Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Sad State of Evangelical Intellectualism

I'm not even going to comment on these.

See here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

[EDIT -- Deleted reference to another blogger who said that he didn't have me personally in mind.]

Never mind that most of us who read the commentaries (and I do) just aren't much convinced by the philosophical justification for these people's hermeneutics. Never mind that the analysis of patristic exegesis in such commentaries is, by and large, incompetent, giving people the erroneous impression that they "know," e.g., what St. Jerome's opinion was on a particular passage without ever having read extensively in the literature on the exegete in question.

Contrary to the alleged inability to think for ourselves, the fact is that most Catholics are critical of everything, including Scripture, the Fathers, and the Magisterium, because quite honestly, truth ought to hold up. Catholics have to practice making judgments not only about arguments within an area, but also as between different methods of knowledge. We don't get to say "this one wins;" instead, we actually have to undertake the intellectual effort of harmonizing, rather than dismissing. And yes, people come to lots of different answers, and that's a good thing. It is positive intellectual speculation, the right kind of intellectual diversity. This is what thinking people do; they don't take the easy way out by adopting some irrational principle of cognitive submission in which one form of inquiry is "privileged" or "above" others. Consequently, in addition to being relatively well-read in areas of exegesis ourselves, we know a whole truckload more about everything else. The emphasis on Scriptural authority frankly produces intellectual laziness, and it's evident here. [EDIT -- Thanks for this very kind article by a Protestant pointing out that Catholics have done a good job of integrating Biblical study within the faith.]

These people aren't capable of questioning Scriptural authority, and that's an intellectual weakness. I am quite capable of questioning Magisterial authority, Scriptural authority, and Traditional authority; I don't have to buy everything these people say. More or less, I am never bound to believe any proposition because some particular person said it; they have to actually make a credible appeal to God's authority in the statement. I don't ignore them, of course, but it only raises the need for me to investigate whether they've made a credible claim of authority.

That's why I consider the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy so incredibly implausible; I can't imagine how I could credit the truth of propositional content based solely on authority. Maybe it's just a lawyer thing, but I would never concede the idea that "because the judge said it, it's the law." It's never that simple in real life; that would be more of an intellectual constraint than I could consider realistic.

This whole "damned if you do; damned if you don't" matter of anti-Catholic stereotyping is pretty incredible. If I'm intellectually curious, then I'm "speculating beyond the bounds of Biblical authority," and yet, I'm simultaneously supposed to be so incurious that I accept whatever the Magisterium tells me. Given that I am the same person in both instances, you can start seeing how irrational anti-Catholicism really is. You'll see it plenty in the links above, how I supposedly got caught in contradictions and changed positions when I was, in fact, saying the same thing all along. But people who aren't used to critically thinking about statements to intelligently reconcile them just can't muster the brainpower to see it.

Oh well. If they refuse to use their brains, I can't think for them.