Catholic Historiography: Brian Tierney, and Reformed Polemicist Tim Enloe's Dripping Disdain for That Notorious Special Pleader and Historical Revisionist, John Henry Newman
Dave Armstrong vs. Tim Enloe (words in red)
This is a follow-up to my paper, Brian Tierney: Inveterate Enemy of Papal "Tyranny" and Infallibility:
Certain aspects of the article above were understandably perceived as "guilt-by-association." Accordingly, I have removed Hans Kung from the title and removed the extensive critique of him by Fr. Joseph Costanzo. I left in some references to Kung that were not of this nature, that had to do with his heterodox beliefs and rejection of papal infallibility. Also, the part about my own history, where I zealously utilized Kung's work in warring against papal infallibility in 1990 is relevant because I believe it is a close analogy to Tim's modus operandi, in order to illustrate a certain mindset (Tim's crusade against infallibility that reminded me very much of my own former efforts and ways of thought).
The Kung bit was always secondary to the main point(s), which had to do with various aspects and considerations regarding the relationship of orthodoxy to historiography, Tierney's clearly-stated bias (I included a long quotation from him, too, which made his liberal bias quite evident and apparent), Tim's own manifest bias, and whether "objective historiography" (which he mocked, making out that I was a gullible, knee-jerk "orthodox Catholic" ignoramus, as always) is possible. I cited several non-Catholic articles which concluded that it was, within certain limits of natural bias -- precisely what my position has been for two decades or more.
My position on historical matters that involve Christian differences, such as ecclesiology, papal infallibility, etc., is that the objective, fair inquirer ought to read all sides: read orthodox Catholic historians, read liberal Catholic historians (who no longer accept the dogmas of their own professed affiliation), read liberal and conservative Anglican and Reformed and Baptist and Orthodox ones, secularists; whoever has the credentials. That is my position. I wasn't arguing:
1) Don't ever read or consider Tierney at all because he is a liberal, and ignore any facts he gives because he can't be trusted!
Rather, my point was:
2) If you're going to seriously discuss the issue as a professed 'orthodox' Christian (from either a Protestant or Catholic framework), then don't mock and dismiss those who approach historical questions from a particular perspective which they deem to be orthodox, and cite almost exclusively those historians who are not orthodox from any Christian perspective.
It is precisely because everyone is biased that all sides need to be read on these vexed issues. I'm not arguing (nor would I ever) that orthodox Catholic historians are perfectly objective and liberal historians utterly worthless and despicable people, etc. I'm saying (and it has been my position for some 25 years, since college) that everyone is biased in some fashion -- much as they try not to be if they are serious about the pursuit of truth. Therefore, we ought to read all major sides of a debate, rather than be selective and read only the ones who agree with our own particular take at the moment (and then go out and wax dogmatic, scornful, and triumphalistic, as Tim does about everything he is currently obsessed with).
Tim is doing exactly what I object to: he thinks Tierney is the greatest thing since sliced bread, while he mocks anyone who is trying to consistently apply an orthodox Catholic view to the questions of history (whether it is Newman, myself, or anyone who takes that approach, because, well, Tim has decided that it is absurd a priori). Sure, he'll give lip service and passing acknowledgments that Tierney is a human being with bias, etc., but that is a far cry to how he treats someone like Cardinal Newman, whom he knows is an orthodox Catholic. Thus Tim exhibited a mocking tone throughout the paper:
. . . anachronistic like our RC friends for a moment, the popes of these times were not
anathematizing the "heretics" who dared to question their absolute jurisdictional
claims--it's later "orthodox" historians operating out of a pre-commitment to the
infallibility of Vatican I who by and large do this kind of thing).
As if historians like Tierney have no "pre-commitment" to anti-infallibilist views . . .
. . . the Nefarious Tierney does not toe the "Catholic" party line (as you understand it, that is), and what's worse (GASP!) he's (allegedly) a liberal! . . . Doggone "liberal" Catholics making the cozy world of Historical Papalism so darned complicated when it's really all just "face value" and "common sense".....
Note how Tierney is only "allegedly" a liberal -- as if there is any doubt about this from an orthodox Catholic perspective. He mocks infallibility, calling it "Pickwickian," "Alice-in-Wonderland," then goes on to say that some "Catholic" scholars have begun to challenge the doctrine, citing Hans Kung as one. This is why I previously included in my paper a long critique of Kung, to show his flat-out historical incompetence. Kung is not a professional historian, either (Tim stresses that Newman is strictly an amateur historian), yet Kung is cited by Tierney as allegedly superior in reasoning and methodology to orthodox infallibilists. This aspect of the original paper was not "guilt-by-association" (by linking Kung to Tierney) but rather, merely follow-up scrutiny of a scholar recommended by Tierney as an alternative to orthodox views. So the logic ran as follows:
1. Tierney claims that historians who believe in infallibility ignore historical facts, engage in "Pickwickian" and "Alice-in-Wonderland" thinking, etc.]
2. Tierney informs us, however, that some Catholic historians are starting to "get it."
3. He cites Hans Kung -- since he wrote the book, Infallible? An Inquiry --, as one of these.
4. I proceed to critique Kung's historical expertise and playing fast and loose with certain facts.
When certain RC parties speak of his "bias", it is evident that what they mean is that Tierney's research does not support the present conclusions of Official Theologians and their Blind Patriotism to the Present Magisterium.
Catholic orthodoxy must, of course, be "blind" and based on revisionist history -- what else could it possibly be?
. . . But even from the objectivity-obsessed RC view that Diane represents . . .
So what is Tim?: "subjectivity-obsessed"?
Nobody except Roman Catholic apologists cares about exquisitely legalistic philosophical
distinctions between "ordinary" and "extraordinary" Magisteriums or between "doctrine" and
"discipline" or between "ex cathedra" and "private theologian".
As if theologians and canon lawyers and catechists and Catholic teachers do not . . . asinine, emptyheaded . . . .
If one wants to know what was orthodox or heterodox in the past, one has to look at the past for
what it was, not simply read it through one's own current contact lens prescription.
In other words, as Tim himself habitually does . . . .
. . . that's exactly why Dave's and Diane's approaches are so annoying to me. If they themselves bothered to read Tierney and wanted to discuss in detail his actual arguments--specifically the Decretist and Decretalist texts that he cites--I'd be all for that. But they're not interested in doing that. They're interested only in casting aspersions on motivations--Tierney's and mine--and summarily dismissing as worthless works that they haven't read and have no intention of reading.
Tim writes glowingly about Brian Tierney:
Tierney's book was written nearly 40 years ago, and in that 40 years it has been poked and prodded by numerous other historians who, as you say, work with the same texts, and the overwhelming consensus that I have seen in numerous journal articles and other books about the subject of Medieval ecclesiology is that Tierney's analysis of the documents in Foundations of Conciliar Theory is accurate and has subsequently created numerous fruitful avenues of research regarding late Medieval ecclesiology. In fact, numerous historians I've read have commented that Tierney's book has become the standard against which other treatments of conciliar theory are to be measured.
Now the reason that the work of Tierney et.al. is so important in this regard is precisely because of the "Ultramontanist" theology that has come to dominate Roman Catholicism since the Great Papalist Novelty of 1870 was established. Tierney's work demonstrates that the foundations of the conciliar theory (which must be distinguished from the Conciliar Movement of the 15th century) were buried quite deep in the orthodox Catholic authority tradition. The conciliar theory just flat was not what Ultramontane thinkers, obsessed with "Gallicanism" and other largely fictional constructs designed solely to rescue Vatican I from the intractable historical difficulties it faces, say it was: a novelty invented by "heretics" like William of Ockham and revolutionaries like Marsilius of Padua.
