Sunday, July 08, 2012

Why Roman Catholic fealty to the NPP is disingenuous

I have posted this as a comment over at Called to Communion:

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I mentioned, just above, that Dunn and the NPP were no friend to Roman Catholicism. This is because its "method" is consonant with the kind of exploration I am making into "earliest Christianity", while it is uncovering things that are harmful to what Roman Catholicism says about itself and its "divine origins".

And I pointed to James Dunn's selection in the Bielby and Eddy work "Five Views on Justification". Here is what Dunn says (for example):

As the Maccabean rebelion in effect defined "Judaism" as "not-Hellenism," so Ignatius in effect defined "Christianity" as "not-Judaism". This is the start of the phenomenon of the Christian anti-Judaism and later of Christian anti-Semitism, which has so besmirched the history of Christian Europe. It was not simply that "supercessionism," the belief that Christianity had superceded Judaism, had taken over Israei's status as "the people of God," and had drained all the substance leaving "Judaism" only the husk. It was more that the continuing existence of Judaism was regarded as in effect an anomaly and a threat to Christianity (pgs 178-179).

Rome, of course, referred to this as "religious anti-Judaism", which it completely distinguished in every way from the "racial anti-Semitism" of Nazi Germany.

This is such a self-serving distinction that it is incredible that people take it seriously, but they do.

You Roman Catholics want to say that because Ignatius spoke deferentially to Rome (the capital city of the empire), that somehow this meant that the Roman church of the day held some kind of primacy. Yet on the other hand, Ignatius is regarded as a key source of "anti-Judaism", well, that doesn't comport well with the IP, so we may safely disregard that factoid.

Dunn goes on to say that "a case can certainly be made that Sanders overreacted in his polemical response to the traditional Christian portrayal of rabbinic Judaism". In fact, such a case was made by (as I mentioned) Carson, O'Brien, and Siefrid in their "Justification and Variegated Nomism". What's interesting is that Carson, O'Brien and Siefrid did not rely on some kind of "interpretive paradigm" to overturn what Sanders was saying. They simply did a better job using the same method that Sanders used.

And so too with the work of Michael Kruger. His intention is not specifically to address Roman Catholicism (though he does this). He is rather interacting with "critical scholars" who hold to some form of remnant of "the Bauer thesis". However, Kruger doesn't defeat the critical scholars by claiming some sort of "foul" against an "interpretive paradigm". Kruger digs deeper and marshalls more facts and puts together a better understanding of what was really going on than did Bauer (and his modern day followers).

True, he points to "divine origins" -- but he clearly explains why he does so (and in what context -- this is to suggest that there is epistemological justification for believers to accept the 27-book canon -- he does not in any way suggest he is offering a "proof" that all Critical scholars should accept his version.)

Beyond this, though, he is incredibly thorough at investigating the things that all critical scholars would investigate -- apostolic origins, the methods of letter-writing, biography-writing, distribution, book production, etc -- all factual details that have deep roots in secular/scientific as well as biblical disciplines -- and he out-does even at a critical level what the "critical scholars" do in analyzing the "messiness" of canon development.

In other words, he only brings "interpretive paradigm" in after he has done the best job he can do at discussing the work critically.

Those of you, however, who won't discuss factual details because they don't comport with your "interpretive paradigm" are guilty of avoiding the heavy-detail work that is entailed in this type of study. You want to claim "infallibility" based on some kind of "divine institution" alone.

This is especially disingenous when "divine institution" used to be a claim based on historical facts. Now that we know the history a little better, and history not only shows "divine institution" to be very much a stretch, but it shows such a thing to be non-existent.

This is where, at least, scholars like Raymond Brown and John Meier and Francis Sullivan and Robert Eno are all far more honest in their methodologies than you give them credit for.

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