Tim Enloe's Amazing Meetings With the Ghosts of Ockham & Plato!
Meeting of the Minds: Plato (left) and Viceroy Tim Enloe (right) discuss the shortcomings of Roman Catholic e-pologists and numerous other equally troublesome issues of great import
This is a satirical, humorous piece -- but with a very serious undertone (as all good satire should have) -- stimulated by various ruminations of Protestant contra-Catholic polemicists Tim Enloe and Dr. Eric Svendsen at the latter's NTRMin "Areopagus" discussion board and other forums, and especially Dr. Svendsen's National Enquirer-type spoof located at: http://www.ntrmin.org/CAISpoof.htm.
For a similar tongue-in-cheek essay by Tim Enloe, see "Extra! Extra! Read All About It!," posted at: http://pub145.ezboard.com/fcatholicoutlookfrm1.showMessage?topicID=422.topic
Tim Enloe's own website, Grace Unknown, contains several papers about my viewpoints and arguments:
MOSCOW, IDAHO, May 1 2003. Protestant apologist Timothy G. Enloe startled and astonished friends, comrades, and fellow Christian enemies alike on Thursday when he strikingly revealed that he had received spirit messages on several occasions from the medieval Franciscan theologian and philosopher William of Ockham (c. 1285-1347). These supernatural brainstorming sessions with the dead Roman Catholic Semi-Pelagian, sacramentarian, and idol-worshiper appear to have profoundly affected Mr. Enloe.
Enloe compatriots David T. King, Dr. Eric Svendsen, Ronnie ("Romans45") Brown, Jason Engwer, and James ("TertiumQuidd") Swan could not be reached for comment on particulars, but in a purely coincidental joint press release on Thursday, they pointed out that "evangelical and Reformed Protestants oppose spiritism and necromancy of any kind." A suggestion from an unnamed source that Mr. Enloe's visions had an uncanny similarity to the Marian apparitions at Fatima and Lourdes was quickly and derisively dismissed by King, Svendsen et al with the comment, "obviously this is a conspiracy of RC e-pologists, who have scarcely any integrity, and who engage regularly in deception -- to discredit our good friend Tim."
Previously, Mr. Enloe had been known to wax eloquently and endlessly in pagan-saturated discussion boards about Ockham and other ancient Christian luminaries and figures utterly foreign to the evangelical and Calvinist mindset, such as Gregory of Rimini (d. 1358) and Hugh of St. Victor (d. 1142). Recently, however, dumbfounded but faithful and loyal observers have noted a marked prominence in his posts of the Neo-Platonist poet, philosopher, and mystic Plotinus (c. 205-270).
The Ghost of Ockham (who first appeared to Mr. Enloe on October 31, 1997, at the stroke of one, exactly 650 years after he died, looking like a jolly medieval king, with a large razor blade in his hand) has reputedly requested with appropriate scholarly self-effacing humility that Mr. Enloe stop discussing him so much, and to move onto other obviously compelling influences on the hyper-rationalistic Roman Catholic theology and "mindset," such as Plotinus and Plato. But this has yet to be independently confirmed.
The amiable yet vaguely frightening and ethereal, bearded Ghost of Ockham is also reputed to have told the astonished young apologist that "the simpler your ideas, the better." This advice has obviously not been heeded. Mr. Enloe clearly retains the right of private judgment and dissent, even where William of Ockham is concerned. One anonymous source (possibly the Ghost of Gabriel Biel: c. 1420-1495) claimed that when Mr. Enloe heard this suggestion, he answered, "my obscurantist, convoluted, incoherent arguments will stand. I can do no other, so help me God." A thunderbolt was immediately heard at that moment. Some observers believe also that Mr. Enloe cried out to St. Anne after he heard the thunder, though that is merely a rumor at this point.
Such shocking revelations have alarmed some of Mr. Enloe's Calvinist and antinomian-type "evangelical" friends, but the illustrious polemicist has (characteristically) defended himself vigorously and assures his detractors that all is well: "Greco-Roman thought shouldn't be entirely chucked, but if Pelikan's defense of Neoplatonism in the Cappadocians is any indication of the Orthodox mindset, Roman Catholicism, too, is overly infatuated with Hellenistic thought."
