David Waltz, who is to religion what Solomon was to women, is charging John Bugay and James White with hypocrisy because they cite liberal scholars in opposition to Islam or Roman Catholicism, but reject liberal scholars in opposition to Scripture. Yet there are several basic problems with his analogy:
i) The comparison would only work if, in fact, the arguments and counterarguments regarding Scripture were comparable to the arguments and counterarguments regarding the Koran or the Roman Magisterium.
If that is David’s position, then he needs to mount an actual argument from analogy, rather than asserting an analogy.
ii) To take a comparison, in sifting testimonial evidence, we don’t treat every ostensible witness the same, for some ostensible (or even real) witnesses are less credible than others.
iii) David would also have to show that Lampe’s argument regarding early Roman church polity is crucially contingent on his argument regarding the composition of certain NT documents.
iv) Liberal scholarship can sometimes be right for the wrong reasons. For instance, it’s wrong to apply methodological naturalism to religious claims. It’s wrong to presume that supernatural dynamics can’t be a factor in religious claims.
But if, in fact, religious dynamics are not a factor in some religious claim or another, then it’s appropriate to interpret the claim on mundane terms. For instance, if the angel Gabriel did not appear to Muhammad, then there’s nothing wrong with a liberal scholar explaining the Koran by reference to natural causes. While it’s wrong for him to assume, as a matter of principle, that supernatural factors can’t figure in the origin of Islam, yet if Islam is a natural phenomenon masquerading as a supernatural phenomenon, then naturalistic methods and assumptions will coincidentally dovetail with the true nature of the phenomenon. And the same holds true for the Roman Magisterium.
v) Incidentally, there’s nothing inherently liberal about redaction criticism. For instance, conservative scholars like Craig Blomberg and Darrell Block use redaction criticism to defend the inerrancy of Scripture.
vi) But even if these methods were suspect, there’s nothing inherently wrong with their application to Roman Catholicism. After all, the modern Magisterium sanctions the historical-critical method. So a Protestant apologist could rightfully apply that methodology to Catholicism as a tu quoque argument. Measuring Catholicism by its own yardstick.
Of course, the basic problem for Waltz is that he has no fixed frame of reference. He’s a boat adrift, anchored to another boat adrift, anchored to another boat adrift. For Waltz, everything is in a state of relative motion.