Thursday, August 25, 2005

Ummmmm, no.

Lots of assertions from Steve Hays again.

I'm supposedly required by a PBC document to accept the GHM. Apart from the non-binding status of the PBC (a matter on which several Catholics have corrected Hays), there's a real simple matter of the quoted language:

Hence the absolute necessity of a hermeneutical theory which allows for the incorporation of the methods of literary and historical criticism within a broader model of interpretation.

I'll capitalize that bolded phrase so no one misses it: WITHIN A BROADER MODEL OF INTERPRETATION

To avoid, then, purely subjective readings, an interpretation valid for contemporary times will be founded on the study of the text, and such an interpretation will constantly submit its presuppositions to verification by the text.

Guess which model is used to submit interpretations for verification by the text. Hmmm, perhaps the BROADER MODEL OF INTERPRETATION. This is not rocket science. Catholicism is not picky about how you choose to reconcile the GHM with your overall theological model of revelation, so long as you don't dispute the magisterial teaching authority in the apostolic succession. There is room for Raymond Brown and Karl Rahner and Joe Fitzmyer and me, all of whom have different broad models of interpretation that include the GHM in different ways. The point is not submission to a common interpretive method, but submission to a common set of actual human beings as authoritative and communion with those human beings as a requirement established by God.

Nor is allegorical exegesis an alternative method to the GHM; rather, it is a supplemental method, and moreover, an accurate method in its proper context. Nothing in any part of the quote statement criticizes "allegorical exegesis as a well-meaning, but obsolete convention," as Hays asserts. Rather, it simply stresses the additional methods we have today. Dei Verbum and Divino Afflante Spiritu are right here; try to find anything that contradicts me.

Hays's argument here, which seems to have impressed some sycophants, is no more convincing:

I have a better idea. Note that Prejean is tacitly operating with the very standard he denies.

No. I operate within that standard where I think that standard is applicable. I emphatically do not consider it applicable as an exclusive limit on how the true meaning of divine revelation can be ascertained nor on how objectively binding dogmas can be interpreted. I have said all along that I consider this wrong, and I repeat it now. I agree with McGuckin's use of the GHM, because I agree with the use of the GHM on uninspired, fallible, non-authoritative statements from one human being to another. I see no reason that the GHM should apply as an exclusive criterion for binding theological meaning with respect to inspired or authoritative statements.

What “people” are we talking about? I thought this was a debate between Prejean and me. Have I ever accused Prejean of being a hypocrite?

Did you or did you not just accuse me of tacitly operating with the very standard I deny? If that's done knowingly, it's the definition of hypocrisy. So do you think that I am an idiot or a hypocrite? I can see no third option.

This is an extremely telling statement in what it simultaneously affirms and denies. Scripture is the inspired record of divine revelation. The original meaning is the revealed meaning—the original context—time, place, culture, language--in which God chose to disclose his message.

To divorce the “message” from the revealed meaning is to identify a non-revelatory message in application to the Christian community.

Note Hays's tactic here. He identifies the revealed meaning with the original meaning, which is exactly what I reject, and then says that messages that don't agree with the "revealed meaning" are "non-revelatory." Of course, I reject the idea that the revealed meaning is limited to the original meaning, so in appealing to later developments, I am not appealing to a "non-revelatory message" except by Hays's own disputed standards for what revealed meaning is. Sheer circularity.

Not a “perceived” need, but an inescapable need. Prejean cannot do without it himself. At every turn, when he interprets what I say, or Engwer says, or McGuckin says, he is depending on the very principles which he denies.

Where the assumptions of the method indicate it will apply! How hard is this? Yes, there are two different standards for mundane documents and dogmatically binding documents. I don't consider the GHM sufficient as an exclusive method to arrive at inspired meaning. That's a reasonable decision; it's not unverifiable by any commonly accepted meaning of the term. Unless you can come up with some actual argument for why it is inconsistent of me to apply different methods for ontologically different documents, then why are you even talking to me?

He seems to be inverting what I said, which was not: their exegesis must agree with their theology, but: their theology must agree with their exegesis. That follows from the assumption that Scripture is authoritative. Therefore, our exegetical findings should govern our theology.

No it doesn't follow from Scripture being authoritative that the GHM is theologically binding. That's the entire point of dispute.

Thus far, it's simply been a bad argument that revealed meaning is identical to (and limited to) original meaning (which would force me to use the GHM as the only tool for ascertaining original meaning, but since I disagree with the premise, I disagree with the conclusion). In that respect, it's simply rehashing the same argument that neither Hays nor Engwer has yet managed to support, except by trying to impose a burden of proof on me that I don't have or a "tacit acceptance" I haven't made. Here's where I don't like the turn the discussion took.

