Thursday, April 14, 2005

Examples in problems that result from analyzing implicit error

I was planning to structure this second post around showing why the earlier dialogue between myself and Dr. Svendsen became such a debacle, but I've decided to defer that discussion for a little while in favor of discussing an example that came up in the comments section of my previous post. To recap the subject of that post, my observation was that the failure to determine with specificity whether the Reformers considered the Catholic formulation of sacramental efficacy (as they understood it) implicitly or explicitly wrong from the perspective of justification was rendering it impossible to analyze the Reformers' arguments. I also noted that the standard critique based on the condemnation of the Anabaptists by the Magisterial Reformers is insufficient to make out the historical case one way or the other, because it would be possible to have a sacramental theology that condemns both the Anabaptists and the Catholics for explicit justificational error. For example, if having sacramental efficacy with any objective component whatsoever apart from the faith of the individual or community was considered a violation of sola fide, then any version of the Catholic belief, even after correcting for the common misinterpretations, would be explicitly erroneous. In that case, it would be explictly erroneous to even speak of an organization or minister as having any validity apart from the faith of the community (certainly, the Protestant notion of "calling" appears to reflect such an understanding), but such external validity is more or less the definition of Catholicism. If such an argument is true, there is simply no way that one could possibly be Catholic by any reasonable definition of that term and simultaneously correct on justification. Consequently, I think that there is legitimately an open question as to whether the Reformers considered Catholicism per se an explicit contradiction of sola fide that must be denied (allowing for the theological knowledge of the individual) for someone to be a true Christian.

If I'm right about that historical question being open, then I consider several of Tim Enloe's responses to be unhelpful and/or question-begging. For example:

What you mean by "what did the Reformers think about the Catholic view of sacramental efficacy" needs to be defined precisely because we're going to have to be able to distinguish more general concepts like "baptism actually does something" and "Christ is really present in this bread and wine", assumptions shared by all but the most radical of men in the 16th century, from Protestant polemics against "ex opere operato" and "sacerdotalism" and "transubstantiation" and so forth. If "the Catholic view of sacramental efficacy" actually does mean the worst of what the Reformers were protesting against, then no, they didn't accept "the Catholic view of sacramental efficacy". If it refers instead to more general concepts underlying specific details that may be legitimately debatable, then the argument will need to take a different form and will not be solvable merely by having men paste "clear" texts from their massive "Calvin Was Quite Clearly A Bapterian Just Like Me" file.

But this avoids exactly what I just pointed out, which is that "baptism actually does something" and "Christ is really present in this bread and wine" may have nothing at all to do with whether Catholicism was an explicit error from the perspective of justification. Zwingli rejected both of those premises, but it's not at all clear to me that his rejection of Catholicism based on justification was substantially different from Luther's or Calvin's. "Calvin Was Quite Clearly a Bapterian Just Like Me" simply isn't the issue, and moreover, you can't even reach an argument about the "general concepts underlying specific details" without completely analyzing those specific details according to accepted methods.

Now I'm going to go off on a tangent for a moment. That term "accepted methods" is probably setting off all sorts of alarm bells about "Enlightenment-style" rationality, but it oughtn't. The reason "accepted methods" are accepted is that they have been confirmed by experience to convey reasonable certainty about some aspect of objective reality. It's not a question of some a priori rationalistic certainty that the method will reveal truth, which is what Enlightenment philosophy taught (following Aristotle). Instead, it's a gritty, experential sort of acceptance that establishes both the reliability and the limits of whatever method is being employed, which is pretty much how modern scholarship operates. Of course, there's always that temptation from the Enlightenment to overreach the reliability of a method, but the advantage of keeping things experiential is that you can call someone on it simply by arguing that someone has gone beyond the limits where the method is considered reliable (or alternatively, has claimed that the method is more unreliable than it is). That's why I'm harping so much on these dialectical issues, because they illustrate areas where people are prone to overclaim beyond the limits of historical reliability. It's also why I keep trying to focus on specificity and answering questions than we can actually expect the historical method to answer, and where the method is most reliable is in dealing with highly particular claims about specific details. Only after you establish those types of claims as well as you possibly can, can you then begin to make arguments from them. Indeed, it is expecting historical inquiry to answer questions that it can't possibly answer that smacks of the Enlightenment more than anything.

Keeping that in mind, here are some statements that exasperate me:

Nevertheless, as a matter of principle I profoundly dislike the major emphases of Baptistic theology because I find them to be unbiblical on an exegetical basis and anti-social on a historical basis. The problems in which paedobaptist societies can become enmeshed simply pale in comparison with those created by the sectarian zealotry of radicalized forms of credobaptist society, such as the one you advocate. Credobaptism is the child of Modernity, and as such it is always groveling at the feet of Modernity, thanking Unbelief for being so tolerant of it and allowing it to have one more irrelevant voice in a public square ruled by the godless Secular State.

"Anti-social on a historical basis?" There is no way that you can possibly convince me that this claim is subject to historical proof. It's so broad that I can't even conceive of a way that it could be defined historically, much less actually demonstrated. Nor do I expect that you could prove even something as broad as "credobaptism is the child of modernity." And if you can't show definitively either by reductio ad absurdam or by admission that the errors you describe are implicit in Baptist theology or credobaptism (which would require an extraordinary amount of record evidence to be reliable from a historical standpoint), then you have no business saying it in any discussion that is supposed to be historically rigorous. I agree with Dr. Svendsen; the whole point of CRE is to put these discussions into a particularized context in reality. Untestable polemics are unproductive.

Thankfully, however, most Baptists seem to be just ordinary, decent folk trying to live their lives quietly and peaceably. They read their Bibles, try to live in harmony with God's will, and do the best they can with what the Lord has given them. Consequently, I think God very often protects them from becoming consisent with their ethic of individualism, and also uses them to remind paedobaptists not to become presumptuous about the better things He has given us. "Who makes you to differ?", indeed, as the Apostle says.

This is the incredibly patronizing tone that commonly results from the kind of theorizing that you are doing. I almost think open hatred would be preferable.

Your description of Paul's Gospel as being a couple of propositions about not adding any works to faith, which you then so ruthlessly apply to the world that it causes you to hive off from everyone who even remotely appears to be "compromising" the dualism of your view, is a rather shallow way of reading Paul. I don't care how good you are at manipulating Greek symbols; you are NOT in the head of the original author with that sort of view. Whatever his errors may be, I much prefer N.T. Wright to you and your friends on this point. Wright at least takes into account the actual history of redemption rather than subordinating it to unnaturally-absolutized 16th century polemics which fresh historical research is increasingly showing to be quite in need of clarification.

Have you even read any of Wright's opponents, or do you just decide based on some a priori conclusion about what the conclusion ought to be? How can you seriously make the claim that Wright's opponents don't "take into account the actual history of redemption?" You make these judgments about the "rather shallow nature" of Dr. Svendsen's view and conclude that he is "NOT in the head of the original author," but you don't appeal to any of the sorts of tools that we used based on experience to adjudicate those sorts of claims. And I can't even fathom how "fresh historical research is increasingly showing [16th century polemics] to be quite in need of clarification." How is that a question that historical methods can even answer?

To get back to the original point, you're right that historical theology questions are paramount here. In order to get at your question about whether the Reformers thought of "the Catholic view of sacramental efficacy" as an implicit or explicit error on justification, it's first important to figure out what sort of men the Reformers were.That is: Were they late Medieval men trying to reform an existing society without breaking it to ruins? Or were they proto-Modern men trying to restart society from scratch regardless of breaking it into ruins?

This is exactly backward. The first importance is to apply the techniques you have to collect as much information as you can, and then figure out what sort of men the Reformers were based on that information.

I take the opposite approach and argue that the Reformers's principles were fundamentally catholic in the sense of what McGrath has called the "tremendous doctrinal diversity" that existed in the late Medieval Church. I think that the idea that the Reformers were very concerned with organic continuity with the best of the Christian past far better explains the so-called "Romanizing" features of some of their activities than does the idea that the Reformers were messily wrapped up in logical discontinuity with their historically innovative, but purportedly "timeless", principles. That is one very important locus from which all this "savagery" that you mention is flowing.

I agree that this is the area from whence the "savagery" is flowing, but you've got the reasoning entirely wrong. Forget whether the Reformers were "very concerned with organic continuity" or whether they were "messily wrapped up in logical discontinuity." There is absolutely no way that historical inquiry can answer those questions meaningfully; they are far too complex. McGrath makes his conclusions about "tremendous doctrinal diversity" based on thousands of particular cases examined in gory detail before he ever starts making judgments on the issues you're describing. You should do the same.

Hence, having stated my assumption about what kind of men the Reformers were, it then seems necessary to me that a much deeper conversation about "what Catholics believe" about the sacraments is necessary. I find the baptistic "it's a work added to the Gospel" species of argument about the historic Christian position of sacramental efficacy to be out of bounds of ministerially-determined orthodoxy which both your Church and mine accept (even though quite obviously we go in very different directions with it).

There is no "historic Christian position of sacramental efficacy." From a historical perspective, there are a bunch of particular positions of sacramental efficacy. Those "very different directions" of which you speak may be exactly the point of historical divergence on sola fide, so claiming that both our traditions accept "ministerially-determined orthodoxy" is simply creating agreement through vagueness.

I don't buy the assertions of the "Watch out! It's a Judaizer!" crowd that, e.g., Lutheranism is flirting with denying the Gospel because it believes in a form of baptismal regeneration. I don't buy the prooftexting of Calvin that makes him out to be a sort of prototypical Thornwellian Presbyterian and which then tries to shout down any other reading of Calvin as mere "twisting" of the man's words based on intent to deceive and compromise with "Romanism". Such arguments are, I believe, specious on historical grounds. They only work in the truncated sort of world where Systematic Theology has been elevated to the level of the Platonic Forms, and the plausibility of all other readings dismissed out of hand on the basis of radicalisms about justification.

I was with you on not buying these things right up until you got to the charge of speciousness. That is an awfully ambitious claim that would require an exorbitant amount of information to reasonably demonstrate. It doesn't strike me as "specious" to read Calvin this way, and it doesn't appear to have looked specious to Fr. Kimel either, who is hardly someone with an axe to grind against "Romanism." This is just another example of making a claim that sounds as if it is grounded in fact without providing the sorts of justification that one one ordinarily expect from such a claim.

Anyway, to bring this back to the topic, these excerpts are a classic examples of what happens when you fail to distinguish an explicit error from an implicit error. Whatever error there is in Baptist theology can't possibly be explicit from the generally "Reformed" point of view; otherwise, something like the CRE would never exist (as Dr. Svendsen noted). Consequently, the right course of action in attempting to rebut Baptist theology would be first to analyze the problem in the most particularlized and detailed way possible in order to frame the issue accurately BEFORE going into rebuttal. Over and over again, Tim jumps to conclusions without performing this crucial first step, and as a result, his arguments are perceived to be needlessly dismissive and hostile. They are the kind of arguments that generate heat, but not light.

I see an entirely different approach on Dr. Svendsen's side. Not every presentation is a full-blown explanation, but the claims that they make are of the sort that lend themselves to being supported or debated based on particulars. What appears to be a general statement (such as "denying the Gospel") actually turns out to be a relatively small set of particular claims that can be analyzed in a straightforward manner, so that they aren't speaking in these broad, unprovable terms. The rhetorical trappings may appear similar, but viewing them in the light of relative particularity, they are as different as night and day.

54 Comments:

At 4:38 PM, Blogger Kevin D. Johnson said...

Jonathan,

This post makes me wonder how much of the magisterial Reformers and their contemporaries you have actually read. Beyond that, in some sense, your jumping in on a discussion that has been going on for a good two to three years between various people on the Internet (including Tim and Mr. Svendsen). This 'johnny-come-lately' viewpoint isn't necessarily going to make it possible for you to see the forest for the trees especially when it appears that you have not done the requisite reading in the Reformers and others to adequately judge whether or not Tim is able to make his case. I wonder also if you've been exposed to Nathan Hatch and other authors who have written on the Baptist/Methodist revivalism that has plagued the scene of American Protestantism for some two hundred years now.

What you write makes me think you perhaps haven't. Maybe I'm wrong and you've studied these things in depth but I would say that from the perspective of one who has poured many hours into studying much of the same things that Tim Enloe has it appears that you are seriously reaching to make your points here.

Regarding the CREC and Svendsen's latest silliness, having been a member of the CREC for some five years prior to some months ago I can definitely say both that Mr. Svendsen has no idea what he is talking about regarding Mr. Enloe or the CREC (Mr. Svendsen, for example, can't even get the name right) and beyond that it is quite clear that most Baptists in the CREC are something other than what Mr. Svendsen or other "Reformed Baptists" claim to be. Just as there is some amount of diversity in and among the Reformers, today there is a great deal of diversity in and among Baptists, Presbyterians, and especially those in the CRE. The CRE does find itself in a unique situation and we will see in time whether or not Baptists or Presbyterians remain true to their confessional statements within such a body.

But Tim has had legitimate points to make and acting as if they are groundless or somehow not demonstrable avoids dealing with either the volumes of writing Tim has already produced on this or the amount of historical data that can currently be culled from the periods in question.

I'm sorry, but I just can't buy that what you're saying is accurate--and agreeing with Svendsen makes for dangerous play.

 
At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Sorry to be so unhelpful, Jonathan. I thought I was talking about the same basic issues you were, but evidently not.

Aside from the sacramentalism question you originally asked, the rest of the stuff that happened on the other thread is extraneous. Svendsen has an axe to grind against me, trying to make me out to be "irrational" and full of "hate" and in clear "contradiction" to my own denomination's standards, and "easily refuted", etc. That's where all the Baptist-sociology stuff came from--from my attempt to explain that my criticisms of Baptist theology is not based in "hate". Oh well, I guess I was so unclear that even you misunderstood what I was getting at. Or maybe it's my terminology that's confusing--Perry also sometimes finds what I'm saying problematic because I'm not "precise" enough or something.

Btw, the questions I asked about what kind of men the Reformers were are not questions I answer a priori, as you implied. I hold my view of what kind of men they were a posteriori, and it is also on an posteriori basis that I find the other view I described specious. There are at least two different ways of viewing the Reformers current in today's Reformed world, and this is especially seen in the Apologetics Wars that have been taking place for about the last two years. I was trying to point out that the Reformers's attitude toward Catholic beliefs cannot be separated from who and what the Reformers were--and I think it is pretty fairly demonstrable that the things which shaped their minds and hearts were NOT the kinds of things that produced the Modern American Baptist paradigm, or even the 19th century sub-variety of Presbyterianism that rejects Catholic baptism and thus flows into an "anti-sacramental" tenor that ultimately helps to create Fundamentalism's divorce of spirit (saving faith) from matter (visible church & sacraments).

