Saturday, December 30, 2006

Silly Prejean; Truth is for Christians

As promised, here is my response to Jonathan Prejean’s “Christmas Comes Early” post. Prejean's comments will appear in red, and my responses will follow in black:

“I thought Eric Svendsen had followed his usual M.O. of fleeing discussion when it actually gets to substance, then revising it long after the fact. Instead, he decided to revise history immediately after the fact after I had announced I was leaving the discussion with Steve Hays.”

My timing is dictated by responsibilities I have—not by the timing of Prejean’s rants.

“Unluckily for "Eric the Yellow," I was paying attention, so his attempt at shadow-boxing in the guise of responding to me will be exposed to the clear light of truth. And what better way to celebrate the feast of the Incarnation that to flush out a Nestorian, a sworn enemy of the Alexandrian Doctor of Christology, St. Cyril!”

“Eric the Yellow”? I realize Prejean is young; but I didn’t know he was twelve. Oh, that’s right; he’s now a sycophant of Art “Jack Chick” Sippo, and takes his cue from him. And Prejean flatters himself. He assumes I have a much higher regard for what he does and thinks than I actually do. In fact, I care very little whether Prejean was paying attention or not. His voice in this—or in anything for that matter—is so minor, it is barely worth responding to. There are not many who even read his blog; and that’s not just my opinion, it is a technical observation. In fact, good luck finding Prejean’s blog if you don’t already have it bookmarked. Even a Google search on the name of the blog or the name of the author--or both--will yield only third-party references to it, which means it simply does not draw much traffic.

“Good. You're willing to admit that you're calling me an idiot, which chews up your credibility faster than a wood chipper shreds a branch.”

And why exactly would someone lose credibility for that? Again, Prejean assumes here that I have a higher view of him than I actually do.

“Svendsen evidently doesn't realize how senseless this is. People don't reassert arguments they're embarrassed about losing. When they reassert arguments, it's because they think they already won, not because they feel the need to bolster them by reassertion.”

Again, not necessarily. Someone as disingenuous as Prejean knows that if he admits defeat, his “catholic cause” goes out the window. His M.O. is to engage in sophistry and spin the dialogue in his favor. Nothing particularly “senseless” about that, particularly when we’re dealing with someone who has demonstrated a propensity to lie.

“Also, if a person were using this tactic, the person in question would deliberately NOT link the responses, just like Svendsen didn't.”

That’s ridiculous. Of course such a person would. It would be idiotic not to, since anyone with a search engine could find the dialogue on my blog (unlike Prejean’s blog). And then such a person would engage in sophistry and spin to make it look like he is right. In fact, I’ll prove it. Just read how Prejean spins his backpedaling incident. It is indisputable that Prejean originally thought Nestorius taught Christ was two persons; and then when confronted with the evidence of patristic scholars pretended he always knew Nestorius’s view had been misunderstood.

"No one can explain" is a philosophical claim that Svenden fails to back up.”

Just because Prejean has deceived himself into thinking he can explain it, does not make it so.

“The assertion that the Scriptures only affirm what Svendsen says is question-begging both on this assertion that Scripture is an exclusive divine authority and that dogmatic propositions are extracted from Scripture based only on his exegetical method.”

It’s the only divine authority that functions as common ground in this discussion; hence, it’s the only divine authority that is worth anything in this discussion. Even the councils themselves do not claim to have additional revelation—rather, they work with their understanding of Scripture. Prejean loses this point.

“Little surprise that a Calvinist says this; my brand spanking new copy of Helm's John Calvin's Ideas says much the same thing. Calvin doesn't consider the communicatio idiomatum to refer to anything real, which is Nestorianism.”

Here’s another example of Prejean’s “dazzling” logic at work. And it’s the same “logic” that would allow me to conclude that since Prejean does not recognize the apostles can act as a rule of faith, then he doesn’t believe they are real people. And since he doesn’t believe they are real people, he’s a Docetist. Therefore, Roman Catholicism is Docetic. See how easy that was?

“And for the record, anything two conflicting propositions whose conflict can't be explained are just nonsense, which is exactly what Nestorianism was.”

Prejean's underlying humanistic rationalism betrays him. If he can’t explain it, it’s not real. He knows exactly how God is one and three at the same time. Prejean can explain that. He knows exactly how God can have no beginning—that there was never an instant when God had a first thought. He knows the mechanics of how God can be all places at all times. Prejean can explain perfectly how the hypostatic union works. He has penetrating insight into just how all those things came together. And he can do all this without Scripture! Prejean’s completely comprehensible God is, unfortunately, nothing more than an idol made in his own image. This is the same rationale Jehovah's Witnesses use to deny the Trinity.

“But of course, Svendsen is either confused or lying on this point, because Christologically, it refers to the single subject. Here's Svendsen's misunderstanding of my position. Mary's status has nothing to do with it; I want to get the Christological statement correct.”

No, he doesn’t; He wants agreement for one purpose only—so that he can push a Marian agenda. The entire dialogue began as an informal discussion on the title “mother of God,” and the Christology of the fifth century was a side point (introduced by Prejean to bolster his argument) that eventually took center stage. Prejean has either forgotten the original discussion that prompted my series, or (more likely) he is a liar.

“But his view of Cyril has been unanimously crushed by the scholarship, and that includes Catholics (Wessel, Weinandy, Keating), Orthodox (McGuckin, Gavrilyuk, Russell), and Protestants (McKinion). “

Unanimously? So, there are no other patristic scholars except the seven Prejean mentions above? Here again we are treated to Prejeans idea of “scholarship.”

“It's perfectly fine to use the term in an unqualified way; it is only if qualified that it becomes heterodox (Mary is the Mother of God as God). If Christ is truly a single divine subject, then Mother of God is the norm, and the openly heterodox statement would be "mother of a man." This is yet another demonstration of Svendsen's ignorance of the theological use of this term (his laughable statements about meter theou being the only worse howlers).

Except, of course, that the qualifier for theotokos in Chalcedon is “as regards his humanity”—the very thing Prejean has just claimed is “heterodox.”

“Except for the pesky FACT that we use the term "Mother of God" in the same way Cyril does, per every recent scholar on the point. But as usual with Svendsen, misrepresent the view, respond AS IF the misrepresentation were true, and repeat.”

And once again, Cyril’s mater theou was not used in the proclamations; so, no, theotokos means “God bearer,” not “mother of God.”

“The Platonic concepts and Aristotelian categories are simply explanatory tools (and by the way, what training does Svendsen have in philosophy to make ANY statements about Aristotelian and Platonic concepts, much less study in patristics to know how the Fathers applied them?).”

Philosophy classes were a required part of my program. One now needs an advanced degree in philosophy to know about Aristotle and Plato? To use Prejan’s own logic, since he has absolutely no training in patristics or any related discipline, what makes him qualified at all to speak on any of this? Now to the point; tools are useful only if those tools are the right tools. I can’t drive a nail with a screwdriver. I can’t rightly loosen a bolt with a hacksaw. Aristotelian categories are out of place when attempting to explain what has not been revealed to anyone.

“The Fathers deployed them to explain Scripture, not the other way around. But Svendsen doesn't know anything about the Fathers, so how would he know this? You know you've got someone when they resort to the "inexplicable to finite minds" defense. Without some sort of philosophical explanation, that means "my view is nonsense, and I hold it for no good reason."

Prejean just continues to dig himself deeper and deeper into heresy. Here is why Prejean’s open rejection of Scripture in these matters is so dangerous. Notice how his thinking compares to that of the Great Apostle:

“For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom 11:30-36)

Paul himself could not explain God’s dealings with man, that he would “shut up all men in disobedience” just so he could “show mercy to all.” Instead, he throws his hands in the air and exclaims, “Your judgments are unsearchable and your ways unfathomable!” According to Paul, “NO ONE has known the mind of the Lord.” Prejean, of course, just thinks Paul’s lack of philosophical explanation is “nonsense.” Paul admits he does not know whether he was “in the body or out of the body” when he was caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor 12). Prejean, of course, can explain all of that, and thinks Paul’s explanation of “unknowability” is mere “nonsense” and a “philosophical copout.”

And just to show that the early church followed this approach to that which had not been revealed, here is what Cyril of Jerusalem (the “good” Cyril) had to say about the matter:

“But if the Lord permit, I will set it forth, according to my powers, with demonstration from the Scriptures. For when we are dealing with the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, we must not deliver anything whatsoever, without the sacred Scriptures, nor let ourselves be misled by mere probability, or by marshalling of arguments. And do not simply credit me, when I tell you these things, unless you get proof from the Holy Scriptures of the things set forth by me. For this salvation of ours by faith is not by sophistical use of words, but by proof from the sacred Scriptures (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture IV, Art. 17). . . . For these articles of our faith were not composed out of human opinion, but are the principle points collected out of the whole of Scripture to complete a single doctrinal formulation of the faith” (Ibid., Lecture V, Art. 12). . . . Let us be content with this knowledge [taken from Scripture] and not busy ourselves with questions about the divine nature or hypostasis. I would have spoken of that had it been contained in Scripture. Let us not venture where Scripture does not lead, for it suffices for our salvation to know that there is Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit. . . . But the Holy Spirit himself has not spoken in the Scriptures about the Son’s generation from the Father. Why then busy yourself over something that the Holy Spirit has not expressed in the Scriptures? You do not know all the Scriptures, and yet must get to know what is not in the Scriptures? (Ibid., Lecture XI, Art. 12).

According to Prejean, Cyril is just a blithering idiot.

“I consider the assertion that Scripture taken as a historical document doesn't teach a single-subject Christology ridiculous (John 1 alone suffices to show it, and the Arians never managed to evade the logic of that passage)”

Who denies that Christ is a single subject? Does Prejean imagine this is what I’m talking about when I say that the mechanics of how the union of God and man in Christ takes place is not something Scripture addresses? Even the Godhead is addressed as a single subject—that doesn’t explain the complexity of the Trinity. Prejean’s reticence in venturing into Scripture is now beginning to make a lot more sense.

“but even if it didn't, my view of Scriptural authority doesn't require that something be taught in Scripture as historically interpreted to be dogmatic.”

