Sunday, December 11, 2005

Apriorism

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No, it wasn't "aprioristic," it was heuristic. I'm not trying to (re)formulate a whole theology of sacraments from the ground up.

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But at some point that’s what we need to do. At some point we need to bracket tradition and ask ourselves how we would read Scripture on this or that doctrine apart from the preconditioning of a particular theological tradition. That’s the point of the GHM. To get behind tradition. To wipe the slate clean and do it from scratch.

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I'm trying to invoke historical precendent for understanding the role of materiality in the sacraments that involves God really doing something through them when they are rightly used and faithfully received.

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The parallel with the Incarnation operates at too high a level of abstraction. It’s no substitute for detailed exegesis.

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I subscribe to the WCF. That is where my theology of the sacraments is expressed.

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My immediate interest is not to challenge the WCF. My concern is one of theological method. At this point I’m not taking issue with the results. My concern is with the methodology generating the results.

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Better men than I handled the exegesis.

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There are better men on both sides of the issue.

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I'm still working through my understanding of them, especially the crux of their meaning, such as in "sacramental union."

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Fine, we can’t do everything at once.

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As for being aprioristic...um, commitment to a hermeneutical method such as GHM is inferred...from what?

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The GHM is not prejudicial. It doesn’t distinguish one Evangelical tradition from another. It is something they share in common.

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Steve, are you so bored with our investigations into the degree of distinction between the "traditional" Reformed and the RBs that you're going to shift to a philosophical discussion? Very well.

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Because it’s ultimately irrelevant to where the truth lies. It’s good to become aware of our presuppositions by a comparison and contrast between one theological tradition and another. But that should be a ground-clearing exercise for doing exegesis.

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But I am still interested in what you might think about the point I was trying to make in Jus's post about the difference being systematic and not inconsequential.

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Your general point is valid. However, JD and I have already addressed the specifics of why infant baptism is not a Reformed distinctive, not only as a carryover from the Medieval church, but also because there is no consensus within Calvinism regarding the grounds for infant baptism.

We need to do our theology from the bottom up, not the top down. That's the way of verify (or falsify) a theological tradition, or elements thereof.

2 comments:

  1. We're at cross-purposes, Steve. This turn in the discussion to hermeneutical method has very little to do with the original question. Reset: Are RB apologists warranted in asserting their superior understanding and version of the reformed faith, and if so, so what?

    Yes, we can discuss the differing biblical interpretations that result in the formation of the distinctive group and theology labeled 'RB'. But the question is one of historiography, not epistemology.

    I grant you that we need to methodologically ground our reading of Scripture, although I doubt that that there is one universal and unassailable principle for doing so. But I don't disagree that we do need to go about biblical and systematic theology in a way that is consistently critical of alternative traditions as it is self-critical of one's own.

    But surely a cogent explanation for the emergence of the RBs and why they believe what they do requires more than exegesis of the Scriptures. I understand the original question as primarily historiographic. And so if we're concerned with methodology, then we need to ask how one goes about the detailed social, cultural, and intellectual historical studies needed to determine this movement's origination and influence? GHM won't help us there. Casting some light on presuppositions might help us gain some insight into the commitments from which we begin theorize about these differences, but these will never achieve explanatory force when it comes to the point of the matter, which is practical theology.

    There are important normative claims waiting to be evaluated, but we really haven't gotten past the descriptive claims yet. I've tried to outline some of these factual differences, and I seek an understanding from your (or Jus's or Christian Library's) point of view as to why those differences exist. Just to refresh some of those differences here: "traditional" Reformed and RBs have vastly different institutional forms (schools, seminaries, etc.), social and personal values, and cultural practices(community-based arts initiatives and other concrete engagement that seeks to inculturate the gospel). Understanding these historigraphical differences would seem necessary to me to understand why RB bloggers adopt a particular apologetical style and engagement with those with who differ theologically.

    It may very well be that RBs, as a matter of biblical, apostolic and reformational reality have the legitimate claim to best represent what it means to be "Reformed" in our day. I'll be happy to concede the point if that is what all this comes down to. But that still won't alter the other fact that RBs will have to decide how to comport themselves to that much larger community of inferiorly Reformed and reformational believers who have a very different understanding of what the gospel means for church life and practice and its relation to the breaking-in of the kingdom in our cultural institutions, practices and solidarities of which Jesus instructed us to pray "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Part of what we're doing with our earthly time is watching and listening with critical eyes and ears to what others who claim the name 'Christian' are doing and saying. That's surely an important task. But isn't there more to the Christian life than taxonomy? When does all this sorting out the rank order of doctrinal purity lead to building anything concrete?

    As things stand, I'm happy to withdraw from the discussion at this point. I think you, Jus and "Christian Library" are basically hammering the same nail with me, with Christian Library offering a more stylized version of the same line of thinking exhibited by you and Jus. I hear you, I think I understand you, but I would offer this closing thought: don't be surprised if other Protestants (and here we can include traditional anabaptists) have no idea why it is important to emphasize this supervisory vocation almost to the exclusion of all others.

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  2. 1.As I recall, the original question was not whether RBs regard their version of the Reformed faith as superior to Reformed paedobaptists, but whether Reformed paedobaptists regard Reformed theology as a legitimate expression of Calvinism.

    2.Since JD and I have contended that paedobaptism is not a Reformed distinctive, its presence or absence does not make one version of Reformed theology superior or inferior to another.

    3.Life is short. The historiographic question is not a priority for me. I prefer to spend my time on normative questions.

    4.You seem to be suggesting that Presbyterianism represents a force for cultural engagement, a la Kuyper, whereas the Baptist tradition represents a principle of cultural disengagement, a la James Jordan’s critique.

    While that may be true historically, we see something of an about face in our own time and place: the OPC is culturally disengaged whereas the SBC is culturally engaged.

    I’d add that Reformed Baptists are beginning to build parallel institutions. It’s just taken them longer to find their footing.

    I think the phenomenon which cries out for a special explanation is not why Reformed Baptist bloggers are so aggressive about promoting the doctrines of grace, but why Presbyterians have maintained such a low profile.

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