I’m on the road again, but I’m not speaking anywhere. I’m actually off studying. Don’t want to get too specific, but yes, it has to do with Islam. But, I should still have net access, so I will keep plugging away here.
Haven’t seen how we can exegete Romans 5:1 via the “mind of the Church” yet, and, to be honest, I really doubt I will. Johnson’s original statement is getting the same treatment we will hear from our national politicians for the next two years or so: spin. It was obviously an over-statement that really cannot be defended, and you just can’t make the original statement work. So, when challenged, the spin starts and now instead of seeking the context in the “mind of the Church” over against the original context, now we are being told that it is important and helpful to consider what past generations have thought about a text. Of course, I have never said otherwise, and, if folks would even attempt some level of fairness (I truly don’t believe the RefCath folks bother to read anything I write outside of my blog) they would know that I have no problem with avoiding re-inventing the wheel with each generation. But that wasn’t what Johnson originally said, of course. We won’t see any defense of that original statement because it is indefensible and, as stated, this “mind of the Church” as a hermeneutical methodology is nebulous and undefined.
I am reminded of my challenge to Doug Wilson in our Credenda Agenda debate many years ago. It sounds so wonderfully pious and warm and theological to speak of “the mind of the Church” or the “ecclesiastical text” and the like. You can really get folks worked up about stuff like that. I bet I could get quite a following if I was content to wander about in the feel-good land of puffy phrases and theologically loaded language. But I have this problem. See, I actually try to take my faith into the marketplace and present it as God’s truth. I have to defend it. So, language like that, as nice as it sounds, has to be able to translate into reality. It has to work. When I asked Doug Wilson to take the Theodore Letis-inspired concept of an “ecclesiastical text” and actually show us how it works in real life in deciding a textual variant, he couldn’t do that. It wasn’t his fault, of course. It is just that while we may long for certain things, it doesn’t mean that the object of our longing exists; further, even if we say it exists, it may just exist in our minds and on paper, but it doesn’t exist in reality. The ecclesiastical text model can’t do textual criticism. It can’t get its hand dirty in the real world and actually accomplish anything. It can’t answer questions, it can’t defend itself. So, it’s only worth is that generated by folks who wish it were true.
In the same way, Johnson’s original claim sounded very pious and ecclesiastical and religious and the like, but, it can’t make the transition from wishful thinking to reality. You can’t do exegesis with it, especially has he used it originally. It just doesn’t exist down here in the real world where you have to answer tough questions. And since Johnson will never offer an exegesis of Romans 5:1 using this “mind of the Church” as his sole guide, well, the point is proven.
Now, it is fascinating to watch the spinning going on over at the Oxymoronic Blog. I have been quite straightforward in my replies to Owen and Johnson. If you are new to his blog, you may think I’ve been too harsh. Consider the background and you might recognize I’ve been quite restrained. In any case, if you peruse the articles and the comments posted over the past few days dispassionately, simply analyzing the thought patterns and methodologies, you will discover that none of these folks have the slightest interest in actually engaging the text on the level I have presented in my rebuttals. None. In fact, there is a general tone of mockery of that kind of exegetical examination of the text (the form that starts with the original author’s context, his intentions, his language, grammar, lexicography, syntax, narrow and broader literary context, authorial context, broadening out to the corpus of the author’s writings, and finally to the New Testament as a whole) almost always (especially in the comments of Timothy Enloe, who cannot restrain himself from making these comments in every possible context) along with some kind of “gnostic” accusation or “anabaptist” insult or something along those lines. What is always accepted as axiomatic is my irrationality. I’m simply beyond reason they say. I will gladly let the reader compare and contrast and decide if there is any merit to the accusation. One thing is for certain: one side can quote the other and interact directly with their presentation. The other can’t. You decide.
Now, a few days ago I linked to a post by a Gordon Conwell student. He was venting fire and wrath and in the process made note of a “Reformed Baptist apologetics ministry” and basically said he couldn’t believe folks would allow the Reformed movement to be hi-jacked by the likes of such folks. Now, there may be some other RB apologetics ministries out there, but we are few and far between. I get the distinct feeling your’s truly was the target of the original 1/3/07 post, which, oddly enough, has now been removed from public view. In any case, I have yet again been the cause of the demise of a blogger, at least, in the context of his original blogging, for he writes,
I have decided to quit blogging over at Ecclesial Awakening for reasons which I delineated there yesterday. The reason I began thinking about it is as follows: After James White put a link to a post on my blog at aomin.org I began to have all manner of folk comment and I got sucked into a debate which should never have happened (kind of like a miniature version of what has taken place here over the last couple days). I was subject to such bold lunacy as “TULIP is the Gospel” and assertions so inane as the idea that Paul had in mind the “five points of Calvinism” when he wrote to Timothy and Titus about guarding sound doctrine. Who in their right mind would entertain such ridiculous claims? But I did. Apparently in the heat of the battle our sanity goes out the window along with our catholicity. The post itself has been deleted, but my frustration continues.