Again, sorry to have been unhelpful. If it's really that bad, I'll stay on my own blog. :P

 
At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

And Kevin is right, Jonathan, about the work I've already done on these subjects--or at least, the rigorous scholarly works I have read on them and a good bit of work that I have in progress on subjects pertaining to the decline of Medieval Christendom and the rise of the Secular Enlightenment to take its place.

Calling what I said about Baptist sociology "untestable polemics" would seem to indicate, as Kevin noted, that you aren't familiar with serious studies about the decline of Protestantism both in Europe and America as a result of profoundly individualistic forces that just so happen to have a high degree of coincidence with the central emphases of baptistic theology. I mean books by authors of high scholarly competence, like Mark Noll, Iain Murray, Nathan Hatch, George Marsden, A.J. Conyers, and others. This stuff is far from "untestable polemics". I'm not just ranting because I have "bacheloritis". Hatch alone conclusively demonstrates how American populism, in the form of Methodism and frontier Baptist radicalism, simply obliterated Calvinism's cultural influence in the 19th century. Murray offers a more sober view on Presbyterianism than you are likely ever to find coming from the pen of, say, David King, who supplies Svendsen and White with most of their historically and theologically wacky perceptions about "real" Presbyterianism and its relationship to "Reformed" Baptist concepts of "the Gospel". Conyers is himself a Baptist, but at one point in his book laments the fact that baptistic thinking has been deeply complicit in helping Secularism become culturally entrenched. Noll and Marsden well explain how the 19th century mess flowed into Fundamentalism / Pietism, and how that in turn flowed into Eric's precious "Evangelicalism" as a compromise movement between men who couldn't separate themselves from the utterly naive biblicism that produced the fiasco of the Scopes Trial but who still wished to be able to portray themselves as sober-minded scholars anyway.

I didn't make any of this stuff up, and comments boxes aren't the place to paste in the wads of text that exist to support the more general assertions. Oh well.

 
At 8:41 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Forgot a couple of your objections, Jonathan.

(1) I am not AS well read in Wright and his critics as some out there, but I virtually guarantee you I am better read than Svendsen, and quite likely better than White, too. Plus, I don't approach scholarship with a Fundamentalist ethic of suspicion and reductionism and pretensions to hermeneutical autonomy, so I can actually read things that I disagree with without flipping out about the latest greatest "apostasy" like they do. Wright is not saying what White says he's saying, as would become fairly evident to you if you read any three of White's diatribes about "NPPism" and set them next to any three posts by Alastair Roberts or Mark Horne or Tim Gallant, all of whom are FAR more versed in Wright than White, and none of whom orient their entire lives around making unending war on "false gospels" based upon Baconian-Cartesian hermeneutical theories and their associated "objective" exegetical technology.

So no, my judgment of Svendsen's shallow reading of Paul is not arbitrary or merely a priori. I'm relying, it's true, on the work of men easily at least as qualified as Svendsen, and perhaps even more. A professional exegete I am not, but I don't have to be to see that Svendsen has simply radicalized one particular strain of Reformed polemics, and has become so theologically unbalanced about it that any reasonable person who reads a good book on Second Temple Judaism could recognize serious flaws in the "timeless truth" sort of approach to Galatians that he takes.

(2) Historical research and 16th century polemics. Well, first off I'm talking mostly about the commonplace type of polemics you see on the Internet. My views on commonplace Catholic polemics are well-known, of course. Keating's book Catholicism and Fundamentalism needs desperately to be balanced out by one called Fundamentalist Catholicism. But I have similar views about commonplace Protestant polemics. It's been a long, slow lesson for me, but I've learned not to trust just any old thing I read in a Protestant book purporting to explain "what Catholics believe."

Certainly our shameful history in America of simply paranoid anti-Catholicism has deeply affected many of our arguments about "what Catholics believe." As well, our shameful legacy of Pietism / Revivalism / Fundamentalism has deeply affected what we think about what we ourselves believe. Good Lord, man, we have thousands of men in leadership positions who think like Mr. Oddball Pastor about hermeneutical "science", namely that it is a theory-independent discipline offering unbiased minds objective access to timeless truths! Good Lord again, a lot of these folks even claim to have read Van Til and to be advocates of presuppositionalism! It takes one's breath away, truly. Now I'm just an average guy who's spent too much of his life working in dead-end retail jobs, but I read the EVANGELICAL scholar J.P. Moreland's Christianity and the Nature of Science nearly ten years ago, thus innoculating myself (unawares) against that silly view of hermeneutics. I'll see Eric's "Bacheloritis" and raise him a "Bulverism".

But it goes beyond the Bible, of course. I have been finding out for almost three years now that the exact same attitude very often controls how we read historical sources and create polemics from them. That's why I mentioned the "Bapterian" readings of Calvin and the WCF, and that's why it's so important to understand the deep goofiness of these wild charges from Svendsen and White and Co. that I am a "postmodernist". What we're seeing is that it doesn't do to challenge the Sacred Pop-Protestant Traditions about Church history, such as that Huss was a brave proto-Protestant and that Luther was an advocate of a prototypical Fundamentalist theory of "private judgment". Historical research beyond the pages of Foxe's Book of Martyrs and even Schaff's History tells us that Huss believed in a half dozen or more things that perfectionist Evangelical apologists today call "denying the Gospel." But does that historical research impact the adherence to the tradition and modify its screechy use against Catholics? Not one bit, and that's pretty much because it isn't even known by the masses of Protestants who glibly invoke Huss every time the words "Church council" are mentioned by Catholics. And Luther, poor dear Luther. A mass of paradox was he, which helps to explain how he could give that nifty rhetorical "Here I stand" speech about his conscience relative to councils, and yet STILL spend the next 25 years advocating, along with just about everyone else trying to reform the Church, that the pope call a ministerial council to arbitrate the Catholic-Protestant disputes. Again, I get nothing in response to observations like this but "You're a postmodernist and you think exegesis is impossible." Uh, sure, right. Whatever.

How does historical research impact the mollification / modification of polemical traditions, you ask incredulously. Well gee, I guess it doesn't. Let's all just keep repeating the Conventional Wisdoms about each other till the cows come home, thus making sure we remain separated from each other forever, and on the basis of "clear" truths and "faith". Let's not ask whether faith and the polemics designed to defend faith might sometimes be different animals altogether. But of course you yourself don't think that, I know. Just the other day I saw you acknowledge that some types of Catholic polemics about Mary really and truly aren't helpful to the Catholic cause, and really and truly might be adversely affected by things like Svendsen's heos hou argument. So clearly you do recognize on some level that historical research can impact polemical claims.

Now of course in terms of the scholarly world itself I am as yet an utter nobody. I have no degrees, no standing, no ability to expect people to invest what I say with credibility that's backed up by more than the brute research work I've produced. And yet, formally a scholar or not, I think I've produced some materials about historical matters and polemics that are at least worth taking a serious look at, even if I am not always right in my facts or my interpretations of them. You've read my earlier draft of the conciliarism thesis, which of course is based on a great deal of scholarship done by men far more erudite than I will ever be. You tell me if you've ever seen a Protestant apologetic emphasize the Reformation's solidarity with Medieval conciliarism. Or, outside of scholarly monographs with untranslated Latin, German, and French footnotes, what Protestant apologists that you know of care about finding out how Realism and Nominalism influenced the late Medieval discussions about "Pelagianism", and how the conflicts between those points of view flowed into the Reformation itself?

You certainly won't find such things in popular apologetics manuals like Svendsen and White write, nor will you find detailed examinations of the Council of Trent such as the one I am slowly working on, which set Trent's theology in a much broader context than "Yah, I read Calvin's Antidote and Chemnitz's Examen, and Sproul's Faith Alone so I know what Trent was about. Canon 6 clearly stands in total contradiction to Galatians 2, thus indicting Catholicism with the Judaizer heresy." Please. This is merely a Protestant version of the Fundamentalist caricature of the Catholic appeal to "Sacred Tradition". Where is ad fontes when you need it? Tucked safely away as a slogan on the pages of a book, where it doesn't intersect space and time and force us to (gasp!) think outside the box for a second or two. It's far easier to belch nonsense about the "postmodernism" of the guy who "doesn't like Scripture" and "fears exegesis" than it is to look at the issues in a lot more detail than the traditional hagiography provides. And besides, where is the authority for all questions of truth? Scripture Alone. Yeesh.

I don't think it should have to be defended, the notion that historians have many valuable correctives to offer entrenched polemics. That's why, in my opinion, conservative Catholics dislike Tierney but love Newman, and why my broad ranging use of perspectives I got from Cornelius Van Til, Heiko Oberman, Alister McGrath, Alvin Plantinga, Steven Ozment, and many other well-respected names in Evangelical-Reformed scholarship are currently being speciously labelled "postmodernism" by the hidebound no-traditions-in-my-traditionalism Evangelicals with whom I am so frequently in contact. I don't care that you have a problem with my use of the term "specious" for these charges against me. They ARE specious, and not just because I, Tim Enloe, say so on a blog. Responsible scholarship doesn't act like the men who are doing all this name-calling and calling the troops in to circle the wagons. Judging from their mantra-like condemnations, they haven't read half the detailed support for my views that I have produced, so why should anyone think they actually know what my views are, much less that they have "easily refuted" my "contradictions"?

Really, Jonathan, I'm not sure what your point in this post was. I'm not sure why I spent so much time answering it, either.

 
At 8:54 PM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

Bravo Jonathan! In my judgment you are spot on with your identification of the "vagueness" issues. Of course, now you've stirred the rC crowd into a defensive posture, but thyat's to be expected.

Kevin wrote:

"Regarding the CREC and Svendsen's latest silliness, having been a member of the CREC for some five years prior to some months ago I can definitely say both that Mr. Svendsen has no idea what he is talking about regarding Mr. Enloe or the CREC (Mr. Svendsen, for example, can't even get the name right)."

Just go to www.crepres.org, and you'll see the name prominently displayed. The very title at the top of the website is "Confederation of Reforemed Evangelicals." The Logo at the left is "Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals."

The Greeting reads accordingly:
"Thank you for your interest in the Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals *(CRE)*. On this web site you will find Frequently Asked Questions with answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding *CRE*. The *CRE* Constitution addresses the authority of scripture, the organization of the *CRE* and its procedures. A listing of member churches provides local contact information. The agenda, meeting notes, and a list of attendees of the fifth (most current) Presbytery Meeting round out the main pages of this site. Sincerely, Randy Booth, *CRE* Moderator."

The travel over to the FAQ page. Almost every single line has *CRE*, not CREC. Indeed, navigate to *any* page on the website, and you'll see the same thing. Who is it that can't get the name right?

Kevin wrote:

"and beyond that it is quite clear that most Baptists in the CREC are something other than what Mr. Svendsen or other "Reformed Baptists" claim to be."

Lol; I suspect--and think I have in fact *proven*--that most *Presbyterians* in the CRE are "something other than what" Mr. Enloe and other rCs claim to be. : )

Kevin wrote:

"The CRE does find itself in a unique situation and we will see in time whether or not Baptists or Presbyterians remain true to their confessional statements within such a body."

Do I sense *hopefulness* at the prospect of future division? And I'm not sure whether Kevin intended to write "CRE," but there it is.

Kevin wrote:

"But Tim has had legitimate points to make and acting as if they are groundless or somehow not demonstrable avoids dealing with either the volumes of writing Tim has already produced on this or the amount of historical data that can currently be culled from the periods in question."

There's no doubt Tim has volumes of writings on this. The real question is, has he actually *said* anything. The issue is *vagueness*, not volume.

Kevin wrote:

"I'm sorry, but I just can't buy that what you're saying is accurate--and agreeing with Svendsen makes for dangerous play."

I sense virtual panic in this statement.

Mr. Prejean, I realize we don't agree on everything, and I'm sure your observations will one day be turned my way (as is expected of two opposing views); but I don't mind saying, reading this is a delight, and I am glad to see someone actually making sense in these discussions. I have misjudged you.

 
At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

TGE wrote:

"I am not AS well read in Wright and his critics as some out there, but I virtually guarantee you I am better read than Svendsen."

Mr. Enloe, listen to me very carefully. I was reading N.T. Wright before you finished puberty. N.T. Wright was a visiting lecturer at Trinity when I was a seminarian there. I sat in his classes. I personally asked him questions and received clarification. I considered and partially adopted his views on Paul. They were attractive to me, at first. Then I reconsidered them in light of the critiques I read and personal exegetical investigation into the texts he was using. Then I went on to other things that were more important to me. Believe it or not, N.T. Wright is old hat to some of us. And he and his views are certainly not as critical as they once were. You're just now discoveing him, and you are obviously under the impression that he's something new to NT studies. It's your bacheloritis flaring up again.

TGE wrote:

"You tell me if you've ever seen a Protestant apologetic emphasize the Reformation's solidarity with Medieval conciliarism. Or, outside of scholarly monographs with untranslated Latin, German, and French footnotes, what Protestant apologists that you know of care about finding out how Realism and Nominalism influenced the late Medieval discussions about "Pelagianism", and how the conflicts between those points of view flowed into the Reformation itself? You certainly won't find such things in popular apologetics manuals like Svendsen and White write, nor will you find detailed examinations of the Council of Trent such as the one I am slowly working on,"

Mr. enloe, you flatter yourself and your abilities far too much and far too often--and in the process you don't give credit where credit is due. Are you seriously implying that my doctoral thesis on Mary in the NT is a "popular apologetics manuals"? I think I can guarantee, that work is beyond your abilities.

 
At 9:26 PM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

I have discovered the source of confusion between CRE and CREC. There are currently two active websites for CRE/CREC. One is at www.crepres.org; the other at www.crechurches.org. The former uses CRE, the latter uses CREC. I'm glad to find the new site because a brief perusal reveals that it's even more explicitly opposed to TGE's approach than the older one.

 
At 11:01 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Kevin and Tim:
You're missing the point, which is exactly that they aren't demonstrable in the context of any kind of meaningful dialogue with particular individuals. The criticism of Baptist culture, for example, is strictly prudential in nature; it doesn't actually prove anything with respect to any particular person. The argument you seem to be making is that if you can generally classify someone in a category, then it somehow becomes legitimate to ascribe critiques generally applicable to the category to a particular person. That sort of translation from the general to the specific person is merely blatant stereotyping. Believe me, as a Catholic, I see it all the time; it's probably the most common mischaracterization we receive. Indeed, if I had to put a definition on that elusive term "anti-Catholic," I would likely use it to describe exactly that sort of conduct. You have to deal with people as individuals, and it takes a great deal more proof and specificity to make a charge that an individual is "shallow" and "specious." It's that reluctance to deal with people as individuals that drives their counter-accusation of having adopted to more vacuous forms of postmodernism, which is theory-obsessed to the point of rejecting particulars entirely. Or to put it another way, categories are descriptive, not prescriptive, so you can never make an argument FROM someone being in a category to individual characteristics, whether that person is a historical figure or an opponent across the room from you in a debate. It's no coincidence that the almost every major thesis based on generalizations like that (e.g., Harnack's assertion of "Hellenization" in Christianity) gets discredited after careful study. It's simply almost never true that things fall that neatly, in history or in the present.

