Saturday, May 14, 2005

Some thoughtless thoughts on Baptists

Paul Owen has just posted “Some Thoughts on Baptists.”

After having identified himself as a “convinced Presbyterian”--keep your fingers crossed--he goes on to explain what he would be were he not a Presbyterian. A Baptist is at the very bottom of his ladder, two rungs below Roman Catholicism.

One hesitates to speculate on which he would opt for were he forced to choose between the Baptist and the Mormon faith. Given his high church sympathies, given that Mormon ecclesiology is far more Catholic than Baptistic, and given that, by his own lights, a Mormon can be a true believer in Jesus Christ, the prospects are less than promising.

Before proceeding further, permit me to lay my own cards on the table. Historically, a Calvinist could be a Baptist, Anglican, Presbyterian, or Welsh Methodist. And, speaking for myself, I think that each of these can be a valid vehicle of the Reformed tradition. Let me also say that although I am not, and would never be one, I often attended a Lutheran church (WELS) because I enjoyed the expository preaching and the traditional style of worship.

Owen then offers a two-paragraph rebuttal of Baptist ecclesiology and sacramentology. I must say that I don’t see the point of this exercise. Owen cites a few well-worn prooftexts for his position.

I won’t take time to comment on whether these are to the point or not. Rather, I’ll just note that our Baptist brethren, including the Reformed Baptists, are only too familiar with these verses, and have repeatedly construed them in a manner consistent with Baptist ecclesiology and sacramentology.

So for Owen to toss these off, as if nothing had ever been said by the opposing side in way of a counter-interpretation, is not a serious argument. So who is the audience for this supposed to be? For those who already agree with Owen, and don’t care how poor the reasons are?

I’d also like to comment on one statement in particular: “To reject infant baptism is to cut oneself off from the historic Catholic Church–something which Reformers like Zwingli, Bullinger, Bucer, Calvin and Luther simply were not willing to do. They saw their roots in the Catholic Church of the preceding centuries, not in some esoteric remnant of believers whose lineage could be narrowly traced backwards in time to the New Testament.”

Now, even if you support infant baptism, this is a specious argument for infant baptism. The very fact that the Protestant Reformers broke with Rome entails a measure of discontinuity with the past. A Baptist is no more or less cut off from historic Christianity than a Lutheran or a Presbyterian. For that matter, Trent has very little use for the Augustinian tradition--especially the parts of most use to Calvin.

It should also be unnecessary to point out that Calvin’s argument for infant baptism is quite different from Luther’s. In addition, different Presbyterians give different reasons for infant baptism.

Now, when different paedobaptists offer different and, indeed, mutually exclusive arguments for infant baptism, is it entirely honest to put the Baptists on one end of the scale, and all the paedobaptists on the other end? Isn’t Owen, in effect, keeping his thumb firmly pressed down on his end of the scale—and then exclaiming that the Baptist position has been duly weighed and found wanting?

The reading was so unbalanced because his selection criteria were so unbalanced—counting many as though they were one. The only thing this proves is that if you tilt the scales in your favor, you get a reading favorable to your position.

And since communio sanctorum doesn’t give the opposing side a fair opportunity to respond, I happy to invite our Baptist brethren, and especially Reformed Baptists, to comment here on Owen’s sneak-and-retreat piece.

Friday, May 13, 2005

To boldly go

On a lighter note, I have now lived long enough to have outlived the life-cycle of the Star Trek franchise, as it sputters to a whimpering denouement tonight. I’m actually old enough to have seen the original series in its premier broadcast. And now I see the whole thing put to rest.

Star Trek was the archetype of the cult-hit. What accounts for its demise? The question is of interest because the franchise was a cultural icon. Hence, it’s passing closes a chapter in the culture wars.

One possible explanation is that the SF genre has run out of steam. Its distinctive conventions have become…well…conventional.

Yet among more recent entries into the SF field, Farscape and Red Dwarf—at least what I saw of them--were a lot more imaginative and entertaining than Star Trek: Enterprise. There are also SF fans who rue the cancellation of Firefly. And a well-made miniseries on Cordwainer Smith would be very fine to have. So the problem doesn’t seem to be with genre, per se.

What killed it off, I would submit, is political correctness. Political correctness is boring. It’s risk-averse. It’s inoffensive. It’s oh-so sensitive. Politically correctness is effeminate, whereas SF is a guy thing.

There is no recipe for success, but there is a formula for failure. One reason that Enterprise was doomed from the start was the cast. To have an interesting series, you need to match up interesting actors in interesting parts.

But Enterprise was cast with bland actors. Bakula was okay in the lead role—although he has a very limited range. But the rest were hopelessly dull, interchangeable personalities.

And there’s a reason for this. Political correctness dictated a multi-ethnic cast. Now, that of itself, wouldn’t kill it. Indeed, that creates a potential source of dramatic variation and conflict.

But the actors were chosen, not because they could act, but to fill out the quota: so you had the generic token black, the generic token woman, the generic token Asian.

In addition, the minorities were chosen to fit in with the liberal ideal of the model minority—a minority who is a “person of color” on the outside, but a white liberal on the inside. An ideological clone of Hollywood values.

And, of course, the scripting and characterization followed the same politically correct agenda. Take tonight’s final installment, which is a thinly-veiled allegory and promo for illegal immigration. The heroes are the blue-state liberals, while the villains are the red-state rednecks.

Now, a natural objection to my thesis might be that Star Trek has always tilted to the left. That is true, but that was when the audience was tilting to the left.

The original series was a commercial for the Sixties counterculture, for Sixties idealism and the youth culture.

And SF is still especially appealing to the teen-to-thirty-something male demographic. But that demographic is not especially liberal.

Even Sixties’ idealism wasn’t all that idealistic. What killed the Vietnam War was the draft—the drafting of college students.

And moving down to our own time, you have the gender gap in politics, where men vote the GOP ticket at a disproportionate rate. That was true even before 9/11. And to the extent that the gender gap has narrowed, it has narrowed in a rightward direction.

Now, conservatism comes in more than one flavor. But libertarians are just as contemptuous of political correctness as social conservatives and Bible-thumpers.

I’m not saying that you don’t have liberals who like SF as well. But Enterprise is targeting a political demographic rather than a social demographic, and there is a wide demographic gap between the constituency for SF fare and the constituency for Will & Grace.