Does anyone else notice how odd it is for those who pride themselves in being so catholic, so ecumenical, so reasonable, to not notice that they fill their posts with invectives? Does this writer not recognize that “bold lunacy” is not a phrase filled with warm fuzzies? It is very clear this writer questions the mental stability and capacity of anyone who would be so bold as to think the doctrines of grace are, actually, biblically revealed, divine truths and that as such 1) it is our duty and privilege to love them, honor them, and live in light of them, and 2) the denial of them will result in at the very best a sub-biblical gospel presentation and, at worse, simple heresy. Evidently, to believe that means I’m a lunatic, according to this seasoned Gordon Conwell student. Yet, after having sown dissension based upon his private opinion and having shown a rather gross disregard for the context and intention we provide in our presentations of our beliefs, he has the temerity to say, “The bottom line is that the folks who have given in to the beguiling gods of self, private opinion, and dissension simply will not hear what we are saying, so it really is counterproductive to fall into their traps.” Hmm, Mr. Pot, Mr. Kettle is on line one. Something about colors.
But we should be concerned indeed by the fact that an entire group of people can become so obsessed with a paradigm that in fact they cannot begin to accurately represent those who disagree with them. What causes this? I have wondered many times myself. That is why I quote, directly, in writing, and, when possible, on the DL, by audio recording, what others are saying so that I cannot “fudge” and misrepresent them. But these folks couldn’t tell the truth about what I have said or, why I say it, if they were paid to do so. I mean, what kind of mindset can take the past number of articles I have written and reduce them to this description: “Why are we entertaining the battles of men who have already declared the Church to be nothing other than “the will of the people?” Why do we see the need to refute the ex cathedra declarations of self appointed pontiffs?” For all their vaunted inclusivism, don’t be misled: these folks have no room in their sandbox for anyone who would hold them to any consistent standards.
A number of months ago I challenged Tim Enloe to stop talking about me. I offered to do the same. He made it only a matter of weeks before he had to take a shot at me (on a Roman Catholic web-board, no less). It is so very sad to see this talented young man so tortured by the necessity to slander those who tried to help him in the past. He comments today,
This is a great post, Jonathan, and though I’ve been actively involved in the anti-White stuff over the last few days I agree with you 100%. I wish he could just be completely ignored. But it will take a concerted effort from everyone here to do so. People just have to stop pulling his blog up, stop listening to his program, stop talking in other forums to people who live vicariously through him, or it won’t work. Everyone has to do it, or it won’t work. Each of us is only responsible for ourselves, though, so it’s not like I can say “But Kevin posted about White so I just had to say something on the thread.” No, I didn’t have to. I am responsible for my own behavior.
I have to keep reminding myself that Tim doesn’t realize how insulting he is to those who were once his friends when he speaks of them living “vicariously through him (me)” and the like. He really has no idea how utterly dismissive and nasty he is. It is part of the complex of behaviors I have observed in those who abandon a position they once identified as true.
Finally, here is part of Johnson’s spin on his “mind of the Church” hermeneutical principle:
That’s why I pointed out that even men as wildly independent as James White already rely on the mind of the Church in terms of their creedal orthodoxy, how they understand who Christ is and what He has done, and the underpinnings of their study in the first place–that being what the Church decided as Scripture and how the Table of Contents of the Bible ought to look.
So, let’s see if we can flesh this out. The original statement was that the “mind of the Church” should be more central as the context of interpretation than “the mind of the writer.” This was followed up with the assertion in a later post that we cannot know what Jesus said in Capernaum (I might point out in passing that there is precious little difference in making this statement and going all the way to saying it doesn’t even matter if Jesus was ever in Capernaum in the first place, a step that leads one inevitably down the slope to final capitulation on any meaningful doctrine of inspiration). Now we have the assertion that the creeds flow from the “mind of the Church.” Alright, how does that help us to interpret Romans 5:1 or John 6:37? If this is our new operative hermeneutic, how did it work before there were any creedal statements upon which to operate? And if we find creedal statements in Scripture, do we interpret them in light of later creedal statements? Who gets to choose which creeds? Nicea? Sirmium? Both? (That would be a trick). Once again we run smack dab into that pesky problem of having these high-flying theological assertions actually work in the real world. Now, I know that Mr. Johnson does not read my published books any longer, but I would invite him to read The Forgotten Trinity and see for himself how you might just be able to believe in the supremacy and primacy of the Scriptures as God’s infallible revelation of divine truth and be forced, thereby, to be a biblical Trinitarian, without confessing the supremacy of creeds over Scripture. And I would likewise direct him to my chapter on the canon in Scripture Alone for a challenging discussion of the nature of canon and the passive nature of the Church’s recognition of canon (versus its creation of canon). Again, I would not make the kinds of comments Johnson makes about someone who publishes as often as I do without reading what they have published, but I realize that I’m a Reformed Baptist, and for the folks who splash about in the Tiber, that is tantamount to being a leper, so I don’t expect to get treated in a fair manner. But, the fact remains that so far, Mr. Johnson has followed Paul Owen’s example of capitulation when it comes to the challenges that have been laid before him relating to his own words, his own assertions.