Monday, January 29, 2007

Catholicity's father-fixation

PAUL OWEN SAID:

The fact of the matter is that you are a middle-aged seminary student who does not yet know enough to recognize how little he knows. Why don't you at least finish your seminary degree before acting like you are some sort of authority in NT studies? Speaking as a published scholar in the field (and yes, I know I'll catch endless abuse for citing my credentials when the occasion calls for it), who has a terminal degree in New Testament studies, I can tell you, you most plainly are not any kind of authority in these issues.

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/01/church-whole-church-and-nothing-but.html

This is one of these unintentionally revealing ad hominem attacks that discloses more about the critic than it does about the target.

And it’s worth addressing because it’s symptomatic of a larger pathology and pathological ecclesiology.

I, of course, have never asked my readers to accept what I say on my own authority. Rather, I cite other scholars. And I cite them for their arguments.

Credentials can be useful, although Owen is a paradigm example of someone well-credentialed, but intellectually unstable.

Conversely, a man like Kenneth Kitchen has no “terminal degree,” but is a far more distinguished scholar than Owen will ever be.

Owen’s the classic company man—who’s fanatically loyal to whatever name-brand he happens to be selling at the time, and transfers his fanatical allegiance from one company to another whenever he changes employers. When he’s selling a Ford, a Ford is the greatest car in the world. When he’s selling a Chrysler, Chrysler is the greatest. When he’s selling a Chevrolet, GM is the greatest. And so it goes—Ford, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Audi, Honda…

Or, to drop the metaphor:

For the record, I grew up in the LDS Church, and had a “born again” experience at the age of 15…From that point on, during the years 1986-1997 I mostly attended Pentecostal churches, ranging from Assemblies of God, to Foursquare Gospel, to Calvary Chapel. During the years 1992-1997, I grew increasingly sympathetic to Calvinism...In the year 1997, while living in Scotland, I began attending a Free Church of Scotland congregation, and gradually was won over to Reformed covenantal theology and infant baptism, though I was never entirely convinced of Presbyterian church government…I was a member of several Presbyterian congregations during the years 1997-2005. During the years 2003-2005, I undertook a fresh look at the Scriptures and much of the literature and confessions of the Reformation and post-Reformation periods. This period of reflection led to my decision to be confirmed in the Anglican church in 2005.

http://www.reformedcatholicism.com/?p=895

Why is Owen so fixated on authority? Because he suffers from a father-complex.

And that’s why Evangelicals cross the Tiber or the Bosporus.

An authoritative Bible isn’t enough for them, so that they look to an authoritative church, which they personify, as their father-figure.

Indeed, this is explicit in Catholicism. A priest is a “Father,” while the Pope is the “Holy Father.”

Catholicity is a quest for Big Daddy.

The father-complex can take different forms.

There’s the good boy and the bad boy. The dutiful, adoring son and the resentful, rebellions son.

Owen represents the good boy. Lives for his father’s approval. To make the old man proud.

And Owen runs through one father-figure after another, searching for the perfect father. Naturally, no one quite measures up.

Owen grew up in a paternalistic cult, and he currently belongs to a paternalistic sect.

There are grown men who remain boys on the inside. They live their entire lives in their father’s shadowy presence. Even after he’s long gone. They never felt they were able to please him. And his absence in death will cast as long a shadow as his living presence.

Incidentally, this points us to a central truth of Christian theology, but it’s misdirected when it’s redirected to the Church.

Then there’s the bad boy. The rebellious son.

Enloe represents the bad boy. The underlying pathology is the same, but the reaction is different. Enloe has “authority issues,” as they say.

He projects his authority-issues onto father-figures like Svendsen and White. In his paranoia, they represent the stock character of the evil stepfather in fairy tales of the Brother Grimm variety. You know the type. Beats the kid with a broomstick and feeds him cold gruel.

At one level, it’s odd that Enloe is involved with Reformed Catholicism and the Federal Vision. Wouldn’t this rub against his anti-authoritarian streak?

Ah, but that’s a way of getting back at the evil step dad. A way to spite the old man. Stick it to him!

For immature males, Dad is either godlike or demonic. No reasonable mean. Pure good or pure evil. Either worship him or desecrate his name.

And this is where the extremes meet. If you begin with an illusion, then that queues you for disillusionment. Adoration turns to loathing if the object of your adoration lets you down. Of course, it only lets you down because you were indulging in a false expectation.

And this brings us to another variant of the bad boy. And that’s the militant atheist. This often takes the form of the apostate.

Paradoxically, the anti-clerical apostate is the flip side of the high churchman. They are obverse sides of the same coin.

These are simply differing adaptive strategies in response to the same underlying, psychological malformation.

And just as almost every heresy is a half-truth, the appeal of catholicity lies in its insidious appeal to a heretical half-truth.

For God has, indeed, implanted a paternal ideal in the human heart. And when we’re young, our human fathers, for better or worse, play the proxy.

Men who mature spiritually and emotionally learn to transfer their ideal from their human fathers to God the Father.

This transition also liberates a son so that he can evolve a realistic
relationship with his human father. He no longer idolizes the old man or holds him to a superhuman standard of perfection—an expectation which, sooner or later, Dad is bound to disappoint.

But men who suffer from arrested development either search for surrogate father-figures or take it out on surrogate father-figures.

12 comments:


  1. The fact of the matter is that you are a middle-aged seminary student who does not yet know enough to recognize how little he knows. Why don't you at least finish your seminary degree before acting like you are some sort of authority in NT studies? Speaking as a published scholar in the field (and yes, I know I'll catch endless abuse for citing my credentials when the occasion calls for it), who has a terminal degree in New Testament studies, I can tell you, you most plainly are not any kind of authority in these issues.


    A. Ever notice how while this is uttered, if Svendsen or White or anybody else flashes their credentials, the response is that they are arrogant, elitist, narrow, inept, or any other insult?

    B. Dr. Owen, the Apostles were unlettered men. If they were to follow your model, they wouldn't be competent to teach.

    C. And that was precisely the argument of the religious authorities of Jesus day contra those persons.

    D. One is even reminded of this little ditty:

    13They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind.

    14Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.

    15Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, "He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see."

    16Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath " But others were saying, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And there was a division among them.

    17So they said to the blind man again, "What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?" And he said, "He is a prophet."

    18The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight,

    19and questioned them, saying, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?"

    20His parents answered them and said, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;

    21but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself."

    22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.

    23For this reason his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."

    24So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner."

    25He then answered, "Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see."

    26So they said to him, "What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?"

    27He answered them, "I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?"

    28They reviled him and said, "You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.

    29"We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from."

    30The man answered and said to them, "Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes.

    31"We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.

    32"Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.

    33"If this man were not from God, He could do nothing."

    34They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?" So they put him out.

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  2. Whoa Steve, a little upset because Owen put you in your place? I'd say Michael's big brother just came over to your web site and kicked sand in your face. Your response? Psycho-analysis. Nice one, Freud...

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  3. kevin johnson1/30/2007 12:33 AM

    Owen is such an arrogant windbag, not to mention a pendulum swinger. There are a lot of ignoramus' publishing books out there Paulie. It's what you actually write in your published works that counts. Stay at your little blog where the 6 or 7 other oxymorons who agree with you can slap you on the back for your genius. We'll check in from time to time to see what other sect you've (upon profound reflection) moved to.....

    Boy, it felt good to get that off my chest.

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  4. Boy Steve, Owen put a good 'ole fashioned whoopin' on you. I especially liked the "middle aged seminarian" crack. That boy be funny...

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  5. Before I knew fully who Paul Owen was, I emailed him thinking he was an 'expert' on Mormonism, and all I got was the run around and I got suspicious as to whether he believed Mormonism was true or not...
    He's a hard guy to understand.
    I don't even bother anymore

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  6. Steve,

    Please save the psycho-babble for the dribbling masses who feed on such gnosis. For the record, my father passed away when I was four years old, leaving my physically handicapped mother to raise me on her own by the good graces of government welfare. I would appreciate it if you would leave him out of these spats, and not speculate on my latent desires to please him.

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  7. PAUL OWEN SAID:
    Steve,

    Please save the psycho-babble for the dribbling masses who feed on such gnosis. For the record, my father passed away when I was four years old, leaving my physically handicapped mother to raise me on her own by the good graces of government welfare. I would appreciate it if you would leave him out of these spats, and not speculate on my latent desires to please him.

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/01/catholicitys-father-fixation.html#comments

    This is another one of his unintentionally revealing admissions. If fact, my psycho-babble hit the nail on the head.

    His personal experience is a very good explanation for his checkered religious pilgrimage. He's still looking for Dad. And he's looking for Dad in the Church. He's on a quest to find his lost father.

    The fact is that every son must come to terms with his own father, whether he had an ideal father, abusive father, absentee father, or lost his father at an early age.

    There's nothing wrong with a young man looking to other male role models if he doesn't find what he needs at home.

    Ultimately, though, we need to transfer our yearning for a father-figure to God rather than the Church or some merely human surrogate—which comes to the same thing.

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  8. Steve,

    Thanks for the Christian compassion. You're really working up your fan base here. Next time I belittle you on your blog I'll not only attack your intellect and mock your credentials as a seminary lifer, I'll give you an internet wedgie.

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  9. steve,

    i think you are out of line. why don't you think about what you said. do you really think that's Christian? and please, save us the time of trying to justify what you said. i think anyone with a conscience can see that your statements are out of line. leave the personal stuff and just get back to the arguments. the problem with your approach is that you can't focus on the arguments alone.

    in defense of dr. owen, i do not agree with some of the things he says, but i consider him as a good scholar. at least his work (his new article on works of the law for example) deserves consideration while your buddies like Svendsen or White will never be taken seriously in the academic world. Svendsen's work on "heos hou" will not stand a chance in a graduate seminar. White's The God Who Justifies, while a good introduction to his type of reformed protestantism, does not at all interact or engage in the new developments in pauline theology.

    for the sake of Christian charity, i beg you to reconsider your approach. it may take time but i hope you at least try to struggle with it. you'll gain much more audience and people will take you more seriously.

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  10. APOLONIO SAID:

    steve,

    “i think you are out of line.”

    And why do you think that?

    “why don't you think about what you said.”

    This assumes I don’t think about what I said.

    “do you really think that's Christian?”

    Yes, otherwise I wouldn’t have said it. Why do you think it’s not Christian?

    “and please, save us the time of trying to justify what you said. i think anyone with a conscience can see that your statements are out of line.”

    Okay, so people like you have a monopoly on conscience.

    Here’s a question for you: do you think is unchristian or out of line for you to level an accusation and then throw in the preemptive disclaimer that you don’t care what the accused has to say by way of response?

    Is this your roundabout way of admitting that your accusations are indefensible?

    “leave the personal stuff and just get back to the arguments. the problem with your approach is that you can't focus on the arguments alone.”

    1.To begin with, Owen is the one who decided to make this personal. So are you giving him the same advice?

    2. Owen launched a purely ad hominem attack. I, on the other hand, made the general point that people find what they’re looking for, that what their looking for answers to their felt-needs, and their felt-needs are often formed by their parenting.

    Do you deny this?

    3.Here’s another idea: what don’t you lead by example. Thus far you’ve made a string of assertions. So why don’t you try to focus on arguments instead of ad hominems? Why are you blind to what you find fault in others?

    “in defense of dr. owen, i do not agree with some of the things he says, but i consider him as a good scholar. at least his work (his new article on works of the law for example) deserves consideration while your buddies like Svendsen or White will never be taken seriously in the academic world. Svendsen's work on "heos hou" will not stand a chance in a graduate seminar.”

    1.This is another assertion minus an argument.

    2.People like you are terribly concerned about what other people think of you.

    “White's The God Who Justifies, while a good introduction to his type of reformed protestantism, does not at all interact or engage in the new developments in pauline theology.”

    I haven’t read it. Remember that White is a popular apologist and public debater. He has a different role to play that, say, Thomas Schreiner or D. A. Carson.

    The church is made up of different members with different gifts and callings.

    “for the sake of Christian charity, i beg you to reconsider your approach.”

    You haven’t given me any reason to do so. You’ve simply leveled a series of knee-jerk assertions. Do you have anything besides a reactionary comment to offer?

    “it may take time but i hope you at least try to struggle with it.”

    Why do you hope that? You haven’t given me a single reason.

    You’re more sympathetic to Owen because you’re more sympathetic to his theology.

    “you'll gain much more audience and people will take you more seriously.”

    The only relevant question is not whether *people* take us seriously, but whether *reasonable* people take us seriously.

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  11. steve,

    the reason why i said that you should save us the time to justify yourself is that i already predicted how you would have responded to what i said. do you not think that what you said is an ad-hominem attack? If not, you certainly brought up family members which I think to most people would be personal. you did not have to bring in up. if you can't see it, then i don't know what to tell you. i'll just let others decide on their intuitions whether what you said was off. for your questions,

    "1.To begin with, Owen is the one who decided to make this personal. So are you giving him the same advice?"

    I think you know better than making this type of response. "Well, Owen did it first!" And yes, I'm giving him the same advice.

    "2. Owen launched a purely ad hominem attack. I, on the other hand, made the general point that people find what they’re looking for, that what their looking for answers to their felt-needs, and their felt-needs are often formed by their parenting."

    Actually, let me quote what you said. You said, "Because he suffers from a father-complex." That's not a general point, but particular. It may be that in general people have a father-complex, but you have particularized it by speaking of Dr. Owen. And you said, "Owen represents the good boy. Lives for his father’s approval. To make the old man proud." Another particularization. And, "He's still looking for Dad. And he's looking for Dad in the Church. He's on a quest to find his lost father." So it wasn't *merely* a general point because you took Dr. Owen as an example, thereby moving from the general to the particular. And even if you were trying to make a general point "father-complex", you surely were making a point that the complex refers to the situation of dr. owen. Did you really have to do that? Dr. Owen's dad passed away when he was very young and I think it is safe to say that he is sensitive about it; the sensitivity that God placed in our hearts I may add. A Christian ought to be concerned with other people's sensitivities. It does not mean that he must neglect the truth, but he must tell the truth in such a way that will be understandable and with appropriateness to the specific person he is dealing with. We all sin and we all have defects and each Christian should be compassionate about other people's weaknesses. If you ever encountered the mercy of God, then I think you would know what I mean.

    "3.Here’s another idea: what don’t you lead by example. Thus far you’ve made a string of assertions. So why don’t you try to focus on arguments instead of ad hominems? Why are you blind to what you find fault in others?"

    Where was the ad-hominem? I criticized your approach. But if you mistakenly took that as ad-hominem, then I should have made myself clearer.

    As for Svendsen and his thesis. Was there any seminar or conference on his thesis?

    As for Shreiner, yeah I agree he's a good scholar. I don't agree with everything he says, but i found that his article on Rom. 2 is good. i think it can be adjusted and refined in some ways.

    "You’re more sympathetic to Owen because you’re more sympathetic to his theology."

    how do you know i'm more sympathetic to Owen because he's more sympathetic to his theology? this statement can be wrong in many cases because you have ruled out other possibilities. 1) you simply don't know whether i am sympathetic or not. 2) if i am more sympathetic to owen, it may be because of his personality, that i find him much kinder not because of his theology. 3) i am not more sympathetic to owen. 4) i am more sympathetic to owen because he has taught me many things. 5) i am more sympathetic to owen because he is a scholar. 6) i am more sympathetic to owen because i really thoght your statements are out of line. and so on. so that statement of yours (knee-jerk assertion) is simply not true.

    hopefully my comments helped a little. if not, take care of yourself and pray for us.

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  12. APOLONIO SAID:

    “If not, you certainly brought up family members which I think to most people would be personal.”

    You’re indulging in inkblot projection. I didn’t say anything about Owen’s own father, or his relationship with his own father.

    Rather, I spoke of father-*figures*, such as *paternalistic* cult (Mormonism) or a paternalistic sect (the Anglo-Catholic splinter-group he currently belongs to), or the paternalism of high-church denominations generally.

    You and he are the one’s who are reading into it a specific reference to his father.

    Until he responded to what I wrote, I knew absolutely nothing about his own father.

    Ironically, his response did, however, confirm my general diagnosis.

    I’m commenting on a certain mentality or psychology that selects for a corresponding theology.

    “I think you know better than making this type of response. ‘Well, Owen did it first!’"

    This is another example of your style of argument by imputation.

    I never said that it’s automatically wrong to get personal or be ad hominem.

    That’s your shtick, not mine.

    Therefore, the fact that I may respond in kind (assuming that this is what I did) is only wrong on your assumptions, not mine.

    There are times when it’s not inappropriate to be ad hominem. The Bible is often ad hominem.

    It is only a problem if the ad hominem attack is inaccurate and/or used as a substitute for argument.

    I, to the contrary, used it to illustrate an argument. Not as an argument unto itself.

    For a philosophy student, you aren’t bringing much logical analysis to bear.

    Try to acquire a modicum of critical detachment so that you can comment on what was actually said instead of your interpolations.

    “So it wasn't *merely* a general point because you took Dr. Owen as an example, thereby moving from the general to the particular.”

    No, you have it exactly backwards. I was moving from the particular to the general. Using a particular instance to illustrate a more general phenomenon.

    Don’t they teach you that in philosophy?

    “You surely were making a point that the complex refers to the situation of dr. owen.”

    Yes, to the fact that, as I said, he started out in a paternalistic cult, and, after various permutations, currently finds himself in a paternalistic sect.

    This, along with many other things he said in the past about tradition and catholicity and church authority betrays a father-fixation. A felt-need for a human authority-figure to validate his faith.

    “Did you really have to do that?”

    Do what? Use him as an example? Why not?

    He uses himself as an example. He has repeatedly drawn public attention to his checkered spiritual pilgrimage.

    I didn’t volunteer this information. I didn’t breach a confidence.

    He’s the one who talks about going from one cult or denomination to another and another.

    So, yes, I’m using him as Exhibit A of an unstable individual.

    He wants to win people over to whatever his brand du jour of Christianity happens to be. That’s why he blogs. To persuade others.

    So I point out that anyone who’s as indecisive as he is is hardly a sound spiritual guide. A double-minded man, blown by every wind of doctrine. The Bible talks about that, you know.

    “Dr. Owen's dad passed away when he was very young and I think it is safe to say that he is sensitive about it; the sensitivity that God placed in our hearts I may add. A Christian ought to be concerned with other people's sensitivities.”

    i) To begin with, this is all ex post facto. I never said anything about that in my post.

    You are anachronistically reading back into my post a bit of autobiographical info which Owen subsequently volunteered in reaction to my post. Unless you believe in retrocausation, this is irrelevant to what I originally wrote.

    ii) But now that he’s publicized this autobiographical insight, it confirms my original diagnosis of his mentality.

    iii) And yes, it’s relevant to bring up the fact that we are affected by our personal experience, and that, in turn, can affect what we look for in a church.

    When an individual is attempting to convince others to follow his lead and take up his example, then it’s not inappropriate to point out that the individual’s outlook may be distorted by his personal motives.

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