Tuesday, July 12, 2005

On Knee-Jerk Reactions to Measured Arguments

The title of the blog article is the first error I noticed:

"Academic Hubris and Arrogance is One of the Reasons the Internet Prospers"

The entry in question is from "coffee conversations," and is in response to Tim McGrew's piece I posted yesterday. But even the title is demonstrably wrong. The primary reason the Internet prospers is because it provides the opportunity for the pooling of ignorance. The opinion of anyone with a hot head and a keyboard ostensibly carries the same weight as those who actually specialize in a field of study and who have gained that expertise through rigorous training, blood, sweat and tears. That was never the case before the rise of the Internet. But that aside, on to the content of that entry . . .
I know smarter folks (as opposed to mere lettered academics) can see through this sort of thing. I just think it’s a shame that Tim’s exceptionally bright and appropriate take on the matter in question (foundationalism, etc) is neither read graciously or charitably by men who call themselves our opponents.
Translation for the postmodern challenged: “Really smart, really bright people don’t have degrees; and those with degrees are not very smart or very bright.”
Communio Sanctorum is not intended to be an academic journal where men wax eloquent about the technical details of this or that piece of information valuable only to men who spend their entire lives out to pasture chewing on such irrelevancies. To the extent that you find language or ideas on our site acceptable to the various reigning academies of the day it will be the exception and not the norm. There is a time and a place for higher education but it certainly shouldn’t be used to tear down our brothers and the academy has deceived itself all too long to think that it is merely the accurate detailing of information that is important for us to consider.
Translation for the postmodern challenged: “Our views are not subject to critique because critiques involve such things as the detailing of information, analysis of that information, reason and logic. All of these are irrelevancies in our worldview. Now, we do indeed cite scholars who support our view, and you should be duly impressed by what they say because they have letters after their names, which means they’ve done a great deal of study in this area. But you should not think that it is a legitimate thing to cite scholars against our view because, after all, this isn’t an academic journal, and really smart and really bright people don’t have letters after their names in any case.”
It is a limited view caused by a limited ecclesiology–doubtless hampered by a limited epistemology.
For the record, Dr. McGrew is an Anglican, not one of those “dum babdists.” Last I checked, the so-called “reformed” catholics acknowledged the catholicity of Anglicans and did not call into question their ecclesiology.
Communio Sanctorum is a website that purports to be a serious theological and communal effort at examining our contribution to Reformational catholicity and what that entails. Part of that effort is most certainly about being charitable both to those who are our brothers and those who are not.
Translation for the postmodern challenged: “We represent a serious theological effort to erase the lines of demarcation the Reformers put into place long ago, which lines have been recognized by Reformed churches for centuries. And to accomplish this, we have no problem writing scathing critiques against the views of those with whom we disagree, particularly against those ‘dum babdidsts’ who are always emphasizing the absolute nature of truth. But as ‘theologically serious’ as our writings are, they are not so serious as to think they themselves are subject to examination. And if anyone does examine them, he is uncharitable."

Here are some comments about this dialogue by Enloe himself:
Oh, so that’s what “Observer” was trolling for this morning. I still haven’t read Svendsen’s Ph.D’s treatment of what I wrote, and I really don’t plan to. As you’ve wisely noted here, CS is not an academic journal trying to reach the academy, so I guess if some Ph.D’s want to pick it apart I suppose they’re welcome to do so. It’s their time, after all. At any rate, the backbone of my CS piece was someone else’s work, not my own. Like most things I write about scholarly subjects, I stand on the shoulders of giants by referring to sources that are beyond my level of competence and summarizing their arguments.
So, on the one hand, we are wise if we view Enloe’s articles as “not intended for the academy” and are therefore not worthy of analysis or sober critique. On the other hand, his articles are on “scholarly subjects” and his views “stand on the shoulders of giants” (Clapp?), and therefore are to be taken seriously.
Observer claimed that Svendsen got the Ph.D. after me because I claim to be an “expert” on these things I talk about. Not so. By and large I summarize the work of experts rather than presume to be one myself, and if other experts want to take issue with the ones I cited, so be it. Let iron sharpen iron.
Hogwash! How many times over the past two years have we read from Enloe that the reason he’s so sure we’re wrong on our concept of “biblical truth” and “the gospel” is precisely because he’s read “1500 pages” of philosophical, cultural and historical works? How many times have we had Hatch, Wells, and Noll shoved down our throats as some sort of medication for our poor, Enlightenment-enslaved throats? How many times have we heard “if you just knew what I know, you’d think differently”? This is precisely the reason I addressed his views in the first place. How many times have we read that not one of us has meaningfully engaged his views? And now we’re being told that his views were never intended to be engaged!

And, make no mistake, just because Enloe can find a handful of postmodern philosophers (of which I am certain there is no shortage) who are willing to support his ideas does not make those ideas correct. The whole point of posting Dr. McGrew’s comments was not to engage in a “my experts vs. your experts” exercise. It was to show that Enloe thinks uncritically about the ideas he has adopted from these writers. He was clearly under the impression (pre-McGrew) that his view was unassailable from a philosophical perspective, and that we “biblicists” were little more than theological Neanderthal carry-overs from the Enlightenment, and if we all just knew what he knows we would shun that “unworkable” and “instable” paradigm. The posting of Dr. McGrew’s comments has put that illusion to rest. And no one reading Enloe’s sophi-babble after this point should place any confidence in it.