This statement, and many others like it have calmed the nerves of fellow true-blue Protestants of the elitist Reformational Heritage variety, who greatly feared that Mr. Enloe was veering dangerously close to a serious consideration of Christian history and philosophy (and reason in general), rather than a proper exclusive emphasis on their antitheses: the Bible and John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. Mr. Enloe has assured them privately (and we here at the Truth Unknown newspaper have -- as always -- taken the greatest pains to preserve such privacy) that his numerous encyclopedic and sometimes excruciatingly tedious ventures into the history of ideas are rhetorical-only, and sophistical polemical exercises primarily intended to embarrass and confuse Roman Catholics and (above all) Roman Catholic "e-pologists."
The editorial staff at Truth Unknown thought it would be helpful, in light of all these events, to ask the Ghost of Plato (who has been bored for centuries because he hasn't found anyone remotely as brilliant as he is to talk to) to do an interview with Mr. Enloe, so that our readers could gain a better understanding of Mr. Enloe's own epistemological and nominalistic interpretation of these reports.
Mr. Enloe agreed on the condition that his extreme obsession with Platonism, nominalism, Neo-Platonism, and epistemology in general, was noted prominently in the resulting article as representing only one phase of his continuing evolution. We have now held to our end of the bargain. He also refused to discuss the Bible in any way, shape, or form, asking with some irritation, "Where did I mention the Gospel in any of my posts?" With that proviso duly noted, here is the interview, conducted on the ruins of Plato's ancient Academy in Athens, Greece:
Plato (P): Mr. Enloe, welcome, and thanks for agreeing to this interview. I am hoping to receive some sorely-needed intellectual stimulation. Unfortunately, there is a long waiting list to talk to St. Paul here in heaven. Blaise Pascal, St. Anselm, and St. Augustine are also quite in demand. St. Thomas Aquinas is a genius, of course, but his style and emphasis is not to my personal taste (no offense intended). He's too down to earth. Very nice and humble man, though . . .
Tim Enloe (T): It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm honored and humbled by this chance to meet such a great and influential thinker. I was wondering: have you talked much to Calvin, Turretin, Edwards, Warfield, or Hodge up in heaven?
P: No. Actually, I can't because they're still serving time in purgatory and I hear that it'll be several decades more before they get out. They're resisting the re-education efforts mightily (especially John Calvin: he is no end of trouble down there. Stubborn!!!!). I was blessed myself because I only had to spend a few months in purgatory. I was told that this was largely because I lived before the Christian revelation was fully revealed in Jesus Christ, whereas Calvin lived 15 centuries after it and had far less excuse; also that he rebelled against much of the apostolic deposit, faithfully preserved in the Catholic Church down through the centuries. Some verses about, "to whom much is given, much is required," and "let not many be teachers, for they shall be judged more strictly," as I recall . . . Calvin (along with the others) made it because he was a disciple of Christ, but alas, he has required more preparation in correct theology than most (because falsehoods are not allowed in heaven). It's much more difficult to extirpate the false than it is to simply accept the true. But enough of my preaching; sorry (I do a lot of that now that I am a Catholic convert).
T: That's too bad. I think you could learn much from them.
P: I doubt it. They're pitifully ignorant of how philosophy works (with the possible exception of Jonathan Edwards). But tell you what; I'll look them up when they arrive here.
T: Good! I think they might convert you to Calvinism.
P: As I said, falsehoods are not allowed in heaven, so that is not likely (to put it mildly). Speaking of Calvin, some are saying that you are the next John Calvin (or at least the next Doug Jones). How do you respond to that?
T: I think it is silly and misguided. I am, however, a serious student of history and totally fail to appreciate the absolute flippancy and shallowness with which the RC apologetics subculture approaches these matters.
P: Okay; fair enough. Perhaps that is true about them (at least on earth; here it is much different). I don't keep up with such things. But don't you think that Catholics on earth (sinners that they are, no doubt) have at least some insights concerning Christian history which might benefit Protestants?
