Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas comes early

I thought Eric Svendsen had followed his usual M.O. of fleeing discussion when it actually gets to substance, then revising it long after the fact. Instead, he decided to revise history immediately after the fact after I had announced I was leaving the discussion with Steve Hays. Unluckily for "Eric the Yellow," I was paying attention, so his attempt at shadow-boxing in the guise of responding to me will be exposed to the clear light of truth. And what better way to celebrate the feast of the Incarnation that to flush out a Nestorian, a sworn enemy of the Alexandrian Doctor of Christology, St. Cyril!

The Nestorian's words are in red; my words to which he replies (either recently or past) are in blue; my current reply is in black.

“I'd have to be an idiot to advertise my own defeat”

Well, okay, we’ll go with that explanation then.

Good. You're willing to admit that you're calling me an idiot, which chews up your credibility faster than a wood chipper shreds a branch.

“If I were "desperately attempting to redeem myself," then I would be trying to provoke some sort of rematch, not simply repeating what I have been saying.”

Why would you try to provoke a rematch if you know you can’t win? The only option you have at this point is the same one that all RC apologists fall back on; simply repeat the same tired arguments over and over again, in the hope that by repeating it enough times it will eventually seem to be a good argument to your target audience. It’s a technique that has been used by RC apologists since the beginning.

Svendsen evidently doesn't realize how senseless this is. People don't reassert arguments they're embarrassed about losing. When they reassert arguments, it's because they think they already won, not because they feel the need to bolster them by reassertion. Also, if a person were using this tactic, the person in question would deliberately NOT link the responses, just like Svendsen didn't. But I link everything to which I respond, and if I've left any links out, I'm happy to add them. That's what Svendsen never mentions; his Catholic opponents link his arguments in their responses. That is not the behavior of someone attempting to obfuscate a loss; it's the behavior of someone who is convinced of having defeated his opponent.

“Which only shows that you and Hays both follow the same pattern: misinterpret me, make statements based on your misinterpretation, and then act as if I changed my mind when you got me wrong in the first place. The funny thing is that neither of you actually show from my words where I contradicted myself; you simply assume that I said what you interpreted me to have said.”

Is that a fact?

Yes, it is, and what's ironic about this is that you linked one of the best examples.

Here’s what Prejean stated in one post in our dialogue:

“To respond to Dr. Svendsen's query of 3/14/05, I refer to my post here, which clearly points out Svendsen's Christological errors (fundamentally based on the complete inability to make a distinction between person and nature, an error that was shared by Arius and Nestorius).”

Note here that Prejean does *not* say, “an error that was *erroneously attributed* to Nestorius.” He instead says, “an error that was *shared* by Arius and Nestorius.” Then, in a later post, after I corrected him on his understanding of what scholars believe about Nestorius, he wrote this:

“After having read Dr. Svendsen's first couple of forays into this area, I'm going to say a couple of things strictly in the interest of saving both his time and mine. Everybody with any familiarity in the relevant history knows that it is somewhat doubtful that Nestorius was Nestorian.”

Here is what I wrote in response at that time:

“Which will it be, Mr. Prejean? Shall we proceed with the pop-apologetic understanding of the historical events that you undoubtedly possessed before I began posting my series; or with your new understanding of historical events which, forced by my citations of Brown, you quickly acquired when you scrambled to your patristic sources looking for contradictions to my position only to find it confirmed? I am not anxious to waste my time interacting with that kind of disingenuousness on your part; the kind that strongly and consistently asserts an erroneous position about the historical events, and ridicules and derides my comparatively accurate understanding of those events in the process, only to backpeddle once the evidence comes out and then pretends the issue was never about my understanding of events to begin with.

Anyone interested in reading the full article can access it here:

The reason this is a paricularly good example is because the entire exchange here proceeds from his misunderstanding of "an error shared by Arius and Nestorius." This is a perfectly conventional way to refer to Arianism and Nestorianism. This isn't exactly 1988; everyone has taken R.P.C. Hanson's caution about Newman's use of the term "Arian" (which is really just Athanasius's use) under advisement. Everyone knows that the "Arian" movement was not itself uniform and that the connections of that movement to the Alexandrian presbyter Arius are some what obscure, perhaps never to be entirely discovered. That didn't stop Daniel H. Williams from titling his 1995 solo work Ambrose of Milan and the End of the Arian-Nicene Conflicts or from titling the 1994 work he jointly edited with Michel Barnes Arianism after Arius. Nor did it keep Sara Parvis from titling her 2006 work Marcellus of Ancyra And the Lost Years of the Arian Controversy 325-345. The label and its associations with Arius and Nestorius are here to stay, even if we have to acknowledge certain caveats about how definitively we can apply them. It should have been plain enough in the context of speaking about a theological error that it was referring entirely conventionally to Arianism and Nestorianism. If there was ANY doubt that I was referring to the doctrine and not whatever belief actually held by Nestorius (if we can indeed even know that for sure), then the citation of the condemnation of Nestorianism by the Fifth Ecumenical Council (Second Constantinople) should have made that abundantly clear.

And speaking of it not being 1988, the flash in the pan of pro-Nestorian scholarship, mostly just rehashing Friedrich Loofs's work from the early 1900s, was far less lasting than Svendsen would like to think it is. I hadn't read Brown's work at the time, but I was unsurprised after I did read it to find that it was simply the same thing I had read in other Protestant authors from the early 90s making apologies for Nestorius (often citing Brown as the sole source for the claim). But Brown's claim was certainly nothing that I hadn't heard before, and the McGuckin work that I had read dissected the claim quite effectively. Now fifteen years after McGuckin's work, the prevailing view of the scholarship is clearly that Nestorius was at best incoherent, if not openly endorsing the heresy of Nestorianism. No one is seriously claiming that Nestorius was orthodox or that Chalcedon was an accommodation to Nestorius's views.

So Svendsen has made two mistakes here. First, he misread a statement that anyone familiar with the literature should have known was conventional despite the intervening research regarding the labels "Arian" and "Nestorian." Second, he assumed that I got a "new understanding" based a work that is almost 20 years out of date, not having been brought substantially up to date even by its recent reprinting. In other words, he did exactly what I said he did. He misunderstood my first claim and then wrote the rest of his response AS IF I had said what he misinterpred me as having said. So yes, that is a FACT, Dr. Svendsen, and you can grouse about it all you want, but you just proved it.