 
At 5:46 AM, Blogger Kevin D. Johnson said...

Jonathan,

In light of the fact that you've ignored or haven't dealt with what Tim and I both have already said in this thread, I'm not sure what meaningful dialogue there is to continue on these points.

What confuses me here is your willingness to allow someone like Mr. Svendsen to call us apostates based on unfounded accusations which are assuredly more general and inaccurate than anything we have claimed ever about Baptists. Never mind that normally an apostate is one who has been declared such by the Church and not merely made by the prejudiced and highly inflammatory declarative action of some Internet hack e-apologist who won't even publicly share what church he is a member of and who his elders/pastors are that he is accountable to (all the while condescendingly rebuking Tim about the details of his own denomination, church, and status with his elders)!

So, I'm not sure how interested you really are in what it is you *are* saying here about over-generalizing in reference to individuals. Tim has already pointed out the massive amount of research that has gone into what he, myself and others have claimed in reference to many of these issues and the behaviors of Mr. Svendsen, Dr. White and others have most assuredly demonstrated much of what we have claimed in the past. I still think you are largely unfamiliar both with Baptists and the Reformed, the arguments in question, and the historical data that exists to support our opinions. But hey, you've ignored dealing with that in any sense really--take the time and prove us wrong if you really feel that what we are saying is beyond substantiating.

It is not enough to merely point from the outside and say..."Hmmm...nope, can't apply to individuals" as if that has any effect whatsoever on what is being said.

 
At 6:45 AM, Blogger the Cogitator said...

Blog sin: I have nothing Substantive to contribute. I just wanted to pop in and say hi to Tim. We haven't interacted in some time, and I lost track of most things bloggish during my Lenten blog-fast, but I'm very glad to see your continued effort for grace and patience in these immense blog discussions. God bless YOU! :)

As for Jonathan, I wonder if you got the brief post of mine some weeks ago about ADS. Here: http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/2005/03/barlaam-was-ass-yes-but.html

I feel vindicated insofar as the Pontificator's recent series on ADS often concords with my meager musings. Pax et gratia sub Mariam in Christus (ahh, amateur Latin is such fun!)

 
At 6:58 AM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

I told you, Eric, I'm not going to do this your way. You graduated from an Evangelical seminary on a graduate level, but it is clear to me that you are highly ignorant of a great many things, especially concerning the diversity of Evangelical viewpoints and the more recently developed critical elements of its cultural scholarship. You are quite simply a fringe hanger-on in Evangelicalism; your views of what an Evangelical is and your polemical applications of it are simply ludicrous, and would require you to hack off organizations such as the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, whose authors such as Michael Horton also say many of the things I have said about cultural matters. You simply don't know what you're talking about.

Now I don't expect you to actually read the contents of my website, like my papers on Descartes, Locke, Bayle, and Hobbes, or my entries about "sacralism", or my big paper on Luther's view of councils, etc. It's much easier for you to blow wind about my "bacheloritis" and "postmodernism" than it is for you to actually interact with something that challenges your paradigm. This is sheer Fundamentalism (in Marsden's and Noll's sense--have you read any Marsden or Noll?), not respectable Evangelicalism.

Write me off as some dumb irrational kid full of hate and overweening intellectual pride and in clear contradiction to the views of my denomination. I really don't care. The day when I allow my days to be ruined by your unbelievably unbalanced ranting has come and gone. You don't have anything but self-serving diatribes about your exegetical prowess; expose the corrupted foundations of your exegetical theory, and you don't have anything to say but ad hominem in its truest form (as, e.g., defined by official logic textbooks like Copi). Your appeal to "exegesis" is simply your way of pretending to love Jesus better than the other guy (because you are apparently a master at peering into every heart except your own), and ultimately it just boils down to a mirror image of what you criticize about the Roman Magisterium. And as for this business about "hate", well, anyone who has read your conversion story and observes your treatment of Catholics for very long will almost surely have a different opinion of the locus of "hate" in all of this.

I don't judge your heart, Eric, but I do judge your public actions. And may the Lord have mercy on you in terms of those.

 
At 7:20 AM, Blogger Eric Svendsen said...

TGE wrote:

"Write me off as some dumb irrational kid full of hate and overweening intellectual pride and in clear contradiction to the views of my denomination."

Okay; will do ; )

 
At 8:44 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

"I still think you are largely unfamiliar both with Baptists and the Reformed, the arguments in question, and the historical data that exists to support our opinions. But hey, you've ignored dealing with that in any sense really--take the time and prove us wrong if you really feel that what we are saying is beyond substantiating."

I'm not saying that it's beyond substantiating. I'm saying that it is beyond substantiating in a way that could possibly be useful in an adversarial dialectic situation. What you say about the Baptist "worldview" may, in fact, be true, but it's not true in such a way that you're going to be able to compel individuals to believe it by argumentation. Prudential arguments are a matter of diplomacy, and that means you actually have to give at least the appearance of recognizing the legitimacy of the other person's concerns.

I'm not saying that your position can't be argued in a rigorous fashion. Paul Owen moves to particular issues all the time in making his arguments. Like Dr. Svendsen, he may use broad rhetoric, but he always grounds it in some particular application as well, such as instances of misunderstanding the opponent's theology (e.g., Arminianism and Catholicism), dubious or overzealous exegetical claims, or failure to comprehensively survey someone's writings (e.g., Calvin). It's simply a fact of most methods that general theories can't be tested; you have to identify cases of interest. Drs. Svendsen and Owen both do that, even if it's surrounded by a great deal of hostile rhetoric. Find a couple of Dr. Owen's discussions when he's been called on something factual; you'll see that he immediately goes to a particular case and starts analyzing it according to a scholarly discipline.

My point is that I don't care what someone calls me so long as it's clear. The whole point of getting the debate back to particulars that can be analyzed using some kind of discipline is that it allows some kind of professionalism and detachment. Someone can call me an "apostate" all day so long as they are willing to point out with particularity what it is in reality they mean by that. But you either have to be nice (if your argument is more general and prudential) or rigorous in a method (if your argument is adversarial). If you fail to do one or the other, then you're just perversely wasting your time. Jeremiads only work if you're a prophet or if you're preaching to the choir.

 
At 8:52 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Elliot:
Impeccable analysis on ADS. I agree that both Palamatism and Thomism have their flaws; I think it's a matter of not quite reaching a perfect synthesis yet.

I'm sure Tim's glad to hear from anybody he knows who isn't me. :-) Just to be clear, I'm not trying to use Tim as my personal punching bag or anything. I think that this dialectic style, as ecumenically as it might be intended, has proved to be more divisive than constructive. I know there's a long history here, and that it's extremely hard to let something like that go, but at some point, people have got to learn to live with each other if they're going to be interacting all the time. What I've proposed (viz., appealing to scholarly discipline in particular cases where it can be effectively used) seems to be the only viable solution.

 
At 10:36 AM, Anonymous C. Ryan Jenkins said...

Interesting post Jonathan.

The problem that you have addressed has been created by the unrestrained arrogance of a few men who have a higher view of their intellect and scholarship than either their academic credentials or body of work (publishing that is limited to the internet, of course) would otherwise warrant (I am referring specifically to Kevin and Tim).

Their rhetorical use of condescension coupled with repeated (and tiresome) accusations of their opponent’s lack of understanding (leveled at you most recently) and the loose citation of scholars who are actually credentialed (and published in venues other than the internet I might add) serves merely to shield their own lack of standing in the halls of the academy.

But who needs that anyway - Thank God for the internet!

 
At 12:20 PM, Blogger Kevin D. Johnson said...

Mr. Jenkins,

When you or others such as Mr. Svendsen are done with the personal attacks and would actually like to discuss the matters at hand from the standpoint of the Scriptures, please do let me know.

 
At 1:08 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Dr. Jenkins:
"Their rhetorical use of condescension coupled with repeated (and tiresome) accusations of their opponent’s lack of understanding (leveled at you most recently) and the loose citation of scholars who are actually credentialed (and published in venues other than the internet I might add) serves merely to shield their own lack of standing in the halls of the academy."

I prefer to think of it as shielding their pet theories from the scrutiny that those theories deserve, a failing that is just as common (and maybe more common) in academia. But the fault is identical: loving one's own theory too much to be critical of it.

 
At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

Kevin wrote:

"When you or others such as Mr. Svendsen are done with the personal attacks and would actually like to discuss the matters at hand from the standpoint of the Scriptures, please do let me know"

Okay, Kevin, I apologize for all the personal attacks I made when I referred to you as "Mr. Oddball Pastor," when I referred to your "latest silliness," when I intimated that agreeing with you "makes for dangerous play," when I characterized your view as
"theologically wacky perceptions," when I called you a "Bapterian" who engages in a "shallow reading of Paul," and when I accused you of holding to a "radicalized understanding of the mechanism of justification." I'm sorry for all that.

Oh, wait . . . that wasn't me. Nevermind.

And Chris; in my view you're absolutely correct in your assessment. Jonathan is being kind.

 
At 9:38 PM, Blogger Dave Armstrong said...

Fascinating discussion. I thought a bit of injected humor might lighten things up a bit. Here's a piece I just wrote, based on a comment I read on a Lutheran blog. I think it offers a lesson in second-guessing our opponents (which is, I take it, a large part of your present point, Jonathan, and so, somewhat related):

--------------------------

Who Sez Lutheran Josh S. is an "Idiot"?!!

From the "Couldn't Resist" / Humor Department:

[for background, see: You Don't Understand!]
http://metalutheran.blogspot.com/2005/04/you-dont-understand.html

>[Josh S.] Having had Catholic apologists (Professional (tm) and unprofessional), Libertarians, assorted flavor-of-the-month Calvinists, Eastern Orthodox, laissez-faire capitalists, and philo geeks of every stripe say this to me [in context, "you don't understand!"] when I disagreed with them, I know what it really means: "You are an idiot."

---------------

Uh huh. Well, if every time someone claims that you don't understand something, they are really making a judgment of your idiocy, then what are they supposed to do to avoid this grave mistake?: pretend that you understand everything or that you really understand x when in fact you do not?

Or is it your position that you do, in fact, understand everything perfectly; therefore, if someone has the temerity and chutzpah to deny that you understand some particular thing, the very charge is so outrageous that it must be (by simple logic and common sense, mind you) tantamount to describing you as an "idiot"? And, of course, you "know" that they "really" DO mean this?

Well, I suppose there are other options, too. It could be that others are so abysmally ignorant that they can't even tell when you know something that they do not, and erroneously believe that they actually understand what they don't understand and that you don't understand what they don't understand (so that you must be -- isn't it clear to all by now?) an "idiot"?

Or all others are idiots and their saying that YOU don't understand something is "really" calling you an "idiot" through subliminal messaging, precisely because THEY are idiots and can't face up to the sad reality, and must, therefore, project this shortcoming onto you (who are sharp enough to pick up their negative vibes of projection and identify them for what they are).

Or maybe you're so intellectually insecure that the mere hint of someone claiming that you haven't perfectly grasped all other viewpoints sends you off into a paranoid mush and makes you think they're out to "get" you as an "idiot"?

The possibilities are endless . . .

But ain't it much easier to just take folks' words at face value and not get into all this cynical second-guessing?

I should think so . . .

Or do you not understand what I am saying? Shall I repeat it, or offer more examples, etc.? I'd be glad (more than happy) to help you overcome your difficulty. Maybe I'm an "idiot" for thinking that way, but hey, Christian charity would demand no less, right?

Yours in Christ,

Dave

[posted on the Here I Stand blog]
http://www.haloscan.com/comments/fishstik45/111325633668823823/#229936

 
At 11:02 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

LOL! I got a laugh out of that the first time I read it; thanks for bringing it back. That's certainly a significant part of what I'm trying to say. You have to keep some kind of detachment and fight the urge to second-guess, because it's very rare that one can prove those second-guesses with any rigor.

 
At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Ah, I see that another old friend-turned-enemy of mine, Chris Jenkins, has dropped in for a spell. Hi Chris. Got anyting more these days than pietistic overgeneralizations about how I supposedly have denied the Gospel by embracing "mysticism" and developed a desire for the approbation of men more than God's truth? Ah well, what else can one expect from a Fundamentalist Baptist? I guess even getting a doctorate doesn't mean you're going to argue like a reasonable, respectful individual all the time.

Anyway, a recitation of a few basic facts are in order as my final contribution to this thread.

(1) This thread was originally about questions of historical theology pertaining to the Protestant Reformers's view of Catholic sacramental efficacy. Because opinions about the views of the Reformers differ widely, even among Protestants, it seems perfectly appropriate for me to have said so at the start, as a necessary clarification. I don't understand Jonathan's objections about this point at all. I thought Jonathan's whole point was, in fact, to reach greater clarity in the ongoing discussions. I've missed something here, I guess.

(2) Dr. Svendsen has no basis for claiming that my remarks about "Bapterian" views of the Reformers are based in "hate". Even if they were, that would not make the substantive points untrue. But in fact, my views of "Bapterian" theology are not based in hate, but in principle. Observe that the "hate" card is being played by men who trace their historical and doctrinal lineage through very little else than tear-jerking martyr stories and pretensions to have superior access to God's Truth via their own ecclesially-autonomous, anti-sacramental, rationalistic intellectual efforts. Hardly anything a sober-minded catholic Christian need worry about. I, on the other hand, have the entire 2,000 year history of the Christian Church at my disposal, because I am not embarassed by any of it and can thus learn from all of it. It's very liberating, not doing my intellectual work inside the confining box of the Fundamentalist ethic of radical historical / covenantal, and even biblical, discontinuity. I love Hincmar of Rheims and Jean Gerson! Couldn't have had Martin Luther without them! Don't be afraid guys. Christianity's bigger than you think it is!

(3) Blog comments boxes are not the place to post wads of text. Nobody wants to read 300 KB posts of texts that support more general points. In fact, I know from past experience that the more text I produce, the more occasion is given to some of these men for yet another odd little non-argument favorite of theirs: "He writes so much because he wants to obfuscate the clear truth." Can't win for losing. Oh well, I made general points that in fact are based upon a wide base of Evangelical scholarship, not "hate". I am not responsible for the fact, if indeed it is a fact, that Eric Svendsen and his friends have not read David Wells, Mark Noll, Michael Horton, Francis Schaeffer, Ken Meyers, George Marsden, and many other solidly Evangelical scholars who write about cultural matters and how they impact theology (and vice versa). I am not threatened in any way by the courses of attack they have chosen to exhibit here. There's simply no substance to what they're saying, as I will now outline briefly.

