Monday, January 01, 2007

Continuing the string of disappointment

Eric Svendsen once again failed to expend any effort at trying to understand what I am saying, which is a shame given that his earlier questions would have been valuable to him had he bothered to listen to them. His response does point to some common mistakes that Protestants make, and it reminds me that I should probably devote a bit of time to explaining the relationship between nature and dynamis, and the two uses to which that term is put. But for the nonce, even though it is now evident it will do no good for Svendsen, I am obliged to respond for the sake of completeness of this context. I debated over whether trying to summarize the major points, but I've so often found that repetition and point-by-point answers are the only way to give a sufficiently comprehensive response that I will do so once again. I've been accused of lying, so I'll unfortunately have to respond to that spurious charge as well.

I'll go in reverse order to Svendsen's posts (I was hoping the first response would forestall the mistakes in the second, but that didn't turn out to be the case). Svendsen's words are red; my earlier words are blue; my present responses are in black.

In response to Svendsen's post with a ridiculous title:

My timing is dictated by responsibilities I have—not by the timing of Prejean’s rants.

Absent any way of knowing otherwise, I'll take him at his word for this.

“Eric the Yellow”? I realize Prejean is young; but I didn’t know he was twelve. Oh, that’s right; he’s now a sycophant of Art “Jack Chick” Sippo, and takes his cue from him.

It was Dave Armstrong's term to describe a long and well-documented pattern of behavior.

And Prejean flatters himself. He assumes I have a much higher regard for what he does and thinks than I actually do. In fact, I care very little whether Prejean was paying attention or not.

I have no idea why your "regard" has anything to do with it. You gave a response to me at an oddly late moment after having charged into a conversation with someone else with a remark about me. If you don't care, then you have an odd way of showing it. I freely confess that I do care about your backward views, in light of the available scholarship, because they are being used to justify irrational prejudices against Catholics, and I find the idea that citizens of 21st century America can believe such things disturbing. But I am beginning to perceive that your responses are at the level of emotion and not reason, so I am now dubious about whether there is any serious danger of mistake here. There is relatively little I can do for people who aren't going to think things through with sufficient critical detachment to avoid being ruled by emotion.

His voice in this—or in anything for that matter—is so minor, it is barely worth responding to. There are not many who even read his blog; and that’s not just my opinion, it is a technical observation. In fact, good luck finding Prejean’s blog if you don’t already have it bookmarked. Even a Google search on the name of the blog or the name of the author--or both--will yield only third-party references to it, which means it simply does not draw much traffic.

... which is a very good argument for why I am not doing this in order to play to the audience. I do it for the sake of correctness and accuracy. The Internet is a medium with little safeguard for truth or accountability, and I see myself as doing nothing but making a very slight contribution to that goal. In the grand scheme of things, the blogosphere is quite insignificant in terms of the lasting contribution to human knowledge; it is simply an attempt for me to do the best I can within my own tiny sphere. But rational accountability is of no use for people who aren't acting rationally in the first place, so there may be little to do here anyway.

And why exactly would someone lose credibility for [calling me an idiot]? Again, Prejean assumes here that I have a higher view of him than I actually do.

It doesn't matter what your view is; it matters what a reasonable and objective view of the matter would suggest. A reasonable and objective view of the situation militates strongly against my idiocy. Moreover, it is directly contrary to your own caricature of me as a disingenuous manipulator.

Again, not necessarily. Someone as disingenuous as Prejean knows that if he admits defeat, his “catholic cause” goes out the window. His M.O. is to engage in sophistry and spin the dialogue in his favor. Nothing particularly “senseless” about that, particularly when we’re dealing with someone who has demonstrated a propensity to lie.

I've cheerfully admitted error many a time without thinking that the "Catholic cause" hinged on it, and I can't even imagine having such a egomanical view of the world as to think so, so Svendsen is simply making things up. In fact, I think we learn exactly where Svendsen's commitment to the truth is. I have never once been disingenuous, sophistic, or dishonest with him, much less "demonstrated a propensity to lie."

I have no doubt that Svendsen believes what he is saying, which is the best evidence that Svendsen is behaving completely irrationally with respect to me. I have no idea what emotional motivation that comes into play here, as contrasted with James White, who is obviously trying to please his father (although this means he has little relevance for Catholics who have no concern for pleasing his father) Certainly, I think there is a clue in Svendsen referring to his father and siblings as his "earthly family" on the occasion of his mother's funeral, but apart from that, I have no information about the emotional drive that produces this behavior. All I can say is that he isn't thinking clearly when it comes to Catholicism.

That’s ridiculous. Of course such a person would. It would be idiotic not to, since anyone with a search engine could find the dialogue on my blog (unlike Prejean’s blog). And then such a person would engage in sophistry and spin to make it look like he is right. In fact, I’ll prove it. Just read how Prejean spins his backpedaling incident. It is indisputable that Prejean originally thought Nestorius taught Christ was two persons; and then when confronted with the evidence of patristic scholars pretended he always knew Nestorius’s view had been misunderstood.

Apart from this being completely senseless (since it would simply provoke someone to do the search whether I linked it or not, and if I were really conniving, I would almost certainly rather take the chance that they wouldn't search), there is also the fact that there are several people who could testify (and in the case of Perry Robinson, have testified) to the fact that I knew otherwise well before I brought this issue up with Svendsen. When you start calling delusional beliefs that aren't even reasonably possible "indisputable," there's a strong indication that you simply aren't thinking, but reacting on pure emotion.

I'm glad that I'm not forced to believe crazy things about my opponents in order to convince myself that I'm not wrong. What I can't understand is why anyone would believe someone who is spouting such insane things. I can't imagine that Svendsen ever did business presuming that every Catholic with whom he did business was dishonest, but like I said, on the Internet, you can be nuts without accountability.

Just because Prejean has deceived himself into thinking he can explain [the hypostatic union], does not make it so.