To be fair, Svendsen simply talks like someone who hasn't done even a cursory survey of church history since the late 80s or early 90s, which was probably about the last time he took a church history class. Brown's conclusions simply aren't taken seriously anymore; Harnack and Seeberg (Brown's sources) are mentioned only to note that they have been refuted on the point. He probably honestly didn't realize that the state of knowledge is vastly different than it was when he took Brown's class at Trinity. This "Nestorius is cool" idea never actually caught on outside of Protestant scholarship, and it's been slowly and painfully dying there for some time.

“Why would I respond to a summary? The conclusions are nothing other than what you said before.”

Precisely because it *is* the summary, and precisely because it ties the series together and issues conclusions that reveal the thrust of the point of the series. Since you clearly got my intent for the series wrong, it would have helped you to understand what that intent was.

That gives ME no reason to respond to it. I couldn't care less what your purpose for the series was; all I care about is whether you actually responded to my argument. To write a series addressed to someone for the purpose of NOT responding to that person is ridiculous, but that's what you did. If your intent in writing the series was anything other than responding to what I say, then it's irrelevant. But what is hysterical is that even your response admits that it is doing the same thing: misrepresenting my position, and then responding to it AS IF I said what you mistakenly attributed to me.

It is my opinion that both councils attempted to explain the inexplicable and went far a field in their dogmatic pronouncements and attendant condemnations. No one can explain the unity of the person of Christ and the relationship between his natures beyond what the Scriptures affirm because it is inexplicable beyond what the Scriptures affirm. The most we can safely affirm is that Christ is both fully God and fully man.

"No one can explain" is a philosophical claim that Svenden fails to back up. The assertion that the Scriptures only affirm what Svendsen says is question-begging both on this assertion that Scripture is an exclusive divine authority and that dogmatic propositions are extracted from Scripture based only on his exegetical method. The conclusion follows on both. So in an entire paragraph, Svendsen says nothing, which is exactly why there would be no reason to reply.

But the moment we attempt to explain just how those two statements fit together—or worse, to go beyond that and proclaim Mary as “mother of God” is some kind of ramification of all that, or that it acts as a test of orthodoxy—we end up in error. Why? Because at that point we end up abandoning discussion on the communication of attributes in Christ and start down the path of discussing the communication of attributes in Mary.

Little surprise that a Calvinist says this; my brand spanking new copy of Helm's John Calvin's Ideas says much the same thing. Calvin doesn't consider the communicatio idiomatum to refer to anything real, which is Nestorianism. Helm's defense against Thomas Weinandy on this point is no defense at all as far I can tell, nor can I see where Weinandy differs from Paul Gavrilyuk's excellent survey in any great detail on the history, meaning that I have no reason to suspect that Calvin didn't screw this up. But all this proves is that Svendsen is clueless about the purpose for which Cyril urged the term. Frankly, this is yet another admission of Nestorianism on Svendsen's part. And for the record, anything two conflicting propositions whose conflict can't be explained are just nonsense, which is exactly what Nestorianism was.

As I stated in an earlier post in this series, the term theotokos, rightly understood as a Christological affirmation, is not objectionable in itself. It becomes objectionable in the hands of RC apologists who would use it to exalt Mary’s status over against the consistent testimony of the very Scriptures to which they purport to acquiesce in the concilliar definitions of Chalcedon and Ephesus about the person and natures of Christ.

But of course, Svendsen is either confused or lying on this point, because Christologically, it refers to the single subject. Here's Svendsen's misunderstanding of my position. Mary's status has nothing to do with it; I want to get the Christological statement correct.

Indeed, they eagerly seek to defend the Cyrilline Apollinariani-Monophysite view of Christ’s person and natures from the Scriptures--not so they can uphold the deity of Christ, but as a pretext for finding a basis for exalting Mary by somehow proving from that fact that she’s the “mother of God.” I think that much is self-evident in their writings. But in so doing, they ignore the clear statements of Jesus that such a relationship—even if true—avails nothing.

It's self-evident to Svendsen, only because Svendsen thinks that the Calvinist version of the communcatio idiomatum is what Chalcedon taught (which is wrong) and that it was a vindication of Nestorius. But his view of Cyril has been unanimously crushed by the scholarship, and that includes Catholics (Wessel, Weinandy, Keating), Orthodox (McGuckin, Gavrilyuk, Russell), and Protestants (McKinion). All the historically-minded Protestants NOW are trying to revise Calvin's mistake (or practically admitting Nestorianism, as Helm does), not running a fool's course trying to find Calvin where he obviously wasn't. This is a Christological issue, not a Mariological one, but Svendsen is too oblivious to the scholarship to know it. So instead, he misrepresents me.

Indeed, I am convinced that they would, if they thought they could get away with it, happily throw out the qualifier of the councils that Mary is theotokos only “as regards his manhood,” and that “the difference of the natures [is] by no means removed because of the union, but the property of each nature [is] preserved and coalesced in one prosopon and one hupostasis,” and use the term in an unqualified way to exalt Mary instead of Christ. After all, that is the sense in which they use the term today, completely oblivious to the fact that the title has a historical context.

It's perfectly fine to use the term in an unqualified way; it is only if qualified that it becomes heterodox (Mary is the Mother of God as God). If Christ is truly a single divine subject, then Mother of God is the norm, and the openly heterodox statement would be "mother of a man." This is yet another demonstration of Svendsen's ignorance of the theological use of this term (his laughable statements about meter theou being the only worse howlers).

So are Roman Catholic apologists wrong in their views? I believe so.

And, as the belief of someone completely ignorant in the area, it should be given all the weight it deserves.

Are they in Christological heresy on this point? If the councils are to act as our rule of faith, I don’t see any way around it [for the sake of clarification, this is only to the extent that they follow Cyril’s view—which most of them do; this point is affirmed by many scholars, including McGrath, Brown, Pelikan and Kelly].