Observe the sudden bait-and-switch tactic. Since when did I—or Engwer, for that matter—ever rest my case for the GHM on “resolving the problems of epistemic fallibility?

I hadn't lost my patience before now, but this is just exasperating. The entire argument is that the only way we can know the original meaning of documents with any reasonable certainty is the GHM, that this is the "ordinary hermeneutical principle" as it were, and that this is the only "publicly verifiable" criterion, and yet now, suddenly, we are supposed to presume that Hays isn't arguing that God provides us with sufficient epistemic certainty to be assured of our faith? That is resolving the problem of epistemic fallibility: we don't have to worry about cognitive limitations because God will provide us with sufficient epistemic certainty for assurance. Sure, maybe you have to trust God to have that assurance, but the point is that you compensate for epistemic doubts by trust in God. The entire Evangelical argument is that if you can't be assured by trust in God for the basis of your faith, then faith is pointless. The "bait-and-switch" is that Evangelicals feel like they can use terms like "assurance" or "reasonable certainty" without being accused of transcending human epistemic fallibility.

That's a bit of an aside from the main argument, but it just irritates me. So back to that main argument, or lack thereof, here's the clincher:

So where the original revealed meaning is indefinitive, the church can upgrade that indefinitive meaning to something definitive. Hence, the input is less than the output. The definitive meaning is not the original revealed meaning, but something above and beyond the original revealed meaning—a surplus sense, which cannot be directly extracted from the original, but is supplied by the church. What we have here is a de facto doctrine of continuous revelation by another name.

Only because you define "revelation" according to "original meaning." Sure, in your view, it's a de facto doctrine of continuous revelation, but since I disagree with your identification of revealed meaning with original meaning in the first place, it's not inconsistency on my part. Now if you can an argument for why revealed meaning must necessarily be limited to original meaning to avoid continuous revelation, then you might have a case.

So even though the purpose and practice of the GHM is widely attested in Scripture itself, Prejean still refuses to apply this to himself or his own communion.

"Widely attested?" "Purpose and practice?" Vague statements do not an argument make. I have seen nothing to the effect that the probable method by application of the GHM is normatively binding, or that other interpretations cannot be binding. Where is that in Scripture?

He also doesn’t explain what he means by an “argument.” To begin with, where there’s common ground, you don’t need to mount an argument.

In addition, if Scripture is an authoritive, and the method in question is widely attested in Scripture, in the practice of Christ and the Apostles and prophets, then that automatically authorizes the practice is question. You need no further argument unless the authority of Scripture itself is at issue. And even the Catholic church doesn’t deny the authority of Scripture.

An argument would give specific and concrete content to a vague term like "widely attested," which I don't concede in the least.

He has not presented any argument to the effect that the Chalcedonian creed, about a paragraph long, incorporates every refinement of Cyrillic Christology.

McGuckin pretty much does, at least to the extent that I am asserting.

How does this help him in the least? He’s a member of the Western church.

No, I'm a member of the Catholic Church.

BTW, I never said or implied that the primary sources were mistaken. The source of error is irrelevant. The salient point is that it took 1500 years for the Western church to correct itself--assuming that, in fact, McGuckin’s reconstruction has achieved official acceptance.

The non-binding error of historians in one part of the Church does not bind the Catholic Church.

Is he attributing to me a Nestorian Christology? Where can he quote me to that effect? All I ever said is that we should avoid canonizing unscriptural refinements in any direction.

I presumed you must, since you're arguing that Chalcedon is not Cyrillene, and it canonized "unscriptural refinements."

Completely misses the point. The fact that McGuckin makes use of the GHM in patrology, and Prejean’s relies on Mcguckin’s methodology, serves to confirm my position and disconfirm Prejean’s.

Scripture. Not Scripture. Scripture. Not Scripture. Is this a hard distinction for you? Do I need to make it more plain?

That, again, depends on the genre of the document. If the document is a theological document, then the application of the GHM will ascertain theological conclusions; and if the document is authoritative, then the GHM will ascertain normative theological conclusions.

There's that purely subjective term "ascertain" again, the way that Evangelicals attempt to get around cognitive limitations by trusting in God to give them what they need. Note also that "theological document" is a subjective judgment about intent, "authoritative" is a subjective determination as well, and the fact that it will "ascertain normative theological conclusions" is assumed without any empirical demonstration. In a word, this is an attempt to foist Hays's peculiar subjective preferences as necessities.

This characterization totters on a tendentious definition of history, by which he surreptitiously means the Catholic philosophy of church history.

Nope, I mean history. When the fact that nobody used a particular method in the past doesn't count against you, it's hard to argue otherwise.