Believe the experts?

7:30, Sunday morning – my wife wakes me. Her body has been in intense agony for some hours. In 40 minutes we are at the nearest hospital. She undergoes a series of tests for her kidneys, without result.  On the third day in the kidney ward she shows a young doctor, passing by, a sore place on her stomach. He says immediately “Shingles”. She is out of the hospital within the hour. Experts!

Yes, we all need experts; it is no more than common-sense to get advice on our important needs from those who are appropriately qualified and have long experience in their field.  Some of them are acknowledged as such and are paid rich fees by the government, businesses and litigants. They will be well worth the money if they solve a big problem or make accurate predictions about the future.

But hold hard. I have a recent study in front of me which claims that experts are highly susceptible to subjective influences — from individual values and mood, to whether they stand to gain or lose from a decision. It is published by the most reputable of journals, but then I remember the occasion when several articles by known experts previously published in scientific journals were resubmitted to the original journals under an invented name. Almost all were rejected as not meriting publication.

The expert we most frequently consulted is a doctor. How do they perform? We know that they tend to diagnose according to their own speciality, and are unduly influenced by recent cases, but that may not be the end of it. The expert paediatrician, at the trial of Sally Clark, simplistically calculated that the random chance of cot death of both her children was one in 73 million. This was wildly out, and Clark’s conviction reversed. She died soon after. Extreme, but not unusual: when 60 staff and students at Harvard Medical School were tested on a straightforward probability calculation, only one in five got it right. Doctors do not have a good record on conditional probabilities, which are at the heart of diagnosis.

How do judges fare? Surely we can rely on their objective wisdom? Well perhaps not. Israeli judges who had to decide whether to grant prisoners parole were strongly influenced by whether or not they had had a recent refreshment break. Perhaps we should pit them against monkeys who choose our investments for us by throwing darts. They have a surprisingly good record compared with expensive investment experts.

Many of us need the help of financial advisers, particularly if we are making plans for retirement. Historical abuses have led to a web of regulations to ensure their objectivity. But even the many honest ones are prone to subjective influences like any other expert. We do not know how widely our adviser has examined alternatives, we do not know the extent of his knowledge, we do not know how his own temperament and values have influenced his recommendations.

It is a threatening scenario, and we must look to our defences. We do so knowing that directly or indirectly we are paying for advice, and we are entitled to interrogate it. Experts tend to use general phrases such as “It’s highly likely that” or “there’s little risk that”.  So ask him to put a number to it. One expert thinks “highly likely” means 99 per cent probability, another means 80 per cent. Asking for numbers makes the expert think more precisely, and leads us to getting better information.

How much does the expert really know?  Ask more questions. An expert tells you what he already knows, but searching questions, whether you need the answer or not, will quickly tell you how much he doesn’t know.  Socrates taught us that. You may want to prepare a little list before you meet your expert. How often do you say afterwards “Oh, I wish I’d asked him that.”? The NHS puts aside over £20 billion pounds, around a fifth of its budget, every year, to meet negligence claims. Yet every operative is employed as an expert at their level.

We need experts to give us reliable forecasts – whether the issue is the likelihood of a cancer recurring or the reduction of the UK deficit by 2020. There are as many opinions as there are experts. Ironically it is not the experts in the subject but the forecasters using professional methods who tend to do best. They use a wide range of data, a good deal of mathematics, and continually revise their outcomes with every passing relevant factor. Perhaps the ultimate are the weather forecasters, who follow just this pattern. A three day forecast is now as accurate as a one day forecast in 1980. But, notwithstanding gallons of data and a supercomputer, even they can get it wrong.

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Catholic Herald columns, Quentin queries and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to Believe the experts?