Except for the pesky FACT that we use the term "Mother of God" in the same way Cyril does, per every recent scholar on the point. But as usual with Svendsen, misrepresent the view, respond AS IF the misrepresentation were true, and repeat.

But Scripture is much more forgiving on this point than are the councils. If Scripture is to act as our rule of faith, I don’t see how any view that affirms the full deity and full humanity of Christ as well as the unity of his person can be labeled as heretical given the fact no one knows exactly how the person and natures of Christ relate to each other, or even whether those categories are ones the biblical writers would deem legitimate in the first place.

Then you should have no qualms about admitting your Nestorianism, not to mention that you have no idea what the term "Mother of God" means theologically. Of course, your casual lack of explanation of what "no one knows exactly" is likely to make your view unacceptable, but you and others can incline your wills to nonsense if you are determined to so.

The councils use Platonic concepts and Aristotelian categories that are foreign to Scripture; and Scripture simply does not bother to elaborate on these things, no doubt because they are inexplicable to finite minds.

The Platonic concepts and Aristotelian categories are simply explanatory tools (and by the way, what training does Svendsen have in philosophy to make ANY statements about Aristotelian and Platonic concepts, much less study in patristics to know how the Fathers applied them?). The Fathers deployed them to explain Scripture, not the other way around. But Svendsen doesn't know anything about the Fathers, so how would he know this? You know you've got someone when they resort to the "inexplicable to finite minds" defense. Without some sort of philosophical explanation, that means "my view is nonsense, and I hold it for no good reason."

Hence, my major complaint on this particular issue insofar as Roman Catholic apologists are concerned is not their Apollinari-Monophysite view of Christ; it is the application they think they can make to Mary.

And as I pointed out to Svendsen, my own view had nothing to do with this. Same M.O.: misrepesent, accuse based on the misrepresentation, repeat. But as usual, this is thoroughly non-responsive.

As any fair reader can see, the entire point of my series was to address Prejean’s implicit Marian agenda.

And as any fair reader can also see, the "Marian agenda" was Svendsen's invention.

His charge of Nestorianism was intended solely to bring us back in line with his cyrillene Mariolatry in the hope that we would be forced logically to grant Mary all the perceived attendent privileges of the title “mother of God.”

Except for the pesky details that my charge of Nestorianism was actually Christological and didn't have a thing to do with any sort of "privileges" of the title apart from what is literally inherent in it. This is how Svendsen's paranoid mind works; you say something completely routine about Christology, and he finds a Marian conspiracy theory. But he can't admit he's wrong now, or he'd have to admit that he behaved like a delusional, raving lunatic in his response to me.

I cracked his foundation, and he has been struggling ever since to overcome that crack. As a result, he has gotten stuck in the mud of Ephesus rather than proceed to his hoped-for Marian ramifications.

Except (1) it's not part of my foundation, (2) it's not a crack, (3) Svendsen didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, (4) Ephesus says exactly what I said, and (5) I have no hoped-for Marian ramifications. Evidently, pointing out his incompetence has caused the power of reason to fly from Dr. Svendsen where I am concerned.

This is what is at the core of the issue. Prejean isn’t “proud” he in incapable of exegesis—he’s embarrassed by it. Notice what he’s forced to say here—he doesn’t recognize Scripture as an authority. Yet, at least on paper, Roman Catholicism has always recognized the primacy of Scripture; and it explicitly states that it is subject and subservient to Scripture. And notice I have not asked Prejean to adopt sola Scriptura—I’m merely asking him whether his view is biblical. But for the sake of argument, let’s not grant Scripture any authority. Let’s just take it as a historical document, the same way we take the councils as historical documents. Let’s just see if we can determine what the writers of the New Testament have to say about Mary’s status and role. Is it Prejean’s view they share, or is it mine? I think the answer in obvious, and I think Prejean knows this very well—which is why he is terrified to venture into that arena. He knows he would be quickly cured of his Mariolatry.

I consider the assertion that Scripture taken as a historical document doesn't teach a single-subject Christology ridiculous (John 1 alone suffices to show it, and the Arians never managed to evade the logic of that passage), but even if it didn't, my view of Scriptural authority doesn't require that something be taught in Scripture as historically interpreted to be dogmatic. Regardless, since I am talking about a single-subject Christology, which has only a very limited application to "Mary's status and role," Svendsen is yet again responding to his own misrepresentation of what I am saying. If I were actually talking about these dogmas (Assumption, Immaculate Conception, Queen of Heaven, etc.), I would just admit that they aren't taught in Scripture viewed as a historical document. It's a unnecessary claim that I don't feel compelled to make, so it's easier just to abandon it. Nothing "terrifying" there.

Augustine called your cyrillene concept of the incarnation vis-à-vis Mary’s status “exegesis”? Where? Irenaeus called your cyrillene concept of the incarnation vis-à-vis Mary’s status “exegesis”? Where? Irenaeus expressly denied Mary’s perpetual virginity as well as her immaculate conception and sinlessness. Are you sure you want to go with Irenaeus’ exegesis? Augustine also denied your cyrillene understanding of Mary’s status. Here is what Augustine said:

Same old thing. Svendsen is talking about Mary's status; I'm talking about Christology. Yes, I think Augustine and Irenaeus both held to single-subject Christology, which is all that the title "Mother of God" means.

At that time, therefore, when about to engage in divine acts, He repelled, as one unknown, her who was the mother, not of His divinity, but of His [human] infirmity" (Tract. in Ioannem CXIX, 1)

And when we speak with the qualification of speaking about natures, this is entirely routine. Since Svendsen evidently can't distinguish between nature and person (subject), I can see why this is confusing.

It was as if [Jesus] said [in John 2], ‘You did not give birth to my power of working miracles, it was not you who gave birth to my divinity. But you are the mother of all that is weak in me" (Tract. in Ioannem VII, 9.)

And all of this is true, when speaking qualifiedly about natures. Again, nature and person (subject) are different.

