Thursday, August 09, 2007

Honor your whore of Babylon

Tim Enloe has been running a series on the papacy:

http://pontiffixations.blogspot.com/2007/07/honor-your-fathersthat-your-days-may-be.html

http://pontiffixations.blogspot.com/2007/08/answering-critic-of-part-i-of-honor.html

http://pontiffixations.blogspot.com/2007/07/honor-your-fathersthat-your-days-may-be_26.html

Let’s examine his major arguments, such as they are:

“One of the biggest problems with contemporary Protestant rhetoric about the papacy is that it refuses to acknowledge the historical and familial connections we, though Protestants, have with the papacy.”

i) Notice that he doesn’t quote anyone to back up this claim. Who in particular is he talking about?

Indeed, this is par for the course with Enloe. In the past he has even admitted that he doesn’t bother to read his critics. So, despite his assumption of the third-person plural, he’s just talking to himself.

The rhetorical function of the third-person plural in a setting like this is to achieve through verbal coercion what you can’t achieve through reasoned argument. You rhetorically extort the agreement of the reader by acting as if he shares your opinion.

ii) Another rhetorical ploy is to bundle two (or more) claims into one, as if the reader must assent to both claims at once. But historical and familial connections are not interchangeable concepts.

What contemporary Protestants of note deny “historical” connections between the papacy and the Protestant Reformation? Why doesn’t he name names?

“We do not seem to understand a very important implication of the fact that the Reformation was a product of Western Christendom.”

i) Once again, what Protestant author of note, however critical of the papacy, denies the fact that the Reformation was, in large measure, a product of Western Christendom?

If this is something “we” don’t seem to understand, then why doesn’t he quote his sources for this assertion? Enloe is merely talking to himself, like Renfield in solitary confinement.

ii) Incidentally, was the Reformation wholly or solely the product of Western Christendom? Wasn’t the Reformation in part the product of the Renaissance? And wasn’t the Renaissance, in part, the product of Byzantine refugees who fled to the West after the fall of Constantinople, and brought their knowledge of the primary sources along with them?

“That implication is this: because the Reformation was a product of Western Christendom, Western Christendom before the Reformation was quite literally ‘bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh’ Our fathers in the Faith stretch back for 1,500 years prior to the Reformation, and they are not merely located in isolated and marginal and persecuted sects.”

“Quite literally bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh”? That would literally be a genealogical claim. I’d like to see Enloe show me the family tree that traces my bloodline back to my “fathers in the Faith” 2000 years ago.

“This should not be a controversial statement. “

True. A demonstrably false statement should not be controversial. For no one should believe it.

“Think of it this way: just as our biological fathers are our fathers even if they fail to meet our standards of Truth and Godliness, so too are our spiritual fathers our fathers even if they fail to meet our standards of Truth and Godliness. If ancestry, family relationship, and, correspondingly, family obligation, are not dependent upon intellectual or moral criteria in biology, how much less can they be dependent upon such in spirituality?”

Unfortunately for Enloe, this analogy breaks down at the critical point of comparison. Of course my biological father remains my father regardless of his failure to meet my non-biological standards inasmuch non-biological standards are not what makes him my biological father. Biological paternity is constituted by biological factors, not non-biological factors.

But if you switch to spiritual paternity, then the only link would be the spirituality of the mentor and the spirituality of the apprentice. If a spiritual father fails to be spiritual, then in what sense is he a "spiritual" father? What makes him a spiritual father is a certain level of spirituality.

By contrast, a biological father who fails to meet spiritual standards is still a father to me since there is a biological bond between me irrespective of his spirituality or the spiritual kinship we share in common.

This is all so obvious that it should be unnecessary to spell out.

“The kings of Judah were still the kings of Judah--still the sons of David--even when they were abominable idolators.”

Once again, he bundles several ideas into one:

i) To be a son of David, in this sense, is a biological bond.

ii) But that is not a sufficient condition of kingship. To begin with, David had more than one son. And this gave rise to vicious succession battles.

iii) Moreover, you didn’t have to be a son of David to be a king of David. A usurper could seize the throne.

iv) Furthermore, under the Mosaic law, kings were constitutional monarchs, not absolute monarchs. An apostate king could be dethroned. For example, Jehoiada foments revolution against the reigning monarch (2 Chron 22-23).

“The Israelites who fell in the wilderness on the way to Canaan were still called ‘our fathers’ by the Apostle.”

This appeal either proves too much or too little. For the “fathers” in view are not a select group of authority-figures, but, with a few exceptions, the entirely of the Exodus-generation. So where’s the parallel with the papacy?