  1. Brendan says:

    There ‘s a rather famous quote attributed to the political sphere , which may seem appropriate given that we are faced soon , for example , with probably a life-changing EU Referendum :- ”There are three kinds of lies : lies, damn lies and statistics. ”
    Yes , the experts are lining up. Whose version can you ‘ hang your hat on ‘ ! The main platform is fearlessly contested by the other ; and out of all this it sometimes seem that the wisdom of Solomon is required to draw conclusions. But feeling compelled to come to a decision ( in favour of the common good ) one must consult ‘ experts ‘ and where necessary checking the ‘ facts ‘ ; and on the reasons of probability relying on ones OWN ” subjectivity – stand or fall on coming to a decision .
    As Quentin alludes to about the sheer subjectivity or even the suspicion of bias in practically every piece of information in the process of decision-making……..caveat emptor !
    Personally, I trust in Gods guidance in all this to discern what ‘ rings true ‘ having first some knowledge of the person or organisation presenting advice or facts . This coupled with my own Christian ( Catholic ) beliefs and upbringing , backed up by what intuition and intelligence The Lord has given me ; with confidence I stride forth. I find that has worked well for me up to now.
    There is something today that has survived through adversity and up to now let seems solid enough to ‘ hang ones hat on .’ in our troubled times ….. Happy birthday Your Majesty !

  2. tim says:

    It’s great that they finally found out what was wrong with your wife, and I wish her a speedy recovery.
    What you say about forecasting is very true. Even the best experts are Delphic – you need to put the right questions to them, and be very sure that you have understood the answers.
    Your point that professional forecasters are more reliable than ‘experts’ sounds unlikely, but is supported by a recent book “Superforecasting” (Tetlock and Gardner, 2015). Tetlock has done much work in this area. The book claims (p4) that in forecasting: “..the average expert was roughly as accurate as a dart-throwing chimpanzee.” But (he says) people can be trained to do much better.

    • tim says:

      Quentin, to take you up on a minor side-issue – those papers by experts that were re-submitted under different names and rejected? That doesn’t sound quite right. Second time round, you’d expect them to be rejected for plagiarism! And if they were sufficiently different to avoid rejection on that ground, they might well not have been good enough to merit publishing..

      • Quentin says:

        Tim, my account was taken from Stuart Sutherland’s book ‘Irrationality — the enemy within’ (p. 30). Sutherland was professor of psychology at Sussex University. The experiment used 12 articles (original names and universities altered, plus minor detail). Only three were recognised by the original publisher, and, of the remaining nine, eight were rejected. Sutherland (Constable,1997) is worth reading as an intriguing survey. I frequently pinch from him.

  3. Brendan says:

    One discipline that has proved notoriously unreliable is in the field of psychology/psychiatry . Of course human nature first requires confidence that diagnosis is correct before treatment , even before the possibility of cure. Yet misdiagnosis leading to tragic results abound. eg. release from detention too early of mentally ill people that have gone on to commit serious crime. Yet society treats the doctor as ‘ expert ‘; of course he/ she is an expert as far as knowledge of the subject goes and as far as he/she interprets the evidence. But this is an area where there are surely too many variables to commit very often to definitive fact. Yet it is known that G.P.’s are for example – to use a colloquialism – ‘ dishing out mild antidepressants [ and some not so mild ] like there’s no tomorrow ‘.
    One feels that they are between a rock and a hard place here , in that they are being forced to balance society’s overweening belief that there is a cure for everything ( our over-reliance on medical science as panacea ) that arises from a ‘ sick’ society….hence , enter the ‘experts ‘.
    For the last three years I have been taking a low does of an antidepressant – being first diagnosed with anxiety attacks . I’ve had a history of this occurring at infrequent intervals throughout . I have an annual senior citizen ‘ m.o.t. ‘ once a year. No one has questioned me about my current mental health . Six months ago I questioned myself – why am I still taking these tablets ? By reducing the dosage ( as advised in the past by my G.P. ) , while not completely free of ‘ tablet taking ‘ , I feel fine …. and this without consulting anyone. I have confidence that I will be tablet free soon ………… it will certainly help with holiday insurance !
    Of course I’ m not suggesting that everyone suffering from emotional or psychological problems should do likewise without seeking professional advice ; but to be more circumspect about advice especially in the ballooning industry that floods the new information technology which presents ‘ everyman ‘ as expert.

  4. Galerimo says:

    Well Quentin, you leave me breathless this morning. My best wishes to your wife and I hope she is feeling a lot better.

    This surely must be Quentin at his best.

    Just about knocked the bit of faith I had in the usual suspects, knocked it down and stomped all over it.

    Tell you what though, you put a very refreshing lens over my own area of “expertise” and made me think – made me think – made me think, humility I suppose.

    The definition of my nationality as “those who love to lie to experts” has been close to my heart ever since I first heard it. It is a real blessing such skepticism.