. . . But don't expect Ultramontanists to believe such "twaddle", because Ultramontanists don't care what the texts say. They only care about what the Church's present day theology says, and every fact in the entire Universe is refracted through that on the basis that this is what "faith" requires one to do. If the historical artifacts contradict today's Magisterium, so much the worse for the historical artifacts.
Yet Tim habitually mocks and minimizes the importance of Cardinal Newman as a thinker and influence on historiography. What would Tim think of Jaroslav Pelikan's non-Catholic estimation of Newman, and the opinions of these other non-Catholic scholars (emphases added)?:
His fruitful use of the idea of development . . . and his profound insight into the nature and motives of religious faith, place him in the first rank of modern Christian thinkers . . . his genius has come to be more and more recognized after his death.
(Cross, F.L. & E.A. Livingstone, editors, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2nd edition, 966)
His was a mind of penetration and power . . . In both the Catholic Church and the Church of England his influence has been momentous.
(Encyclopedia Britannica, 1985, VIII, 658, written by Anglican historian Owen Chadwick)
Read in the light of subsequent development in the almost one hundred years since his death, the Essay on Development has proved to be the seminal work for the thought of theologians and historians--and, above all, of historians of theology, who, even if they have been obliged to disagree with its methods or its conclusions, have been no less obliged to accept its formulation of the central problem. Not only to his latter-day disciples, therefore, but to many of those who have drawn other conclusions from his insights, John Henry Newman has become the most important theological thinker of modern times.
(Jaroslav Pelikan, The Melody of Theology: A Philosophical Dictionary, Harvard University Press, 1988, 181)
John Henry Newman survives as one of the great and indisputable geniuses of the nineteenth century. As the years go by his reputation increases: his position in the history of English Literature, in the history of ideas, and in religion becomes more and more clear and well defined.
(Brian Martin -- unknown religious affiliation -- John Henry Newman: His Life and Work, New York: Oxford University Press, 1982, 142)
So Tim Enloe (an undergraduate as I write) is "expert" enough to make the statement that Tierney's work in certain areas is "the standard" to go by (whether it is or not is beside my present point), and feels himself eminently qualified and in a position to continually run down Cardinal Newman -- a man whose arguments supposedly "inherently distort history" and are so weak and fallacious that Tim himself could easily "rip [them] to shreds", and whose writings on development of doctrine, the nature of a university, conversion, and psychology of religion are considered works of sublime genius and "standards" by many, many people? Is this not an instance of ridiculous, laughable hubris? Lest anyone doubt that Tim does this, I shall document many of his comments on Newman:
Me and Newman. Newsflash, Diane. I've studied classical rhetoric and can spot the use of its techniques without too much difficulty. On that score Newman is like Cicero, if you catch my meaning. Another newsflash, Diane. I've studied classical and Medieval philosophy and can spot the use of its concepts without too much difficulty. On that score Newman is very capable and should be studied seriously as a brilliant exponent of certain Ideas that have been around for a very, very long time and which still animate honest thinkers today. A third newsflash, Diane. I accept the scholarly judgment of several Newman biographer / analysts whose work I've read and who say that Newman was largely only a gifted amateur in historical work. I've seen through numerous citations of some of his lesser known works how he seems nearly totally unable to handle the idea of historical sequence and chronological context. He's 1/3 flashy rhetoric, 1/3 philosophical speculation, and 1/3 historical hobby-ist. Certainly he's not the "more historical knowledge in his little pinky than anybody you can cite" Ur-Historian that you make him out to be. My objections to Newman's historiography are not of the (to quote another memorable Diane-ism) "Woo-hoo, the cavalry's here to destroy the contra-Catholics!" genre as your objections to other types of historiography are. I'm refracting Newman through my serious studies of rhetoric, philosophy, and actual historical texts. That doesn't mean I'm necessarily right in my view of Newman, but it does mean I'm not guilty of treating Newman in the same childish way you treat alleged "dissidents" against your precious religion.
Newman's late nineteenth century theory of evolution, er, I mean development . . .
How interesting that it was not until then that someone came along to provide Rome with just the neat little airtight theory she needed to explain away all her corruptions and additions to the depositum fidei.
Newman's . . . development has to be waved like a magic wand all over the historical record.
. . . waving "development" around as if it's the universal answer to the reams of historical problems created by Roman Catholic claims is at best a non-answer, and at worst a mere rationalistic chimera . . .
(From discussions Tim and I had on Steve Ray's Catholic Message board; also from Eric Svendsen's Areopagus forum a few years back)
I'll read Newman in his entirety someday, of course. But I can't even read all this excellent Medieval stuff I have piled up on my desk, so Newman being what he is--a philosophy of history guy, not a straight out historian--I feel no burning necessity to read him right now, regardless of how Catholic apologists spin him. Besides, I've read enough of Schaff, who had his own very special concept of "development" to realize that the whole "development" game is fundamentally flawed at its root. Why should I bother with Newman's "essences" when I could instead take Schaff's "thesis / antithesis / synthesis"? Both are fundamentally the same type of reasoning and both share the same type of flaws. I have this idea for a future project where I would basically rip Newman's realist arguments to shreds with Abelard and Ockham's anti-realist arguments, just to show how silly the whole project of trying to attain The Grand Meaning is in the first place. That would be fun. Maybe someday.
So Catholic Newmanites start with "Bishop of Rome" and end up step-by-logical step with "Universal Head of All Christians". Of course they have the benefit of hindsight as they trace out the reasoning and they do not really even have to take the historical details seriously . . . That's why I pit Schaff against Newman and reject them both. Not that the Newmanites are even remotely prepared to listen to any other concept that uses their own methodology. It's all about "faith" you see. Faith that only their minds have the accurate insight into supra-historical reality, that is.
I don't have to actually read Newman to be able to criticize the inherent rationalism of that mode of arguing or to then associate it through long exposure to these folks with Newman himself. Unless they're just making it up as they go along they're getting this stuff about Newman's views from somewhere, and it seems to me that that "somewhere" is from Newman himself. Reading all of Newman would give me the ability to critique in detail specific constructs that Newman deploys for specific issues of historical theology. But I don't have to do that to notice the thing that makes the entire philosophy go in the first place and offer some generic criticisms of that based upon my own philosophical studies.
Sure, I understand that I shouldn't judge Newman solely by the work of Newman-popularizers on the Internet. But I have read some Newman first hand and frankly, I find him to be much heavier on classical rhetorical conventions than on actual intellectual substance. The man was extraordinarily gifted in a Cicero-like ability to so deeply move the audience's emotional states with sheer flowery wordiness that they would almost believe anything he said just because it was him who was saying it. You'd have to be familiar with Cicero and Quintilian to see the resemblances, though, and to be better able to separate the fantastic embellishments from the actual matter of the case being presented.
Anyway, I've read significant portions of several weighty analyses of Newman's thought and his place in intellectual history, and I find myself agreeing with one of them that copiously cited a number of Newman's works (including some of the lesser known ones) and concluded from the citations that Newman was at best a "gifted amateur" in historical work and that for him it wasn't the "facts of history" that were important, but the alleged grander metaphysical meaning of history underneath all the facts. That scholarly assessment fits right in with how the popularizers on the Internet use him, so I don't believe I'm somehow totally off base in my generally negative opinion on Newman and his theory.