Well, I think we all know that Prejean’s view of scriptural authority doesn’t even require a Bible. He rejects the apostles’ teachings and writings, and has given them the same status as heretical religious books like the Quran and the Book of Mormon.

“Regardless, since I am talking about a single-subject Christology, which has only a very limited application to "Mary's status and role," Svendsen is yet again responding to his own misrepresentation of what I am saying.”

And Prejean’s continued mention of a “single-subject Christology,” as though own view of Christ is something other than that, is nothing less than misrepresentation of my view.

“If I were actually talking about these dogmas (Assumption, Immaculate Conception, Queen of Heaven, etc.), I would just admit that they aren't taught in Scripture viewed as a historical document. It's a unnecessary claim that I don't feel compelled to make, so it's easier just to abandon it. Nothing "terrifying" there.”

That’s not even the point. We all know that these things aren’t taught in Scripture—which is why Prejean insists on appealing to the title theototos. If we can agree that Mary is “mother of God,” then we cannot deny the privileges that attend that title (so goes the reasoning). It’s not strange at all that Prejean would focus on this issue to advance a larger agenda for Mary. It’s something that’s done all the time in RC pop-apologetics.

“Same old thing. Svendsen is talking about Mary's status; I'm talking about Christology. Yes, I think Augustine and Irenaeus both held to single-subject Christology, which is all that the title "Mother of God" means.”

No it’s not the same old thing. The Augustinian quotes I supplied show that Augustine spoke of Mary’s motherhood only in terms of his humanity, and denied it involved his divinity. That’s just what is at issue here in the proper understanding of theotokos.

I quoted Augustine:

At that time, therefore, when about to engage in divine acts, He repelled, as one unknown, her who was the mother, not of His divinity, but of His [human] infirmity" (Tract. in Ioannem CXIX, 1)

Prejean responded:

“And when we speak with the qualification of speaking about natures, this is entirely routine. Since Svendsen evidently can't distinguish between nature and person (subject), I can see why this is confusing.”

There’s nothing even remotely present in this passage that speaks of Prejean’s distinction between “nature” and “person.” Yes, of course he’s referring to nature—but for Augustine, that’s the only meaningful way to express that union. All Augustine is interested in affirming is that Mary can be viewed as “mother of Jesus” only by virtue of his humanity, and NOT by virtue of his divinity. Hence, the title “mother of God” would simply be disallowed by Augustine in any context.

I quoted Augustine:

“Why, then, said the Son to the mother, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come?" Our Lord Jesus Christ was both God and man. According as He was God, He had not a mother; according as He was man, He had.”

Prejean responded:

“Of course, this is the very same misrepresentation Svendsen is making about me, to suggest that I mean "Mother of God" to refer to nature and not person. So it really just falls in with the big strategy: misrepresent, accuse based on the misinterpretation, and repeat.”

Augustine insisted, “According as He was God, he had no mother.” Prejean somehow interprets this as evidence that Augustine would have given full assent to the title “mother of God.” I’ll let the reader decide for himself whether that’s even a reasonable option.

“Svendsen's anti-intellectual bias against Aristotelian concepts doesn't mean they can't accurately explain the material content of Scripture.”

Anti-intellectual? No. Careful to make a distinction between the paradigm of the New Testament writers and the paradigm of the fifth-century writers? Yes. I’ll say this once again. Aristotelian categories are woefully inadequate to explain Scripture because they are based on different paradigms. To engage in such an activity would be equivalent to using postmodern metanarratives to accurately explain propositional truth; or to use a screwdriver to hammer a nail.

“It's the "biblically constrained" part that strikes me as ridiculous. I have absolutely no reason to think that Scriptural content is different than any other content in terms of being explained by logical concepts.”

This, again, just demonstrates Prejean’s ignorance of Scripture. “Biblically constrained” just means the Bible doesn’t address it, or addresses it in a specific but limited way. Why is that ridiculous? Is Prejean under the impression that Scripture addresses every conceivable question that might come up? And that doesn’t at all imply Scripture is illogical, or that we cannot arrive at a systematic theology of God. What is does imply is that any systematic theology must not transgress or “run ahead of” what Scripture actually affirms—because at that point it is no longer the use of logic that is at play, but logical fallacies. As an example, I can affirm that my dog has dark eyes, and that his coat is dark. If that’s all the information I provide, Prejean has no right to conclude that my dog’s eyes and coat are black. They may be; but no logic is going to figure that out. There are any number of options that could fall under the category of “dark” (brown, almond, chocolate, etc.) and it’s nothing but pure speculation to assume dark = black. Worse, it’s sophistry of the worst kind to try to claim you really are able to deduce that dark = black. That’s just what Prejean is attempting to do in terms of figuring out something about the God-Man that has not been divinely revealed. Human categories of logic cannot explain how God is both three and one, how God can have no beginning, how God is at all times everywhere present, what heaven looks like, what the makeup of the resurrection body is—and yes, how the union of God and man takes place in Christ. If Prejean doesn’t accept these categories, let him explain the “mystery” of the mass in logical terms—or is that no longer a mystery to Prejean? My goodness, even Trent recognizes this concept: “If any one say that in Divine Revelation there are contained no mysteries properly so called, but that through reason rightly developed all the dogmas of faith can be understood and demonstrated from natural principles: let him be anathema” (Sess. III, Canons, 4. De fide et Ratione, 1). Is Prejean now beyond Trent?

“I don't think that the Scriptures are entirely incomprehensible either. However, unlike Svendsen, I think they teach a great deal that requires a complicated conceptual apparatus to understand, particularly when dealing with the nature of God and the like. Svendsen spurns investigation in these areas, dismissing them as inscrutably mysterious, which I consider contempt for the truth in Scripture.”

So, according to Prejean, no one could understand scriptural concepts of God until they were defined in the fifth century. Not that Prejean has any idea what the “truth of Scripture” is. But, here again is that “contemptuous” Trent: “If any one say that in Divine Revelation there are contained no mysteries properly so called, but that through reason rightly developed all the dogmas of faith can be understood and demonstrated from natural principles: let him be anathema.” To Prejean, this is a “philosophical copout.”

“And as far as viewing them as "plainly written," it simply reflects Svendsen's assumption going in that they will be. To think that the Christological concepts in, e.g., the Gospel of John are as trivial and Svendsen thinks they are strikes me as an insult to the Evangelist. The Fathers exalt the hidden wisdom in Scripture; Svendsen's reductionist approach cuts all of that off as carelessly as a mower slices a blade of grass.”

Apparently Prejean has no idea that someone can “write plainly” about an incomprehensible subject. “In the beginning was the word; and the word was with God, and the word was God. . . . and the word became flesh and dwelt among us” is plainly written. From this we know that the Word was God from the beginning and that he became man. But the plainly written words do not venture into how that occurred. It is the latter that the councils tried to explain, and they did so in convoluted ways because they were not content with the simplicity of Scripture.

“Except that this view of Cyril has been shredded by the recent scholarship.”

Yes; every interpretation that conflicts with Prejean’s is always “shredded” by Prejeans selective use of scholarship.

“For purposes of legal exegesis, which is to say as a matter of authority, this is perfectly well within the discipline; it is not EISEGETICAL but EXEGETICAL. There are plenty of ways to answer Roe v. Wade and its progeny as being defective forms of legal reasoning (including natural law) without the absurd consequence of tying our hands to the historical meaning even explictly contrary to the intentions of its authors, who understood it to be the charter of a nation to be applied by later generations, not merely some mundane catalog of then-current beliefs.”

The legal analogy was an analogy only, Prejean’s long sidebar notwithstanding. I assumed Prejean was conservative, not progressive, in his reading for the Constitution. My mistake. Prejean apparently believes there is merit in reading historical documents anachronistically, and that the Constitution supports for a woman’s right to kill her infant. So be it. That method of interpretation is not one that is acceptable in biblical exegesis.

“This is one reason that Svendsen's view of textual authority looks so silly to me, and indeed, this is what most Catholics (and particularly Catholic lawyers like Karl Keating) have in mind when they critique the Protestant rule of authority as anarchic.”

Suffice it to say that it’s a good thing catholic lawyers are not in charge of Scripture.

“Legal exegesis and historical exegesis are different disciplines, and trying to use one in place of the other would be absurd (and I've yet to see even a decent philosophical argument for why historical exegesis is the right standard for Scriptural authority).”

Maybe it’s because Scripture is a historical document. Does Prejean also believe there was a special “Holy Ghost Greek” used for the New Testament?

“Likewise for exegeting Scripture as a mundane document if its revelatory purpose was not for it to be one. But Svendsen here shows no understanding that there are even different methods of exegesis.”

That’s because there aren’t “different methods of exegesis”; only varying genre of literature that need to be exegeted, and the recognition of the idiosyncratic exegetical constraints for each genre. Does Prejean look for hidden or unlikely meanings in a legal document? I doubt he’d win many cases that way (assuming he has even tried a case at all). I am no lawyer, but as a business owner I have to deal with them all the time. The law firm used by my company is very prestigious, and Prejean has no doubt heard of them. I have used them for contracts, partnership agreements, and, yes, even for patent issues (logos have to be patented). I can tell you with certainty that they do not suffer novel interpretations of law, or look for hidden meanings in documents. Things like intent, context, conditions, and wording are all important aspects when they are “exegeting” legal documents. But, perhaps Prejean can get away with allegorical interpretations of legal documents in Louisiana—or perhaps that state allows him to “add to” a legal document that’s already been signed, sealed, and delivered. In any case, whatever “method of exegesis” Prejean thinks he can get away with in legal circles doesn’t apply to biblical exegesis.

“So like I said, Svendsen doesn't want to go here, because anyone who would be so incredibly ignorant as to say that the discipline of law doesn't teach exegesis is so oblivious to reality that he doesn't deserve to be taken seriously.”

I didn’t say exegesis is not taught in law school. I said biblical exegesis is no different than the exegesis of any document of antiquity. If Prejean has training in Constitutional law, that is completely irrelevant to the point I made. He has no training in any discipline related to patristics or biblical exegesis. The latter two are related disciplines in that the patristics are early interpretations of Scripture. But I do not see how Prejean’s study in Constitutional law is relavant to any point I made. He himself admits that the two disciplines are different.

