Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Prejean suffers from a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease:

“But if we took the proposition as if God Himself had uttered the self-same proposition that the author did (which is how I take the notion of authority being asserted in sola scriptura), then absurdity would ensue, since God is clearly not affirming the literal proposition that he has thoughts, makes decisions, etc., which is contradicted by Isaiah 55:8.

How is that contradicted by Isaiah?

i) Let’s see how two Catholic translations render the Isaian passage:

“My dealings are higher than your dealings, my thoughts than your thoughts” (Knox Bible).

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways…the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your says, my thoughts above your thoughts” (New Jerusalem Bible).

So, even if we confine ourselves to Roman Catholic versions of the Bible, how does Isaiah contradict the thesis that God literally has thoughts? It doesn’t.

Rather, it says that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, which is quite different than saying that God has no thoughts at all.

ii) In addition, the distinction in Isaiah 58:7-8 is ethical rather than ontological. As one commentator explains:

“The third [interpretation] is that humans should turn from their sinful ways and thoughts because those are not God’s ways and thoughts…The third option must be the correct one. The repetition of ‘ways’ and ‘thoughts’ from v7 suggests that what is wrong with human ways and thoughts and requires one to turn away from them is that they ‘are not’ God’s thoughts and ways. This same point is made in Prov 16:1-3 (cf. Also Prov. 3:5-6; 21:2), using the same words. Our ways and thoughts have been perverted by original sin, and it is only as we turn from them to God and his mercy that we can ever have peace with him and live lives that will be truly productive,”

J. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40-66 (Eerdmans 1998), 445.

“Note the double chiasm in the arrangement of the two terms in vv7-9: (7) ways, thoughts (8) thoughts, ways, (9) ways, thoughts,” ibid. 445n52.

So Prejean’s prooftext doesn’t prove what he says it does. It is not setting up a metaphysical disjunction between human beings, who have thoughts and intentions—in contrast to God, who doesn’t have thoughts and intentions.

But, of course, that comes as no surprise. God’s Word means nothing to Prejean. The source of his theology lies elsewhere. Wherever he actually gets his theology, whether from Zubiri or George Lucas—he isn’t getting it from Scripture.

So his appeal to Scripture is just a bit of window-dressing to camouflage the extrascriptural source of his theology.

“I mean deterministically caused in the way I described, so that it is as if God Himself were dictating the sentence, effectively commandeering the human will.”

Prejean is like a compulsive gambler on a losing streak. He can’t bring himself to leave the table.

The Protestant alternative does not subscribe to a dictation theory of inspiration. There never was a dictation *theory*, only a dictation *metaphor*.

Rather, the standard theory, as represented by the Old Princeton school of theology (among other representatives), is the organic theory of inspiration, involving a concursus between the primary author (God) and the secondary author (the apostle, prophet, &c.).

The human will isn’t “commandeered” by God. Why should God commandeer his own handiwork? God is man’s Creator. God created the human will. He created the will of the apostle or prophet. So he doesn’t need to “commandeer” it—any more than Enzo Ferrari needs to commandeer the sports car he designed.

What we see in Prejean is self-reinforcing ignorance. He is to Catholic apologetics what Dawkins is to militant atheism. Just as Dawkins is too contemptuous of the opposing position to acquaint himself with the opposing position, Prejean is too contemptuous of Scripture to acquaint himself with Scripture, and too contemptuous of Protestant theology to acquaint himself with Protestant theology.


  1. Ben Douglass9/05/2007 10:33 PM

    Mr. Hays,

    You fall far short of substantiating the claim that Prejean is contemptuous of Scripture. Perhaps you should borrow a page from Catholic moral theology (why not, you've borrowed so many other wonderful things from Catholicism!) and abstain from making charges against another man's character, unless you have (a) a moral certainty, solidly grounded in clear evidence, that the charges are true, and (b) a proportionate reason to make them.

    Beware of making rash accusations, based on a suspicion, a guess, or an assumption. As St. Paul tells us, revilers will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:10).

  2. Mr. Douglass

    You fall far short of substantiating the claim that Hays has borrowed so many other wonderful things from Catholicism.

    Beware of making rash accusations, based on a suspicion, a guess, or an assumption. As St. Paul tells us, revilers will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:10)

    I don't know what's worse, being contemptuous of Scripture or borrowing things from Catholicism. Maybe they're the same?

  3. Ben Douglass9/05/2007 11:04 PM

    False analogy. My claim that Hays has borrowed from Catholicism is not a negative judgment about his moral character. It is not an accusation of sin. It is a historical, factual statement concerning the origins of his religion. There is no moral obligation to rigorously prove every factual statement one makes in every situation. There is a moral obligation to rigorously prove one's negative judgments about another's moral character before one publishes them.

    Please, my anonymous interlocutor, familiarize yourself with Catholic moral theology.

  4. "You fall far short of substantiating the claim that Prejean is contemptuous of Scripture."

    eh, HOW has he fallen short? It does seem to be a bit of a stretch to try to half-nelson that verse into saying what Prejean wants it to say. It'd be nice if you'd do some legwork that would justify your statement.

    "you've borrowed so many other wonderful things from Catholicism!"

    That's so vague... do you mean if an ECF articulated a Biblical doctrine correctly, therefore the RCC today is the one true church because there was administrative continuity within the see of Rome from that day to this?

    Come on, you won't convince people by slinging rhetoric around. Let's see some intellectual discipline, man!

  5. Mr. Douglass,

    You're jumping into the middle of a series of posts. This allegation has been substantiated. Check the archives for the past week or so.

    FYI this: You fall far short of substantiating the claim that Prejean is contemptuous of Scripture - is a bare assertion unless you can document your claim.

    For example if Prejean is correct, then this has serious consequences for inerrancy. If he rejects inspiration on the notion that it involves God "coopting the will," then that's a problem - and by the way that's a problem for libertarian action theory as a whole, for, if God makes men "robots" if we don't have libertarian freedom, then men were "robots" when Scripture was inspired. If you reject nonlibertarian freedom on such grounds, then you ultimately will reject inerrancy.

    Prejean's grid for interpreting Scripture is natural theology - which version, we don't know, because he won't tell us - but if that's true, then, yes, that makes him contemptous of Scripture, for he is using something other than Scripture for an interpretive grid and then imposing that on the text.

    And Prejean was clear when he wrote:

    You can't rationally have faith in anything but divine acts, not accounts of divine acts, not description of divine acts.

    So, on that model, we can have faith in what God does, but not testimony about what He does. Since Scripture is that testimony, we can only conclude that he doesn't believe we can believe Scripture. Only the raw events, and not the record of the events, is an object of faith in his view.

    And, yes, that is, ironically, precisely what you hear from theological liberals and the Neo-Orthodox - both of which have a low view of Scripture.

  6. I would add that Jason and I have had many rounds with Prejean in the past, so the substantiation for my charge is quite extensive.