Thursday, April 07, 2005

Starting off on the right foot

I thank Dr. Svendsen for accepting my apology. In the spirit of trying to be more civil, I thought I would take a little time giving some attention to a matter that (in my view) contributed to the decline of civil discourse: giving credit where credit is due. It seems like a small thing, but it gets bypassed far too often when the goal is "winning" a debate and "getting" one's opponent. In that respect, there's a particular series of arguments with Dr. Svendsen that I think hasn't given him his due, and I'd like to address that.

When the subject of Dr. Svendsen's thesis or his work Who Is My Mother? based on that thesis arises, it's become almost reflexive for some Catholics to make some sneering reference to "heos hou." I think that behavior is wrong, and that opinion is based on reading the arguments on both sides. While I think it's reasonable to disagree with Dr. Svendsen's conclusion that the "non-ceasing" interpretation of heos hou fell into semantic obsolescence, the amount of crowing on the Catholic side is far out of line with the the strength of the argument even if the objection is correct. Dr. Svendsen put it well here:

I freely concede in my book (all the misrepresentations of my views by Pacheco and Sungenis notwithstanding) that if a clear example of this usage can be found in the literature of Matthew’s own day, then Roman Catholics may have a case for their understanding of Matt 1:25. But even then, the Roman Catholic interpretation would simply move from the realm of exceedingly improbable to the realm of highly improbable. It would be a remarkable admission, indeed, for someone candidly to assert that his dogmatic belief is based on improbabilities regarding the Greek language. Yet, that is the most the discovery of one contrary instance of this phrase will yield the Roman Catholic position.

And that's quite honestly the bottom line of the whole thing. We've got to admit when the facts are against us, which is what people having a respectable position do. There may be other reasons to accept the perpetual virginity of Mary, but we have to acknowledge that based on the linguistic evidence we have, there wouldn't be a reason to think that Mary was ever-virgin. This interpretation and the related interpretation of "brothers/sisters" can be considered bare possibilities, but they certainly aren't anything like probable, and as Fr. Raymond Brown put it, such interpretations wouldn't be accepted absent other considerations. That doesn't mean that the belief is *based* on such improbabilities, because it's really a question of the other considerations outweighing the improbability of this particular conclusion. But that doesn't change the fact that it *is* an improbable interpretation and that accepting it is going to require some pretty darn good evidence for why the improbable interpretation should be accepted. Acting as if Dr. Svendsen is an anti-Catholic zealot for raising a question that might occur to any reasonable person doesn't make any sense. It is (to be entirely candid) a weak point in the case for Catholicism, a hard thing for anybody to accept, just like the problem of evil is a difficult objection that many reasonable people have to Christianity. Failing to display humility and to give credit on this point, as we should in all charity do, simply weakens our own presentation by failing to address valid concerns and by making us appear less straightforward than we ought to be.

OK, I'm glad to get that off my chest, because it had occurred to me to say something quite a while back, but I had forgotten about it in light of lots of things going on. Happily, this occasion provided a reminder of that charitable impulse. I hope nobody will take what I'm saying here amiss, but I genuinely feel that Dr. Svendsen is being unfairly criticized on this issue, and I think that it's a significant reason for the mutual antipathy that has developed in Catholic-Evangelical discussions.

40 Comments:

At 7:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand much about this debate (on the interpretation of Matthew 1:25).

Can you briefly explain what the issues involved are? I assume that the Catholic position is that the text allows a certain number of interpretations and that for a variety of reasons the Church chooses this particular one. Are some people saying that the text not only doesn't demand such an interpretation, but cannot even support it?

 
At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

It's a good point, Jonathan, about unfair Catholic criticisms of Svendsen and his material on Mary. I suspect we're all guilty of misconstruing other people's views from time to time.

 
At 11:34 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Sorry for the delay. Blogger has been freaking out lately.

"Are some people saying that the text not only doesn't demand such an interpretation, but cannot even support it?"

Yes. The argument advanced by Dr. Svendsen is that the use of heos hou (until) in such a way that the action continues after the relevant point in time fell into semantic obsolescence during the New Testament period (or more specifically, between 100 BC and AD 100). If that thesis is correct, then the use of "until" would imply that Joseph and Mary came together after the birth of Jesus. Even if the alternative usage (viz., the action continuing after the relevant point in time) was not obsolete, it is certainly rare, which is why I mentioned that one wouldn't interpret heos hou in that way without some strong evidence for doing so. Hope that helps.

"I suspect we're all guilty of misconstruing other people's views from time to time."

That's true, but my point was that it may be even more important to display charity when you have good reasons for thinking that you are right. Or to put it simply, being right is not an excuse to be disrespectful, even if you believe that someone has earned it. It is hard to put down the sword when you feel threatened, but where there is true faith in the Shepherd, the sheep do not fear. It all comes back to the failure of Peter's faith in Matt. 26:52 (beautifully allegorized by George Lucas in The Empire Strikes Back as Luke's failure at the tree). If I believe, *truly* believe, that God is my protection, then I don't need to defend myself. I need only let the message that I carry, the Word of God, the Gospel, be my armor and my sword.

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

A great post, Jonathan. I'm a committed Catholic, and I've been similarly disappointed with the typical response to Svendsen's research. We exhibit a weak faith when we act as though *every* single argument must support our position, rather than admitting that some things just don't seem to go our way, at least right now.

 
At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Of course, Jonathan. But that's one of those always easier said than done things. And in fairness to Eric, despite what I sometimes say when I (wrongly) justify getting angry at him, I've seen him apologize on at least 3 occasions for his attitude toward Catholics. Clearly, on his better days even he doesn't buy all of his own worst-days rhetoric.

 
At 9:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the thing you will find that in about 10 more years you will notice that the Lord has sanctified and change you more than anyone else by the things you have said, and the verbal intercourses you have had. I know, intercourse used to be such a good word, but now it’s all naughty… sigh…

- Mouse

 
At 5:22 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Tim:
"Clearly, on his better days even he doesn't buy all of his own worst-days rhetoric."

I hope that's true of all of us! :-) Good observations, and my compliments on handling the interaction with Pastor White so respectfully.

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

Wow, I just made the mistake of pulling Eric's blog up, and he's "clarified" what his "apologizing" means, specifically with reference to those of us at "reformedcatholicism.com" with whom Jesus will not be pleased at his coming.

How does one respond to such things? I know I have frequently chosen the path of anger (just did the other night, on Greg's board, in fact), but that's obviously not helpful and only further antagonizes Eric and his friends. I find myself increasingly hard pressed to figure out any way to deal with these folks in a constructive manner.

 
At 4:59 AM, Anonymous TJW said...

I think that for some people there is a real conflict between faith and dialogue. I know of some people that give the appearance of feeling as though unless they are completely dismissive of the beliefs of others, then they have no true faith in their own beliefs. To outwardly express any possibility that they might be wrong is to in some way deny God's capacity to lead them to His truth.