“Credibilility check again. The question is whether an irrational person can manage a 3.9 in both undergraduate and graduate education and then study at Harvard Law School and work in a field in which these sorts of exegetical skills are used every day.”

Here’s another example of Prejean’s dazzling logic. Getting a 3.9 GPA at Harvard means that you’ll always think correctly on every issue, and you’ll always be an expert at any unrelated discipline into which you venture. And that’s why all Harvard graduates who have earned a 3.9 GPA can be found fighting for Christian truth! Seems to me someone once said: “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” Oh, silly me. I forgot; Prejean does not countenance Scripture.

“On the other hand, someone who studied the subject in what appears to be an adolescent rebellion against his Catholic parents, whose master's degree is about 20 years out of date, who got a "doctorate" at a school with zero scholarly credentials, who is a complete non-entity in reputable scholarship, and who doesn't even work in the field might have a slight accountability problem. I can't afford to let my skills slip, but Svendsen could turn into a raving lunatic and never know the difference. Think about it.”

Yes, the entire legal world is on pins and needles waiting breathlessly for Jonathan Prejean to “keep up” with his skills. Let me disabuse Prejean of his fallacious thinking. Patristics is not my field of study, and only marginally an area of interest for me. I make no apologies for not “keeping up” with that field. But I can assure Prejean there is no slouching when it comes to my field; and my “20 years out of date” masters degree has been diligently “kept up” to date. Although I do not work in the field full-time, I do work as a tutor in NT for my alma mater. And just as a reminder to Prejean; whatever he may think about my credentials, my doctoral work not only passed examination by committee, but has been endorsed by major scholars in my field, and related fields—including church history. What, in contrast, has Prejean ever published that received comparable commendations?

“No doubt the Apostles are "living" in a real sense, and the Orthodox have even tried to make authority out of this, although I am skeptical of how real such authority can be. But this is Svendsen's MO again: I said that there is no LIVING person who has such authority; he accuses me of saying that there are no PERSONS; he responds AS IF I had said what he misattributes to me.”

And so, Prejean confirms his Docetism. “The word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”

“Certainly, the intellect can know things about the God that created it, but I am not denying revelation. I am saying that the way the Fathers (and I) give authority to texts is not the way Svendsen does, and Svendsen's concept of giving textual authority by sheer historical exegesis has much more in common with Muslims that Christians.”

Well, then Prejean would just be plain wrong about that, because the fathers did indeed give primacy to the text of Scripture. Note Cyril of Jerusalem’s words cited above, for pete’s sake. How can someone who claims so much knowledge about the fathers be so ignorant of what they believed about Scripture? None of them—not one—would have relegated Scripture to the status of the Quran or the Book of Mormon as Prejean has done. Prejean remains a biblical heretic.

“Except, as usual per the Svendsen M.O., this isn't what I said. What I reject is Svendsen's method of giving authority solely to what the Apostles historically meant, which is not what I believe even the Apostles had in mind for Scripture.”

Prejean has said nothing to clear him of the charge that he is, in fact, a biblical heretic by virtue of his blatant disregard for the teaching of the Apostles.

“Let's move our eye back to the ball. Svendsen is saying here that Scripture does not teach single-subject Christology, . . . “

More Prejean lies. I never said Christ is not a single subject. I said that we cannot explain how the union of God and man took place, but that we must affirm his full deity as well as his full humanity, and that anything beyond that is mere speculation.

“which is all the term "Mother of God" identifies.”

Not true; theotokos was intended to convey that Christ was deity even in the womb.

“He is also saying that all of this is shrouded in mystery and can't be parsed coherently, which is more or less an admission that he can't explain how Christianity is coherent, but he believes it anyway.”

I’ll take my chances and stick with the Scriptures on this one. If Prejean wants to boast of his brilliant intellect before God and explain to God in the judgment that he had Him all figured out and had no need of biblical constraints in this, more power to him.

“Well, Svendsen can revel in his incoherence all he likes, but I think that single-subject Christology is taught in Scripture, that it is logically necessary for the Scriptural concept of God to be coherent, and that is it both reasonable and necessary to deploy suitable philosophical concepts to explain this.”

Necessary, eh? Then I guess Christianity just did not exist until the fifth century.

“So if Svendsen affirms Nestorius's orthodoxy vis-a-vis Chalcedon, it's simply proof that he is following a discredited and dated line of reasoning that finds no support in the current state of the scholarship. And since I also happen to think that Nestorius's view entails a denial of Christ's divinity as described by Chalcedon, I have no qualms about accusing Svendsen and anyone who agrees with him of being heterodox.”

And as I’ve already demonstrated, Prejean is a Docetist, since his belief entails that he doesn’t accept the apostles as real people who can function as a rule of faith. See how easy this is?

“What is particularly important to note, though, is that Svendsen has confused the idea of Nestorius having some legitimate concern that originated in Antiochene thought with the idea that Nestorius actually articulated such a thing. Even many of the sources that concede the former reject the latter."

So, in Prejean’s view, Nestorius was condemned by Cyril and his cronies for an unarticulated belief?

“Because I have access to the works of the scholars in the field, and very little turns on the knowledge of primary languages. The scholars' arguments explain clearly what the reasoning is where they do, and the disputes are not over critical and translational issues, on which the understanding is generally unanimous. The issues under discussion here do not turn on such details.”

But they do turn on the ability to understand history, Scripture, and theology—disciplines which are lost on Prejean.

“The only presupposition I have is that we have been in the Church Age from Pentecost to the present day. I entirely reject that the Fathers thought that "The early church for them was the New Testament," because I don't think they distinguished the early Church from the one they had right in front of them, as I do not.”

Ah; I see. And so when Arianism held sway in all the bishoprics in both East and West for nearly a century, that was the “church.” In other words, the fourth-century church which rejected the divinity of Christ could not have been in error because they were indistinguishable from the first-century church.

“This is why I think historical exegesis is inapt as a standard for Biblical authority; it treats the Church as if there was a qualitative gap between the Church of the Apostles and the Church today. There are not Apostles today, but to the extent the Apostles formed a Christian community subject to certain objective norms of authority, that very same institution persists until the present day (just as the America founded with the Declaration of Independence is the same America today). What Svendsen considers "baggage," I consider a conceptual articulation of the same faith, just as I consider correct legal decisions to be conceptual articulations of the same law.”

Except for that little gaff about the fourth century Arian Catholic church.

“Whether it will meet Svendsen's standards of what counts as "exegesis" or "biblical orthodoxy" is a matter of supreme indifference to me.”

If Prejean is so indifferent to my opinion, why does he bother to right a 20-page response to it?

“Scripture doesn't say much about these subjects absent some fairly rigorous and diligent philosophical examination illuminated by natural theology.”

Here we go again with Prejean’s “wisdom that is wiser than God’s”

“By and large, the historical claims of the New Testament aren't matters of dispute; the real dispute is over the communicative content, particularly whether the Apostles were talking solely to their audience or not (and that carries tremendous significance for the method of exegesis one selects).”

I’ve addressed this point sufficiently in my previous response to Prejean. Prejean is a docetist on this point, plain and simple.

“scholarship does not consist of taking what you learned more than a decade ago in graduate school and treating it as "unassailable," nor does it mean that you can keep on talking about the scholarship when you aren't keeping current.

No; but what it does mean is that you don’t place all your eggs in one basket that has not yet been responded to by whatever you think the “old school” is.

“And Oakes says no such thing to my knowledge; he simply rejects that Chalcedon was a revision of St. Leo's work (and I happen to agree with him, contra McGuckin). But with respect to Nestorius, even Oakes can't find a cavil against McGuckin's work:

First of all, I do not care whether you agree with him or not since your opinion on these things is completely worthless. Nevertheless, here is the text of Oakes’ review to which I referred:

Here Cyril was certainly bolder than the Latin theologians, but the lack of theological daring in Latin Christology has somewhat slanted McGuckin's interpretation of Pope Leo I, whose famous Tome was read out before the assembled bishops at Chalcedon to unanimous acclaim: "Peter has spoken through Leo!" The standard Western account of that episode claims for Rome a balance of approach lacking in the more disputatious Greek theologians, who were still too besotted by the neo-Platonic speculations common in the East. McGuckin disagrees. He points out, rightly, that the bishops not only accepted Leo's intervention as the voice of Peter but went on to say, "So also did Cyril teach." (Cyril had died seven years before Chalcedon.) According to McGuckin, the bishops accepted Leo because, and only because, he taught the same thing as Cyril, who alone was the test for Christological orthodoxy. McGuckin also makes the much more radical claim that the decree of Chalcedon was meant as a deliberative corrective to Leo's Tome. This thesis will not stand up to scrutiny. The decree the Eastern bishops supported dearly represented a middle passage between the extremes of Antioch and Alexandria. Cyril had favored the term "hypostasis" to denote the union of divine and human in Jesus, while the Antiochenes preferred "person." Chalcedon used both terms. Similarly, Cyril generally spoke of a hypostatic union "from" two natures, whereas Leo and the Antiochenes insisted on the union taking place "in" two natures and that is the formulation Chalcedon chose. Finally, we know that the Alexandrians themselves detected these "concessions" to Antiochene theology because Cyril's more hotheaded successors (Eutyches and Dioscorus, primarily) actively rejected the Council. That rejection soon led to the Monophysite heresy, which lives on to this day in the Coptic and Ethiopian churches.

Incidentally, notice here that Oakes countenances the difference between the Antiochene “in two natures” and the Cyrillene “from two natures”—the very phrases I used and for which Prejean accused me of “not keeping up with scholarship.” Apparently, Oakes has not been informed of Prejean’s correction.

“Professor Pelikan has gone on to his eternal reward, but Pelikan, Kelly, and McGrath are considered in the literature, as evidenced by the bibliography of the above works. To the extent that they conflict with anything I have said, they've been answered.”

In other words, Prejean has declined to petition these scholars for a correction, who surely know of McGuckin’s views by now. Which really means he doesn’t think he’ll get one. And that’s just the point of my corrective to Prejean on how to do scholarship.

“But in point of fact, Svendsen hasn't actually shown that they hold his belief, and he is wrong about it.”

