Sunday, May 08, 2005

The one-armed man

Dr. Eric Svendsen has posted the following statement on his blog:


<< I have purged all the recent entries on this blog that referenced a certain highly emotional fundamentalist Roman Catholic e-pologist whose adolescent musings I have decided are just not worthy of my attention. I no longer think he and his views deserve the attention and free advertisement he is getting. I'd encourage others who may be dialoguing with him to do the same. He doesn't represent official Roman Catholic beliefs, and he's certainly not a recognized spokesperson for those beliefs. There is absolutely nothing to commend his views; he's demonstrated repeatedly that he is unable to engage in anything but sophistry on every level; he doesn't know how to engage in a fair handling of the biblical text; and to argue with him is to argue with a wall. I'm embarrassed to have mentioned him in the first place. On to more important things.


If you go over to the blog of Dave Armstrong, you find that he has reproduced this quote and taken it to be a personal attack upon himself.

He then uses this quote to justify a broad-brush smear against “these anti-Catholics' credibility and trustworthiness in matters of highly-important theological issues.”

The revealing thing about Armstrong’s reaction is that Dr. Svendsen never identifies the e-pologist in question. And there is, presumably, more than on Roman Catholic e-pologist around these days.

So why would Armstrong assume, without further ado, that Dr. Svendsen must be speaking about him? Why not the one-armed man?

Instead of naming him, Dr. Svendsen simply sketches the resume and psychological profile of a Catholic e-pologist who has the following character traits and modus operandi: “adolescent,” “highly emotional,” “sophistical,” “not a recognized spokesman” or “representative” voice of “official” RC teachings.

So why is Armstrong coming forward to volunteer himself as the only viable candidate for this anonymous indictment?

I realize that confession is good for the soul, yet such a self-incriminating reaction is startling, nonetheless. But having pled guilty, Mr. Armstrong has saved Dr. Svendsen and Dr. White a lot of time, which they can now divert to future suspects.


  1. Steve,

    Funny post! I'm looking forward to your upcoming post mocking James White for this post on his blog:

    The relevant similarity is as follows. White says:

    "Note the patented and trademarked attitude of Paul Owen when speaking to his 'lessers': [quoting Owen] 'In your rush to judgment on Eerdmans--which will only serve to give certain internet personalities more controversies to jibber jabber about--you have spoken inaccurately on many levels.' [Back to White] Hi, I'm Mr. Certain Internet Personality, but you can call me 'Dot' for short."

    The revealing thing about White’s reaction is that Owen never identifies the Internet Personality in question. And there is, presumably, more than one Internet Personality around these days.

    So why would White assume, without further ado, that Owen must be speaking about him? Why not the one-armed man?

  2. Patrick,

    Touche! So should we split the difference and zero sum the whole game?

    Either that or we may need to clone the one-armed man!

  3. c.t., you say "as for White's [actually Svendsen's] references to Armstrong, anybody who has followed all that didn't need to have it spelled out who White [still Svendsen] was referring to, and Armstrong's assumption was of the order of Shaquille O'Neil knowing Kobe Bryant is referring to him when Kobe references 'out-of-shape big man'..."

    Yes, I know. That was part of my point. Of course Dave (and anyone else with any sense) could immediately tell Svendsen was talking about Dave. But then Steve ridiculed Dave for knowing that Svendsen was, indeed, talking about him. So I simply pointed out (satirically, one might say) that consistency would force Steve to apply the same standard to White and ridicule him, too. (Or, better, he might recognize that neither man merits ridicule, since both were only recognizing the obvious.)

    I must say I was glad that Steve seems to have granted the point. It would be nice to see this acknowledged in a slightly more public way, though. Why leave the offending entry on the blog at all? Or why not add a new one that explains the error?

  4. Patrick: why do you personalize something not involving you? It seems to this lurker that you have a lot of emotional stuff invested in Armstrong vs White.

    For something more productive: come be my Romanist blog-troll at Pedantic Protestant. I offer a competitive salary, a full dental plan, a defined contribution plan, and child care.


  5. PP--nothing personal about my post here. I just pointed out that Steve's mockery of Dave was unjust. I suppose I do believe that this sort of thing merits exposure, even if it means small people like you will have a bash at me for it. As c.t. says, "I think the problem is though the Calvinist types are so involved with misleading the Calvinist flock and using any dishonest means available to do it that it's just too tempting to respond to everything."

  6. For the second time, Patrick has insinuated that I’m operating with a double standard. Perhaps I’m guilty as charged. After all, a man is hardly the best judge of his own character. He has a vested interest in thinking well of his own motives. By the same token, a hostile critic is not necessarily the most disinterested judge of his opponent’s character.