There is nothing wrong with that of course. They might be correct. It's just very difficult to get very far because if you end up being in any way convincing, you, in their mind at least, simply hurt their faith in God.

I don't know enough about this group to say whether this applies to them, I only mention it because what appears rude to you or me might in fact be faithful obedience to God to them.

 
At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Oh sure, I know full well that guys like Eric Svendsen believe that their behavior is fully honoring to God because, they think, it is merely "defending the Gospel". They believe they are obeying God rather than men, and I suspect there's a fair bit of assumption on their part that they're leaving behind father, mother, sister, brother, etc., for the sake of the Gospel, shaking the dust off their feet, suffer the loss of all things for the sake of a righteousness not their own, etc., just as Jesus and the Apostles said.

I think they're wrong. I can't imagine how a Gospel that causes men to be so unaccountably vicious and cold most of the time, as if there's little more to Christianity than Galatians-style polemics against "false brothers", is actually "Good News". Christ died for you--if you get your justification propositions right. If not, well damn you, you self-evidently truth-hating unregenerate deceiver.

This doesn't look like the Gospel I see in the Scriptures. It looks like a radicalized, pietistic, and at the same time paradoxically rationalistic, Evangelicalism so convinced of the Rightness of its absolute ethic of separatism that it can't even just show a little common decency toward those it's supposedly trying to "minister" to. Galatians isn't the only book in the Bible. I seem to remember a book that says something like "The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will."

There's more to the Bible than cursing "Judaizers" in the harshest possible language.

 
At 12:48 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

"I can't imagine how a Gospel that causes men to be so unaccountably vicious and cold most of the time, as if there's little more to Christianity than Galatians-style polemics against 'false brothers', is actually 'Good News'."

I don't think they're saying that; Galatians just happens to be the battleground that is at stake in the conflict. That's where the real conflict is, so that's where the discussion ought to be. If anything, I'm actually happy about this sort of open confession of the specific areas of disagreement, rather than the ridiculously broad generalizations that seem to characterize these sorts of debates. This makes it simple. You just offer counter-exegesis, and that's the framework for the debate.

 
At 2:13 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

This makes it simple. You just offer counter-exegesis, and that's the framework for the debate.

No, because that just pushes them back to their radicalisms about "tradition". They act as if they have the Greek text of Scripture locked up inside their own tradition-free heads, so how could you EVER propose "counter-exegesis" and expect them to take it seriously?

But maybe you're just more optimistic than me about the prospects of talking with them in a constructive manner.

 
At 3:11 PM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

"I don't think they're saying that; Galatians just happens to be the battleground that is at stake in the conflict. That's where the real conflict is, so that's where the discussion ought to be. If anything, I'm actually happy about this sort of open confession of the specific areas of disagreement, rather than the ridiculously broad generalizations that seem to characterize these sorts of debates. This makes it simple. You just offer counter-exegesis, and that's the framework for the debate."

Well stated, Mr. Prejean. But be prepared for accusations of sectarian gnosticism and modernist thinking by some of your acquaintances.

 
At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Well Eric I'm glad you're willing to reason with Jonathan. I hope he's able to help you see some things that some of the rest of us have not been able to help you see. Perhaps Jonathan would like to see, before he continues with you, Paul Owen's nice little exegetical refutations of your basic "Judaizer" argument. Take that away and I wonder what. At least you were civil to Paul and engaged his arguments!

I'm sorry you're only willing to mock words like "sectarian" and "modernist thinking". I accept that you define ecclesiology differently than me, and so to you *I* look like the sectarian. That's a term that could be debated if the different ecclesiologies could be exposed to some reasonable discussion instead of mere ranting about "New Counter Reformationism" and slurring uses of "They went out from among us..." and other such texts.

As for "modernist thinking", well, like Dr. White you've yet to even demonstrate that you understand what "modernism" means, much less how it undergirds your whole theological project. But hey, you also don't understand what "postmodernism" is, or how the basic "objectivist" viewpoint that you hold is actually what created the postmodern reaction, which is just a parasite on your own view. When can we expect something more from you?

 
At 7:45 PM, Anonymous TJW said...

Well, the picture of the Pope kissing the Koran is up. That will inspire some fruitful discussion...

 
At 6:19 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

"At least you were civil to Paul and engaged his arguments!"

I think that this only shows what I mean. The generalities are actually just corroding discourse on both sides. Getting down to specifics seems to be the most productive and reasonable way to have a conversation. Maybe nothing comes of it, but it at least provides a subject on which a discussion can actually take place. If the sides remain unpersuaded, it's at least likely that you've identified the real, factual basis of the dispute, whether that is exegetical method or simply reasonable disagreement about the conclusions of that method.

 
At 6:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Enloe,

I would really appreciate it if you could point me to Paul Owen's exegetical look at the "Judaizer argument," as I have always been curious about seeing another Reformed perspective on that... I am well aware of the positions taken by Eric Svendsen and James White on such matter, and am interested in seeing another Reformed christian's take.

IC XC
Chris

 
At 7:18 AM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

Tim said: "Well Eric I'm glad you're willing to reason with Jonathan. I hope he's able to help you see some things that some of the rest of us have not been able to help you see. Perhaps Jonathan would like to see, before he continues with you, Paul Owen's nice little exegetical refutations of your basic "Judaizer" argument. Take that away and I wonder what. At least you were civil to Paul and engaged his arguments!"

And I wonder why you are so conspicuously inconsistent regarding the irresponsible charges of modernism and gnosticism (which you clearly do not understand) that you carelessly throw around at me when I say things like, “This makes it simple. You just offer counter-exegesis, and that's the framework for the debate.” Please explain to us all, Tim, why you are withholding that charge from Jonathan Prejean who clearly regards that approach as legitimate—something you just as clearly do not. Why isn’t he a modernist gnostic, Tim, but I somehow am? I think this, above than all else, betrays your deep-seated hatred of me--something you're blind to. You tolerate some who hold this view, and utterly hate others who do. And yes, I think it would be instructive for anyone concerned to read the exchange I had with Dr. Owen on the Judaizers.

Tim said: "I'm sorry you're only willing to mock words like "sectarian" and "modernist thinking". I accept that you define ecclesiology differently than me, and so to you *I* look like the sectarian. That's a term that could be debated if the different ecclesiologies could be exposed to some reasonable discussion instead of mere ranting about "New Counter Reformationism" and slurring uses of "They went out from among us..." and other such texts."

I don’t believe I’ve ever used the phrase “New Counter Reformation.” I have placed “reformed catholic” in quotation marks in your case because I think you’re neither. Most Presbyterians are much more “catholic” toward Baptists than you are; a group you simply dismiss in toto as somehow not included in *your* covenant. And please don’t be mistaken about the allusion to 1 John 2:19; I do not use that passage in a mocking or slurring way. I am quite serious about its application.