I have never purported to explain the mechanism of the hypostatic union, but I certainly don't think there is any doubt about what is being affirmed. More on this will follow.

[Scripture]'s the only divine authority that functions as common ground in this discussion; hence, it’s the only divine authority that is worth anything in this discussion. Even the councils themselves do not claim to have additional revelation—rather, they work with their understanding of Scripture. Prejean loses this point.

But I don't accept that Scripture serves as a divine authority in the way that Svendsen does, so this is question-begging. Absent an argument, Svendsen's assertion is gratuitous.

“Little surprise that a Calvinist says this; my brand spanking new copy of Helm's John Calvin's Ideas says much the same thing. Calvin doesn't consider the communicatio idiomatum to refer to anything real, which is Nestorianism.”

Here’s another example of Prejean’s “dazzling” logic at work. And it’s the same “logic” that would allow me to conclude that since Prejean does not recognize the apostles can act as a rule of faith, then he doesn’t believe they are real people. And since he doesn’t believe they are real people, he’s a Docetist. Therefore, Roman Catholicism is Docetic. See how easy that was?

I have no reason to think that Helm is wrong, while you have no good reason to charge me with docetism, so it's not really the same situation.

Prejean's underlying humanistic rationalism betrays him. If he can’t explain it, it’s not real.

I don't know why affirming basic principles of logic is "humanistic." If it is, then color me a proud humanist, because I don't think that Christianity is senseless.

He knows exactly how God is one and three at the same time. Prejean can explain that. He knows exactly how God can have no beginning—that there was never an instant when God had a first thought. He knows the mechanics of how God can be all places at all times. Prejean can explain perfectly how the hypostatic union works. He has penetrating insight into just how all those things came together.

No, I don't know how it is, but I know what I am affirming. This is a distinction that has always been held, and indeed, it is one that must be affirmed for Christianity to even be reasonably defensible.

And he can do all this without Scripture!

On the contrary, it is because of Scripture that I am even able to affirm what I can. Otherwise, I would be stuck with sheer negations on account of the infinite creature/creator divide.

Prejean’s completely comprehensible God is, unfortunately, nothing more than an idol made in his own image. This is the same rationale Jehovah's Witnesses use to deny the Trinity.

Except that I have years worth of posts maintaining that God is not completely comprehensible. Certainly, JWs try to project limited human concepts onto God, but Svendsen does the same, just without any consistency. I, on the other hand, have a coherent concept of Christian apophaticism.

No, he doesn’t; He wants agreement for one purpose only—so that he can push a Marian agenda.

Again, this is just crazy. Svendsen has just made this up with no evidence or reasonable basis, just like the accusations of dishonesty and just like the paranoid conspiracy theory where I just repeat arguments that I know have been beaten. This isn't the real world; it's la-la land.

The entire dialogue began as an informal discussion on the title “mother of God,” and the Christology of the fifth century was a side point (introduced by Prejean to bolster his argument) that eventually took center stage. Prejean has either forgotten the original discussion that prompted my series, or (more likely) he is a liar.

Again with the crazy accusations of dishonesty. In fact, this was exactly where Svendsen's detachment from reality began. I'm sure that in Svendsen's mind, this is what was going on when Kevin Johnson happened to point out that the Reformers hadn't seen any need to deny perfectly orthodox forms of veneration for Mary, including the term "Mother of God," so Svendsen's anti-Mariology was entirely unnecessary, motivated only by the aforementioned irrational antipathy toward Catholicism. I pointed out at the time that Svendsen justified his hostility to the term "Mother of God" based on the same mistake that produced both Arianism and Nestorianism, so his opinion was of no consequence. Whether the discussion was "informal" or not, Svendsen's critique of the use of the term "Mother of God" was based on a logical error. I had pointed out that his criticism of the term was based on the confusion of person of nature before I even got involved in that discussion, and I pointed out to Svendsen in the update to my first response to him that this was the basis for what I had said and in response to Svendsen's express request I laid out exactly what I considered to be the basis for that argument. For Svendsen now to claim that the discussion wasn't about what he wanted it to be is simply incredible. If he was interested in answering my charge, then it would have to have been about whether he had confused nature and person. If anything, Svendsen took the dialogue on a completely ridiculous course when he took off on the subject of whether Nestorius was consciously Nestorian, which had absolutely nothing to do with whether Svendsen had logically failed to distinguish person and nature in the same way as Arianism and Nestorianism (obviously referring to the beliefs historically condemned by the Ecumenical Councils, given my invocation of the Fifth Ecumenical Council in my original post before the "Mother of God" discussion ever started).

Unanimously? So, there are no other patristic scholars except the seven Prejean mentions above? Here again we are treated to Prejeans idea of “scholarship.”

Considering I recited the authors of the major Cyrillian studies of the last couple of decades, I consider the sample representative. Note that Svendsen cites no one who actually disagreed with them regarding the point I raised.

“It's perfectly fine to use the term [Mother of God] in an unqualified way; it is only if qualified that it becomes heterodox (Mary is the Mother of God as God). If Christ is truly a single divine subject, then Mother of God is the norm, and the openly heterodox statement would be "mother of a man." This is yet another demonstration of Svendsen's ignorance of the theological use of this term (his laughable statements about meter theou being the only worse howlers).

Except, of course, that the qualifier for theotokos in Chalcedon is “as regards his humanity”—the very thing Prejean has just claimed is “heterodox.”

On the contrary, the fact that Chalcedon used the qualifier proves my point. You don't see the Chalcedonian Fathers saying "theotokos of the man Christ"; rather, they say "theotokos as regards his humanity."

And once again, Cyril’s mater theou was not used in the proclamations; so, no, theotokos means “God bearer,” not “mother of God.”

