Sunday, June 05, 2005

Controversy in the Romanosphere

http://www.societaschristiana.com/archives/000420.html#more

<< A TA at a Reformed Seminary recently claimed that I "owe the Christian community an explanation" for why I wrote a blog entry linking to another person's blog entry that questioned some of the assumptions of the 1982 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Whatever for, I have to ask. In light of the foregoing exposition of the complaint, and the questions raised about it, I think that whole mentality of "Laymen's blogs are dangerous to Truth and the Gospel! Somebody from the Approved Authority Bureaucracy better clamp down on them!" is just plain weird. You have to start wondering what the Approved Authorities are afraid of. >>

This is a completely dishonest characterization of our exchange. Remember how Enloe replied to my commentary?

<< (4) I want to know who you are, Steve, to pontificate about my supposedly needing to keep "doubts" private and not using blogs to "plant seeds of doubt in others minds." Good grief, man, get some perspective. I am not a leader in some movement, much less do I have any authority in the Church. I am just a guy with a blog. I am in lawful biblical submission to local elders, to whom I have made my internet activities known. They, and not you or any one else like you, have the care of my soul so I don't see why I should care about your opinions of what I am doing in the first place. Who are you to me?

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2005/05/logocentrism.html

>>

Did I pull rank on Enloe? Did I object that he had no standing to say what he did? Did I fault him for making “unauthorized” statements? None of the above.

What I said is that, having criticized the Chicago Statement on inerrancy, he had an obligation to follow that up with a clarification of his position on inerrancy. This assumes, does it not, that I was, in fact, granting him the right to express himself?

Now notice how he’s twisted this all around. He accuses me of challenging his authority, although I did nothing of the kind. By contrast, if you read his original response, he was the one trying to pull that one on me. He was the one questioning my right to express myself.

<< When asked "simple" questions I frequently "stonewall" via name-or book title-dropping that tells no one anything except that I think I'm really something super special and don't have to make any arguments for my views. Once more into the breach and all that, but I really don't know how to respond to this. People who talk this way seem to me to fall into three classes. First, there are those who just flat do not seem to be acquainted with the very large amount of explanatory work that exists on my site (this site is far more than a blog; just look at the Website Menu on the sidebar), and who therefore seem to think that highly abbreviated presentations that appear in blog entries or comments boxes are all I have going for me…Third, there are those who seem to want only the "Cliff Notes" versions of complicated materials, but when they are given exactly that even the Cliff Notes appear to be so intimidating that they have no response but "You're just blustering."

The answer to the first group is to point out the explanatory materials that exist on this site and then make them assume the responsibility for becoming acquainted with the larger world that exists behind "mere" blog posts on this site or the "mere" comments made by me on other sites.

The answer to the third group is similar to the answer to the first group, but with the added qualifier that not every issue can be reduced to Cliff Notes because understanding some issues requires lots of reading and lots of hard thinking, no two ways about it. I can't help someone who, upon seeing me say in shorthand that Martin Luther's speech at the Diet of Worms should be set in the larger context of the 15th century conciliar movement's battle with papalism, finds himself so out of his depth and so threatened by the challenge to his Cliff Notes understanding of the Reformation that all he can say is "You're arrogant! How dare you challenge the caricature of the Reformation which I love!" The person who reads a short, clipped paragraph about the influence of D'Ailly and Gerson and Thomistic natural law theories upon the ecclesiological framework that most deeply influenced the Reformers should demonstrate some familiarity with the actual things in the paragraph before concluding I'm just blowing smoke and have no arguments. Again, there is an immense amount of explanatory material on this website. I've already read it. I don't think it's too much to ask my harsh critics to read it too. At least then they might have some kind of idea what I am talking about, and thus be able to issue intelligent criticisms rather than mere blustering denunciations.

Enough. >>

i) Tim once again disregards the elementary distinction between an answer and an explanation. It doesn’t take 300 pages to answer a “what” question

For example, Turk asked Tim a “what” question, not a “why” question. Turk asked Tim to state what he believed. This was Turk’s question—really two related questions: “(1) Who determines what law is “unjust”? What standard does he use?"

Was Turk asking Tim how the Magisterial Reformation arrived at its answer? No? Was Turk asking Tim why he took the position he did? No.