    It is not that I have lost faith entirely it is just that the pinch of salt has increased greatly. And I hear myself saying things like “serves you right for asking”, more often.

    I find some doctors good for diagnosis but not so good for treatment, and some good for treatment but hopeless at diagnosis, then others plain bad at being doctors and others still just brilliant. In the end I have to make up my own mind.

    Having read this one I feel it is safe for me now to say to you, trust me, I am an expert!

  5. Brendan says:

    Jesus was very astute at turning ‘ proverbs ‘ back on his questioners/detractors…. ”physician heal yourself ”. Luke 4:23 …which can be interpreted as a cautionary note to all of us who assume the roll of ‘ expert ‘ in a world that rejects ‘ truth ‘ outright or slowly/stubbornly refuses to ‘ catch on ‘. Luke in fact sets this scene after Our Lord begins his public ministry setting His stamp on the world in the Temple of His Father , as the definitive expert.
    The mystery is that after all that has been revealed to us by God , man often rejects the same. Although redeemed from all sin, it remains an ever-present mystery. Freewill does not come cheap ; but is the measure of the importance God puts on our eventual belief and the realisation of our true home…. thanks to the expert Physician in our lives and the whole world.

    • Vincent says:

      Yes, but I think that God as the ‘definitive expert’ had something of an advantage where the future is concerned.

      • Brendan says:

        Sure Vincent , but for the believer /aspiring believer ; in ‘faith’ all the more reason to trust in Him. What’s the blind alternative ..nihilism?

  6. G.D. says:

    “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
    ‘Albert Einstein’.

    There are no experts. Only those with more knowledge.

  7. Martin Kirkham says:

    Briefly, “experts” could all do with the quality of humility, particularly as their decisions are likely to have such a profound effect on our lives.

    The old adage “two heads are better than one” also comes to mind.

  8. Brendan says:

    There was a time ( or am I imagining it ?) in my youth when to be an expert , a professional in ones field …. stood for something . People seemed generally confident in the advice they received – but then there was less scope or choice for a second opinion… or was there less need ? But then it invariably meant people with letters after their name , a long period of training , apprenticeship , internship etc. , had to prove proficiency before calling themselves an expert. In my grammar school days someone with a Ph.D. was deemed practically an expert in his or her field ; now they seem to be looked on as almost ‘ two a penny.’ Yet we are inundated with often self-styled ‘ gurus ‘ in lots of consultative areas of life.
    This begs the question ; are we turning out quantity ( possibly in a less rigorous educational/licensing system ) at the expense of quality ?

  9. tim says:

    You need to ask your expert about her qualifications and track record. If she advises about finance, how have her portfolios done in the past? How satisfied have her customers been? You must be as clear as you can about what her knowledge and experience entitles her to say with authority, and what not.

    I am exchanging views with Alan on the “Why Not Me” thread about Global Warming.. He is pressing me with the need to consult experts when you are quite unqualified to make a sensible decision on your own. Wouldn’t you trust your doctor? And if a series of doctors (almost) all said the same thing, wouldn’t you be foolish to reject their advice? That’s a strong argument. But is the analogy exact? Doctors have years of training, and often wide personal experience of outcomes in cases like the one you are seeking advice about (if not, better to find one who has). But ‘climate scientists’ are not quite like doctors. It is a new profession (distinct from meteorologists) whereas doctors have hundreds of years of history. They have training probably not much inferior to that of doctors (but no formal regulation or ‘Hippocratic oath’) and they advance professionally by publication of influential papers. They make predictions, most of which await verification – they have no chance to validate their remedies by double-blind clinical trials – and their record of successful predictions is at best mixed. They are advising on a case that they say is unique (that in itself is controversial) so their proposed cure can have no record of successful application. We must listen to what experts have to say, but we must judge for ourselves what we do.

  10. Quentin says:

    I have had a note this morning from St Joseph. I won’t try an explanation but, in brief, her doctors are finding it difficult to administer the essential treatment her illness requires. I hope you will all join me in prayer for her, and her doctors, this Sunday, and that Catholics will remember her at the reception of the Eucharist.

  11. Nektarios says:

    Our prayers will be with St. Joseph daily.

    On the issue of experts. This world needs its experts doctors, engineers, politicians, educationalist and in the market place. Yes, God is there too.

