Tuesday, October 11, 2005

More on "Fundie Hicks"

On further reflection, I have another clarification on my preceding post, "Fundie Hicks." I suppose that technically, it isn't the affirmation of the Chicago Statement, but the affirmation of the Chicago Statement as a necessary condition of Scriptural truth that defines the fundamentalist mindset. To grab some actual quotes, there are some who would argue that if you oppose the Chicago Statement, then you are opposing "the inerrancy of Scripture" and "the plenary inspiration of Scripture," thereby "[going] the way of dying, hemorrhaging liberal mainline denominations." Others contend that "Skepticism is an acid that, after eating scripture, will also devour the Roman claims as well" and that denial of the Chicago Statement's standard of inerrancy is "another sorry display of the barely-suppressed liberal tendencies of some of the higher-ups [in the] Roman Catholic Church." Often opponents of the Chicago Statement are accused of giving equal authority to "uninspired documents" or the like.

IMHO, you simply can't talk to a person who makes denial of the Chicago Statement into denial of knowable truth (and hence, relativism, liberalism, postmodernism, yada yada yada...) or who asserts that making external determinations about the truth of Scripture diminishes the authority of Scripture, because frankly, those are pretty ridiculous positions to take without argument. Sure, you can believe them, but they're like any other peculiar belief unsupported by evidence or experience. This is why I've equated conservative Evangelical theology with astrology or other pseudo-sciences in the past; it starts from a ridiculous proposition (in that I can see absolutely no reason to believe a priori that the selective acceptance of the truth of propositions asserted by Scriptural authors leads to any of the cited evils or to the denial of Scriptural truth) and argues from that ridiculous proposition to its conclusions. And like the case of astrology, I see very little reason not to view the starting premise as blasphemous, being that it construes some baseless human notion of what humans need to know as an obligation on God. Substitute "It CAN'T be that God left us with no way of knowing the future" with "It CAN'T be that something affirmed as true by an author of Scripture could be false;" in either case, it's an irrational proposition that becomes no more believable based on the number of people who fall for it. At some point, you have to just come out and say "You don't really believe that stuff, do you?" Obviously, the fact that there are astrology schools and conservative Evangelical seminaries means that there are people who do, but we oughtn't encourage them.

As I said earlier, the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum and the non-binding (but accurate) PBC document on the interpretation of the Bible in the Church provide a much more reasonable and holistic framework for determining when to affirm the literal meaning, when to deny it in favor of an allegorical interpretation, and when to impute later interpretations to the original texts. Indeed, the documents I cited don't even really prescribe a method of interpretation so much as describe the way interpretation actually takes place, much like the concept of Magisterial authority. Keeping cognizance of the factors described there, without letting any one factor (such as what the author intended to affirm) override any of the others, provides a good way of properly balancing the human and divine quality of the Sacred Texts.