Same thing here; I'll even bold where Augustine says he is talking about nature for emphasis:

Why, then, said the Son to the mother, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come?" Our Lord Jesus Christ was both God and man. According as He was God, He had not a mother; according as He was man, He had. She was the mother, then, of His flesh, of His humanity, of the weakness which for our sakes He took upon Him. But the miracle which He was about to do, He was about to do according to His divine nature, not according to His weakness; according to that wherein He was God not according to that wherein He was born weak. But the weakness of God is stronger than men. His mother then demanded a miracle of Him; but He, about to perform divine works, so far did not recognize a human womb; saying in effect, "That in me which works a miracle was not born of thee, thou gavest not birth to my divine nature; but because my weakness was born of thee, I will recognize thee at the time when that same weakness shall hang upon the cross." This, indeed, is the meaning of "Mine hour is not yet come." . . . How then was He both David’s son and David’s Lord? David’s son according to the flesh, David’s Lord according to His divinity; so also Mary’s son after the flesh, and Mary’s Lord after His majesty. Now as she was not the mother of His divine nature, whilst it was by His divinity the miracle she asked for would be wrought, therefore He answered her, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" (Tract. in Ioannem VIII, 9)

Of course, this is the very same misrepresentation Svendsen is making about me, to suggest that I mean "Mother of God" to refer to nature and not person. So it really just falls in with the big strategy: misrepresent, accuse based on the misinterpretation, and repeat.

“This just points to the fact that our concepts of Scriptural authority are fundamentally opposed to one another.”

No; what is points to is that one of us is engaging in exegesis, and the other is engaging in eisegesis.

Prejean states this as though he can avoid exegesis of the documents of the fifth-century councils. Why are they any more “obvious” in meaning than the Scriptures? Both are historical writings, after all. What makes one comprehensible and the other somehow incomprehensible? The answer is, nothing. The Scriptures are just as plainly written—rather, refreshingly more plainly written—than the convoluted speculations of the men too influenced by aristotelean categories to be of much help in expressing theological concepts in a biblically constrained way.

Svendsen's anti-intellectual bias against Aristotelian concepts doesn't mean they can't accurately explain the material content of Scripture. It's the "biblically constrained" part that strikes me as ridiculous. I have absolutely no reason to think that Scriptural content is different than any other content in terms of being explained by logical concepts. I don't think that the Scriptures are entirely incomprehensible either. However, unlike Svendsen, I think they teach a great deal that requires a complicated conceptual apparatus to understand, particularly when dealing with the nature of God and the like. Svendsen spurns investigation in these areas, dismissing them as inscrutably mysterious, which I consider contempt for the truth in Scripture. And as far as viewing them as "plainly written," it simply reflects Svendsen's assumption going in that they will be. To think that the Christological concepts in, e.g., the Gospel of John are as trivial and Svendsen thinks they are strikes me as an insult to the Evangelist. The Fathers exalt the hidden wisdom in Scripture; Svendsen's reductionist approach cuts all of that off as carelessly as a mower slices a blade of grass.

“The people on whose interpretation I am relying were hardly "Biblical neophytes." The idea that Cyril or Augustine didn't perceive the wisdom of God in Scripture is certainly a thesis that you can advance, but as between you and they, I'll take them over you.

The problem for Prejean is that Augustine did not share Cyril’s view of this. Indeed, Cyril represents a Monophysite (or Apollinarian) school of thought on this that was rejected by many in his own day. Prejean’s attempt to pit some kind of “monolithic patristic view” over against mine fails because there was no monolithic view on this historically.

Except that this view of Cyril has been shredded by the recent scholarship. Try Daniel A. Keating's The Apppropriation of Divine Life in Cyril of Alexandria for a nice comparison between Cyril and Augustine. The "Cyril was a monophysite" myth has been dead and buried for at least a decade. There was a monolithic patristic view on this issue; no orthodox Father rejected single-subject Christology.

Yes, I do in fact want to go there, and will. I think it needs to be clarified here that Jonathan Prejean lacks requirement one to speak on these issues. He has no theological training to speak of; he has no patristic training to speak of; he has no knowledge of the primary languages to speak of. He has absolutely no training in any related discipline. Yet I am the “ignoramus,” and he styles himself as some sort of “expert.” Prejean is a lawyer. His area of specialty is patent law. While my field is not patristics, my formal training in biblical exegesis and theology required my immersion in historical texts and languages of classical antiquity. Prejean has no training in this—not even in a related discipline. He doesn’t seem to understand that whatever “exegesis” one uses to understand some historical documents (the councils) must be used to understand other historical documents (the New Testament). One cannot appeal to the “plain teaching” of one historical document (Ephesus) and at the same time appeal to the incomprehensibility of another (the New Testament). But that’s just what Prejean does, and that’s just what makes him a biblical neophyte.

Um, I hate to point out the obvious, but the practice of law is more or less professional exegesis. My entire job is exegesis of documents in the context of a legal regime (which is really just a conceptual, cultural, and social framework for exegesis) using logical principles, and I learned that skill at one of the best schools, if not the best school, for teaching it. And let's also keep in mind that the professors at Harvard are some of the best comparative and historical scholars in the world (which is really the sort of analytical skill set used in historical exegesis), including my own professors Charles Donahue (who has been helpful to me on questions of Catholic authority), Anne-Marie Slaughter (with whom I disagree philosophically, but who is certainly skilled at what she does), and Mort Horwitz (one of the original critical legal theorists who taught me legal history). If anything, law is the field par excellence for the analysis of how texts are given authority, and that goes all the way from ancient history (Roman, Germanic, and Anglo-Saxon law) to more recent history (the U.S. Constitution) to the present day. Speaking of which, I'll fast forward a bit:

Yes, like anachronistically appealing to a belief defined five hundred years after the biblical writers wrote. That’s somehow hailed as “sound exegesis. Imagine if we treated the Constitution that way—that is to say, the Constitution must have intended to uphold a woman’s right to an abortion because just look at all the people who hold to that view today! Yeah—that’s a sound approach to interpreting a historical document.