Star Trek will die tonight, not by going boldly where no man has gone before, but by losing its boldness and manhood to the gelding-shears of political correctness.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


Randy, like Hahn and Armstrong and other conservative converts to Rome, is trying to carve out a little niche within the church. Theirs is a church within the church. This is not Roman Catholicism, but an inner schism--a homegrown chapel within the Church of Rome.

A while back, after quoting the above statement of mine, Jason Cardona said the following:

<< Perhaps you should take a look at the first page of Scott Hahn's (and most other Catholic apologist's) books. They are usually submitted to the local Bishop for an imprimatur (an official review and declaration of its suitability insofar as Catholic doctrine goes).

You'd think a schismatic group would try to IGNORE the Bishops, rather than seek their approval. >>

I didn’t respond to this at the time because I’ve had a lot to respond to already. But by way of reply, I’d make a few brief remarks:

1.Some do, some don’t. Reaching over to the bookshelf on my right-hand side, I pull down two titles. One is by Karl Keating: Nothing But the Truth. To my knowledge, Keating is the most popular contemporary Catholic apologist. His book carries no imprimatur.

Another book is by Stanley Jaki: And On This Rock. Jaki is a distinguished philosopher of science who has also written books on Newman and Chesterton. His book carries no imprimatur.

Point being: there’s no rule of thumb on this score.

2.There’s quite a difference between a group which pays lip-service to the magisterium while going its own way, and one that publicly defies the magisterium. My allegation is that Armstrong is schismatic in the first sense, not the second.

3.Suppose Armstrong, or Scott Hahn, were to submit a book to the local bishop in which he said that Ratzinger’s forward to the PBC’s guidelines on Biblical criticism did not represent the authentic voice of Catholic tradition? Do you still think he would be granted the imprimatur?

You can get away with an awful lot in Catholicism as long as you don’t openly challenge the system.

The fact that Scott Hahn is to the right of the magisterium doesn’t mean he can’t get the imprimatur. It all depends on the subject-matter. If he writes a devotional book on the Virgin Mary, he can get the imprimatur.

The acid test is if he sought the imprimatur for a book in which he went out of his way to disagree with the magisterium.

4. Finally, if you scroll down to the bottom of Armstrong’s website (, you will find the following disclaimer:

<< To the best of my knowledge, all of my theological writing is "orthodox" and not contrary to the official dogmatic and magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church. In the event of any (unintentional) doctrinal or moral error on my part having been undeniably demonstrated to be contrary to the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church, I will gladly and wholeheartedly submit to the authority and wisdom of the Church {Mt 28:18-20; 1 Timothy 3:15}. >>

Now, if Armstrong already had the imprimatur for all his theological writing, he'd hardly need to issue this general-purpose disclaimer, would he?

The lowdown on Enloe

<< (1) Steve: I am not a "leader" in any "movement". I am just a guy trying to get his B.A. in liberal arts (with an eye to future graduate work in Medieval studies) but who currently pays the bills by working at Wal Mart. I have no standing in Christ's Church beyond that shared by all Christians in Christ. I am not a teacher in the Church, much less a "leader." >>

This is a non-sequitur. You needn’t have any institutional standing to be the leader of a movement. Indeed, Tim is challenging the Reformed establishment, challenging the Reformed status quo. So that, in some sense, already puts himself outside the institutional organs.

But since he doesn’t like my terminology, suppose I substitute his own self-characterization. Tim has a vision. Tim is a visionary. And Tim is using his blog to promote his vision for the church—for a Christian society, no less.

Tim also tries to recast the debate in hyperbolic, emotive terms: “hysteria,” “knee-jerk reactions,” “pontificate,” “sinister,” “nefarious,” “bizarre Reformed inquisition-like behavior.”

Okay, let’s set the record straight. On his blog, Tim feels free to question and criticize anything he doesn’t approve of in the Reformed tradition. But he doesn’t see this as a two-way street. No one, except the elders of his church, has the right to question his publicly stated views.

He doesn’t need any ecclesiastical standing to question what others believe, but they need to have some ecclesiastical standing to question what he believes. And when he is questioned, he plays the role of the victim. The persecution-complex seems to be epidemic these days--especially from those casting the first stone.

All I did was to take him seriously. He is airing his views for public consumption. So I took him seriously enough to comment on his views and pose a few follow-up questions. Does Tim not want to be taken seriously? If so, it would simplify matters if he issued a public disclaimer to that effect.

If there is any “hysteria” or “knee-jerk reaction,” it is coming from Tim, by resorting to hyperbolic, emotive language instead of offering reasonable answers to reasonable questions.

Why is Tim blogging unless he wants to use this medium as a public platform in which to promote his own views, to persuade others of his vision? This is not a private, subscriber-only discussion board. Tim has laid down no ecclesiastical criterion for readers to read his blog. But if they should question what they read, then they must have certain ecclesiastical credentials. So Tim is trying to play both sides of the fence.

Notice, in so doing, how Tim is attempting to shift the question from what is right to having the right. He appeals to his local session as his “get-out-of-jail-free” card to excuse having to explain himself or defend the veracity of anything he says.

Why the defensive tone? Didn’t he believe what he said? If so, why not clarify his position?

The only authority the Protestant Reformers had was the authority of God’s word. Truth is its own authority.

The Protestant Reformers had no ecclesiastical sanction for what they did, since what they did was to buck the system and break with the established church. Were it not for that irregular, schismatic action, there would be no session. Instead, Tim would be a papist.

<< (2) I have not "reentered the inerrancy debate". The comment about the Chicago Statement in my entry was aimed SOLELY at those Evangelical readers whom I KNEW would read the articles to which I linked and instantly go "Gasp! Tim's rejecting biblical inerrancy now! Will his compromises never cease?" I do not reject biblical inerrancy, but affirm it. >>

Is this a deliberate distortion of what I said? Go back and read what I said. I carefully described Tim’s position in his own words. To say that he affirms biblical inerrancy, and leave it at that, is an obvious dodge. He affirms some “form,” of inerrancy, but he disaffirms the form of inerrancy articulated in the Chicago statement.

So, having told us what version of inerrancy he denies, the next logical question is to ask him is what version of inerrancy he affirms. What is his positive alternative?

Remember, the Chicago statement was specifically framed in response to a liberalizing trend in Evangelicalism, triggered by Harold Lindsell’s bombshell book. So since Enloe has gone public with his rejection of the Chicago doctrine, we are waiting for the coin to drop. What does his own version amount to?

