Sunday, January 09, 2005

Sometimes ya just gotta laugh

Jason Engwer (yes, that Jason Engwer) actually said the following:
The diversity allowed has narrowed on other issues as well. Some of the church leaders of the fourth century interpreted Nicaea in Arianizing ways that we reject. Councils after Nicaea further narrowed the views of Christ that would be acceptable. The church fathers held a wide variety of views on the canon of scripture, but we don't think that sort of diversity is acceptable today.
When I refer to the diversity of views of justification, I'm including such doctrines as Gregory of Nyssa's universalism, Ambrose's belief that sin is remitted through foot washing, and Hermas' belief that some sins can't be forgiven if they're committed a particular number of times. In other words, I'm including some beliefs that are far out of the mainstream. These are doctrines that probably all of us in this forum would reject. Do we really *want* that sort of diversity of doctrine? I don't think so.

When I came across the word "allowed" in the first sentence, I just about fell off my chair. This is from a guy who states his position thusly:

Again, we have to go back to apostolic standards. Whatever previous generations may have done, we have to follow the standards set by the apostles. Like the Jews of Nehemiah's day, we have to go back to the original revelation given to us by God (Nehemiah 8:13-17). We can respect and learn from previous generations, but they weren't infallible.

How can you say that something is not "allowed" or that it being "outside the mainstream" matters at all if you have to "go back to apostolic standards" in every instance? This sort of absolute inconsistency is invariably present in these vain attempts to leech off of things that developed completely within another ecclesial system while simultaenously purporting to reject that system in favor of some objective standard. In fact, it's nothing other than the "stolen concept" fallacy: arguing from one premise while rejecting the epistemological grounds required for that premise. These types of Evangelicals are parasites that exist only to attack the host despite their inability to survive without it.

BTW, to highlight just exactly how ridiculous and inconsistent his position is, he also refused to answer a straight question from "Patrick":
Surely, you're prepared to admit that Catholic theologians have at least a plausible reading of Scripture and the Fathers, according to which Catholic teaching on justification is perfectly in line with these sources, even if you think in the end there is a superior reading? That's not a particularly difficult admission to make--it simply requires you to grant that some Catholic theologians have been competent and honest exegetes and historians. And anyone can manage that.

Yeah, Jason, how is it that all of these people were incompetent historians and exegetes who just missed "passages like Acts 15, 2 Corinthians 11, and Galatians 1?"

We view the church fathers as people who taught a combination of truth and error that doesn't completely align with any modern belief system.

Not what I asked. I mean what independent basis do you have for suggesting that these people were incompetent historians and exegetes?

The evangelical view of church history is similar to what we read about in 2 Kings 22:8-13, where the original revelation is what must be followed, even if our forefathers failed to do so.

Again, not what I asked. If you have some REASON for thinking that the extraordinarily devout and well-studied men would have left something out, then I could totally understand. What reason do you have for them all endorsing a false Gospel under the anathema of Galatians 1?

Evangelicals believe that the church fathers held a wide variety of beliefs, so we don't expect as much consistency as the Catholic view of church history would require.

Who cares about "as much consistency?" You're talking about a ridiculous degree of inconsistency, a degree of inconsistency so massive that no historian would endorse it without overwhelming evidence in its favor. And you're telling me that you have no OBJECTIVE reason for thinking that there's this sort of inconsistency? Just some namby-pamby "men can err" excuse? Doesn't that sound a little unreasonable to you? In fact, doesn't it sound EXACTLY like what you called an "unreasonable objection" from Catholics?

Claiming that the church fathers were allowed to disagree with modern Catholic teaching at that time, since no infallible ruling had been made on the issue yet. By that reasoning, we would conclude that Christians could believe anything during the first 300 years of church history, since there was no infallible papal decree or ecumenical council during that time. If apostolic teaching was being passed down in an unbroken succession, there isn't any reason to expect any bishop, much less a large number of bishops, to be ignorant of it, regardless of whether any allegedly infallible ruling had been passed on the subject. Saying that people had freedom to disagree with the RCC at that time doesn't change the fact that the doctrine is being contradicted, and that it should have been known across the Christian world if it was one of the apostolic teachings being passed down in the presence of many witnesses (2 Timothy 2:2)

Yeah, but they just missed that whole Galatians 1 thing. Whatever. Between this and the mindless response to Perry Robinson's argument, you start to wonder how much cognitive dissonance can possibly be sustained in someone's head before it explodes.


SecretAgentMan said...

"We view the church fathers as people who taught a combination of truth and error that doesn't completely align with any modern belief system."Yes, of course, because the patristic combination of truth and error underwent what Mr. Engwer's comments have identified as a ‘narrowing' of ‘allowable diversity.' Newman has the same thesis, of course, except that it's accompanied by an actual theoretical/historical mechanism which accomplishes the ‘narrowing' process in a consistent way. What perplexes me about his comments on the Fathers is his apparent contention that while this ‘narrowing of allowable diversity' may be recognized for the purposes of demonstrating Protestant fidelity to an historic Christianity, the presence in that same history of anything which might be subjected to the ‘narrowing' process is to be regarded as positive proof that the Romand Catholic Church has no authentic and viable root in a patristic understanding of the Gospel. To the extent that Mr. Engwer's studies demonstrate that the patristic corpus is not a simple and seamless adumbration of Vatican I's Dogmatic Constitution or the 1997 Catechism, they are a healthy corrective for overconfident and misinformed Catholics and a wholesome invitation to Protestants to abandon the endemic ahistoricism of their traditions. To the extent that his studies have encouraged him to declaim as though Protestantism has an answer to Newman, they have as yet produced no evidence of such an answer.

Anonymous said...

Patrick here. For what it's worth, it seems to me that you (and Perry, too) are asking exactly the right kinds questions about the sustainability of Jason's answer to my simple question about justification and the Creed, and the related issues that have arisen on that thread. I'm glad you've written this blog entry, and I hope Jason might read it and give a careful and straightforward reply to it. I think that could lead to a very fruitful discussion.