Tuesday, April 03, 2007

On not understanding the issues

The oddest thing that I have encountered in anti-Catholic apologists is a bizarre tendency not even to understand what the conflict between Protestants and Catholics is. Moreover, there is not only misunderstanding, but a stubborn adherence to the misunderstanding even in the face of correction on the point. I have no idea why there is such a stern insistence on creating conflict where there isn't one and ignoring conflict where there is. But that is clearly the pattern, which is why most Catholics have given up on even trying to deal with numerous anti-Catholics.

There have been two recent examples.

In the first, James White says the following (my words are in blue):

James Swan pointed out some very interesting quotes from Jonathan Prejean this morning. I thought this one was instructive enough to provide it:

"In my view, sola scriptura is the #1 problem (like Joseph said in a comment on my blog), and I WANT to be the guy who is doing theology outside of the "The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it!" mentality. The problem that I see is that Protestants have the idea that the way White does theology is the only way theology is done. I just want them to see that isn't the case, and that if something more appeals to them, there are other options out there. On the other hand, if people think that is the way to do theology, then I would go as far as to say that they *should* stay Protestant. I'm not out to steal sheep who aren't called to leave the flock. I'm content to wait on God's grace for that. I just provide the occasion for them to see how I live Catholicism, as the Spirit moves me. If it doesn't appeal to them, that's OK. If it needs to do so, it will."

If you will but press Rome's apologists they will eventually say things like this. Remember when Gerry Matatics, in response to my asserting that his choice to follow Rome was a fallible choice, replied that my choice to follow the Bible was likewise fallible? Excellent example. Here Prejean is admitting quite openly that the realm in which he "does theology" is not circumscribed by the Scriptures. It was obvious, from his phone call, that he is far more concerned about knowing obscure opinions of Cyril of Alexandria than knowing how John testifies of the deity of Christ or Paul presents the glory of God in salvation in the golden chain of redemption in Romans 8. He is not an exegete, and he knows it. He cannot stand in the realm of the Scriptures and defend his views, for his views have precious little connection to the divine revelation that Jesus said "could not be broken." He is more concerned about throwing about the accusation of "Nestorianism!" (what percentage of people have a clue what that means?) than he is discerning the mind of God in the Word. And so we definitely differ, fundamentally, and always will. But what seems painfully obvious to me is that God's grace never leads anyone to embrace Prejean's odd viewpoints. His blog presents his mission: "Sharing the Christian metaphysics of Xavier Zubiri and the fullness of Western Tradition under the patronage of St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. Bonaventure." Yes, that's what the grace of God and the Holy Spirit are doing in the world, leading folks to...that. Not to the Word, but to...Xavier Zubiri. There you go. If I had just read more Zubiri, and less Paul! Then I'd be up to taking on the likes of Prejean and I could laugh at the uniqueness of the incarnation and the outmoded law of God against the worship of images! That's where I missed the boat! It is all so clear now.