    Be that as it may, Patrick is assuming several things I do not assume. He assumes that because he takes it upon himself to speak for Armstrong, that I, in all consistency, ought to take it upon myself to speak for White. But I don’t buy into that assumption. I don’t presume to speak for either Armstrong or White. That’s not my responsibility. They can speak for themselves.

    In addition, I have no firmly held opinion on whether Patrick is right to apply what I said about Armstrong to the case of Dr. White. To arrive at an informed opinion on that subject, I would have to plow through the archives of both men. Why should I spend my time that way?

    On the face of it, there were fewer clues in Svendsen’s statement than in Owen’s, so the comparison is not comparable even on its own grounds. Owen spoke in the plural about “certain internet personalities” on the “rush to judgment” over “Eerdmans.” And White is a high-profile example of one of the internet personalities in question. By contrast, Svendsen singled out an anonymous individual, which makes it amusing when Armstrong steps forward to identify himself as the intended target. So, Patrick, your counterexample fails. Try barking up a different tree.

    Apropos the above, there is no standing obligation to withhold comment on a member of the opposing side unless you mentally run through ever member on your own team who may possibly be guilty of the same thing.

    Finally, Patrick’s objection reminds me of how Democrats attack Republicans. For example, we were told that we shouldn’t support the Iraq war because the Bush administration had lied, or because it had changed its reasons for going to war. We are also told that we should oppose a judicial nominee because our liberal attorney general once called his conservative, one-time colleague a judicial activist.

    This is a classic partisan game. Since I’m not the White House press secretary, my position on the Iraq war or judicial nominees is logically independent of the official line. I can have my own reasons, irrespective of the White House, even if I voted for Bush.

    By the same token, my consistency does not entail that I must be consistent with someone else. Their consistency, or lack thereof, is their own affair.

  7. Patrick --- I thought I was being whimsical in a friendly way. I wasn't "bashing" you.

    Ah, the vagaries of internet communication.


  8. FYI Patrick --- I'm hardly a "Calvinist type."

  9. Steve,

    For goodness sake, even c.t. realizes that _both_ White _and_ Armstrong were obviously right to recognize themselves as the objects of the respective attacks. As he says, anyone who has read any of the exchanges between Dave and Svendsen over the last few months and years could not possibly have failed to realize that Svendsen was talking about Dave. If you can't see that, then your problem isn't merely that you operate under a double standard. And if you think that I take it upon myself to speak for Dave (defending someone from stupid insults is hardly the same as speaking for them) or that I think you ought to take it upon yourself to speak for White, then I think you ought to have another read through the words I've actually written, for I have said or implied no such thing.

    PP--Hmm, yes, well, I suppose the facts that you implied that I was a(n unproductive) troll, said explicitly that I have "personalized" this issue and that I am (or at least appear to be) too emotionally invested in these issues did make me think that you were having a bash at me. I'm afraid I still can't see anything either friendly or whimsical about your post. Must be my fault.

  10. Patrick ---

    I suppose I did come off as flippant, but I really did mean it whimsically, though in retrospect it probably didn't come off as such.

    Were you to see my face or hear my voice while saying it, you'd clearly know I meant it with a wink, but, once again, the internet strips away any sort of nuance here, and I forgot that. So in the end you're probably right with your initial reaction.

    The dental plan is still pretty good, though! =D

  11. c.t. --- Are you a King James Only sort of guy?


  12. You are missing the point, Patrick. I don't deny that Svendsen was talking about Dave. But I recognize that fact because the shoe fits. And Dave can only see himself in this highly unflattering, but anonymous description on pain of self-incrimination. So who am I to argue with that?

  13. PP, I’ll take your word for it that you meant no offense. As such, I withdraw the insult I hurled at you, and ask your pardon. (Incidentally, the thing about dishonest Calvinists was not aimed at you!) I’ll keep in mind, if we speak in the future, that you have an interesting way of expressing yourself (one that remains perfectly opaque to me), and try to picture what a Pedantic Protestant would look like winking as he spoke the words I was reading. A difficult trick, to be sure, but I think I can swing it.