For purposes of legal exegesis, which is to say as a matter of authority, this is perfectly well within the discipline; it is not EISEGETICAL but EXEGETICAL. There are plenty of ways to answer Roe v. Wade and its progeny as being defective forms of legal reasoning (including natural law) without the absurd consequence of tying our hands to the historical meaning even explictly contrary to the intentions of its authors, who understood it to be the charter of a nation to be applied by later generations, not merely some mundane catalog of then-current beliefs. Svendsen speaks like someone who has had no training whatsoever in Constitutional law, which has been an interest of mine since elementary school. Even the "originalists" like Scalia and Thomas, both of whom I respect a great deal as jurisprudes, don't hold to such a ridiculously hide-bound rule of interpretation. So what Svendsen considers an "unsound approach" is nothing other than the discipline of law, giving binding authority to texts, and where that is concerned, Svendsen knows nothing. I, on the other hand, have studied Constitutional law under Charles Fried, Richard Fallon, and Larry Tribe, so the reader can do the math. All I can say is that if legal exegetes interpreted Constitutional documents like Svendsen does, our legal system would degenerate to pure anarchy. This is one reason that Svendsen's view of textual authority looks so silly to me, and indeed, this is what most Catholics (and particularly Catholic lawyers like Karl Keating) have in mind when they critique the Protestant rule of authority as anarchic. Legal exegesis and historical exegesis are different disciplines, and trying to use one in place of the other would be absurd (and I've yet to see even a decent philosophical argument for why historical exegesis is the right standard for Scriptural authority). Likewise for exegeting Scripture as a mundane document if its revelatory purpose was not for it to be one. But Svendsen here shows no understanding that there are even different methods of exegesis. So like I said, Svendsen doesn't want to go here, because anyone who would be so incredibly ignorant as to say that the discipline of law doesn't teach exegesis is so oblivious to reality that he doesn't deserve to be taken seriously. Ironically, a scholar whose credentials in patristics are unquestioned, Jaroslav Pelikan, gave a series of lectures on exactly this subject that was collected into a book titled Interpreting the Bible and the Constitution. But somehow, I'm ignoramus here. Oooookaaaaay.

“The Fathers do plenty of exegesis, and they give plenty of explanation of their concepts of Scriptural authority. It's not my fault that you haven't read it. Someone well-versed in patristic theology would know the exegetical basis for my arguments. My apologies for assuming that you actually were a big enough boy to do your own reading, but I can't really do your homework for you.”

Once again, we have an appeal to some “monolithic” view of the fathers on this issue as though there is such a thing. And once again we have a view on this issue that is conspicuously ill-informed by Scripture.

More like Svendsen's view is ill-informed on what counts as "exegesis." And I am not appealing to a "monolithic view" of the Fathers; I am saying that you can look at a large number of individuals and find the same arguments. In many cases, they are directly derived.

“When I say that you are a "joke," I am speaking of your qualifications in patristic theology, which are laughable. Let's see how well your patristics bookshelf stacks up against mine.”

What is “laughable” is that these words come from the pen of a man whom I have already shown has zero qualifications to speak on this—not even in a related discipline!

No, what is "laughable" is someone who thinks that law is not an exegetical discipline and that legal history is not a historical discipline.

“I'll take your use of the term "odd" as an admission that even you recognize it wouldn't make sense for me to advertise my own defeats.”

This is true only if we are dealing with a rational person. There’s no accounting for what some people will do to pretend and convince others that they won a debate.

Credibilility check again. The question is whether an irrational person can manage a 3.9 in both undergraduate and graduate education and then study at Harvard Law School and work in a field in which these sorts of exegetical skills are used every day. On the other hand, someone who studied the subject in what appears to be an adolescent rebellion against his Catholic parents, whose master's degree is about 20 years out of date, who got a "doctorate" at a school with zero scholarly credentials, who is a complete non-entity in reputable scholarship, and who doesn't even work in the field might have a slight accountability problem. I can't afford to let my skills slip, but Svendsen could turn into a raving lunatic and never know the difference. Think about it.

“As for the appeal to my own authority, to who else's authority would I appeal? Ultimately, we all reason individually and we all give assent of the will freely; we are the ultimate arbiters of where our will is directed.”

Exactly; well, at least he doesn’t deny he is Protestant in practice.

And Svendsen not knowing anything about legal authority certainly comes into play here too, because he doesn't realize that the same sort of thing happens in law every day, without everyone being an "anarchist in practice."

“Nobody can represent a belief system other than his own;”

And at least we now know that we aren’t here dealing with the RC position.

...because Catholicism doesn't require a position in this respect. Catholicism requires an authority, and Svendsen doesn't even know what that is, much less respond to it. This is precisely why Svendsen is non-responsive to the Catholic position.

“In Protestantism, of course, there are no such people. Hence, private judgment.”

I guess the apostles aren’t really people. If I were as disingenuous and desperate as Prejean, I think I might use this statement as a full-blown frontal attack on Prejean’s inherent Gnosticism: “Look everyone; Prejean doesn’t really believe the apostles are people—in his view they only ‘seemed’ to be people; hence, he is a Docetist at heart. Therefore, we may rightly reject anything further he might say.” This is just the kind of idiotic, jack-chick style rationale Prejean engages in when he accuses Protestants of denying the incarnation or the divinty of the second person of the Trinity. And it is just the kind of rationale that was turned back on him recently by James White and then by Steve Hays. He rejects the charges against him, of course, but thinks he can still level them against everyone else with impunity.

No doubt the Apostles are "living" in a real sense, and the Orthodox have even tried to make authority out of this, although I am skeptical of how real such authority can be. But this is Svendsen's MO again: I said that there is no LIVING person who has such authority; he accuses me of saying that there are no PERSONS; he responds AS IF I had said what he misattributes to me.

Amazing. Prejean has just admitted he relegates Scripture to the status of the Book of Mormon and the Quran; and yet he can still call himself Catholic and insist that he shares the views of the fathers. I would contend that this hits at the very heart of the matter. Prejean will gladly throw out and nullify Scripture for the sake of his tradition (Mark 7)—something the early-church writers would not dare do. But that’s just the problem with Prejean’s position. He admits here that there is no biblical basis for it—or at the very least that it’s not important to have a biblical basis for it. This is certainly not the official Roman Catholic view, whose practice of prooftexting these matters (although erroneously) at the very least demonstrates they think it important to have a biblical basis for the belief. Prejean admits he has no need for Scriptural support of his views; his staggering intellect can figure out the divine all by itself.