    Is strikes me that our Lord did not choose as his disciples the wise of this world, Paul was an exception, Luke was a doctor. In both cases there were in meeting Christ, changed, born again. saved and given a new spiritual life in Christ.

    It was C.H. Spurgeon in the late 1800 and the beginning of the 20th century who said, The Church is being filled up with men of degrees, and slowly being emptied by degrees of men. Just about says it all, doesn’t it?

  12. St.Joseph says:

    Thank you all for your prayers

  13. Iona says:

    Cedrtainly remembering you, St. Joseph.

  14. John L says:

    The Lord be with you, St Joseph

  15. Geordie says:

    Praying for you St Joseph.

    When I worked I was considered to be an expert in IT in Education. In those days, when teachers came to my courses they were rather frightened by the technology. I always started with the definition of an expert; An ex is a “has been” and a spurt is a drip under pressure. No doubt many of you have heard that before but it tended to relax the atmosphere.

  16. Nektarios says:

    But the world is in dire trouble, the church is in such a weak state what are we to do. Lets call in the Experts. Let us organise a symposium, let us call a meeting of the world council of churches. Why?
    To find out what is the answers to the many problems we face.
    Why are people not clamouring to come into the Church? Why are the churches weak and ineffective? Why are we spending all this time and effort on global issues, poverty, doing what we can? Why are governments not listening to us on political issues? We will need the higher critics along too. You know what a higher critic is don’t you? He is a person who reads Scripture and then puts his/her own gloss on it.

    Is there anything new in all this? well not really. If we are to get to the heart of the problems affecting so many believers and churches today, let me point you to the account of the two on the Emmaus Road. Luke 24:13-35.

    If anything, what this story of the two on the Emmaus Road demonstrates is the root of the problem in the churches.

    I will follow up on this later.

  17. Nektarios says:

    Just like those two dear men walking the road to Emmaus perhaps we need the real Expert to draw near and show us a few things to help us understand why things are the way they are with many Christians and the church?

    Jesus drew near to them and asked them what they were conversing about that was making them sad?
    So these two men told the Lord what was making them so sad. Luke 24: 19-24. Please note their answer to the Lord’s question.
    They were sad, because what they thought about Jesus was very Jewish. They were expecting the Messiah, a great leader who would vanquish their enemies and deliver them from their Roman rulers and oppression. And after that, He would go on to rule the world, and we Jews would be foremost among the nations. Then they saw what had happened to Jesus, the one they had listened to, rejoiced in, believed in, only to seem Him taken by the religious leaders and experts on the Law and crucified. They killed their hope. They even told him about the resurrection that had taken place, but that did not make any difference their hope was gone. Jesus, who they hoped would redeem Israel was dead and buried. Now they were not only sad but thinking perhaps He was not the Messiah after all.

    Why are people not clamouring to come into the Church? Is it because they see us a sad lot, killjoys, miserable, suffering, experiencing the same problems as those in the world. Why would we, they say, come to Church or believe. We are happy and enjoying ourselves out here in the world. Look at ourselves we are a sad lot, weak and wringing our hands, holding meeting and synods thing to converse about why the Church is so powerless and weak, its causes and cure. Ah, enter all the so- called experts. It is due to this say some, disobedience say another, not following all the traditionalism of the Church. It is due to Humanism and secularism says another. It is due to the effects of two World Wars. The Higher Critic experts are there too. Oh it is due to the advances we have made in Science, disproving, they say, so much of what people formally believed has been disproved. It does not matter whether Christ was raised from the dead or not literally.
    God is love says another. He will love us what ever happens and will not see us go to a lost eternity.
    Along comes the theologians with oh so clever arguments and their opinions of what Holy Scriptures mean. They add confusion to the conversation with their liberal views about Scripture, God, all the tenants of the Christian faith, no wonder we are all sad.

    I will go on to a new posting in a moment.

  18. Nektarios says:

    Wrote a lengthy piece to follow the above and it disappeared. Awaiting an engineer to fix the problem withy hub.

    But as it is getting late will just outline for you what I wrote.

    Jesus drew near, the real Expert, as opposed to counterfeit experts, to the two on the Emmaus Road. Listened to what they said they were conversing about and were looking so sad.

    Jesus calls them O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe in all that the Prophets have spoken.
    Christ expound the OT Scriptures starting from Moses and all the Prophets on things concerning Himself.