<< (3) The Chicago Statement is not some kind of creed literally and ministerially defining basic Christian orthodoxy, deniable only by heretics. It's not a statement of a Church court, but only the result of a scholarly conference amongst a sub-group of conservative Evangelicals, that's it that's all. It's not a sin to ask questions about things like this. I do not "[owe] the Christian community an explanation", and in any case I would deny that the set "Christian community" is restrictable to conservative Evangelicals. Again the only reason I mentioned it was because I KNEW knee-jerk reactions would ensue the moment certain people read the articles to which I linked and saw Hunter's discussion of the Chicago Statement. >>

Once again it’s necessary to set the record straight. Tim was the one who singled out the Chicago Statement. He was the one who took this statement as his frame of reference. He was the one who chose to position himself in relation to this statement. And he was the one who chose to distance himself from the statement in question.

So the remaining issue is: how much distance does he put between himself and the Chicago doctrine? I’m framing my question to him in exactly the way he chose to frame the question. Is there something unfair about judging a man’s position by his own stated standard of reference?

His stated standard may only have been for the sake of argument, but for discussion purposes, that will suffice since he himself chose to cast the question in those very terms.

<< (4) I want to know who you are, Steve, to pontificate about my supposedly needing to keep "doubts" private and not using blogs to "plant seeds of doubt in others minds." Good grief, man, get some perspective. I am not a leader in some movement, much less do I have any authority in the Church. I am just a guy with a blog. >>

Yes, he’s just a guy with a blog. And why is he blogging? To advance his vision. To have an influence on what other people think.

And, yes, Tim, you are responsible for what you say. And your responsibility does not begin and end with your elders. You are writing to be read by whoever happens to read your blog. So you bear some responsibility to them and for them since you are writing to them and for them. Connect the dots, Tim—it isn’t that hard. You’re much too smart to play dumb.

<< (5) Since my post was not about the Chicago Statement itself…>

It wasn’t? This is what Tim originally said:

<< The reason that the questions raised about the Chicago Statement are important is the fact that the questions expose the unstated modernistic assumptions of that form of the inerrancy doctrine, and in the process end up shedding significant light on the very important issues of truth and epistemology and community that postmodernism raises against modernism. >>

<< The third essay's discussion [on the Chicago Statement] of logocentrism (especially the distinction between autonomous human concepts of the logos VS the biblical Logos). Also in the third essay note the incessant dualisms that logocentrism's metaphysics of presence ontology / epistemology… >>

<< Lastly, observe the discussions about the fluidity of language. Note that meaning "always surpasses intentions" [an allusion to the third essay on the Chicago Statement], and that the metaphysics of presence view of language [another allusion to the third essay on the Chicago Statement] is fundamentally based in pagan Greek thinking about the supremacy of the "soul" (in this case, speech) over mere "matter" (in this case, writing). For the metaphysics of presence view, speech is more fundamental than writing because speech is "closer" to the author's disembodied mind than is writing. Note that this binary opposition leads to viewing the Bible as the ultimate binary opposition-filled written preservation of God's direct speech--which means that by obtaining an absolutely undoubtable and forever fixed interpretation of the Bible we are ourselves attaining to an unmediated grasp of God's own speech.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Brother, can you paradigm?

John Morehead said:

“When viewed from this perspective, the presence of a book by an evangelical en publisher that articulates a Mormon neo-orthodox or minimalist theology tends to provoke a defensive response by evangelicals, as we see in the new Robert Millet book.”

Actually, John, if you were to pay closer attention to what I wrote, you’d notice that I never talked about the propriety or impropriety of Eerdmans publishing Millet’s book.

I happen to agree with the critics, for all the reasons they’ve given—which I need not reiterate here. But I decided to bypass that aspect of the controversy since what Owen went on to say was so much worse than the publishing angle--which was the least of it.

As to Lausanne—since you refer me to it, I’ll assume, for discussion purposes, that you agree with it. If not, it’s up to you to issue your own disclaimers.

1.There is a charismatic flavor to Lausanne, as it seeks “new direction from the Holy Spirit.”

This is contrary to sola Scriptura. Perhaps you reject sola Scriptura. If so, the difference runs deeper than missionary methodology and evangelistic strategy. Are you saying that a missionary should be a charismatic?

“Practical Angelology?” Where do you intend to go with this? Are you saying that we should reply on angelic apparitions for guidance in life?

Where decision-making is concerned, a good place to start is Bruce Waltke’s book on the subject.

2. There is a political flavor to Lausanne, and a far left flavor at that, what with its pacifism and Swiss-style neutrality. Are you saying that a missionary should be opposed to just-war theory?

There are times when we must make a choice between attempting to save the enemy and saving ourselves, or saving the church from the enemy.

And I’d add that “talking” about peace does not make you a peacemaker.

Or take this statement: “Evangelicals have an appalling lack of regard for caring for God’s creation and naming that environmental destruction as a sin.”

Are you saying that a missionary must be a member of the Green Party? How do you define biodegradation, anyway? And where are the Scriptural references to this particular “sin”?

This sounds like radical chic opposition to technology by those who enjoy a hi-tech lifestyle.

Then we have this statement: “Animal Theology…Many adherents of New Spiritualities are opposed to the destruction of species, the treatment of animals as commodities, and medical experiments on animals.”

So a missionary ought to be a disciple of Peter Singer? A missionary should be a radical animal rights activist? He should value the life of a lab rat above a child in the cancer ward?

Here’s another example: “In this regard the Church needs to rediscover the positive biblical teachings about females and males in the original creation and in Jesus’ kingdom teachings.”

Is this code language for feminism? Must a missionary be an egalitarian?

To the extent that many cults and non-Christian cultures are “patriarchal,” what you are proposing here is the very opposite of being sensitive to other cultures and ethnicities. You are trying to impose your liberal values on illiberal cultures and subcultures.

And yet another example: “Christians find the notion of tolerance both threatening and difficult. We must be tolerant. This does not mean that we agree, but rather that we politely disagree, accepting differences while respecting the other person. Tolerance defends the dignity of the other person and their right to live according to their spirituality.”

Notice, once again, that this is the antipode of cross-cultural evangelism. Rather, it’s countercultural.

Speaking for myself, I have no duty to defend the rights of a jihadist.

3. You are very soft on unbelievers and very hard on believers involve in countercult ministry. Your selective charity is conspicuous.

4.There is a heavy emphasis on buzzwords like “relational,” “incarnational,” “holistic,” “alternative spirituality seekers.” But words do no work.