I've stated several cogent reasons for my suspicions about Newman. The only thing lacking is myself providing, say, a side-by-side comparison between Newman and Aristotle or Newman and Schaff so that my reasons can be fleshed out with specifics. I don't have time to do that right now, and this whole Newman tangent is just a huge waste of my time, anyway. I've only bothered with it thus far because I can't [get] two words out of you about anything historical without running into "Newman, Newman, Newman, the Great and Wonderful Newman." Bully for you that you do your history through the lens of "the Great One", Whose Hallowed Little Pinky Contains the Summa of All Patristic Knowledge. I do my history differently and now that I've provided links to my ongoing thesis chapters I'll be exceedingly glad if something more than dismissive slogans comes forth from your side of the fence.
. . . "development" is essentially an Aristotelian idea, as is proved by its vocabulary and teleological assumption. Aristotle uses the biological metaphor of seeds unfolding through time according to innate principles, which certainly sounds like the common Catholic layperson's summary of Newman as "acorns develop into oak trees",
This is fascinating, given that Newman's theory didn't really add anything particularly new that wasn't already in St. Vincent of Lerins in the 5th century, hundreds of years before the Aristotelian revival in Europe -- or then again maybe Tim thinks Vincent had "top secret" access to Aristotle.
Newman's method is "rationalistic" because it starts with ideas in the human mind (the conceptual "essences", about which the mind can't be wrong) and then works out to the world of experience (though "rationalism" can be defined in different ways, this is a classic definition of the term, your objections notwithstanding),
This is untrue and is, in fact, precisely the opposite of the truth. I dealt with this in my paper, The Philosophical Premises of Newman's Views on Doctrinal Development and Religious Belief, over a year ago, but of course Tim ignored that, and has been claiming ever since that no Newman devotee is willing to scrutinize his philosophical presuppositions or interact with critiques of it. Sheer nonsense . . . I dealt with Newman's fundamental methodology and premises also in a "dialogue" with Tim: Dialogue on Whether the History of the Papacy Contradicts Catholic Ecclesiology.
. . . there's no point in expecting a Catholic who follows Newman, whether naively or sophisticatedly, to be able to discern and evaluate historical argumentation properly, for his very method of doing history inherently distorts history by trying to cram it all into a box that the mind of the individual Catholic can get around.
Tim is again acting like a pompous, sophomoric, know-it-all. Newman is inherently dishonest? Where have we heard this before? Why, with Charles Kingsley, the opponent who questioned Newman's sincerity, leading to the writing of the classic Apologia pro vita Sua, which won over even 19th-century anti-Catholic England by appealing to the refined English sense of fair play.
You're constantly speaking of how critics of Newman just "don't understand" his brilliance, and how if they did, they'd agree with him and become Catholics just like you did.
More stupid distortions. I have informed Tim many times that I think Edwin Tait (an Anglican dialogue partner) fully understands Newman's thinking; he simply disagrees with it. See our dialogue: Preliminary Dialogue With an Anglican on the Nature of Legitimate Development of Doctrine. But Tim has never understood it from the beginning. The more he talks about Newman, the more ignorant he proves he is and the more foolish and arrogant he comes off. So it is not wrong to point out to a fool the foolishness of his erroneous opinions -- particularly where a great Christian mind like Newman is concerned. And Tim is always free to make a fool of himself on my website. :-)
In an exchange (on this same discussion board) with Tim Enloe on Newman and development of doctrine, on 12 May 2003, I made several points in response to his ceaseless, annoying rhetoric on these topics:
Development of doctrine is essentially a biblical idea. The Bible itself develops its theology. If some people insist on putting it into the Aristotelian box (if that makes them happy), fine, but that makes it no less biblical. Most Protestant apologists or theologians readily admit that, e.g., trinitarianism was a developing doctrine.
What is it in trinitarianism that develops? In other words, what is its essence? It's essence is that there are Three Persons yet One God. There is nothing at all specifically or exclusively "Catholic" here. It's not as if development is a philosophically foreign notion smuggled into Christianity from paganism by desperate Catholic special pleaders. Amateur and professional students of Church history simply disagree on what is a development and what is a corruption -- not that development itself is a nonsensical or absurd concept from the get-go. What is the
essence of the Two Natures of Christ? Jesus is both God and Man. Every later complex development, such as at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, flows from that premise or simple statement of that which was later worked out in the greatest detail.
. . . Nor is Cardinal Newman's theory of development "rationalistic" in the sense that it starts out with some type of Platonic essences or ideas in the mind and then fits
the external world into those ideas. Rather, it is empirical and starts out with the data of Church history (just as science starts out with the data of nature and natural facts). It then proposes a provisional hypothesis to explain these facts of Church history and organize them into a coherent "theory." Not surprisingly, Newman thinks that the facts (by and large) fit into his theory without having to be forced into the theory by sophism and special pleading.
In the same manner, every Calvinist thinks that the biblical facts fit into the Calvinist theological schema or framework. Critics think that they force the Bible into a Calvinist mode and ignore anomalies. Everyone tends to think this about other peoples' systems. So we would expect Calvinists to accuse Newman of "historical eisegesis," so to speak. His is simply one way of viewing doctrinal history, and the role of faith must not be minimized, either.
. . . The empirical evidence in Newman's theory of development of doctrine is the mass of historical facts concerning what Christians (particularly the Fathers) in fact believed. To overthrow Newman's theory, one merely has to present an alternative one which better explains these facts -- best as we can ascertain them.
. . . Every group thinks their view explains the Bible and/or history and that others get it wrong to more or less degrees. That's a given. If someone doesn't like Newman's view of Church history, they can try to produce a better one. Christians have done "philosophy of history" ever since St. Augustine and his masterpiece, The City of God. It is not improper at all for John Henry Newman to have a theory of Church history, . . .
It would then become incumbent upon the Newman defender to do a LOT more than say "You just don't understand Newman and you want to slur his work, you contra-Catholic." Until I get more than that kind of flippant nonsense from you Devotees of the Great and Awesome More-Historical-Knowledge-in-His-Little-Pinky- Than-Anybody-I-Could-Dream-of-Citing-Newman, I remain unrepentant regarding my philosophical objections to Newman's philosophical historiography.
If this silliness against Cardinal
Newman weren't embarrassing enough, Tim Enloe has a paper on his website
blatantly misrepresenting (and subtly bashing) Newman, written by his friend
David T. King, author of Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our
Faith. It is called, "A Discussion on Newman's Pre- and Post-Conversion
Positions on the Historical Legitimacy of Roman Catholic Patristic Work."
King makes arguments concerning Newman that are as dead-wrong as the ones he made (and refused to either retract or defend), in our short-lived Internet exchange: Protestant Contra-Catholic Revisionist History: Pope St. Pius X and Cardinal Newman's Alleged "Modernism". For example (King's words will be in green):
For all the talk about the connection between Newman and Vincent of Lerins, and how they "agreed" on the development of doctrine, I'll never forget Newman's own words regarding the formula of Vincent as he was converting to Rome...
It does not seem possible, then, to avoid the conclusion that, whatever be the proper key for harmonizing the records and documents of the early and later Church, and true as the dictum of Vincentius must be considered in the abstract, and possible as its application might be in his own age, when he might almost ask the primitive centuries for their testimony, it is hardly available now, or effective of any satisfactory result. The solution it offers is as difficult as the original problem.
(An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, New York: Longmans, Green and Co., reprinted 1927, p. 27)
Newman knew that Vincent's formula could not be reconciled with the communion of Rome's position on dogma . . . In his days as a Tractarian in the Anglican Church, it true that Newman made a great deal of Vincent's formula, but he abandoned it for an appeal to dogmatic development that was a far cry from development as enunciated by Vincent. And anyone who has read Vincent with accuracy understands this.