There are several points of interest:
1. It's misleading to imply that I needed to be "pressed" into the admission that I do not circumscribe theology by the Scriptures in the way that White means. I am not the least bit ashamed of that admission so that I would need to be pressed, and I have even go so far as to point out that such circumscribed exegetical techniques are no more relevant for Christian theology than the Qu'ran or the Book of Mormon. Scripture is a Christological document, and it must be read as one. If one restricts the interpretation of Scripture to authorial intent or other such mundane considerations, then one "breaks" the Scripture by removing its Christological unity. And as St. Irenaeus points out, once you do that, you can rearrange the image of the King into an image of a fox or whatever else you want to make of it. The rule of faith is a prerequisite to correct Christian exegesis.
2. In that regard, Cyril of Alexandria was probably the greatest Christological exegete in all of Christian history. He understood the rule of faith for interpretation of the Scriptures as well as any Christian ever did. Given the choice between Cyril's commentary on the Gospel of John and White's commentary on John, I'll take Cyril. Likewise for the patristic concept of the "glory of God" versus White's nominalist/legalist concept. I make no bones about that: guilty as charged. Moreover, there are even Baptists who recognize Cyril's exegetical mastery; see, e.g., Steven A. McKinion.
3. I am an exegete; I am not an exegete of Greek. But since inspiration isn't limited to the original autographs, it doesn't much matter whether I am or am not a Greek exegete.
4. Regarding standing in the realm of Scriptures, I simply view the realm of Scriptures more broadly than White does, and I consider White to have "broken" the Scriptures by taking such a myopic view of them. This is simply an obvious point of disagreement, but absent an argument for his view or against mine, the accusation itself accomplishes nothing.
5. The fact that such a small percentage of people know what Nestorianism is simply demonstrates that very few people have any sort of coherent concept of what it is to be both God and man. Nonetheless, the denial of Nestorianism is necessarily an implicit belief of anyone who actually believes that Christ is both God and man, so anyone who denies it, even implicitly, denies the Gospel. I would suspect that most people would not want to deny that.
6. Ultimately, the reason one reads someone like Zubiri, Cyril, or Bonaventure is to understand better what it is that the Scripture proclaims. What Zubiri, Cyril, and Bonaventure offer is exposition of the Scriptures; that is where all their work returns. To treat them as ends in themselves is to misunderstand their work. Moreover, to study them without also first knowing the Scriptures is to err as well, as would become apparent to anyone who began even a cursory study of their work. They aren't about bypassing the Scripture, but rather, they elevate and deepen the understanding of those who already know it. One can't bypass the milk for the meat.
7. I wouldn't suggest less Paul for White. I would suggest more Christ, which would actually mean getting more out of Paul, because White could perceive Paul's spiritual meaning, rather than merely the lower limit of the grammatical/historical method.
8. It certainly is laughable to think of someone who actually knows the risen Christ to consider His Incarnation as recapitulating less than the entire creation (John 6:38-39; Rom. 5:18; Eph. 1:9-10; 1 Cor. 15:20-28) or to assert that we ought to be limited by shadows like the prohibition on the use of graven images when the Incarnation has revealed the recapitulation of all creation in Christ. If the prohibition on idolatry were maintained after the Incarnation, then it would be idolatry to worship Christ, and this is obviously not the case. If Judaizers wish to impose the restrictions of the Law on Christians without Christological justification, they are condemned by the Apostle (Gal. 2:11-21), even if the one maintaining the view is such a one as St. Peter.
9. It is quite evident that we have fundamentally different beliefs, but White has yet to present any argument why his are to be preferred. Until he does offer some sort of objective reason to justify why his view of authority/revelation is preferable or why our view accurately presented is inconsistent on its own terms, we aren't obliged to make any demonstration as to why our version would be preferable to his. Note that White isn't the only one who doesn't carry his burden of persuasion in this regard. In response to an essay by Philip Blosser explaining why Catholics had numerous reasons NOT to believe in sola scriptura, Steve Hays wrote 200 pages demanding Philip Blosser to show why the Catholic account was preferable without once answering the original challenge: to provide objective reasons for any Catholic to listen to him. All sorts of people hold all sorts of unjustified opinions, but when you are demanding someone else to make a demonstration of theirs, you have to do better. Of course, neither White nor Hays understand basic principles of argumentation, so this isn't really surprising.
10. I think White would be unpleasantly surprised at the number of people who have inquired about my work. There are certainly more than none.

The next excerpt was from James Swan regarding a quote from St. John Chrysostom, but what intrigued me was David King's opinion:
Anyone who understands the distinction between the material and formal sufficiency of Holy Scripture can readily see that Chrysostom's quote here assumes the basic perspicuity (formal sufficiency) of Holy Scripture, as he urges his readers not to wait "for another to teach thee." His quote also assumes the availability of the NT scriptures for his audience, and its sufficiency to meet the needs of those who read them. Chrysostom here does not, as you suggest, treat Scripture as one would "vitamin supplements," but as utterly essential for he says that the ignorance of Holy Scripture "is the cause of all evils." The failure to take vitamin supplements is not the cause of all bad health in the physical realm. His analogy is clear for anyone to see, i.e., unless someone is determined not to see it.

It certainly isn't obvious to me, and while one might speculate wildly about my being "determined not to see it," I think the parsimonious explanation is that I simply know better than Pastor King what the term "formal sufficiency" means. If the Scriptures were formally sufficient, then Chrysostom is effectively advocating a self-contradiction: listen to my teaching that you shouldn't listen to me regarding the Scriptures. Such "don't even listen to me" statements would be self-referentially absurd along the lines of "this statement is not true," except in cases of obvious hyperbole (see, e.g., Gal. 1:8). Rather, Chrysostom's homily to his flock obviously presumes that they are listening to them, which assumes some existing formal competence (viz., the person's will and intellect is already properly formed in some respect).

I certainly consider it essential for Catholics with a well-formed faith to study Scripture to avoid making a shipwreck of their faith ("once saved always saved" not being a tenet of Catholic faith). But that is hardly the same thing as saying that one can form one's faith correctly from Scripture alone; by contrast, see, e.g., Luke 24:25-27 and Acts 8:27-35. That's precisely why I (as James Swan noted from my remark at Dave Armstrong's blog) consider it essential for people to form their faith correctly before studying Scripture, rather than expecting that studying Scripture will form their faith. There is no doubt that Catholics should study Scripture; that is presumed in everything I do. I wouldn't be pointing to people like Zubiri, Cyril, and Bonaventure if I didn't want people to take Scripture seriously. But it is equally true that if one relies on Scripture alone to form his faith, he will be led astray just as easily as if he never read it at all.

It would accordingly seem that anyone who knows the difference between formal and material sufficiency would know that King doesn't understand the distinction. The failure to grasp even basic logical distinctions makes it impossible for any Catholic Christian (or Orthodox Christian, as in the case of Stephen) to take Hays's, White's, King's, or Webster's position seriously. That in itself is presumably just reporting, as there shouldn't be any surprise that Catholics uniformly consider their charges against Catholicism to need no further answer. Until they stop misrepresenting the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism and start making arguments rather than merely asserting the differences themselves as if they prove something, the Catholic position will persist cheerfully unfazed by all this sound and fury.