Tim said: "As for "modernist thinking", well, like Dr. White you've yet to even demonstrate that you understand what "modernism" means, much less how it undergirds your whole theological project. But hey, you also don't understand what "postmodernism" is, or how the basic "objectivist" viewpoint that you hold is actually what created the postmodern reaction, which is just a parasite on your own view."

Ah yes, here we go again. “Only *I* and those *I* designate (due to their fundamental agreement with *me*) can really ‘understand’ these kinds of things, because everyone else is a slave to their own presuppositions. *I*, on the other hand, have freed myself of those presuppositions and can now confidently pass judgment on the rest of Christendom, and can proclaim that since no one can understand Scripture through exegesis (unless, of course, that exegesis happens to agree with *me*) then we should just all put down our Bibles and begin dialoguing on historical and philosophical grounds instead (but only those historical and philosophical grounds that happen to support *my* view).

Get over yourself, Tim. You’re a smart guy; but you’re not that brilliant. As I have said in the past, you have a bad case of “bacheloritis.” At least wait until you’ve actually *earned* your undergraduate degree—and ideally have gone on to graduate school, and have read more than 1,100 pages—before you make inane claims that no one but *you* can understand these issues. If *that's* not gnosticism, I don't know what is.

Tim said: "When can we expect something more from you?"

I might ask you the same question, Tim. When I invited you to the NTRMin forum to clarify your views, all of us were exceedingly patient and kind with you while we watched you contradict yourself over and over again, only then to melt down completely, throw off all rational discourse, and engage in emotion-laden rhetoric. Here is a link that will direct the reader to that dialogue, http://ntrminblog.blogspot.com/2004/12/gnostic-vs-sophist-part-3.html).
It was clear then what was happening. Your own presuppositons and arguments were dismantled quite easily, and you clearly did not like that. That’s why it’s impossible to communicate with you. You are a monologuer not a dialoguer. Your breezy ideas seem so indepth—until you are asked to defend them under a fast-paced cross examination where your usual sophistry is not permitted. So, Tim, I won’t avail myself of engaging your postmodern-laden ideas here since it is entirely fruitless and will likely degenerate into your typical emotional accusations that I am nothing more than a “sectarian,” “gnostic,” “slave of the enlightenment,” all, of course, in uppercase letters. No thanks; I’ll pass.

 
At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Yes, Eric, you are exceedingly patient and kind, as your recent rantings about "apostates" on your blog well prove. Surely such does not qualify as "emotional-laden rhetoric", "sophistry", and so forth. I don't accept such evaluations from you, especially because five minutes reading your own blog to yourself in a mirror would almost certainly convict you of your own failings in that regard.

"Get over myself"? Well, Eric, whatever I may say that is wrong, I don't run around the Internet acting like some kind of emissary from God denouncing others as unregenerates and / or apostates who "deny the Gospel" merely because they don't toe the absolute Black Hat / White Hat line of verbal formulations that I do. I realize that you think your behavior is warranted by the behavior of the Apostle Paul against "Judaizers", but that's why I said to Jonathan that Galatians isn't the only book in the Bible. I have seen you be better than that, as you have seen me be better than the bad things you chronicle from my past. I refuse to accept your one-sided characterization of what happened on the NTRMin board. Some day, I pray, you and your friends will learn to more readily take responsibility for your own actions, rather than so readily excusing yourselves on the basis of what others are doing.

I have never claimed, as you continue to incorrectly say, that I am the only one who can understand some of the issues. I have only claimed that given many of your comments you do not understand some of the issues. It has nothing to do with "bacheloritis", but everything to do with the inadequate survey education in "unbiblical" matters which you received at your "Bible School". You know how to throw names like Kant around, but your attitude toward fields of knowledge outside of those directly relevant to manipulating the text of the Bible is extremely problematic, being quite blind to the nature and sources of its own epistemic commitments. I think that's quite well exhibited by your various remarks about "postmodernism", and the fact that you've only supported the charge against me with a single unattributed quote you got somewhere on the Internet and which said nothing more than that pomos typically emphasize the historicity of truth claims. Big deal, Eric. Distinctions are needed, and you don't seem to grasp the distinctions. And anyway, if it's about "bacheloritis", why does a doctorate-holding man like Paul Owen understand what I'm saying, and agree substantially with it?

Likewise, I have never claimed, as you continue to falsely claim, that no one can understand Scripture through exegesis. I have merely claimed that there are serious problems with the exegetical theories that you men employ. Again, distinctions are needed. I note in this connection that the language of "slavery" to culture and presuppositions was introduced by you, in the original blow up on Julie Staples's board. I had never claimed and never will claim that anyone is a "slave" to their culture and presuppositions. And your description of me as saying such a thing is quite odd, given your own ridiculous claim on Julie's board to be able to purge yourself of all extra-biblical influences before you sit down to do exegesis. It's not a question of "slavery", but a question of "discernment", and that's something that all of us struggle with all the time.

I didn't read your Sophist-Gnostic thing, so I can't comment on whether you "quite easily" dismantled my presuppositions and arguments. I'm sure you and your friends think you achieved that. That's ok, because my friends who read your series told me not to waste my time on it, so I guess you trust your friends's judgment about what you demonstrated and I'll trust my friends's judgment about what you demonstrated.

At any rate, I'm not going to allow you any more to anger me with your presumptuous spiritual diagnoses. You sit on your board and your blog ranting and railing about "apostates" all day long if that's how you want to conduct yourself. I'm not going to behave that way. I think you are drastically wrong about many things, but I don't presume to judge the state of your soul before God, much less magisterially pontificate that you have left Christianity itself and will face the wrath of Christ when He comes. And certainly I would not make any such judgment over something as ephemeral as wacky propositions rattling around inside your head.

You want to know why I've called you a "gnostic"? Look at how you reduce true Christianity to mental propositions about justification, and claim to be able to determine the states of others's souls based on the propositions they have in their heads. Look at your ethic of radical "New Testament Christianity" separatism, which causes you to use your exegesis of Scripture in a self-serving manner that makes you absolutely unaccountable to anyone in this world, save for the only two men you've named to whom you submit your railings: David King and Dr. White. Look at how you can't even comfort your own family in a time of grief, but use that time of grief to rant about sola Scriptura and sola fide. What a profound witness for the Gospel! It really does seem to be about "gnosis" for you, Eric, and a "gnosis" that, as your profound pessimism about the extent of the saved well shows, is only possessed by a very tiny handful of people, whom you seem to be able to identify by esoteric tests based on arbitrary passwords about mechanisms that constantly devalue the mediation of religion in space and time.

