even this will not last. Eventually, there will be the heat-death of the universe and nothing of anyone will remain. 

Refuting Naturalism
The worldview of Naturalism is incoherent. There are three key points that make it untenable. Testing a particular position for coherence demonstrates its level of logical consistency. Any sound worldview must contain legitimate grounds for reason and argumentation, making this question appropriate. Three arguments illustrate some extremely serious concerns:

Coherence problem A: An irrational source. According to the naturalist world-view, the source or foundation of man’s reasoning was not itself rational (endowed with reason), nor was it personal (self-aware, intelligent), and it was not teleological (purposive) in nature. Rather it was a non-rational and impersonal process without purpose consisting of a combination of genetic mutation, variation, and environmental factors (natural selection). Naturalism postulates that a combination of random chance and blind impersonal natural process (physical and chemical in nature) produced humanity’s rational faculties.

However, presuming that this kind of non-rational, chance origin lies behind human intelligence raises legitimate questions about whether human reason can then be trusted. As a matter of epistemological protocol, if not sound logical intuition, the non-rational should not be thought to produce the rational; nor the impersonal, the personal; nor the a-teleological, the teleological. For the non-rational to cause the rational does not comport with normal everyday experience. According to the presumptions of science, an effect requires an adequate and sufficient cause, and indeed that effect cannot be greater than the cause. But in the case of evolution, the effect of  human intelligence is magnitudes or exponentially greater than its supposed cause.

Even if these non-rational factors did succeed in producing the rational faculties of human beings, how can it be known that the product of this basically nonintelligent process (the human brain and mind) can and should be trusted to deliver rational content? Therefore, when one discovers that the source of human reason is not itself rational, then a valid reason has been raised to doubt and distrust the outcome of that reason.

Naturalists are fond of asserting that they have embraced their world-view based upon purely rational factors, appealing to such things as logic and sound scientific understanding. They also often claim to have rejected theism because the problem of evil makes belief in God logically untenable. However, if the source of human cognitive faculties were not rational, then the naturalist doesn’t necessarily have good reason to trust that he has embraced this worldview on the basis of sound rational factors. Nor is he in a position to justifiably dismiss theism based upon rational grounds. In other words, if that which produced human reasoning was not itself rational in nature, why then have any confidence in one’s present ability to reason? This consideration shows naturalism to be logically self-defeating.

Coherence problem B: A necessary physical determinism. Many, if not most, naturalists embrace some form of materialism or physicalism. With limited ontological options, their purely natural worldview mandates that the physical universe (a matrix of matter, energy, time, and space) is the sole or fundamental level of reality. 

However, if naturalism involves some form of materialism or physicalism as its basic ontology (basis for being), then it follows that all actions, events, and processes are the result of purely material and/or physical forces. If humans and their thoughts, ideas, and convictions are the result of these forces, then how can naturalism avoid some form of physical determinism that undermines such things as intention, rational deliberation, logical inference, and authentic choice? How can naturalists legitimately claim that they have embraced their worldview and rejected theism based solely upon rational considerations if fundamental physical forces have determined all things including their cognitive faculties? Rational considerations do not fit the blind, accidental operation of the physical laws of nature. They connect with intelligence, personhood, and purposefulness.

A further difficulty can be found in the amoral implications of determinism. If physical determinism is true with respect to humanity, then human actions are neither blameworthy nor praiseworthy. A person might claim: “My molecules made me do it.”

Coherence problem C: Survivability doesn’t guarantee objective truth. If an individual embraces naturalistic evolutionary theory, then he has to accept the idea that complex human cognitive faculties and sensory organs arose through purely accidental, blind, mindless, and purposeless processes in nature. The evolutionary process (natural selection) that is said to have taken billions of years to produce intellectual and sensory capacities in people functioned solely in light of survival value and reproductive advantage (involving such things as genetic variation and random genetic mutation).

The mechanism of evolution functioned only to enhance a particular organism’s survival chances. However, evolution’s function and focus raise a serious challenge to the naturalist worldview. If evolution’s sole activity is to promote a species 'their cognitive faculties provided reliable, true beliefs? In other words, if naturalism is correct, then it seems highly questionable that humans would have belief-forming faculties (mind, brain, sensory organs) that produce reliably true beliefs.

Evolution’s intention doesn’t promote true beliefs, it promotes survival. Yet, a sound basis for truth is necessary if a person is to embrace naturalistic evolution over other explanations. Some naturalists have even suggested that human belief in such things as God, immortality, and objective moral values was produced in man as a means of promoting human survivability.

So even though these ideas (e.g., God) are actually false, they somehow supported man’s ability to survive and even thrive. This theory would mean that false beliefs may at times do more to promote human flourishing than true beliefs. A blind source that functions on the mechanistic track of survivability alone cannot guarantee that the human cognitive system provides truth; it may even promote what is false. Survivability and truth are two very different outcomes. Humankind’s intellectual endowments also seem to range profoundly above what could be expected from mere survivability.