5. On the one hand, Lausanne criticizes “armchair” apologetics.

On the other hand, there is an elitist flavor to Lausanne, with its fawning attitude towards academia, the “social sciences,” and peer review. What is the direct connection between “street-life realities” and the halls of Harvard, Stanford, or MIT?

“Perhaps we need to briefly wear the moccasins of a devotee of a new religious movement and reflect on how they must feel when we label their faith as a ‘cult.’" They had worn those moccasins all their life.

It’s my impression that many men and women working in countercult ministries came out of a religious cult—as even Philip Johnson makes note of. As such, they already have all the “field” experience they need.

It is striking how Lausanne assumes that an education from a secular university is superior to an unaccredited Bible college.

One mark of the “social sciences” is statistical analysis. So where are your stats? What hard statistical data do you have to show that your missionary methodology is more effective than traditional countercult ministry? Has Paul Owen’s touchy-feely style won him more converts than, say, the Tanners?

6.This material reminds me of how environmentalists talk about oil companies. The environmentalists tell other people to invest R&D in alternative fuel sources. They don’t invest their own R&D in such a project.

If you have a better way of reaching the unreached, then show us how. Do it yourself. Set an example. My impression is that most countercult ministries are already overworked and underfunded.

7. You fail to draw some elementary distinctions in apologetics, depending on the audience and the medium. There’s a difference between the written word and the spoken word, between mass communication and one-on-one communication.

If you judge countercult ministries only by their books, then, of course, you will get a very bookish impression of countercult ministry. This is an illusion due to your lopsided selection criteria. How much fieldwork have you done with countercult ministries?

“A written argument lacks many of the essential interpersonal elements required for evangelism and missions.”

Trivially true. That doesn’t stop you from recommending your own literature, viz., Encountering New Religious Movements: A Holistic Evangelical Approach.

Christian cults and false religions churn out books to promote their point of view. Countercult ministries churn out books to rebut their claims. Yes, this has a brain-in-a-vat feel to it, but we’re answering the cultist on his own level. There is more than one level on which to answer him. But that is one level at which he must be met.

The fact that countercult ministries use the word “cult” doesn’t mean they use it when witnessing to a cult-member, mono-a-mono.

The Bible uses some rather choice language to describe unbelievers: “children of darkness,” “children of the devil,” “stiff-necked,” “uncircumcised.” But this is in-house talk. It is not how we address the unbeliever in a witnessing situation.

Likewise, the ferocious tone of the debate over Eerdmans and Paul Owen is an in-house debate.

8.You underestimate the power of ideas. Yes, most folks are not ideologies. But ideology has a trickle down impact. One reason Europe is so secular these days is the dominant ideology.

You also have a way of caricaturing cult-members. Cults have their share of intellectuals. Ever heard of BYU? Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam have a philosophical tradition.

9. You draw a false dichotomy between heretics and the unreached.

10. Take another false antithesis: “We currently present and understand God in concrete, cognate, propositional terms, rather than in relational and trinitarian terms.”

This is just gibberish. To what are we relating? In this life we live by faith, not by sight. To follow Jesus is to believe in certain revealed propositions about Jesus, and then act upon them.”

11. “Wrong Context, Wrong Texts. Those biblical passages that are foundational to this apologetic model, when read in context, are not dealing with evangelistic issues. These passages are directed at Christians where correct doctrine was in dispute. Texts refuting false prophets apply to contexts within the Church. Paul rebuked heretics who were inside the Church and his main complaint was against teachers who believed that Gentile disciples should be circumcised. New religions are by definition located beyond the walls of the Church.”

This is semantic double-talk which equivocates over the meaning of “Christian” and “church.” Is a Christian heresy “inside” or “outside” the church? These reproofs are directed against apostates and false teachers. It begins in the church. Moves from one church to another. At some point it becomes a breakaway movement. There is no material difference here than in the case of modern-day Christian heresies like Mormonism and the

And it’s not just Paul (2 Corinthians; Galatians). It’s also Peter (2 Peter), John (1 John; Revelation), and Jude.

Then we have Philip Johnson bringing up Acts 17. What planet is he living on, anyway? Does he suppose that countercult ministries don’t view Acts 17 as an apologetic paradigm? He knows better than that.

Now, not all cults and false religions are Christian heresies (e.g., Hinduism, Buddhism, Scientology, astrology, necromancy). But in that respect you can classify them according to the more general and Scriptural categories of idolatry.

12. “We see adherents as people who are made in God's image and not as some version of Frankenstein's monster or Dracula that must be dispatched by metaphorically burning or driving a stake through them.”

You really think that’s a fair characterization of the premier countercult ministries?

Editorial policy

Unlike some Christian blogs, triablogue allows and welcomes comments. But this privilege can be abused. The blogospere seems to attract a few roving individuals who have a big chip on their shoulder and are just spoiling for some venue in which to unload and vent their rage. As such, it has become necessary to lay down a few editorial guidelines.

1. You can say anything you please about me (Steve Hays). Attack me with impunity. I don't care. I can take it. I've set myself up as a lightning rod, so that just goes with the territory.

2. It is not, however, equally acceptable to turn triablogue into a free fire zone where one commentator can heap personal abuse on another commentator.

A lurker or commentator who is not a Calvinist should not be made to feel that he has strayed into enemy territory and needs to keep his head down lest he get it blown off.

Anyone is welcome to disagree with anything I (or Ryan) says. It matters not whether he's an atheist or Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox or what have you.

BTW, to tell your theological opponent that if only he had the Holy Spirit, he would see the error of his ways is not a constructive argument. It is not an argument at all.

3. Dialogue is a two-way street. If someone comments on what I (or Ryan) say, I reserve the right to respond.

4. Triablogue is not some effeminate, Alan Alda type forum. We affirm Scriptural standards of manhood. As such, triablogue reflects the blunt, rough-and-tumble of manly debate.

There is also a place for humor, including satire and sarcasm--since you find these forms of humor in Scripture as well.

5. But the emphasis needs to be on reason and evidence.

Expletives, abbreviated or not, will not be tolerated. Ad hominem invective, as a substitute for reasoned argument, is unacceptable.

Triablogue has the technical wherewithal to delete inappropriate comments. I'm very loathe to exercise this prerogative, but I'm concerned that there may be lurkers out there who have something they need to ask or want to say, but are scared off by the increasingly vicious tone in the comments section.