It should only take a few sentences or a paragraph or two to answer a “what” question. You state your basic position along with whatever caveats you wish to add.

ii) Now, having posted the above on his blog, Tim says, in the comments box of my own blog, that he could list the relevant articles. Fine. Why didn’t he do that all along?

iii) But let us review what my questions were:

1.

Is Enloe’s denial of “objective” reality applicable to his own statement?

a) Enloe says there is no “objective” reality.
b) This statement is, itself, a statement about reality—to wit: there is no “objective” reality.
c) This statement, if true, is self-referential and therefore self-refuting.
d) Ergo, this statement, if true, is false.
e) Therefore, it is false.

2.

In his debate with Lee Irons, Wilson seems to endorse a preterist version of postmillennialism—a la Bahnsen, Gentry.

http://www.credenda.org/issues/10-3disputatio.php

i) Does Enloe share that view?

And does this mean that Wilson would preterize Rom 11 as well? If not, why not? If so, how does he harmonize preterism with futurism? In what sense, on a preterist version of postmillennialism, does Rom 11 await fulfillment?

ii) How does a postmil eschatology entail ecclesiastical reunion? If, even now, Christians can still be Christians although they represent different theological traditions exemplified in different visible denominations, then how would Christianizing the entire world automatically dissolve their theological differences?

iii) Finally, there's the question of which theological tradition, if any in particular, supplies the doctrinal template for reunion? What is the creed of the reunited church? Is it more Lutheran? Anglican? Presbyterian? Roman Catholic? Greek Orthodox?

3.

The real question is whether we define “ministerial” authority as something over and above the application of Scripture itself.

Unless you happen to be Plymouth Brethren, most Evangelicals will grant that God has given teachers to the church. They will grant that there is such a think as church office in the NT.

That’s not the issue. The issue, rather, is whether ministerial authority is a limited, conditional authority--contingent on its fidelity to the truth of Scripture--or whether it’s something above and beyond a direct extension of Biblical authority. Is ministerial authority authorized by Scripture--authorized to that degree, and to that degree only, that it reproduces the teaching of Scripture itself? That’s the question.

Or is it a kind of implicit, proxy faith, in which the layman believes whatever the pastor believes? Is the pastor the official Christian? Is he deputized to believe on behalf of and instead of the layman, is the sense that the layman has delegated to the pastor the sole responsibility of interpreting God’s word? Can our spiritual duties be contracted out to a second party? Is Enloe recommending a return to blind ecclesiasticism? That’s the question.

4.

If he no longer subscribes to the “Chicago” school of inerrancy, then what does his alternative, postmodern version look like? What does he affirm that the Chicago doctrine denies? And what does he deny that the Chicago doctrine affirms? Specifics, please!

In fact, Enloe seems to agree with Joel Hunter. Enloe tells us that he doesn’t reject inerrancy itself, but only “form” or version of inerrancy articulated in the Chicago statement.

So the remaining issue is: how much distance does he put between himself and the Chicago doctrine?

These are my four standing questions for Tim.

2 comments:

  1. I'm not sure I want to invest time talking to someone who thinks its appropriate to say a contrary view is the result of "dishonesty" and "twisting", as you've charged me with here. I've learned the hard way that men who think in such stark either / or terms are generally impossible to reason with for any long period of time because they are so conviced that they are Right and that what is Right is "clear" to any "rational" person that very soon all they have to offer is demonization of the opponent. You've already started down that path, just like several of the prominent men who advertise your blog as being Really Something Special. Be that as it may, I'll give you a couple of brief answers. Your words in italics (I hope). Just in case the HTML coding fails, my remarks are all prefaced with an *.

    (1) What I said is that, having criticized the Chicago Statement on inerrancy, he had an obligation to follow that up with a clarification of his position on inerrancy. This assumes, does it not, that I was, in fact, granting him the right to express himself?