T: Yes and no (mostly the latter). The same people who blithely talk about being "deep in history" can't answer basic questions about the role of Greco-Roman thought in the theology of the Fathers. The legacy of Platonism causes them all to be interested only in the ideal, which is so powerful that they simply can't fathom how utterly self-serving so much of their position is. Despite all the RC appeals to history, it's nearly impossible to talk to those folks about real history. On the other hand, the big battle for Protestants is getting past the willful ignorance of and uncharity towards history that has crippled us for centuries. Until Protestants can stop shooting ourselves in the feet by portraying the Reformers as proto-Modern American individualists, we deserve much of the scorn Catholic apologists heap upon us. We give away way too much to the Roman Catholic case from history and end up justifying the apparently endless reaction of Roman Catholic Fundamentalists against Protestant Fundamentalists, via shallow "Catholic Answers" style apologetics as the answer to Jack Chick / Dave Hunt-esque presentations.
P: Do you think that Catholic belief in a papacy warps our view of Church history?
T: Partially so, yes. They have this false belief that in terms of human knowledge of the Christian faith the historically-contingent Papacy is the same kind of thing as the ontologically self-sufficient Trinity. It's a matter of building into its very theology tenets of a pagan worldview and calling them "Apostolic" simply because, well, they're "the Church", so there. The more I look at some things, the more convinced I become that the belief in the infalliblity of the Church is a capitulation to Hellenistic thinking.
P: Would you agree with your friend David T. King's comments about virtually all non-Protestants lacking integrity?
Posted on 4/15/03 at 9:34:29 AM ]
T: Sure. I've observed this for five years now. I suppose it's only natural to any group to reach for the "You've misunderstood us" card, but to then go for the "You're deliberately lying about us" card when the opponent doesn't immediately fold is just wrong. Unfortunately, it is my opinion that almost all I'm getting from the Roman Catholic and Orthodox sides on these matters is a lot of extremism, summed up by "Deny our tight system of axioms and you have no authority, no knowledge, and no consistency in your acceptance of tradition." It's difficult to work with this kind of all-or-nothing approach to Christian truth. I continue to enable myself to be an increasingly massive pain in the rear to Catholic Answers-style Catholic apologists.
P: What about Dr. Eric Svendsen's stated opinion in his forum (where you are one of the moderators) that RC apologists regularly engage in deception? Do you believe that, too?
Final edit: 4/27/03 6:39:36 PM ]
T: Yes. I do have a problem with people who actively engage in apologetics and continually demonstrate intellectual laziness and rude condescension. Are you assuming Doug Jones should have been convinced by [Orthodox] Fr. Whiteford's arguments, but since he wasn't, there was something insidious going on in Jones's mind to make him go ahead and write what he did?
P: I don't judge hearts and motivations anymore. That was one of the most difficult lessons I learned during my stay in purgatory. I did see a similarly distressing statement of yours: "You're one of the few Catholics I've met online who actually has some integrity when dealing with others."
Final edit: 4/10/03 12:03:25 am ]
Even granting for the sake of argument your opinion and those of your friends, that RC apologists habitually lie and deceive and lack integrity, can't you see how some people might consider these remarks rather harsh and uncharitable judgments?
T: No. I've stated half a dozen times or more now that none of my "Hellenistic" criticisms are to be taken in an "absolute" fashion, whether regarding the Church Fathers or RCism. I'm not saying Catholicism is is out-and-out "pagan". And certainly it is not my intent to bear false witness against anyone. RC apologists deny that there is any other legitimate, non-dishonest way to view things except the way that they have come to embrace. So we think they are dishonest. But nevertheless (despite their ubiquitous dishonesty), I think ought to be able to discuss such things like Christian gentlemen--which means among other things that in return for me not calling RCs apostate neopagans, they ought not to simply beat me over the head with cheap shots about whether I should be the judge of the Church or be judged by the Church. Certain presences on discussion boards assume our adverse opinions on RC integrity and deception are because of rank prejudice or a desire to lie about those communities. Well, fooey on them and their tiny little subspace bubble universes.
P: Alright. Moving on: what do you say to the charge that you are obsessed with nominalism?