But this also supports my point. In point of fact, "mother of God" like "Son of God" could be given a purely relational, rather than a natural, significance (this is why homoousios was used as an amplification of Son of God against the Arians, who maintained that "Son of God" could be a relational term). Theotokos was therefore chosen to be an even stronger term to show that the Word of God has a natural relationship with His Blessed Mother. Svendsen has proved a point against his own position here; he conceded that the Council used the stronger term rather than the weaker term. He appears to be relying on Brown's gaffe in this regard. I have no idea why Brown would have made the mistake of thinking that meter theou was somehow stronger than theotokos, but Brown has no source for his claim (although it sounds like the sort of dated argument that Harnack or Seeberg would make). But everyone I have read who examined the issue comes to the opposite conclusion.

Philosophy classes were a required part of my program. One now needs an advanced degree in philosophy to know about Aristotle and Plato?

Well, not knowing that they had different concepts of intelligibility and nous, and that this was at the heart of a major disagreement between them, certainly doesn't help the case. I don't think it requires an advanced degree, but neither do I think that taking a couple of philosophy classes means that you actually know anything about them. Again, it's not the qualifications in themselves, but the lack of qualifications combined with saying things contrary to what is considered routine in the scholarship, which is exactly what I said in my first post to Svendsen.

To use Prejan’s own logic, since he has absolutely no training in patristics or any related discipline, what makes him qualified at all to speak on any of this?

Because I'm well-read, and because I'm not claiming my own authority (anyone can check my sources easily enough).

Now to the point; tools are useful only if those tools are the right tools. I can’t drive a nail with a screwdriver. I can’t rightly loosen a bolt with a hacksaw. Aristotelian categories are out of place when attempting to explain what has not been revealed to anyone.

And as I said, there's a difference between the how and the what of an Incarnation. If I were trying to explain the former, that would be a problem. Trying to affirm the latter is simply coherent orthodoxy, and if Aristotelian concepts are useful for that affirmation, then there is nothing wrong with them.

Prejean just continues to dig himself deeper and deeper into heresy. Here is why Prejean’s open rejection of Scripture in these matters is so dangerous. Notice how his thinking compares to that of the Great Apostle:

“For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom 11:30-36)

Paul himself could not explain God’s dealings with man, that he would “shut up all men in disobedience” just so he could “show mercy to all.” Instead, he throws his hands in the air and exclaims, “Your judgments are unsearchable and your ways unfathomable!” According to Paul, “NO ONE has known the mind of the Lord.” Prejean, of course, just thinks Paul’s lack of philosophical explanation is “nonsense.” Paul admits he does not know whether he was “in the body or out of the body” when he was caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor 12). Prejean, of course, can explain all of that, and thinks Paul’s explanation of “unknowability” is mere “nonsense” and a “philosophical copout.”

No, I simply draw the entirely pedestrian distinction between the how (which is incomprehensible) and the what (which is rationally explicable). Svendsen simply appeals to this whenever he says anything incoherent to avoid explaining why he is affirming nonsense. In other words, he's using God's incomprehensibility to avoid the critical thinking required to confront the emotional and irrational judgments he is making here.

And just to show that the early church followed this approach to that which had not been revealed, here is what Cyril of Jerusalem (the “good” Cyril) had to say about the matter:

“But if the Lord permit, I will set it forth, according to my powers, with demonstration from the Scriptures. For when we are dealing with the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, we must not deliver anything whatsoever, without the sacred Scriptures, nor let ourselves be misled by mere probability, or by marshalling of arguments. And do not simply credit me, when I tell you these things, unless you get proof from the Holy Scriptures of the things set forth by me. For this salvation of ours by faith is not by sophistical use of words, but by proof from the sacred Scriptures (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture IV, Art. 17). . . . For these articles of our faith were not composed out of human opinion, but are the principle points collected out of the whole of Scripture to complete a single doctrinal formulation of the faith” (Ibid., Lecture V, Art. 12). . . . Let us be content with this knowledge [taken from Scripture] and not busy ourselves with questions about the divine nature or hypostasis. I would have spoken of that had it been contained in Scripture. Let us not venture where Scripture does not lead, for it suffices for our salvation to know that there is Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit [Ibid., Lecture XVI, Art. 24]. . . . But the Holy Spirit himself has not spoken in the Scriptures about the Son’s generation from the Father. Why then busy yourself over something that the Holy Spirit has not expressed in the Scriptures? You do not know all the Scriptures, and yet must get to know what is not in the Scriptures? (Ibid., Lecture XI, Art. 12).

The irony of Svendsen affirming someone who argued in favor of the term "theotokos" (Ibid., Lecture X, art. 19) as "the good Cyril" is delightful, but St. Cyril says nothing in the 4th and 5th lectures other than what I have said numerous times about the interpretation of Scriptures according to the rule of faith. If anything, St. Cyril's argument would utterly reject Svendsen's position that someone who denies the holy mysteries (the Sacraments) would be competent to exegete Scripture correctly (and again, citing someone with such a strong sacramental realism as "the good Cyril" is too funny). St. Cyril's comments in the 11th and 16th lectures say exactly what I said: we affirm the distinction between nature and person, between begetting and proceeding, without knowing the actual details of these things. Svendsen's citation of St. Cyril displays all his usual incompetence in handling the writings of the Fathers; anyone with a cursory knowledge of patristic scholarship would recognize the distinction immediately.

According to Prejean, Cyril is just a blithering idiot.

The more apt statement would be "According to Cyril, Svendsen is just a blithering idiot," but who's counting?

Who denies that Christ is a single subject? Does Prejean imagine this is what I’m talking about when I say that the mechanics of how the union of God and man in Christ takes place is not something Scripture addresses? Even the Godhead is addressed as a single subject—that doesn’t explain the complexity of the Trinity. Prejean’s reticence in venturing into Scripture is now beginning to make a lot more sense.