(remarks originally made on 22 March 2002)
This is simply false, and easily discovered to be so by simply reading the context of this remark in the Essay on Development. Having done that, it is seen that Newman was referring to an interpretation of the dictum that didn't include some notion of development, not the dictum itself. He was critiquing the Anglican use of the dictum ("what has been held always, everywhere, and by all," etc.), which emphasized it to the exclusion of Vincent's teaching on development. This is verified by editor James Gaffney, who compiled the Essay and other related works in a book called Conscience, Consensus, and the Development of Doctrine (New York: Doubleday Image Books, 1992, p. xi):
Without disputing the truth of this "Vincentian Canon," Newman doubted its concrete applicability. Applied strictly, it would exclude even articles of the Creeds professed by all Christians, for they were not explicitly formulated for centuries after Christ. If applied expansively, it could not effectively discriminate between disputed doctrines of Anglicans and Roman Catholics. A usable criterion must be one that acknowledged doctrinal changes evidenced by history, while at the same time distinguishing continuity from discontinuity underlying the changes . . .
Newman did not think his understanding of development was original or unique. he even suggested that it had "at all times, perhaps, been implicitly adopted by theologians" and mentioned its use by Maistre and Mohler among his contemporaries.
St. Vincent's teaching on development is actually found in the same work which contains the famous dictum (the Commonitories, or Commonitorium), which also includes the most explicit espousal of development of doctrine to be found in the Fathers (which is why Newman built upon it). King's quote comes from section 19 of the Introduction (revised 1878 edition). But Newman wrote the following in earlier sections:
A second and more plausible hypothesis is that of the Anglican divines . . . Such a principle of demarcation . . . they consider to have found in the dictum of Vincent of Lerins . . .
(section 7; p. 10)
Let it not be for a moment supposed that I impugn the orthodoxy of the early divines, or the cogency of their testimony among fair inquirers; but I am trying them by that unfair interpretation of Vincentius, which is necessary in order to make him available against the Church of Rome.
(section 13; pp. 18-19)
. . . Purgatory and Original Sin. The dictum of Vincent admits both, according as it is or is not rigidly taken.
(section 15; p. 20)
Yet according to King, "Newman knew that Vincent's formula could not be reconciled with the communion of Rome's position on dogma." This is sheer nonsense, and once again shows the effect of severe anti-Catholic prejudice upon the assessment of statements of fact where Catholics are concerned. King recounts how Newman changed his mind with regard to his former anti-Catholic opinions concerning Rome. But not content to let it rest with that (as if no one has ever had a principled change of mind), he has to go on and impugn Newman's sincerity and essentially accuse him of gross intellectual dishonesty (the old, tired Kingsleyan charge once again):
Newman came to realize that Rome's claims could not be substantiated on the basis of patristic evidence or the history of the early Church. Thus he found refuge in his "development of doctrine," which got Rome off the hook from having to substantiate its claims by means of the early Church.
(originally 26 March 2002)
This is a most curious judgment, since he wrote his Essay as an Anglican, not yet a Catholic. King would have us believe that Newman was fully convinced of Catholicism, found that it could not be squared with early Church history and the Fathers, and thus determined to set out and make that huge rationalization for Roman corruption and excess, the famous Essay on Development. This, of course, entails making Newman a bald-faced liar, for he states in a Postscript to the original 1845 edition:
Since the above was written [6 October 1845], the Author has joined the Catholic Church . . . when he had got some way in the printing, he recognized in himself a conviction of the truth of the conclusion to which the discussion leads . . .
His first act on his conversion was to offer his Work for revision to the proper authorities; but the offer was declined on the ground that it was written and partly printed before he was a Catholic . . .
Furthermore, Newman had written on development before the Essay, in The Theory of Developments in Religious Doctrine, preached at Oxford on 2 February 1843 when he was still an Anglican in good standing. Even earlier, in his Lectures on the Prophetical Office (1837) he had referred to a "Prophetical Tradition" in the Church which allowed for developments to take place.
Tim bashes Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman in many other places on his website:
. . . in a post to Steve Ray's Catholic Message Board dated October 11, 2000, he [referring to me] replied to my contention that reliance on Newman's theory of development can skew how Roman Catholics read history:
Now hand-in-hand with Armstrong's (and many others') insistence that Church history as interpreted through the "regula fidei" of Newman's Essay on Development is inexorably Roman Catholic is the absolute insistence that all Protestant distinctives are manifest innovations shamelessly promoted by self-aggrandizing, pompous (and amazingly immoral) individuals . . .
What we are saying is "Since you want to invoke novel conceptions (Newman's) of how to read Church history to explain the obvious discontinuities, you are not allowed to make bald claims that you are 'just reading history for itself'.
. . . I think you would know this if your mind wasn't clouded by Newman's false principles of development . . .
. . . as long as you use Newman to beg all the important questions, you are consigning your apologetics to irrelevancy as far as informed Protestants are concerned.
. . . when one picks up almost any Roman apologetic work one finds a variety of ingenious spin-doctoring (Newman's development, arguments based on political or social minutiae of the period) all designed to show that "the Church has never taught a single error on any matter of faith or morals"?
The cause of truth is certainly not served by unqualified endorsement of controversial theories dressed up in scholarly language (Newman), self-congratulatory remarks about "objectivity" and "fairness", or apologetic triumphalism based upon such.
("The 'Perspicuity of Church History' and the 'Objectivity' of the Student," 2001)
So we Protestants hear all kinds of pretty weasel phrases (Newman, Ray, Armstrong, Shea, etc., again!) . . .
Interpretations of history can be constructed with varying degrees of plausibility ("certainty" is, in most cases, way too strong a word, as is "conclusive"), but that fact alone should demand that anyone doing historical work not be as pompous as Newman and his modern disciples.
No, Mr. Newman, sorry to tell you this, but your theory of development is NOT just "obvious"; it is highly controversial and very challengeable.
("For Tim Enloe on History," late December 2001)
I believe this concept is a relic of the Enlightenment rationalism that nearly strangled the life out of Christian culture over the last few centuries. It is completely incongruous with basic Christian philosophical principles, and inherently incompatible with a thoroughgoing Christian apologetic. Like Descarte’s cogito, ergo sum, it assumes that epistemology precedes (and even grounds) ontology and that one can gradually build up indubitable knowledge from self-evident axioms and necessary logical deductions from those axioms. As I wrote that sentence it occurred to me that this sort of rationalism may be what drives Newman’s theory of development.
("Reply To 'Aguerra' on the Matter of Biases and Historical Inquiry by Protestants and Roman Catholics," 11 January 2002)
Classical Reformational covenant theology liberates me from Newman's "...and Protestantism has ever felt it so..." clause, so I am free to take all of the history as I find it and learn from it rather than trying to explain it away . . .
("Dialogue" with me: Protestant Ecclesiology and Epistemology is Always Ultimately Self-Defeating, September 2003)
Newman's not the last word on Christian historiography, and you aren't the last word on Newman. As I've done before, I'll see your Newman's Essay on Development and raise you C.S. Lewis's essay on "Historicism". In that very short essay, which is probably 1/20 the size of Newman's work, Lewis demonstrates well, I think, the essential flaws of all attempts to determine "The Meaning" of history. So youstand on Newman and I'll stand on Lewis. I think I've got the better end of that bargain.
("Dialogue" with me: Was Corruption in the Medieval Papacy the Primary Cause of the Protestant Revolt?, late May 2003)
Here is a summary of my reply in the paper above:
1. Lewis was not an historian, whereas Newman was a patristics scholar: one of the best of his time. Lewis thus writes strictly as an amateur or popular apologist on this topic (which is highly ironic, since Tim has made much of Newman being supposedly a mere amateur historian, while Tierney is a professional historian).