Go back and re-read my series on Historical Theology, Mr. Prejean. I’m not going to do your homework for you.

“To reiterate, I don't reject the authority of Scripture; I reject the authority of those who treat it like the Qu'ran.”

Actually, Prejean does indeed reject the authority of Scripture. And it was he and no one else who relegated it to the pit of the Quran. Here are his own words on this that he is now attempting to backpedal:

“Anyway, your misunderstanding on Catholic authority is somewhat beside the point. I have nothing to hide; I have never been anything other than willing to yield the field if you want to discuss matters of Biblical exegesis, because I don't share your concept of Scriptural authority. From my perspective, it's about as interesting to me as an argument from the Book of Mormon or the Qu'ran; we might as well be reading different books.”

Prejean continues:

“And "not speculating" is no excuse when you affirm exactly what the single-subject Christology requires you to affirm. It doesn't really matter whether you that you are doing it; Nestorius himself didn't believe that he was, but his denial was incoherent and illogical.”

And, once again, using this same rationale, Prejean is a Docetist.

“Apart from Apollinaris not actually believing that (he believed that Christ was a divine person with a human body not a human nature, including a rational soul), the Chalcedonian confession of faith is that Christ is the Word of God, a divine person who assumed a human nature. This is undoubted; why Svendsen continues to deny it is beyond me.”

I do not deny that Christ is a divine person with a human nature. What I deny is that is all he is. As I already stated, he was fully a man—not merely a human nature. That’s why I insisted that both the human and the divine are bound together in Christ and constitute his person. This affirms the oneness of Christ and the full humanity of Christ, without attempting to speculate how all this tales place.

“Plenty of Protestants accept the Incarnation and divinity of Christ; the problem is that you don't (and Calvin probably didn't either).”

Yes, and once again, Prejean is a Docetist. See how easy that is?

“Your position in the "apollinarimonophysite" article is Nestorian. It's sheerly incoherent to say that Christ is not a divine person”

Stop with the lies, Mr. Prejean. I have never stated that Christ is not a divine person—I have always said that is not ALL he is. That’s why you constantly arrive at the wrong conclusions—you are incapable of getting the arguments right.

“So you admit that you don't understand the Catholic position and have no business responding to it.”

I defy anyone to find where I admitted not understanding the catholic position. Another example of Prejean’s inability to rightly understand even a contemporary statement.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Calm Before the Storm

Prejean has responded to some questions I posed to him in the comments section at Triablogue. His most recent post is much calmer than his last one (to which I have not yet responded). I still plan to post a response to that one, but this one will take priority.
This is the longest I have ever seen Svendsen stick to a point (which wasn't my point, but at least it is *A* point), so I'll have to give him credit for that. The benefit of him sticking to this point is that he has asked some questions that might actually help to illustrate why he is missing my position.
Then Prejean must have forgotten about the entire series of dialogue I have on Historical Theology posted under the “Notable Series” section of this blog.
As I said on Triablogue, if anything is true, it is that I am anti-Docetistic. I do not imagine the Apostles somehow intending to speak to me, except insofar as they accept that God will use their words through the interpretation of the faithful. With respect to their original intent, I construe it in a very narrowly and historically-bound way, without any expectation that it was meant to be viewed as directed to anything but the bare historical circumstances in front of them. That Scripture written by 1st century Jews still speaks to 21st century Christians is a matter of miracle, not design of the authors.
Prejean has engaged in doublespeak here. He begins by asserting that the apostles do not speak to him or to anyone else outside of their narrow first-century Jewish context. He ends up asserting that they do indeed speak to 21st-century Christians via a miracle. Do they speak to us or not? Which is it? And if they speak to us, even via a miracle, then (contrary to Prejean’s original statement about this in another thread) they can indeed function as a rule of faith.

However, as Steve Hays has cogently pointed out here, Prejean routinely confuses exegesis with the establishment of “dogmatic authority” and then with application (“the apostles don’t speak to me; therefore whatever they might say is irrelevant to dogmatic authority of revelation”). This confusion in turn is based on Prejean’s odd notion that if the Bible is written in the context of a different time and culture, then it has no meaning for us today (by which he apparently means it has no application today). Yet the content of Scripture is focused mostly on universal truths that transcend time and culture. The idea that man has rebelled against God, that man is desperately sinful, and that he stands in need of redemption is not something confined to the first century or to the Jewish world. The idea that Christ’s death on the cross is sacrificial and propitiatory stands universally true regardless of whether a 21-century culture recognizes that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” Hence, the consequential statement “whoever believes is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already” is just as true and just as applicable for someone in the 21st-century Western world as it was for someone in first-century Judea. Exegesis is the method for determining what all that means in its original setting so that we can make sure we first get the meaning right and then the application right. But Prejean thinks we can bypass not only the message and the meaning, but consequently the application as well.

Prejean’s confusion on these things stems from his lumping all historical documents in the same category of intent. If we’re talking about the writings of Euripides, then, yes, we can limit the application and assume Euripides was writing to those in his own day. We can view it as a mere historical document that helps us to understand the development of Greek tragedy. We don’t have to go beyond that and posit some sort of application today (unless you are a theater major) because there is no inherent authority in the writer or the writings to justify doing so.

But Scripture is categorically different. It is revelation given by God. It is therefore not only inherently authoritative, but universally applicable. It is forward-looking by design. It is filled with prophecies and progressive revelation that culminates in God’s self-disclosure in Christ. But even when revelation ceases, it is not thereby finished speaking. It focuses its reader on the coming capitulation of all things at the eschaton; the summing up of all things in Christ and the final recompense in which all wrongs will be righted. It admonishes its reader to believe, act and think in a way that is commensurate with that event. It commends the Scriptures as fully capable of equipping the man of God for the work of the ministry, according to which that work is to “teach,” to “reprove,” to “correct,” and to “train in righteousness.” But most importantly, it expressly warns its readers that a day will come when men like Prejean will reject the “sound doctrine” of Scripture for fables and myths and “doctrines of demons.” Hence, (contra Prejean) the Scriptures themselves testify to their own eminent relevance for everyone, particularly those who are closest to the eschaton.

Yes, there are some things that no longer apply to us, such animal sacrifices. But that’s not due to a different culture or time; it’s due solely to the prophetic fulfillment of such things in the work of Christ. Yet, even in that case, general principles still apply. Paul can cite the episodes of the children of Israel in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt and exhort the (mostly Gentile) Corinthians of the first century (several centuries removed from the Exodus), “Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved”; and he can go on to make specific applications against the Corinthians participation in pagan sacrifices. Paul makes a similar point in Rom 15:4, and specifically connects it with the timeless application of the Scriptures: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Prejean has written his explanation in the hope of escaping the charge of docetism. Yet, in the process he has placed himself in an even worse position. The atoning sacrifice of Christ recorded in Scripture has no relevance to Prejean because, after all, the concept of atoning sacrifices is something that's confined to the 1st-century Jewish world and has no relevance to us in a 21st-century Western culture. Man’s desperate condition is not a universal truth to Prejean, but rather something confined to a specific place and specific time. Scripture has no relevance to him, and in fact (according to his own words) is no more authoritative or applicable than the Quran or the Book of Mormon. There’s no sense in trying to understand the meaning of what God has told us in his revelation because none of that was written to us. The result of Prejean’s reasoning is that we’re exempt from sin, from the need for a sacrifice, and from the command to believe in Christ; and we are immune to the consequences of ignoring these things. Not only is Prejean therefore docetic (the apostles aren’t real people who can speak to us today), but he is (by virtue of that doecetic viewpoint) Gnostic in his doctrine of sin by John’s standards (1 John 1:8-10).

And remember, according to Prejean himself, it doesn’t matter that you happen to deny such charges and actively affirm beliefs contrary to the charge (Protestants, according to Prejean, deny the Incarnation and the divinity of Christ by virtue of the their understanding of theotokos, even though they actively affirm those things). Hence, according to his own rationale, even if Prejean actively affirms the apostles are real people, he’s still a docetist by virtue of his understanding of Scripture; and even if he actively affirms the principle of sin, he’s still a gnostic denier of sin by virtue of his understanding of Scripture.
First, if your response isn't directed to dual-subject versus single-subject Christology, then you are already misconstruing the Catholic claim, because "Mother of God" is a term used to show single-subject Christology. If that's not the debate, then you aren't debating with me.
No, rather because Prejean is incapable of objective analysis he has always merely assumed I hold to his understanding of Nestorianism; namely, that Christ is two persons rather than one. I don’t hold that, and never have held it. I have always affirmed the singularity and unity of the union of man and God in Christ. I’m sorry if that doesn’t fit into Prejean’s limited paradigm, but it is a fact nevertheless. The debate, as far as I have been involved, has always been about the exact way that union occurs; not about a single subject vs. a dual subject. But this is par for the course with Prejean. When he can’t understand a view, he simply lumps it into the view that seems to him to be close to it, and then issues sweeping judgments that do not apply.
But I think you ARE debating with single-subject Christology.
You say that nous (which is incidentally of Platonic origin as Apollinaris used it, not Aristotelian)
Notice the pettiness. I label nous an Aristotelian category, and Prejean responds that it is of Platonic origin, as though this is some great correction. Aristotle was a disciple of Plato, and regularly employed the term nous—and I doubt there is a great distinction in how each man uses it. I’m using “Aristotelian” as a category of terms. I have used “Platonic” interchangeably in past dialogue for these same categories.
[you say that nous] means the same thing as "person" (which isn't true of either Platonic, Aristotelian, or Neoplatonic uses of the term, but accepting your usage for the sake of argument).
That’s simply not true. I have stated that that is the Apollinarian use of the word (which Prejean may want to dispute), but that’s not thereby my definition. As I have stated elsewhere, my use of “nous,” “person,” or any other such term employed by the fifth-century debate is mere accommodation. I do not put any stock in their accuracy or authority. Biblically, nous refers to the "mind" or "intellect," and I have stated that clearly even in my earliest articles on this subject.
That would mean that two persons (the divine person and the human person) combine to form a divino-human person with both divine and human properties. That's Nestorianism.
See again? Here’s how Prejean reasons: Svendsen’s view appears to be close to Nestorianism, therefore it is Nestorianism. Aside from the fact that Nestorius used prosopon ("face") to properly describe his view (there was already a language difference between Cyril and Nestorius), whatever Prejean thinks Nestorius believed is far from my view. Once again, I have gone on record stating I reject the philosophical categories and distinctions employed in the fifth-century. They are not authoritative for me. I view them as artificial categories. They are nothing more than unbiblical (and unhelpful) categories that further confuse the simplicity of Scripture. I am coming from a biblical perspective on this issue, not a fifth-century one. I refuse to speculate on just how the union between God and man takes place because to speculate beyond what is revealed invariably results in idolatry.
I have no idea what you mean by "mere accommodation" or what "categories" you have in mind. It seems that you have no concept that could sustain any sort of coherent doctrine of the Trinity. If my concepts are inadequate, then what are your alternatives?
Biblical ones.