Whether it is or it isn't, the entire debate over Nestorianism was whether it was coherent to say that any form of union other than natural union, union in which the very person of the Word of God was the basis of the union, inherently required denial of the single personhood of Christ. Again, the question is not the how of the union, but the what. Plenty of Nestorians asserted a union of operation that was so close that Jesus and the Word of God were effectively one person, but this logically entailed two real persons, not a single real person. This is because operations are functions of nature and not person, so no operation can be constitutive of a union between natures; they can't make two natures part of the same subject. If you don't affirm the personal union, then it is incoherent to say "Jesus is God." And as far as the Godhead being referred to as a "single subject," I have no indication that Svendsen is using the term in the technical sense.

Well, I think we all know that Prejean’s view of scriptural authority doesn’t even require a Bible. He rejects the apostles’ teachings and writings, and has given them the same status as heretical religious books like the Quran and the Book of Mormon.

I'll do more explaining on this subject later, but this is another distinction Svendsen confuses: the distinction between nature and supernature.

And Prejean’s continued mention of a “single-subject Christology,” as though own view of Christ is something other than that, is nothing less than misrepresentation of my view.

Nestorius affirmed single-subject Christology in a nominal way as well, but it was irreconcilable with his notion of the personhood being constituted by a close union between two real entities. That confuses nature (operation) with person.

That’s not even the point. We all know that these things aren’t taught in Scripture—which is why Prejean insists on appealing to the title theototos. If we can agree that Mary is “mother of God,” then we cannot deny the privileges that attend that title (so goes the reasoning). It’s not strange at all that Prejean would focus on this issue to advance a larger agenda for Mary. It’s something that’s done all the time in RC pop-apologetics.

So goes whose reasoning? It certainly isn't mine, and given Svendsen's paranoia about me, I find it difficult to give credence to his opinion that it happens "all the time" even with other Catholics. The opponents addressed in the Apollinarimonophysitism article certainly weren't, and neither was Kevin Johnson in the original thread that sparked this whole debacle.

No it’s not the same old thing. The Augustinian quotes I supplied show that Augustine spoke of Mary’s motherhood only in terms of his humanity, and denied it involved his divinity. That’s just what is at issue here in the proper understanding of theotokos.

But that is MY understanding as well. What Svendsen appears completely incapable of understanding is that the term "Mother of God" applies to person and not nature. Augustine is talking about nature and not person. This isn't a ridiculously complex issue of philosophy; it simply requires saying that one thing is not the other thing.

I quoted Augustine:

At that time, therefore, when about to engage in divine acts, He repelled, as one unknown, her who was the mother, not of His divinity, but of His [human] infirmity" (Tract. in Ioannem CXIX, 1)

Prejean responded:“And when we speak with the qualification of speaking about natures, this is entirely routine. Since Svendsen evidently can't distinguish between nature and person (subject), I can see why this is confusing.”

There’s nothing even remotely present in this passage that speaks of Prejean’s distinction between “nature” and “person.” Yes, of course he’s referring to nature—but for Augustine, that’s the only meaningful way to express that union. All Augustine is interested in affirming is that Mary can be viewed as “mother of Jesus” only by virtue of his humanity, and NOT by virtue of his divinity. Hence, the title “mother of God” would simply be disallowed by Augustine in any context.

This is so bizarre that I wonder how Svendsen could even have thought it made sense. Svendsen admits that Augustine is referring to nature in discussing humanity and divinity. But he appears to be saying that he is incapable of distinguishing between natures and union between natures (i.e., person, to which the term "Mother of God" applies). Not only is there absolutely no evidence of this in the text, but it is so blatantly inconsistent with Augustine's entire corpus, including De Trinitate as the most obvious example, that it is unthinkable that Svendsen could possibly have presented this as a serious argument. Again, when it comes to Catholicism, Svendsen routinely displays this sort of emotional reaction against any sort of rational thinking. This is the sort of gross logical error that no one thinking straight would ever make. Svendsen continues after a similar quote...

“According as He was God, he had no mother.” Prejean somehow interprets this as evidence that Augustine would have given full assent to the title “mother of God.” I’ll let the reader decide for himself whether that’s even a reasonable option.

Note Svendsen's logic going off the beam again. Svendsen was the one using this as evidence that Augustine would have denied the title "Mother of God." I am simply pointing out that there is nothing in these quotes even to suggest that. Svendsen is the one who has to maintain that Augustine can't distinguish nature and person for his argument to stick, and these quotes fail to do that (and manifold other sources could be cited to show that he did not). Unless Augustine accepts Svendsen's confusion of person and nature, Svendsen has proved nothing.

Anti-intellectual? No. Careful to make a distinction between the paradigm of the New Testament writers and the paradigm of the fifth-century writers? Yes. I’ll say this once again. Aristotelian categories are woefully inadequate to explain Scripture because they are based on different paradigms. To engage in such an activity would be equivalent to using postmodern metanarratives to accurately explain propositional truth; or to use a screwdriver to hammer a nail.

I find the idea of someone who uses the term "paradigm" in this way right before criticizing "postmodern metanarratives" amusing, but I must deny that metaphysical reality is a matter of "paradigms." Aristotelian concepts describe reality, and if the reality being described is identical in Scripture times and the present day, then there is no reason to think that an Aristotelian articulation of this reality is in any way inferior.

This, again, just demonstrates Prejean’s ignorance of Scripture. “Biblically constrained” just means the Bible doesn’t address it, or addresses it in a specific but limited way. Why is that ridiculous? Is Prejean under the impression that Scripture addresses every conceivable question that might come up?

No. I think it's ridiculous to think that topics not addressed explicitly by the authors of Scripture cannot be the subject of dogma or that only concepts of the 1st century authors can be used to describe the same reality that Scripture describes.

And that doesn’t at all imply Scripture is illogical, or that we cannot arrive at a systematic theology of God.

Nor does it imply that Scripture alone is adequate to do so.

What is does imply is that any systematic theology must not transgress or “run ahead of” what Scripture actually affirms—because at that point it is no longer the use of logic that is at play, but logical fallacies.

