Sunday, June 25, 2006

Cotton candy

For several days now, TBR has linked to an article by Brandon Withrow. Actually, I was already aware of that article before TBR discovered it. I haven’t responded until now because it has all the substance of cotton candy.

Since, however, it keeps popping up on my site meter, perhaps I should venture a comment or two.

Withrow is a well-educated guy and a published author. He’s currently a student at Westminster, which not unlikely accounts for the defensive tone of his article.

Among other zingers are the following: “Demonstrating his ability to read minds, Hays notes that… The evil conspiracy rhetoric is a little too much for me… I want resist the temptation to pick at the review and I would recommend seeing the discussion that happened some time ago on Mark Traphagen's blog, Sacred Journey; and while you're there look at his post "The Danger of Conspiracy Theories."

“Update: Along a similar discussion, John Armstrong asks ‘Is TR the right designation?’"

But one doesn’t have to be a mind-reader or conspiracy theorist to see history repeat itself. Christian institutions frequently liberalize over time, and when they liberalize they generally follow an incremental trajectory with stock arguments that are recycled every generation.

This can be documented ad nauseum in seminary after seminary, denomination after denomination. The fundamentalist-modernist dialectic is a recurring phenomenon which every upcoming Christian generation has to confront and side with one way or the other.

One doesn’t have to be a telepath to observe the larboard shift from the critical stance taken by the original OT faculty at Westminster (Allis, Young) to the critical stance taken by Dillard, Longman, and Enns.

As a student of church history, Withrow knows this perfectly well. But he has chosen to trivialize the issue with diversionary rhetoric.

And I’m not the only one to notice the change. For example, read what O. Palmer Roberson, another one-time faculty member at Westminster, has to say: Cf. The Christ of the Prophets (P&R 2004), 228-35.

Having attempted to laugh off the issue as if it were an exercise in mind-reading, he then refers the reader to an article by John Armstrong. And what does Armstrong have to say:

“There is very often more psychology involved in these debates than theology, at least in one fairly observable sense. Time and again I have watched as fear, insecurity and the need for approval and control all drive such debaters and their agendas. For folks who confess the sovereignty of God it does make you wonder a great deal.”

Notice that Armstrong is the one indulging in armchair psychology. And he’s doing so in order that he can duck the substantive issues by imputing discreditable motives to the opposition.

So Withrow pretends to disapprove of mind-reading when, for rhetorical effect, he attributes that exercise to someone he disagrees with, but if it’s someone he agrees with, then the exercise is to be commended.

Incidentally, I’ve responded to Armstrong elsewhere:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/06/confessions-of-reformed-mobster.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/06/true-confessions.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/06/to-creed-or-not-to-creed-thats.html

So much for any semblance of ethical consistency. And that’s, again, because Withrow wants to deflect attention away from the real issues by scattering rhetorical decoys.

To take another issue:

“But why? Most of us glory in the fact that God has disclosed himself to us in space-time history, in real words, to real people, in real languages.”

This, of course, is not the issue. Carson does not deny that God has disclosed himself to us in space-time history, in real worlds, to real people, in real languages.

Withrow sets up a false antithesis, then places Carson on the wrong side of the antithesis, even though he knows perfectly well that this is not an accurate characterization of Carson’s actual position. Once more we have Withrow attempting to dodge the real issues.

Withrow also feigns offense at the tone of my reviews. So do some of the commenters. This is also irrelevant to the substantive issues. It is, once again, yet another evasive maneuver.

And whatever you think of my tone, I’m Emily Post compared to the tone of BHT, which has all the hospitality of the Bates Motel (insert shower scene soundtrack).

He and others are also affronted by what I said about the late Ray Dillard. They never explain or defend their reaction to what I said. They simply react—the way a Victorian hostess would react if a guest were to wear a red dress to the ball.

Well, this tells you a lot about their scale of values.

They don’t take umbrage at what Longman and Dillard say about the authors of the Bible. They aren’t offended by the fact that Longman and Dillard deny the self-witness of Scripture, capitulated to liberal views of Scripture.

Withrow is defending those who attack Scripture while attacking those who defend Scripture.

It’s quite true that I value Isaiah’s reputation over Dillard’s reputation. Terribly skewed priorities, I know. I’ve discussed this attitude elsewhere:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/02/loving-our-own.html

The irony in all this is that Withrow actually agrees with me. For instead of defending the book, he engages in sophistry. He caricatures the opposition. So he himself must regard the book as indefensible.

If you can defend your position by honest means, you have no need to misrepresent the opposing view or distract the reader with rhetorical frivolities.

So, at the end of the day, I want to thank Withrow for his backhanded admission that Enns has written a book which Withrow as well as TBR are both unwilling and unable to defend on its own merits.

7 comments:

  1. If your concern for the reputation of the OT authors is as sincere as you claim, please demonstrate that by either deleting this post or rewriting it in a tone that honors the Christ of whom they all spoke. As it stands, no reader would read what you wrote and glorify your Father who is in heaven. And if that doesn't bother you, something is seriously wrong.

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  2. I glorify my Father in heaven that there are men the likes of Steve to defend Scripture. Yes, men and not weenies.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. The Concerned Reader must have missed the portions of the NT in which Christ calls the religious leaders of his day a brood of vipers, whitewashed tombs, and a collection of murderers who murdered the prophets. Oh, and while we're at it, he must think Jesus cleansed the Temple by asking them to stop their activity politely.

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  5. I glorify my Father in heaven that there are men the likes of Steve who are gay. Yes, men who like weenies.

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  6. "The Concerned Reader must have missed the portions of the NT in which Christ calls the religious leaders of his day a brood of vipers, whitewashed tombs, and a collection of murderers who murdered the prophets. Oh, and while we're at it, he must think Jesus cleansed the Temple by asking them to stop their activity politely."

    Just what this planet needs, another Davids-Mighty-Men Wannabe.
    Sigh.

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  7. Hey Steve got another one!

    Hollywood legend Cary Grant's shocking new biography alleges the late actor shared a secret "gay marriage" with American movie hunk Randolph Scott. In Marc Eliot's book "Cary Grant: Grant's Secret Sixth Marriage" Grant's image as a heterosexual icon gets pretty much blown out of the water, although chronologically it would have been his first marriage. Eliot claims Grant embarked on a homosexual relationship with the rugged actor after they met on the set of "Hot Saturday" in 1932. Their mutual physical attraction was so immediate and strong the actors lived together for the next 12 years, but separated when Scott became jealous of Grant's blooming romance with actress Virginia Cherrill.

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