    As they went these two Christians, were transformed not only in their thinking but in their heart.
    They went from sad, dejected, prejudiced, slow of heart to having a burning heart aflame for God and Christ.
    They were so changed, they hurried the seven miles back to Jerusalem to tell the others all that had happened on the Emmaus Road.

    I raised questions at the end concerning the many so-called experts. We have counterfeit experts that will temporarily enthuse one in their way of thinking.

    So I left off asking are we foolish, do we have a slow heart towards God, are we prejudiced,
    or we enlightened by the Holy Spirit with a burning heart for Christ, and all his people. can we wait until we meet again to be with one another, pray with one another, discuss all that the Lord has done for us and all that the Scriptures teach us.

    • Brendan says:

      Nektarios – I sense growing frustration in your comments .Understandably , because I see
      experts abound in every subject ; but two often too many conflicting voices have centre stage in a world divided …. particularly in Christianity ( the main driving force behind our comments ) , with those ‘ experts ‘ who should be ‘ speaking out ‘ remaining woefully silent.
      Whatever ones differences with each other , let’s join together in prayerful unity now, in urging the Lord in quiet supplication ( in anguish if one likes ) to rise up ‘ experts ‘ in faith and love to lead the Church and the World out of its lethargy. God bless you.

      • Nektarios says:


        I can join you in prayer on this.We like the experts so-called, will require a burning heart too, just like our two brothers on that Emma’s Road.

  19. Brendan says:

    ” If you new the gift of God…” John 4:10. There is nothing in this world that comes close ….. nothing !

  20. ignatius says:


    “..Why are people not clamouring to come into the Church? Is it because they see us a sad lot, killjoys, miserable, suffering, experiencing the same problems as those in the world. Why would we, they say, come to Church or believe. We are happy and enjoying ourselves out here in the world. Look at ourselves we are a sad lot, weak and wringing our hands, holding meeting and synods thing to converse about why the Church is so powerless and weak, its causes and cure…”

    Just a few words from someone you will be familiar with:

    Philippians ch 2:

    ….12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
    14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”c Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky

    You asked me to explain to you awhile ago how I felt you were missing the point of Pope Francis’ recent publication Amoris laetitia. Your post here provides an excellent example. In our parish there are dozens and dozens and dozens of people living good Christian lives , helping one another , sharing acts of kindness with the community, giving of their time and scanty finance to the Church and community while devoting themselves regularly to the adoration and worship of the one who died for them. Frankly speaking you seem to despise the simple life of the christian who works quietly, earns their own living does what is right and honours God with their life.Somehow you seem to fail to grasp that this kind of life is in fact the very outworking of God’s love and is deeply pleasing in His eyes. I wonder what it is you seem to despise so much about us?

    • Nektarios says:

      Who is us?
      If you mean Roman Catholics, I do not make distinctions denominationally, though there are differences – but then neither you or I are perfect -Yet.
      The point was the understanding of works, which I answered.
      I do not despise anyone, but that does not mean I am without spiritual discernment. In part, this is what I have been in part answering regarding ‘experts.’

  21. Brendan says:

    Well Nektarios , most of us do I believe on this blog ” make distinctions denominationally ” either consciously / unconsciously between differing Christian views/ doctrine ( or even on a non-religious world view ) which is all too obvious sometimes; thus the need from a Catholic point of view for ‘ expert ‘ guidance . We stand or fall on that ; but surely it is always up for debate by all ….. under the auspicious guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    • Nektarios says:

      I know we make distinctions on this blog and it is right to have distinctions, but let them be biblically based distinctions, not simply distinctions that serve our own argument or purposes.
      As to guidance, it seems Pope Francis has become hands of peoples conscience. In other words RCs conscience was under the control of the Church, so they thought. It failed, now under the guise of understanding he mercifully will give you your conscience back!

      I don’t mind debate at all, but we tend to use the Holy Spirit as a front, a get out clause for our arguments and actions. We cannot relate to the Holy Spirit in that way at all and it is foolishness, and He who should be our guide and comforter, if we fail to understand His leading and guiding will find He is silent and not guiding, and as we want to be guided by our earthy denominationalism that is what we will have with all that comes with it.

