Saturday, September 03, 2005

Little Lord Fauntleroy

Tim Enloe has favored us with yet another one of his patchwork quilts, stitched together from yellowing newspaper clippings.

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Many of the “top names” in Protestant apologetics tell a story about the 16th century reformation which I believe gives away the store to the Catholics–who are, if nothing else, unembarassed by the history of the Church and claim it all as their own. By contrast, the typical Protestant story about Church history is founded upon embarassment–embarassment about the “dirtiness” of the pre-Protestant era Church, and a concomitant willingness to embrace all manner of arguments which seek to distance the Protestant reformation itself, and we as its heirs, from the majority of what had come before.

http://www.communiosanctorum.com/?p=56

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If Catholicism isn’t embarrassed by its history of fraud, ferocity, and corruption, then so much the worse for Catholicism—not to mention the embarrassment of misspelling “embarrassment” three times in a row. Sorta takes the shine of his intellectual airs, don’t it, though?

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Now it’s easy to see where this story comes from, even aside from analyses of the Modern notion that the ancestors were “stupid” and that we have managed to transcend them because we have “grown up” and become “rational.”

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Didn’t take him long to retreat into his malicious little caricatures, now did it?

No one is arguing that we are automatically right, and our ancestors are automatically wrong.

But it would be just as mindless to contend that we are automatically wrong, and our ancestors are automatically right. That’s the point, Tim. Try writing that on the blackboard five hundreds times and see if it finally sinks in.

***QUOTE***

This means, in turn, that since those debates resolved themselves into an epic struggle between the autonomy of the absolute monarchy concept of the papacy and the equity-based theonomy of conciliarism, sola Scriptura must be set particularly in the context of Medieval conciliarism.

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Why? Why must sola Scriptura be set in the context of Medieval conciliarism? For a student of church history, Tim knows nothing about the history of ideas.

Ideas, although they have a historical point of origin, are often elaborated and refined over time. That happens all the time in historical theology.

Tim is committing the genetic fallacy. If we want to understand how sola Scriptura was understood at any given time, then, of course, the period in question supplies the context. But the idea is not bound to any particular period of time.

We don’t insist that a philosophical or scientific idea is frozen in the past.

***QUOTE***

Typically we Protestants take such statements and draw dichotomies from them: councils have erred but Scripture does not err, therefore we will never rely on councils but only on Scripture. But such thinking is, I believe, in direct contradiction to the historical situations in which the Confessions were drawn up–particularly the historical situation of the epic struggles in the 15th century between papalism and conciliarism which led directly to the Protestant reformation in the 16th.

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So what if it’s in direct contradiction to the historical situation in which the confessions were framed?

By definition, our historical situation is not their historical situation. By definition, our historical situation will contradict their historical situation.

Now, if you want to know what the confessions meant, then, obviously enough, their historical situation supplies the frame of reference.

But if it’s a question of whether councils can err, but Scripture cannot, then that alethic question is hardly frozen in the 15C or 16C or 17C.

Enloe is confounding the conditions of a true interpretation with what conditions the interpretation of a truth.

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It is quite simply not enough to claim that the Scriptures are the “final” authority, for someone has to apply that authority to real life situations.

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Yes, Tim, everyone knows that. Tim has a habit of repackaging his trite little truisms as if these were oracular revelations, whispered in his ear by the Angel Gabriel.

Notice, though, the fatal equivocation. It’s like the difference between the law and a law-enforcement officer. Both the law and the policeman are authoritative, but not in the same sense. Indeed, the policeman derives his own authority from the law.

Likewise, Scripture can still be the final authority in the sense of being the only rule of faith, the sole source and standard of faith and morals. The fact that it isn’t self-enforcing in no way modifies its final authority, for the enforcement-mechanism, is not authoritative in the same sense. Indeed, its authority is derivative of Scripture.