(4) The last time someone from NTRMin accused me of overgeneralizing and having no support for my basic points, I set out upon several months worth of intensive research into primary sources. Not because I had nothing upon which to base my earlier general statements, but because I wished to provide MORE than merely citations from the above-mentioned secondary sources. As good as those sources are, they are no substitutes for the primaries, or even other secondaries which exegete the primaries in great detail.

The results of these studies have so far been thoroughly exegetical papers on 4 very important figures who led the Church out of the mess of the Wars of Religion and into the Enlightenment: Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Pierre Bayle. A paper on David Hume is in process, as is one on Thomas Reid. Each paper contains three major sections outlining the thought of these men about epistemology, politics, and religion, each point heavily footnoted from multiple original works of the men, and concludes with a fourth section offering some analysis on the implications of their views for Modern Christian culture. I may overgeneralize in blog comments boxes, but that is far from the case in the more formal works I have written. I know better whether to ask if Eric Svendsen has read any significant amounts of Locke or Descartes or Hobbes or Bayle. Overgeneralization, indeed.

As for the other, larger historical claims I make about the Reformation's relationship to the Medieval Church, I am quite confident that I am on solid ground since I am merely following trajectories described by such worthies as Heiko Oberman, Alister McGrath, and Steven Ozment. One of the most interesting things that has happened to me in the last year was the fact that after I had completed my rough draft of my conciliarism thesis (which Jonathan, at least, has read in full), I discovered in the depths of the university library a book, Unitive Protestantism, written in 1930--73 years before I even began my research--by the well-respected Calvin scholar John T. McNeill. The first half of McNeill's book essentially argues the exact thing I argued in my thesis. Accordingly, I don't feel bad at all for what I've argued about the Reformation's relationship to Medieval conciliarism, and I find the contemptuous remarks about "bacheloritis" to be less than meaningless when set next to the thoroughgoing, sober-minded Reformed scholarship of McNeill, which confirms my own.

At any rate, I am not responsible for the fact, if it is a fact, that Eric Svendsen and his accusatory friends have not read the works in which, contra their repeated overgeneralized claims about my "overgeneralizations", I have developed a VERY large amount of support for nearly every generalization I've made in these comments boxes and elsewhere. And if in fact they have not read the detailed supports I've produced, it is all the more the case that I need not fear their accusations about my supposed "overgeneralizing" and desire to "hide pet theories" from scrutiny.

This is simply not true. I've not hidden anything about my views, but continue to unfold them with a great deal of reasoned research and argument. It would be one thing to disagree with my research and my conclusions; that, at least, provided it had some substance of its own, would be an acceptable element of respectful discourse among Christian brethren. But the ad hominem-filled dismissals are quite tiresome to read, and in light of the larger paradigms at work here, merely confirm the obscurantist, reactionary nature of the Fundamentalist Baptist paradigm held by the men who are so arguing.

(5) Jonathan Prejean's odd little "wooing" routine with Svendsen is interesting to me, but because I sense the ghost of old bad conversations between me and Jonathan on GregK's board lurking in the background here, I will say no more about that. I also know that Elliot Bougis may still be here, and I have no desire to accidentally say things that might pour salt on old wounds there, either.

In conclusion, I am not afraid of what you men are saying about me. Eric, I'm sorry you can't handle criticism of your introverted sub-variety of Evangelicalism, or even recognize that it is merely a sub-variety and not the very definition of the "real deal". Read some serious Evangelical scholarship on cultural matters, that's all I can suggest to you. Chris, I'm sorry you feel the need to judge me so harshly, especially since I've not talked to you in any kind of depth for over 3 years, and the last thing you said to me was just a lot of oddly vague, totally Fundamentalist sloganeering-stuff about how I'd embraced "mysticism" and supposedly learned to crave the approbation of "the world". To such effusions I can say only, "Do you have an argument?" Jonathan, I really don't know what your deal in this discussion has been, but I hope you'll be able to make it plainer than you so far have.

Thanks for your time, gentlemen. God bless you all, truly.

Tim

 
At 5:21 AM, Blogger the Cogitator said...

Yo, Tim, no sweat about accidentally pouring salt on any wounds. As far as I can see, I'm healed up from them. I hope you are too, as far as I'm concerned, y'understand. All is forgiven, on my end.

As to Tim’s question about Jonathan’s “deal in this discussion” is, what tiny light I might be able to shed is this:

assuming (rightly, I think) his motives are pure (and old GregK friction is irrelevant here), Jonathan's trying to keep the discussion grounded in small battles rather than Armageddon-style-, knock-down-drag-out, paradigm-clashing bouts (which too often devolve into "my CV is longer than yours" feuds). I think he's trying to get otherwise very hostile discussion partners to look at minute facts and critical, often ignored, assumptions, rather than on blasting away at the other's ENTIRE worldview, regardless how well justified that blast may be. Let’s call this the final cause of this series.

This is, then, the larger, methodological point of Jonathan's recent posts. We have to be honest that, while A and B reject X as outright heresy, A thinks of Q as a harmless assumption, and B thinks of Q as a dangerous seed of heresy. We can't focus so hastily on who has a better claim to obvious, core dogmas. Rather, we must back up, slow down, and carefully hash out whose seed-assumptions really are justified. Alas, Tim thinks he's done that with all his solid cultural and historical stuff while Svendsen thinks he’s done it with his intensive linguistic efforts.

Now, the narrower, more formal cause of this series is to answer the question of the Reformers’ view of Catholic sacramentalism. As Jonathan said, “the failure to determine with specificity whether the Reformers considered the Catholic formulation of sacramental efficacy (as they understood it) implicitly or explicitly wrong from the perspective of justification was rendering it impossible to analyze the Reformers' arguments.” In other words, I think, until we answer this question about heresy, sacramental efficacy and so to speak justificational sufficiency, we can’t even begin to have a clear, much less meaningful, much less civil, discussion about the “Reformed heritage.”

That, at least, is the point I see in Jonathan’s posts, which I happen to enjoy quite a lot.

 
At 5:21 AM, Blogger the Cogitator said...

Yo, Tim, no sweat about accidentally pouring salt on any wounds. As far as I can see, I'm healed up from them. I hope you are too, as far as I'm concerned, y'understand. All is forgiven, on my end.

As to Tim’s question about Jonathan’s “deal in this discussion” is, what tiny light I might be able to shed is this:

assuming (rightly, I think) his motives are pure (and old GregK friction is irrelevant here), Jonathan's trying to keep the discussion grounded in small battles rather than Armageddon-style-, knock-down-drag-out, paradigm-clashing bouts (which too often devolve into "my CV is longer than yours" feuds). I think he's trying to get otherwise very hostile discussion partners to look at minute facts and critical, often ignored, assumptions, rather than on blasting away at the other's ENTIRE worldview, regardless how well justified that blast may be. Let’s call this the final cause of this series.

This is, then, the larger, methodological point of Jonathan's recent posts. We have to be honest that, while A and B reject X as outright heresy, A thinks of Q as a harmless assumption, and B thinks of Q as a dangerous seed of heresy. We can't focus so hastily on who has a better claim to obvious, core dogmas. Rather, we must back up, slow down, and carefully hash out whose seed-assumptions really are justified. Alas, Tim thinks he's done that with all his solid cultural and historical stuff while Svendsen thinks he’s done it with his intensive linguistic efforts.

Now, the narrower, more formal cause of this series is to answer the question of the Reformers’ view of Catholic sacramentalism. As Jonathan said, “the failure to determine with specificity whether the Reformers considered the Catholic formulation of sacramental efficacy (as they understood it) implicitly or explicitly wrong from the perspective of justification was rendering it impossible to analyze the Reformers' arguments.” In other words, I think, until we answer this question about heresy, sacramental efficacy and so to speak justificational sufficiency, we can’t even begin to have a clear, much less meaningful, much less civil, discussion about the “Reformed heritage.”

That, at least, is the point I see in Jonathan’s posts, which I happen to enjoy quite a lot.

 
At 5:22 AM, Blogger the Cogitator said...

Dang it, 2xpost!

 
At 6:38 AM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Elliot, thanks for your kind remarks. I'm glad to hear what you said, truly. I hope you can see that I am trying very hard to keep my tone and my content "above board".

I'm glad you reiterated Jonathan's point of this post, too. The whole sub-fracas with Svendsen was totally extraneous to the point, except for the fact that it helps to highlight in an oblique way Svendsen's paradigm's view of the Reformers. That paradigm is the unfortunately too-typical Protestant polemical story that the Reformers were proto-Moderns recovering something that had been nearly totally lost for something like 1,500 years and buried under sheer superstition and apostasy. That story is that the Reformers tried very hard to be "simply biblical" (like a Fundamentalist is "simply biblical") but that they failed to do so at various points because they preferred their "traditions" to what Scripture "plainly" says (as "plainly" is understood by Fundamentalists).

Accordingly, talking about the Reformers's views of Catholicism with men like Svendsen involved in the conversation is inevitably going to bring up assertions like "The Reformers were inconsistent with their own principles." This happens with sola Scriptura and sola gratia (and I think also with sola fide), and the question of what they thought about Catholic sacramental efficacy is wrapped up in either defending or rejecting such assertions.

Frankly, I don't think such assertions even belong on the table. They have nothing going for them except the presumptions of Modernized American Protestantism, deeply infected with a pietistic, revivalistic, anti-intellectual, anti-historical mentality and its many offspring, including Fundamentalist Baptists, "Bapterians", and even more orthodox Presbyterians who can't seem to grasp simple historical points about the diversity of the Reformed tradition because they are too busy ranting about how things supposedly "look like" the Dread Specter of "Romanism" to actually pay close attention to very relevant facts.

Anyway, it's too bad this thread fell apart. There's a lot of excellent stuff that could be discussed on the topic Jonathan proposed.

 
At 9:04 AM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

Tim wrote:

“I know better whether to ask if Eric Svendsen has read any significant amounts of Locke or Descartes or Hobbes or Bayle.”

I think this statement more than any other captures our real differences. Tim and Kevin are under the impression that the sum of a Christian’s life is measured by how much Locke, Descartes, Hatch and Noll he has read and comprehended. Have I read these men’s works? Of course; As I sadi before, most of them were required reading with in either my undergraduate or my graduate degree. But I have no desire to dedicate my *life’s pursuit* to understanding and following them. And I have news for Tim and Kevin: The Christian life is not a contest to see how many philosophers, historians, and cultural anthropologists one can read and digest. It’s not a contest to see how “illuminated” you can become so that you can condescendingly inform everyone else “you just don’t understand nothin’, you radicalized, sectarian babdidst boy.” In the midst of this kind of sophistry—indeed, in an address to Christians who were emphasizing and pursuing much the same thing as Tim and Kevin—Paul told the Corinthians:

“When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:1-3).

Paul certainly sounds like one of those dismissive “radicalized” babdidsts here, doesn't he? *No one* is going to stand before God and receive praise because he read more philosophical and cultural works than anyone else! *No one* is going to hear the words, “well done good and faithful servant” due to all the knowledge he acquired about the “wisdom of the world.” Pursuits like that are fine, but they are no substitute for knowing the mind of Christ through the word of God. A man’s praise is going to be for the work he did in building up the body of Christ, and *that itself* will depend on what “building materials” he used: “gold, silver, costly stone, wood, hay or stubble” (1 Cor 3:10-15). *No one* is going to “receive a reward” by attempting to build on the foundation of Christ using philosophical and cultural works—those are the “straw and stubble” that will be burned up! In fact, such a man is very near
“destroying the temple of God” because he thought he could make the church “wise” using the “standards of this age” (3:16-18).

That’s the *real* difference between our approaches; and that’s why Tim and Kevin’s approach is not only wrongheaded, but in fact *dangerous* to the church.

 
At 10:12 AM, Anonymous C. Ryan Jenkins said...

Tim,

I should let you know what a surprise it has been for me to learn that after years of personally vilifying fundamentalists (of every stripe), that I myself am one! I must tell you that it is all the more amazing that this self-realization has been stimulated by the rantings of an intellect that has 1) been shaped by an unremarkable education, and 2) consequently produced a non-existent CV.

Well, perhaps non-existent is a bit too strong – I’m confident that bachelors degree from NSA and those blog posts of yours will look impressive on your CV Tim – the stuff of giants man!

I simply must tell you though, how deliciously ironic it is to have been cavalierly dismissed as an ignorant fundamentalist by someone who has a magical view of sacramental efficacy. Now, which one of us is the fundamentalist again?

As for me, I think I’ll just retain my naïve preference for the atomic age rather than the mysticism and ignorance of the pre-modern era that you seem to have become so enamored with as of late. Now, please Tim, just let me alone so I can go back to worshipping at the altar of modernity – sipping my latte and blissfully unaware of the socially conditioned nature of language and the substantial influence that my “fundamentalist” community has had on my metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical constructs!

I’ll leave the real work of theologizing to the coffee vendors and uneducated upstarts of the world.

 
At 10:37 AM, Blogger the Cogitator said...

Dear Dr. Svendsen,

I agree with the thrust of your latest comment. One aspect of Tim's work (recently, at least) that bothers me is its peculiar lack of a lot of sheer biblical material. I appreciate his philosophical-historical writings, but would love to see more biblical meditations by Tim on the same topics. At times, I fear Tim is so weary of the battlefield of “opposing” interpretations of a supposedly “perspicuous” Bible that he finds it less distressing to get his meta-theological ducks in a row first and then return more deeply to the Bible. But quite honestly, what do I know?

Now, having said that, I think Tim's (apt) reply here would be that you are oversimplifying not only his work but also the work of theology in general. I believe one of Tim's fundamental theses is that even the most "pure" and scientific exegesis is itself a product of the philosophical and historical trends that you see as “stubble” in the Kingdom. Christians have not and do not always read the Bible the same way you do. To insist that your own (highly technical) method of hearing God in His Word is inherently better than some poor farm boy’s method not only sounds a trifle snobbish, but also eo ipso raises doubts about the sufficiency of God’s Word. A dogmatic preference for a historical-lexical-critical method of exegesis seems to place the emphasis on the steps WE take to hear it. Reading the Bible for its precise lexical nuances also is good, but we must get past those grammatical details and into the living voice of the Word.** And, as I think Tim is at pains to demonstrate, we can’t get past down past the grammatical “accidents” of Scripture to its “essence” unless we also understand our philosophical and historical biases.

As an aside, let me say this “Enlovian” effort at “noetic humility” in light of reflections on history, philosophy, etc. is not merely sensible. It is also, I think, surprisingly biblical. After all, the Bible contains reflections on salvation HISTORY (Psalms vis à vis Exodus), on REASON (Acts 17), NATURE (early Genesis, Psalms, Jesus’ parables), etc. Strictly speaking, quite a lot of the Bible is composed of themes and insights drawn from outside the Bible; the Bible is very often divinely inspired reflections on not divinely inspired realities.