Eric, I've reached a point in my life when I don't want to live in incessant controversy, much less in controversy conducted in vicious ways. As I said on my blog the other day, I deeply regret my remark to John Bugay last week, and ask yours and others at NTRMin's forgiveness for it. Obviously there are deep personal issues at work here, but beyond that there are actually substantive issues at work, too. We can't get the issues onto the table if all we ever do is mutually excoriate each other over the personal stuff.

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

Tim wrote: “I refuse to accept your one-sided characterization of what happened on the NTRMin board.”

One sided? The link I provided in my previous comment contains the necessary links to access the *entire* dialogue, including your opening comments, your parting shot, and the complete back and forth between us that showed the clear contradictions of your position. I invite everyone here to read it and suffer through it till the end. The ending part is in many ways the most important part because it so clearly summarizes the issues.

Tim wrote: “I have never claimed, as you continue to incorrectly say, that I am the only one who can understand some of the issues.”

Reread what I wrote: You and *all those you designate* (tranlsated, the handful of people who agree with your conclusions).

Tim wrote: “It has nothing to do with "bacheloritis", but everything to do with the inadequate survey education in "unbiblical" matters which you received at your "Bible School".

You had just graduated from diapers when I attended my “Bible School,” Tim, so please don’t presume to know what I studied there. And I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a more well respected school than Trinity.

Tim wrote: “And anyway, if it's about "bacheloritis", why does a doctorate-holding man like Paul Owen understand what I'm saying, and agree substantially with it?”

I’m referring primarily to your attitude about what everyone else knows, not what you hold as true.

Tim wrote: “Likewise, I have never claimed, as you continue to falsely claim, that no one can understand Scripture through exegesis. I have merely claimed that there are serious problems with the exegetical theories that you men employ.”

Tim, anyone who has followed your adventure to this point knows by now you absolutely shy away from all things exegetical. It’s not a matter of your *disagreeing* over how to do exegesis—it’s a matter of your not knowing anything about exegesis. You think just because you are unable to grasp it that it must all just be a myth.

Tim wrote: “And your description of me as saying such a thing is quite odd, given your own ridiculous claim on Julie's board to be able to purge yourself of all extra-biblical influences before you sit down to do exegesis. It's not a question of "slavery", but a question of "discernment", and that's something that all of us struggle with all the time.”

I think you misread me. I expressly stated on Julie’s board that I have gone on record—in a book I wrote on Bible Study Methods—that the goal of exegesis is to get inside the mind of the writer and recognize your own presuppositions in the process. That’s the way exegesis is done Tim. No one in my field disagrees with that. You are walking into an area you simply don’t understand; and you seem to feel threatened by that.

Tim wrote: “I didn't read your Sophist-Gnostic thing, so I can't comment on whether you "quite easily" dismantled my presuppositions and arguments.”

The link to my blog article contains the links to the dialogue we had on the NTRMin board. That is what I was referring to when I said your arguments were easily dismantled.

Tim wrote: “I think you are drastically wrong about many things, but I don't presume to judge the state of your soul before God, much less magisterially pontificate that you have left Christianity itself and will face the wrath of Christ when He comes. And certainly I would not make any such judgment over something as ephemeral as wacky propositions rattling around inside your head.”

Remember this statement of yours directed at me? “Their condemnation is just. And terrible will be that judgment!”

Tim wrote: “You want to know why I've called you a "gnostic"? Look at how you reduce true Christianity to mental propositions about justification, and claim to be able to determine the states of others's souls based on the propositions they have in their heads.”

Then you’ve confirmed everything I said about your lack of understanding concerning what Gnosticsim is. Gnostics were not propositionalists—they were “special enlightmentists.” They didn’t hold out propositions to be believed. They appealed instead to secret knowledge that couldn’t be verified by rational discourse. Did they hold to propositions? Of course, as all of us must. But they much more resembled your current emphasis on the importance of philosophical speculation than my NT emphasis on the importance of truth.

Tim wrote: “Look at how you can't even comfort your own family in a time of grief, but use that time of grief to rant about sola Scriptura and sola fide. What a profound witness for the Gospel!

Don’t you dare presume to know about the “grief” and “comfort” that took place during my mother’s death. How dare you, you presumptuous clod. Leave my family out of your perverse theological assessment. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Who was it you said had no accountability again?

Tim wrote: “It really does seem to be about "gnosis" for you, Eric, and a "gnosis" that, as your profound pessimism about the extent of the saved well shows.”

LOL; Once again, your assessment ability is profound. ANYone who knows me personally always identifies me as an eternal optimist. There is absolutely *nothing* pessemistic about me. So, once again your assessment of me is completely off track.

I am a *biblicist*. I believe the Bible, Tim. The Bible gives us theological parameters to test claims of authenticity, and it commands us to apply those parameters. It commands us over and over again to "contend earnestly for the faith," not to be deceived by false claims to be a Christian. My appraoch is nothing new--it's what the NT writers themselves practiced adn its what they commanded their readers to practice. If the Bible says there is such a thing as a false gospel, and the nature of that false gospel is addition of works to justification, then I believe that. If it goes further and says that the promoters and defenders of a false gospel are "eternally condemned," then I believe that. If it tells us to "contend earnestly" for that gospel, "refuting those who oppose it," then I obey that. That doesn't make me a pessimist. That makes me obedient. If you read your Bible once or twice you might actually know all this.

Tim write: “Eric, I've reached a point in my life when I don't want to live in incessant controversy, much less in controversy conducted in vicious ways. As I said on my blog the other day, I deeply regret my remark to John Bugay last week, and ask yours and others at NTRMin's forgiveness for it. Obviously there are deep personal issues at work here, but beyond that there are actually substantive issues at work, too. We can't get the issues onto the table if all we ever do is mutually excoriate each other over the personal stuff.”

Yes, Tim, this is all too typical. Blast away at someone univited, take as many swipes as you can, and then ask for forgiveness all in the same breath. You want to convince people you're through with vitriol and emotional rhetoric? *Practice* it first; *then* we'll be convinced.

 
At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Eric Vestrup said...

T. Enloe states, regarding Svendsen and his brood:

They act as if they have the Greek text of Scripture locked up inside their own tradition-free heads, so how could you EVER propose "counter-exegesis" and expect them to take it seriously?

But maybe you're just more optimistic than me about the prospects of talking with them in a constructive manner.


I've freely discussed scriptural differences with Svendsen, King, and Webster. These differences are over presuppositionalism/evidentialism, the deity of Christ, eschatological passages, and some issues of Greek grammar in Romans. Everything was on a cordial plane, even though I don't think a consensus was reached.

So, in your words, how could I EVER propose counter-exegesis and expect them to take it seriously?
Well, I did, and we're all friends or at least pleasant and cordial acquaintances after the fact.

There is much else I could say about your other comments, but what I'd say has been stated enough by others so that I am confident that it would not be worthwhile to mention for the nth time.