I wrote: Biblically speaking, the separation of these categories simply does not exist. A “person” and his “nature” are biblically inseparable, perhaps even to the point of being indistinguishable. God as a “person” cannot cease to be God in “nature” and still be God. Man as a “person” cannot cease to be man in “nature” and still be man. biblically, no “person” can have a “nature” that does not reflect his “person.”

Prejean responded:
Your position would then be that the Bible makes the Trinity impossible. Either there aren't three persons (because they all have the same nature, and nature is identical to person) or there are three gods, just as three men with the same nature are not one but three.
That’s absurd. That would be like arguing since Prejean and I both share a human nature, we must be identical in person to each other. But that’s not at all the point I was making. The members of the Godhead are distinct from one another, yet they share the same divine nature. The point I made was that a person is inseparable from his nature—that remains true of the Godhead as well. The Father is inseparable from deity; the Son is inseparable from deity; the Holy Spirit is inseparable from deity. None of the members of the Godhead can be separated from their nature—else they cease to be God. Prejean’s objection has much more to do with person and being than it does with person and nature, biblically defined. Biblically, God is God by virtue of his attributes and nature. God regularly defines himself by his abilities, his attributes, and his nature: by his immutability (“I am God; I do not change”); by his self-existence (“I am that I am”), by his eternality (“I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end”), by his love (“God is love”), etc. Jesus is the Word who was with “God” (i.e., the Father; distinguishable from him), but was himself “God” (i.e., deity).
Fortunately, this isn't true, because your logical argument for equating nature and person is nonsense.
Notice Prejean’s straw man. I did not say person and nature are to be “equated” biblically; I said they are biblically “inseparable,” perhaps to the point of “indistinguishable.” That remains a biblical fact whether Prejean recognizes it or not. As an analogy, identical twins may be “indistinguishable,” but that fact does not “equate” them or make them truly “identical.” Once we identify a specific instance of an entity that has all the attributes of a man, what is left to define that entity as a person? More on this later.
Natures don't reflect persons; persons instantiate natures. Your statements are tautologous; you are simply saying that a person that does not instantiate a nature is not a person with that nature. This is both necessarily and obviously true and has nothing to do with the point.
That’s not my point at all. I recognize that nature is the broader category and person is one instance of that category. But there’s no need for sophistry here. When I say that a man’s nature reflects his person, or that God’s nature reflects his person, I’m referring to the specific instance of that nature in the person. Hence, no “person” can have a “nature” that does not reflect his “person.” If we have all the attributes of deity bundled into a specific instance, how is that not a divine person? By the same reasoning, if we have all the attributes of humanity bundled into a specific instance, how is that not a human person? Yet there are not two persons but one.

I wrote: These texts affirm that Jesus was “a man.” Further, they affirm he was *fully* a man “in all things,” not a *partial* man, not *almost* a complete man, and not mere “flesh and blood.” Indeed, the full “manhood” of Jesus as the “last Adam” is assumed in texts such as Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. Further, they assert that if he did not assume *full* humanity, then he could not have redeemed us fully—to which even the fathers testify: “What is not assumed is not redeemed” (Gregory of Nazianzus). Atonement requires that Jesus is fully man--flesh, intellect, spirit, and whatever else one may care to specify regarding that which makes a man a “man”--not simply God with a "human nature.”

Prejean responded:
Feel free to clarify if I am misinterpreting, because I am not exactly sure what you have a mind, and I don't want to misunderstand you. It appears that you are saying that Jesus was human not only in the sense of having flesh and blood, but also in the sense of having emotions and reason (although with the caveat of Hebr. 4:15, without sin). What is confusing is your conclusion "not simply God with a 'human nature.'" The definition of human nature "whatever one may care to specify regarding that which makes a man a man, including flesh, intellect, spirit, etc." To say that He has all of these things is nothing other than saying that He has a human nature. Perhaps the subsequent questions will clarify.
Here is why Prejean's distinction between “person” and “nature” confuses the issue. If he has a human body, human emotions, a human intellect, a human mind (the biblical “nous”), a human, spirit, a human soul, a human will, human understanding, human wisdom, etc., what, pray tell, is lacking for this to be a “human person”?

I wrote: It is not "human nature" that mediates for us before God, but "the man, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5).

Prejean responded:
"The man" only requires a person with a human nature.
Prejean will later define "person" as a concrete instantiation of rational nature (an instance or gathering of the essential attributes of nature into a single entity, for which see below). Yet here he neatly sidesteps that definition by distancing the person from the nature so as to suggest that the instantiation of human nature does not require a human person. More on this in my closing remarks.
It doesn't require that there be a man, Christ Jesus, separate from the Word of God.
Except the text specifies that he is not only “man,” but "the man." Can a man be a man without being a human person? If so, how? I am not saying that the man is separate from the Word. I’m saying that Christ Jesus is the singular union of man and God. I do not purport to know how that union took place or what the exact makeup is--and I doubt anyone else can adequately explain it either. But I must affirm with Scripture that he is 100% man and 100% God.
I entirely agree with you that natures don't mediate; persons do.
And yet in this case, the “person” is “the man” Christ Jesus. If person is a concrete instantiation of nature, then how does Prejean avoid ascribing personhood to “the man” (a concrete instantiation of human nature)?
Also, I'd question your exegesis of the term "mediator" here. In context, it appears to have a "physical" meaning (in the sense of pertaining to physis, nature), affirming that there is a single person acting as a physical mediator between the two natures.
Question it all you like; but you'd be in error to do so. I affirm there is a single person acting as mediator; but “nature” is not what is in mind here so much as the need for man in his whole being to have a mediator before God.
You seem to be thinking in terms of Christ talking to Himself ("for us"), and that seems logically implausible. I don't see this passage as pertaining to his intercessory (human) role as high priest.
What? Why would you assume that on my view Christ must be talking to himself in this passage? By mere virtue of his humanity? Christ is obviously exempt from the need for mediation because he is the mediator. And he is the mediator precisely because he is both man and God. Paul is obviously referring to the rest of mankind, of which Christ became the “source of eternal life to all who obey” by virtue of that suffering and sacrifice (Heb 5:7-9), which actions make him our “high priest” by definition (Heb 5:10). If “mediator” in this passage does not refer to his intercessory work, what can it mean? Even the context makes intercession clear. Vv. 1-2, “I urge that prayers, requests, and intercessions be made for kings and all in authority”; v. 3, “God our Savior”; v. 4, “who wants all men to be saved”; v. 6, “gave Himself as a ransom for all men.”

I wrote: Atonement is possible only if one who is fully man, through perfect obedience to God, can reverse the sin brought into the world by the “man” (viz., Adam) who, using his human soul, spirit, will, intellect, etc., rebelled against God.

Prejean responded:
The idea that perfect obedience can save is Pelagian. Not even perfect obedience can earn union with God; that is beyond the capability of human nature, even for Adam, even for Christ.
Try reading Romans and Hebrews a few times and you will be quickly cured of your biblical illiteracy on this point:

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. (Heb 2:10) . . . In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 5:7-10)

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. . . . For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:12-21)

I suggest you put down your Catholic Theology book and immerse yourself in Scripture.

I asked: Do you believe Jesus was fully human; that is to say, fully a man? Was he 100% man?

Prejean responded:
Yes, He was a person possessing the full human nature.
That’s not what I asked. What I asked is whether a concrete instantiation of rational human nature (using Prejean's conceded definition of "person") can be a “man” apart from being a human person? Prejean's answers to my later questions reveal that he believes the phrase “human person” legitimately describes an instantiation of human nature. If that’s the case, then he's dancing on this point—and I think he knows it.

I asked: Was there any part of humanity that was not “shared” by Jesus via the incarnation? In other words, if one attribute of humanity is “personhood” (and whatever that entails on your view), did Jesus assume humanity on that level?

Prejean responded:
"Personhood" is not an attribute of humanity by definition.”
Says who? Plato or Yahweh? But even by his own definition, an instantiation of rational nature is a person; and so, by that definition, the instantiation of rational human nature must be considered a human person. Yet here Prejean is arguing that I can be an instantiation of humanity without being a person? How?
"Personhood" refers to concrete individual existence of any rational nature.
I will ask the question again: Did Christ have a rational human nous (mind, intellect)? Was it a concrete individual instance of it? If so, how does Prejean avoid the notion of “human person”?
Existence is not an attribute of nature for any nature except the divine nature. The divine nature necessarily exists; nothing else does.
I agree with this point. But we’ll see whether Prejean can maintain it in light of his view.

I wrote: If the answer #2a is yes (and/or 2b no), what is included in your definition of “person” that was unimpacted by sin and does not therefore need to be redeemed in the atonement?