You prefer a rigorous and narrow grammatical examination of the Word; but Tim calls this naïve and destructively Bapterian. Tim prefers a wider, but equally rigorous, examination of the Word in its historical and philosophical milieu; but you call this worldly and secondary. IMHO, it’s fruitless to say one method or the other is THE spiritual way; both are acceptable, provided (and in fact SINCE) both are dependent on the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. As it stands, though, you are both very unimpressed with any spiritual light coming from the other’s lives and writings. A pity.

**: This is what the Catholic Church understands the role of Tradition and the Magisterium is: to provide a living "ecosystem" of faith for the Word to thrive in, an ecosystem which is ITSELF a product of the Word. Without the Word, the ecosystem of faith dies; but apart from its environment of faith, the Word mutates and darkens. The word only made sense when Christ came to explain and fulfill it; as the Church is His Body today, it stands to reason the Word still only makes sense IN HIM, both as a pious and an ecclesial reality.

 
At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

Chris Wrote:

"As for me, I think I’ll just retain my naïve preference for the atomic age rather than the mysticism and ignorance of the pre-modern era that you seem to have become so enamored with as of late. Now, please Tim, just let me alone so I can go back to worshipping at the altar of modernity – sipping my latte and blissfully unaware of the socially conditioned nature of language and the substantial influence that my “fundamentalist” community has had on my metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical constructs! I’ll leave the real work of theologizing to the coffee vendors and uneducated upstarts of the world."

Heh; a man after my own heart :)

 
At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Chris, "Fundamentalism" is a word that means something historically and practically. That's why I keep mentioning Marsden and Noll. Are you familiar with Marsden's and Noll's work on the historical and practical phenomenon of Fundamentalism and the Evangelicalism it spawned?

Your pretentious "I'm a real scholar you dumb schmuck" condescension continues to make only yourself look bad. Remember that there was a time when you also did not have a CV. Should people have dismissed all that stuff you did on RC apologetics and biblical theology just because you didn't have a degree? A little consistency would be nice in your logic. And anyway, given your attitude now, what will you be seeing 3 or 4 or whenever years from now when I do have a CV? Will I have to wait until then for you to actually produce an argument? What a meaningless way to attack someone, as if the quality of his work is dependent on himself holding a degree.

If this is all you're going to say, don't expect me to keep talking to you--or to take you seriously in any way at all.

 
At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Elliot, in one respect you're right that I'm bone-weary of the endless fruitlessness of typical Protestant interactions based on a "My view is clearly supported by the plain Scriptures" / "Nuh-uh, you are letting traditions speak instead! It's my view that's clearly supported by the plain Scriptures!" sort of thing. I affirm the clarity of Scripture along with the Church Fathers, the Medievals, and the Reformers. I have no problem with the doctrine itself. It's the endless goofiness that seems to be attached to the practice of it in today's Protestant world that drives me nuts.

Nevertheless, I don't see why I should be concerned because I don't write "biblical meditations." I read my Bible and try to put its words into practice in my life, and I also read theology stuff to help me keep a systematic and meditative frame of mind around. I love reading Scriptural meditations from Medieval writers such as Bernard of Clairvaux--wonderful insights into Scripture, and so refreshing in this age of rationalistic "exegesis".

But whatever I do with the Bible on my own time, there is no requirement of the Christian religion that a Christian writer attach prooftexts to everything, or even most things, that he writes. That is a particular tyranny of Fundamentalism, and I loathe it beyond words. It reminds me of the excessive type of monasticism that permeated the later Medieval Church, and which caused "mundane" Christians to feel second-class when set next to the "spiritual" leadership.

Interestingly, that's exactly how Svendsen, White, and Jenkins are trying to make me feel--I'm a dumb biblically illiterate schmuck next to them, with their Big Evangelical Degrees in Exegesis and so forth. I resist dealing with them "biblically" precisely because their conception of what it means to handle the Bible is so far out to lunch in terms of catholic Christianity. If you think what's happening now, when they are confronted with their drastic ignorance of issues outside the crack of their Greek New Testaments is bad, just wait until I actually try to quote a few Scriptures to them. That's when their rhetoric will really get going, and sooner or later, for all your attempt to be fair to them in your current comments, you'll find yourself getting hacked up, too. After all, you just recently converted to Rome, you stinking Traditions-of-men-loving Judaizer. It's all right there, plain as day on the pages of Holy Writ (cf. 14 plain prooftexts filtered through 4 years of seminary-level participle-parsing experience). I wonder if you saw the recent exchanges between White and Svendsen on Limited Atonement? Quite interesting in terms of what it revealed about the self-stultification of the method they both share.

Why play that game at all, Elliot? You aren't going to get anywhere with these guys talking about the Bible. They misuse the Bible profoundly (and why am I having to tell a Catholic this???), and in the process set themselves up as unaccountable authorities on a worse level than any Medieval pope whose "infallible" rantings I've read (and I've read a lot).

 
At 11:27 AM, Blogger David Fahrenthold said...

I suppose that I am just a "young, ignorant" person with no CV, either (gee, how could that be, seeing as I am only 21), but I do have some thoughts on Tim's "medieval magic".

Nice recapitulation to older scholarship, but this ignores the backward looking movement of the Reformation which much modern scholarship has pointed out. The Reformers wanted to show taht they were the true heirs to the Holy Fathers (whether this was the case is perspectival). Either way, I guess I am weird, because I want a Schola Theologia Redevivus. If so, then so be it. I will glory in my Reformed Scholasticism all the day long :).

 
At 12:16 PM, Anonymous Eric Vestrup said...

Tim states, seemingly tongue-in-cheek [?] at points:

"...It's all right there, plain as day on the pages of Holy Writ (cf. 14 plain prooftexts filtered through 4 years of seminary-level participle-parsing experience). I wonder if you saw the recent exchanges between White and Svendsen on Limited Atonement? Quite interesting in terms of what it revealed about the self-stultification of the method they both share."

What's wrong with prooftexting?

I see prooftexting as nothing more than finding the Biblical texts relevant to the discussion at hand, provided that the texts actually are relevant. And, as Christians, the texts are still relevant, are they not?

Without prooftexting, how am I supposed to argue that, say, Jesus is fully divine? Is this found in Noll or Moreland somewhere? Is there some yet-untranslated obscure 12th century piece of Latin that forms a link in the argument chain? Or is there an a priori metaphysical argument for this?

I don't see the point of having written documents if we can't appeal to the clearly stated words contained wherein and consider them normative to a certain degree.

This is what we do with any book. I don't see how one can avoid prooftexting any author unless we want to play some fun little deconstuctionist game that will surely impress those at the local coffeehouse Open Mike Poetry Night. Can any of you --- doubtless my intellectual superiors --- point out where this poor little orthodox Lutheran has gone off of the reservation?

 
At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

Cogitator wrote:

"I believe one of Tim's fundamental theses is that even the most "pure" and scientific exegesis is itself a product of the philosophical and historical trends that you see as “stubble” in the Kingdom."

I’m aware that Tim thinks this. It doesn’t make it any truer. To anticipate a later objection you raise, there is a right way of understanding the word of God, and it is the same way we understand every other document; namely, through a grammatical-historical method. That is to say, we seek to understand each document in the way it was intended against the backdrop of the historical context of that document, because that is how the first hearers would have understood it. It’s not a perfect science, but it is generally reliable; and I fail to see how immersing oneself anachronistically in thirteenth-century literature or twentieth-century cultural studies accomplishes the same thing. In addition to destroying (or in Tim's postmodern parlance, “deconstructing”) the shared purpose of language (to communicate), such an approach merely assumes (unjustifiably) (1) what the champions of that method seek to prove and (2) that there is no spiritual dimension involved when we interact with the text of Scripture. I simply don’t agree—and likely never will—with that assumption.

Cog wrote:

"One aspect of Tim's work (recently, at least) that bothers me is its peculiar lack of a lot of sheer biblical material."

And that is my whole point. Tim does not strike me—or, indeed, anyone else I know—as one who is particularly interested in Scripture, and he’s demonstrated that over the years by his conspicuous *avoidance* of Scripture in his voluminous writings. He avoids it like the plague. THAT is what separates us. His entire worldview is formed *sans* Scripture. How anyone can claim to have a “Christian worldview” that is uninformed by Scripture is beyond me. There is a huge difference between one who immerses himself in and is informed by Scripture, and one who immerses himself in and is informed by Medieval and 20th-cent cultural studies—a HUGE difference. And so there’s little wonder that there would be a disparity in the views each one holds. If Tim spent half the time in Scripture as he does in the “wood, straw and stubble,” I believe he would be coming to very different conclusions than he has.

Cog wrote:

“Christians have not and do not always read the Bible the same way you do. To insist that your own (highly technical) method of hearing God in His Word is inherently better than some poor farm boy’s method not only sounds a trifle snobbish, but also eo ipso raises doubts about the sufficiency of God’s Word.”

First of all, I reject the characterization that my understanding of Scripture is “highly technical.” Understanding the Scriptures the way I do does not require an education or the ability to read Greek. It simply requires getting past the notion that the Bible is incomprehensible simply because "it’s the Bible," and then immersing yourself in it. That is of course *aided* by education and Greek studies, but the “poor farm boy” is not thereby impoverished for not having that—nor is he on his own, since presumably he is part of a church with a pastor who can help him understand the "rough parts."

Indeed, I know many “poor farm boys” who have quite an astute knowledge of Scripture. In fact, there is a 14 year-old boy who attends my adult SS class, and his knowledge of Scripture surpasses that of the adults in my class—who, btw, are constantly expressing amazement at both what he knows and how well he makes connections between passages of Scripture and real life. The reason he is in my class is because he became bored with the youth-group study, and his former teacher became intimidated that the boy knew the Bible better than he did! How did he gain such knowledge? He did it by making the decision to read through the entire Bible on his own and by asking questions of his pastor when he didn’t understand something.

Yet no farm boy *or scholar* can just open the Bible with no understanding of the history of the Bible, close his eyes, and point to a passage and guarantee he will have perfect understanding of that passage. There are contexts to consider: immediate, remote, lingustic, historical and, yes, even cultural contexts(albeit culture that is actually relevant to understanding the text). It requires in-depth study over the course of a lifetime to master it, and no one ever quite makes it to that point. Knowledge of the Scriptures comes in degrees, and is usually based on the amount of time and effort one dedicates to it. Many, many scholars have a much better grasp on the Scriptures than I do; but I do not thereby feel impoverished. Why then would it be “snobbish” to suggest that a “farm boy” who decides not to spend a whole lot of time immersed in the Scriptures might have an adequate understanding of the Scriptures even though it is not be on the same level as one who immerses himself in the Scriptures much more often? Each one will get out of it exactly what he puts into it.

Cog wrote:

"A dogmatic preference for a historical-lexical-critical method of exegesis seems to place the emphasis on the steps WE take to hear it. Reading the Bible for its precise lexical nuances also is good, but we must get past those grammatical details and into the living voice of the Word.**"

The “dogmatic preference” cannot be avoided no matter which method one uses. The real question is, Which method(s) is(are) legitimate by means of real-life communication experiences, and which methods are not? The very fact that you wrote to me indicates you simply assume I should be able to understand what you wrote. Indeed, a shared assumption that the message will be understood is the very basis of meaningful communication--no message has actually been communicated until the receptor party *understands* it. That is a shared assumption no matter what age or culture one is in.

Certainly there are exceptions to this; but those exceptions apply only when the intent of communication is to *obscure* rather than to clarify. The Scriptures use both types of communication methods, but the latter type normally has the enemies of God in mind, and the former type is used to make clear the gospel of salvation. The NT writers are interested in communicating the gospel message in a way that is *understandable*. That's why Paul asks his readers to pray for him “that I may make the message clear as I ought.” His purpose was not to obscure the message, but to make it understandable.

Cog wrote:

"Strictly speaking, quite a lot of the Bible is composed of themes and insights drawn from outside the Bible; the Bible is very often divinely inspired reflections on not divinely inspired realities."

I’m not sure what your point is here. Of course the Bible includes elements and insights drawn from outside the Bible. My own teaching includes those things as well. Why would that somehow support Tim’s method over against mine?

Cog wrote:

"You prefer a rigorous and narrow grammatical examination of the Word."

No I don’t. Grammar is merely one aspect of exegesis; and exegesis is merely one aspect of knowing Scripture; and knowing Scripture is just one aspect of a relationship with God.

Cog wrote:

"Tim prefers a wider, but equally rigorous, examination of the Word in its historical and philosophical milieu;"

No he doesn’t. The “Word in its historical and philosophical milieu” would entail studying the history and culture of the first century and preceding centuries, the first-century Jewish culture, Josephus and Philo, ancient Jewish sects like the Essenses, the Zealots, Qumran and the DDS, the Herodians, the various philosophical schools of the first century, and the Pharisees and Sadducees (yes he’s read about the latter two in the NT, but does he know their history?). But primarily it would entail a mastery of the New Testament itself. Those are the things *my* approach does. Tim, on the other hand, has no source knowledge of these things.

What Tim is doing is much different. He thinks the church—and by extension the New Covenant—began in the 13th century. And so, he’s immersed himself in medieval history and twentieth-century cultural works as though those two anachronistic things are the “holy keys of the kingdom” that unlock the meaning of the Scriptures. Such an approach to understanding a first-century document non-anachronistically is absurd on its face; and it resembles a fundamentalism that far surpasses any independent “babdidst” group I have encountered. The Word is not a product of thirteenth-century history. Nor is it a product of twentieth-century culture. At best, Tim is interested in books ABOUT the Word—or more precisely, books *about* the 20th-cent cultural views *about* the Word. Once again, there is a HUGE difference between not only the respective approaches, but also where each one inevitably leads.

 
At 12:28 PM, Blogger Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Jonathan,

I agree that Tim has consistently failed to support his premises, for several years now. This was an ongoing theme in my futile interactions with him, until I gave up at length, because he refused to stop attacking my own motives and beliefs (particularly my supposed virtual "anti-Protestantism," according to him).

Examples are legion: he refused to interact with my critique of the premises of his "big" paper on conciliarism, because I didn't critique the whole thing; every jot and tittle.

Whenever I cornered him about his erroneous views concerning Cardinal Newman, he would always end the discussion or get personal.

When I got him to look at the intricacies of papal infallibility, he blew up and got personal (rather than actually follow-through on a discussion, right when we were getting somewhere).

I wrote a long paper critiquing presuppositionalism and showing some fallacies and circular reasoning involved therein. This is certainly relevant to the larger discussion. Tim ignored that, citing time factors.

Lastly, a classic example is when Elliot and othrs were posting stuff about the fathers and the papacy. Tim said that one must understand these (legion of) utterances in light of classical rhetoric. Fine, his critics said, but they asked him (over and over, and nicely) to please particularize his analysis and demonstrate how even one example of patristic papal statements ought to be interpreted, based on his understanding of classical rhetoric. Tim refused. Maybe I missed some answer by him, but to my knowledge, he never responded to this challenge.

