Just a quick note.
Awhile back, Steve posted an excellent, three-part critique [1 | 2 | 3] of Ben Witherington's The Problem With Evangelical Theology (Baylor Univ. Press, 2005).
Last night, Witherington posted a short comment in reply. You'll have to read the whole thing, but what he says includes the following:
I said quite clearly at the outset that I was dealing with these different Evangelical theologies as they are found at the popular and most widely disseminated level. This means unlike most of my work I deliberately avoided spending much time debating other scholars. The issues was the ideas, not who said what.
What is especially disturbing about your critique is its inability to be self-critical. This is unfortunate and it reduces your remarks to pure polemics, which is sad.
Just a few observations. First, Witherington is essentially saying that his book is useless in extending our knowledge on the topic, since he's only looking at "ideas" at a "popular" level, rather than examining the arguments given on behalf of those ideas in the relevant sources. But why should we care about "ideas" on either side of the issue, if those ideas are poorly argued? And why should we care about a book about those ideas if the author can't be bothered to assess the actual arguments given by the proponents? Of what use is such a book in educating the contemporary church on vital issues? What is the difference between such a book, and propaganda?
Second, Witherington is also trying to have it both ways. Judging by Hays's excerpts of him, Witherington does cite scholars and sources after all, but only when it suits him. Thus Witherington's citations of Achtemeier, Dunn, Volf, Cranfield, Barrett. In this latest comment Witherington profess intimate knowledge of Reformed sources as well. So why weren't the arguments in these sources exposed as fallacious, if indeed they are fallacious?
Third, it appears that Witherington can't be bothered to interact with a single one of Hays's posted arguments. Rather, he is content with vacuous broadsides. Witherington repeatedly accuses Hays of an "inability to be self-critical". But judging by this reply, isn't the shoe on the other foot?
In his book Witherington decries theological triumphalism. But the book itself is an example of such triumphalism: your detractors are wrong and you don't even have to interact with their best arguments, because after all you're focusing on "ideas" at a "popular level". Sure ;-)