  22. ignatius says:


    Stop dodging. ‘Us’ means the humble everyday Christian who goes about his or her humble life doing their best without great fanfare..this is “us” :
    “Look at ourselves we are a sad lot, weak and wringing our hands, holding meeting and synods thing to converse about why the Church is so powerless and weak, its causes and cure…”

    Though I must admit wouldn’t describe ‘us’ as such. Rather I would describe ‘us’ as the apple of God’s eye and the Bride of Christ. Yes, even those of us I suspect you think you are describing with your epithets as ‘sad’ ‘weak’ ‘wringing our hands’ etc etc. I do not see in any of your writings the belief that those ‘sad’ ‘weak’ hand wringing bunch you talk about are in fact the beloved of Christ. I get the impression you do not think very much of ‘us’ at all because your theology is actually rather ethereal and retrograde in its thinking, ungrounded in real life. The reason you are unable to see the depth and clarity of Amoris laetitia is because you are blind to the mercy and graciousness contained within it and its sensitivity to actual human life and the discernment that the Holy spirit is present in the muck and the turmoil of human existence..the muck and the turmoil that the son of God came to willingly and lovingly.

  23. Nektarios says:


    You really are taking what I have said up in an entirely wrong spirit. it also demonstrates your prejudice rather than understanding what I posted on the blog.

    Talking up your local or the RCC generally, does not prove anything, admirable though your stance is.
    There is much more I could say on Amoris Laetitia, but you have already judged and condemned my view on that. I count it a small thing to be judged by you. I am not judging anyone but arguing
    my case on it – that is all.
    As you appear to take it so personally and write accordingly, this does not show a position of strength, but one of subservient weakness.

  24. ignatius says:


    “You really are taking what I have said up in an entirely wrong spirit. it also demonstrates your prejudice rather than understanding what I posted on the blog…”

    “I count it a small thing to be judged by you. I am not judging anyone but arguing
    my case on it – that is all.
    As you appear to take it so personally and write accordingly, this does not show a position of strength, but one of subservient weakness..”

    Strange isn’t it Nektarios that, whenever on this blog you are directly challenged, out come, in very short order, the personal attacks and insults. Odd isn’t it Nektarios the number of people this blog who seem to fail you or demonstrate some lack of understanding or another; what a poor, weak, hand wringing lot we must all be.

    • Nektarios says:


      I am not personally attacking you, Ignatius.
      I do not mind being challenged for the faith and hope in Christ I have.
      It is not me they are failing, if people are indeed failing.
      As each one of us lack some understanding in spiritual matters, then the question is, what is my personal position relative to the revealed Scriptures of Moses and the Prophets, Apostolic doctrine and teaching. Yes? Does it conform to the biblical pattern and so on.

      So believe that I have good heart in Christ towards you, and to see ourselves as I described earlier is not aimed directly at my RC brethren, all the churches at this point in time are in the same boat as it were.
      But we fight not against flesh and blood………