Prejean responded:
This is what I mean by confusing "nature" with "person." Persons are only impacted by personal sin; the "except sin" qualification in Hebr. 4 means that Christ has no personal contact with sin. "Original sin" refers to being born in a condition of privation, absent God's grace, which is solely situational and accidental, not an effect of sin on the nature per se, so Christ does not have this property either.
Prejean has not only missed the point entirely, he has also misunderstood Scripture’s teaching regarding the effects of Adam’s sin to his progeny. He would be well advised not to confuse the error-filled, semi-Pelagian Roman theology of original sin with the Scriptural teaching about the sin nature. I’ll let this point slide here (though will take it up later) since he's already conceded that everything required for the existence of a "person" is part of his definition of "nature."
Based on my answer to #3, these questions involve a category error. Person isn't an attribute of nature, so personal redemption is not a matter of the nature being redeemed. All faculties of nature are redeemed, but person is not a faculty of nature.
I will grant Prejean this point based on his definition of person.
Sin is an act of the will (and particularly, the gnomic mode of exercising the will).
Biblically, that’s the definition of rebellion, but sin comprises much more than that. A person can sin in his actions, his plans, or merely in his unacted-upon thoughts and desires. Indeed, sin resides in us because we have a sin nature. Our sin nature is such that, according to Paul, “nothing good dwells in me” and “I am in bondage to sin.” That sin, according to Paul “dwells in me” to the point of exclaiming “wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death!” That’s why Prejean’s notion of original sin is anemic. We are radically impacted by sin in our entire beings, such that even the “heart is desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” That’s why it’s important to account for these things when speaking of the redemption provided by Christ. Again, whatever was not assumed by Christ was not redeemed. That includes the entire person of a man, not merely his attributes of nature considered separately.

Having said all that, if Prejean's definition of "person" is simply the bundling together of the attributes of rational nature, then I can understand why he might exempt this from the consequences of sin. But in that case, since it is enough to say that if all the attributes of nature are impacted by sin and must be assumed to be redeemed, then it adds nothing to the equation to say that the person is also impacted by sin.
Divine nature is absolutely simple, meaning there is no existence/essence composition (to use Augustine's term, "To be ... is to be a person"). Divine nature is necessarily existent, and we know by revelation that this necessary existence involves existing tri-personally. Divine persons, therefore, necessarily exist.
Via their nature, no disagreement there. But this does not help Prejean’s case. He’s awfully vague on this point, but as near as I can tell, Prejean defines “person” as a concrete instantiation of rational nature. In other words, “human nature” is a “pool” of related attributes—including things like intellect, wisdom, spirit—and “person” is a single metaphysical “embodiment” or “clothing,” as it were, of those attributes. “Person,” therefore, acts as a sort of invisible layer that combines and contains all these attributes in a single entity.

Yet Prejean ends up abandoning this definition when he insists on referring to Christ as a “divine person with a human nature.” In every other case, instantiation of rational human nature, according to Prejean, is the very definition of "human person"; but in the case of Christ, Prejean conceives of "person" as something in addition to the instantiation of a rational human nature--indeed, the instantiation of rational human nature in the case of Christ is left hanging in the air! That instantiation of rational human nature ends up being nothing more than . . . human nature; whereas in every other case it is a person! He has already conceded that existence is part of “nature” (at least for the divine), not part of “person.” Hence, even if this “person” has “life in himself,” that is only by virtue of his divine nature, not by virtue of his person per se. It makes no sense to refer to someone as a “divine person” who also happens to instantiate humanity. If “person” is the “wrapping” around nature, then it is evident that the person of Christ wraps around two natures—divine and human. And if person is defined as an instantiation of nature, and the human nature has been instantiated in Christ, then how can a reference to “human person” be avoided? That is not to say there are two persons in Christ—only that the single person of Christ is both human and divine. And in that case the most we can affirm is that Jesus Christ instantiates both a divine nature and a human nature; that is to say, he is a person who is both human and divine—which is what I have been affirming all along. To say that he is a “divine person with a human nature” is gratuitously to change the definition of “person” midstream for the sake of salvaging a position.

I wrote: Poppycock! You were the one who raised the issue that my training included nothing in patristics, and used that as some sort of reason not to take my views seriously. I simply responded to something you wrote not only recently but dozens of times in the past on various boards. You either have a very short memory, or you are a liar.

Prejean responded:
which is a tu quoque response of the fallacious sort. I challenged your qualifications; I did not present my qualifications as any part of my basis for challenging your qualifications. You switched the issue from your qualifications to my qualifications, which was completely irrelevant to your own. It was only in response to the irrelevant question of my qualifications that I raised my own.
That’s absurd. Prejean states this as though the tu quoque fallacy is specially designed for those who happen to get in their ad hominem first, in a sort of “na, na, na, na, na . . . I beat you to the punch with an ad hominem and you are now disallowed to make the same point back.” See here for a fuller explanation of why Prejean’s appeal to tu quoque is illegitimate. The reason it is illegitimate in this case is that I did not concede I am unqualified to write on these issues. Far from it; what I said was that I have training in related disciples, and Prejean does not. That is not tu quoque. Moreover, Prejean states “I did not present my qualifications as any part of my basis for challenging your qualifications,” but that is not what I objected to. My objection was rather that Prejean runs around the internet asserting that all who disagree with him are unqualified to speak on the issue precisely because they have no training in patristics. It is not fallacious to point out the obvious; namely, that Prejean himself is even less qualified by virtue of the fact that he not only has no training in patristics, but not even in a related field. But I did not raise this as something that I believe is necessary—I raised it as something that Prejean apparently thinks is necessary. I don’t believe one must possess formal training in patristics to read historical documents. But Prejean clearly believes that is necessary for everyone else but him. I was merely pointing out Prejean’s inconsistency with his own (not my) stated standard. He clearly does not like it that his inconsistency has been exposed, so he illegitimately resorts to tu quoque.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Owen and Infant Baptism

Paul Owen has responded to James White on the issue of infant baptism, and in the process has repeated nearly every error he made in his discussion with me on this issue some time ago. James doesn't need any help responding to him; but for the sake of providing clarity, all of Owen's arguments have been answered before:

Link 1 ; Link 2 ; Link 3 ; Link 4 ; Link 5 ; Link 6 ; Link 7 ; Link 8 ; Link 9 ; Link 10 ; Link 11 ; Link 12 ; Link 13 ; Link 14 ; Link 15 ; Link 16 ; Link 17 ; Link 18 ; Link 19.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Jonathan Prejean's Strange Catholicism

Jonathan Prejean has once again entangled himself in a discussion he could not sustain, and so, backed into a corner (as usual), decided to backpedal, restate a new position as though he's always held it, and then cut and run (see here and here). A discussion then ensued in the comments section of the latter link. I originally posted a brief comment to some claims he made about his dialogue with me, and this caught the attention of Prejean, who responded to my comments. Here is a fuller response to his starnge catholicism. Prejean's recent comments will appear in red text, followed by my response in black text. All past dialogue with Prejean will appear in block quotes, with Prejean's comments in green:

“I'd have to be an idiot to advertise my own defeat”

Well, okay, we’ll go with that explanation then.

“If I were "desperately attempting to redeem myself," then I would be trying to provoke some sort of rematch, not simply repeating what I have been saying.”

Why would you try to provoke a rematch if you know you can’t win? The only option you have at this point is the same one that all RC apologists fall back on; simply repeat the same tired arguments over and over again, in the hope that by repeating them enough times they will eventually seem to be good arguments to your target audience. It’s a technique that has been used by RC apologists since the beginning.

“Which only shows that you and Hays both follow the same pattern: misinterpret me, make statements based on your misinterpretation, and then act as if I changed my mind when you got me wrong in the first place. The funny thing is that neither of you actually show from my words where I contradicted myself; you simply assume that I said what you interpreted me to have said.”

Is that a fact? Here’s what Prejean stated in one post in our past dialogue:
“To respond to Dr. Svendsen's query of 3/14/05, I refer to my post here, which clearly points out Svendsen's Christological errors (fundamentally based on the complete inability to make a distinction between person and nature, an error that was shared by Arius and Nestorius).”
Note here that Prejean does not say, “an error that was erroneously attributed to Nestorius.” He instead says, “an error that was shared by Arius and Nestorius.” Then, in a later post, after I corrected him on his understanding of what scholars believe about Nestorius, he wrote this:

“After having read Dr. Svendsen's first couple of forays into this area, I'm going to say a couple of things strictly in the interest of saving both his time and mine. Everybody with any familiarity in the relevant history knows that it is somewhat doubtful that Nestorius was Nestorian.”
Here's how I responded at that time:
“Which will it be, Mr. Prejean? Shall we proceed with the pop-apologetic understanding of the historical events that you undoubtedly possessed before I began posting my series; or with your new understanding of historical events which, forced by my citations of Brown, you quickly acquired when you scrambled to your patristic sources looking for contradictions to my position only to find it confirmed? I am not anxious to waste my time interacting with that kind of disingenuousness on your part; the kind that strongly and consistently asserts an erroneous position about the historical events, and ridicules and derides my comparatively accurate understanding of those events in the process, only to backpeddle once the evidence comes out and then pretends the issue was never about my understanding of events to begin with.”
Anyone interested in reading the full article can access it here:
“Why would I respond to a summary? The conclusions are nothing other than what you said before.”
Precisely because it is the summary, and precisely because it ties the series together and issues conclusions that reveal the thrust of the point of the series. Since you clearly got my intent for the series wrong, it would have helped you to understand what that intent was. Here again is what I concluded:
“It is my opinion that both councils attempted to explain the inexplicable and went far a field in their dogmatic pronouncements and attendant condemnations. No one can explain the unity of the person of Christ and the relationship between his natures beyond what the Scriptures affirm because it is inexplicable beyond what the Scriptures affirm. The most we can safely affirm is that Christ is both fully God and fully man. But the moment we attempt to explain just how those two statements fit together—or worse, to go beyond that and proclaim Mary as “mother of God” is some kind of ramification of all that, or that it acts as a test of orthodoxy—we end up in error. Why? Because at that point we end up abandoning discussion on the communication of attributes in Christ and start down the path of discussing the communication of attributes in Mary. As I stated in an earlier post in this series, the term theotokos, rightly understood as a Christological affirmation, is not objectionable in itself. It becomes objectionable in the hands of RC apologists who would use it to exalt Mary’s status over against the consistent testimony of the very Scriptures to which they purport to acquiesce in the concilliar definitions of Chalcedon and Ephesus about the person and natures of Christ. Indeed, they eagerly seek to defend the Cyrilline Apollinariani-Monophysite view of Christ’s person and natures from the Scriptures--not so they can uphold the deity of Christ, but as a pretext for finding a basis for exalting Mary by somehow proving from that fact that she’s the “mother of God.” I think that much is self-evident in their writings. But in so doing, they ignore the clear statements of Jesus that such a relationship—even if true—avails nothing. Indeed, I am convinced that they would, if they thought they could get away with it, happily throw out the qualifier of the councils that Mary is theotokos only “as regards his manhood,” and that “the difference of the natures [is] by no means removed because of the union, but the property of each nature [is] preserved and coalesced in one prosopon and one hupostasis,” and use the term in an unqualified way to exalt Mary instead of Christ. After all, that is the sense in which they use the term today, completely oblivious to the fact that the title has a historical context. So are Roman Catholic apologists wrong in their views? I believe so. Are they in Christological heresy on this point? If the councils are to act as our rule of faith, I don’t see any way around it [for the sake of clarification, this is only to the extent that they follow Cyril’s view—which most of them do; this point is affirmed by many scholars, including McGrath, Brown, Pelikan and Kelly]. But Scripture is much more forgiving on this point than are the councils. If Scripture is to act as our rule of faith, I don’t see how any view that affirms the full deity and full humanity of Christ as well as the unity of his person can be labeled as heretical given the fact no one knows exactly how the person and natures of Christ relate to each other, or even whether those categories are ones the biblical writers would deem legitimate in the first place. The councils use Platonic concepts and Aristotelian categories that are foreign to Scripture; and Scripture simply does not bother to elaborate on these things, no doubt because they are inexplicable to finite minds. Hence, my major complaint on this particular issue insofar as Roman Catholic apologists are concerned is not their Apollinari-Monophysite view of Christ; it is the application they think they can make to Mary.”
As any fair reader can see, the entire point of my series was to address Prejean’s implicit Marian agenda. His charge of Nestorianism was intended solely to bring us back in line with his cyrillene Mariolatry in the hope that we would be forced logically to grant Mary all the privileges Prejean perceives accompany the title “mother of God.” I cracked his foundation, and he has been struggling ever since to overcome that crack. As a result, he has gotten stuck in the mud of Ephesus rather than proceed to his hoped-for Marian ramifications.
I wrote: “Prejean has consistently refused to address this issue from a biblical standpoint.”
Prejean responded: “And quite proudly I might add. I reject your concept of Scriptural authority, so it would be thoroughly inconsistent of me to debate you on a ground I don't recognize.”
This is what is at the core of the issue. Prejean isn’t “proud” he in incapable of exegesis—he’s embarrassed by it. Notice what he’s forced to say here—he doesn’t recognize Scripture as an authority. Yet, at least on paper, Roman Catholicism has always recognized the primacy of Scripture; and it explicitly states that it is subject to and subservient to Scripture. And notice I have not asked Prejean to adopt sola Scriptura—I’m merely asking him whether his view is biblical. But for the sake of argument, let’s not grant Scripture any authority. Let’s just take it as a historical document, the same way we take the councils as historical documents. Let’s just see if we can determine what the writers of the New Testament have to say about Mary’s status and role. Is it Prejean’s view they share, or is it mine? I think the answer in obvious, and I think Prejean knows this very well—which is why he is terrified to venture into that arena. He knows he would be quickly cured of his Mariolatry.
“You call it "speculative" sophistry; Sts. Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, Cyril, and Thomas Aquinas would have called it exegesis.”
Augustine called your cyrillene concept of the incarnation vis-à-vis Mary’s status “exegesis”? Where? Irenaeus called your cyrillene concept of the incarnation vis-à-vis Mary’s status “exegesis”? Where? Irenaeus expressly denied Mary’s perpetual virginity as well as her immaculate conception and sinlessness. Are you sure you want to go with Irenaeus’ exegesis? Augustine also denied your cyrillene understanding of Mary’s status.
Here is what Augustine said: "At that time, therefore, when about to engage in divine acts, He repelled, as one unknown, her who was the mother, not of His divinity, but of His [human] infirmity" (Tract. in Ioannem CXIX, 1).
Here is what Augustine said: "It was as if [Jesus] said [in John 2], ‘You did not give birth to my power of working miracles, it was not you who gave birth to my divinity. But you are the mother of all that is weak in me" (Tract. in Ioannem VII, 9.)
Here is what Augustine said: "Why, then, said the Son to the mother, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come?" Our Lord Jesus Christ was both God and man. According as He was God, He had not a mother; according as He was man, He had. She was the mother, then, of His flesh, of His humanity, of the weakness which for our sakes He took upon Him. But the miracle which He was about to do, He was about to do according to His divine nature, not according to His weakness; according to that wherein He was God not according to that wherein He was born weak. But the weakness of God is stronger than men. His mother then demanded a miracle of Him; but He, about to perform divine works, so far did not recognize a human womb; saying in effect, "That in me which works a miracle was not born of thee, thou gavest not birth to my divine nature; but because my weakness was born of thee, I will recognize thee at the time when that same weakness shall hang upon the cross." This, indeed, is the meaning of "Mine hour is not yet come." . . . How then was He both David’s son and David’s Lord? David’s son according to the flesh, David’s Lord according to His divinity; so also Mary’s son after the flesh, and Mary’s Lord after His majesty. Now as she was not the mother of His divine nature, whilst it was by His divinity the miracle she asked for would be wrought, therefore He answered her, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" (Tract. in Ioannem VIII, 9).
“This just points to the fact that our concepts of Scriptural authority are fundamentally opposed to one another.”
No; what it points to is that one of us is engaging in exegesis, and the other is engaging in eisegesis. Prejean states this as though he can avoid exegesis of the documents of the fifth-century councils. Why are they any more “obvious” in meaning than the Scriptures? Both are historical writings, after all. What makes one comprehensible and the other somehow incomprehensible? The answer is, nothing. The Scriptures are just as plainly written—rather, refreshingly more plainly written—than the convoluted speculations of men too influenced by aristotelean categories to be of much help in expressing theological concepts in a biblically constrained way.
“The people on whose interpretation I am relying were hardly "Biblical neophytes." The idea that Cyril or Augustine didn't perceive the wisdom of God in Scripture is certainly a thesis that you can advance, but as between you and they, I'll take them over you.”
The problem for Prejean is that Augustine did not share Cyril’s view of this. Indeed, Cyril represents a Monophysite (or Apollinarian) school of thought on this that was rejected by many in his own day. Prejean’s attempt to pit some kind of “monolithic patristic view” over against mine fails because there was no monolithic view on this historically.
“Nothing personal. Besides, if I am a "Biblical neophyte," then that would make you a "patristic ignoramus," so I'm not really sure you want to go here.”
Yes, I do in fact want to go there, and will. I think it needs to be clarified here that Jonathan Prejean lacks requirement one to speak on these issues. He has no theological training to speak of; he has no patristic training to speak of; he has no knowledge of the primary languages to speak of. He has absolutely no training in any related discipline. Yet I am the “ignoramus,” and he styles himself as some sort of “expert.” Prejean is a lawyer. His area of specialty is patent law. While my field is not patristics, my formal training in biblical exegesis and theology required my immersion in historical texts and languages of classical antiquity. Prejean has no training in this—not even in a related discipline. He doesn’t seem to understand that whatever “exegesis” one uses to understand some historical documents (viz., the councils) is no different than that used to understand other historical documents (viz., the New Testament). One cannot appeal to the “plain teaching” of one historical document (viz., Ephesus) and at the same time arbitrarily appeal to the incomprehensibility of another (viz., the New Testament). But that’s just what Prejean does, and that’s just what makes him a biblical neophyte.
“The Fathers do plenty of exegesis, and they give plenty of explanation of their concepts of Scriptural authority. It's not my fault that you haven't read it. Someone well-versed in patristic theology would know the exegetical basis for my arguments. My apologies for assuming that you actually were a big enough boy to do your own reading, but I can't really do your homework for you.”
Once again, we have an appeal to some “monolithic” view of the fathers on this issue as though there is such a thing. And once again we have a view on this issue that is conspicuously ill-informed by Scripture.
“When I say that you are a "joke," I am speaking of your qualifications in patristic theology, which are laughable. Let's see how well your patristics bookshelf stacks up against mine.”
What is “laughable” is that these words come from the pen of a man whom I have already shown has zero qualifications to speak on this—not even in a related discipline!
“I'll take your use of the term "odd" as an admission that even you recognize it wouldn't make sense for me to advertise my own defeats.”
This is true only if we are dealing with a rational person. There’s no accounting for what some people will do to pretend and convince others that they won a debate.
“As for the appeal to my own authority, to who else's authority would I appeal? Ultimately, we all reason individually and we all give assent of the will freely; we are the ultimate arbiters of where our will is directed.”
Exactly; well, at least he doesn’t deny he is Protestant in practice.
“Nobody can represent a belief system other than his own;”
And at least we now know that we aren’t here dealing with the RC position.
“In Protestantism, of course, there are no such people. Hence, private judgment.”