T: They don't get it. I don't expect a given Catholic apologist to, say, have studied Nominalism in the kind of detail I have. I'm simply a naive nominalist. I think that nominalism asks some good questions relative to realism, but that doesn't mean I have what one RC epologist uncharitably characterized as a "Gospel of Nominalism." Yet it is true, i confess, that Ghost Ockham chided me a bit.
P: Yes, Ockham was a sharp guy. You are fortunate indeed to have him as your mentor (well, for the most part). Now, tell me how you think Hellenism affects one's ecclesiology?
T: "Hellenistic" ecclesiology goes for extremes on the One; reactions against "Hellenistic" ecclesiology go for extremes on the Many." I could possibly agree that "the Church" is autopistic. Roman Catholics think every piece of Church history belongs to the Vatican and that "intellectual honesty" means anyone who looks seriously at Church history should cross the Tiber right now. I just wouldn't conceive of "the Church" the way the RCs do, and so my application of an ecclesiological autopistic principle would look a lot different from theirs, because my view is not an immutable, abstract intellectual Idea that my mind infallibly contacts per the Realist philosophical schools of you and your student Aristotle.
P: I'm a realist?! Aristotle wouldn't agree with you! Maybe I can persuade him to interview you next time [broad smile]. People define the term "realism" differently, but that is another discussion entirely, of course, and I must desist. Has Plotinus' Ghost also visited you and given you some pointers in how to trap these (what you and your friends call) "RC deceivers"-- people that your circle continually talk and complain about (yet for some reason rarely refute in substantive papers)?
T: No, but Doug Jones has apparently spent a lot of time with Plotinus, and he spelled out the problematic aspects of Plotinian theology relative to Orthodoxy in a Credenda article some years back.
P: I see. Interesting. What do you think of Catholic doctrines that are regarded on your side as weird and unbiblical, like, for example, penance?
T: In an age of prevalent antinomianism such as this one, I sometimes find myself thinking it wouldn't be so bad to have a mindset that would think of "mortifying the body" in terms of standing barefoot in an ice-cold creek for hours or staying up all night to recite all 150 Psalms.
P: Impressive answer indeed! How about veneration of images? Do you have a biblical argument against that?
T: I remind you that I only agreed to this interview on the condition that we never discuss the Bible.
P: Oh, sorry; I forgot. My mistake.
T: No problem, but I hope it doesn't happen again. I am a confessional Protestant, and as such I reject image veneration and the attachment of saint / relic cults to the notion of the communion of saints. However, I have begun to see some small glimmerings of why other Christians did and continue to do such things. If Catholics or Orthodox want to claim that the Apostles would approve of icon veneration, they need to demonstrate that the Apostles taught within a basically Neoplatonic matrix.
P: So everything basically comes down to Neo-Platonism (a distortion of my views and philosophy, by the way), in your opinion?
T: Yes. Ghost Ockham told me this. That was part of his message in several apparitions. It has revolutionized my thought.
P: Hmmmm. I will have to get with him on that. I think he's off a bit. But we're not here to discuss my philosophy. Do you admit that you ever get carried away in your voluminous discussions on the Internet, and sometimes descend into personal insults? And can you point to a specific example of a dishonest Catholic apologist? Maybe we can get a prayer chain going up here in heaven and ask the Blessed Virgin Mary in particular to prayer for compulsive liars who give Catholicism a bad name, as her prayers are more powerful than any other creature's (James 5:16).
T: I'm not hurling insults gratuitous or otherwise. I received nothing but a priorist question-begging from the several Catholics who responded to my Papalism / Conciliarism posts. And I've gotten absurdly uncharitable dismissal from most RCs of my inquiries into Realism and Nominalism, even to the point of your good buddy Dave Armstrong, the king of contemporary Catholic use of Realism as a historical hermeneutic, flippantly proclaiming that I have a "Gospel of Nominalism". Armstrong is notorious for his hyper-sensitivity, paranoia, and persecution complex, as well as many other obvious and glaring shortcomings such as his extremely poor research methods and outlandish opinions about Martin Luther, abundantly on display in his latest pitiful paper on Brother Martin (http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ77.HTM).
P: Dave Armstrong is my "good buddy"? Who is he, pray tell?