  25. Brendan says:

    Thank you for your post of 9.05 pm – I believe you have helped me and I hope Ignatius to move the discussion along. In a worldly ( political ) sense you are right ; Pope Francis has become in some ways ” hands of peoples conscience.” But that is not the full story and it is important for a ‘ Catholic ‘ blog to delineate here if only to remind fellow co-religionists and others that this is not the full story and certainly not of ‘ us ‘ the Catholic Church ‘ vis a vis ‘ the position of pope. Firstly, let me say I respect entirely what you say, if at times a little abstruse…. but that’s just ‘ me ‘.
    As I see it , at the heart of all human knowledge and particularly Christianity is the paradox of ‘ me ‘ and ‘ we ‘ / ‘ I ‘ and ”us ‘….. I leave the rest to philosophers ! Even in reality God presents us with God Incarnate ( Christ ) and the Trinity ( Us ). There’s the problem; not with God , being perfect He knows no other ….he always has been and just ‘is ‘.
    We on the other hand wrestle continuously with this mystery. History is strewn with the sad consequences of ‘ me ‘ and ‘ us ‘ . Not withstanding Christ who is always with us and our Advocate pleading on our behalf ( and the World ) with the Father … …..sadly our failure to come to terms ( not explain ) with this paradox ( mystery ) remains.
    The Church Catholic interprets that God-in Christ new what would happen to humanity if left alone to its own devices . Yes, Saved in the Blood of Christ ‘ I ‘ am ( the mystery of infinite love for us ) ; but still imperfect – as you have pointed out Nektarios – left to our own devices Christ new that ‘ we ‘ if left alone would make eventually , an almighty mess of things. So the Catholic Church, ‘ us ‘ can do nothing but – indeed has no choice but to ‘ live ‘ on His every word ; indeed it is regarded as a guarantee of unity against the worlds foolishness in pursuing the opposite…. ‘ You are Peter [ rock ] ‘, then. For the Catholic living out the Faith , Holy Scripture while paramount is not the last answer….again the ‘me’ ( on which I stand and fall ) is contiguous with the ‘us ‘ ( The Church – the Mystical Body of Christ ).
    As for popes : recently Cardinal Gerhard Muller ( of the ‘ Holy Office ‘ ) made this observation.
    ” [ I ] must sometimes correct Pope Francis on matters of dogma, noting the pope is not a ‘professional theologian ‘. That is what he [ Pope Francis ] has said three or four times himself, publicly ..( laughs )…and then he gave me a hug so that – as he said – the gossip ceases with regards to this matter .”…. ” One should not underestimate the theological understanding of the Pope.”
    He continues …. ” the Pope – according to the Catholic Faith – has been established by Christ Himself ; and the Congregation of The Faith with its 25 Cardinals who are appointed by the Pope , is the instrument legitimised by the pope in order to help him – and thereby to partake – in the exercise of the universal teaching office. ”
    Of course in line with this ‘ I ‘ and ‘ we ‘ paradox; the Church wrestles while Cardinal Muller (directly out of the ‘ Ratzinger ‘ school as it happens ) puts it precisely… as he must ( bound ) as a focal point for all Catholic believers.
    P.s. I apologise for my lack of brevity.

  26. Nektarios says:


    See something of your confusion wrestling with certain paradoxes. Perhaps to answer one on the me and us I would suggest you to Google up Francis Schaeffer – videos. He was an excellent Christian philosopher and will help you understand the philosophic understanding of me and us and lots more.

    Let me remind you, first Brendan, what a Christian ( regardless of denomination) actually is.
    One who is a Christian, is one who has been forgiven, in Christ, sat down with Him in the glory. This has already taken place. What has not taken place, is we await the redemption of our bodies to be raised, so glorious we shall see him as He is, and we shall be so conformed to Him, we shall be like Him.
    The problem of me and us arises out of our fallen nature, a thought construct about ourselves, and others, me and us. Notice the division!!
    For the person who is not truly a Christian the world revolves around the ‘me’.
    The Christian world does not revolve around me with the tyranny of that, but Christ.

    Our eternal density in Christ is awesome and so glorious we don’t have sufficient words to describe
    it, but to know heaven is our home as Christians.
    You, being a Catholic, I will tell you what the Apostle Peter says we should do while we still live in this body and this world. 2nd Peter 3 14-18. Do read it.

    Ah Ah, I have achieved brevity at last!!

    • Brendan says:

      Good for you Nektarios ! I will follow up on your suggestion in time . Good to see Peter and Paul reconciled …. there’s hope for us all !

  27. John L says:

    I’d like to quote a point which almost duplicates Quentin’s original one.
    When I was studying for professional qualifications in computing, there were discussions on the merits or otherwise of using computer systems in diagnosis. The following tale was told as an example.
    A young teenager in USA was suffering from a skin condition which defied treatment by GP and local specialists alike.
    There was to be a convention on skin conditions, and a local specialist who was to attend obtained permission to take the boy along and let him be seen by other experts in the field.
    One such expert, recently returned from service in Africa, said, “Good Heavens – I never expected to see a case of leprosy at home!”
    The moral of the story is that a properly designed computer system would have considered ALL the possibilities.
    Since our initial general discussion has evolved into somewhat esoteric religious comparisons, I would submit that the moral for us is that in matters concerning the Almighty, it is difficult, if not impossible, to take all the possibilities into account. One of the reasons why Theology is so fascinating. A complete and exhaustive rule book cannot be devised, (even with a computer).

  28. twr57 says:

    Quentin – thanks for putting my fears to rest about the ‘experts and plagiarism’ point. It is quite remarkable in those circumstances that 8 out of the 9 unrecognised papers were rejected. It does suggest that ‘peer review’ is a highly unreliable filter for useful science. You can probably see why I find that comforting!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s