First, this would only prove that the method of extracting dogma from Scripture is not strictly deductive, but that is relatively obvious to anyone who rejects the formal sufficiency of Scripture, and it does not show either logical fallacy or lack of logic (induction being a form of logic as well). Following that point, this is merely an assertion of the formal sufficiency of Scripture, which begs the question as between the Protestant and Catholic views of Scriptural authority.

As an example, I can affirm that my dog has dark eyes, and that his coat is dark. If that’s all the information I provide, Prejean has no right to conclude that my dog’s eyes and coat are black. They may be; but no logic is going to figure that out. There are any number of options that could fall under the category of “dark” (brown, almond, chocolate, etc.) and it’s nothing but pure speculation to assume dark = black. Worse, it’s sophistry of the worst kind to try to claim you really are able to deduce that dark = black.

On the other hand, if I were claiming that I were inducing the conclusion from certain consistent facts (say, the presence of black canine fur around a dog bowl in Svendsen's house), then one certainly wouldn't claim that it was "sophistry of the worst kind" to arrive inductively at the conclusion that Svendsen had a black dog. I didn't view Svendsen as a Humean skeptic, but he appears to be taking the view that nothing can be known inductively.

That’s just what Prejean is attempting to do in terms of figuring out something about the God-Man that has not been divinely revealed.

"Has not been divinely revealed" begs the question, since I believe that it is.

Human categories of logic cannot explain how God is both three and one, how God can have no beginning, how God is at all times everywhere present, what heaven looks like, what the makeup of the resurrection body is—and yes, how the union of God and man takes place in Christ. If Prejean doesn’t accept these categories, let him explain the “mystery” of the mass in logical terms—or is that no longer a mystery to Prejean? My goodness, even Trent recognizes this concept: “If any one say that in Divine Revelation there are contained no mysteries properly so called, but that through reason rightly developed all the dogmas of faith can be understood and demonstrated from natural principles: let him be anathema” (Sess. III, Canons, 4. De fide et Ratione, 1). Is Prejean now beyond Trent?

All of this should have clued Svendsen in to the fact that he didn't understand what I was saying. The fact that he didn't pick it up once again says more about Svendsen than me.

So, according to Prejean, no one could understand scriptural concepts of God until they were defined in the fifth century. Not that Prejean has any idea what the “truth of Scripture” is. But, here again is that “contemptuous” Trent: “If any one say that in Divine Revelation there are contained no mysteries properly so called, but that through reason rightly developed all the dogmas of faith can be understood and demonstrated from natural principles: let him be anathema.” To Prejean, this is a “philosophical copout.”

The citation from Trent is inapposite; it isn't a "philosophical copout" because it presupposes a coherent concept of what can and cannot be known by natural reason. But the very idea that Trent formalized dogma presumes that there are true dogmas not known formally in earlier times. And again, I see nothing all that troublesome about 1st century Christians not knowing things that deal with concepts and problems appearing long after they went on to their reward. It would be anachronistic to think that they did.

Apparently Prejean has no idea that someone can “write plainly” about an incomprehensible subject. “In the beginning was the word; and the word was with God, and the word was God. . . . and the word became flesh and dwelt among us” is plainly written. From this we know that the Word was God from the beginning and that he became man. But the plainly written words do not venture into how that occurred. It is the latter that the councils tried to explain, and they did so in convoluted ways because they were not content with the simplicity of Scripture.

This is nonsense; as a historical matter, the Fathers made it abundantly clear not only that they did not claim to explain "how that occurred" but also that they could not explain "how that occurred." Cyril of Jerusalem's statement above regarding the affirmation of the eternal begetting along with the impossibility of explaining it is a perfect example. Indeed, the Councils were deployed against those who considered the Scriptural formations inadequate based on their own novel methods of exegesis; they respond to problems in which the opponents reject the rule of faith. It was Nestorius who was not content with "the Word became flesh" but who felt the need to introduce a novel term, Christotokos, when Theotokos was both less confusing and more accurate.

Yes; every interpretation that conflicts with Prejean’s is always “shredded” by Prejeans selective use of scholarship.

Svendsen is welcome to pony up any recent scholarly responses to any works that I have cited.

The legal analogy was an analogy only, Prejean’s long sidebar notwithstanding. I assumed Prejean was conservative, not progressive, in his reading for the Constitution. My mistake. Prejean apparently believes there is merit in reading historical documents anachronistically, and that the Constitution supports for a woman’s right to kill her infant. So be it. That method of interpretation is not one that is acceptable in biblical exegesis.

As I said, Scalia and Thomas, both conservative Catholics themselves, employ the same sort of reasoning. Neither believe in the abomination of legalized abortion, and both have perfectly good legal arguments that do not rest on restricting legal exegesis to purely historical methods. It's not "anachronistic" to read laws as laws; they were written to be applied in the future without being strictly tied to authorial intent (indeed, such a thing does not exist in laws passed by a legislature, in which every person voting for the law may have slightly different reasons for doing so). It begs the question for Svendsen to say that the method is not acceptable, because my point is exactly that Scripture is also not the sort of document written for purely mundane historical interpretation.

Suffice it to say that it’s a good thing catholic lawyers are not in charge of Scripture.

Likewise for conservative Evangelicals.

Maybe it’s because Scripture is a historical document. Does Prejean also believe there was a special “Holy Ghost Greek” used for the New Testament?

No, but I do believe that it is a theandric document, a combination of nature and supernature, and I don't believe the natural component exhausts the supernatural meaning of Scripture, which is perceived only by the rule of faith.

That’s because there aren’t “different methods of exegesis”; only varying genre of literature that need to be exegeted, and the recognition of the idiosyncratic exegetical constraints for each genre. Does Prejean look for hidden or unlikely meanings in a legal document?

It's not a question of "hidden or unlikely meanings;" it's a question of the right method for determining what counts as a meaning. Authorial intent is not the exclusive method for determining what meaning a document has; legal exegesis of statutory and constitutional law is one method of giving meaning to a document independent of authorial intent. That's not merely a difference of genre, but a difference in exegetical method.