T: Oh, sorry. I confused you with Aristotle for a moment there . . . Armstrong is obviously an Aristotelian, because he is an RC. His realism is an extreme, absurd version of John Henry Newman's (whose books I have never read, but I certainly understand him better than Armstrong does). As for Newman and Slogans in Historiography, I'll leave you with a developed form of Newman's Maxim: "To be covenantally deep in history is to laugh the dogmatic historicism of Roman Catholicism to its justly-deserved scorn." Frankly, I've yet to find a Roman Catholic convert whose actual state of historical knowledge even comes close to being able to justify the oh-so-easy recitation of that oh-so-pithy Newmanism. Roman apologists who think like Dave Armstrong cannot seem to help doing their apologetics in a self-serving, condescending, and extremely unhelpful way. Dave keeps aiming guns that apply only to a-historical "Fundamentalists" at us.
P: I don't know anything about Dave Armstrong so I can't comment on him (we've heard, however, from some recently-deceased Protestants that he is on the devil's side. They were sternly rebuked by the Lord because lying and slander is not allowed up here). In any event, you are confused about Cardinal Newman's thought, which is poles apart from Aquinas's in many important ways. Haven't you ever had a decent dialogue (a form of discourse I personally favor) with a Catholic apologist?
T: No. Whether we argue from Scripture or whether we argue from Tradition, all we get is slogans, axioms, and condescension. I completely disallow a favorite activity of many Roman Catholics (especially the converts)--i.e., riding entire gargantuan superstructures of immensely debatable theological and historical points on top of a purely honorific use of the term "catholic." The term "catholic" is not reducible to "Papalism", and the attempt of Roman Catholics to make it so is perhaps the highest proof of their sectarianism and historical question-begging that can be imagined. The desire of the Roman Catholic is to rhetorically up-play the "anarchy" and "disunity" that he says "Protestants" exhibit as opposed to the "stability" and "unity" that he says "Catholics" have.
I wish I could avoid the valentior pars of Roman Catholic apologists--which basically wastes prodigious amounts of time on trivialities, misconceptions, propaganda, and weird projections of their own insecurities onto others. I don't expect Catholics to roll over and die because I say "Conciliarism", but call me a naive moron, I surely expected a lot more than what I've gotten. Many Protestants spend hundreds or thousands of hours in serious meditation on serious scholarly sources of Church history only to have it all blown off by RC's absolutely unshakeable implicit faith in whatever "the Church" happens to say.
P: Why do you put the "Church" in quotes like that?
T: Because the true Church is not what Roman Catholics think it is. The Church is not a Platonic Form hovering above all its members, an ontologically-independent entity that figures out the Scriptures for us and judges us.
P: You are saying, then, that Catholics view the Catholic Church as akin to my ideal forms?
T: Well, yes.
P: I will have to respectfully disagree. After all, Christian thought (particularly when it was correctly competing against my own particular former errors, in instances such as Paul's sermon at the Areopagus in Athens) was and is characterized by the incarnational principle: men who died were resurrected; they didn't remain spirits. God Himself took on flesh and became Man. The early Church believed strongly in the real, substantial presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. St. Paul talked about the "Body of Christ." Jesus told Paul that when he was persecuting the Church, he was persecuting Him ("Me"). The Church was a visible, institutional entity, which preserved and passed down Apostolic Tradition, and this explains, in large part, the historical continuity of the Christian community. I'm sorry, Tim, but I was duty-bound to express my opinion that you seem to be at least as much influenced by my thought and "Hellenism" as you think Catholics are.
T: I and my community are part of "the Church" just as much as the RCs and the Orthodox; I deny either of them the right to exempt their successions from criticism while simultaneously assaulting me for my Scriptural hermeneutics. If I'm not allowed to say without challenge, for instance, that the "plain interpretation" of Romans 9 is the Augustinian tradition that the Reformed embrace, I don't think Rome or the Orthodox ought to be allowed to say without challenge that "the Church" is mainly or exclusively found in their particular hierarchies. A little quid pro quo is all I'm asking, but perhaps that's too much for the rationalist mindset to handle. It's so insulting to children of the Reformation to hear all this nonsense from contemporary RC apologists about "coming home." "Come home?" we ask. We never left! That the Papacy left divine truth and became a pretentious, autonomous tyrant inventing doctrines and practice out of whole cloth is, however, quite demonstrable.