Triablogue is a ministry, not a shooting-gallery. It is necessary that we preserve the pastoral character of the blog--even if we must sometimes dole out a certain amount of tough love in the process.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Tim Enloe, a leader of the “Reformed” Catholic movement, has reentered the inerrancy debate with the following:

Before I comment on the particulars, a general observation is in order. “Reformed” Catholics know where they came from, but they don’t know where they’re headed. This is a fluid, shifting, transitional movement, and since they have no idea where their final destination lies, it is irresponsible, from a pastoral standpoint, for them to take any hitchhikers along for the ride.

There are people who use a blog as a public diary to think aloud. But a Christian should not be airing his doubts in public, and thereby planting seeds of doubt in other minds.

If I began to doubt the doctrines of grace, I wouldn’t advertise that state of mind at triablogue. Rather, I would withdraw from blogging, and run my doubts by a few trusted friends in private. If I have no idea where I’m going, I have no right to take anyone with me.

Of course, now that the horse is out of the barn, it is necessary to engage in damage-control.

<< The fact that I am posting links to these essays does not automatically entail that I agree with everything in them. In particular, just because I post a link to an essay that questions a certain form of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy (e.g., the 1982 Chicago Statement) does not mean that I am rejecting the doctrine of biblical inerrancy itself. Far from it. The reason that the questions raised about the Chicago Statement are important is the fact that the questions expose the unstated modernistic assumptions of that form of the inerrancy doctrine, and in the process end up shedding significant light on the very important issues of truth and epistemology and community that postmodernism raises against modernism. >>

1.This is a very convenient disclaimer. It affords Enloe the benefit of plausible deniability.

But if Enloe is going to publicly repudiate the Chicago statement, in whole or in part, as he has now done, he owes the Christian community an explanation. If he no longer subscribes to the “Chicago” school of inerrancy, then what does his alternative, postmodern version look like? What does he affirm that the Chicago doctrine denies? And what does he deny that the Chicago doctrine affirms? Specifics, please!

2.In fact, Enloe seems to agree with Joel Hunter. Enloe tells us that he doesn’t reject inerrancy itself, but only “form” or version of inerrancy articulated in the Chicago statement.

<< The third essay's discussion of logocentrism (especially the distinction between autonomous human concepts of the logos VS the biblical Logos). Also in the third essay note the incessant dualisms that logocentrism's metaphysics of presence ontology / epistemology creates, and think through the "take home test" of determining why knee-jerk identifications of postmodernism with "relativism" are false and do not themselves escape the metaphysics of presence view against which postmodernism is actually reacting. >>

1.The question of inerrancy is not a question about the Biblical Logos, if by that he means a title of Christ. Rather, the question of inerrancy is a question about the inscripturation of God’s word. Does inerrancy attach to the word of God as Scripture, not the word of God as Christ? And what is the nature of Scriptural inerrancy?

2.The Chicago doctrine, far from being a recipe for human autonomy, is its antidote. Is man answerable to God? Is our duty to God spelled out in Scripture?

<< Observe the discussions about the fluidity of language. Note that meaning "always surpasses intentions", and that the metaphysics of presence view of language is fundamentally based in pagan Greek thinking about the supremacy of the "soul" (in this case, speech) over mere "matter" (in this case, writing). For the metaphysics of presence view, speech is more fundamental than writing because speech is "closer" to the author's disembodied mind than is writing. Note that this binary opposition leads to viewing the Bible as the ultimate binary opposition-filled written preservation of God's direct speech--which means that by obtaining an absolutely undoubtable and forever fixed interpretation of the Bible we are ourselves attaining to an unmediated grasp of God's own speech. >>

This brief paragraph jumbles together a remarkable number of unsubstantiated claims, which are then strung along to form an argument for his position:

1.Is the Chicago doctrine “fundamentally based in pagan Greek thinking about the supremacy of the soul”?

a) The Chicago statement is a consensus document. Does Enloe happen to know the philosophical commitments of the various framers and signatories?
b) Is there a uniform Greek position on the supremacy of the soul? Is the view of Aristotle the same as Plato?
c) Would Enloe like to trace out a step-by-step history of how the Greek view cycles through medieval theology, the Reformation, Protestant Scholasticism, the Old Princeton school, and arrives at the doorstep of Chicago, Illinois? Or is this a warmed over version of the old, discredited, third-hand McKim/Rogers proposal?

2.What historical evidence is there that the Chicago doctrine assumes the primacy of the spoken word? Isn’t the Chicago doctrine concerned with the inscripturated record of revelation? The final, canonical form? The inspired end-product?

<< Debate over the meaning of ‘inerrancy’ is a never-ending task and leads to intellectual atrocities like Article 13 of the 1978 Chicago statement. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) begins with much of the traditional Protestant confessional language. Nothing seriously objectionable in my view until Article 9 at which point the wheels begin to come off. I don’t want to rehearse a list of bald assertions here, but I think it is worth asking whether the prediction in the affirmation of Article 19, a very admirable standard, has held up to the test of time and practice.

Is there a root to this problem? I think so. We get a hint from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (1982) which explicitly adopts a naïve version of metaphysical idealism in its account of language, meaning, and truth. See especially articles 6-9, 12, 14-22, and the denials of 1, 11, and 13. I think the real issue behind this controversy is our presuppositions about communication. How do we communicate with one another? What are the limitations? What is the difference between oral and written communication? What about communication between God and man? What is communication about? >>

1.The real issue “behind” this controversy? So Hunter is proposing to go behind the text of the Chicago statement. But how does he know what lies behind the text? How does he know that the framers of the text were committed to a “native version of metaphysical idealism?” Does the Chicago doctrine assume a particular theory regarding the relation of orality to textuality? Is that really relevant to the question of inerrancy?

2.”Naïve” is a slippery charge in this context. The Chicago statement does not pretend to be a philosophical monograph on the meaning of meaning, a la Thiselton or Wolsterstorff. For that matter, Hunter’s little essay is pretty “naïve” were we to judge it by standards of philosophical rigor and nuance. It is, at best, a very roughhewn, programmatic statement.

3.The Chicago statement is simply a set of guidelines to establish the broad parameters of what is out of bounds in Evangelical theology. Is there something wrong with a policy statement which summarizes the conclusions of a major debate?

Anyone conversant with this debate knows that there was a great deal of preliminary discussion which went into the Chicago statement. Naturally the statement itself does not rehearse the whole history of the debate.