2. Lewis does not discount Christian philosophies of history altogether (he mentions, e.g., St. Augustine in the essay).
3. Lewis's main target was secular historicism.
4. Lewis himself accepted doctrinal development (see, e.g., God in the Dock, 44-47). What Lewis describes as the "core" or "unchanging element" is precisely Newman's "essence." Tim often mocks the acorn and oak analogy, yet here is Lewis comparing that process to development of Christian doctrine! Why, then, does Tim cite Lewis against Newman, as if the former denies doctrinal development and doesn't think in the same categories and ways that Newman does? Lewis's essay on "Historicism" doesn't prove that he would deny a Newmanian sort of development at all.
Tim never replied, of course, which is his usual tactic. He talks a good game, but when one of his plain stupid or misguided, misinformed remarks are directly challenged, he flees (usually with more insults and cornered-mother-bear anger). Then a week or two later he'll publicly complain cynically about how people like me or other dough-headed "RC apologists" "never" reply to his brilliant, cogent arguments against Newman, development, or "papalism" or what not.
Then we'll see which one of us has the better historical case to make. I look forward to seeing how your Newman-inspired historiography fares when it's forced to get its tidy intellectual abstractions horrendously dirty in the untidy, flesh-and-blood worlds of the 9th-11th centuries.
. . . the day he dreamed that piece of sectarian propaganda up. Just goes to show, as one of his biographers whom I've read has argued, how incompetent Newman really was with actual nitty-gritty historical work, as opposed to the tidy historiographical philosophizing at which he truly did excel.
("Dialogue" with me: Dialogue on Whether the History of the Papacy Contradicts Catholic Ecclesiology, late September 2003)
Sure, but again, this simply isn't the point of my objection to the Roman Catholic use of "development". My objection is to the intrinsic rationalism of the concept, which from the outset, before any inquiry is done at all, simply propounds definitions and then, as with all rationalistic schemes from Plato to Newman, makes the data of the world fit the definitions. It's a very tidy way of thinking, and one which can produce very impressive-looking historical reconstructions and lots of pretty polemic fireworks against other positions. But deny the rationalism that makes the thing go, and it really doesn't have much to say at all. This is proved by the fact that the consensus response I've received from a number of Roman Catholics to this basic line of criticism is the totally gratuitous incantation "You just have to have faith in the Objective Revelation, which is Papalism." So, in other words, it's not really history that matters, but a certain way of construing history, and if one doesn't contrue history that way one lacks "faith" and unfortunately skews the "objective" meaning of Divine Revelation. That sort of circular logic may convince people who are already Roman Catholics, but it isn't likely to do much for those of us who aren't and who simply deny that entire mode of thinking.
(Tim's blog, Societas Christiana, 24 September 2003)
Avery Cardinal Dulles (not exactly a "triumphalist" or "polemical" sort of Catholic, and no intellectual slouch), also falls prey to a bit of skepticism concerning Brian Tierney and Hans Kung, in his review of the book, The Church in a Postliberal Age, by the Lutheran George A. Lindbeck:
. . . he maintains that the doctrinal controversies of the past can now be surmounted. Each doctrine functions as part of a system, which takes on different shapes in changing contexts. “Dogmas, from this point of view, are statements which seek to summarize, defend, or explicate those aspects of the symbol or action systems of the community which are seen as particularly important within a given situation.”
Lindbeck illustrates this with his account of the dogma of papal infallibility. It was formulated in extreme language by Vatican I, he believes, under the influence of seventeenth-century monarchical absolutism and the nineteenth-century cult of personality. Since Vatican II there has been a “demise of papalism among the better theologians, and eventually, one may suppose, though at much longer term, in all parts of the Church.” It is now generally conceded, Lindbeck writes (in an essay of 1972), “that the conciliarism of the Constance decree Haec sancta has as good a historical claim to dogmatic status as Pastor aeternus itself.” To judge from the references, the “better theologians” turn out to be authors such as Brian Tierney, Francis Oakley (whose name is misspelled), and Hans Küng . . .
Lindbeck’s resolution of intra-Christian doctrinal disputes is likewise too facile. His accounts of the true meaning of papal primacy and infallibility, overinfluenced by authors such as Hans Küng and Thomas Kuhn, are reductive, as is his interpretation of the Lutheran sola fide. It would be better to deny the doctrines than to explain them so relativistically.
(First Things 136, October 2003, 57-61) (http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0310/reviews/dulles.html)
Anglican Edwin Tait (who has a doctorate in history) agreed that Tim's rhetoric had gone too far:
Aren't you being a bit brash? Tim, I tend to share some of your criticisms of Newman, but I have to agree with Diane that you should tone down your criticisms until you have actually waded through the whole Essay at least. Myself, I should read the Grammar of Assent, which I started once but never finished because it was very tough going and I had way too many seminar papers to finish that semester.
I do find both Newman and Schaff questionable (as philosophers of church history), and I agree with you that there is no obvious reason why one should take one of these views over another (Newman was certainly a greater philosopher/theologian than Schaff, but that doesn't necessarily make him right--Schaff was borrowing from Hegel via Tholuck and Neander, I believe). But "rip Newman to shreds" is quite un-called-for, I think.
Edwin, trying to be fair here
Tim responded with blame-shifting, of course. He has to somehow blame Catholic apologists for even his most glaring shortcomings and annoying characteristics:
Just chalk it up to my "purple prose", Edwin. :-) I imagine that if I spent my time talking to folks less inclined to "all or nothing" apologetics I might be a good bit more reserved in my rhetoric. But for better or worse, I've chosen to spend my time dealing with that sort, and so for better or worse sometimes I let their bull-headedness get the best of me. I would be happy not even talking about Newman at all, but it seems that every time I say anything about historical matters the first word off the lips of the Catholics is "But Newman said this all developed quite naturally as people resistlessly drew logical inferences from premises." I don't have to actually read Newman to be able to criticize the inherent rationalism of that mode of arguing or to then associate it through long exposure to these folks with Newman himself. Unless they're just making it up as they go along they're getting this stuff about Newman's views from somewhere, and it seems to me that that "somewhere" is from Newman himself. Reading all of Newman would give me the ability to critique in detail specific constructs that Newman deploys for specific issues of historical theology. But I don't have to do that to notice the thing that makes the entire philosophy go in the first place and offer some generic criticisms of that based upon my own philosophical studies.
At this point I'd be happy to settle for the Newmanite apologists to even just basically admit that Newman was doing philosophy not just piling up brute facts and "simply" arriving at inductive conclusions about their logically necessary implications. It's not merely the suggestion that "development of doctrine" is a good way to look at Church history that annoys me; it's the way it (here meaning specifically Newman's spin on it) is presented by the apologists as a veritable self-evident axiom that only irrational people can deny. The possible future project I mentioned would be aimed only at demonstrating the rational possibility of thinking otherwise than the apologists say we all ought to think.
As long as you haven't read Newman it would be safer to respond to Diane, Dave, and others without implying that their arguments are necessarily those of Newman. I don't see, for instance, Newman's distinction between "ideas" and "principles" being used that much. I find that distinction one of the most frustratingly 19th-century-idealist aspects of Newman, but it does seem important to him and we should try to understand it if we want to refute him. You aren't going to get these sorts of nuances from RC apologists.
And Diane is right on one thing at least--Newman is generally recognized as one of the finest church historians of the 19th century. His history of Arianism remains a classic, according to some modern patristic scholars. I disagree with Newman, but I would never presume to dismiss him.
