Monday, July 20, 2009

Papal slippers for the masses

Now, if we are dealing with an introductory work written to the masses (not scholars and academics): for folks just starting to get acquainted with Scripture ("not difficult for any one" / "rudiments" / "written in a simple and elementary form" / "easy introduction" / "perfunctory" / "trivial" / "assist the simple," etc.), then certainly it is not out of bounds for a non-scholar apologist like myself, with over 30 years of experience of intense study of theology and Scripture, to undertake a popular-level critique of the popular level introductory work. There is no law or rule written down somewhere that would forbid me from doing this, or entail what I am doing to be defined in essence as "an exercise in self-conceited charlatanry." But this is how the academic snob views most such efforts. That's the problem: arrogant intellectual snobbery from a teacher's assistant and a graduate student who seem to believe that the only people who can think and analyze and critique and do apologetics, are academics / scholars.

This is amusing on several different levels:

1.Armstrong has a photoshopped a snooty poster of Barack Obama. Given the fact that Obama garnered 54% of the Catholic vote, using that example to illustrate his point backfires badly:

2.The charge of elitism is also quite entertaining on the lips of a devout Roman Catholic. He belongs to a church whose Magisterium is modeled on the Roman emperor and aristocracy. Let’s also not forget some of the traditional accoutrements of the papacy, such as the tiara, flabella, papal slippers, and sedia gestatoria.

3.The definitive 1559 edition of the Institutes was written in Latin. It’s not as if the average baker, blacksmith, midwife, or cobbler could read Latin. Indeed, universal literacy in the 16C was nonexistent.

4. Even more to the point, it’s obviously anachronistic to say that because 16C work was pitched at a popular level, therefore a 21C blogger can write a commentary on that work without any specialized background knowledge.

Even if it was written for popular consumption in the 16C, to a 16C audience, that doesn’t mean it’s equally accessible to a modern audience. It was written at a very different time and place. To correctly interpret Calvin, you’d need to know about his intellectual influences, the socioeconomic and political conditions of the day, the historical antecedents to his theological terminology, the identity of his theological opponents, &c. What may be common knowledge for someone living in the 16C is hardly common knowledge for someone living in the 21C.

1 comment:

  1. I'm still trying to figure out how all the sniping comments about James White figure into a discussion conducted by Tim Enloe and Steve Hays...but then, consistency was never Dave's strong point.