<< First observation: the meanings produced through the use of language always surpass our intentions. Thus, a statement like this: “We affirm that the meaning expressed in each biblical text is single, definite and fixed,” asserts a prima facie false claim, unless some form of metaphysical idealism is true. >>

1.”Single” is admittedly a problematic choice of words. But how does the attribution of a single sense imply metaphysical idealism? Even if this were consistent with metaphysical idealism, and even if metaphysical idealism entails a singular sense, it doesn’t follow that a singular sense thereby entails metaphysical idealism, for there may well be other theories of meaning consistent with this assignment. The fact that I bring an umbrella to work may imply a rainy forecast. A rainy forecast does not imply my bringing an umbrella to work.

2.But assuming that we reject a single sense, what about a definite or fixed sense? Is Hunter assuming that just because the applicability of Scripture is open-ended, that the sense of Scripture is indefinite? But such an assumption would commit a naïve sense=reference fallacy. It is precisely because the Bible can have a fixed or definite meaning that we know how to apply it under a wide variety of circumstances.

3. The real question is not whether a Bible writer can mean more than one thing, but whether multiple meanings are mutually consistent and normative for the life of the church.

<< The assumption behind this foundationalism is the supposed transparency of a thought or idea to its expression in speech or writing. We search for the right procedure that will assure our interpretations will match the thought to the expression in a one-to-one correspondence (e.g., Article 6 of the 1982 statement). We ought to challenge (rather than adopt) modernity’s assumption that language is at our disposal in such a naïve fashion. We are not the masters of language; language is the master of us. Asserting inerrancy places us in the privileged position of standing in the relation of master to the Bible, for so we have rendered language according to the dictates of Western metaphysical doctrine. >>

1.Is that the assumption? And even assuming the transparency of thought in relation to the spoken or written word, how does this entail a singular sense? Why can’t a speaker or writer intend his audience to understand hin one more than one level? Dante reads on more than one level. And Dante meant his poem to be polyvalent, did he not?

2.The real question is whether God is the master of language. Can God make his intentions clear? Are we at God’s disposal?

<< Second observation: the biblical world-and-life-view implies that the aesthetic phenomenon is primordially significant, particularly literature. But the philosophically tainted theology of modernity dethrones artistic truth and privileges the significance of the natural or intellectual phenomenon. >>

This is an assertion without a supporting argument. Does the Biblical worldview place a premium on aesthetics?

<< The problem with inerrancy is that it washes out everything aesthetic from Scripture. It is locked within our horizon of expectation because we have predetermined what we can find in it. Nothing will surprise us or startle us because an overarching system filters it as propositions, sorts it, and distributes its components in their proper files: ‘historical’, ‘scientific’, ‘poetry’, ‘parable’, ‘letter’, ‘prophecy’, etc. >>

1.This has things exactly backwards. It is those asserting limited inerrancy who chop up Scripture according to subject-matter, and then assign inspiration to some parts, but not others. The focus in the Chicago statement is to restore what was denied by liberals.

2.For Hunter to reject all genre analysis is more naive than any fundamentalist. The Chicago statement simply takes into account the idioms and literary conventions of Scripture.

3. Inerrancy does not prejudge the meaning of Scripture. It does not anticipate what God will tell us, but only that God is the primary speaker.

<< Logocentrism grounds its concepts and the framework for understanding those concepts on the notion of presence, the positive. This bias permits us to exclude all meaning in any discourse which does not conform to the central logic of identity and non-contradiction. No fuzziness allowed; it’s an either/or structure of oppositions. >>

1. Hunter himself relies on binary logic, viz., modernism/postmodernism; logocentrism/phonocentrism; natural/aesthetic; intellectual/aesthetic.

2. And the Bible is quite fond of binary oppositions, viz. blessing and cursing, heaven and hell, God and Satan, Christ and Antichrist, the children of light and the children of darkness, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness.

<< At this point, it might be worthwhile to note the typical path traced in inerrancy discussions that challenge the text we have (remembering my claim that they are founded on metaphysical idealism): (1) retreat to the original autographs (which will never be present) and (2) abandon written texts altogether and assert the priority of the concept of inspiration. (Don’t most definitions of the authority of Scripture place verbal inspiration first?) >>

1.To attack any recourse to the autographa is anti-intellectual on Hunter’s part. We know for a fact that scribal activity has a way of generating errors, and, what is more, errors of a particular kind. For example, names and numbers are especially susceptible to mistranscription over time.

In addition, some books of the Bible may have been issued in more than one Urtext. There is evidence for this as well (e.g., Jeremiah; Chronicles). If Hunter wishes to assume such an obscurantist attitude towards textual criticism, then he is welcome to dwell in darkness.

2.Any theory of inspiration must answer the question, to what does inspiration attach? Warfield, for one, has shown, through meticulous inductive study, that verbal inspiration is the Scriptural doctrine of Scripture itself.

<< Within the framework of Western metaphysics, what would inerrancy achieve were it successful? Full and complete unqualified presence. There’s nothing left to do (for theology). We have achieved stasis. Now we can just haggle. No new research, no creative work, only maintenance. >>

This is a total caricature, both in principle and practice. To say that God has spoken in Scripture is not to say what God has said. That is a separate step. But I'll choose my logocentrism over Enloe's illogical centrism any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Reformed syncretism

Recently, I was asked to comment on “Reformed Catholicism.” And a little before that, I had commented on Paul Owen’s defense of Catholicism. Owen has now risen to the defense of Mormonism.

So the movement has evolved from Reformed Presbyterianism to Reformed Catholicism to Reformed Mormonism. At this rate, we look forward to such further permutations as Evangelical Baal-Worship, Reformed Witchcraft, Evangelicals & Aztecs Together, as well as a return to the old-time Gospel of Christian Atheism.

Among other things, Owen levels the following salvos:

<< What usually happens is that Mormons who do not fit our straw man conceptions are accused of being misleading, and not telling the “truth” about what Mormons “really” believe. This was the sort of accusation which was leveled against Stephen Robinson several years ago when he co-wrote a book with Craig Blomberg, and already people are beginning to talk this way about Millet. This goes to show the simple fact that many of the most vocal critics of the LDS Church, who somehow have developed a reputation for having expertise in this field, are in reality among the most dismally ignorant of the realities of the theological landscape within Mormonism. (That of course explains why they are not taken seriously.) >>

By way of reply:

1.A few paragraphs before, Owen had issued the following disclaimer: “Millet of course does not claim to be an official spokesperson for the LDS Church in writing this book.”

But if that is so, then what is wrong with countercult ministries concentrating their firepower on those who are official spokesmen for the Mormon cult?