“What is more, Christ's own lineage contains murderers, adulterers, idolators, and even prostitutes. Family relationship is not a function of purity.”

Once again, he’s equivocating as he oscillates between figurative paternity (1 Cor 10:1) and legal rather than literal paternity (Mt 1:1-17).

“Just because you politically disagree profoundly with your father, and might even become estranged from him for a long time, does not mean he is not really your father. Why then would he not be your father if you disagreed with him doctrinally?”
Once more, is Enloe really that dense? What makes him “really” your father is genetic. So, of course, political or theological disagreements don’t dissolve a biological bond.

But apart from a legal or biological bond, there can be no spiritual paternity absent the requite spirituality since that is all the two parties would otherwise have in common.

“If we take Scripture as providing principles in this matter, we must understand that ‘honoring’ our fathers is not tied to our estimation of our fathers' purity. Scripture does not say ‘Honor your father unless he is a bad man.’ Scripture does not say ‘Honor your father unless you think he anathematizes the Gospel.’ Scripture does not say ‘Honor your father unless he wrongly proclaims himself infallible’."

i) Notice how he rips the fifth commandment out of context. The commandment says, “honor your father,” not your “fathers.” It uses the singular rather than the plural because it’s talking about actual rather than metaphorical paternity. And that is also why it references motherhood as well as fatherhood.

ii) That’s the primary referent. Up to a point, it could be extended to analogous authority-figures, but one would need to argue for the analogy, and not merely assume it.

iii) Submission to human authority is not unconditional in Scripture. Human authority is derivative of divine authority, and answerable to divine authority.

“Scripture does not authorize us to go on the spiritual equivalent of racist quests to track a ‘pure’ bloodline throughout history in order to justify contending that ‘No, none of those scoundrels in Rome ever had any connection to me’."

To the contrary, if Enloe is going to contend that the popes are “literally bone of our bone,” and give that as the reason why we should honor them as our fathers in the faith, then establishing the purity of one’s pedigree is, indeed, required by his own argument.

“First, I reject Mr. Henzel's consistent dichotomization of flesh and spirit, which I think is key to his critique. It is popular in Evangelical circles, obsessed as they are with dichotomies, to read the New Testament's utterances about flesh and spirit as if they are presenting a dichotomized world--that is, a world starkly divided between two contrary poles, neither having much to do with the other.”

Now he’s being silly. Many men can play a paternal role to me in a legal or metaphorical sense, but only one man can play a paternal role to me in a literal sense. This has nothing to do with Gnostic dualism or disdain for matter. It’s a natural fact.

“In Mr. Henzel's critique this theme comes out first in his attempt to determine who was and was not a ‘true Christian’ in the Middle Ages.”

Does Enloe think the Abigenses were true Christians?

“A second large point, which is a subset of my critique of Mr. Henzel's flesh / spirit dualism, is this: I entirely reject Mr. Henzel's polemical tirades about ‘the Gospel,’ specifically about those who supposedly ‘reject it’ and therefore supposedly prove that they are not related to us.”

i) Doesn’t Enloe belong to a consortium of confessional churches? They don’t all share the same confession, but they do stipulate that you must subscribe to one of several classic Protestant confessions to be a member.

ii) Does Enloe have no doctrinal criteria for Christian identity? Is John Spong a Christian? What about Kenneth Copeland? Or Gordon B. Hinckley?

“This objection, flowing from the dichotomous worldview just discussed, betrays the unbalanced subjectivity of commonplace Evangelical theology. Christianity for this way of thinking is essentially a subjective thing, defined by internal (spiritual) conditions that are held to be almost completely antithetical to external (bodily) conditions.”

Yes, Christian identity is defined by such psychological states as regeneration, sanctification, faith, and repentance—just like the Bible says.

“Rituals, liturgies, historical progressions, institutions are all secondary to ‘true faith’."

And the problem with that is why, exactly? This “dichotomy” goes all the way back to the OT. Despite the institutional and ritualistic dimension of the Mosaic covenant, which was quite prominent, the externals were never a substitute for true faith.

“In the first place, holding that ‘the true Gospel’ is equivalent to 16th century polemical theology against ‘papists’ is an astoundingly subjective judgment.”

This is a rhetorical decoy. What we say, rather, is that the 16C Protestant interpretation of Scripture is far truer to the true Gospel than the 16C Catholic interpretation of Scripture.

“Some popes have left us valuable commentaries upon books of the Bible and valuable manuals of principles for spiritual living (Gregory I). Others have played key roles in the development of Western legal thought (Gelasius I, Gregory VII, Boniface VIII), or international politics (Innocent III), or ways to constructively relate to other Christians (John Paul II), and so forth.”