I doubt he’d win many cases that way (assuming he has even tried a case at all). I am no lawyer, but as a business owner I have to deal with them all the time. The law firm used by my company is very prestigious, and Prejean has no doubt heard of them. I have used them for contracts, partnership agreements, and, yes, even for patent issues (logos have to be patented).

I think you mean "trademark," although I suppose you could get a design patent on a logo. I'm not a litigator; I just support litigation. However, I certainly use techniques of statutory interpretation and caselaw to form legal arguments, and what I do in this regard is identical to what is done at any law firm anywhere in the country. I suspect that you might not be familiar with it because few clients ever get involved with the gritty details of litigation. Most clients have contact with contracts, and in those cases, the intent of the parties is often the controlling meaning as a matter of substantive law. That wouldn't be a particularly good example for the sort of reasoning I am discussing.

I can tell you with certainty that they do not suffer novel interpretations of law, or look for hidden meanings in documents. Things like intent, context, conditions, and wording are all important aspects when they are “exegeting” legal documents.

I suspect that many of the caselaw interpretations of statutes would be considered "novel" by Svendsen's method of historical exegesis, but lawyers certainly aren't allowed to ignore the caselaw simply because the decision isn't justified by Svendsen's standards for historical, authorial intent. All of what Svendsen cites is important; none of it is exclusive, and none of it is bound solely to authorial intent.

But, perhaps Prejean can get away with allegorical interpretations of legal documents in Louisiana—or perhaps that state allows him to “add to” a legal document that’s already been signed, sealed, and delivered.

I'm not licensed in Louisiana, so I couldn't tell you. Contract law is ordinarily a matter of intent as between parties, so historical interpretation of intent is ordinarily a perfectly good method for evaluating contracts. I would note, however, that courts often have to make decisions in cases where there is no clear "answer" as to what the intent of the parties was or would have been, meaning that even contract law isn't strictly limited to authorial intent.

In any case, whatever “method of exegesis” Prejean thinks he can get away with in legal circles doesn’t apply to biblical exegesis.

Begging the question again.

I didn’t say exegesis is not taught in law school. I said biblical exegesis is no different than the exegesis of any document of antiquity. If Prejean has training in Constitutional law, that is completely irrelevant to the point I made. He has no training in any discipline related to patristics or biblical exegesis. The latter two are related disciplines in that the patristics are early interpretations of Scripture. But I do not see how Prejean’s study in Constitutional law is relavant to any point I made. He himself admits that the two disciplines are different.

I maintain that the exegesis of Scripture as a normative document is more like the exegesis of normative documents (like statutory and constitutional law) than ordinary historical exegesis. In other words, I reject the assertion that legal exegesis is irrelevant to patristic and Scriptural interpretation. And for the record, the study of law often involves ancient documents too.

Here’s another example of Prejean’s dazzling logic. Getting a 3.9 GPA at Harvard means that you’ll always think correctly on every issue, and you’ll always be an expert at any unrelated discipline into which you venture. And that’s why all Harvard graduates who have earned a 3.9 GPA can be found fighting for Christian truth!

Unless you think that being right on every issue is necessary to be reasonable, then this is completely irrelevant. This was given in response to your statement that you could not presume that you were "dealing with a rational person."

Seems to me someone once said: “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” Oh, silly me. I forgot; Prejean does not countenance Scripture.

So now I'm confused. Are you saying that God is irrational and that I am following with wisdom of the world contrary to God because I am rational, or are you saying that God is rational and still maintaining that I am irrational despite the evidence I cited above to the contrary? Again, it looks like you are simply using Scripture to excuse answering for what you say.

Yes, the entire legal world is on pins and needles waiting breathlessly for Jonathan Prejean to “keep up” with his skills. Let me disabuse Prejean of his fallacious thinking. Patristics is not my field of study, and only marginally an area of interest for me. I make no apologies for not “keeping up” with that field. But I can assure Prejean there is no slouching when it comes to my field; and my “20 years out of date” masters degree has been diligently “kept up” to date. Although I do not work in the field full-time, I do work as a tutor in NT for my alma mater. And just as a reminder to Prejean; whatever he may think about my credentials, my doctoral work not only passed examination by committee, but has been endorsed by major scholars in my field, and related fields—including church history. What, in contrast, has Prejean ever published that received comparable commendations?

What do I care about your accomplishments outside of patristics? The issue is whether you are keeping up with patristics and the skills that would be relevant to that field of study. I have made a case for being perfectly capable of reading the literature intelligently, for understanding the arguments that are made, and for keeping up with the literature, all of which you challenged my ability to do simply because I wasn't trained in what you consider exegesis. On the other hand, despite whatever training you may have had, you could be completely oblivious to the scholarship on Nestorius and Cyril, and indeed, you are by your own admission. That's the subject that is being discussed; everything else is irrelevant. So what I would like to understand is why someone who is not "keeping up with that field" is writing articles about "Apollinarimonophysitism" without bothering to get back up to speed on the subject?

And so, Prejean confirms his Docetism. “The word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”

On the contrary, I refuse to confuse the divine and human operations in Scripture. This is a property of the divine inspiration of Scripture, not the merely human aspects of its operation.

Well, then Prejean would just be plain wrong about that, because the fathers did indeed give primacy to the text of Scripture. Note Cyril of Jerusalem’s words cited above, for pete’s sake. How can someone who claims so much knowledge about the fathers be so ignorant of what they believed about Scripture? None of them—not one—would have relegated Scripture to the status of the Quran or the Book of Mormon as Prejean has done. Prejean remains a biblical heretic.