P: Sorry, I don't follow your hyper-rationalist, Enlightenment-inspired reasoning. If the Church is not simply an ideal form and it is visible and institutional, where, then, does it reside, if not in the Catholic Church (or perhaps the Orthodox Church, or both together in some fashion)?
T: I haven't totally worked that out yet but it has something to do with Reformed Christianity and the Third Christendom starting to spring forth here in Moscow, Idaho. It's hard to explain.
P: If it is so hard to explain and you can't describe it, perhaps (just a suggestion) you should be much more patient with your Catholic and Orthodox brothers in Christ who differ with you on ecclesiology? After all, at least they are giving a positive presentation of an ecclesiology and taking a stand, whereas you take the much easier road of a mostly negative approach: tearing down their views but presenting no particularly coherent alternative that makes all that much sense. It's better to err on the side of caution (not to mention apostolic Tradition).
T: One day you'll be persuaded of this, and will "get" it.
P: I must inform you that I reside (by God's grace) in heaven where we have all knowledge (so it is impossible to start to "get" anything; we already "have" everything), and I must say -- with all due respect and no offense intended at all -- that your reasoning (though impressive in presentation at first glance) is more or less a complete muddle.
T: But Plato, what is so maddening and frustrating is the sheer dogmatism I've received in response from your side. It's beyond belief. Who cares if I cite Latin canonical sources and construct sober-minded, thorough arguments about Papal lineages and doctrinal claims; "the Church is an anvil that has worn out many hammers", right?
P: Where did you hear that saying?
T: Oh, from a naive, epistemologically-challenged simpleton named Gary Hoge, who runs a silly discussion board here on earth. I tried for years to reason with him, but he doesn't get it because he has that RC mindset that is impervious to reason and truth. I got tired of it. So now I just complain about him endlessly, kind of like I do about Dave Armstrong, who is the most exasperating person I have ever "dialogued" with.
P: The Church has indeed worn out many hammers (including some aspects of my own philosophy which were found wanting in light of the Christian revelation). I think Gary is indeed onto something that is an important insight. Socrates was a great man and he possessed much wisdom. God gave some of us who were striving after philosophical truth (before our Glorious Lord Jesus went down to earth) much grace to arrive at truth and not falsehood. I'll never forget the wonderful day that He came down to Hades and took us up to heaven!
T: Never mind. I don't any longer have the stomach for being disregarded in the manner in which I've been disregarded for months now. Not just by you, of course. I'm probably a "postmodernist" who preaches a "gospel of nominalism" and sounds like Ian Paisley yelling "we will bury you!" on top of it all. Maybe you should just tell me I'm a separated brother who doesn't see that the Church is an anvil that has worn out many hammers and futilely fights the big bad pope, who, unlike me, has a charism of infallibility. Maybe you could throw in a few Novenas for my conversion, too.
P: Obviously you have suffered much and your wounds are apparent. But how have I personally "disregarded" you?
T: By not accepting my arguments and granting them the respect they deserve!
P: I have only disagreed mildly. You don't know the half of it, my friend! You see, when we sons of heaven talk about theology and philosophy with mere earthlings, we need to simplify our thought processes and communication styles by several levels of magnitude (much like God did in His revelation, the Bible) because if we didn't, no one on earth would be able to understand us at all. So I am not answering at my full capability (I'm only at about 10% strength). If I did so, you would undergo a severe trauma because so much of your thought is erroneous. I inform you of this as gently as I know how, because I've followed some of your Internet conversations (in preparation for this interview) and I know how you tend to react to people who question your arguments and insights.
T: You should be less inclined to attempt to lecture me on what "philosophy" means. Everyone has starting points--even me.
P: Even you?
T: Yes. Thanks for the lecture, but I'm finished being lectured--especially by Roman Catholics.
P: I wasn't lecturing, merely informing, my friend. But perhaps the supreme advantage of my heavenly knowledge (it's not really a fair fight at all) is "leaking through" my attempts to simplify it. If so, you have my apologies.