 
At 12:48 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

I have no problems with the discussion taking place here, but keep people's family relationships out of it. No good can come of that sort of thing.

"Please explain to us all, Tim, why you are withholding that charge from Jonathan Prejean who clearly regards that approach as legitimate—something you just as clearly do not."

To be clear, I also don't think that Tim's general approach necessarily denies the possibility of knowable Biblical truth, a counter-charge that has been made (in my view unfairly) against him several times that might have provoked such overbroad responses. But in any case, the only way to resolve the theoretical conflict between these grand principles is to get down to specifics. General statements about the relative knowability or unknowability of meaning aren't relevant if those concerns don't apply in the specific case of interest.

 
At 1:20 PM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

"To be clear, I also don't think that Tim's general approach necessarily denies the possibility of knowable Biblical truth, a counter-charge that has been made (in my view unfairly) against him several times that might have provoked such overbroad responses. But in any case, the only way to resolve the theoretical conflict between these grand principles is to get down to specifics. General statements about the relative knowability or unknowability of meaning aren't relevant if those concerns don't apply in the specific case of interest."

Indeed. I appreciate what you've written in this regard and I agree with the approach, but I think you're being too kind to Tim's approach. I think we can agree Tim believes in the "possibility" of knowing biblical truth, but certainly not in the likelihood of knowing it. And he certainly does not like specifics. Have you read the dialogue I posted in regard to Tim's appearance on the NTRMin Forum? There he castigates us for getting bogged down in "a mass of particulars," while he prefers to stay in generalities. Of course, it was the particulars that ultimately showed the inconsistencies in his position. Generalities allow for those inconsistencies.

 
At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Eric, I wasn't going to respond again out of courtesy to the fact that I'm a guest on Jonathan's blog, but I see that he has no problem with what's going on. I'll make this brief.

I'm not going to waste my time arguing with you about what was supposedly "clearly" demonstrated in the NTRMin discussion. It's a basic axiom of apologetics that proofs are always person-relative. You don't seem to understand that, with all these dogmatic declarations of what is "clear" for "anyone" to see, and so forth. If there's anything that's clear, however, it's that any kind of challenge to your concept of "clarity" is instantly dismissed by you with inflammatory remarks like "You're saying truth is impossible", etc. Once again, distinctions are needed.

I may be younger than you, but I do know something about "Bible Schools", Eric. I grew up all my life in the very Evangelical milieu that produces such educational programs, and I even went to one about ten years ago. I know others older than me who have gone through entire programs, up through graduate level, in such schools, and what they testify to more than amply supports my generalization. That being the case, I make my remark about your "Bible School" based on the quality of your remarks about matters that lie outside the field of directly manipulating the text of the Bible. Your remarks indicate to me that you've not studied any cultural matters in any kind of depth, but rather have spent the bulk of your time learning how to do exegesis, Evangelical-style.

As such, despite the fact that you correctly observe that exegetes are concerned to recognize their own presumptions and instead of following those to get inside the mind of the original author, I still maintain that you don't achieve this in the perfectionistic manner that you seem to believe you do. It's a nice slogan, "Get inside the mind of the original author", but it's not as easy to do as learning mastery of Greek linguistic technology. And just in case it matters, I've learned most of what I know about cultural matters from men who hold master's and doctoral degrees. I've had at least two men with doctorates tell me that a lot of my work looks like graduate level work, not undergraduate level work. You can look down your nose at the guy who doesn't have the piece of paper if you wish, but that's hardly an argument.

The same thing is true of your complaint about my attitude. I judge what you know about "pre=-exegetical" concerns based on what you say. And what you say about those matters leaves very much to be desired. Like Dr. White, you continue to pretend that merely working with a Greek New Testament and associated reference tools somehow wonderfully purges your mind of factors extraneous to that text. You claim I "fear" exegesis, but that's only a claim based on your own presumptions about what exegesis is and how it should take place. I don't agree with you that exegesis is what you think it is, or that it proceeds like you think it proceeds, so of course I'm not going to "do exegesis" in response to your challenges. I unashamedly stipulate that were there to be a contest between you and I on mere naked Greek linguistic technology, you would win hands down. But that's not the extent of exegesis. Merely possessing a graduate level competence in linguistic technology is not going to alert you to assumptions in your own mind that you simply take for granted and thus rarely if ever think about. The locus of the dispute lies elsewhere than "Let's open up our Greek Bibles and do exegesis." I'm sorry you don't seem to understand that.

Yes I remember the statement "Their condemnation is just" which I made concerning Dr. White and yourself. But I also seem to remember explaining to you that I was using the Scripture reference rhetorically, not literally. I don't claim to know that either one of you is condemned by God. Metaphorical and analogical uses of biblical language have a long history in Christian discourse, so I'm not really responsible for your overly literal mindset.

Same thing on the "Gnostic" angle. Obviously you are not a "Gnostic" like, say, Irenaeus speaks of "gnosticism" in Adversus Haereses. After two thousand years of Christian discourse, the term has a more subtle use than it's "literal" and "face value" use. I think you are a "gnostic" in the sense that you have "gnostic tendencies", not in the sense that I think you are Valentinus. Once again, distinctions.

How dare I mention your family situation? Well, Eric, your blog is public and YOU mentioned it. In fact, you thanked God that you had a chance to berate the Catholics at your funeral for their denial of the Gospel and so forth. You set the tone for how others think about your family life; take responsibility for your own callous words. But Jonathan is right; talking about family situations isn't going to be helpful here, so regardless of the very cold, caddish way you wrote on your blog, I'll drop it.

I based my remark about your pessimism about the extent of salvation on the remark you made some time back, where you said you felt most people who had ever lived were damned and that only a very tiny few would ever be saved. Or something like that. If I've unwarrantably extrapolated from that remark, I'll be glad to be corrected.

You said, "If the Bible says there is such a thing as a false gospel, and the nature of that false gospel is addition of works to justification, then I believe that." Good for you. If I thought the Bible said that, I'd believe it too. I guess the problem here is that you and those like you seem to have an insufficient supply of patience for those who disagree with you about what the Bible "clearly" says. It's all so "clear" to you that you seem to figure people who disagree must be simpletons, or worse. It doesn't seem to occur to you, or to Dr. White who talks just like you do, that someone might HONESTLY think Scripture says something different. It doesn't seem to occur to you to examine alternative theories of what truth is, and ask yourself, before writing some harshly condemnatory piece, if maybe there's more to the story than the mere gratuitous assumptions you are making about what is "clear".

Consequently, you don't seem to have it in you to carry on a conversation about an exegetical dispute without rapidly reaching the point of painting the other side with extremist uses of Scripture like "They went out from us because they were not of us", and so forth. I say again, these disputes are NOT about WHETHER truth exists and WHETHER we can find it and WHETHER we ought to believe whatever God says. As I said, the locus of the disputes lies elsewhere.