What responsible Protestant denies that some popes were better than others, or that some popes did some good things?

i) But that’s beside the point. For Rome doesn’t allow us to cherry pick the good popes from the bad popes. For Rome, the papacy is a take it-or-leave-it affair. You accept the bad with the good. You either accept the magisterial authority of the papacy in toto or you reject it in toto.

ii) Moreover, our spiritual forefathers are hardly limited to a few good popes. If his argument has any logical force at all, then it’s logical scope is far broader than the papacy. It would include a variety of Eastern Christians as well as Western Christians. Lower clergy as well as higher clergy. Layman as well as clergymen.

iii) There is also a difference between valuing what a man does for the intrinsic value of what he does, and acceding to his official pretensions. Suppose a Tibetan scientist discovers the cure for cancer. Suppose he also imagines himself to be the 15th reincarnation of the bodhisattva. Do I have to honor his spiritual fantasies to appreciate his contribution to medical science?

“We see them as being guilty, almost from their beginnings, of willfully substituting ‘traditions of men’ for ‘sound doctrine,’ and for knowingly subverting the way the Bible says the Church ought to be run.”

It doesn’t matter what their intentions were. As Blake said of Milton, you can be of the Devil’s party without knowing it. In that respect, even Bultmann was well-meaning. In his self-delusion he really thought he was doing the Christian faith a big favor by demythologizing the Bible to make it more palatable to modern man.

“We heap railing scorn upon them for (sometimes) being fornicators, adulterers, murderers, simonists, warmongers, idolators--and, well, the list goes on and on, seemingly limited only by the amount of time and energy a polemicist has to dig for dirt.”

You know, this didn’t begin with Protestant polemical theology. He needs to brush up on Erasmus.

Incidentally, if he’s going to keep using the word “idolater,” it would behoove him to learn how it’s spelled.

“Popes have done much good through the centuries, and we must, unless we are base cretins incapable of recognizing even common human dignity, let alone proper respect for family members, honor them for those goods.”

That’s a liberal Protestant compromise which Rome rejects.

“For one thing, we could try putting aside our vehement polemical books, full of slurs and slogans and slanders against "papists" and "Romanists" and try to focus on good things about various popes, such as the ones listed above.”

In what sense are these “slurs” and “slanders”? We may speak of a Catholic as a Romanist because he identifies with the church of Rome.

And how can Enloe, with a straight face, claim the pope as his spiritual father while disowning the label of “papist”?

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for the comments Steve, they were spot on.

    One brother tried to correct his misuse of the 5th commandment, advising him that he was taking it out of context to make his point.

    But, such pests are considered "Bible-Onlyists" and ignorant. Apparently Enloe thinks he's the only one who has "really" studied the issues. His conclusions are the real deal, everyone else (except the little yes men over there) are little flies to be swatted away.

    He should just stop the song and dance and declare himself a Papist. He can have the popes as his fathers.

    I say, "No, Thanks"!

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  2. I'm not in a position to either meaningfully condemn or endorse Tim's thesis, and I certainly can't be considered one of his "yes men" (or women) since I've been on the receiving end of a few of Tim's trademark tirades a few times.

    Still, it seems worthwhile to me to take the time to at least clarify some things on his behalf since I doubt he'll respond to this (and, frankly, I hope he doesn't. Tim is generally pretty unbearable in both his offensive and defensive modes.)

    Actually, I guess my primary motivation here in responding is not to attack or defend anyone, but to help clarify my own thinking.

    "Submission to human authority is not unconditional in Scripture. Human authority is derivative of divine authority, and answerable to divine authority."

    This isn't contrary to Tim's paradigm; I think he would agree with this. And he isn't advocating "submission" to the popes in the same way a Roman Catholic would be. I believe he's talking strictly about honor, not submission, just as we're to honor our biological parents, even while refusing to submit to their godless errors. And I don't think he's referring to the popes as our "fathers" in any other sense than he would refer to other Christian men who preceded us (including the Protestant Reformers) as our fathers in the faith.

    "Does Enloe have no doctrinal criteria for Christian identity? Is John Spong a Christian? What about Kenneth Copeland? Or Gordon B. Hinckley?"

    I understand his criterion to be one who's been baptized into the name of the triune God. Within that category, according to this paradigm, one would recognize a distinction between a faithful Christian and an apostate Christian. Therefore, Spong would be regarded as an apostate while Hinckley would not be regarded as a Christian. I don't know enough about Copeland to say.

    The point is that, within this paradigm, it's the covenant, which is sealed in baptism, that defines the family tie that he's referring to.