    *Regarding the post you are here questioning (http://www.societaschristiana.com/archives/000377.html), I made it plain (in a comment somewhere else, which I cannot locate at the moment) that the ONLY reason I brought up the 1982 Statement was because I know I have Fundamentalist readers who frequently confuse the jerking of their knees for rational argument. You know the type: they're the ones who (this is a real example; I omit the name to protect the guilty) read me approvingly quoting N.T. Wright on corporate justification and instantly start proclaiming that because I agree with the Wright quote I've just flat given up on "the Gospel." That kind of wacky person is the same sort who would read a critique of the 1982 Statement as a "total rejection of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy." Hence I made a very brief disclaimer about the fact that one of the articles to which I linked expressed some questions about the 1982 Statement. I haven't made a close study of the 1982 Statement since I took a class on inerrancy nearly 10 years ago, and at any rate, all I said in the blog entry in question was that I could see why the assumptions of the Statement might come into question by men such as Hunter, who are asking critical questions about modernism's epistemology. I didn't personally criticize the 1982 Statement, as you allege.

    (2) Tim once again disregards the elementary distinction between an answer and an explanation. It doesn’t take 300 pages to answer a “what” question

    For example, Turk asked Tim a “what” question, not a “why” question. Turk asked Tim to state what he believed. This was Turk’s question—really two related questions: “(1) Who determines what law is “unjust”? What standard does he use?"

    Was Turk asking Tim how the Magisterial Reformation arrived at its answer? No? Was Turk asking Tim why he took the position he did? No.

    It should only take a few sentences or a paragraph or two to answer a “what” question. You state your basic position along with whatever caveats you wish to add.


    *I don't understand your distinction relative to Turk's question. You claim Turk wasn't asking me for either a historic view or my own view, but then you say I should have been able to state my view very simply, with whatever caveats I wished to add. But I DID state my view. My view is that the question Frank asked is very complicated and not able to be answered simply, and certainly not in a blog post. For crying out loud, man, the discussion over Frank's "simple" question took about twelve hundred years in the Middle Ages, and produced a variety of positions that vied with each other for centuries, and really, have not been fully resolved to this day. You're protesting too much on this point.

    (3) Is Enloe’s denial of “objective” reality applicable to his own statement?

    a) Enloe says there is no “objective” reality.
    b) This statement is, itself, a statement about reality—to wit: there is no “objective” reality.
    c) This statement, if true, is self-referential and therefore self-refuting.
    d) Ergo, this statement, if true, is false.
    e) Therefore, it is false.


    *You need to explain what you mean by "objective reality" before I can determine whether your reductio actually hits my position. For instance, if "objective reality" means "human mind-independent reality," then I most certainly do not reject that concept, and your reductio accordingly totally fails to get at my position.

    (4) In his debate with Lee Irons, Wilson seems to endorse a preterist version of postmillennialism—a la Bahnsen, Gentry.

    http://www.credenda.org/issues/10-3disputatio.php

    i) Does Enloe share that view?

    And does this mean that Wilson would preterize Rom 11 as well? If not, why not? If so, how does he harmonize preterism with futurism? In what sense, on a preterist version of postmillennialism, does Rom 11 await fulfillment?


    *I do consider myself a partial preterist postmillennialist, but I don't claim to be able to defend it with, say, the cogency of Ken Gentry or Greg Bahnsen.

    (5) How does a postmil eschatology entail ecclesiastical reunion? If, even now, Christians can still be Christians although they represent different theological traditions exemplified in different visible denominations, then how would Christianizing the entire world automatically dissolve their theological differences?

    Finally, there's the question of which theological tradition, if any in particular, supplies the doctrinal template for reunion? What is the creed of the reunited church? Is it more Lutheran? Anglican? Presbyterian? Roman Catholic? Greek Orthodox?


    *Wilson made a postmil argument for ecclesiastical reunion, and that's because of promises such as Ephesians 4. I doubt that reunification would mean a dissolution of their theological differences, since "catholicity" does mean unity in DIVERSITY. People who are catholic-minded, as opposed to sect-minded, know how to have a great deal of tolerance of differences in their brethren. Obviously tolerance is not an absolute; some things cannot be tolerated. But I'll wager that a lot more tolerance is possible than the rabid Fundamentalists in all communions imagine. I don't know that there is yet in existence a creed of the reunited Church (beyond the already standard ecumenical ones, that is). I suspect that's something we're all going to have to spend a few centuries hammering out.

    (6) The real question is whether we define “ministerial” authority as something over and above the application of Scripture itself.