The notion that the Scripture could be read truly without the rule of faith to discern its spiritual content was not one that any of the Fathers held. They certainly didn't believe that the mundane historical content of Scripture exhausted its meaning. Indeed, "for Pete's sake," look at Cyril's statements about "the divine and holy mysteries." What Svendsen is doing is exactly what Cyril condemns: trying to justify the Christian faith by some mundane method rather than the divine inspiration of the Scriptures. It's quite clear from how Cyril describes the operation of the Spirit, but Svendsen evidently can't be bothered to read the lectures from which he is snipping quotes. And absent this divine operation of the Spirit, the Scriptures ARE just another mundane book like the ones I cited. Certainly, being able to read the Scriptures through mundane means didn't make them any more valuable for the Arians and Nestorians.

Prejean has said nothing to clear him of the charge that he is, in fact, a biblical heretic by virtue of his blatant disregard for the teaching of the Apostles.

I don't disregard the teaching of the Apostles. I simply don't confuse the divine operation in the Apostles with the human operation. There is more to Scripture than the historical intent of the Apostles.

More Prejean lies. I never said Christ is not a single subject. I said that we cannot explain how the union of God and man took place, but that we must affirm his full deity as well as his full humanity, and that anything beyond that is mere speculation.

The only teaching I have been arguing for from Ephesus and Chalcedon is a single subject, so either you were saying that Chalcedon "ran ahead" of the Apostles in teaching a single subject or you are simply so baffled about what it taught that you think it was teaching something beyond what it did teach. But what you said here doesn't exonerate you from the charge that you deny the single subject, because explaining how isn't required in order to affirm what kind of union between the natures exists. Is this union constituted by the person of the Word of God, or isn't it?

Not true; theotokos was intended to convey that Christ was deity even in the womb.

Of course it's true; that is a necessary condition of single-subject Christology.

I’ll take my chances and stick with the Scriptures on this one. If Prejean wants to boast of his brilliant intellect before God and explain to God in the judgment that he had Him all figured out and had no need of biblical constraints in this, more power to him.

Given that I don't think God placed Biblical restraints on knowledge (indeed, it strikes me as a contradiction in terms), I don't think the fact that I had no need of them. Indeed, I think there are plenty of natural limitations on my "brilliant intellect" that more than prevent me from having God "all figured out," so I can't imagine why He would be so threatened by my mind that He would need to constrain it.

Necessary, eh? Then I guess Christianity just did not exist until the fifth century.

I imagine that if Arianism would have come up in the first century, they would have come up with the same answer then. As it was, I doubt they even thought about the concepts involved, having more immediate concerns at the time with Judaism and Gnosticism.

And as I’ve already demonstrated, Prejean is a Docetist, since his belief entails that he doesn’t accept the apostles as real people who can function as a rule of faith. See how easy this is?

I suppose it comes down to who has the better reasons for his position. I've seen no foundation for Docestism in my refusal to confuse the divine and human operations in Scripture. You seem to have no defense against my charge of Nestorianism.

So, in Prejean’s view, Nestorius was condemned by Cyril and his cronies for an unarticulated belief?

That appears to have been exactly the case. Cyril kept demanding an explanation from Nestorius for his apparenly contradictory statements, and Nestorius never could provide one, nor do his writings even seem to leave room for one to be logically possible. The conclusion was essentially that there is no way his statements could be given an orthodox interpretation, even though he never openly denied the single personhood of Christ. Of course, later authors attempted to rehabilitate him without success.

But they do turn on the ability to understand history, Scripture, and theology—disciplines which are lost on Prejean.

Begging the question again. I understand history just fine, and I'm no slouch in the Catholic understanding of Scripture and theology either.

Ah; I see. And so when Arianism held sway in all the bishoprics in both East and West for nearly a century, that was the “church.” In other words, the fourth-century church which rejected the divinity of Christ could not have been in error because they were indistinguishable from the first-century church.

There was no period in which Arianism held sway in all the bishoprics in both East and West. "Athanasius contra mundum" is an exaggeration, as was the world "groaning to find itself Arian." You've been reading too many Protestant conspiracy theories. None of the Arian bishops had the authority to speak for the Church as a whole, and Liberius's and Hosius's signatures to the compromise formula (which was not even heterodox, only dangerously ambiguous) was obtained under duress. I could recommend some good works on the subject, including some recent monographs, but I doubt they would help you. Timothy Barnes's Athanasius and Constantius is the must-read, though.

Except for that little gaff about the fourth century Arian Catholic church.

I didn't make one. You seem to buy uncritically into everything that might possibly serve your emotional need to bash Catholicism.

If Prejean is so indifferent to my opinion, why does he bother to right a 20-page response to it?

Accountability. I like to have a document that people can reference. It's a good example of the sort of unreasoning emotionalism one sees in anti-Catholicism.

Here we go again with Prejean’s “wisdom that is wiser than God’s

Nope. I just prefer to let God work these sorts of things out in His own time. If He didn't think the moment was right for the Church to confront Arianism in AD 60, then He is well within His rights to postpone the confrontation until the 4th century. I don't impose some sort of requirement on Him to do everything at once.

I’ve addressed this point sufficiently in my previous response to Prejean. Prejean is a docetist on this point, plain and simple.

Again, natural/supernatural, not Docetist. The natural component is real; it just can't be stretched to cover the supernatural.

No; but what it does mean is that you don’t place all your eggs in one basket that has not yet been responded to by whatever you think the “old school” is.

It's a pretty good sign that it isn't going to happen when none of the new authors take up defending the correctness of the old position.

First of all, I do not care whether you agree with him or not since your opinion on these things is completely worthless.

And I don't care whether you care. I was clarifying my position.