I understand how frustrating it can be dealing with some of the pro-RC arguments on this forum . . .
I don't "dismiss" Newman himself either, though I do strongly disagree with what I've read of him. I do, however dismiss the way in which Newman is used in historical discussions by folks like Dave and Diane. He's used as if the mere invocation of his name and his theory of development are trump cards against whatever the opponent is saying. I got that "You have to understand that acorns turn into oak trees" crap contantly on Steve Ray's board, and from people who knew next to nothing about anything they were talking about. Dave Armstrong loves to pretend that Newman is the standard against which everything else is to be judged, saying that it's the opponent's job to provide him (Dave) with something "better" than Newman before he'll even consent to considering opposing arguments. Diane has repeatedly invoked the massive reams of patristic knowledge allegedly resident in Newman's little pinky as if that solves every debate between herself and the Orthodox. And then she brings up the fact that I haven't read all of Newman as if it's some sort of parallel to the absurd manner in which she treats the sources I'm citing about and from the Middle Ages.
It's sickening the way these people chant "Newman, Newman, Newman" as the answer to everything anyone says about history. That's what I'm against. I have no problem with a reasonable, respectful discussion of a historiography that thinks everything developed over time. I do have a problem with all discussion being stifled in the way that these people stifle it. Maybe Newman himself actually does deal with a lot of the historical things I'm dealing with, and if so I'm glad to hear it and will look forward to reading his treatment of them (the Gregorian reforms, especially). But I'm not going to put up with a bunch of converts telling me that I've got my history wrong "because you don't understand development of doctrine", and then leaving it at that, as if that's some sort of answer . . . The mere mention of his name and his theory don't get his acolytes off the hook here, though.
TIM ENLOE'S SOPHOMORIC AND CONDESCENDING REMARKS ABOUT CARDINAL NEWMAN
(particularly ridiculous remarks highlighted in green)
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church: . . . in the first rank of modern Christian thinkers . . .
Encyclopedia Britannica (Anglican historian Owen Chadwick): His was a mind of penetration and power . . . In both the Catholic Church and the Church of England his influence has been momentous.
Jaroslav Pelikan: the Essay on Development has proved to be the seminal work for the thought of theologians and historians--and, above all, of historians of theology . . . the most important theological thinker of modern times.
1. . . . largely only a gifted amateur in historical work.
2. I've seen through numerous citations of some of his lesser known works how he seems nearly totally unable to handle the idea of historical sequence and chronological context.
3. He's 1/3 flashy rhetoric, 1/3 philosophical speculation, and 1/3 historical hobby-ist.
4. [Newman's theory of development is a] neat little airtight theory she needed to explain away all her corruptions and additions to the depositum fidei.
5. Newman being what he is--a philosophy of history guy, not a straight out historian--
6. . . . the whole "development" game is fundamentally flawed at its root. Why should I bother with Newman's "essences" when I could instead take Schaff's "thesis / antithesis / synthesis"?
7. I have this idea for a future project where I would basically rip Newman's realist arguments to shreds with Abelard and Ockham's anti-realist arguments, just to show how silly the whole project of trying to attain The Grand Meaning is in the first place. That would be fun.
8. I pit Schaff against Newman and reject them both.
9. . . . much heavier on classical rhetorical conventions than on actual intellectual substance . . . sheer flowery wordiness . . . fantastic embellishments.
10. . . . for him it wasn't the "facts of history" that were important,
11. Bully for you that you do your history through the lens of "the Great One", Whose Hallowed Little Pinky Contains the Summa of All Patristic Knowledge. I do my history differently . . .
12. . . . there's no point in expecting a Catholic who follows Newman, whether naively or sophisticatedly, to be able to discern and evaluate historical argumentation properly, for his very method of doing history inherently distorts history . . .
13. Until I get more than that kind of flippant nonsense from you Devotees of the Great and Awesome More-Historical-Knowledge-in-His-Little-Pinky- Than-Anybody-I-Could-Dream-of-Citing-Newman, I remain unrepentant regarding my philosophical objections to Newman's philosophical historiography.
14. . . . novel conceptions (Newman's) of how to read Church history to explain the obvious discontinuities, . . .
15. Newman's false principles of development . . .
16. . . . as long as you use Newman to beg all the important questions, you are consigning your apologetics to irrelevancy as far as informed Protestants are concerned.
17. . . . ingenious spin-doctoring (Newman's development, . . .
18. The cause of truth is certainly not served by unqualified endorsement of controversial theories dressed up in scholarly language (Newman), . . .
19. So we Protestants hear all kinds of pretty weasel phrases (Newman, Ray, Armstrong, Shea, etc., again!) . . .
20. . . . anyone doing historical work not be as pompousas Newman and his modern disciples.
21. No, Mr. Newman, sorry to tell you this, but your theory of development is NOT just "obvious"; it is . . . very challengeable.
22. [Newman's development of doctrine] is a relic of the Enlightenment rationalism . . . completely incongruous with basic Christian philosophical principles, and inherently incompatible with a thoroughgoing Christian apologetic . . . this sort of rationalism may be what drives Newman’s theory of development.
23. I would be happy not even talking about Newman at all, . . .
24. I am free to take all of the history as I find it and learn from it rather than trying to explain it away[as Newman does].
25. . . . sectarian propaganda . . . how incompetent Newman really was with actual nitty-gritty historical work, . . .
26. . . . rationalistic schemes from Plato to Newman, makes the data of the world fit the definitions . . . pretty polemic fireworks against other positions. But deny the rationalism that makes the thing go, and it really doesn't have much to say at all . . . it's not really history that matters, . . . circular logic . . .
CORRESPONDENCE WITH TIM ENLOE
I don't care a whit about any papers you produce about me or anything I do. I'm attempting to take your advice to me the last time we spoke on Greg's board and completely get out of the apologetics "business". There's real historical work to be done and I'm trying to do it with my New St. Andrews thesis. I'm getting some decent feedback from folks like Quickbeam and Laughing Linden Branch, so what do I care what a "full time apologist" like yourself is playing games with today?
It's hard enough wrangling with these Medieval texts (translating them, analyzing them, arranging them) and attempting to learn new things that challenge me to grow beyond my own limitations without the added burden of constantly having to deal with obtuse "religious right" style "conservative" foolishness dressed up as "defending the faith". My mistake is that I keep reading Diane's posts instead of simply ignoring her as she so richly deserves. Aside from the occasional fruitless sparring with Diane and yourself I don't consider myself a "polemicist" as your mocking title implies.
As I told Edwin this morning, I'm after UNDERSTANDING not the destruction of "the Enemy". If Newman was being deployed against me in a REASONABLE and MODERATE manner, I'd respond quite differently than I do when folks such as yourself and Diane bring him up. But that's not how he's being deployed against me, and so the entire mode of discussion is being skewed right from the start. I wish you folks on the Roman side of the divide would go about these things differently, but I guess that's just a pipedream.
Best wishes in pursuing your historical studies. I hope you do get out of apologetics and polemics altogether. If you're truly concerned with "understanding" between Christians, the way you are going about it is the last thing that will produce what you desire; talking about, e.g., only two or three Catholics you have ever talked to that have an IQ higher than a pencil eraser, etc., and all your pompous pontifications about things you know little about -- such as Cardinal Newman (or even if you did know something about them, your annoyingly "preachy" and sanctimonious manner -- at least in how you are perceived -- would turn off many people you would hope to persuade).