Having said that, I don't see how Eric Svendsen does much better in this vein. He may (indeed, does) get into particulars a lot more, but he is far more guilty of painting his opponents with a broad brush in the worst fashion, dismissing them, mocking and slandering them, etc.

For heaven's sake, we just saw that in his interactions with you, where he called you a liar and so forth.

In one notorious case, he insisted that his opponent was damned:

"I recognize that some people--and you are one of them--have rejected truth, distorted facts, and hardened their hearts to the point that they cannot believe and
be saved, no matter what. I alluded to this before when referring to your spiritual blindness (2 Cor 3) and to the fact that your apostasy showed you were really never of us to begin with (1 John 2:19). It's sad, to be sure; but it's the cold, hard reality. My job is not to wring my hands until I have convinced you otherwise, contrary to what you may believe. Rather, my job is to be the "fragrance of life to those who are being saved and the stench of death to those who are perishing" (2 Cor 2:15-16). God must grant you repentance to life, and apparently he hasn't done that. God is glorified either way. To you, I am the stench of death; and if you are not among the elect of God, that's just as it should be. God is glorified even by your obstinate, hardened heart. Your increasingly entrenched responses
indicates to me that you are simply storing up wrath for yourself in the Day of Judgment. Since I take no pleasure in contributing to that storehouse I'll not waste any more of my time responding to you. Good day."

(CARM: 15 April 2003)

Is that not the ultimate "second-guessing" and judging of an opponent? I noted it back when Svendsen, White et al were accusing Tim of denying the gospel, on no grounds at all. This was uncalled for. Tim's not a Catholic, so the usual stupid, mindless objection that Catholics deny the gospel was not in play. It was merely because Tim didn't accept the usual Baptist / evangelical party line, and spoke in different terms.

I defended Tim at the time (not that he appreciated it: he just questioned my motives and then I saw him agree with Svendsen over against me on another board, as if I had unworthy motives for defending him against these ludicrous charges from his fellow Protestants).

Examples of Svendsen dismissing his opponents, rather than interacting with them, are legion. One classic, pathetic case was his extended mocking and making fun of the appearance of Art Sippo, and his silly speculation that this led Art to develop a "bully" persona (http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2004_05_16_socrates58_archive.html#108520891844568387).

I am most familiar with my own case, and Eric's sustained smear campaign against me. If I'm not a "liar" (like virtually all Catholic apologists, according to Eric), then -- so Eric tells us, echoed by James white and others --I simply overwhelm people with millions of words, which have no substance whatsoever:

". . . the supposed "answer" is just a bunch of words strung together to form nonsensical sentences."

Then there is his silly charge that I am utterly dishonest in how I supposedly mangle and cynically edit all exchanges that I have with my opponents. Never mind that in one such dispute, I offered to edit the paper in question totally according to Eric's wishes. He simply ignored my offer. He wasn't interested in patching things up, but in collecting grievances and trumped-up charges.

Another tactic of his is to assert that I am simply too "stupid" to understand anything, and resort to outright mockery of a propagandistic fashion:

"I keep forgetting that some people still take 'Joe Camel' seriously."

"Armstrong's . . . whining doesn't surprise me, though. God has reserved a special place for martyrs; but He's reserved a different place for those with a martyr's complex."

"We stopped interacting with them [me and Scott Windsor] because trying to explain their errors to them became much like trying to explain physics to a five-year old."

The latest ridiculous charge is that I am a "habitual oath-breaker." The fundamental distinction between a "solemn oath" and a mere resolution are apparently lost on Eric. He will, of course, say I am again breaking an "oath" by talking about him here. You can count on it.

The absolute classic Svendsenism and proof of how he will cynically categorize entire groups of people is the following statement of his on his own board:

"RC apologists will do or say just about anything--true or not--to advance their cause. They engage in the strategy of deception regularly."

(4-27-03)

Similar examples are as numerous as the sand on the seashore. For more related information, anyone can consult the Eric Svendsen section of my Anti-Catholicism page (http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ450.HTM).

So sure, Tim is guilty of the quick dismissal, refusal to defend premises or discuss particulars with critics or even mere inquirers, and of mischaracterizing his opponents with a broad brush (how well I know, myself!).

But I see Tim's error as mainly one of erroneous thinking patterns and epistemology. And he will apologize and try to make things better. I've seen him do it many times.

In any event, he operates on some wrong premises, and is unwilling to subject these premises to scrutiny, and keeps compounding his errors. Yes, he judges others harshly, too, at times when he becomes fed up, but I think he is perfectly sincere, and so he has a hard time understanding how others can have a different view, without having to engage in caricature and re-definition of those views, so that they fit into his own mistaken worldview. I don't know why he keeps dong this, but I'm convinced that malice is not the mnotivation; rather, it is his concern for truth as he sees it.

But if we were to compare Tim's errors to those of Eric Svendsen, I would say that Eric's are, maybe, ten times greater in magnitude, and far more serious. Tim isn't consigning people to hell or questioning their devotion to God and Christian status. Eric is. Tim doesn't habitually call people liars. Eric does do that. Tim (though a vociferous contra-Catholic or what I call a quasi-anti-Catholic) doesn't say that the Catholic Church is non-Christian and apostate, as Eric does.

So about all that is left in this larger critique in this thread, is the charge that Eric discusses particulars, whereas Tim does not. That's true, yet disagree with Eric and see how smoothly any "dialogue" with him goes. You know that full well, Jonathan, from recent experience.

Eric thinks you're great now, but that's (by all appearances, and just common sense) because you are agreeing with him on a particular at the moment and disagreeing with those whom he detests (so he is expliting this agreement by making a rare appearance on a board and actually INTERACTING -- since he doesn't allow comments on his own blog).

This is only temporary. I appreciate your pursuit of truth regardless of the usual party lines, and your willingness to take a stand, come what may, and no matter who might agree (a logically irrelevant consideration) but let's not get too optimistic here. I don't think Eric Svendsen or anyone else is motivated by hate and lying, but I certainly can't condone wrong behavior wherever I see it, and I've given several examples of that from Eric, above.

And I thought it should be noted in this context, if for no other reason than out of fairness to Tim (and Kevin), who have been strongly criticized in this thread. Whether Tim appreciates that or not, I don't care. My comments aren't motivated by obtaining his approval anymore than yours are motivated by attaining Eric's approval. They are simply the truth as I see it.

I will say on the record that I think ALL of us are following truth as we see it, but I have to speak out against unethical behavior and false modes of thinking and methodology. Those things are able to be analyzed, without attacking motives, accusing others of hate, stupidity, lying, deliberate apostasy, etc.

In Him,

Dave Armstrong

 
At 12:46 PM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

Correction indicated by double asterisks (**):

"Certainly there are exceptions to this; but those exceptions apply only when the intent of communication is to *obscure* rather than to clarify. The Scriptures use both types of communication methods, but the **latter** type normally has the enemies of God in mind, and the **former** type is used to make clear the gospel of salvation."

Should read:

"Certainly there are exceptions to this; but those exceptions apply only when the intent of communication is to *obscure* rather than to clarify. The Scriptures use both types of communication methods, but the **former** type normally has the enemies of God in mind, and the **latter** type is used to make clear the gospel of salvation. "

 
At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

Tim wrote:

"If you think what's happening now, when they are confronted with their drastic ignorance of issues outside the crack of their Greek New Testaments is bad, just wait until I actually try to quote a few Scriptures to them."

Actually, that would be quite a refreshing change coming from Tim, since in that case he would have based his arguments on a firm foundation that we view as authoritative, and we in turn could then evaluate his view according to its exegetical merits.

Tim wrote:

"I wonder if you saw the recent exchanges between White and Svendsen on Limited Atonement? Quite interesting in terms of what it revealed about the self-stultification of the method they both share."

LOL; is Tim under the impression that a shared authority should automatically result in no theological disagreements? Is he under the impression that if *some* of it is unclear and lends itself to various views then *all* of it must be unclear? That's the fallacy of composition, and Tim is once again betraying his fundamentalist tendencies in this statement.

“They misuse the Bible profoundly”

And of course Tim would recognize a “misuse of the Bible based on the fact that . . . what exactly? Tim has not so much as demonstrated he even *knows* what the Bible says. How can he possibly know whether it’s being misused?

 
At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

Oathbreaker wrote:

"In one notorious case, he insisted that his opponent was damned"

Off the mark; the biblical writers themselves make this assessment over one’s promotion of a false gospel, so I'm consistent with my own authority. In any case, the issue is specificity over against vague generalities. What you’re introducing is a style of communication you don’t happen to like but which has a long history in the church and in the Bible. What is your purpose in hijacking this thread by commenting on things that are obviously beside the point? To get in jabs? To score a few points? To get even? To vent? To get free advertising for your website? To cut and paste the entire history of interaction with every living creature you’ve ever encountered? What exactly? It’s certainly not to contribute to the topic at hand. Your contribution here is just socially awkward—not to mention you’re breaking your oath again : )

Sorry, DA, you can rant all you want, but I’m not going to take the bite and get caught up in a five-gazillion word debate with you that will go nowhere. And, just for the record, I am fully aware that Mr. Prejean’s preliminary thoughts on this were originally intended to engage a prior debate we had, and will likely end up there shortly. At that point, it will likely turn into a blog debate rather than a comments-section debate. But that’s not the topic at this point, and your socially awkward post is more of a distraction and annoyance than a contribution—but that has never stopped you before, has it?

 
At 1:19 PM, Blogger Dave Armstrong said...

I do agree with Eric about Tim's lack of interest in, and apologetic use of the Bible. From what I can figure out, this may stem from his (rather "un-Protestant") belief (expressed to me once) that one shouldn't even attempt to do any exegesis at all unless they know Greek (!!).

He was giving me misery for my utilization of works such as Vine's, A.T. Robertson, Vincent, Thayer, Kittel, etc., which were specifically, self-consciously designed precisely for use by the non-Greek speaking layman.

But in a large sense it is again just "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum" from where I sit: Tim hardly uses the Bible at all and Eric misuses it for his anti-Catholic purposes.

They both (unfortunately) display an inappropriate elitism: Tim thinks the layman is too stupid to do any exegesis at all (even in an "amateur" sense) without knowing Greek, etc. Eric (and also James White) thinks non-Greek-speaking, non-formally-theologically-trained laymen
are so relatively stupid compared to a more theologically-educated person like himself, that it is absurd to engage in an exegetical conversation with them (I know from firsthand experience with both that this is how they think).

And as a poor lowly Catholic under the yoke of Rome (we're all biblically-illiterate, right?) I think that all (non-trained and trained alike) should study the Bible as much as possible, and form their worldview soaked in it, with the aid of works such as those cited above. We should, of course, defer to the trained person in particulars where they know a lot more (particularly in lexical and grammatical matters), yet not shy away from making confident biblical arguments, after sufficient study (whether formal or not).

Which is worse? I would say Eric's misuse is, again, far worse than Tim's non-use. I don't think Tim claims to be any sort of expert on the Bible or on exegesis (per the above and other reasons, too, no doubt), but Eric uses his language and exegetical skills (whatever they are) to further his anti-Catholic agenda and creation of further unnecessary disunity in the Body of Christ.

So the latter is far worse than the former, but neither is a good thing. Any Christian apologist (or whatever Tim calls himself these days, since he has been underemphasizing "apologetics" like it is some kind of bad word) has to incorporate significant use of the Bible into his writing and analyses, it seems to me.

Tim might reply that he is approaching things more from an historiographical or "history of ideas" paradigm, which is fine (and I LOVE that area of study myself), but then he should refrain from judging other peoples' exegesis (both anti-Catholics and Catholics) as long as he engages in virtually none himself (not even on an amateur level). In that sense Eric is right. Give credit where it is due . . .

In Him,

Dave Armstrong

 
At 1:38 PM, Blogger Dave Armstrong said...

Charitybreaker wrote:

"What is your purpose in hijacking this thread by commenting on things that are obviously beside the point? To get in jabs? To score a few points? To get even? To vent? To get free advertising for your website? To cut and paste the entire history of interaction with every living creature you’ve ever encountered? What exactly? It’s certainly not to contribute to the topic at hand. Your contribution here is just socially awkward—not to mention you’re breaking your oath again : )

Note the usual cynical speculations, which precisely prove my point (and show that Eric is just as guilty of this shortcoming -- I say far more so) than Tim or Kevin ever were.

Thanks, Eric! In one fell swoop, my motivations are severely questioned and I am (in the form of rhetorical "guessing" and implication of some serious error, whatever it is) guilty of one or more of the following shortcomings:

1. An oath-breaker.
2. A hijacker of threads.
3. A massive utilizer of non sequitur.
4. One who desires to merely "jab" rather than make arguments.
5. Motivated by "point-scoring" rather than truth.
6. Motivated by vengeance.
7. Merely "venting" (a sort of psycho-babble put-down).
8. Advertising my website (the profit motive; purely self-interest, as if no one else here has a URL or a blog that is included with their name or othwerwise mentioned, and as if that is prima facie unethical or improper).
9. Improperly documenting (sorry, Eric, for my tendency to back up assertion with factual data).
10. "What exactly?" (i.e., it HAS to be some unsavory motive!!!! It couldn't POSSIBLY be that I am simply calling it as I see it).
11. "It’s certainly not to contribute to the topic at hand." Eric knows for sure what it ain't! But of course this is exactly what it is.
12. I'm "socially awkward." This is a new, quite funny motif from Eric, to add to his collection of slanders. I think it shows, however, that he is running out of ideas of how to dismiss my arguments, if this is all he has left in his "arsenal of condescending dismissal" . . .

Not bad for one paragraph! LOL 12 distinct insults: all lies. Quite a feat! Eric can damn someone to hell, and that is quite biblical, but I'm not allowed to merely rebuke and pointedly point out error, which is apparently non-biblical and highly suspect, according to Eric. Wow.

Keep watching folks. I won't have to document anything else; Eric will do it all for me, right in front of your eyes. It's always been that way, and it is rational to expect again what one has always experienced before,

BUT for repentance and a change of ways. We can always hope and pray for that. God talked through an ass once. He can certainly cause Eric Svendsen to behave charitably and civilly with opponents.

NOTE: I haven't "speculated" about Eric's motives at all (as he has mine, all over the place). In fact, in my post I stated outright that I think he is motivated by a concern for truth, as we all are.

I'm simply exposing and rebuking BEHAVIORS that are manifest. It's right in front of us. One doesn't have to take my word for it or even believe my documentation of past instances. It's all right HERE for you to observe, whether I'm a liar and a moron or not.

 
At 3:21 PM, Blogger Dave Armstrong said...

Eric Svendsen not only engages in verbal caricature and dismissal of opponents, but also in visual mockery or suggestion of an image intended to ridicule his opponent.