Certainly, the intellect can know things about the God that created it, but I am not denying revelation. I am saying that the way the Fathers (and I) give authority to texts is not the way Svendsen does, and Svendsen's concept of giving textual authority by sheer historical exegesis has much more in common with Muslims that Christians.

I’ll go farther here. By this statement, Prejean has just defined himself out of biblical orthodoxy. Here is how the apostle John puts it: “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 Jn 4:6). Prejean has admitted he just doesn’t care what the apostles have to say. He has admitted their voice is irrelevant to him. He has thereby placed himself in the category of “the spirit of error” and of those who are “not from God.” Hence, Prejean is a heretic, biblically defined; and as such his voice is to be utterly rejected by all truth-affirming people irrespective of denominational affiliation—whether Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox. He has disqualified himself to speak on these matters.

Except, as usual per the Svendsen M.O., this isn't what I said. What I reject is Svendsen's method of giving authority solely to what the Apostles historically meant, which is not what I believe even the Apostles had in mind for Scripture, any more than the Founding Fathers of this country meant it for the Constitution. This is why I am uninterested in what Svendsen says on the subject. I think that the Fathers' opinions truly do explain what the Apostles had to say on the subject, because the Apostles knew that they were leaving a deposit of faith that would be used by Christians to come.

But there’s an even more important point in all this. Again, I am not asking Prejean to adopt my view of Scriptural authority—I’m just asking him to show historically that those who walked with Christ on this earth and knew Mary personally affirmed Prejean’s views. He can’t do that, of course, because it is quite evident that the apostles did not share Prejean’s view on this issue. Quite the contrary; they are manifestly “Protestant” in their view. But if that’s the case, then the councils also just as manifestly erred in their definitions because they “ran ahead” of the apostles in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9).

Let's move our eye back to the ball. Svendsen is saying here that Scripture does not teach single-subject Christology, which is all the term "Mother of God" identifies, and it is flat-out untrue that the Fathers were Nestorian (even the Nestorian apologists admit that his thought one the subject was speculative). He is also saying that all of this is shrouded in mystery and can't be parsed coherently, which is more or less an admission that he can't explain how Christianity is coherent, but he believes it anyway. Well, Svendsen can revel in his incoherence all he likes, but I think that single-subject Christology is taught in Scripture, that it is logically necessary for the Scriptural concept of God to be coherent, and that is it both reasonable and necessary to deploy suitable philosophical concepts to explain this.

First of all, I gladly affirm Nestorius as completely orthodox—and always have—as do most patristic scholars and historical theologians, including Kelly, Pelikan, McGrath, and Brown. What Prejean is really asking me to do is concede what he and his cronies inanely and absurdly think are the attendent ramifications of that view, including a denial of Christ’s divinity—something I simply do not do. It is sophistry, plain and simple, that leads Prejean to assert that his ramifications are somehow “necessary consequents” of the view that we risk crossing a bridge too far if we attribute “divine motherhood” to Mary by virtue of her title as theotokos. Nestorius’ burden in his proposed use of the more accurate “Christ bearer” rather than the apollinarian “God bearer” was to promote Christ as God-Man rather than just God—something Cyril was too careless to understand rightly. And just as Nestorius did not concede Cyril’s sophistry, so also I will not concede Prejean’s sophistry in this. Nestorius’ overall position, as reported by mainstream patristioc scholars—was orthodox, and he was mush more biblically careful than Cyril.

This suffers from several difficulties. First, Svendsen is misrepresenting the position of those scholars on Nestorius's orthodoxy; McGrath, Pelikan, and Kelly only admitted the legitimacy of Nestorius's concerns; very few people (Brown was one, following Loofs) actually pursued that line to the point of saying that Chalcedon was a vindication of Nestorius, and none of the cited authors were among them. Second, there's the matter of Grillmeier's scholarship, which caused several Catholic scholars to give more credence to Nestorius being merely confused or inarticulate but well-motivated nonetheless, but even that scholarship only maintained the existence of a parallel Antiochene tradition within which Nestorius was situated, not that Nestorius's articulation was legitimate. Third, the Catholic scholars had incentives to accept this thesis a little too easily in order to give Leo a more prominent role as the author of a compromise at Chalcedon; there was a real lacuna in patristic scholarship based on the acrimony between East and West that is now being improved to some extent. Fourth, and this is most important, the view that Nestorius was orthodox was held almost entirely if not entirely among Protestants. Meyendorff's scholarly view, shared by a significant number of patristic scholars, was that Nestorius was heterodox, so it was always controversial that Nestorius was orthodox (Svendsen is simply wrong about "most patristic scholars and historical theologians" thinking otherwise), and the current wisdom is exactly the reverse. McGrath, Kelly, Pelikan, and Brown's sources (Harnack and Seeberg, along with Loofs, Brown himself being a non-factor in patristic scholarship) have all been heavily criticized on this point, so that the scholarship of the last decade is practically unanimous that they were wrong. And as I said, this is not a denominational phenomenon; it spans Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant lines. So if Svendsen affirms Nestorius's orthodoxy vis-a-vis Chalcedon, it's simply proof that he is following a discredited and dated line of reasoning that finds no support in the current state of the scholarship. And since I also happen to think that Nestorius's view entails a denial of Christ's divinity as described by Chalcedon, I have no qualms about accusing Svendsen and anyone who agrees with him of being heterodox. What is particularly important to note, though, is that Svendsen has confused the idea of Nestorius having some legitimate concern that originated in Antiochene thought with the idea that Nestorius actually articulated such a thing. Even many of the sources that concede the former reject the latter.

“Well, sure, if the issue being judged turns on something in which knowledge of the original language is actually pertinent, but in that case, you have to be far more than simply competent in the language; you have to be a legitimate scholars of the period and that author's writings.

Since Prejean is neither, one wonders why he even attempts it.

Because I have access to the works of the scholars in the field, and very little turns on the knowledge of primary languages. The scholars' arguments explain clearly what the reasoning is where they do, and the disputes are not over critical and translational issues, on which the understanding is generally unanimous. The issues under discussion here do not turn on such details.