Humans are capable not only of arriving at truth seemingly useful in survival (for instance a true knowledge of how to grow food and make weapons to kill animals), but also of contemplating abstractions with no apparent survival benefit (for example, thinking about beauty). If this evolutionary argument against naturalism (survivability over truth) holds logical merit, then naturalists have no sound reason (or guarantee) to trust their reason in their worldview.

Based upon the arguments just presented (among others), naturalism is self-defeating and thus incoherent and untrue as a comprehensive system of belief. You need not argue for God and the supernatural to show naturalism fails to be a logical and coherent explanation of reality.

Naturalism offers itself as a worldview that allows people to escape the uncomfortable idea of a personal God who controls the world and judges human actions. It is illogical and incoherent at its core. Yet, if the prominent people in the universities and the media are influenced by it and hold to it, it is easy for others to adopt naturalism without reflection. Naturalism propagates by osmosis, not by evidence.


  1. Very well explained ! The world is trying to fill the current spiritual void with all kinds of ideologies, even if they don't make sense. I don't believe that chance produces order or that nothingness begets something, so all things must be explained by a Creator who has made Himself known to mankind and given them the means to know Him and achieve salvation.

    1. Simon,
      Thank you, my friend! I'm glad you see the intellectual bankruptcy of Naturalism.

      God Bless,


  2. Intro,

    I agree with Simon. Kudos to you on today's post!
    You have logically proven that the Naturalist proposition is an epic fail.
    You must have been an excellent science teacher - luckily for us, you're still teaching through this blog!

    Thank you!


    1. Jannie,
      Thank you for your kind words! Truth be told, with the massive amount of work piled up, I sometimes wish I was back teaching science. I'm glad I'm able to teach through this blog, and good people like you derive benefit from it !

      God Bless,


  3. Dear Introibo, I am looking for a post you made I believe it has been some years back where you talk about how you examined the current crisis in the Church from many if not all angles and you finally concluded after that exhaustive examination that sedevacantism is the best explanation and best choice. Can you direct me to that blog entry? Thank you and God bless you.

    1. @anon1:02
      I'm not sure exactly what post, but I will look and post here what I find. Much of my background (not sedevacantism specifically) I covered with Catholic Family Podcast and the wonderful Mr. Kevin Davis. It was my interview concerning Fr. DePauw. You can listen here:

      God Bless,


    2. Thank you for your reply, Introibo. It wasn't a podcast. It was one of your weekly posts. I am thinking it was within these past 5 years. I thought then and I still think today it was ths best entry you've ever done. St. Anthony, please help us find it. God bless you.

    3. P.S. From what I remember, the blog post *could* have been titled "The Case for Sedevacantism".

    4. Hello @anon1:02

      Here are a couple links which will take you to some search results for sedevacantism on Introibo's blog:

      The website is very searchable - if you are on a computer, if you look in the upper left corner of the webpage, you will see a box with a magnifying glass icon, and you can type some key words to search for there and click on the icon. If you are on a mobile device, you can select "desktop verson" of the website through your phone browser, or, you can select "web" or "mobile version" from the bottom of the web page to show this option as well. But, if these options don't work for you, the links I listed will lead you to some great articles which may be one of the ones you are looking for.


    5. @anon1:02
      I'm hope Seeking Truth ("S.T.") helped you find what you were looking for--I have not found exactly what you described. Did you find it? I'll keep trying if not.

      God Bless,


  4. Hi Introibo. I've been meaning to drop you a line for some time. I had a dream the other day when I said to an interlocutor "I think I'm becoming a sedevacantist". This is scary for me because I've been heavily conditioned, first as a conservative Novus Ordo, then as a Trad...well you know the conditioning. The reason I say "scary" is because I cannot reason my way out of the sede position yet to conclude 99.9% of the "Church" is wrong seems too much to claim. The latter is just a feeling I guess. Plus I am the mother of 4 young children and basically live to bring them up to attain salvation. So now that looks very very different. We live in rural Australia so (valid) Mass is only once a quarter any way. Please pray for us, that I teach my children well and do everything for the glory of God. If you know any Aussie sedes I would appreciate someone to chat to. BTW I am also a lawyer so feel a great affinity for your writing. Thanks!

  5. PS my husband is a "spiritual not religious" the NO this is a perfectly fine arrangement, and the fact he's Baptised (NO Catholic) seemed to make everything well and good. I ended up being a hardcore Trad a few years into our marriage. Please pray for us, especially his conversion. He's very naturally good, and a great dad. Thanks again.

    1. Joanna,
      Welcome! Glad to have you reading this blog from "down under"! Happy that you like my posts and derive good from them. I will be prying for your family and you--especially for your husband. If there are any other readers from Australia who wish to reach out to this reader, please comment.

      God Bless,


    2. Introibo, Jannie, and readers.
      Thanks for the warm welcome. My prayers and penance for you all and for the restoration of the Church are assured.

  6. Joanna,

    Hello. Welcome to this group!