    Steve, actually, it is you who misses the point. Dave “recognized himself” in Svendsen’s insults only because Svendsen has hurled those selfsame insults at him time and time and time again, not because Dave (or any other fair-minded person) actually thinks they are accurate descriptions of Dave. Dave isn’t accepting the descriptions as accurate by recognizing that they are aimed at him. He is merely recognizing that this particular set of inaccurate descriptions, when used by Svendsen in that context, is clearly meant to refer to Dave. (It’s no more self incriminating than if President Bush realizes that some speaker who is making references to “the criminal warmonger” means *him* (i.e. the President).) Do you really not get this? You’re so eager to find a way to insult Dave that you’ve gotten ahold of this incredibly foolish way, and now it seems you’re hanging on for dear life. Anything to avoid admitting any error, huh? The saddest thing about this is that, as c.t. also pointed out, this really is a very minor matter. Why not just admit you blew it? Why not just admit that in your haste to find a newer and better stick to beat up on Dave with, you happened to pick a loser this time? What's so darn hard about that?

  14. Patrick --- I'll try to be more obvious with the humor attempts in the future. [I thought my dental plan and child care remarks would clearly mark the whimsy.] As I state on my itty bitty blog, I'm not a personality conflict sort of guy, though, as stated, your reaction was justified in retrospect, since I wasn't wise in recognizing the limitations of the medium, especially since your hackles were already up. So add poor judgement to my list of crimes.


  15. c.t. ---

    My "translations" of choice are NA27 and UBS4. =D

    I assume that you have studied textual [lower] criticism at a basic level [something like Aland and Aland's The Text of the New Testament, say, and, for example, can evaluate variant readings independently as their mss evidence is spelled out in, say, the NA27 apparatus.

    So what's satanic about other versions?

    I find the KJV English lovely, but its language will be an impediment to most people today.


  16. No flippancy here, c.t. Just curiosity.

    I learned NT Greek precisely so I wouldn't have to rely on translations, putting myself in the nice position of being able to independently evaluate arguments.
    It was actually motivated too by a desire to communicate the deity of Christ more clearly to Mormons as well as Watchtower people. After all, there is real ministry and witnessing to be done.

    I then obtained a basic working knowledge of lower criticism to do the following:

    (a) learn about the state of textual variants: how many, how diverse, etc

    (b) get to a stage where I could evaluate text-critical comments independently

    (1) Where does the NA27 substantially or methodologically err?

    (2) Can you give me one variant between the Textus Receptus and the so-called eclectic text used in the NA27 that alters any clearly stated orthodox Christian doctrine?

    I'm just here to listen-n-learn. The Pedantic Protestant is now the Precocious Protestant, sitting at your feet.

  17. c.t. --- You're obviously enlightened on these matters in a way that I'm not. I'm grateful for the chance to interact.

    All I'm asking for is the pointing out of a variant between the TR and, say, the eclectic text behind the NA27, which variant affects orthodox Christian doctrine.

    Now while argument-by-explicit-sodomic-referent is a perfectly good argument form that any classical or modern logic book discusses, I'm asking you to answer my question while working around my admitted limitations. At the same time, I am praying to God that He will use you to enlighten me from my present darkness.

    Perplexed Protestant

  18. Patrick,
    I agree that it’s a very minor matter. So why do you keep drilling a dry hole? There is no more oil to extract. I’ve already explained myself more than it’s worth. As a matter of principle, I have to be argued out of a position. No freebies allowed.
    However, as a special favor to you’ll, as a one-time offer, not available in stores, I’ll meet you half-way: I’ll admit I was wrong about Armstrong if’n you admit you were wrong about Rome. Have we got a deal?
    In the meantime, there’s no dearth of serious discussion material. As I recall, you were the one who referred me to Shawn’s material. Okay, I took you up on your challenge. Posted my findings several days ago. Dead silence from your end of the receiver.

    p.t. You have an anger-management problem. Clearly this is personal—reacting to a bad experience. Something in your background, I take it. I don’t know the source of the problem. Were you bottle-fed? In any event, if you can’t restrain yourself from posting expletive-laden comments, then go work off your bad karma somewhere else. You might feel more at home at Tektonics, since you and Holding have learned your command of the vernacular from the same speech therapist. As it stands, this is a very poor witness. You are doing more harm than good for the cause of the kingdom.

  19. Steve,

    Re: drilling a very dry hole. This sad little "conversation"--like your sad performance on the Chaput point--is a perfect demonstration of why I am completely unwilling to attempt any discussions with you on important, complicated matters.

    As we all agree, this point about Dave is a very minor one. It's not at all difficult to understand my complaint. It's a very simple point indeed. Yet, you cannot manage the very simple matter of admitting you were wrong, when it is obvious to the point of tedium that you are wrong.

    Well, since I'm a firm believer in the truth that those who cannot be trusted with the small things cannot be trusted with the large things, I need no further convincing that it is senseless to attempt to discuss the large things with you, like your "discussion" of Shawn's material.