Keep persisting in thinking that all Catholic apologists like myself are irrational blowhards who can't reason or discuss issues with anyone different than themselves, and who utterly ignore the facts of history because (so you have deluded yourself about us) of their blind faith in dogma. That helps our cause (of orthodox Catholicism), because extremity to the point of absurdity in your language and descriptions of things only turns people off to your own work. Any effect you might hope to have on Christian thinking and opinion will be more than nullified by these shortcomings.
Keep insulting me personally, too, if you wish. People know I'm not a dolt and ignoramus and simpleton, so that helps me and what I am trying to achieve, because folks are perceptive enough to know when someone is flying off the handle and being ridiculous. They know enough to know that this probably indicates something threatening in the ideas or critiques of the one being attacked in such a silly fashion. So that doesn't harm me at all, either. It only makes you look petty and small. I can only hope that one of these days you will finally "get" it and cease and desist from your polemical fireworks.
Eric Svendsen et al and all these Protestant clowns and former comrades of yours who are now saying you are no longer an evangelical Protestant, or "compromised with Rome" are rejecting you on absolutely erroneous grounds. What I'm saying is that your manner is turning people off, and that is a valid consideration which should cause you to closely examine yourself. If something is expressed to you over and over, maybe there is something to it; some remote possibility? Maybe there is another reason that you have only found (by your own repeated confession) two to three Catholics in 4-5 years that you enjoyed talking to, besides their alleged utter stupidity, intractable knee-jerk dogmatism, and boneheadedness?
Moreoever, you claim that Cardinal Newman is presented to you in a stupid way which ruins potentially good discussion. You know full well that I have written several serious papers about Newman and his philosophical underpinnings, expressly at your request, or in actual dialogue with you. You weren't interested in pursuing those discussions in any significant, ongoing way -- even when I dealt with precisely the questions you were practically begging to see "answered." I have done entire projects, taking weeks of my time for your sake, or at your behest (or simply because you got me curious about something), such as my compilation on Ockham and nominalism.
I've covered virtually all of the subject matter you complain about Catholic apologists ignoring, in one way or other. But that doesn't have the slightest effect on you. You simply ignore it and go right on with your complaints. If I did do something, of course it was worthless and the same old same old, etc., according to you (in other words, you immediately dismiss it). Apart from your obvious personal dislike of me, one might, therefore, be excused for suspecting that you are not after true dialogue, but rather, that you mainly want to preach.
You can think I am as dumb and obtuse as a box of nails if you wish (about 95% of the Protestants who write to me think quite otherwise), but when you start complaining that neither I nor any other Catholic have been willing to seriously interact with your peculiar interests and challenges, that is simply not true in my case (nor in the case of, e.g., Gary Hoge, who patiently and comprehensively dealt with you for years only to be insulted as a virtual idiot by you in the end), and you know it. And I thought readers of my website ought to know the record, too.
Of course you may entirely disagree with my take on a given subject, but that doesn't give you the right to pretend that I (or anyone else) have made no serious response at all and utterly ignored your theological / historical concerns. You claim to want serious discussion, yet you sit around and make comments such as the following (about me) in a public Internet forum:
You're right that the man not only follows the typical RC apologist path of totally misrepresenting the point of your series, but he also simply doesn't even comprehend some of the most important issues that are being debated. (7-25-03)
The more DA writes, the less he says anything of consequence to the debate. And the more you
explain your position, the less he even remotely begins to understand it and interact with it. (7-27-03)
. . . cutting and pasting endless irrelevancies and obfuscations . . . (7-27-03)
Do your historical work and let it speak for itself if it is so profound and earthshaking. People don't want to hear you spouting off about your brilliance as an amateur historian while running down folks like Cardinal Newman. It doesn't look good and will cause people to dismiss and ignore you. Let the ideas have their own effect without your constant promotion of your own studies and how revolutionary and groundbreaking they are. Give us a break, huh?
For much more of this same sort of ludicrous, hyper-polemical, and divisive rhetoric, see my satire, based mostly on Tim's own remarks: Tim Enloe's Amazing Meetings With the Ghosts of Ockham & Plato! One statement in particular that I documented in that paper, is most revealing and illuminating as to the sheer hostility and prejudice of Tim's true feelings about orthodox Catholics: "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" (following Tim's sterling example of charitable conduct, of course . . . )
For more of Tim's no-holds barred opinions about me, expressed when he thought I wasn't around (since I was banned and couldn't even read the posts), and on the public bulletin board where he used to moderate for Dr. Eric Svendsen ("Areopagus"), see my paper: Hurry, Hurry; Read All About it! My Harshest Anti-Catholic Protestant Critics' Opinions of Me and My Work. If there is one thing that can bring all these now-warring individuals back together it is their common detestation of yours truly! :-)
NOTE FROM TIM
(my replies will be interspersed, since Tim's now-retracted post was largely directed towards me)
A word about my "tone" this past week especially in this post.
I appreciate Tim's retraction and I removed those particular comments from my compilation above.
The overall tone of this post was, I think, out of line. I have been under a great deal of stress lately between the hectic pace of working full time for a retail organization while at the same time busy with full time studies and I've let those pressures get to me.
Perfectly understandable; especially the retail-during-Christmastime part . . .
I do recognize that the Catholics whom I was speaking of in that post do not perceive themselves to be flippant about historical matters, much less "jerk-offs" in their attitudes toward others. My general policy has always been to take others at their word, and especially on matters of faith I do generally want to believe that people are being honest about their motivations and desire to uphold truth.
This is well-stated, and precisely my approach as well, which is why it infuriates me that such accusations are so common on both sides of the Catholic-Protestant divide (and one reason I became fed up with Internet discussion forums once and for all). I've even defended my harshest critics against the charge of deliberate dishonesty (including "demon possession" in some extreme cases) when fellow Catholics went too far. I don't question anyone's sincerity about religious matters or anything else unless I have first-hand knowledge of them over many years of observing their words and conduct and can reach no other conclusion (we are given the right to make such determinations in Scripture).
Certainly no one I know merely from the Internet falls under such a category, so that includes Tim, whose sincerity I don't question for a second. But he has accused Catholic apologists in public of "ubiquitous dishonesty" in the quote two paragraphs above this section. If his attitude is now changing (which is devoutly to be hoped) he has many, many past remarks of similar offensive nature to renounce and retract.
The conversations of late do highlight some very serious questions about the relationship between faith and scholarship, about which different communions of Christians quite clearly deeply disagree.
My own opinion is that the disagreement is not all that deep in what might be called the "orthodox / traditional / conservative / catholic / ecumenical mainstream" of Christianity which cuts across "party lines." There is a very broad consensus position, I think, on the relationship between faith and reason. One might cite, e.g., Norman Geisler's and R.C. Sproul's admiration for St. Thomas Aquinas or widespread Protestant admiration for Catholic apologists such as Blaise Pascal, G.K. Chesterton, and Peter Kreeft, or the great appreciation of Catholics for C.S. Lewis (my own favorite writer). I agree with Lewis's remark that those in the center of their own faith traditions have much more in common with those in the center of other faith traditions, than with the liberals and others on the fringe of their own faith traditions.
Hence, Lewis (who died in 1963) would have much more in common with me than with way-out theological and ethical liberals in Anglicanism today who favor the ordination of an actively homosexual bishop, etc. (just as two Anglican priests who are good friends of mine feel far closer to me in spirit than to such people). Tim is starting to discover that his own former friends -- even former working associates -- may have less in common with him than someone like myself (much as he detests some of my so-called "triumphalistic" Catholic views). But it is a slow process. Tim and I have had many battles and fights and dialogues-turned-sour and there is a lot of mutual mistrust.