T: No problem. I just am sick to death of Catholic condescension and arrogance. Maybe I came down a bit hard on you. Sorry. I do have a tendency to get overheated and engage in rhetorical excess. I know that.
P: You are forgiven. I want to ask you a few more philosophical questions. How do you relate philosophy to Scripture?
T: I take it as virtually self-evident that neither your tenets nor the tenets of Aristotle are found in Holy Scripture.
P: Tim, Tim! Your zeal blinds you! This is simply not true. There are many truths in my philosophy that I developed while on earth, and also (of course) in my pupil Aristotle's philosophy. Whatever was correct in both corresponded with biblical truth, because all truth is God's truth. It is wrong for you to so easily dismiss these philosophies in such broad terms. One must work through the issues one by one. Socrates, Aristotle and I got many things right because God's grace was working through us (largely unlike other rival groups such as the Sophists or the Epicureans). The Christian Church picked up many elements of our thought and developed or "Christianized" them. It's obvious and uncontroversial that Holy Scripture and Christianity as a religion are not philosophical systems at bottom (in that very broad sense you are correct, if that is what you meant). But they can utilize philosophy as the "handmaiden of faith." I think you generalize far too much and contradict yourself. You yourself have stated, for example: "It's equally bizarre to me for someone to assert that if Hellenistic thinking caused trouble in one area of the Fathers' thinking, that must also mean other areas are likewise vitiated." Exactly! Likewise, Hellenistic thinking contradicts Scripture in some ways but not in all ways. We didn't (to cite but one example) get the general resurrection right, but we got concepts like the Logos pretty much right.
T: Well, then I will close my participation in banging my head against rationalistic blackboards such as yours by simply noting that all rationalists are "inconsistent" when judged by the axioms of other rationalist systems. If you don't believe me, compare the philosophical systems of Spinoza (bad pantheist) and Leibniz (good theist). If I wanted to be a rationalist like you guys who are doing all this objecting, I'd just refer you back to my posts on the ambiguities in the Western tradition's understanding of the role of the Pope, promulgate an intrinsically infallible axiom of conciliarism (I'd call it the "essence" of Church government, which has "developed" from an "acorn" through a long series of "true inferences from true principles"), and dare you to defend yourselves against the charge of "inconsistency" to "the ancient and constant faith of the universal Church" (as defined by my group's axioms). Bah humbug to all that fruitless either / or thinking.
P: I see that you have a lot to learn. I must say, Tim, that I am somewhat disappointed with your thinking.
T: I am a poor amateur in discussing these things, and I fear that the essential point I've been trying to make has been lost.
P: On that we agree. Good! What do you mean by "essential" though? How do you determine what an "essence" is and what it isn't? Well, never mind, that is another huge discussion too.
T: I do think, however, that there's a difference between us Christians recognizing that God gave pagans like you and Aristotle some light here and there and us Christians acting like you two can't ever be transcended.
P: I wholeheartedly agree (how well I learned that during my time in purgatory!), and I'll let you in on a secret: so does the Catholic Church. Our time is rapidly coming to an end. You can have the last word, Mr. Enloe. Thanks for participating.
T: Thank you, my dear Plato. I have many thoughts and questions about the absurdity of RC apologetics. For all the trumpeting about "evidence" these folks do, are we really looking at thinly-veiled, foundationally-irrational fideism? I've written more than 1,196 posts since August, 2002, and 1098 of them had to do with epistemology, so I know something about this. Make no mistake about it: Roman Catholics are not simply purveyors of undiluted Apostolic Tradition. They are either / or rationalists, and that is because they enshrine certain philosophical and cultural immaturies of the Church Fathers as unchallengeable benchmarks of "rationality".
They can't conceive of a reality that isn't thoroughly circumscribed by the dogmas of their Infallible Hierarchy, and they get quite worked up over simply being asked to put some substance behind their slogans about history, to defend their major principles with more than "It's a developed Tradition", and to stop pretending like "Catholic Truth" is some kind of self-evident Platonic Form / Aristotelian Essence that anyone ought to see with a few minutes of "rational" thought. They never put it that bluntly, of course, but that's what it all means. They are either / or dichotomists to the core.