I know. He's done it at least twice to me. He described me as "Joe Camel" (to this day I haven't the slightest idea what he thinks the connection there is) and did a satire of me growing a child out of my chest (where the child would rather die than be there). Seeing is believing:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2005_04_10_socrates58_archive.html#111368663124371934

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2005_04_10_socrates58_archive.html#111368753750453704

Of course, Eric later removed the spoof when it was causing controversy (without apology, as far as I know; he certainly didn't apologize to me), but thankfully for documentation purposes, we have the Internet Archive. :-)

And as long as someone doesn't repent of such uncharitable actions, it is entirely scriptural to keep pointing out their error to them, even publicly, if needs be. If Mr. Svendsen wants to argue that THOSE things are unbiblical, I'd be MORE than happy to do so with him.

 
At 5:29 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

A few brief points.

(1) Chris, I do not hold a "magical" view of the sacraments. After defining what you mean by "magical", please do direct me to anything I've said anywhere which indicates that I do so believe about the sacraments. Thanks.

(2) Eric, I do not believe the Church started in the 13th century and that an education in Medieval history is the master key to unlocking the Scriptures. Please stop saying this, because it isn't true.

Furthermore, I agree that the term "grammatical-historical method" is a good thing, and you certainly correctly state its aim (to get at the original author's mind). Where I think you go wrong is in apparently thinking that the author's mind is fully expressed in the bare Greek words of the biblical text under examination. On the contrary, nobody's worldview is reducible to single texts, or even a handful of texts. You can't necessarily understand what Galatians means just by exegeting the actual text of Galatians. Language isn't mathematics.

You can prooftext Paul all day long about the lack of value of "worldly" things, but that is exactly the point I am making against you. You cite Paul from Corinthians apparently running down worldly wisdom. Well, nice. Paul was himself in several of his epistles, including the Corinthian ones, making use of classical rhetorical techniques to fight the Sophists of the Second Sophistic Movement, who had infiltrated the Corinthian Church and attempted to conflate Christian categories of discipleship with Sophistic categories of masters / followers. Paul had quite the "worldly" education, and he put it into the service of the Gospel instead of dichotomizing it from the Gospel.

Your remarks about the supposed worthlessness of "worldly" things are also exactly my point against you. You have the typical Fundamentalist-Evangelical Pietist dichotomy between "worldly / spiritual", which while it superficially matches biblical language falls very far short of actual reality in God's world. Not everybody is called to be an exegete, and as you indicate from the example of the 14 year old boy in your class, it is entirely possible to have a great deal of biblical knowledge without gaining a mastery of Greek exegesis. This seems to cut directly against your point against me re: your mastery of exegesis supposedly making you a holder of superior biblical knowledge. In many cases, I think it's evident that what you think of as "superior" biblical knowledge on your part are merely begged questions about what is "clearly" said in the Scriptures. E.g., you state that I don't know the Bible very well, but only books ABOUT the Bible merely because I don't agree with your ramped-up "RCs-as-Judaizers" reading of Galatians. Well that's just odd. It's almost like you believe it's just flat impossible to reasonably read Galatians in any other way. Is that what you believe?

At any rate, the Reformation doctrine of vocation has it that all of life, every single area, and any legitimate activity under the sun, may be used to serve and glorify God. This is why when a humble shoemaker, confused by the Medieval dichotomy between "worldly" and "spiritual" once approached Luther and asked him what he should do now that he had become a Christian, Luther said "Make a good shoe, and sell it a fair price." In other words, don't pretend that becoming a Christian necessitates divesting yourself of whatever natural interests and talents God has given you but which you cannot make the slave of working with the text of the Bible or doing things like "full time ministry." Do you agree with Luther, and thus with the Reformation, on this point? I do, and that's why I feel no shame whatsoever in pursuing a course of studies that to a certain type of mindset does not appear to have anything to do with "exegesis". Just like "Scripture Alone" is not the rule in Protestantism, neither is "Spiritual Stuff Alone". Reformed theologian Michael Horton has it right when he juxtaposes two old favorite Evangelical hymns and asks rhetorically, "If this is my Father's world, why am I just passing through?"

I appreciate your clarifications to Elliot (Cog) about how you view Scripture. Ironically, I agree with pretty much everything you wrote. I just don't think you have mastered the discipline the way you think you have mastered it. And I think that because contra your slurs of me, I actually have read some things about first century Judaism and the various sects of the day, and the philosophical and cultural milieus, and so on. No doubt I've not read as much on those subjects as you, I have read some. In fact, it's what I have read about first century Judaism that gives me a strong impression that your "Judaizer" reading of Galatians is wrong. If you're so big on first century context, why don't you talk about the table fellowship / Gentile inclusion in the covenant context that is right there on the pages of Galatians itself? I see lots of big talk about a "Gospel" that is about "not adding one tiny work to faith", but I don't see anything from you about the issues that jump right off the pages of Galatians, the issues that would have been the most relevant to first century readers struggling with a time of covenant transition, not twenty-first century readers desperately trying to find a way to continue remaining separate from Roman Catholicism. I don't read everything you write, so it is entirely possible I've missed you discussing such issues as I mentioned. Can you point me to where you have? Thanks.

(3) Dave, I do not believe one has to have a mastery of Greek to engage the Bible exegetically. I would indeed be a bizarre type of Protestant if I thought no profit could be obtained from the Scriptures without an education in their original languages! The old remark of mine about Greek and exegesis that you mention had only to do with whether one needs to actually know some Greek to able to work with Greek. In other words, you can't "correct" someone who actually knows Greek, who has actually learned the mechanics of the language, if you yourself don't know anything about the mechanics of the language. I'm not sure why you'd have a problem with that premise.

Evidently you still retain a lot of hostility toward me, as is manifested in your reiterated list of ongoing grievances. I guess I can't do anything about that. We just flat disagree about such things as the purpose and useful extent of apologetics and the relationship of history to faith in terms of bringing out premises inherent in systems. For that matter we seem to disagree about what sorts of things are implied in various disputed systems, and also about whether things said to be implied in systems must necessarily always come out in real life. Aside from strong disagreements like that, as I indicated to you not long ago, I have saved yours and Elliot's posts on the historical and philosophical contexts of Newman's work, and I plan to give them a more close read at some point, so that I can perhaps be corrected on the points where both of you feel I egregiously misunderstand Newman. I'll read your stuff, Dave, when I have a chance and sufficient interest to explore the matter more deeply. Until then I have adopted a policy of studiously avoiding talking about Newman and his theory. What more do you want from me?

I'm sure there's more in the many comments that have been generated since I last looked in here. But this is all I have time for.

 
At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Eric Vestrup said...

T. Enloe states: "You can prooftext Paul all day long about the lack of value of "worldly" things, but that is exactly the point I am making against you. You cite Paul from Corinthians apparently running down worldly wisdom. Well, nice. Paul was himself in several of his epistles, including the Corinthian ones, making use of classical rhetorical techniques to fight the Sophists of the Second Sophistic Movement, who had infiltrated the Corinthian Church and attempted to conflate Christian categories of discipleship with Sophistic categories of masters / followers. Paul had quite the "worldly" education, and he put it into the service of the Gospel instead of dichotomizing it from the Gospel."

Again I ask, what is wrong with prooftexting, provided that we've taken all the literary factors into account?

What is Eric doing differently in discussing scripture than in say, my NICNT, Lenski, Hendriksen, or ICC commentaries? What is Eric doing differently than what was done, in a major Reformational document, say, the Augsburg Confession or the Apology to the AC? [Or, perhaps, they too are guilty of "prooftexting." I'm not sure where you stand.]

For example, how would you make a case that Jesus is God? So far as I know, one can't deduce this with an a priori metaphysical argument.
One would have to go to those passages of scripture that clearly (a) call Jesus God or (b) predicate properties-reserved-only-for-God to Jesus. But in the end that would seem to be "prooftexting" and therefore it would seem to draw your ire.

 
At 7:07 PM, Blogger Dave Armstrong said...

Tim wrote:

"The old remark of mine about Greek and exegesis that you mention had only to do with whether one needs to actually know some Greek to able to work with Greek. In other words, you can't "correct" someone who actually knows Greek, who has actually learned the mechanics of the language, if you yourself don't know anything about the mechanics of the language. I'm not sure why you'd have a problem with that premise."

----------

Here's his statement that I was referring to, from January 2002:

"Doesn't anyone wonder how a person (Dave) who admits he has no Greek training can talk confidently about doing "proper exegesis"? A Greek scholar I'm not either, but surely there's much more to exegesis than quoting lexicons and grammar aids. Especially when one doesn't even
know the language itself! I have 16 weeks of first year Greek under my belt at this time, and I assure you this from seeing what I have seen about how nuanced and rich the language is: no matter what the needs of my apologetics, I would not even begin to attempt to make arguments from the Greek text of Scripture, much less quote a few resources . . ."

Y'all do your own interpretation of that. Here again we have a dispute about how English reads, in a straightforward sense (it's amazing how often this happens nowadays). If he didn't MEAN this, then he sure communicated his meaning very poorly, and as usual, didn't clarify, after I made my response.

But that's the history of me and Tim: we start something that could be very good; it gets to a point where I press him too hard, and he then abruptly ends the conversation or launches into extensive personal attack. In the meantime, I am left to interpret his words, if he won't clarify. And I think I made a quite sensible interpretation of the above words.

In any event, Tim's lack of interaction with the Bible and biblical arguments would be quite consistent with how I read this remark.

See: http://web.archive.org/web/20020602005842/http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ437.HTM

In Him,

Dave

 
At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Mr. Vestrup, I suppose I better say something about your questions lest my silence constitute one more "proof" that I "don't like Scripture" and "fear exegesis", and so forth.

In a way it's as simple as the maxim "A text without a context is a pretext." There's nothing wrong with citing Scriptures to support a viewpoint. Were I to spend my blog space writing argumentative demonstrations about doctrinal points rather than mostly surveys of interesting historical issues, I too, would feel the need to back up my theological points with verses of Scripture. It's interesting to me how given all the talk from Eric today about contexts, he and all his friends who make this "Tim doesn't like the Bible because he doesn't quote it often" slur seem to miss the rather obvious context of my work on the blog--a context that is for the most part not concerned with making contributions to present doctrinal discussions among Christians. If I was to argue, for instance, that conciliarism is biblical, I most certainly had better be prepared to engage biblical texts that I think support that conclusion. But if I argue only that conciliarism was a historical antecedent to the Reformation and that its emphases need to be taken into account as factors shaping the theological outlook of the Reformers, why in the world would I need to produce lists of prooftexts from the Bible?

At any rate, there is significant disagreement between the parties here about whether adequate contexts have been examined with the cited Scriptures. I've given the example of Eric's "RCs-as-Judaizers" argument. I don't find that convincing based on what I know of the contextual factors of Galatians. And the louder Eric yells at the RCs about their "Judaizing" beliefs, and especially the louder he yells at them in combination with declarations that they are unregenerate which he backs up, as in this thread, with claims that he's simply "following [his] authority" (the Apostles), the less convincing I find his exegesis of Galatians. He goes far beyond the text in making these polemical applications to Roman Catholics, far beyond what the natural contextual factors of Galatians permit. Paul wasn't a 16th century Latin Christian; it must be argued that he had the 16th century polemics about "Pelagianism" in mind in Galatians, not merely assumed. And then of course there are issues like the philosophical paradigm of Ramism that has been historically attached to Reformed biblical exegesis, or in more recent times the Scottish Common Sense Realism of the Old Princetonians, which certainly affects Presbyterian biblical exegesis. I find bizarre these declarations by men who graduated from seminaries with degrees in "exegesis" that philosophical factors can be totally transcended by exegesis, as if exegesis is something that stands ultimately aloof from everything else.

The odd thing to me is that Eric correctly cites all the exegetical maxims and qualifiers that go with the grammatical-historical method (which, btw, I do believe in, albeit not in a form that is wedded to what I take to be Modern scientism), but doesn't seem to grasp how his theory that this one particular kind of exegetical practice is, provided it is followed correctly, some kind of magical method of bypassing all unbiblical influences on one's consciousness. In effect Eric is claiming (correctly) that to do biblical exegesis requires knowledge of all kinds of things outside of the text of the Bible itself, but then he (incorrectly) further claims that he's used all of that extra-biblical knowledge he gained to at last transcend the need for such knowledge and reach "pure" biblical truth, "unfettered" by any "worldly" things.

So basically, he quotes the correct definitions of exegetical practice, but then doesn't practice them correctly. Even more ironically, when I do with historical and theological texts exactly the same thing he does with the biblical text in terms of the first (legitimate) step, he labels me a "postmodernist" merely because I don't follow him to the second (illegitimate) step. In other words, I do all sorts of extra-textual studies regarding historical and theological sources, but because I don't invest those sources with a "timeless truth" quality, the only possibility remaining to describe my views is that I "deny truth." I've argued time and time again that this whole dialectic between truth / skepticism is a function of a worldview alien to Christianity, and that it is grafted onto Christianity and defended as essential to Christianity at our peril.

This argument of mine, which is basically an application of Reformed presuppositional apologetics, is merely dismissed by Eric and his friends as some sort of oddity created by a young schmuck who has "bacheloritis" and "doesn't like the Bible" and "fears exegesis like the plague" and so forth. I fail to see how any of that posturing represents any kind of intelligible argument.

 
At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Dave, I'll accept that I didn't state it very clearly. But I am telling you that I meant it's not acceptable to try to critique someone who knows Greek for how they are using Greek when you yourself do not know Greek. You remember the context of the discussion; obviously you have all of these things quite well indexed on your hard drive.

Of course, for more context, that was back when I still thought beyond-reasonably highly of White and Svendsen, and like a good little follower, spent stupid amounts of time trying to defend them from their detractors. Nowadays I see things in quite different lights, as you must surely by now be aware.

It's sort of ironic, what's happening right now in their (or at least, Eric's) treatment of me. Back when I didn't see so well, I thought you were making excuses for your lack of understanding of Greek by making your argument about how knowledge isn't confined to professional scholars. Nowadays I would agree with you on that point. Obviously there are limits to non-specialists's knowledge, but those limits don't include such things as the newly-minted doctor (Chris Jenkins) pretentiously opining that I need not be taken seriously since my CV consists of blog posts and web papers.

What a hoot, eh, Dave? Life has an amazing way of reversing things.

 
At 9:29 PM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

Tim,

I had written a response to your previous answer to me--which I saw initially as conciliatory, and which tone was reflected in my response as well--and was just about to post it when I saw your most recent contributions. Too bad. I now think I'll pass on continuing pursuing the points you raised.

Thanks for providing the forum, Jonathan. I'm off to other things now.

 
At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Eric Vestrup said...

Tim:

Your reply contains five paragraphs. The meat is in the second, third, and fourth. I appreciate the time taken in the response. There are countless other things you could've done, but you chose to respond, so let me thank you.

As for Galatians, in my current state of knowledge, I agree with the set of conclusions that you would consider wrong or anti-Catholic. Those of us who hold a similar position don't need to prove that Paul had in mind the 16th century conflicts; we merely need to demonstrate that the essentials of the 16th century conflict are parallel or similar to those of the Galatian conflict.