UPDATE --

Uncanny! David King STILL doesn't get it:
There is a specimen example of someone who is determined not to see it. All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain.

Plainness is a matter of formality; the necessary things are all plain to someone with a properly formed will and intellect.

Remember the eunuch of the queen of Ethiopia. Since therefore. while he had no man to guide him, he was thus reading; for this reason he quickly received an instructor. God knew his willingness, He acknowledged his zeal, and forthwith sent him a teacher.

If if the Scriptures were formally sufficient, he wouldn't have needed a teacher! This is incredible; King says exactly that willingness is not enough for understanding, which directly contradicts the formal sufficiency of Scripture. As I said, King has no idea what formal sufficiency even is.

But, you say, Philip is not present with us now. Still, the Spirit that moved Philip is present with us. Let us not, beloved, neglect our salvation!

Goodness, now King is admitting that we need spirit-led teachers to understand Scripture? Might as well just put up an advertisement for the Catholic Church!

Cyril of Alexandria (patriarch, 412-444): Such subtle and out-of-the-way problems do not require a doctrinal decision so much as a questioning and speculative investigation accompanied by a refusal to let the mind fall into improper views to be carried away from reasonableness. For it is written ‘seeking do thou seek and dwell with me.’ How can one clearly explain what holy writ has not stated clearly? For example it is written in the book of Genesis that in the beginning God made heaven and earth. Holy writ declared that he has made it and we accept this truth in faith. But meddlesome inquiry into the means, origin or method whereby heaven, earth and the rest of creation were brought into being has its harmful side, for there is no need to involve the mind in profundities. What divine Scripture does not state very clearly must remain unknown and be passed over in silence.

Again, clarity is a matter of formality, meaning that it depends on the formation of the will and the intellect. A well-formed intellect does not inquire into what cannot be explained, into mysteries that are impenetrable. What does King think judges what are and are not "improper views" in Cyril's mind? Scripture itself? Anyone familiar with Cyril would immediately perceive the absurdity of that assertion. But because King wants to read Cyril like a Protestant, he can't even exegete Cyril from a historical perspective, as evidenced by the fact that not one single Cyrillian specialist would take King's view here. Let King point to a Keating, a McKinion, a McGuckin, or a Russell who agrees with him. He can't, because his view is ridiculous.

By all accounts, I've heard that Pastor King is one of those human beings who would literally give you the shirt off his back (at least if you weren't a Catholic apologist). But being a good guy doesn't make you competent, and Pastor King is clearly not competent in this area.

20 Comments:

At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CC,

I honestly cannot believe that people leave the Catholic Church after reading books by or hearing debates "starring" these guys.

White amazes:
"He is more concerned about throwing about the accusation of Nestorianism! (what percentage of people have a clue what that means?)

This person is rumored to teach theology and Church history.

Crimson... in your opinion does White understand what Nestorianism really is? Does he *openly* embrace this heresy?? Or is it simply that he doesn't get what he seems to have fallen prey to...?

People pay to have their children educated by this man... I studied MUSIC and I seem to get it...

Kyrie elesion,
BC

 
At 10:11 AM, Blogger Dave Armstrong said...

This is why (among many reasons) that I have long considered anti-Catholicism intellectual suicide. It's ludicrous from the get-go to take a position whereby Protestantism is Christian but somehow Catholicism is not.

And I would say that this observation is almost self-evident. But I can't find any anti-Catholic who is willing to debate the fundamental topic of "what is a Christian?"

I guess the stakes are too high, huh? If they lose the debate, they would have to cease being anti-Catholic, and for a guy like White, that would be like a leopard losing its spots or an elephant its trunk.

And to be bested in such a debate by a guy like me, that these clowns have expended tons of effort demonizing and smearing and ridiculing all these years (12 years, in White's case), is altogether too horrifying of a prospect for them to consider for a second.

Thus, the only conceivable reason I can think of for interacting with anti-Catholics at all is because they are leading some gullible minds astray. That's certainly the only reason I do it. It always requires the patience of Job and an extra dose of grace and prayer going in.

 
At 2:39 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Crimson... in your opinion does White understand what Nestorianism really is?

Absolutely not. He doesn't even know what a "person" is, so how could he? That's what I mean by not being able to rely on these guys for any theological teaching beyond basic natural morality. Check this out:
One of the characteristics of personal existence is will. Few would argue the point in relationship to the Father, as He obviously has a will. So too, the Son has a will, for he says to the Father in the Garden, "not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39) The ascription of will to the Persons indicates the ability to reason, to think, to act, to desire - all those things we associate with self-consciousness.

It might not be obvious, but this is complete blasphemy. The "not my will" in this passage necessarily refers to Christ's human will, and White is arguing that the Son as a person has his own will. That suggests three wills in the Trinity, which is tri-theism. And the logic is obviously Nestorian, because if there are two wills and person is defined by will, there must be two persons.

