Very interesting. When I compared the academic credentials of NT Wright to a Reformed teacher who was critiquing him in a recent publication, I was roundly condemned.
What's the difference?
# posted by Michael Spencer : 12/14/2005 8:05 PM
1.Let me first say that I wasn’t party to that particular debate.
2.There is no doubt that one’s level of education can make a difference. There are certain highly specialized fields in which an amateur can’t very well wing it on merely facility. There’s no substitute for technical expertise.
3.By the same token, some fields demand more brainpower than others. Let’s face it, folks--it doesn’t take the same mental horsepower to be a sociologist as it does to be a mathematician.
4.We all know college profs. who couldn’t argue their way out of a wet paper bag. They got to where they were by riding on the crest of the latest academic wave, by dutifully reproducing every jot and tittle of the new orthodoxy, and by being chaperoned through their degree program by a star professor and a timely nudge from affirmative action.
5. There are some deadly dull fields of study in which quicksilver brilliance would be a positive disadvantage. Only someone with a plodding mind would have the patience for all the tedious minutiae.
6.You don’t have to be brilliant to be a fine Bible scholar. You just have to be disciplined and diligent.
7.There are many men with the same academic credentials as NT Wright, yet they don’t dominate the debate the way he does. Education alone is not the differential factor.
8.There are some gifted autodidacts who can argue circles around the average college prof. The contributions of (the other) Philip Johnson to the ID movement is a case in point.
9.There are few basic problems with Paul Owen’s appeal. There’s the glaring double standard in which he holds his critics to a higher standard than his colleagues at Communio Sanctorum.
10.Beyond the hypocrisy is a more fundamental point, and that is the illicit appeal to the argument from authority. Now there are fields in which this is relevant. Since most of us can’t sight-read hieroglyphics or cuneiform, we take the word of an Egyptologist or Assyriologist.
11.In general, though, your education is not something apart from the argument, but something which figures in the argument.
In writing a scholarly book or article, your education is something which feeds directly into the argument in terms of the evidence you put on public display and the quality of your reasoning.
Only when a scholar is getting desperate does he brandish his credentials to shore up what is lacking in the actual presentation. For unless he can translate his education into a well-reasoned argument, the quality of his education is irrelevant to the quality of his argument.
12.NT Wright is not only or primarily writing for the benefit of his fellow academics. Rather, he is writing for general consumption, for the church, for the educated layman.
The act of writing presupposes that the implied reader is competent to follow the reasoning, follow the conclusions, weigh the evidence, and draw his own conclusions. Otherwise, why bother to write?
13.Needless to say, many critics of the NPP are just as well-educated as the advocates of the NPP.
14.Returning to Dr. Owen, it is particularly stupid for a blogger to talk down to his audience. Blogging is inherently a mass medium for general consumption. It is not like a refereed journal. Does the standard fare over at Communio Sanctorum measure up to the standards of a refereed journal? Obviously not. Do the puff pieces that Dr. Owen is posting over there on a regular basis distinguish themselves by their tight reasoning and meticulous documentation? Obviously not.
15.Let us suppose that Owen is right. Suppose that I labor under the double handicap of being both incompetent and wrong. In that event, Owen should be able to make short work of such a lame opponent. Here I am. Come and get me.
16.Returning to Spencer, he is clearly a bright, articulate, well-educated man. But there are better educated men. So does Spencer want us to judge him by his diplomas, or by the quality of his writing?