Now if we're wrong on Galatians, I don't see us being wrong by that much. We haven't done anything cultic or extreme. In other words, my contention is that there is a firm exegetical basis for seeing Galatians the way that those of us on the anti-Catholic side of the fence see them, and I contend that an intellectually honest RC can at least see where we get our position from. OTOH, if we're right on Galatians, then the anathema claim holds, and we take it seriously precisely because of apostolic authority. The point is that Svendsen can't be faulted for saying what he says if in fact he's right on Galatians. The whole crux is simply on whose view of Galatians is correct.

Here's another snippet:

"In effect Eric is claiming (correctly) that to do biblical exegesis requires knowledge of all kinds of things outside of the text of the Bible itself, but then he (incorrectly) further claims that he's used all of that extra-biblical knowledge he gained to at last transcend the need for such knowledge and reach "pure" biblical truth, "unfettered" by any "worldly" things."

I don't see any claims on his part that he's transcended the need for such knowledge. I think the claims have been that medieval writings, as well as various philosophers such as Locke, Hobbes, etc, aren't remotely necessary to understanding a collection of first-century documents. If I'm correct in representing this claim, then I concur. I've read enough philosophy, and, despite being an academic statistician, have published twice in the field. I will say from my own experience that not a bit of it has helped me with the OT and NT, though it has helped in other ways. I think you're caricaturing the position greatly as you close off the quote that I've snipped.

Here's another snippet:

"I find bizarre these declarations by men who graduated from seminaries with degrees in "exegesis" that philosophical factors can be totally transcended by exegesis, as if exegesis is something that stands ultimately aloof from everything else."

Unless I'm sorely mistaken, I have in the year or so I've been following these things not seen anything that instantiates the claim. I don't have a single evangelical book that asserts or even implicitly acts as if understanding the Bible is "something that ultimately stands aloof from everything else." Rather, they make a very broad connection. Guthrie's NT Intro, for example, at the very beginning, explicitly assumes that the NT writings shaped the early Christian Church, instead of the
other way around, as is held by those with a dialectic or antisupernatural view of history.

I'm not sure if these comments are at all profound, but they're the best I can do at this late hour. If I feel better tomorrow, I'll attempt to amplify them somewhat.

 
At 10:34 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Man, Eric, for someone who is as NASTY as you regularly are, you sure are hyper at the slightest little provocation to yourself. I've been trying for two days to be conciliatory to you, and also to Chris Jenkins, but have received from both of you nothing but vicious condescension and hurtful slander. And now, after all of that, because I say something a little strong to Mr. Vestrup, you figure you're justified in withdrawing whatever belated conciliatoriness of your own you had, I guess, graciously prepared for the poor arrogant kid who doesn't like the Bible, fears exegesis and runs from it like the plague, and hates Baptists.

Man, you are some piece of work.

 
At 11:26 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Tim:

Your reply contains five paragraphs. The meat is in the second, third, and fourth. I appreciate the time taken in the response. There are countless other things you could've done, but you chose to respond, so let me thank you.


If it helped in any small way at all to introduce some clarity into this fiasco, then I am glad.

As for Galatians, in my current state of knowledge, I agree with the set of conclusions that you would consider wrong or anti-Catholic. Those of us who hold a similar position don't need to prove that Paul had in mind the 16th century conflicts; we merely need to demonstrate that the essentials of the 16th century conflict are parallel or similar to those of the Galatian conflict.

Which to me and many others you have not proved.

Now if we're wrong on Galatians, I don't see us being wrong by that much. We haven't done anything cultic or extreme.

"Cultic" is a word I have never used of you folks, although it has been used by Svendsen (in anger, it is true, so maybe he didn't really mean it) of the entire community of godly men and women in Moscow, ID. As for "extreme" actions taken on the basis of this polemic, well, surely I can see how you all don't see your actions as extreme. I mean, it does naturally follow that IF Catholics are committing the Judaizer heresy, THEN they fall under the same anathema as the original Judaizers did in Galatians. That is a reasonable logical progression of thought.

What strikes me as highly unreasonable, however, are the privileged claims this "RCs-as-Judaizer" argument are being given by the appeal to "exegesis" and the slurring dismissals of those who disagree as "postmodernists" who don't believe truth is possible and "run from exegesis like the plague" and "don't even know what the Bible says" and desire merely to deceive people with "New Counter Reformationism". You may not think that's extreme, but I sure do, and especially because the counter-arguments to all these charges simply don't get dealt with by the men who make them.

I don't see any claims on his part that he's transcended the need for such knowledge. I think the claims have been that medieval writings, as well as various philosophers such as Locke, Hobbes, etc, aren't remotely necessary to understanding a collection of first-century documents.

Which is something that I NEVER claimed, Mr. Vestrup. That rather odd notion was created, if I remember aright, by David King in a private letter sent out by himself, White, and Svendsen to the NTRMin board members who were apparently "confused" by my supposedly "new" views and supposedly needed to be "helped" to understand how I was supposedly "denying" sola Scriptura and saying that "truth is impossible" and that people who don't believe the Gospel are really just ok, and any number of other inflammatory notions like that. I have NEVER claimed that Medieval studies specifically, or even cultural studies more generally, are necessary to understand the Bible, and I never will. This whole trajectory of non-argument from these men appeared in its germinal form in the lengthy discussion on Julie Staples's board in June of 2002. Have you seen that discussion? It is quite illuminating, I assure you.

At any rate, all the stuff about Locke and Hobbes is important only because it goes toward providing the very thing Svendsen and his friends have been claiming I have never provided: i.e., SPECIFIC substantiation for my GENERAL claims about the captivity of Evangelical epistemology / hermeneutics to the Enlightenment project. I don't understand why these points keep getting confused by these men, and such reckless charges being made by them. And I resent the pietistic condescension of Svendsen claiming that because I study these things so much, I must not have all that good a grasp of Scripture. Why is it always either / or with Fundamentalists and their Evangelical heirs? I'm afraid the Catholic apologists have got you guys pinned on that one.

If I'm correct in representing this claim, then I concur. I've read enough philosophy, and, despite being an academic statistician, have published twice in the field. I will say from my own experience that not a bit of it has helped me with the OT and NT, though it has helped in other ways. I think you're caricaturing the position greatly as you close off the quote that I've snipped.

I am not caricaturing the position IF the above noted distinctions are taken into account. Again, I have not said and never will say that Medieval studies or reading Locke or Hobbes or Whoever Else are necessary to understand Scripture. The only reason I can think of why this reading is given to my words is that the men who read it that way simply cannot conceive of any other type of hermeneutics but the one they practice, and consequently, if that is attacked the very words of Scripture itself might as well be attacked.

Here's another snippet:

"I find bizarre these declarations by men who graduated from seminaries with degrees in "exegesis" that philosophical factors can be totally transcended by exegesis, as if exegesis is something that stands ultimately aloof from everything else."

Unless I'm sorely mistaken, I have in the year or so I've been following these things not seen anything that instantiates the claim.


Well then, apparently you and I have two different sets of contact lenses on our eyes, because I see examples everywhere. Again, perhaps you would like to see the original discussion from June of 2002, in which Svendsen repeatedly denied, on the basis of mere presumptions about his superior understanding of the exegetical task, and even upon the presumption of his obviously regenerate status, that he has been unduly influenced by things outside of the text of Scripture. Like certain inflammatory Catholics who have frequently enough read my historical work as a brute attack on faith itself, Svendsen claimed, without any warrant at all save for his own private fancy on the subject, that I must not have any sort of trust in the Holy Spirit to help His children understand the Scriptures.

The interesting thing is how rapidly the discussion went from moderate in tone to outright condemning in tone. No doubt a lot of that was because everyone knew that a hundred or more Catholics were watching the fiasco, and that put a lot of pressure on everyone in what was already a very difficult situation, but I don't think that explains all of it. The subsequent controversies have well-shown, I think, that entire worldviews are at stake in this controversy, and nobody is willing to, shall we say, "go quietly into the night".

For my part, I won't accept complaints from Svendsen and his friends about my rhetoric, and that's because of the way they regularly talk evilly about others. I find it absolutely unacceptable to deal with a fellow Christian whom you disagree with by rapidly moving from attempting to show him he is wrong to pontificating that he is wrong because he doesn't like the plain truth of Scripture or went out from among us because he wasn't of us, etc. And btw, John was talking about people who deny that Christ came in the flesh, not people who deny that a scheme about the mechanism of justification is some kind of ontological dividing line between human beings. A little perspective in the condemnatory use of Scripture would be nice from men who claim to be so deeply in tune with Scripture.

I don't have a single evangelical book that asserts or even implicitly acts as if understanding the Bible is "something that ultimately stands aloof from everything else."

Neither do I. As I said, the theory of grammatical-historical exegesis are quite balanced. It's the practice of it in a manner which seems to simply assume a very Modern theory of knowledge and how human beings obtain it that seems to me to be the problem. I don't understand the tremendous resistance coming from these men, when if there is ANYTHING in this world that is clear about the long discipline of biblical hermeneutics, it is that there has NEVER been one single method of hermeneutics advocated by the Church, and NO ONE in ANY era of the Church has EVER been able to escape the very complicated questions of how to find and practice a "faith seeking understanding."

Mr. Vestrup, what is a guy like me supposed to make of Presbyterians who (let's just pick an example almost at random) seem to unconsciously act as if the Scottish Common Sense Realism epistemology is simply self-evident, and then call me a "postmodernist" merely for calling attention to the fact that SCR is there in their thinking and that it is by no means the only plausible philosophical option for a Presbyterian to hold? Why don't you find men like White and Svendsen backing up their claims about the "purity" of their exegetical method with detailed looks at such things as the Ramism that has for centuries been at the foundation of commonplace Reformed hermeneutics? Eric says dismissively, "Yeah, I had to read all that stuff in graduate school", but if this is so why does he so easily assume it's gratuitous to the discussion? Why does it matter at all to a point like this (which brings all kinds of complicated issues about Aristotelianism in Reformed exegesis) that I don't even yet have my bachelor's degree, and why is a repeated recitation of that fact made to bear the brunt of the entire criticism of what I'm saying? I am just absolutely mystified over here, truly. How can you NOT see the things I am talking about?

Rather, they make a very broad connection. Guthrie's NT Intro, for example, at the very beginning, explicitly assumes that the NT writings shaped the early Christian Church, instead of the other way around, as is held by those with a dialectic or antisupernatural view of history.

I would disagree with the assumption of this statement that the notion that the Church shaped the NT writings is a function of "a dialectic or antisupernatural view of history". That very dichotomy seems to assume exactly what you deny is present on your side of the fence: namely, a view which isolates the Bible from everything else, and treats the exegesis of it as if it stands aloof from everything else. The problem here is not with the grammatical-historical theory itself, but with a subtle distortion of its principles along Modernistic lines. Which is where all that Medieval stuff and the Locke and Hobbes, etc., comes in handy. Obviously the entrance of the Word of God in Scripture brings light, and the Holy Spirit does enable Christians to savingly understand the Scriptures. Contra Svendsen and White's insinuations, I do not deny these things at all, but affirm them wholeheartedly. I just don't believe that Modern people necessarily have wads of superior insight into the Scriptures than pre-Modern people. And that's because I don't believe the very Modern story about the "stupidity" and "superstition" of The Ancestors contrasted with our "wisdom", of their "Dark Age" contrasted with our "Enlightened" one.

I'm not sure if these comments are at all profound, but they're the best I can do at this late hour. If I feel better tomorrow, I'll attempt to amplify them somewhat.

I'm not sure I'll be around to read them, honestly. You seem a nice enough fellow, Mr. Vestrup, but these last few days have taken so much out of me that I really don't think I can continue. Talk about catching it from all sides, geez.....

 
At 1:37 AM, Anonymous Eric Vestrup said...

Well Tim, if you're not around, I understand. [Please take a break and don't reply.] Internet stuff is draining [my eyes get sore after not too long], and I myself poke my nose into things in spurts rather than on a constant basis. Also, I'm in the much easier position of being an interlocutor than the person who must answer, so I don't expect you to take any more time in response. Also, if somehow the positions are switched, I hope to extend the same courtesy of time spent that was extended to me. In retrospect, I probably should've kept my nose out of these comboxes.

At this stage, I really don't know anything that I could say that would be profound, so I'll err on the side of brevity, which, for those who know me, is less common than erring on the side of being a chatterbox.

I will say one thing in agreement with you: degrees and such are irrelevant --- all that matters is the argumentation and the evidence adduced to support the argument. A portion of academics today is nothing but drivel and pseudointellectual navel-gazing, and it gives people in the real sciences a bad name. There are some PhD's worth taking seriously, and there are many other PhD's out there who, in my opinion, do work that is at the intellectual level of popping bubble wrap. But, in the end, who gives a hoot about the alphabet soup after their name? All that matters is evidence, evidence, evidence.

 
At 1:41 AM, Anonymous Eric Vestrup said...

I note that I've totally diverged from the thread topic. More time in blog purgatory is added to my account.

 
At 6:41 AM, Anonymous Der Fuersprecher said...

Tim you asked:

"Are you familiar with Marsden's and Noll's work on the historical and practical phenomenon of Fundamentalism and the Evangelicalism it spawned?"

No Tim - you're the only one who has read these works (or truly understands their significance in any event). The rest of us just marvel at your great learning and wide breadth of reading.

I'll also grant your unstated premise that you are the grand arbiter of words and their meaning (although this sounds so *gasp* modern). I'll probably just have to resign myself to being categorized alongside the ignorant fundamentalist Catholics and Protestants that I have criticized so vigorously these many years. My wife will be so surprised.

As to your view of the sacraments, please forgive me in advance for charging you with holding to a magical view of sacramental efficacy! I am glad to see that you’ve joined the contemporary era and will unite with me in dismissing such superstitious myths. I'm sure you'll also be so kind so as to explain to me (utilizing purely natural categories, of course, since you don't hold a magical view) just what indeed "happens" when a person participates in the sacraments. I just want to be sure that you’re not a fundamentalist Tim.

And the condescension that you have noted from my end comes as a result of your intolerable pretension that is coupled (insufferably so) with such an evident lack of learning.

 
At 10:41 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

For the record, Elliot got my intent exactly right, and the point was that specifics ought to be defined by what a rigorous discipline considers a sufficiently specific question, not by yet another subjective preference.

As far as Dave's comments go, I'm not even trying to point fingers at this point, although I'm sure that they could be pointed. The point is simply trying to at least agree on what the rules of war are, rather than starting another fight over that subject or having to introduce such a conflict into another space. Appeals to Christian charity and decency don't seem to be working, and it would seem that academic detachment is one of the few things that allows any substantive discussion, even when people aren't being charitable to one another.

Can't see any point in continuing the current discussion, so I'm closing it down.

 

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