I guess the apostles aren’t really people. If I were as disingenuous and desperate as Prejean, I think I might use this statement as a full-blown frontal attack on Prejean’s inherent Gnosticism: “Look everyone; Prejean doesn’t really believe the apostles are people—in his view they only ‘seemed’ to be people; hence, he is a Docetist at heart. Therefore, we may rightly reject anything further he might say.” This is just the kind of idiotic, jack-chick style rationale Prejean engages in when he accuses Protestants of denying the incarnation or the divinty of the second person of the Trinity. And it is just the kind of rationale that was turned back on him recently by James White and then by Steve Hays. He rejects the charges against him, of course, but thinks he can still level them against everyone else with impunity.
“Anyway, your misunderstanding on Catholic authority is somewhat beside the point. I have nothing to hide; I have never been anything other than willing to yield the field if you want to discuss matters of Biblical exegesis, because I don't share your concept of Scriptural authority. From my perspective, it's about as interesting to me as an argument from the Book of Mormon or the Qu'ran; we might as well be reading different books.”
Amazing. Prejean has just admitted he relegates Scripture to the status of the Book of Mormon and the Quran; and yet he can still call himself Catholic--much more, a Christian!--and insist that he shares the views of the fathers. I would contend that this hits at the very heart of the matter. Prejean will gladly throw out and nullify Scripture for the sake of his tradition (Mark 7)—something the early-church writers would not dare do. But that’s just the problem with Prejean’s position. He admits here that there is no biblical basis for his view—or at the very least that it’s not important to have a biblical basis for it. This is certainly not the official Roman Catholic view, whose practice of prooftexting these matters (although erroneously) at the very least demonstrates they think it important to have a biblical basis for the belief. Prejean admits he has no need for Scriptural support of his views; his staggering intellect can figure out the divine all by itself!
I’ll go farther here. By this statement, Prejean has just defined himself out of biblical orthodoxy. Here is how the apostle John puts it: “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 Jn 4:6). Prejean has admitted he just does not care what the apostles have to say. He has admitted their voice is irrelevant to him. He has thereby placed himself in the category of “the spirit of error” and of those who are “not from God.” Hence, Prejean is a heretic, biblically defined; and as such his voice is to be utterly rejected by all truth-affirming people, irrespective of denominational affiliation—whether Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox. He has disqualified himself to speak on these matters.
But there’s an even more important point in all this. Again, I am not asking Prejean to adopt my view of Scriptural authority—I’m just asking him to show historically that those who walked with Christ on this earth and knew Mary personally affirmed Prejean’s views. He can’t do that, of course, because it is quite evident that the apostles did not share Prejean’s view on this issue. Quite the contrary; they are manifestly “Evangelical” in their view. But if that’s the case, then the councils also just as manifestly erred in their definitions because they “ran ahead” of the apostles in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9).
“I just want you to withdraw the inaccurate historical claims. There is a real historical belief system called Nestorianism, and you hold it. Perry knows it; I know it; why not just admit it? It makes no difference, and the admission doesn't even hurt you because you don't concede the authority of the councils anyway.”
First of all, I gladly affirm Nestorius as completely orthodox—and always have—as do most patristic scholars and historical theologians, including Kelly, Pelikan, McGrath, and Brown. What Prejean is really asking me to do is concede what he and his cronies inanely and absurdly think are the attendant ramifications of that view, including a denial of Christ’s divinity—something I simply do not do. It is sophistry, plain and simple, that leads Prejean to assert that his ramifications are somehow “necessary consequents” of the measured view that we risk crossing a bridge too far if we attribute “divine motherhood” to Mary by virtue of her title as theotokos. Nestorius’ burden in his proposed use of the more accurate “Christ bearer” rather than the apollinarianesque “God bearer” was to promote Christ as God-Man rather than mere God—something Cyril was just too marian-zealous to understand rightly. And just as Nestorius did not concede Cyril’s sophistry, so also I will not concede Prejean’s sophistry in this. Nestorius’ overall position, as reported by mainstream patristic scholars, was orthodox, and he was mush more biblically careful than Cyril.
“[Biblical exegesis has] been done by many Catholics before me, and whenever it is done, the Catholic gets accused of eisegesis, because we think that a number of external criteria can be used that you do not.”
Yes, like anachronistically appealing to a belief defined five hundred years after the biblical writers wrote. That’s somehow hailed as “sound exegesis. Prejean is a lawyer. Imagine if we treated the Constitution that way—that is to say, the Constitution must have intended to uphold a woman’s right to an abortion because just look at all the people who hold to that view today! Yeah—that’s a sound approach to interpreting a historical document.
“Well, sure, if the issue being judged turns on something in which knowledge of the original language is actually pertinent, but in that case, you have to be far more than simply competent in the language; you have to be a legitimate scholars of the period and that author's writings."
Since Prejean is neither, one wonders why he even attempts it.
“Contemporary Biblical scholarship isn't a passionate interest for me; I'm more interested in how Scripture has been understood over history than how it was understood at the time.”
And how does Prejean know that contemporary biblical scholarship isn’t part of that historical understanding? For all we know, we’re still in the early church age; and someone reading this dialogue ten-thousand years from now may see Ephesus as a mere blip on the radar screen of theological development. Outside of his gratuitous presup that Rome is somehow infallible, on what basis does Prejean assume otherwise? And what if even those in the fifth-century held to Prejean’s attitiude; to wit, “Contemporary Biblical scholarship isn't a passionate interest for me; I'm more interested in how Scripture has been understood over history than how it was understood at the time.” Obviously, the fifth-century church did not view itself as the “historic church.” The early church, for them, was the New Testament church. Hence, their definitions are mere commentaries and theological formulations of what they believed the New Testament teaches. To view them in the romantic way Prejean does is to miss the point that these are mere men who did their best to understand Scripture and to put down formerly unknown contrary beliefs of their day, but who could and did err—not so much in their main definitions as in the baggage they attached to those definitions.
“MY point was solely historical. In response, Eric Svendsen made a gratuitous claim that this was because I had no exegetical basis, and I'm entitled to simply deny it and demand proof, meaning he would actually have to dig into the patristic exegetical arguments and interact with them.”
Here it is clear that Prejean is confusing exegesis with argument. Cyril and the defenders of his view make arguments; but that does not necessarily translate into exegesis. One can argue about the difference between homoiousis and homoousis, and he can do so in a biblically informed way; but one cannot exegete that difference biblically, because Scripture simply does not address such a thing. One can argue whether hypostasis or person is the more appropriate term to use in reference to the union of man and God in Christ, but one cannot exegete that question biblically. One can argue whether the hypostatic union took place “from two natures” (Cyril’s view) or “in two nature” (the Antiochene view), but one cannot prove either one from Scripture. It’s based, rather, on sophist speculation.
And my assertion that Prejean has no exegetical basis for his idiosyncratic views is far from gratuitous. He has admitted he is uninterested in what Scripture has to say about this matter, and if he were familiar with the biblical exegesis employed by Cyril and company why not just cite it? Why instead does Prejean dismiss the biblical evidence as irrelevant? I suspect it is because even if he has read the biblical rationale of Cyril and company, he doesn’t really understand those arguments well enough to reproduce them—and if he does not understand them, then he cannot simply claim them as his own by proxy. The onus remains on Prejean to produce an exegetical basis for his beliefs on this if he is to remain within the bounds of biblical orthodoxy.
“As I said, I can't do homework for people; to some extent, they have to be self-motivated if they want to get involved.”
It seems this applies to everyone but Prejean.
"All questions of purely historical interest go to the truth and falsehood of the purely historical claims, so if you are interested in the truth of purely historical claims (as I am), then this would be sufficient motivation.”
If Prejean were really interested in “the truth of purely historical claims,” why does he consistently refuse to engage the “purely historical claims” of Scripture regarding this issue? After all, the New Testament is nothing if not a historical document, filled with historical claims. Why is this not “sufficient motivation” for him? Methinks he knows what he would find, and that he wouldn’t like it very much. He would then be forced to deal with the very real disparity between the teaching of Scripture and the traditions of men he has been promoting for so many years.
“But anyway, to be consistent with your reasoning, Svendsen should withdraw his arguments (including Apollinarimonophysitism), Jason Engwer should withdraw his articles as well, and James White never should have said a word about Nicaea. You say you're not a relativist, but it sure seems like you have a "goose-gander" problem here. All I want is a withdrawal of the dubious historical claims. It serves no one to have the scholarship and the historical facts being obfuscated by poor handling.”
Listen to me very carefully, Mr. Prejean. Scholarship does not consist of ignoring the established, published, and unrecanted views of the heavy hitters in favor of a decidedly partisan work (from what I’ve read of McGuckin, he has a vested interest in exonerating Cyril) that coincidentally—surprise!—happens to support your idiosyncratic views on this. Even Edward Oakes, who is otherwise sympathetic to McGuckin’s thesis, rejects the notion that Ephesus (Cyril) and Chalcedon (Antioch) are in agreement. There’s just too much evidence to the contrary. Hence, he affirms what modern patristic scholarship has always affirmed; namely, that Ephesus is pro-Cyril and Chalcedon is pro-Antioch. Indeed, he goes on to affirm that Cyril’s successors, detecting the pro-Antiochene theology of Chaldedon, rejected the council altogether and became Monophysites—and this is in spite of hs familiarity with the dazzling “unassailable” brilliance of McGuckin’s work!
Here’s what might convince me of your position, Mr. Prejean: Write to the Kelly’s, the Pelikan’s, the McGrath’s, and the Brown’s of the world to correct their “obfuscation” and “poor handling” of historical facts. Once you do this, and once you secure from them letters of repentance indicating they have recanted their published views, then I will happily do the same. As it stands, yours is nothing more than a “my scholars vs. yours” argument.
And then keep in mind that even if you were able to accomplish all this, it proves nothing in regard to my own views. If Protestantism is Nestorian, it is on the Kelly-Pelikan-McGrath-Brown understanding of what Nestorius affirmed—all of whom affirm the orthodoxy of that position—not your understanding of it. If your understanding of the views of Nestorius wins the day, your charge is still unfounded since I do not subscribe--nor have I ever subscribed--to what you think Nestorius believed. Hence, whether your view on the history or mine ends up being right has absolutely no bearing on your false charges of Nestorianism. No Evangelical I know believes Christ was two persons (nor, according to most scholars, did Nestorius himself believe that). Rather, most (like me) simply prefer not to speculate about how the union between God and man takes place in Christ beyond what the Scriptures affirm, because these are areas that are simply unknowable in this life. So you’re left explaining how one is “unorthodox” who refuses to go beyond Scripture in his affirmations about the unknowable. In the meantime, you’ve defined yourself entirely out of the biblical definition of “Christian” by placing the authority and relevance of Scripture on par with the Quran.
“If I think a Catholic is making a dubious historical argument, then I certainly will address that. I do it all the time.”
Except that Prejean is completely blind to his own “dubious historical arguments,” such as that Protestants deny the incarnation and divinity of Christ. No responsible patristic scholar would ever make that connection. Yet Prejean clearly does. Doesn’t integrity mean anything to Prejean?
“I've found that most objections of this sort misunderstand the Catholic claim being made. In other words, the Protestants thinks the Catholic is making a certain sort of claim, but the Catholic isn't.”
Well now, isn’t this familiar? Now substitute every instance of “Catholic” for “Protestant,” and vice versa, and you have Prejean in a nutshell—a eminently appropriate place for someone like Prejean.