This is the same thing that I kept going over and over again with Svendsen. The Christological interpretation of this passage is unambiguous (it refers to human will, not person), and White completely blows it. And if you read Cyril's commentary on John 6, it is evident that White goofs in his exegesis of John 6:38-40 as well. It's not as if the divine will of the Father is bossing around the divine will of the Son in the Incarnation, as if there is some eternal economy of subordination. But it's that same deranged and blasphemous idea of separation in the Trinity that opens up crazy concepts like penal atonement, as if the Father could be somehow turn His face from the Son (e.g., Matt. 27:46). This is the theology of madmen, not Christians, but they know the faith so poorly that they don't even realize it.

 
At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CC,

I see what you mean... I had to think about what you were saying, but this is something that St. Thomas expressed as well in the Summa, I think. And he, like you, did so without making the error that White makes in the quotation you provided.., IOW, St. Thomas doesn't confuse the two wills in Christ (human and divine) with the ONE PERSON who is THE mediator.

White does come off Nestorian here.

I can't track this as far as you might, but I reckon that the soteriological ramifications of such a position (if held consistently) would be... wow... how would salvation work in such a paradigm? Would there be salvation or other the mere appearance thereof?

I am more confused about White's gospel than ever I'm afraid, but more sure of the one preached by my fathers in the faith... I guess that's comforting...

Blessings,
BC

 
At 10:08 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

I can't track this as far as you might, but I reckon that the soteriological ramifications of such a position (if held consistently) would be... wow... how would salvation work in such a paradigm? Would there be salvation or other the mere appearance thereof?

The latter. If Nestorianism is true, then a mere human died on the Cross, and that human's death can't accomplish anything. The Eucharist is a mere memorial of a non-event (or if one is a realist, cannibalism!). It's no coincidence that Protestants preach the appearance of salvation, imputed justification, rather than its reality. The salvific act of Incarnation is a sham, so how could the salvation it produces be real?

There is no doubt that the soteriology they are advocating is a denial of the Gospel, though they might not realize their denial of Christ through a "blessed inconsistency" (which is, admittedly, still far better than an outright denial). But that's why it's worth doing the work that Dave mentions. Even if what they believe is not jeopardizing their souls out of sheer ignorance, they are still objectively spreading a false Gospel and doing Satan's work, however unwittingly (John 8:44). But one ought to warn them with the words of Christ as well:
"If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, `We see,' your guilt remains" (John 9:41). Unlike Jesus, we have know way of knowing their hearts, but there is clearly cause for worry.

 
At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

[Posted by Tim Enloe, who can't remember his blogger password]

But it is equally true that if one relies on Scripture alone to form his faith, he will be led astray just as easily as if he never read it at all.

This is why I wish more people in the orbit of these guys would read such works as Hatch's Democratization of American Christianity and Murray's Revival and Revivalism. Hatch in particular has many examples of exactly the "Bible Only" mentality that these guys champion leading numerous people astray from anything resembling orthodox Christianity. For instance, Charles Finney arrived at his Pelagian views precisely by the conviction that what was wrong with Christianity in his day was that everyone "added" things to the Bible instead of "just" taking the Bible at "face value." Finney, a Presbyterian, decided to lock himself away from the world for a while and do nothing but read the Bible in an attitude, as he put it, "as if no one had ever read it before." Other examples of the same problem are found in the radical "Disciple of Christ" Alexander Campbell, the crass populist revivalist Lorenzo Dow, and the Mormon Joseph Smith. Trace this "Bible Only" theme forward through the revivalism of Moody and Torrey, the rise of the peculiar institution known as the "Bible School" (where they teach you to know nothing except the contents of your own brain regarding the meaning of Scripture), into the Fundamentalism of Bryan and Sunday, then modify it slightly with the intellectual populism of Schaeffer and the new Evangelicals, then take away the (relative) historical and philosophical sophistication of Schaeffer, and what do you get? Why, Alpha and Omega Ministries, where they never met any subjective impression about other views that they didn't confuse with "Objective Truth," and where they never ever learned how to respect someone else's convictions rather than just write them off as hopeless "compromisers."

In other words, the "Bible Only" view has historically led to gross apostasy from basic Christianity, and to a completely subjectivistic religion that has no idea what makes its own self go, much less has any ability to intelligently interact with criticism. This is not least because it involves a person in willful ignorance about the things which have shaped and continue to shape his own mind before he ever opens his Bible. From the beginnings of my controversies with them, I never could understand why they couldn't (can't) process very simple points about the shapes of their own minds and how that influences their interpretations of the world and Scripture.

If it was just me I'd worry that I was off base, but it isn't just me. A whole bibliography of Evangelical and Reformed works can be presented against the stupid thesis that you can actually "just" read the Bible, and the Bible "only," and arrive at some Universal Pure Clear Truth. I guess R.C. Sproul is some kind of "postmodernist" who doesn't believe in "Truth" because in his book Classical Apologetics he writes of how before you ever open your Bible you bring a whole philosophy of reading and interpretation to it, and you better be aware of what that is or else you'll more easily misconstrue Scripture. Same for Michael Horton, stalwart leader of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals in his early book Made In America. Same for Ronald Nash, professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, in his books Worldviews in Conflict and Faith and Reason. Same for Wolterstorff in his book Reason Within the Bounds of Religion. And so on and so forth. Not to mention Callahan's The Clarity of Scripture, Benson's Grave Ideologies, and Work's Living and Active: Scripture in the Economy of Salvation. The best Evangelical and Reformed scholarship recognizes these things. It's the populist controversialists who have their axles all wrapped up with angst about "false Gospels" who don't.