And how does Prejean know that contemporary biblical scholarship isn’t part of that historical understanding? For all we know, we’re *still* in the early church age; and someone reading this dialogue ten-thousand years from now may see Ephesus as a blip on the radar screen of theological development. Outside of his gratuitous presup that Rome is somehow infallible, on what basis does Prejean assume otherwise? And what if even those in the fifth-century held to Prejean’s attitiude; to wit, “Contemporary Biblical scholarship isn't a passionate interest for me; I'm more interested in how Scripture has been understood over history than how it was understood at the time.” Obviously, the fifth-century church did not view themselves as the “historic church.” The early church for them was the New Testament. Hence, their definitions are mere commentaries and theological formulations of what they believed the New Testament teaches. To view them in the romantic way Prejean does is to miss the point that these are mere men who did their best to understand Scripture and to put down formerly unknown contrary beliefs of their day, but who could and did err—not so much in their main definitions as in the baggage they attached to those definitions.

The only presupposition I have is that we have been in the Church Age from Pentecost to the present day. I entirely reject that the Fathers thought that "The early church for them was the New Testament," because I don't think they distinguished the early Church from the one they had right in front of them, as I do not. This is why I think historical exegesis is inapt as a standard for Biblical authority; it treats the Church as if there was a qualitative gap between the Church of the Apostles and the Church today. There are not Apostles today, but to the extent the Apostles formed a Christian community subject to certain objective norms of authority, that very same institution persists until the present day (just as the America founded with the Declaration of Independence is the same America today). What Svendsen considers "baggage," I consider a conceptual articulation of the same faith, just as I consider correct legal decisions to be conceptual articulations of the same law.

“MY point was solely historical. In response, Eric Svendsen made a gratuitous claim that this was because I had no exegetical basis, and I'm entitled to simply deny it and demand proof, meaning he would actually have to dig into the patristic exegetical arguments and interact with them.”

Here it is clear that Prejean is confusing exegesis with argument. Cyril and the defenders of his view make *arguments*; but that does not necessarily translate into *exegesis*. One can *argue* about the difference between *homoiousis* and *homoousis*, and he can do so in a biblically informed way; but one cannot *exegete* that difference biblically, because Scripture simply does not address such a thing. Once can argue whether *hypostasis* or *person* is the more appropriate term to use in reference to the union of man and God in Christ, but one cannot exegete that question biblically. One can argue whether the hypostatic union took place “from two natures” (Cyril’s view) or “in two nature” (the Antiochene view), but one cannot prove either one from Scripture. It’s based, rather, on sophist speculation.

I wonder what sort of bizarre world one must inhabit when a work titled Commentary on John doesn't count as "exegesis." Regardless, this is exactly what I predicted Svendsen would do; take what the Fathers called exegesis and say that it is not. The question is why I would care whether Svendsen calls it "exegesis" or not, and my answer is that I don't. Svendsen doesn't even recognize the obvious existence of different, legitimate forms of exegesis, and that is patently ridiculous. And it's funny that Svendsen mentions "from two natures" and "in two natures," because one of the conclusions that all the most recent scholarship reaches based on a complete survey of his works is that Cyril's "from two natures" actually means the same thing as John of Antioch's "in two natures," despite Monophysites having misinterpreted his intent. Cyril's turn of phrase was needlessly ambiguous, but it was obvious in the context of the rest of his work what he meant.

And my assertion that Prejean has no exegetical basis for his idiosyncratic views is far from gratuitous. He has admitted he is uninterested in what Scripture has to say about this matter, and if he were familiar with the biblical exegesis employed by Cyril and company, then why not just cite it? Why instead does Prejean dismiss the biblical evidence as irrelevant? I suspect it is because even if he has read the biblical rationale of Cyril and company, he doesn’t really understand those arguments well enough to reproduce them—and if he does not understadn them, then he cannot claim them as his own by proxy. The onus remains on Prejean to produce an exegetical basis for his beliefs on this if he is to remain within the bounds of biblical orthodoxy.

They are reproducible, but they take books to do them justice. They are also based on surveys of an entire corpus of literature written by several prolific authors. Rather than attempting to reproduce what can't possibly be reproduces in even a chapter, much less a blog entry, I would commend some scholarly works on the subject: J.A. McGuckin, St. Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy; Norman Russell, Cyril of Alexandria (The Early Church Fathers); Daniel A .Keating, The Appropriation of Divine Life in Cyril of Alexandria; Steven A. McKinion, Words, Imagery, and the Mystery of Christ; Susan Wessel, Cyril of Alexandria and the Nestorian Controversy; Paul Gavrilyuk, The Suffering of the Impassible God; Thomas Weinandy, Does God Suffer?; John Meyendorff's Byzantine Theology and Christ in Eastern Christian Thought. Then check the bibliography of those books and chase down some of the particulars, and you'll have a good idea of what is going on. Whether it will meet Svendsen's standards of what counts as "exegesis" or "biblical orthodoxy" is a matter of supreme indifference to me.

As I said, I can't do homework for people; to some extent, they have to be self-motivated if they want to get involved.”

It seems this applies to everyone but Prejean.

I think it's rather obvious that I have. It's not my obligation to justify myself according to your standard for Biblical authority. I'm simply talking about matters of basic historical competence.

“All questions of purely historical interest go to the truth and falsehood of the purely historical claims, so if you are interested in the truth of purely historical claims (as I am), then this would be sufficient motivation.”

If Prejean were really interested in “the truth of purely historical claims,” why does he consistently refuse to engage the “purely historical claims” of Scripture regarding this issue? After all, the New Testament is nothing if not a historical document, filled with historical claims. Why is this not “sufficient motivation” for him? Methinks he knows what he would find, and that he wouldn’t like it very much. He would then be forced to deal with the very real disparity between the teaching of Scripture and the traditions of men he has been promoting for so many years.

Svendsen M.O. again: make up what's in my head ("he knows what he would find"), act AS IF it were true. I have no qualms about the purely historical claims of this issue, but since they don't exhaust the authority of Scripture and since many matters of Christology and Triadology developed in detail subsequently, then it isn't all that relevant. Scripture doesn't say much about these subjects absent some fairly rigorous and diligent philosophical examination illuminated by natural theology. By and large, the historical claims of the New Testament aren't matters of dispute; the real dispute is over the communicative content, particularly whether the Apostles were talking solely to their audience or not (and that carries tremendous significance for the method of exegesis one selects).