***QUOTE****

Such a reading of our confessional language and of Luther’s actions makes perfect sense when the natural historical context of the confessions and Luther’s actions–indeed, of the entire Protestant reformation itself–is observed and taken to heart. But incredibly, we have it seems, in our very Modern obsession with getting “theology” (particularly “soteriology”) right via the correct mechanism of abstract hermeneutics and exegesis, and fully regardless of the actual situations in which we live and move and have our being, simply eliminated the historical resources and the tools to properly evaluate the activities of our own fathers!

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Poor little Enloe is too blinkered to follow the crumbs of his own argument. The historical context of the confessions are distinct from the historical context of the Scriptures. If we must interpret the confessions in light of original intent, according to their historical backdrop, then, by the very same token, we must interpret the scriptures in light of original intent, according to their historical backdrop. The historical setting for the Pentateuch is not the 15C AD, but the 15C BC—give or take a century or so.

In Enloe’s schizophrenic mind, it’s okay to learn Latin, to use Latin grammars and Latin lexicons, and apply the grammatico-historical method to interpret Pierre D’Ailly and Jean Gerson and Nicholas of Cusa, but it’s a big no-no to learn Greek and Hebrew and apply the grammatico-historical method to interpret Matthew and Moses and John.

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I believe that it is drastically incorrect to portray our fathers as historically and theologically-innovative revolutionaries standing up bravely for a “the Truth” or a “the Gospel” that is totally disconnected from previous history and tradition, relying instead upon “just” (sola) Scripture in the purportedly “plain” reading which we have derived from “mere” and / or “scientific” hermeneutics. In fact, ecclesiologically speaking, when he started writing in earnest against the popes Luther himself was mostly just repeating the arguments of good catholic theologians such as Pierre D’Ailly and Jean Gerson and Nicholas of Cusa and Wessel Gansfort (themselves relying on much larger, and much older sources). Luther was no self-grounding point of authority as we too often portray him as being.

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Once again, Tim is eager to advertise to anyone who will listen what a complete and utter ignoramus he is about exegetical theology. If he’d ever read Thiselton on Interpreting God and the Post-Modern Self or Poythress on God-Centered Interpretation, he’d see what a gross and simple-minded falsification this is of Evangelical hermeneutics.

But at this stage of the game he can’t afford to correct himself since that would be way too humiliating. He would have to recant all of the patent and patented lies which form the foundation of his railing and flailing assaults on Evangelicalism. Better to be pig-ignorant than lose face.

***QUOTE***

The reformers were not men who, like many of our apologetical luminaries today, went out and got themselves seminary educated (complete with a quantum-mechanics level understanding of the workings of Greek participles and prepositions) and then sat down at their desks, learned to pretend to be able to consciously divorce their minds from all linguistic and cultural factors which had made them what they were, and then “just” exegeted the “plain” Scriptures without anything being “added” to the text–resulting in a neat package of wonderfully “clear” biblical insight that happened to exhibit a (nearly) one-to-one correspondence with the uncontaminated purity of the primitive Church.

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Indeed, nothing is more pitifully evident than Enloe’s innocence of a seminary education. Were he a seminarian, he’d have to actually read commentaries and study hermeneutics. And if he ever tried to palm off these empty-headed smears and sneers in a term paper, he’d flunk out of seminary.

No evangelical Bible scholar limits himself to the bare text of Scripture. They all interpret the Bible in light of period historians--as well as cognate sources of background information, such as epigraphy, papyri, graffiti, numismatics, and so on.

Again, though, Enloe would rather be a know-nothing than know this since that would spoil his precious little theory.

Mind you, one doesn’t have to be a seminarian to avoid these gargantuan blunders. Plenty of laymen read Bible commentaries and study Bible archeology.

***QUOTE***

Why do we find Calvin approvingly citing the excellent evangelical qualities of Bernard of Clairvaux?

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Once again, Enloe is acting like a teenager who believes that he’s the very first person to discover what sex is.

You only have to run your finger down the author index of the Institutes to see that Calvin could make approving use of the church fathers and much else besides.

