Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Very brief response to TGE

I have just discovered two of TGE's blog entries dedicated to me, and thought I'd offer one or two thoughts. Then I think it's safe to say that any further attempt to correct him would be tantamount to mounting an attack against an impasse.
I feel that I have bent over backwards for well over a year now to help my brothers and sisters at NTRMin understand my positions. I have written numerous blog posts about the relationship of theology and history, about the organic contexts of the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent confessional embodiments of its major emphases, about the need to have a faith that is focused on the whole of revelation instead of just on pieces of it that are artificially labelled "soteriology", about my holistic cultural vision and goals, about the reasons why I oppose "Evangelical" Christianity and think it stands in great need of reformation. In much of this that I've done, I've said very little that can be called an original contribution, but have myself stood on the shoulders of giants like Schaeffer, Sproul, Horton, Hart, Machen, Noll, Hatch, and too many others to list here.
What is evident is that many (most?) of these men do not share TGE's pessimism over knowing truth and Scripture--and that (not reforming evangelicalism) is what is at stake in this issue. And most of them would just as certainly reject the camp in which TGE now finds himself (btw, why is it when he differs form his forerunners, he's simply "standing on their shoulders"; but when we differ from our forerunners [Calvin, Luther et al] and claim to be standing on their shoulders in the reform of the church, we are accused of "radical sectarianism"?--TGE can't see past the log in his own eye). The reason most of the NTRMin crowd doesn't buy into TGE's position is not because they just don't understand it--it is because they do understand it. And what they see is a reckless abandon into the world of philosophy and a glaring absence of commitment and devotion to the word of God. That is not the instinct of a Christian, and most Christians will simply turn their attentions away from that sort of thing and toward those things that build them up in the word of God.
Men such as Eric Svendsen evidence zero acquaintance with nuanced views such as Augustine's or Aquinas's or the above-mentioned "Reformed Epistemologists", but claim merely as a fiat that they have privileged, atraditional insight into "the plain meaning of Scripture". Disagree with them and you might as well be disagreeing with Jesus and Paul--and worse still, with God Himself.
No one is claiming privileged insight into Scripture. The word of God is available for all to see. But since TGE doesn't bother with Scripture, I can certainly see how he might have that impression.
What more can I do? If you are in Svendsen's orbit and still have his ear, I would highly urge you to obtain Mark Noll's The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, read it, and encourage Svendsen to answer the questions the book raises.
Yes, and read it as a discerning, critical thinker. Don't swallow it hook, line and sinker as TGE seems to have done. That book was a hot topic when I was in seminary (before TGE was even aware of its existence), and one of our group projects was to read it and discuss its strengths and weaknesses--and yes, it has both. One of the main problem with TGE's approach to these things is that he seems to read his sources uncritically.

The other main problem with his view is that, once we stand before Christ's glorious presence and are asked to give an accounting for our time spent here, I suspect we're not going to asked how many books on culture we familiarized ourselves with while on this earth. We're not going to have to give an account for how many 13th-century church history documents we knew. We're not going to be quizzed on how well we studied the Enlightenment, Modernism, or Postmodernism. But I have a feeling we will be asked what we did with, what our attitude was toward, and what we did to further our understanding of the word of God, which is freely available to all parties in this discussion.