    "Yes, Christian identity is defined by such psychological states as regeneration, sanctification, faith, and repentance—just like the Bible says."

    And that's the key difference between your two paradigms. It's not that these things aren't essential for one of the elect, but he would dispute that this is the primary meaning of the word Christian, and his point is that these qualities are unreliably detected from our subjective, fallible (and generally biased) perspective.

    "But that’s beside the point. For Rome doesn’t allow us to cherry pick the good popes from the bad popes. For Rome, the papacy is a take it-or-leave-it affair. You accept the bad with the good. You either accept the magisterial authority of the papacy in toto or you reject it in toto."

    But Tim's not coming from a Roman Catholic perspective, nor advocating a Roman Catholic view of papal magisterial authority.

    "You know, this didn’t begin with Protestant polemical theology. He needs to brush up on Erasmus."

    Tim wouldn't dispute this, but he's referring to the Protestant heritage handed down to us. Apparently he feels this is too much of a central focus in Protestantism, and that it's outlived its usefulness and it clouds our judgment.

    Again, I'm not taking a position one way or the other (I'm on the fence on a number of things), and I fully expect that I'll end up regretting even having written this. But right now, I'm hoping that it might be helpful in some way.

    On the following point, though, I am speaking unreservedly in Tim's defense.

    "Incidentally, if he’s going to keep using the word “idolater,” it would behoove him to learn how it’s spelled."

    I looked it up because I'm generally a good speller, and misspellings usually jump out at me, but nothing struck me as being amiss in either your spelling or his. As it turns out, the dictionary recognizes both as standard.

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  3. eternal life8/11/2007 1:01 AM

    You just morphed Enloe into an Armstrong. Considering Enloe's and Armstrong's mutual history that is so very cruel.

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  4. eternal life8/11/2007 1:12 AM

    First of all it's dense to base such a grand thesis on a string of analogies you have obviously just thought up as you were in the act of writing. I mean, don't all we internet forum writers know such analogies are the weakest armor in the business? "Shoot a zillion holes in me!"

    Enloe's on a Ph.D. route, I think.

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  5. Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Ree.

    “This isn't contrary to Tim's paradigm; I think he would agree with this. And he isn't advocating ‘submission’ to the popes in the same way a Roman Catholic would be.”

    But that’s one of the problems. Who is he writing this for?

    On the one hand, Rome regards the papacy as a package deal. So trying to meet Rome halfway is a futile exercise from a Catholic perspective.

    On the other hand, no responsible Protestant denies that the Protestant Reformation is, to some degree or another, an outgrowth of the Latin Church (just as Tridentine Catholicism is an outgrowth of the Latin Church), and no responsible Protestant denies that some popes did some good things.

    So he’s directing his corrective at a nonexistent problem.

    “I believe he's talking strictly about honor, not submission, just as we're to honor our biological parents, even while refusing to submit to their godless errors.”

    Yes, but of course his analogy breaks down at the very point where it needs to hang together.

    “And I don't think he's referring to the popes as our ‘fathers’ in any other sense than he would refer to other Christian men who preceded us (including the Protestant Reformers) as our fathers in the faith.”

    Maybe, but that’s not what he says. He singles out the papacy as if there really is something special about the papacy.

    “I understand his criterion to be one who's been baptized into the name of the triune God.”

    That would be consistent with the Federal Vision.

    “The point is that, within this paradigm, it's the covenant, which is sealed in baptism, that defines the family tie that he's referring to.”

    Even if we operate within that paradigm, we could say the popes are covenant-breakers who ought to be cut off from the people of God.

    “And that's the key difference between your two paradigms. It's not that these things aren't essential for one of the elect, but he would dispute that this is the primary meaning of the word Christian, and his point is that these qualities are unreliably detected from our subjective, fallible (and generally biased) perspective.”

    This confuses ontology with epistemology. There’s the question of what constitutes Christian identity. What makes a man a Christian.

    Then there’s the question of how we recognize or acknowledge a Christian for purposes of church membership, church discipline, &c.

    There are several constitutive qualities that make a man a Christian, viz. election, regeneration, faith, justification, adoption, sanctification, &c.

    Some of these are causes, and some of these are effect. The causes are directly indetectible, but indirectly detectible through their effects.

    What constitutes a Christian is what God has done both in us and for us. But a credible profession of faith is the best way we identify a Christian.

    “Tim wouldn't dispute this, but he's referring to the Protestant heritage handed down to us. Apparently he feels this is too much of a central focus in Protestantism, and that it's outlived its usefulness and it clouds our judgment.”

    Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But doesn’t identify his opponents. And he doesn’t distinguish what he regards as polemical excess from the core objections that retain their abiding validity—as well as additional objections in light of Vatican I, Vatican II, and other suchlike.