But I existentially understand that error of yours. Looking back on 5 years of talking to Catholic apologists, I see far too many times when I made exactly that error relative to them. It's guys like Jonathan, in fact, who have helped me to get better at trying to listen to a different frame of reference before I simply reject it.

Lastly, I again refuse to accept your portrayal of me as full of vitriol and emotional rhetoric. Go read your own blog to yourself in a mirror and see how you sound. Better yet, print pictures of the faces of the people against whom you are directing your words, tape them on the mirror, and then read your diatribes to the pictures. Imagine that you are talking to real live people, not disembodied screennames. Ask yourself if you'd talk that way to someone's face--especially when they might ask you to step outside and back up your overly-bold words with actions. The problem with internet discourse is that these electronic interfaces too easily create the illusion that this is all just airy-fairy stuff in the mind. It's too easy to forget that there is another image-bearer on the other side of that screen. I've failed to remember this MANY times, so I speak to myself just as much as to you.

 
At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Eric Vestrup said...

T. Enloe: "You can look down your nose at the guy who doesn't have the piece of paper if you wish, but that's hardly an argument."

In response: your can, if you wish, look down your nose at the guy who went to a "Bible College," but that's hardly an argument.

 
At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Eric Vestrup said...

I clicked "publish" instead of preview. "Your" is obviously "you."

I also want to add that I don't mean what I say obnoxiously. But I am serious when I point out that the statement is most unwise.

 
At 3:38 PM, Blogger Kevin D. Johnson said...

Of course, the issue with "heos hou" and Mr. Svendsen is most certainly not whether he is faithful to the modern practice of exegesis and thereby right or wrong in his interpretation of a passage such as Matthew 1:25.

The issue is that Mr. Svendsen fails to appreciate the testimony of the Church (including Calvin, Turretin, and others) which on the whole quite clearly thought differently than he did both in regards to Mary's Perpetual Virginity and the language of Matthew 1:25.

In addition, the modern constructs which surround Mr. Svendsen's scientific-like exegetical methods are also to be called into question and it is here where the most serious disconnect occurs with the rest of the Church (if not also with an understanding of human behavior and language that is much more important to understanding textual material than we in conservative Christian 'fundamentalist' circles have been taught to realize). Not even Calvin in all of his precision approached the Scriptures in the way Mr. Svendsen does. The fact that Raymond Brown or other modern Roman Catholic scholars might agree prima facie with Svendsen only means that both are engaged in presenting us with a view of the Scriptures that is most certainly limited to today's prevailing cultural and academic worldview in biblical studies.

Of course, the scholastics (whether Roman or Reformed) also felt their methods and interpretations of Scripture were as justified as anyone else's during the history of the Church but it is quite clear that their testimony did not always concur with other more ancient or larger bodies within the historical Church.

In short, what Mr. Svendsen has never really addressed to my knowledge are these issues. Oh, sure, he can go rounds about how many times "heos hou" is used in biblical or other ancient literature, where and when it is used and the like, but let us hear from him as to how he justifies being able to read the minds of the men who actually wrote the Gospels!

 
At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

Tim wrote: “I may be younger than you, but I do know something about "Bible Schools", Eric. I grew up all my life in the very Evangelical milieu that produces such educational programs, and I even went to one about ten years ago.”

And you still attend one, Tim. And did you supplement a large portion of your “Bible School” education by exposing yourself to secular university education as well? I did. I was as a transient student to the Univ of Tenn for half my B.A. years. ALL of my philosophy classes were taken there, as well as my science, anthropology, history, psychology, and art classes.

Tim wrote: “As such, despite the fact that you correctly observe that exegetes are concerned to recognize their own presumptions and instead of following those to get inside the mind of the original author, I still maintain that you don't achieve this in the perfectionistic manner that you seem to believe you do. It's a nice slogan, "Get inside the mind of the original author", but it's not as easy to do as learning mastery of Greek linguistic technology.”

First, I do not believe I have achieved it in a “perfectionistic manner.” That’s just your continued misrepresentation of my view. Second, what in the world would you know about the discipline of exegesis anyway since you have no training or practice in it at it? There is nothing “easy” about mastering Greek,” and there is nothing “easy” about mastering exegetical method. Each one takes long years of training and long years of practice. You’ve had exactly none—zip, nada, zero, ziltch. But you somehow think you’re in a position not only to evaluate those of us who have, but also to state baldly that we are wrong on our understanding of how it's done. That’s remarkable.

“Like Dr. White, you continue to pretend that merely working with a Greek New Testament and associated reference tools somehow wonderfully purges your mind of factors extraneous to that text.”

Again, your mischaracterizations are well known, but completely off base.

“You claim I "fear" exegesis, but that's only a claim based on your own presumptions about what exegesis is and how it should take place.”

It’s based, rather, on your absolute refusal to engage the biblical text in any of our dialogues. I can tell you what exegesis is *not*. Exegesis is *not* about ignoring the Bible in your decisions and beliefs as a Christian, that’s for sure.

“I don't agree with you that exegesis is what you think it is, or that it proceeds like you think it proceeds, so of course I'm not going to "do exegesis" in response to your challenges.”

Tim, don’t fool yourself; you’re certainly not fooling me. It’s not that you *disagree* with me about what exegesis is; it’s that you don’t *know* what exegesis is.

“I unashamedly stipulate that were there to be a contest between you and I on mere naked Greek linguistic technology, you would win hands down. But that's not the extent of exegesis.”

Who said it is? Certainly not I. But that’s just as certainly the starting point. And if you cannot engage the text at the starting point, then you’ve omitted a pretty important piece.

“Metaphorical and analogical uses of biblical language have a long history in Christian discourse, so I'm not really responsible for your overly literal mindset.”

No, you’re no responsible--except of course if you plan to communicate meaningfully with anyone in the twenty-first century. Now, who was it again who couldn’t recognize his own culturally conditioned suppositions? Maybe you just need to get out of Moscow for a while and get a taste of the real world.

“How dare I mention your family situation? Well, Eric, your blog is public and YOU mentioned it.”

Funny; I don’t recall mentioning the grieving and comforting part. Could you post that part here for all to see?

“In fact, you thanked God that you had a chance to berate the Catholics at your funeral for their denial of the Gospel and so forth.”

Funny; I don’t recall using the word "berate"; I don’t recall saying it was at the funeral. Could you post these as well?

“You set the tone for how others think about your family life; take responsibility for your own callous words. But Jonathan is right; talking about family situations isn't going to be helpful here, so regardless of the very cold, caddish way you wrote on your blog, I'll drop it.”

If you can’t see a difference, Tim, between an announcement on my blog that I was able to engage my family’s priest in dialogue over something as important as divine authority, and your uninformed musings into the level of grief and comfort experienced over the death of my mother, then you are more social awkward than I originally thought.

