Argument of Numbers

On page 50 of True or False Pope quotes Van Noort as saying: “To satisfy the requirements of moral catholicity in fact – a quality belonging to Christ’s Church perpetually and necessarily we stated there was required ‘a great number of men from many different nations, … Such diffusion, obviously, cannot be had without a really large number of adherents.”  In footnote 68 on page 71 we read: “Even if there did exist a Pius XII bishop or two in the woods with ordinary jurisdiction, this Sedevacantist “solution” would still constitute a violation of the Church’s indefectibility (since it maintains that the visible hierarchy fell away, causing the visible Church to morph into a New Church) and moral Catholicity (the Church can never be reduced to a small number of members), as we have seen.”

They are using ONE SOURCE, a theologian, to establish their dogma of moral Catholicity and indefectibility.  This is not sufficient to establish certitude.

From Will the Catholic Church Survive the Twentieth Century? Page 358: “We have also demonstrated this fact by way of syllogisms. Pierre Gury, S.J., writes in his Compendium of Moral Theology: “That opinion is regarded as certainly more probable … which is held absolutely as true by five or six theologians….” (pp. 22-23, IV.)”

From The Catholic Encyclopedia article on Probabilism: Probabilists holds that if five or six theologians, notable for prudence and learning, independently adhere to an opinion their view is solidly probable, if it has not been set aside by authoritative decisions or by intrinsic arguments which they have failed to solve. Even one theologian of very exceptional authority.

The only Vatican Council discussed the argument of numbers, but never was able to render a decision on this.
Saint Augustine Commenting on Psalm 128:1: “Often have they fought against me from my youth, let Israel now say.” Saint Augustine comments: “At one time the Church was in Abel only, and he was fought against by his wicked and lost brother Cain.  At one time the Church was in Enoch alone: and he was translated from the unrighteous.  At one time the Church was in the house of Noah alone, and endured all who perished by the flood, and the ark alone swam upon the waves, and escaped to shore.  At one time the Church was in Abraham alone, and we know what he endured from the wicked. The Church was in his brother’s son, Lot, alone, and in his house, in Sodore, and he endured the iniquities and perversities of Sodom, until God freed him from amidst them.  The Church also began to exist in the people of Israel: She endured Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The number of the saints began to be also in the Church, that is, in the people of Israel; Moses and the rest of the saints endured the wicked Jews, the people of Israel. We come unto our Lord Jesus Christ: the Gospel was preached in the Psalms. … For this reason, lest the Church wonder now, or lest any one wonder in the Church, who wisheth to be a good member of the Church, let him hear the Church herself his Mother saying to him, Marvel not at these things, my son: ‘Many a time have they fought against me from my youth up.’”

The following article is by Robert G. Ingersoll, the Great Agnostic and was written in 1884:

Question. How do you answer the argument, or the fact, that the church is constantly increasing, and that there are now four hundred millions of Christians?

Answer. That is what I call the argument of numbers. If that argument is good now, it was always good. If Christians were at any time in the minority, then, according to this argument, Christianity was wrong. Every religion that has succeeded has appealed to the argument of numbers. There was a time when Buddhism was in a majority. Buddha not only had, but has more followers than Christ. Success is not a demonstration. Mohammed was a success, and a success from the commencement. Upon a thousand fields he was victor. Of the scattered tribes of the desert, he made a nation, and this nation took the fairest part of Europe from the followers of the cross. In the history of the world, the success of Mohammed is unparalleled, but this success does not establish that he was the prophet of God.

Now, it is claimed that there are some four hundred millions of Christians. To make that total I am counted as a Christian; I am one of the fifty or sixty millions of Christians in the United States–excluding Indians, not taxed. By this census report, we are all going to heaven–we are all orthodox. At the last great day we can refer with confidence to the ponderous volumes containing the statistics of the United States. As a matter of fact, how many Christians are there in the United States–how many believers in the inspiration of the Scriptures–how many real followers of Christ? I will not pretend to give the number, but I will venture to say that there are not fifty millions. How many in England? Where are the four hundred millions found? To make this immense number, they have counted all the Heretics, all the Catholics, all the Jews, Spiritualists, Universalists and Unitarians, all the babes, all the idiotic and insane, all the Infidels, all the scientists, all the unbelievers. As a matter of fact, they have no right to count any except the orthodox members of the orthodox churches. There may be more ‘members’ now than formerly, and this increase of members is due to a decrease of religion. Thousands of members are only nominal Christians, wearing the old uniform simply because they

do not wish to be charged with desertion. The church, too, is a kind of social institution, a club with a creed instead of by-laws, and the creed is never defended unless attacked by an outsider. No objection is made to the minister because he is liberal, if he says nothing about it in his pulpit. A man like Mr. Beecher draws a congregation, not because he is a Christian, but because he is a genius; not because he is orthodox, but because he has something to say. He is an intellectual athlete. He is full of pathos and poetry. He has more description than divinity; more charity than creed, and altogether more common sense than theology. For these reasons thousands of people love to hear him. On the other hand, there are many people who have a morbid desire for the abnormal–for intellectual deformities–for thoughts that have two heads. This accounts for the success of some of Mr. Beecher’s rivals.

Christians claim that success is a test of truth. Has any church succeeded as well as the Catholic? Was the tragedy of the Garden of Eden a success? Who succeeded there? The last best thought is not a success, if you mean that only that is a success which has succeeded, and if you mean by succeeding, that it has won the assent of the majority. Besides there is no time fixed for the test. Is that true which succeeds to-day, or next year, or in the next century? Once the Copernican system was not a success. There is no time fixed. The result is that we have to wait. A thing to exist at all has to be, to a certain extent, a success. A thing cannot even die without having been a success. It certainly succeeded enough to have life. Presbyterians should remember, while arguing the majority argument, and the success argument, that there are far more Catholics than Protestants, and that the Catholics can give a longer list of distinguished names. My answer to all this, however, is that the history of the world shows that ignorance has always been in the majority. There is one right road; numberless paths that are wrong. Truth is one; error is many. When a great truth has been discovered, one man has pitted himself against the world. A few think; the many believe. The few lead; the many follow. The light of the new day, as it looks over the window sill of the east, falls at first on only one forehead.

There is another thing. A great many people pass for Christians who are not. Only a little while ago a couple of ladies were returning from church in a carriage. They had listened to a good orthodox sermon. One said to the other: ‘I am going to tell you something–I am going to shock you–I do not believe in the Bible.’ And the other replied: ‘Neither do I.’