So many RCs on the Internet can't get outside of their tiny little either Catholicism is 100% true or we can't know anything about the Christian faith. And so many Roman converts are ungrounded, uncritical, pop-Evangelical / Fundamentalists rushing to get away from their own immaturities and lack of spiritual discernment--and not people who seriously considered the issues from more than a facile "to be deep in history" mentality. It's like Steve Ray's stupid remark that when he started reading the Fathers he saw that "intellectual honesty" required him to become Roman Catholic, or Gary Hoge's even stupider remark that no historical criticism of Rome really matters because "The Church is an anvil that has worn out many hammers".
Unproveable, unfalsifiable pseudo-metaphysical blathering is the first thing the Roman apologist reaches for when confronted with serious historical problems is all the proof that is required of the absolute poverty of the "historical" case for an unbroken, unerring Roman Catholicism. It becomes absolutely ludicrous to maintain the kinds of things Roman Catholic apologists maintain about their Church.
About 95% of the words of Tim Enloe above were taken from his comments in various public Internet board discussions. Please remember that this is a satire and a spoof, yet I have utilized the dialogical format and literary, pedagogical device of the Ghost of Plato, to make what I think are some philosophical and theological points worthy of further reflection. All good satire (as I hope this is) has a fundamentally serious intent at bottom.
ADDENDUM: Tim's Response
. . . Tell you what, Diane and Dave both, when either one of you reads primary Medieval sources and serious works of scholarship like I've been doing, works that are full of Latin citations from the original sources, and bury yourselves in those citations, translating them, (in the process picking up terminology quite by "accident" and incorporating it into my work), interacting critically with the sources of that "Tradition" you're always claiming to have superior access to rather than simply making brute claims, then the two of you can talk about what I'm doing, because then you'll be conceptually and factually-equipped to do so.
Just as a comparison, I read books like Nicholas of Cusa's Catholic Concordance, Brian Tierney's Foundations of Conciliar Theory, James Watt's The Theory of Papal Monarchy in the Thirteenth Century and Francis Oakley's Council Over Pope?, and from them learn all kinds of intriguing things about the origins and foundations of the Ultramontanist vision of the Papacy and how it relates to the ecclesiological traditions of the Church. The best we get from Armstrong is a lot of vague Newmanisms about how the "acorn" of "Petrine primacy" has "developed" from Apostolic times onward into the Papacy as it's construed today, so that's why we should all accept it.
The contrast couldn't be more striking. Whatever my faults of rhetoric might be, I'm confident that I'm actually learning Church history, not just claiming it honorifically as the foundation of my present beliefs and apologetic practice.
5/2/03 9:22:29 AM ]
Thinking about [it] some more, I realize it's no harm or foul for either of us. You don't think highly of my work and I don't think highly of yours. These things happen in the world of public discourse.
Posted at: 5/2/03 1:13:36 PM ]
I saw where Dave complains that I question the integrity of most Catholics I meet. No, not exactly. I believe most Catholics believe what they believe in good faith, not because they are demonic Gospel-deniers who consciously want to twist the truth to fit their own schemes. However, I find such a "benefit of the doubt" attitude to be quite lacking from many Catholics I speak to, who by and large are quite happy to gratuitously assume boatloads of epistemological and methodological premises and conclusions and present their case with a "The only reason you wouldn't agree that you need to become Roman Catholic is because you have irrational biases against Roman Catholicism / wish to use history as a propaganda piece / don't grasp that Rome has spoken so the matter is concluded." This is hardly a fair way to approach others who are studying historical matters seriously. I acknowledge there are Catholics who do NOT take this tack, and I am grateful for their presences. But at least on the Internet they are not the norm just as non-Chick-type Protestants are not the norm.
Posted at: 5/2/03 3:25:25 PM ]
. . . I fail to appreciate Dave's point in the "spoof" . . . but then, he fails to appreciate my points about his reliance on philosophical Realism as the hermeneutic for Church history. Oh well. Some people never understand each other, or at least, never make much of an impact on each other for good. Perhaps that's the problem Dave and I face, in which case we really should just totally ignore each other.
Posted at: 5/2/03 7:41:13 PM
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Uploaded (slightly revised) on 6 May 2003 by Dave Armstrong.