2.There is certainly a place for debating the likes of Millet and Robinson. But to say that countercult ministries are guilty of an ignorant strawman argument because they choose to concentrate their firepower on the version of Mormon theology promulgated by the hierarchy is perverse. It is only natural to take the official representatives of Mormonism, especially given the hierarchical structure of their culture, as its representative spokesmen. This is the very opposite of a straw man argument—and is no evidence of ignorance.

3. In an introduction coauthored by Owen, he and his fellow editors said the following:


The contributing authors to The New Mormon Challenge were not chosen because they are experts on Mormonism. To the contrary, most of them were chosen primarily because of their expertise in some other area…the kind of response we felt was needed was one in which individual scholars studied some aspect of Mormonism or some apologetic claim made by LDS scholars related to an area in which they already possessed a measure of expertise.

The New Mormon Challenge, F. Beckwith, C. Moser, & P. Owen Ed. (Zondervan 2002), 24.


So by this standard, the only qualification you need to evaluate Mormonism is a measure of expertise in some cognate field applied to some apologetic claim made by a representative of Mormon theology. Is Owen really in a position to peremptorily dismiss countercult ministries as unable to meet this criterion?

<< By the way, I guess I should mention that I know what I am talking about in this field. Unlike many critics of the Mormon Church, I have been able to publish articles in two Mormon journals (FARMS Review of Books, and Element), have had the opportunity over the years to participate in closed-door dialogues with representatives of the LDS Church (including Millet), and was able to participate two years ago in an LDS-sponsored conference on Mormon theology at Yale University. Why do I mention this? Because, unlike many critics, I have been able to gain a voice within the Mormon community. How? By earning their respect. And how does one do that? By striving to accurately and fairly represent Mormon theology, even when critiquing it. >>

“Closed-door dialogues”? Isn’t this a delicious phrase? Does that include a secret handshake? No blood-pacts, I trust.

1.If Millet and Robinson are in the good graces of Mormon orthodoxy, then why do these chummy discussions have to take placed behind closed doors, anyway? Either the hierarchy isn’t all that trusting after all, or else the hierarchy has one version of Mormon theology on paper—the official version--and another, more “evangelical” version for public consumption, which it allows the likes of Millet and Robinson to promote through unofficial channels for propaganda purpose--as bait to lure the unsuspecting.

For that matter, Owen, Eerdmans, and Mouw look like perfect dupes for the PR campaign of the Mormon cult. It strokes their ego with honorific breadcrumbs, while they roll over and play the chump in exchange for these calculated flatteries. And they got Owen pretty cheap.

2.Notice that Owen is slandering countercult ministries because they judge Mormonism by its official, public pronouncements, rather than this esoteric version to which he happens to be privy. Once again, isn’t that a very twisted allegation?

3.Isn’t there a practical limit to how far a cult which has pretensions to continuing revelation can reinvent itself? Just to judge it on its own terms, which is certainly a fair standard of judgment, if Joseph Smith or Brigham Young were prophets of God, then they surely speak with more authority than the likes of Millet, Robison or—for that matter—Paul Owen.

Owen says that “Millet’s “type” of Mormonism…certainly shares more in common with traditional Christianity than is sometimes the case.”

But, if so, then that falsifies the Mormon faith inasmuch as it subverts the whole rational for the Mormon cult in the first place, which was to “restore” the “lost” Gospel, which “corrupt” Christendom, with its “abominable” creeds, and “church of the devil” or “whore of all the earth” had suppressed.

<< Some people are upset with Richard Mouw’s comment that Millet believes in the Jesus of the Bible. I want to make three points here:
1) I have no doubt that people within the Mormon Church (even professors of religion) are capable of having a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Mormons confess Jesus to be God the Son, whom they worship and serve. The Bible is read, taught and regarded as God’s word within the Mormon Church. Wherever the Bible is made available to people, there is the opportunity for the Spirit to call people to faith in Christ. At the same time, there are false teachings which are allowed to co-exist alongside much truth within Mormonism, and these teachings are dangerous to the soul. The Bible definitely teaches that heresy can bring a person to eternal ruin (1 Tim. 1:19; 4:16; 2 Tim. 2:14, 23-26; Jude 3-4). >>

1.As to the general question of whether Mormons entertain the same object of faith as Christians, Muslims and Mormons are in the same boat. Both are Christian heresies, and what I’ve written about Muslims is equally germane to Mormons. See my essay: “Do Muslims & Christians worship the same God?”

2.Owen is doing exactly what a Mormon apologist would do, which is to use Christian terms as a code-language for an unchristian belief-system.

3.Mormons do not have an otherwise orthodox Christology which is allowed to coexist alongside false doctrine. Their Christology is no less heretical. Indeed, traditional Mormon theology is thoroughly heretical from start to finish.

<< 2) Because of the allowance of certain heresies within the Mormon religion, such as the denial of strict monotheism, redefinition of the Trinity, rejection of the eternal reality of God’s divine status, Pelagian and semi-Pelagian soteriologies, and blurring of the Creator/creature distinction (errors which thankfully are not embraced by all Mormons, or not to the same degree) and because the Mormons do not validly baptize their converts (non-Trinitarian baptisms being invalid in the view of most Christians), I view Mormons the same way I view all unbaptized people who claim faith in Christ. They may well be saved according to God’s secret decree, but they do not profess the true religion, and hence are not members of the visible Church (outside of which there is no “ordinary” possibility of salvation, as affirmed in the Westminster Confession of Faith). In short, my problem with the Mormons is not that they don’t believe in the “real” Jesus (whatever that means), but that they are not baptized, professing members of the visible Church. And whereas people outside the visible Church may well be among the elect (and even regenerate in the secret individual sense), they are not outwardly recognizable as true Christians. >>

1.There is a world of difference between an unbaptized believer with an Evangelical profession of faith, like Gen. Booth, and a heretic whose baptism is invalid.

2.Notice how Owen tones down the gravity of their heretical belief-system, as though it were a difference of degree: the denial of “strict” monotheism; “redefinition” of the Trinity; “blurring” the Creator/creature distinction, &c.

3.Owen has upended the burden of proof. A Christian believer is just that—a believer. Bare belief may be insufficient, but it is necessary. The onus is always on us to render a credible profession of faith. We are not entitled the benefit of the doubt absent a credible profession of faith.