    I know prayers will go up for you from the readers, here.
    God will answer, and may He bless you!


  7. Hello Introibo:

    1. Robert Hickson, a well known Feeneyite, who has long been associated with the Saint Benedict Center in New Hampshire, has died. His funeral Mass and burial are going to be at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, the SSPX seminary. Do you think that because of this, that traditional Catholics should ONLY go to SSPX in danger of death?

    2. What would you say to somebody who can't get to the Traditional Mass, but who wants to make arrangements for if and when they need Extreme Unction/Requiem Mass/Burial?

    3. And what if the person has no priest or layperson to help with their arrangements?

    4. And the person can't afford to pay for arrangements?

    5. Should the person just say a perfect Act of Contrition and hope that they at least get a free secular burial when the time comes?

    Thank you. Anonymous

    1. @anon6:24

      1. No. There are too many unknowns. Perhaps Mr. Hickson recanted on his deathbed, known only to his immediate family and perhaps an SSPX priest who heard his confession. If the SSPX announced it as POLICY that they would grant a Requiem to publicly known Feeneyites that were unrepentent, THAT would change my analysis of the situation.

      2. They should have someone with a health proxy and power of attorney for them know what they want. They can call and get them the Last Rites.

      3. You can often hire a lawyer to do so for you. However, DO NOT give them power of attorney. Only health care proxy. Make sure said lawyer is either a Traditionalist, or one of high moral character, whom you believe will do so.

      4. They should start a "pre-need" account at a funeral parlor. I've seen one here in NY. For a small monthly payment, they will ensure a basic funeral. Look into it.

      5. They should not rely on that. See responses above.

      God Bless,


  8. Greetings from Spain to Introibo and to the readers of this blog. I am the reader who asked several questions in the previous article. The following came up after consulting Wikipedia. You see, I read on the page of Pope Honorius I:

    "Thus monothelism arose, a doctrine that was exposed by the Patriarch of Constantinople to Pope Honorius, who in 634 declared that the doctrine of the single will could not be classified as heretical.

    With all the actors, except Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem, in agreement, the emperor Heraclius published in 638 the Ecthesis or “Exposition of faith” in which the new monothelist doctrine was officially recorded and sanctioned. This explains why he would be condemned years after his death, which took place on October 12, 638.

    Indeed, the Sixth Ecumenical Council, held between 680 and 681 in Constantinople, condemned Monothelism, and the name of Honorius I was included in the condemnation. The condemnation was confirmed in the two following ecumenical councils held in Nicaea and Constantinople."

    Was Pope Honorius I therefore a "heretic pope"? Thank you.

    1. There's a post here about Pope Honorius:

      A heretical Pope is impossible. Unfortunately, some so-called traditionalists think it's possible. They've clearly lost their faith.

    2. Anonymous @5:07,

      There is an article on this under the heading of "Honorius" at the Catholic encyclopedia site:
      It goes into great detail about the pope and the arguments and heresies of that time.
      Wikipedia is not nearly as reliable a source, overall, IMO.

      What I took away is that Honorius didn't fully agree, nor did he fully disagree with the position of Sergius when he addressed Monothelism/Monophysitism.
      Essentially the pope left the question open, which was his biggest failure on the issue.
      There is a lot to unpack in the article, which is long and carefully written.
      I welcome any correction if I got it wrong, or any further information.

      God bless.


    3. Anon. 5:07,

      The case with Pope Honorius is a very misunderstood. He was not a heretic but was condemned for NOT condemning the heretic named Sergius who held to that heresy of Monothelism.


    4. @anon5:07
      I agree with the others and thank them for the sources. To this I'll add a great article from the late Fr. Anthony Cekada:

      God Bless,


    5. Pope Honorius isn't proof against sedevacantism but it's proof that the pope can allow heresy, err, and act as enemies against Christ. This wasn't plain negligence. It was trying to stop anyone who was against the heresy. Honorius ordered people not to speak against Monothelitism. He was a pope but acted against Christ and by not allowing criticism allowed a heresy to become dominant. If he had tried to make the heresy dogma, then he would lose the papacy. He punished criticism against heresy. This made him just as guilty as the heretics. Fr. Jenkins has spoken about Honorius several times and he's right on the mark.

  9. Introibo,

    Thank you for the post.

    I did not really know what being a naturalist meant. I wonder if many people think it simply means someone who enjoys nature, like I did. Thanks again.

    God Bless,
    -Seeking Truth

    1. Seeking Truth,
      That is another definition for the word. Many times words mean very different things in philosophy and/or theology than in ordinary discourse. Think of "Private Revelation." I once had a Traditionalist friend of mine say that Our Lady of Fatima could not be considered "private revelation" because thousands of people saw the Miracle of the Sun. "Private" doesn't refer to how many people see something, but it denotes all messages from God after the Deposit of Faith was made complete at the death of St. John, the last Apostle--which was deemed "Public Revelation" to be made known to all.

      God Bless,