Nevertheless, here is the text of Oakes’ review to which I referred:

Here Cyril was certainly bolder than the Latin theologians, but the lack of theological daring in Latin Christology has somewhat slanted McGuckin's interpretation of Pope Leo I, whose famous Tome was read out before the assembled bishops at Chalcedon to unanimous acclaim: "Peter has spoken through Leo!" The standard Western account of that episode claims for Rome a balance of approach lacking in the more disputatious Greek theologians, who were still too besotted by the neo-Platonic speculations common in the East. McGuckin disagrees. He points out, rightly, that the bishops not only accepted Leo's intervention as the voice of Peter but went on to say, "So also did Cyril teach." (Cyril had died seven years before Chalcedon.) According to McGuckin, the bishops accepted Leo because, and only because, he taught the same thing as Cyril, who alone was the test for Christological orthodoxy. McGuckin also makes the much more radical claim that the decree of Chalcedon was meant as a deliberative corrective to Leo's Tome. This thesis will not stand up to scrutiny. The decree the Eastern bishops supported dearly represented a middle passage between the extremes of Antioch and Alexandria. Cyril had favored the term "hypostasis" to denote the union of divine and human in Jesus, while the Antiochenes preferred "person." Chalcedon used both terms. Similarly, Cyril generally spoke of a hypostatic union "from" two natures, whereas Leo and the Antiochenes insisted on the union taking place "in" two natures and that is the formulation Chalcedon chose. Finally, we know that the Alexandrians themselves detected these "concessions" to Antiochene theology because Cyril's more hotheaded successors (Eutyches and Dioscorus, primarily) actively rejected the Council. That rejection soon led to the Monophysite heresy, which lives on to this day in the Coptic and Ethiopian churches.”

Incidentally, notice here that Oakes countenances the difference between the Antiochene “in two natures” and the Cyrillene “from two natures”—the very phrases I used and for which Prejean accused me of “not keeping up with scholarship.” Apparently, Oakes has not been informed of Prejean’s correction.

Svendsen evidently now can't even read a review reasonably. Svendsen argued that this use of phrase meant that Chalcedon was correcting Cyril; Oakes says exactly the opposite, conceding that Chalcedon considered Cyril orthodox. He merely notes that the Chalcedonian Fathers did not consider his orthodoxy exclusive of other equivalent formulations such as the ones advanced by Leo (viz., they did not see the need to correct Leo in light of Cyril). They appear to have accepted orthodox statements rather even-handedly, picking whichever one appeared most useful or clear. That Svendsen claims support from Oakes for the proposition that Chalcedon and Ephesus conflict is objectively dishonest, although given Svendsen's rampant emotionalism, I have strong doubts as to whether he sees it.

In other words, Prejean has declined to petition these scholars for a correction, who surely know of McGuckin’s views by now. Which really means he doesn’t think he’ll get one. And that’s just the point of my corrective to Prejean on how to do scholarship.

Are you serious? I don't know these people; it's a perfectly sufficient "petition" that their work has been specifically addressed. Silence is consent if the work is well-known; if they thought McGuckin were wrong, they would have said something by now. It's ridiculous to think that most scholars are going to put out a statement every time that their work is refuted, and indeed, it would be obnoxious in the extreme for me to demand it of them. Indeed, the way I "do scholarship" is not to go out of the way to embarrass people I think are refuted, which would be pointless, but to allow them the dignity of silence. Given that McGuckin gave a speech at the festschrift for Pelikan's 80th birthday, I can't imagine that Pelikan thought McGuckin had done him wrong.

Go back and re-read my series on Historical Theology, Mr. Prejean. I’m not going to do your homework for you.

Given that I've read all of your sources (and all but Brown are addressed in mine), and you've read none of mine that I can tell and even openly confessed that you aren't keeping current, I fail to see what homework you could do for me, even if you wanted to do so.

Actually, Prejean does indeed reject the authority of Scripture. And it was he and no one else who relegated it to the pit of the Quran. Here are his own words on this that he is now attempting to backpedal:

“Anyway, your misunderstanding on Catholic authority is somewhat beside the point. I have nothing to hide; I have never been anything other than willing to yield the field if you want to discuss matters of Biblical exegesis, because I don't share your concept of Scriptural authority. From my perspective, it's about as interesting to me as an argument from the Book of Mormon or the Qu'ran; we might as well be reading different books.”

And I repeat: your concept of Scriptual authority based solely on natural meaning lacks any perception of the supernatural meaning, meaning that it is just another document like any other uninspired document. If you don't like the Qu'ran as an example, then I'll take your example of Euripides. If you read Scripture using natural methods, then it's a natural document, nothing more.

And, once again, using this same rationale, Prejean is a Docetist.

And once again, Svendsen has no argument.

I do not deny that Christ is a divine person with a human nature. What I deny is that is all he is. As I already stated, he was fully a man—not merely a human nature. That’s why I insisted that both the human and the divine are bound together in Christ and constitute his person. This affirms the oneness of Christ and the full humanity of Christ, without attempting to speculate how all this tales place.

The problem isn't in the how, but the what you are affirming. You said "the human and the divine are bound together in Christ and constitute his person." That's exactly Nestorianism. Christ's person is not constituted by the union of natures; rather, the Word of God constitutes the union of the natures. It's not a question of how, since no one knows that. It's a question of you affirming the wrong thing.

Yes, and once again, Prejean is a Docetist. See how easy that is?

And once again, you have no argument. See how easy that is?

Stop with the lies, Mr. Prejean. I have never stated that Christ is not a divine person—I have always said that is not ALL he is. That’s why you constantly arrive at the wrong conclusions—you are incapable of getting the arguments right.

Then what other person is there in Christ than the divine person? It is because you say that He is not ONLY a divine person that you err; indeed, that IS the Nestorian error. There is no way that you can say "[the divine person] is not ALL that Christ is" without also saying "there is more than one person in Christ."

I defy anyone to find where I admitted not understanding the catholic position. Another example of Prejean’s inability to rightly understand even a contemporary statement.

It was your silence; your sole response was that I was misunderstanding your position. You didn't say that you understood the Catholic position (indeed, you still haven't, and your admission of your lack of qualficiations in patristics practically disqualifies you from even possibly doing so). It seems to me that if you actually did understand the Catholic position, you would have said something. But I still have yet to hear what makes you qualified to speak about Catholic theology. Certainly, nothing here shows it.