***QUOTE***

For instance, a certain fringe element of Reformed Baptists of which I am aware repeatedly makes this argument about “consistency”, but just as repeatedly misses the very simple fact that they themselves are on their own criteria “inconsistent” because they hold “Calvinistic soteriology” while being complete “Arminians” on the level of ecclesiology and sociology.

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This is an argument from analogy minus the argument. To turn this into a respectable argument, Enloe would need to explain how soteriology forms a tight-knit parallel with ecclesiology and sociology. So far, Tim has given us a musical without the soundtrack.

***QUOTE***

For instance, the legitimate reformation question “How can I be righteous before a holy God?” is answered with an appeal to a “sola” fide that has been construed with such an exquisite fanaticism about “works” that it reads baptism as a “work” and winds up lopping off even the reformers!

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Which Reformers? Did Calvin believe in baptismal justification?

And, more to the point, did St. Paul believe in baptismal regeneration? If you don’t know the answer, just read the exchange between Paul Owen and Eric Svendsen. Owen was darting back and forth like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

In addition, Enloe is oh-so selective and self-serving when it comes to Protestant tradition. For example, does Enloe’s church, or Paul Owen’s church, or Kevin Johnson’s church, bear any resemblance to the Westminster Directory of Worship?

Are there organs? Hymnals? Choirs? Soloists? Stained glass?

Are Enloe and Owen and Johnson spiritual bastards—in Owen’s affectionate phrase--because they have turned their collective back on their Puritan forefathers?

***QUOTE***

Or again the legitimate reformation question “Where is the final authority in the Christian life?” is first conflated with the peculiarly Modern question “How can I have epistemic certainty and a God’s-eye view of Truth?”, which is then answered by a peculiarly Modern appeal to proper mechanistic hermeneutics as construed with a fanaticism that lops off all of Church history prior to the late Renaissance period.

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To begin with, the idea of epistemic certainty is hardly a peculiarly modern question:

“Our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts” (WCF 1:5);

“This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion ground upon a fallible hope, but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit…” (WCF 18:2).

You can find the argument fleshed out in Calvin and John Owen.

Secondly, the grammatico-historical method is not predicated on epistemic certainty; rather, it is the only correct method of interpreting Scripture whether or not are our interpretations are always correct.

Questions of epistemic certainty go all the way back to the Greeks.

***QUOTE***

Whatever may be said for “primitive church” arguments in the Middle Ages, in the hands of Modern Protestant sectarians such arguments become merely a justification for spiritual immaturity. Such arguments amount to an appeal to simplistically discount all that happened after the Originary Point, and to opt to spend our whole lives trying to emulate, or rather, to repristinate, the Uncontaminated Originary Point. It amounts to a vision for always remaining a spiritual child, never growing up, always hanging on to the most simple, the most unadorned, the most immature, concept of religion. And because of the immaturity of such a religion, literally the whole world is at stake in these debates. Because the world is too small, such an attitude can’t handle criticism, can’t substantively respond.

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I can think of a much better example. Tim Enloe, whose gray-matter atrophied in his mid-20s. An intellectually stunted individual: unteachable, impervious to correction--constantly repeating himself, like a loop-tape, with the same jiggles, and taradiddles, and fortune-cookie clichés. Can anyone remember the last time that little Tim said anything new? Said anything he hasn’t said a hundred times before, in the very same shopworn words?

***QUOTE***

Like the rationalistic defense that a certain type of Evangelicalism has constructed for biblical inerrancy, to admit that they have erred at one point is to admit that possibly they have erred at all points, and therefore nothing they believe is truly “certain.” And for Modernistic Protestants (as for all Modernists generally speaking), that is simply unacceptable.

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So does Enloe now subscribe to limited inerrancy?

Enloe no longer calls himself an Evangelical. Perhaps he, Owen, and Johnson would rather be known as The Three Mouseketeers.

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