“But anyway, to be consistent with your reasoning, Svendsen should withdraw his arguments (including Apollinarimonophysitism), Jason Engwer should withdraw his articles as well, and James White never should have said a word about Nicaea. You say you're not a relativist, but it sure seems like you have a "goose-gander" problem here. All I want is a withdrawal of the dubious historical claims. It serves no one to have the scholarship and the historical facts being obfuscated by poor handling.”

Listen to me very carefully, Mr. Prejean. Scholarship does not consist of ignoring the established, published, and unrecanted views of the heavy hitters in favor of a decidedly partisan work (from what I’ve read of McGuckin, he has a vested interest in exonerating Cyril) that coincidentally—surprise!—happens to support your idiosyncratic views on this. Even Edward Oakes, who is otherwise sympathetic to McGuckin’s thesis, rejects the notion that Ephesus (Cyril) and Chalcedon (Antioch) are in agreement. There’s just too much evidence to the contrary. Hence, he affirms what modern patristic scholarship has always affirmed; namely, that Ephesus is pro-Cyril and Chalcedon is pro-Antioch. Indeed, he goes on to affirm that Cyril’s successors, detecting the pro-Antiochene theology of Chaldedon, rejected the council altogether and became Monophysites—and this is in spite of hs familiarity with the dazzling “unassailable” brilliance of McGuckin’s work!

And listen to me, "Dr." Svendsen: scholarship does not consist of taking what you learned more than a decade ago in graduate school and treating it as "unassailable," nor does it mean that you can keep on talking about the scholarship when you aren't keeping current. Treating someone as unassailable despite the refutation of their arguments certainly isn't a scholarly position. And Oakes says no such thing to my knowledge; he simply rejects that Chalcedon was a revision of St. Leo's work (and I happen to agree with him, contra McGuckin). But with respect to Nestorius, even Oakes can't find a cavil against McGuckin's work:

Here’s what might convince me of your position, Mr. Prejean: Write to the Kelly’s, the Pelikan’s, the McGrath’s, and the Brown’s of the world to correct their “obfuscation” and “poor handling” of historic facts. Once you do this, and once you secure from them letters of repentance indicating they have recanted their published views, then I will be happy to do the same. At this point, yours is nothing more than a “my scholars vs. yours” argument.

Professor Pelikan has gone on to his eternal reward, but Pelikan, Kelly, and McGrath are considered in the literature, as evidenced by the bibliography of the above works. To the extent that they conflict with anything I have said, they've been answered. But in point of fact, Svendsen hasn't actually shown that they hold his belief, and he is wrong about it. There is a difference between saying that there might have been some good motivations in Antiochene theology and saying that Nestorius himself articulated it correctly, much less that Chalcedon vindicated Nestorius. The latter conclusion has been discredited quite convincingly, and even the notion that Cyril needed an Antiochene corrective is all but vanished from contemporary scholarship.

And then keep in mind that even if you were able to accomplish all this, it proves nothing in regard to my own views. If Protestantism is Nestorian, it is on the Kelly-Pelikan-McGrath understanding of what Nestorius affirmed—all of whom affirm the orthodoxy of that position—not your understanding of it. If your understanding of the views of Nestorius wins the day, your charge is still unfounded since I do not subscribe, nor have I ever subscribed, to what you think Nestorius believed. Hence, whether your view on the history or mine ends up being right has absolutely no bearing on your false charges of Nestorianism. No Evangelical I know believes Christ was two persons (nor, according to most scholars, did Nestorius believe that). Rather, most (like me) simply prefer not to speculate about how the union between God and man takes place in Christ beyond what the Scriptures affirm, because these are areas that are simply not knowable in this life. So you’re left explaining how one is “unorthodox” who refuses to go beyond Scripture in his affirmations about the unknowable. In the meantime, you’ve defined yourself entirely out of the biblical definition of “Christian” by placing the authority and relevance of Scripture on par with the Quran.

To reiterate, I don't reject the authority of Scripture; I reject the authority of those who treat it like the Qu'ran. And "not speculating" is no excuse when you affirm exactly what the single-subject Christology requires you to affirm. It doesn't really matter whether you that you are doing it; Nestorius himself didn't believe that he was, but his denial was incoherent and illogical. The real world imposes some requirements on you not to endorse blatant logical inconsistency. You said explicitly that "Both the human nous and the divine nous are bound together in Christ and constitue his person. It is not the case, as Apollinaris believed, that Christ is a divine person with a human nature." Apart from Apollinaris not actually believing that (he believed that Christ was a divine person with a human body not a human nature, including a rational soul), the Chalcedonian confession of faith is that Christ is the Word of God, a divine person who assumed a human nature. This is undoubted; why Svendsen continues to deny it is beyond me.

Except that Prejean is completely blind to his own “dubious historical arguments,” such as Protestants deny the incarnation and divinity of Christ. No patristic scholar of repute would ever make that connection. Yet Prejean clearly does. Doesn’t integrity mean anything to Prejean?

Plenty of Protestants accept the Incarnation and divinity of Christ; the problem is that you don't (and Calvin probably didn't either). Your position in the "apollinarimonophysite" article is Nestorian. It's sheerly incoherent to say that Christ is not a divine person and yet He is the same person as the Word of God. Logic says that this is ludicrous, and vague and incoherent appeals to mystery won't save you from a blatant contradiction.

“I've found that most objections of this sort misunderstand the Catholic claim being made. In other words, the Protestants thinks the Catholic is making a certain sort of claim, but the Catholic isn't.”

Well, isn’t this familiar? Now substitute every instance of “Catholic” for “Protestant,” and vice versa, and you have Prejean in a nutshell—a immenently appropriate place for someone like Prejean.

So you admit that you don't understand the Catholic position and have no business responding to it. Now, all you have to do is to actually show where I've misunderstood you or the scholarship, which you have never done. And I've now shown your M.O., your oblivious to exegetical methodologies for giving authoritative meaning to texts, and your ignorance of patristic scholarship so many times that there is no room left for doubt. So keep talking, Dr. Svendsen. Skulking out from under that rock just helps everyone see how ugly your views really are.