It's simply incredible to me that these guys today think they are any different than the 19th century fanatics and sectarians merely because they, the products of rather intellectually insular seminary educations, can write 20 pages on the meaning of a single Greek preposition or the nuances of an aorist tense in a particular verse. They're no different at all. The veneer of "objectivity" and "scholarship" is purely surface level. At root they're all just as subjectivistic and intellectually naive as Finney, Dow, Campbell, and Smith. And the more so because they are all essentially baptistic--the ultimate religious subjectivists, convinced that others are out to get them because they love truth more than "the world" and so "the world" hates them and prefers dumb "traditions of men" to "plain truth."

I've said it many times against these guys: you can't have a conversation, much less anything approximating intelligent, critical discourse, with a solipsist. The only reason I ever say anything against them these days is to add to the dissent coming from intelligent Catholics more dissent coming from intelligent Protestantism. People on both sides need to realize that things Protestant are far more varied and far more sophisticated than the likes of White, King, Svendsen, et.al., present them as being.

[Addendum: Of course, all of the above is just an "irrational rant" without any substance at all, just one more example of what happens when someone lets "hatred" get in the way of "being reasonable" and "loving Truth." People who love Scripture and Jesus more than everyone who disagrees with them need not read any serious books such as the ones listed above, nor need they spend any serious time thinking about serious issues. Message board populism and chat room pep rallies and trite blog entries about how sad it is that so many people fall away from "clear" things are all one needs.]

 
At 11:10 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

To be entirely candid, I'm not convinced that even taking into account the considerations that Horton, Nash, and Wolterstorff take into account adequately deal with the problem (though Telford Work strikes me as considerably better). But the "subjectivistic and intellectually naive" attitude bleeds over even to their understanding of these writers, not just Scripture. It's just a general state of oblivion regarding what the issues actually are, but the problems being addressed aren't just self-created. If they were, then people like the ones you cited wouldn't be addressing them as seriously as they do. For example, Wolterstorff's observation that the "wax nose anxiety" hits just as hard against sola scripturists as it does against Catholics appears to have been entirely missed. It's always possible to normatively make any text into whatever you want, no matter what it says, so the argument that if we simply listen to what Scripture says, we will get normative answers is absurd on its face. Perhaps I can work that idea into my post(s) on law on authority (which I will eventually get around to writing).

 
At 11:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

[Posted by Tim Enloe]

Jonathan, I agree. For the record, I know that you have serious criticisms of some of the Evangelical thinkers I mentioned, and I am sensitive to those criticisms.

The only reason I mentioned the Evangelical authors I did was to point out (to the basically ignorant sheeple reading all this) that numerous highly-qualified, extremely intelligent, quite faithful Evangelical scholars hold utterly different views than White and his like-minded clique of "scholarly" Fundamentalists do. I speak from years of personal experience with these folks: they follow the leader(s) like little puppy dogs, eating up everything that is said as if it is Gospel truth, absorbing and reflecting the bigoted non-engagement with the real issues, and all the time thinking they are really something because they've read The Latest James White Article on The Burning Issue of Today. Most of them wouldn't know how to spot or deal with an intelligent contrary position if it came up and smacked them in the face.

It's simply pathetic, and all the more so because White and his like-minded "scholars" portray themselves as teaching and leading the laity. They are doing nothing of the kind, and they are, as a general rule, a blot on the serious discipline of Christian theology and apologetics.

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger Joseph said...

It's funny how they go on to try to prove that all the Fathers operated from a Sola Scriptura posture. Is the Scripture not enough to prove Sola Scriptura??

Sola Scriptura is self-referentially incoherent. It is patently false. No one who really believes it really sticks to their guns when arguing about it anyway. You can cut the irony with a knife.

Joseph

 
At 12:14 PM, Blogger Joseph said...

The latest post on Swann's blog is puzzling indeed. Why bring in Chrysostom to buttress Protestant claims? He might have said some lofty things about the authority of the Scriptures, but he also lived within the Tradition and was 1) a bishop (in the Catholic/Orthodox sense, and of Constantinople no less...), 2) believed in the Real Presence (in the Catholic/Orthodox sense) 3) wrote works on the "cult of the saints, 4) venerated Mary as Theotokos, etc,etc,etc...

He firmly believed in the material sufficiency of Scripture, but his life and practice clearly show that the Tradition in his time fit nicely in the context of the Scriptures.

