Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Audacity of Dope

Right off, I have to put up the disclaimer, in the face of Roman Catholics (and even some Protestants) who will say, “John Bugay’s mean, he’s calling Neal Judisch a dope”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While it is true that I’m commenting on his article, The Audacity of Pope, (itself a take-off on Obama’s work “The Audacity of Hope”), I’m not calling Neal a dope. In fact, that would be silly of me, in the face of his own statement of his credentials. He says, “After all, I am a super-duper educated philosopher”. So no, it would be very naïve of me to say that Neal Judisch is not a super-duper educated philosopher. He has proven that in so many ways, I am sure.

What I’m saying, though, is that his apologetic method, the typical Roman Catholic apologetic against Protestants these days, is a narcotic. It is a kind of dope to which they must rely, over and over again. And this is precisely the kind of “dope” to which I am referring.

Neal begins appropriately. Yes, we both agree that man is fallen. Neal kind of gives us a brief introduction to the doctrine of fallen man.

The fundamental conviction here is really quite straightforward: Catholics think that we’d better not be left to our own devices, or else we’ll probably screw things up. When you get right down to the core of the thing, it isn’t that Catholics are misanthropes; they don’t think that human beings are just absolutely idiotic or irredeemably horrible. But they do have a lot of skepticism about man’s inherent capacity to get things right on his own; to see things straight for himself; to understand things clearly and objectively, apart from the potentially adverse influence of the cultural categories and presuppositions, the inherited traditions, through which he sees the world and understands the Bible – but which themselves usually remain unseen. They believe that owing to these inherent and historical limitations to which all men are subject, an individual person, even if he is a Christian indeed, cannot always rely upon himself – that his own internal “feelings” of certitude, or the inward confidence he has in his own views and in those of his tradition, do not necessarily come straight from the Holy Ghost and do not automatically mean he is right.

But even here, especially here, at the beginning, things diverge. It is where Roman Catholics say that man is “wounded”, whereas Protestants say man is “dead in sin”. Roman Catholics say that man was “ok” in Eden, but not “perfect” so God gave man this donum superadditum, this “superadded gift” of grace, which he lost in the fall. Protestants believe that man was “very good”, “in the image of God”, and that when he fell, he did not simply lose some “superadded gift”, but he became “dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body”.

So, we don’t even agree here (though Neal has fluffed up his definition of “the fall” so as to be unrecognizable to most people.

But here’s where the narcotic comes in. The rest of Neal’s (5000+ word) article takes the following form:

P1. He caricatures the Protestant understanding of canon.
P2. He caricatures the Protestant notion of tradition.
P3. He makes fun of the Protestant notion of the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
And then he concludes: Therefore, the bold claims of the papacy are true.

This, of course, is the ever-present narcotic for the Roman Catholic, now who needs a shot of “feel-good” when they have been so sorely challenged on utter, abject inability of “actually sustaining a historical, biblical, and theological argument that proves the proposition that Christ established an office of the papacy?”

It is the “audacity of dope” to sustain Roman Catholic in the face of what Carl Trueman says is “once again what historians take for granted: the rise, consolidation and definition of papal power is an historically very complex issue; and, indeed, as scholarship advances, the story becomes more, not less, convoluted and subversive of papal claims.”

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