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  6. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. The more I have to articulate, the more it helps me, even if no one else. You said,

    "But that’s one of the problems. Who is he writing this for?

    On the one hand, Rome regards the papacy as a package deal. So trying to meet Rome halfway is a futile exercise from a Catholic perspective."

    Yeah, but Tim is apparently optimistic about the possibility of Rome eventually relenting on their "all or nothing" view and establishing a more moderate view. His ultimate hope, as I understand it, is for the establishment of a second Christendom. Therefore, he's writing, I assume, to both Protestants and Roman Catholics to get both sides to think differently about Christian history in order to change our thinking about where we can go from here.

    "On the other hand, no responsible Protestant denies that the Protestant Reformation is, to some degree or another, an outgrowth of the Latin Church (just as Tridentine Catholicism is an outgrowth of the Latin Church), and no responsible Protestant denies that some popes did some good things.

    So he’s directing his corrective at a nonexistent problem."

    Well the problem, as he sees it, I guess, is that we're still divided. And he doesn't see the differences as irreconcileable.

    "Maybe, but that’s not what he says. He singles out the papacy as if there really is something special about the papacy."

    Yeah, as I consider it more, I guess that is correct. In his vision of a second Christendom, he does see a place for the continuation of the papacy, but his vision differs from what the papacy became and is today.

    "That would be consistent with the Federal Vision."

    Yes, and I believe that's where he's coming from.

    "Even if we operate within that paradigm, we could say the popes are covenant-breakers who ought to be cut off from the people of God."

    And, of course, he disputes the idea that they are all self-evidently covenant breakers.

    "This confuses ontology with epistemology. There’s the question of what constitutes Christian identity. What makes a man a Christian."

    But according to the FV paradigm, I think, a man is a Christian by virtue of his Christian baptism, and he's regenerate (and, therefore, a faithful Christian) by virtue of what God has done for him and in him. These are two different usages of the word Christian, and they're both ontological.

    "But a credible profession of faith is the best way we identify a Christian."

    And this is where Tim, I believe, would argue that the modern Reformed notion of what constitutes a credible profession of faith is myopic and self-serving as well as inconsistent and untenable.

    "Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But doesn’t identify his opponents. And he doesn’t distinguish what he regards as polemical excess from the core objections that retain their abiding validity—as well as additional objections in light of Vatican I, Vatican II, and other suchlike."

    Yeah, well, Tim definitely has a tendency to broadbrush, thereby alienating most of the people he's addressing. But in regard to addressing what he considers valid objections, in his own words, "I study the history of the papacy because it is a major part of my own historical heritage. My goal is to first respect it and only second to criticize it." I think, right now, he's trying to establish his basis for why Protestants should respect the papacy, but I've read enough of his writings to know that he's not uncritical of the institution, and I presume he'll get around to those posts as well, once he establishes where he's coming from.

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  7. Hi again, Ree.

    I don't disagree with the descriptive accuracy of your summation. But other issues to one side, his answers are only answers to problems if we agree with him that his problems are problems.

    Given my low-church ecclesiology and Zwinglian sacramentology, FV has nowhere in my theology to get a foothold.

    I also don’t regard the Reformation as a tragedy. So I have no hankering for ecumenism.

    Tim is also hopelessly naïve about the papacy. The Catholic church is a huge, self-perpetuating bureaucracy. It will sink or swim without the help of us Protestants. So it’s not going to scale back its lofty claims to have us as allies. It can survive without us, and even if it went under, we couldn’t keep it afloat. It’s like a little tugboat trying to raise a sunken supertanker.

    Tim’s problem is twofold:

    i)He’s a pure reactionary.

    ii)He’s looking for the answers in church history.

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  8. I definitely understand your perspective, but I guess your response to Tim just struck me as begging too many questions to be helpful. But I appreciate your interaction with me, and I appreciate a lot of your apologetic work. Thanks.

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  9. eternal life8/13/2007 4:16 AM

    Excellent exchange between Steve and Ree. Also interesting to hear Steve referring to himself as Zwinglian. It's a Reformed identity that needs a comeback.

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  10. Steve,

    What did you mean when you said Enloe was a "pure reactionary"?

    It is really troubling to hear a "protestant" speak this way about the papacy and the RCC.

    You said, "But other issues to one side, his answers are only answers to problems if we agree with him that his problems are problems."

    Absolutely true.

    Now that you have identified yourself as Zwinglian in your sacramentology you are the sworn enemy of the RefCath crowd.

    Yes, you will now lose sleep. Sorry, Steve....

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