Next we will probably get a good chunky quote from Irenaeus on how he said that the Scriptures were the pillar and ground of the truth. But folks who quote him to such lengths usually do not bother to read the other 99% of the Against Heresies which clearly demonstrate that the content of the Gospel in his time is not even in the same conceptual universe as the "gospel" of Luther or Calvin. Sigh.

 
At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Peter said...

>>>Next we will probably get a good chunky quote from Irenaeus on how he said that the Scriptures were the pillar and ground of the truth. But folks who quote him to such lengths usually do not bother to read the other 99% of the Against Heresies which clearly demonstrate that the content of the Gospel in his time is not even in the same conceptual universe as the "gospel" of Luther or Calvin. Sigh.<<<

This has already been done by Pastor King over there.

 
At 9:59 AM, Blogger Tim Enloe said...

King's scholarship is really an amazing thing when you descend into details. I'd encourage anyone impressed by his work to perform the following test:

Read the first few pages of his volume Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, and take careful note of the point he makes against Catholic apologists from the work of Richard Popkin's The History of Skepticism. Next, taking care to understand the larger points Popkin is making about the 17th century debates over "certainty" and "skepticism," read the actual discussion in Popkin which King footnotes and compare what King said Popkin said to what Popkin actually said.

If you put the pieces together, you will see that King misuses Popkin's point about Catholic controversialists by entirely failing to note Popkin's chronicling of Calvinists doing exactly the same thing. You will also see that King seems oblivious to how he himself, and the whole AOMIN-NTRMin coterie of Enlightenment-driven apologists, continue to make use of the very same skepticism / certainty dichotomy of which Popkin writes! For what are their very common arguments attempting to undermine the Catholic's trust in the Church if not the very "Pyrrhonist" reductionism that Popkin's whole book is about--a tactic in which King fallaciously implied only Catholic apologists engage? What is the use in calling current Catholic apologists "Pyrrhonists" and "skeptics" as King gleefully does, when he and his whole merry little band are rather uncritical, radicalized Cartesians themselves? Like much of post-Scopes Trial Evangelicalism, their whole apologetics enterprise is driven by an obsession with destroying "doubt" by replacing it with "certainty." The way that they go about this stands firmly in the Cartesian tradition as outlined in the Discourse on Method, and it thus partakes of all the usual problems that contemporary philosophers note regarding such things as the Cartesian "egocentric predicament" and the method's nearly total lack of attention to its own pre-existing cognitive landscape.

Aside from the terrible irony that these men claim to have no philosophical precommitments but to judge everything by "plain texts," and most importantly by Scripture Alone, it is important to ask: If this is how King treats a work of scholarship about the 17th century, not even understanding its terms well enough to grasp how it undercuts his own position, what do you imagine he might be doing to works of scholarship about the Church Fathers--or to the Church Fathers themselves?

I have had no success getting King to account for himself on this point. Whatever explains the lack of explanation from him, the above goes to show that one simply cannot take the "scholarship" of these men at face value.

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger Tim Enloe said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2:36 PM, Blogger Tim Enloe said...

In the name of accountability for myself, I want to modify one thing I said about White. I said he seems unacquainted with intellectual alternatives and gives very simplistic presentations that lead his puppy-dog like Internet followers astray.

The clarification I want to make is this: what I said is true insofar as most of his behavior on the Internet goes. However, I have been made aware that in his Golden Gate Seminary classes he has done such things as use R.C. Sproul's book Classical Apologetics, pointing his students to differing methods of apologetics.

That's great, glad to hear it. At least his students are getting something that makes them aware that James White's very narrow views are not the end-all, be-all of apologetics. My earlier remarks were thus too general and didn't fairly represent his activities.

But whatever he does in his seminary class rooms, in my experience it's a different story on the Internet. Spend any amount of time in his chatroom and you will fail to find 2 in 10 people who have any clue whatsoever about the intellectual options available to them, and 8 in 10 who appear to suck up every simplistic thing he says as if it's gospel-truth itself. For someone who fancies himself a teacher of the ordinary man, White typically entirely fails to teach the Internet ordinary man anything other than his (White's) own viewpoints--and this chiefly by either omitting mention of well-developed opposing views or just flat not handling opposing views in a respectable manner from the start.

This is especially the case on issues such as the so-called "New Perspective on Paul" and the cluster of cross-disciplinary issues that fall under the heading of "postmodernism." On these issues White is quite uninformed by anything beyond the most superficial of conservative Evangelical reactionary work, and the things he teaches his lay followers online are reprehensibly ridiculous and often downright slanderous of others. I'd like to sit in on his seminary classes sometime, just to see if in that setting he is able to keep an air of sober scholarship that recognizes his own limitations and doesn't try to transgress them in the name of "giving an answer." It would be good to see if he can, in a setting where he can't simply hang up on someone or treat them like dirt (since there are people higher than him who might chastise him for it), show humility in the face of admittedly difficult questions on which even Evangelical scholarship disagrees. For instance, if he lectures on "postmodernism" it would be good to see if he takes any time to explain foundationalism to his students, and to recommend to them any work done by well-respected Evangelical scholars such as Plantinga, Wolterstorff, and Smith on that subject--or if basically all he does is parrot Carson's Gagging of God and present alternatives as simple apostasies from "clear truth," like he does on the Internet.