“based my remark about your pessimism about the extent of salvation on the remark you made some time back, where you said you felt most people who had ever lived were damned and that only a very tiny few would ever be saved. Or something like that. If I've unwarrantably extrapolated from that remark, I'll be glad to be corrected.”

I cited Jesus own words, who in a religious context said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt 7:13-14). So, is Jesus also a pessismist?

“It doesn't seem to occur to you, or to Dr. White who talks just like you do, that someone might HONESTLY think Scripture says something different. It doesn't seem to occur to you to examine alternative theories of what truth is, and ask yourself, before writing some harshly condemnatory piece, if maybe there's more to the story than the mere gratuitous assumptions you are making about what is "clear".”

Oh please. Do you realize how inane your statement sounds to someone who has written bot a masters-level and a doctoral-level thesis on theological issues, has extensively documented and interacted with scores of opposing viewpoints and hundreds of works in excruciating detail, has detailed his own position while showing the weaknesses of all the other competing exegetical positions, and has submitted those theses to a committee of scholars, some of whom didn’t even share basic common assumptions about inerrancy, orthodoxy, authorship, critical methods, etc.? Until you’ve done research at that level, Tim, you’ll just never know what “prior assumptions” are. Making it to that level requires recognizing your own theological assumptions because you’re going to be asked about them and dinged for it if you haven’t recognized them yourself. Your observations about my ability to recognize my own assumptions are ridiculous.

“Consequently, you don't seem to have it in you to carry on a conversation about an exegetical dispute without rapidly reaching the point of painting the other side with extremist uses of Scripture like "They went out from us because they were not of us", and so forth. I say again, these disputes are NOT about WHETHER truth exists and WHETHER we can find it and WHETHER we ought to believe whatever God says. As I said, the locus of the disputes lies elsewhere.”

So, then the apostle John himself is guilty of this as well? You seem to hold one standard for me while giving a pass to the writers I’m actually citing. Why is that, Tim?

 
At 3:45 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Don't mean to pick on you, Tim, but you gave me a good example of one of my pet peeves.

"Same thing on the 'Gnostic' angle. Obviously you are not a 'Gnostic' like, say, Irenaeus speaks of 'gnosticism' in Adversus Haereses. After two thousand years of Christian discourse, the term has a more subtle use than it's 'literal' and 'face value' use. I think you are a 'gnostic' in the sense that you have 'gnostic tendencies', not in the sense that I think you are Valentinus. Once again, distinctions."

Always follow the cardinal rule of style: "Never use a less precise expression when a more precise one is available." Otherwise, you're sacrificing meaning for style, and that's pretty much the definition of bad prose. And you should be particularly guarded in this instance, because bad writing is liable to make an already- contentious situation worse.

 
At 4:00 PM, Blogger Kevin D. Johnson said...

Mr. Svendsen states:
"...what in the world would you know about the discipline of exegesis anyway since you have no training or practice in it at it? There is nothing “easy” about mastering Greek,” and there is nothing “easy” about mastering exegetical method. Each one takes long years of training and long years of practice. You’ve had exactly none—zip, nada, zero, ziltch. But you somehow think you’re in a position not only to evaluate those of us who have, but also to state baldly that we are wrong on our understanding of how it's done. That’s remarkable."

So much for the perspecuity of Scripture! Do you see how this sort of academic hubris does nothing but deny the cardinal doctrines of the Reformation? If a well-educated layman (i.e. Mr. Enloe) can't understand "exegetical method" without "long years of training and long years of practice" or if someone like Mr. Enloe can't offer criticism of supposedly untouchable viewpoints (except by the academic elite), what have we done but instituted another privileged class within Christendom and destroyed much of what the Reformation was about in the first place?

 
At 4:10 PM, Blogger Kevin D. Johnson said...

The Crimsonator wrote:
"Always follow the cardinal rule of style: "Never use a less precise expression when a more precise one is available.""

Hmmm...in engineering this might be appropriate but the Bible nowhere near approaches this model of communication. In fact, there are many places where it is quite clear that the Bible seems to be ambiguous on purpose.

Just a thought to consider...

 
At 4:33 PM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

Kevin Wrote:

“In short, what Mr. Svendsen has never really addressed to my knowledge are these issues. Oh, sure, he can go rounds about how many times "heos hou" is used in biblical or other ancient literature, where and when it is used and the like, but let us hear from him as to how he justifies being able to read the minds of the men who actually wrote the Gospels!”

And . . .

“So much for the perspecuity of Scripture! Do you see how this sort of academic hubris does nothing but deny the cardinal doctrines of the Reformation? If a well-educated layman (i.e. Mr. Enloe) can't understand "exegetical method" without "long years of training and long years of practice" or if someone like Mr. Enloe can't offer criticism of supposedly untouchable viewpoints (except by the academic elite), what have we done but instituted another privileged class within Christendom and destroyed much of what the Reformation was about in the first place?”

I’m sorry, but these statements betray such a basic misunderstanding of what exegesis is that it’s exceedingly difficult to respond. The problem with you postmoderns is that you argue that nothing is clear, and that meaning cannot be ascertained without difficulty (that’s your real basis for denying the legitimacy of exegesis); but then proceed to write articles to convince us of that fact, all the while expecting us to understand *your* words! You decry Greek scholarship, but happily cite your translation of Scripture which you seem not to realize is available to you only through Greek scholarship! You decry exegesis, but confidently assert you have the exegesis of Luther and Calvin right! You can’t even know what Calvin said apart from exegesis, yet you quote him to support your war against exegesis at every turn! You’re a mass of conflicting impulses. That’s why your views are so untenable, and your objections to our views so self-defeating.

Oh well, I’m really not interested in convincing a man who is convinced of the untenable. Continue in your happy postmodern world. The rest of us will live in real life.

 
At 4:42 PM, Anonymous Eric Vestrup said...

Kevin states:

"So much for the perspecuity of Scripture! Do you see how this sort of academic hubris does nothing but deny the cardinal doctrines of the Reformation? If a well-educated layman (i.e. Mr. Enloe) can't understand "exegetical method" without "long years of training and long years of practice" or if someone like Mr. Enloe can't offer criticism of supposedly untouchable viewpoints (except by the academic elite), what have we done but instituted another privileged class within Christendom and destroyed much of what the Reformation was about in the first place?"

Is this a parody or is this meant to be taken seriously? If it is parody, it is simply hilarious.

 
At 5:29 PM, Blogger Kevin D. Johnson said...

It is unfortunate that Mr. Svendsen has chosen to respond via ad hominem. Just once I'd love to see him seriously engage in regards to what I have already said.