    The argument in this post has been very simple. Have you been able to follow it? Just to be sure, let me try again.

    1. You cannot be trusted in a very minor matter. (Namely, you can't admit a very obvious error on a very minor point.)

    2. Those who cannot be trusted in minor matters cannot be trusted in large matters.

    3. Thus, you cannot be trusted in large matters. (Such as, for example, the exegesis of conciliar texts.)

    (My support for premise two is found in the Luke 16:10. Premise one has been amply demonstrated, beyond a reasonable doubt, in this discussion thread. The argument is valid. Thus, the conclusion is inescapable.)

    The only reason I've been posting in this discussion (as well as in the one in the blog post below this, where Steve Jackson also lied about Dave) is that I thought it would be a straightforward enough thing to point out your error. And although it was, and I did, you still haven't had the simple grace and honesty to reply as a Christian would. Even if you won't see it, I trust many of your readers can.

  20. Oh, another point of clarification. I never "challenged" you to write anything about Shawn. What I told you (roughly speaking--I don't claim this is an exact quotation of my previous words) was that if you wanted to see a good discussion of the relation between pre-Vatican II teaching and post-Vatican II teaching, you would do well to consult his website. I was always quite clear that this was not a conversation I was looking to have with you.

  21. Patrick,

    You can say what you like about me and my motives. You may well be right. But whatever my character flaws, for you to rope Steve Jackson into your general condemnation does nothing to enhance your credibility. Jackson has conducted himself throughout this affair as a consummate Christian scholar and gentleman--and that in the face of endless provocations from your side. You need a cooling off period to take the true measure of Jackson.

  22. c.t.

    I'm not going to put up with R-rated language at triablogue. I'm giving you until the end up the week to clean up your posted comments or else I will delete them myself.

  23. Steve,

    That's a very high-minded sounding post. The trouble is that I haven't roped Steve Jackson into a general condemnations. I have pointed out a very *specific* instance of Jackson misrepresenting Dave by dropping the context of some of Dave's remarks. When I pointed this deceptive tactic out to Steve, he completely blew off my point, choosing instead to repeat the initial dishonest attack. That ain't acting like a "consummate Christian scholar and gentleman."

    Perhaps there is a valid concern lurking behind Steve's deceptive quotation. Perhaps Steve was so focused on getting at that valid concern that his deceptive quotation of Dave wasn't really even meant to deceive. I'm was open to that possibility. But if that had been the case, it would have been so easy for him to say, "You're right, I misrepresented him, and I'm sorry. Let me make my point in a different way." But he didn't, despite the fact that (here I begin to sound a bit like a broken record) it was obvious to the point of tedium that his use of the quotation was misleading (at least, it was that obvious once I mentioned it, even if initially he hadn't realized he was being misleading).

    So tell me, are you primarily interested in defending Steve's initial misleading quotation, or his stonewalling, or both? I guess it really doesn't matter what your answer is, does it?

  24. Steve, by the way, I don't remember ever discussing your motives.

    c.t. You're aka Geneva67/Alexander, aren't you?

  25. Steve,

    It appears you are done replying to me, which is probably for the best. Nevertheless, I wanted to fix a mistake I've made. In my last post, I said I didn't remember ever talking about your motives. While that was a perfectly true statement (I *didn't* remember it!), upon looking through this thread again I see that my memory was faulty on the point. At one point, I spoke of your eagerness to beat up on Dave with newer and better sticks. That comment would appear to be about your motives. So I now see what you must have had in mind when you spoke of my attacks on your motives.

    In fact, that comment was really just a bit of heated rhetoric, and I apologize for it. I should have stuck to criticizing your claims and your arguments (which, I maintain, very richly merit criticism) and not your motives, to which I am not privy. That said, I'll make my exit, unless further comments directed at me appear on the blog.

  26. Patrick,

    There's nothing you've said to which I take personal offense. Given my rather slashing prose-style, I'm in no position to take offense. The fact that the rhetoric from the opposing side can get a little overheated is, to my way of thinking, a natural masculine reaction. All those androgens kicking in! :-)

    I really don't have any problem with the tone which you, or Randy, or the "Frogg" have assumed in these exchanges. And unlike Armstrong, all three of you have tried to reason for your position. There's a quite a difference between a bit of invective here or there, in the heat of the moment, and pure invective as a substitute for argument. All said, I think that you three have conducted yourselves honorably in this whole affair. You have nothing to apologize for--not to me, at least.

  27. OK you two boys, now give each other a big hug!