Monday, December 05, 2005

Witherington replies

***QUOTE***

Hi Steve:

This is an interesting diatribe, but you have missed so many points, including the main ones, that it is hard to know what to say.

I have read most all of those sources you have mentioned but this is quite beside the point. 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.

Try again to recognize that all these theological systems, including Arminianism have their weaknesses particularly when they try to say something distinctive.

And as for not knowing the difference between Reformed and Lutheran theology, shame on you--- how would you know whether I do or not? In fact, I not only attended a Reformed seminary and read almost all of Calvin's major works, and Jonathan Edwards and various later exponents like the Hodges and Warfield, I also read most of Luther-- who is even more Augustinian than Calvin, especially on the issues of secondary causes!

So I would suggest you take a good look at your critique again, and rethink this. If you are unable to be self-critical, then you need to learn to listen to others who will help you with that.

Ben Witherington

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2005/11/tilting-at-windmills-1.html

***END-QUOTE***

First of all, I’d like to thank Dr. Witherington for bothering to read what I write and respond.

He says that I need to be a better listener, that I need to be more self-critical.

He also says I’ve missed so many points, including the main ones, that it’s hard to know what to say.

Of course, absent specifics, there’s nothing for me to listen to or be self-critical about.

I don’t deny that Witherington may be conversant with the relevant literature. What I originally said was “that, to judge by Witherington’s discussion and bibliography, he is almost completely ignorant of the exegetical literature in favor of Calvinism.“

It doesn’t matter what Witherington has read unless that translates into what he has written. I’m judging his book by the personal knowledge he chose to put on display.

This brings us to the next point: “I [Witherington] 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.”

This is a non sequitur. You can write at a popular level and still be accurate. He doesn’t have to name names or quote from the primary sources. It’s perfectly okay to summarize the opposing position. But it needs to be an accurate summary of the opposing position. What I find in Witherington’s treatment is a systematic misstatement of the opposing position.

I agree with him that this is about ideas, not individuals. But in that case, it is necessary to accurately state the main ideas.

Time and time again, Witherington misrepresents Reformed theology. Time and again, he raises objections that have already been answered over and over again. He also ignores traditional objections to his own position.

It isn’t enough to have read the opposing position. You must demonstrate an understanding of what you read. You must truly interact with the opposing position. This preliminary mastery and critical engagement of the opposing position is not in evidence in Witherington’s new book—at least where Calvinism is concerned.

1 comment: