Perry Robinson has chimed in on some comments by Gene Bridges.
In addition to his own arguments, Gene is also imported some arguments that Jason Engwer and I have used over at T-blog, so I’ll take the occasion to respond to some of what Perry has to say.
“As for the rules of the grammatical-historical method, I am not sure where the Bible employs it. It would be interesting to know where it does because I would really be interested to see it in Jesus own exegesis of Exodus 3:6 as proving the resurrection. What principles from the grammar when applied yields that interpretation?”
Several issues here:
i) Perry is evidently assuming that if Jesus cites Exod 3:6, then we must be able to exegete the resurrection of the just from that isolated verse, all by itself. But this is a terribly naïve view of how the citation functions. For a citation may be used to trigger a set of associations. Indeed, the reference to the patriarchs in Exod 3:6 would be unintelligible apart from a knowledge of the patriarchs in the Book of Genesis. It was never intended to be understood in splendid isolation, for it would be incomprehensible in splendid isolation.
For the speaker to identify himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would, to a Jewish listener, immediately associate the speaker with the God of the Abrahamic covenant.
In addition, the Book of Genesis is full of loose ends. Promises are made to Abraham, and yet they are not all fulfilled within his lifetime. So we’re waiting for the coin to drop.
All of this is quite consistent with the GHM. For the GHM is very sensitive to intertextuality, to the narrative cycle and thematic developments. As one scholar explains:
“This description of Yahweh as the God of the patriarchs is very familiar from all over the OT…by identifying himself with these famous men, whose earthly life was finished centuries before he spoke to Moses, God implies that the relationship still holds good…the argument is based…on the nature of God’s relationship with his human followers: the covenant by which he binds himself to them is too strong to be terminated by their death. To be associated with the living God is to be taken beyond the temporary life on earth into a relationship which lasts as long as God lasts,” R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans 2007), 840.
ii) At a more general level, D. A. Carson has also discussed some of the ways in which NT writers are quite alert to the original context:
When Paul as a Christian and an apostle reads the same texts, he insists on preserving the significance of the historical sequence. Thus in Galatians 3, Abraham was justified by faith before the giving of the law, and the promise to him and to his seed similarly came before the giving of the law. That means that the law given by Moses has been relativized; one must now think afresh exactly why it was given, "added" to the promise. Again, in Romans 4 Paul analyzes the relation between faith and circumcision on the basis of which came first: it is the historical sequence that is determinative for his argument.
Nor is this approach exclusively Pauline. In Hebrews, for instance, the validity of Auctor’s argument in chap 7 turns on historical sequence. If Psalm 110, written after the establishment of the Levitical priesthood at Sinai, promises a priesthood that is not tied to the tribe of Levi but to the tribe of Judah, and is thus bringing together royal and priestly prerogatives in one person, then the Levitical priesthood has been declared obsolete in principle. Moreover, if this new king-priest is modelled on ancient Melchizedek, himself a priest-king, there is also an anticipation of this arrangement as far back as Genesis 14. In other words, where one pays attention to links that depend on historical sequencing, one has laid the groundwork for careful typology. The argument in Hebrews 3:7-4:13 similarly depends on reading the Old Testament texts in their historical sequence: the fact that Psalm 95, written after the people have entered the Promised Land, is still calling the covenant people to enter into God’s rest, demonstrates that entry into the land was not itself a final delivery of the promise to give them rest. Moreover, the reference to "God’s rest" triggers reflection on how God rested as far back as Genesis 1-2—and thus another typological line is set up, filled in with a variety of pieces along the historical trajectory.
iii) What is Perry’s alternative? Does he agree with the liberals that NT writers misinterpreted OT passages? Does he agree with the liberals that NT writers ripped OT verses out of context and foisted fanciful interpretations onto the text?
Does he then salvage his liberal admission by running it through an Orthodox blackbox, so that, somehow, the output is true even though the input is false? Does Orthodox tradition legitimate an otherwise illegitimate interpretation? Does Orthodox tradition validate an otherwise invalid inference?
“As for certainty, I think you have misdiagonosed the problem. Knowledge doesn’t require certainty and so there is no need to have a “teaching office” to grant it.”
How does that admission undercut the Protestant position? Doesn’t that admission concede the Protestant position?
“What would be needed would be something applying a rule that had more normative gumption than that which is required for knowledge to justify our absolute commitment and not turn the faith into a proivisional scientific belief, always open to future revision.”
Why is that needed? Why do we need something over and above knowledge to justify absolute commitment? “Knowledge” is not “always open to future revision.”
“As for the council of Florence, the Council did issue statements, but since the Orthodox participants were compelled and some were bribed and a number of them refused to sign like Mark of Ephesus, the council resolved nothing for the Orthodox.”
I, for one, was quoting from an Orthodox reference work when I raised this issue. Cf. Historical Dictionary of the Orthodox Church, 50.
“In case you didn’t know, the ROCOR and Moscow patriarchate schism was healed months ago.”
Yes, but like a verbal altercation between a married couple, you can’t always take back all the mean and nasty things you said in the heat of anger. ROCOR accused the rest of the Orthodox communion of outright heresy. And it documented its allegation in lurid detail.
“Ah, the Long ending of Mark again. Orthodoxy has accepted it via the text type it accepts. And it doesn’t follow that Orthodox has to think that the signs follow believers than Calvinists do, and most Calvinists via nifty interpretations don’t think they need to, though they could.”
The parallel falls apart since a Calvinist doesn’t have to come up with a “nifty interpretation.” Rather, a Calvinist can treat the passage as spurious, based on the standard text-critical arguments.
“Even if our position puts us in no superior position I am not sure how that shows your position to have escaped any problems. If every interpretation necessarily adds a layer of tradition doesn’t that actually weaken the case for sola scriptura? And if scripture is the only infallible rule, who is the judge to apply the rule normatively?”
A couple of issues:
i) Assuming that Orthodoxy does not confer an epistemic advantage, that would still be a major, strategic concession. For the argument that a number of Orthodox apologists have deployed against the Protestant rule of faith is that the Orthodox rule of faith supplies a level of dogmatic certainty lacking in Evangelical theology. If the Orthodox apologist withdraws that objection, then we’re on a par, at the epistemic level.
ii) Since the Protestant position isn’t claiming to be in a “superior” position, our own position doesn’t have to escape its own set of problems, if that’s what they are. The Protestant position would only need to be problem-proof if we made that a criterion for the true rule of faith.
The argument never took the form of saying Orthodoxy can’t be superior to Evangelicalism because Evangelicalism is superior to Orthodoxy—where “superiority” stands for some epistemically privileged position. The choice is not between either x is superior to y, or y is superior to x.
Evangelicalism is only concerned with the true rule of faith, and not whether our rule of faith must meet some allegedly advantageous condition.
iii) As to his question, “who is the judge to apply the rule normatively?” Why should we even assume that that’s a problem? Or, if it’s a problem, that it’s a problem we’re supposed to solve?
Here we need to lay down a basic principle: something is only a problem for us if it’s a problem for God. If God doesn’t regard this situation as problematic, why should we?
iv) All of the high-church objections to the Protestant rule of faith are a special case of the argument from evil. The high churchman looks at Protestant diversity and says that’s a problem. He assures us that this outcome doesn’t reflect God’s original plan for the church.
But if it’s such a problem, why did God allow it in the first place? The high-church objection to the Protestant rule of faith is no different than the atheist who points an accusatory finger at some humanitarian disaster and exclaims: “If there is a God, then why didn’t he step in to prevent this catastrophe?”
So the high churchman is very selective about what he assures us God would never permit. He applies the problem of evil to the Protestant rule of faith, but he denies the argument from evil when that very same argument is extended by an atheist to Christendom in general.
“As for errors, given textual corruption I am not sure how error can’t creep into Protestantism and become enshrined.”
How is that a problem which we’re supposed to solve? Does God hold us all responsible for preventing this outcome?
What people like Perry do is to create a problem, and then blame the Protestant position because it fails to meet their felt needs.
The world is full of problems. This doesn’t mean that a particular problem is a problem for the position we hold. It may be a real problem in its own right, but this doesn’t automatically make our position problematic.
Otherwise, we would have to agree with the atheist. For the world is full of problems. Is that a problem for the Christian faith?
Not all human problems are humanly soluble. God has put us in a fallen world where many problems will remain in place despite our best efforts to prevent them or resolve them.
If God wanted us to be inerrant, he would have made us infallible. If God wanted every MSS would be inerrant, he would have inspired every scribe.
So how is scribal error a problem for the Protestant rule of faith? If God didn’t want any errors to creep into the text, he could surely prevent it.
If I don’t have an answer to every hypothetical question that you can dream up, how does that disprove my position? How am I supposed to prevent something that God didn’t prevent?
Now, this doesn’t mean there’s nothing we either can do or should do. It’s God’s will that we act in a way that will limit certain evils. And our efforts will be successful to the degree that God wills us to succeed. Textual criticism is a worthwhile endeavor.
But the mere existence of “problems,” even if these are genuine problems, is not an undercutter or defeater for the Protestant rule of faith.
If anything, it’s an undercutter for defeater for the high-church position since the high churchman is a perfectionist in an imperfect world. It’s the high-church tradition that erects and unbridgeable chasm between its utopian speculations about just what God would allow, and the dystopian spectacle of just what God has, in fact, allowed—and, indeed, decreed.
“There is nothing to imply that the revisionary role that Protestants take themselves to occupy will imply progress. If Rome can get it wrong along with the East for the better part of two millenia, why think that Protestants being smaller and more diversified won’t?”
Of course, Rome got it wrong for specific reasons. The result is not reproducible unless you reproduce her reasons.
“Isn’t this is exactly how they have treated reforming movements like the Federal Vision and the NPP?”
Are these reforming movements or deforming movements?
“And unless the canon itself is unrevisable, that is a criteria that Protestants have enshrined quite concretely so as to be functionally beyond question which is itself above Scripture for Scripture does not list its contents in full.”
This is another empty objection since we don’t control the future—God does. Why does Robinson think that Protestants are responsible for every imponderable and imaginary contingency?
I’m not the dealer. God is the dealer. I play that hand that God has dealt me. I don’t worry about the next hand.
The mentality of the high churchman is interchangeable with the mentality of the psychic. They live in fear of the future. So many unknown variables! So many things to go wrong!
Dare I get out of bed in the morning? Leave the house? What if I’m struck dead by a falling latrine from a defective airplane?
So they try to manipulate the future. Fabricate a failsafe. They reject sola Scripture because what they really want is not a Bible, but a horoscope. The Pope is my Tarotist. Or, if I reject papal primacy, what about a council of Tarotists? Ecumenical cartomancy.
It’s a heathen mentality. A mindset fundamentally distrustful of God’s providence.
“In any case, I am not sure how tu quo que is a truth preserving mode of reasoning.”
It’s not. It’s just a way of answering your opponent on his own grounds. And that’s one step in establishing your own position.
“As for Orthodox disagreeing on the canon, I think you might be thinking of the Ethiopians. We accept the canon as defined by earlier synods ratified at 2nd Nicea in 787 and re-affirmed at the 8th Council in 880 A.D. Since they were busy being monophysites and weren’t there, we don’t have the same canon. Go figure.”
i) I take it that he missed all the documentation that Jason Engwer and I have supplied.
ii) But what about the monophysites? What about their claim to apostolic succession?
“I for one would really like to see the doctrine of Platonic simplicity derived exegetically from the text using the grammatical-historical method. Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun to watch. Could you show me?”
This assumes that we’re committed to the doctrine of Platonic simplicity.
“As for the Universalism nonsense, I have already corrected this stuff over on your blog at http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/07/divine-evil.html In the comments section…Here’s a friendly suggestion. Why not try to learn about Orthodoxy as you would want someone to try and learn about Calvinism?”
It’s not as if I was quoting from hostile sources. I was quoting from Timothy Ware and the Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity.
Why should I assume that an Orthodox layman is a more reliable spokesman for the Orthodox faith than a Metropolitan?