4.Suppose, in place of “Mormon,” we were to substitute “Baal-worshiper.” This is not a facetious comparison. After all, many Baal-worshippers were familiar with the God of Israel due to their close contact with the Jews. Would it be appropriate to say, “I have no doubt that some Baal-worshipers enjoy a saving knowledge of God even though they don’t profess the true religion or belong to the covenant community”?

5.To quote the Westminster Confession at this point is nothing short of a lie. The Confession is not talking about the salvation of heretics. In that same paragraph the Confession expressly defines the visible church as “consisting of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion.”

6. For a “Reformed” believer, Owen has no inkling of providence. The sovereign God coordinates the gift of faith with the object of faith. He doesn’t give the Spirit without the Word.

<< 3) The polemical language of 2 Corinthians 11:4 simply does not apply to the Mormons. Unlike Paul’s opponents at Corinth (who rejected Paul’s apostolic claims and credentials) they do not intentionally advocate “another Jesus” who differs from the Jesus of the apostolic record. Paul is speaking there about those who, like the serpent in the Garden (11:3), intentionally distort and reject God’s word (as it was conveyed through Paul). The Mormons do not advocate faith in a Jesus who differs from the “Jesus” who appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road and called him into the apostleship. They simply misunderstand the teaching of the Apostle Paul, which they are attempting to faithfully preserve, and which they are attempting to faithfully live in accordance with. Therefore, Paul’s sharply worded polemics in his Corinthian letter do not apply to our sincere Mormon friends. >>

1.Now we know why Owen refuses to apply the Pauline anathemas to Rome.

2.An intentional distortion of God’s word is exactly what heresy is. It exchanges the truth of God for a lie (Rom 1:25). That is the essence of heresy, idolatry, and impiety.

3.There is such a thing as willful, culpable ignorance. The presumption is not on salvation--absent some aggravating circumstance, but on damnation--absent some exculpatory circumstance. The presumption is on the lost state of man.

4.Fidelity to falsehood is a vice, not a virtue.

If this is what “Reformed” Catholicism has come to, then it has written its own epitaph--in which event it has no need of me or anyone else to pen the obituary.

Discipline & dissent

The Westminster Confession is the doctrinal standard for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in America. Church officers are required to subscribe to the WCF.

The WCF is a 17C document. It is a rather detailed creed, some 33 chapters in length, divided into various subsections.

When a candidate applies for ordination in one of these two bodies, he is asked to state in what respects, if any, he disagrees with the Confession. It is understood that in the case of such a lengthy creed, written 350 years ago, an ordinand might not agree with every line, and it would be unreasonable to expect him to.

What is expected of him is to honestly state whatever differences he may have with the Confession. It is then left to the discretion of the local Presbytery, subject to appeal (to the General Assembly), to determine if his disagreement falls within permissible bounds of dissent.

It seems to me that, in a fallen world, this is about the best compromise you can come up with. On the one hand, the ordinance doesn’t feel the need to play semantic games and redefine the creed to make it agree with him. He doesn’t have to pretend that a 17C creed doesn’t mean what it meant in the 17C.

On the other hand, it enables the presiding body to retain control over its doctrinal identity and enforce orthodoxy, while leaving itself the leeway to make judicious exceptions.

In addition, a Reformed body can also promulgate new policies which address contemporary issues that were not on the radar screen in the 17C, such as evolution, abortion, euthanasia, feminism, charismata, and so on. It doesn’t make the Confession speak where the Confession is silent. It doesn’t indulge in some revisionist anachronism.

Now you have only to compare this to the RCC and the development of dogma, where an effort is made, however forced and strained, to find some hook in tradition for a theological innovation. See how Ratzinger redefines Purgatory to make it a clearing-house for the salvation of Muslims, Jews and pagans. See how John-Paul II and Urs von Balthasar redefine the “descendit ad inferna” to justify universalism. And the devout Roman Catholic is expected to play dumb and pretend that this sort of special-pleading has a real basis in tradition.

This isn’t merely an isolated instance of specious reasoning. It becomes a systematic policy of specious reasoning. Special-pleading is now a normal and normative feature of Catholic theological method. This is standard operating procedure. Like a subculture, such as the Mafia, the RCC has its own honor code—an honor code which would be morally unacceptable outside the RCC, but is fostered and tolerated within the RCC.

From the people who brought you cigarette taxes...

My Way News: "Other cities and states have special taxes on prepared food, and some have tried 'snack taxes.' In New York, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has proposed a 1 percent tax on junk food, video games and TV commercials to fund anti-obesity programs."

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Real History of the Crusades - Christianity Today Magazine

The Real History of the Crusades - Christianity Today Magazine: "That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense."

The one-armed man

Dr. Eric Svendsen has posted the following statement on his blog:


<< I have purged all the recent entries on this blog that referenced a certain highly emotional fundamentalist Roman Catholic e-pologist whose adolescent musings I have decided are just not worthy of my attention. I no longer think he and his views deserve the attention and free advertisement he is getting. I'd encourage others who may be dialoguing with him to do the same. He doesn't represent official Roman Catholic beliefs, and he's certainly not a recognized spokesperson for those beliefs. There is absolutely nothing to commend his views; he's demonstrated repeatedly that he is unable to engage in anything but sophistry on every level; he doesn't know how to engage in a fair handling of the biblical text; and to argue with him is to argue with a wall. I'm embarrassed to have mentioned him in the first place. On to more important things.


If you go over to the blog of Dave Armstrong, you find that he has reproduced this quote and taken it to be a personal attack upon himself.

He then uses this quote to justify a broad-brush smear against “these anti-Catholics' credibility and trustworthiness in matters of highly-important theological issues.”

The revealing thing about Armstrong’s reaction is that Dr. Svendsen never identifies the e-pologist in question. And there is, presumably, more than on Roman Catholic e-pologist around these days.

So why would Armstrong assume, without further ado, that Dr. Svendsen must be speaking about him? Why not the one-armed man?

Instead of naming him, Dr. Svendsen simply sketches the resume and psychological profile of a Catholic e-pologist who has the following character traits and modus operandi: “adolescent,” “highly emotional,” “sophistical,” “not a recognized spokesman” or “representative” voice of “official” RC teachings.

So why is Armstrong coming forward to volunteer himself as the only viable candidate for this anonymous indictment?

I realize that confession is good for the soul, yet such a self-incriminating reaction is startling, nonetheless. But having pled guilty, Mr. Armstrong has saved Dr. Svendsen and Dr. White a lot of time, which they can now divert to future suspects.