Obviously a chatroom is not a seminary classroom, nor is an internet radio program a formal lecture. But if a man is a real scholar in one venue, he ought to be able, mutatis mutandis, to be one in another. If he can stand in front of paying students and have the attitude "Ok, here's an alternative method to the one I myself hold; be sure and take proper consideration of it," he ought to be able to sit in a chatroom and refrain from ditty-like mockery of those whose views are based on reputable Evangelical scholarship. He ought instead to be able to present himself as someone who honestly disagrees with another honest person, not as someone who is being persecuted for righteousness' sake by someone else who irrationally hates him and can't control his "rhetoric." He ought to have the maturity to understand that the "rhetoric" he wants to cry about in others is fully reciprocated by himself, and often only comes into play in others' mouths because their more sober-minded, restrained appeals have failed to even gain a respectful hearing.

At any rate, I admit my earlier remarks were too general and not based on information about his non-online activities, so I retract those and put the above in their place.

 
At 10:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonathan:

This is what I was talking about in terms of considering your audience -- even if it simply means to get your views across, you need to still consider whom you are speaking to because that becomes the essential focal point in any discussion, in any dialogue, and success ultimately depends on it, as White can be seen exploiting in his diatribe as regards you:

Here Prejean is admitting quite openly that the realm in which he "does theology" is not circumscribed by the Scriptures.

AND

He cannot stand in the realm of the Scriptures and defend his views, for his views have precious little connection to the divine revelation that Jesus said "could not be broken." He is more concerned about throwing about the accusation of "Nestorianism!" (what percentage of people have a clue what that means?) than he is discerning the mind of God in the Word.

AND

His blog presents his mission: "Sharing the Christian metaphysics of Xavier Zubiri and the fullness of Western Tradition under the patronage of St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. Bonaventure."


He is playing on his strengths -- knowing that his audience (predominantly Protestant), who operating on Sola Scriptura, would find more appealing in argument.

When you state things that might be taken as utterly against it (and the WORD), you play to his strengths and, therefore, contribute nothing to the understanding of the audience; which is exactly my point.

As I've stated in the past to you -- it shouldn't be about winning; however, it should be about trying to get your point across to an audience in a manner that they can relate to and understand.

It seems to me White is unable to comprehend/fails to comprehend/has no knowledge whatsoever concerning any of the things you intellectualize about and the deeper meaning behind your statements to him.

He, thus, plays "dirty" with you the only way he knows how just so that he can seem as if he's winning the debate with you -- never mind that he doesn't actually understand/refute your points.

Consider your audience, Prejean.

You have a great mind.

I would hate to see all that good insight lost all because you refuse to present your thoughts in a more appealing/understandable manner to a (hostile?) audience and, therefore, lose the chance in not necessarily convincing them, mind you, but in getting the audience to understand your viewpoints -- as you see things.

 
At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The above was me -- e.

(Sorry, forgot to sign my post)

 
At 10:31 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

He is playing on his strengths -- knowing that his audience (predominantly Protestant), who operating on Sola Scriptura, would find more appealing in argument.

You're making a fundamental mistake here. My audience is primarily Catholics, and only secondarily Protestants. If what I say to other Catholics helps a Protestant to become interested in the faith because of their own motivation, then that's great. When I talk to White, I do so primarily for the benefit of Catholics (really to show that he's just puffing, and that no one should be afraid of him). Primarily, I have the apologetic goal of convincing other Catholics that he doesn't raise good objections to the Catholic faith.

With respect to most intellectual strains of Protestantism, I view them as a sickness, so my approach is much more like a surgeon. It's a sort of compassion to be sure, but it's the compassion of the scalpel. I can tell them for sure that if they submit to the cure, they will be cured. But I can't lie and say that it won't be a painful process that involves cutting out the vast majority of what they believe about Jesus and the Bible, including probably a great deal of what they have been taught from childhood and what their family has taught them. If they are so scared of that prospect that they are willing to swallow White's snake oil, then so be it. I can only tell the truth, and if they don't believe it, then only God can help that. It's true that their view commits them to denying Jesus in some respects, and it's true that can spiritually kill them. Whether they know what Nestorianism is or not, believing it can spiritually kill them. Whether they know what monothelitism or tri-theism or modalism is or not, it can spiritually kill them. The bottom line is that wrong belief can spiritually kill you; Protestants can be damned for being Protestant. So with respect to the beliefs that are part of that package that can get them damned, I'm not going to have a lot of sympathy.

Now I think you have a point that there is a possibility of "relating" to them in some sense. But the task of "relating" to them is better left to ex-Protestants, because quite honestly, I have no empathy at all for this particular disease. I considered Protestantism intellectually bankrupt even before I was Catholic, and what they said was actually destructive of my own respect for Jesus and the Scriptures (because I thought that was what respect for Scripture looked like, knowing nothing of what Catholicism taught). I can't honestly give the "I was where you were" speech, because I wasn't. What they believe looks silly to me, and I can't really modify what I say to relate to something that I honestly considered absurd even before I was Catholic. I don't understand why Protestants find these arguments convincing in the first place, so all I can really do is to say why Catholics don't find them convincing (which is all that an apologia is required to do).