    ...The issue, rather, is whether ministerial authority is a limited, conditional authority--contingent on its fidelity to the truth of Scripture--or whether it’s something above and beyond a direct extension of Biblical authority. Is ministerial authority authorized by Scripture--authorized to that degree, and to that degree only, that it reproduces the teaching of Scripture itself? That’s the question.

    Or is it a kind of implicit, proxy faith, in which the layman believes whatever the pastor believes? Is the pastor the official Christian? Is he deputized to believe on behalf of and instead of the layman, is the sense that the layman has delegated to the pastor the sole responsibility of interpreting God’s word? Can our spiritual duties be contracted out to a second party? Is Enloe recommending a return to blind ecclesiasticism? That’s the question.


    *I certainly do not define "ministerial authority" as and unlimited and unconditional authority. Nothing in my advocacy of conciliarist church polity implies a doctrine of the infallibility of ministerial councils--indeed, I repudiate that idea in keeping with the doctrine of sola Scriptura. The rest of your question really is not well stated. There are plenty of examples all throughout Church history of ministerial authorities offering doctrinal conclusions, WITH ACCOMPANYING EXEGESIS OF SCRIPTURE, with which we ourselves in the Reformed tradition would disagree. Nobody at the Seventh Ecumenical Council, for instance, actually thought "Hey, we are abandoning Scripture here and substituting traditions of men. Cool!" You can even read the polemical works of dogmatic papalists in the 15th century and find them cogently arguing that they are really and truly just trying to be faithful to Scripture. Part of the reason this notion seems so radical to many contemporary Protestants is that as a tradition we're just blitheringly ignorant of Church history prior to the 16th century reformation. By and large we rely on outdated secondary manuals and old polemical works instead of consulting the original sources themselves. Kinda ironic, but that's where we are.

    Lastly on that point, no, I am not advocating a return to "blind ecclesiasticism." As the WCF rightly says, "God alone is the Lord of the conscience and has left it free from the commands of men." The question of the limitations of ministerial authority relative to conscience is a perilous one precisely because in today's Reformish intellectual climate, the Radical Baptist clique has come to dominate discourse with its ridiculous Enlightenment pretensions to the absolute inviolability of private conscience, and the absolute right of every individual to PUBLICLY dissent, no matter the cost to the society as a whole, from anything with which he does not privately agree. On the contrary, not every issue of disagreement requires a public stand, and not every seemingly Huge Problem requires separation on the basis of a "Superior Purity Yesterday" ethos.

    7. If he no longer subscribes to the “Chicago” school of inerrancy, then what does his alternative, postmodern version look like? What does he affirm that the Chicago doctrine denies? And what does he deny that the Chicago doctrine affirms? Specifics, please!

    In fact, Enloe seems to agree with Joel Hunter. Enloe tells us that he doesn’t reject inerrancy itself, but only “form” or version of inerrancy articulated in the Chicago statement.

    So the remaining issue is: how much distance does he put between himself and the Chicago doctrine?


    This really isn't an issue at all to me. I don't make items belonging to only one narrow tradition in Christendom absolute tests of orthodoxy, so I am under no obligation to "explain" any "distance" between myself and the 1982 Chicago doctrine. Fact is, I believe that Scripture is inerrant. That's enough for me. And at any rate, I didn't say that *I* reject the Chicago statement. My exact words were: "...just because I post a link to an essay that questions a certain form of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy (e.g., the 1982 Chicago Statement) does not mean that I am rejecting the doctrine of biblical inerrancy itself." As I said in point 1 above, given Hunter's essay in particular, I can see why some of the assumptions of the Chicago Statement would be questioned by some people. That's a far cry from saying I "reject" the Statement and now bear some burden of proof to spell out the details of "my postmodern" theory. I wasn't even aware that I had such a thing.

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  2. What theological tradition ever said that the Chicago statement on inerrancy was all the Church ever had to say on the issue or that somehow you are less than orthodox if you might have some qualms either with what was written or not totally agreed with the manner in which things were put forth in the statement itself?

    As if the historic confessions speaking to the matter aren't enough? I suppose the Westminster Confession is just completely inadequate on this point, so much so that we must resort to a 20th century fix (the Chicago statement) to make sure we are all orthodox?

    That's just simply laughable.

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