 
At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

"It is unfortunate that Mr. Svendsen has chosen to respond via ad hominem. Just once I'd love to see him seriously engage in regards to what I have already said"

I didn't catch the ad hominem. was it "mass of conflicting impulses"? "Postmodern"? Something else? You're right about one thing, though. I don't take your views seriously--or, rather, I don't *treat* them seriously. But then again, not all views should be taken seriously. The only way to answer some views is by sardonically showing how they are self-defeating. There's nothing inherently illegitimate about that. A view should be internally consistent before it gains respect from anyone. On the other hand, it doesn't mean I haven't treated the issue. Have you read my blog entries recently? I addressed your view on Mary, did I not? And wasn't it you specifically who a while ago disparaged my research on Mary's PV by ridiculing my research on the phrase heos hou? Did I whine that you didn't take *my* views seriously? No; instead I addressed your underlying assumptions and showed how they are inconsistent with your own view. Then I showed exegetically why you are wrong about the biblical texts you addressed. I have done this repeatedly, so please don't carelessly assert that I haven't addressed your views when, in fact, I have.

 
At 8:01 PM, Blogger Kevin D. Johnson said...

Oh brother...

 
At 8:12 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

kevin:
"Hmmm...in engineering this might be appropriate but the Bible nowhere near approaches this model of communication. In fact, there are many places where it is quite clear that the Bible seems to be ambiguous on purpose."

True, but I was talking about analytical writing for the purpose of communicating information in 21st century America. I know people accuse Tim of being arrogant, but I don't think he's purporting to write Holy Scripture! ;-)

Dr. Svendsen:
I appreciate that you've taken the time to respond here. Recognizing that such interaction can break down quickly, I still think that it's a gesture of good faith and credibility to participate in such things from time to time. And for the record, I don't see how someone can make the accusation that Greek scholarship is the purview of an elite class. Anybody can pick up a commentary (or preferably, a half-dozen commentaries) and get a sense of the issues, so it's not as if Greek scholarship is utterly inaccessible to laymen.

 
At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Fine, Eric. Have it your way.

For the sake of those who actually care about such things as discerning facts from mere blustering, I have in fact read a fair bit (for an undergrad) of exegetical work and I have two years of Greek study (including a good bit of practice exegetical work using such resources as Wallace) to my credit. Not much compared to Svendsen, obviously, but far more than he gives me credit for. As well, I have spent a lot of time working through complicated issues of worldview thinking and presuppositions and the inconsistencies that plague everyone from time to time. Pontifications from Eric Svendsen that I "don't even know what exegesis" is are less than meaningless. I don't fill my blog with exegetical demonstrations like Svendsen and others do, but I do know what exegesis is. And it's precisely because I know what it is that I don't buy Svendsen's portrayal of numerous issues of controversy, especially those related to Protestant-Roman Catholic disputes.

I don't have a seminary degree, or for that matter any degree at all, but I know enough from years of very serious, sober-minded study of a very wide-range of authors and materials to recognize such things as that no science, certainly not biblical hermeneutics, is or ever even can be theory-independent, nor is getting into the minds of original authors as simple as merely learning the syntax of their language. As my friend Perry Robinson has recently said of the complexity of language and its influences upon human discourse, "Meaning outruns symbols. Semantics outruns syntax so that knowing how to manipulate symbols does not imply that you have access to the meaning of the terms involved. This is one reason why thinking of languages, specifically the Greek language as a system of rules and that the application of the proper rules will yeild access to the meaning of the terms is mistaken. Languages just don't work like that as any amount of reflection on say slang will make clear."

I don't need a seminary degree, or Svendsen's agreement, to know that although truth is in fact attainable (because God is the foundation of all things) no finite human mind can ever step outside of itself and attain a "God's eye view" of truth. This recognition is a function of the Creator / creature distinction, which is quite a mainstream Evangelical and Reformed principle, regardless of whether Svendsen's very Modernistic thinking about "Truth" properly embodies it.

Furthermore, I don't need the spiritual oversight of men like Svendsen or his friends to make sure I'm grounded in biblical reality. I am already in proper biblical submission to godly elders in a lawful Christian church, and it is to them, not to self-styled "apologists" railing about "apostasy" from "the Gospel" that I am accountable. Yet again, having been raised and saturated in Scripture all my life I do not need men like Svendsen to "do theology for me so I don't hurt myself."

Much less do I need men like Svendsen to supposedly introduce me to worlds of scholarship and theological contribution to which I would not have ever been able to have access apart from his mediation (yes, it has been an actual complaint he has leveled against me is that I was ungrateful for the vast intellectual horizons he opened up to me by inviting me to join his fringe parachurch ministry). Though merely an undergrad, I have received amazing compliments for my scholarly endeavors from men who hold doctorates from little no-account colleges with names like "Cambridge", and if all continues as it is now, I will shortly be pursuing graduate level studies at one of several other no-account schools with names like "The University of Toronto". Clearly I do not need, and never did need, Eric Svendsen to introduce me to the grander, wider world of serious intellectual discourse.

My focuses in scholarship are different from Svendsen's, but that doesn't make them inferior or justify this line of attack from him about my "bacheloritis". The ghost of C.S. Lewis's "Bulverism" comes to mind as a description for Svendsen's dismissive ad hominem at that point. In very many ways, in fact, I am simply following the lead of men better than I, who taught me not merely what to think but how to think. Many of these men are mainstream Evangelical scholars, too, which makes Svendsen's repeated pretensions to himself be some sort of cutting-edge scholar exposing the hubris of a poor kid who has "bacheloritis" quite silly. Noll, Wells, Marsden, Moreland, Geisler, Nash, Gunton, Van Til, Bahnsen, Sproul, Schaeffer, McGrath, Brown, Berkhof--shall I go on? These are the sorts of names whose books reside on my bookshelves and whose arguments I have pondered for many years as I've developed my own thinking on a variety of subjects. Do I make mistakes of fact and reasoning from time to time? Sure. There is no one who does not, so I suppose I'm in rather good company.

I need say no more. Clarity is not an absolute factor, but I think there are some things that are very clear about the mode of attack Svendsen has chosen. I'm not going to give myself an ulcer over it. It's just not that important.

 
At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Tim Enloe said...

Oh, and btw, Eric, would you do us all a favor and state whether you still maintain what you told me in an e-mail nearly two years ago regarding the relationship of regeneration to scholarship? I do not presently have access to my old AOL e-mail files, which is where the record resides, but I distinctly remember this:

I mentioned Nathan Hatch's book The Democratization of American Christianity to you as partial support for some of my claims about how American culture has affected Evangelicalism, and particularly Calvinism, and you replied (rough paraphrase from memory) "I thought Hatch was a Roman Catholic. If he is, he doesn't possess the spiritual insight to properly interpret history."

It would help us all to better understand your claims if you would confirm or deny that this sort of thing is your view about the nature and process of scholarship.

 
At 4:42 AM, Anonymous Eric Svendsen said...

Blessings to you, Tim

 

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