I'll put it this way. In the abstract sense, it is possible to be "all things to all people," and I do try to diversify in terms of ways of thinking about the world (cultural, intellectual, aesthetic, etc.). But you can't do that in the personal sense. I can't relate in that way to experiences I haven't had, which is why I'm not the guy to be doing what you are proposing. You're trying to understand what I should do in terms of what you would do in my position (because you can relate to what they're going through), but that's not really fair to me. If you want to take that approach, then by all means, get on the phone with White and present the Catholic faith in that way. But with respect to me, you're trying to make an eye do the work of a hand, and that just doesn't make sense. If anything, I would hope that my example would suffice to show you that there is nothing to fear in the confrontation, so that you can do what you do best just as easily as I would.

 
At 2:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonathan:

You're making a fundamental mistake here. My audience is primarily Catholics, and only secondarily Protestants.

I initially thought that the reason why you engaged White in this discussion was because you wanted to show Protestants that there was another way, that is:

The problem that I see is that Protestants have the idea that the way White does theology is the only way theology is done. I just want them to see that isn't the case, and that if something more appeals to them, there are other options out there.

To me, this made some sense given the context in which you presented this comment (which, unfortunately, White unjustly treated out of context) as well as being acquainted with (although only on a superficial level) some of the things you've reflected on as regards Catholic theology.

(Again, great insight there!)

The only point in my most recent comment is merely to say that in order for folks (quite alien to that thinking) to become open to your message, you need to provide them with some context in which they might be able to relate to your ideas and, thus, come to a certain understanding of your viewpoint, your beliefs, from some point of commonality.

Now, I don't mean to be like a sort of Dave Armstrong and start dishing out Scripture verses.

For example, you might consider providing analogies, examples and the like which they might find considerably easier to digest/relate to from the vantage point they're coming from.

It's hard enough for them since this subject deals with Catholicism, a very much abhorred topic as far as many of them (?) is concerned.

It's even more difficult when you propose ideas that are even more difficult to swallow.

Now, I'm not saying that you need to "dumb down" your insightful comments/thinking to such an audience; that would be disrespectful to all parties concerned.

What I am saying is that even if you were to provide only the 'basics' to your viewpoints; at the very least, you would've provided what may be an acceptable starting point for them which, later, you might be able to build on and expand upon in the near future.

Considering the fact that White seems to visciously attack you on such encounters, it would be quite advantageous for you to adopt this approach since presenting the most basic thought in this case would be best -- especially when fighting for air time and the chance to speak!

God Bless,
e.

P.S. You implied you weren't originally a Catholic. Might I ask, what were you prior to your conversion to Catholicism -- if it's not too personal?

 
At 2:16 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

I initially thought that the reason why you engaged White in this discussion was because you wanted to show Protestants that there was another way,

Sorry, should have been clearer. Because we were talking about the Protestants in the audience, I had them in mind, and that was my purpose with respect to them. There was a larger context, and I probably should have made that clear.

The only point in my most recent comment is merely to say that in order for folks (quite alien to that thinking) to become open to your message, you need to provide them with some context in which they might be able to relate to your ideas and, thus, come to a certain understanding of your viewpoint, your beliefs, from some point of commonality.

Now, I don't mean to be like a sort of Dave Armstrong and start dishing out Scripture verses.

For example, you might consider providing analogies, examples and the like which they might find considerably easier to digest/relate to from the vantage point they're coming from.


All of those are good points, and that is a work in progress. I will say, though, that I like to work in Scripture at the end of the argument, when its significance will become more apparent, but I consider it important to show the Scriptural foundation once people understand the position. It usually takes a couple of months, sometimes years, to actually refine things to that point, but I do make an effort to do so.

Realistically, that isn't often going to happen in a hostile format confronting people who aren't really interested in being charitable, which is why I don't direct a lot of my efforts in that regard in those directions. You'll see a lot more of that sort of thing at the Envoy forums, Mike Liccione's blog, and the like. I work it in when I can for Jimmy Akin and Dave Armstrong as well, but the interaction at those places tends to involve more adversaries.

P.S. You implied you weren't originally a Catholic. Might I ask, what were you prior to your conversion to Catholicism -- if it's not too personal?

"Became Catholic" is a bit of a misnomer. I was always a Catholic, because I was baptized Catholic, but I became a practicing Catholic. My religion growing up was Star Wars (and I'm not kidding about that; I had studied Joseph Campbell, who was a big influence on the religious themes that George Lucas used in his films). Because my experience at Harvard Law played a significant role in my reversion (mostly by way of negative example, but to some extent by meeting lots of sharp people and sharp professors), I chose Crimson Catholic as the name for the blog.

 
At 2:17 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Quick clarification: I didn't mean to imply that the misnomer was yours, Esau. It was my own misstatement "before I was Catholic" that was confusing.

 

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