There are also issues of fundamental community identity going on in some of these issues. The way that Catholics like Tierney and Oakley get treated by some other Catholics has painful (to me, anyway) parallels in intra-Reformed discourse, too.
I don't see how this is all that different from J. Gresham Machen's treatment of Presbyterian liberals in the 1930s, in his book, Christianity and Liberalism -- which I read years ago, or Francis Schaeffer's perspective towards Presbyterian and other Protestant liberals in the 1970s or 1980s, in his last book, The Great Evangelical Disaster. We have our liberals; Protestants have theirs. Liberals are the scourge of the earth. They're as numerous as particles of sand. It seems to me that this opposition to orthodoxy within the ranks ought to unite those who see themselves as continuing the authentic traditions of their own communion, rather than separate and divide them.
But Tim prefers the liberal Catholic Tierney to the orthodox Catholic Cardinal Newman, and this was the heart of my objection above, that I don't seem to be able to get through to him. Principled, faith-based and historically-based opposition to liberal dissent is essentially different from the fundamentalist, anti-Catholic sort of "secondary separation" (separating from both Catholics and those who associate with them or think they are Christians) that Tim is currently experiencing.
Over the last six months I have been called a "relativist" not only by Dave Armstrong but also by Eric Svendsen (interesting parallels, here!), who has also agreed with a fellow Presbyterian of mine that I sound like I'm "losing my mind" simply because I question the tenets of the very much Modern foundationalist epistemology that underlies certain types of hardline Reformed Propositionalism.
First of all, I never claimed that Tim was a relativist per se -- nor did I claim this about Edward Hamilton, who keeps bringing up this red herring -- in the sense that I think either one is consciously adopting a relativistic theological outlook. I don't believe that. It would be plain stupid to believe it. What I have done is to try to point out -- by extensive argumentation -- that the logical end-result or reduction of certain basic Protestant tenets ultimately lead to theological and ecclesiological relativism (to some extent, anyway).
This is standard logical reasoning (if Tim is a student of the Middle Ages he should have some firsthand awareness of the great respect for logical disputation and rigorous thinking in that age): attempting to point out that one's opponent's position in fact arguably leads (when closely scrutinized) to a position that they themselves would not countenance. This is the purpose of the reductio ad absurdum technique. One tries to create a tension (or what one might term cognitive dissonance) in the opponents' position, by, in effect, arguing, "can't you see that the position you espouse leads to undesirable consequences x, y, and z, because of your premises a, b, and c?"
It is understood from the outset that the other is not consciously fighting for or espousing undesirable consequences x, y, and z. That's the whole point of the argument. But neither Tim nor EH Hamilton seem to have grasped this mode of arguing that I often utilize. And (make no mistake about it) Protestants make the same sort of argument against Catholics in the opposite direction. We are accused of being overly-dogmatic, fideists, triumphalist, exclusivistic, arrogant, historical obscurantists and revisionists, irrationalists, rationalists, puritanistic fuddy-duds, and a host of other things: which results or products Protestants mistakenly think flow inexorably from Catholic beliefs.
We don't think they do, but there it is. Since this is done to us, I should hope that Protestants can grasp when we are turning the tables and giving them their own treatment. Or is it that Protestants ought never to be criticized in the manner (referring to the logical form itself) that the Catholic Church habitually is criticized (and excoriated and lamented and despised, ad nauseum, etc., etc.)?
Protestants don't believe they are relativists in any way, shape, or form, either, and deny that such unintended results flow from their premises and systems. And so this goes on perpetually in both sides' critiques of the other side. I made this argument very concisely and carefully in my reply to Tim (which he ignored, as always): Protestant Ecclesiology and Epistemology is Always Ultimately Self-Defeating, and to Tim and EL Hamilton: Questions on Protestant vs. Catholic Ecclesiologies. I would expect my views to be misunderstood if my dialogue partners are unwilling to interact with them in order to reach some mutual agreement or respectful disagreement.
On the other hand, when someone like Eric Svendsen (a rabid anti-Catholic apologist -- see his remarks against myself and Catholics in general), calls Tim a relativist, he intends it literally, and thinks Tim really has become a deliberate, conscious relativist, and has forsaken what he mistakenly believes to be genuine, authentic "Reformation" heritage vis-a-vis one's outlook concerning the Catholic Church. Eric is, then, accusing Tim of not being a "real Protestant" and being something akin to a compromised liberal supposedly opposed to key elements in his own faith tradition. My critiques do not do that at all. They presuppose that Tim is a committed, sincere, traditional Reformed Presbyterian. I don't deny what he is; I am simply critiquing his Protestant views deeply and radically insofar as examining where the presuppositions logically lead, or may lead. It's a variation of the "slippery slope" type of argument.
James White has publicly stated that I have a "very low view of Holy Scripture" (isn't that just uproariously hilarious, you Catholics who have felt the heat of my defenses of sola Scriptura for the last four years!!!).
It certainly is beyond absurd. This is what anti-Catholicism reduces to: people who try to apply their faith intelligently to the real world, and to be true to the deepest wellsprings of the "Reformation" that they are trying to uphold to the utmost, in good conscience, get kicked out of the "good, traditional Protestant" camp and pilloried and lied about, because they have a different perspective within Protestantism. This is how their "brother" Protestants treat them, while Catholics like myself have always held consistently that Tim, along with his current "enemies" White and Svendsen, are all Protestant Christians and brothers in Christ. White's extreme, self-contradictory views also lead to Martin Luther and St. Augustine not being Christians, either (as I demonstrated recently), so Tim can feel that he is in very good company. And, having been lied about publicly and slandered many times by both these men, I can certainly relate to Tim's stress and disgust at the moment.
I have lost friendships over present controversies over covenant theology that, in my opinion, are largely motivated by the extreme lack of a genuinely and biblically catholic spirit within the Reformed communion at large.
absolutely right. He is being assaulted by those on the extreme right
of Protestantism. Catholics get assaulted mostly by those on the extreme
left of their communion, which explains why we don't care much (prima
facie) for people like Tierney, seeing that he describes orthodox Catholic
belief in papal infallibility (a required dogma) condescendingly as "rather
eccentric," "Pickwickian infallibility," "content to
pretend that the past did not happen," "a kind of
Alice-in-Wonderland logic," "the Cheshire Cat," etc. (I guess that is Tierney's equivalent of Svendsen's "losing your mind" charge -- orthodox Catholics must be virtually mentally ill to believe such amazing and astonishing things . . . liberals always think that conservatives are "stupid"; what else is new?).
Tierney proceeds to recommend (amateur historian) Hans Kung's treatment of infallibility (which is filled with errors of fact and logic) as a preferable option to orthodox Catholc ecclesiology (even though the Church has clearly stated that he is no longer to be considered a Catholic theologian). I am willing to lose many friends and whatever iota of respect Tim has for me (if any) in order to oppose the insipid, patronizing, sneering liberal presuppositions of this sort. And I will to my dying day.
So perhaps it can be understood why I might begin to feel overwhelmed, even if certain things I've said can't be condoned. I'll work on doing better.
I hope so. Anyone who is being lied about and bitterly opposed by James White, Eric Svendsen, and (I assume) David King can't be all that bad . . . Godspeed to Tim. It's no fun to be unjustly persecuted for the wrong reasons, and betrayed by friends (I know something about it, from my own personal experience in Protestantism). But Tim can ultimately rejoice, for great is the reward in heaven for those who suffer for truth (Matthew 5:11).
Main Index | Super-Link Search Page | My Books Page | Make a Tax-Deductible Donation | Protestantism | Development of Doctrine | Cardinal Newman | Theological Liberalism
Uploaded by Dave Armstrong on 4 December 2003.