Tuesday, January 29, 2008

PLAYING WITH A LOADED GUN

A couple of SOS Grammar Nazis pounded me for daring to criticize the incomplete sentences and childish arguments on the save our seminary website. But I press on. Why should I care what they think of my unorthodox style? At least it’s grammatically correct.

In the spirit of pressing on, however, an anonymous commenter on my fully documented anonymous attack blog just left this fully documented comment in response to a blog post written by one of my SOS Grammar Nazi critics. You can find the post in question in the comments; I will not link to it for obvious reasons:

PLAYING WITH A LOADED GUN (Children shouldn’t)
Snubbie:

You’ve obviously been breeding these pet quotes for some time, but you’ve groomed them too close. For the sake of my time and Mark’s bandwidth, let’s deal with just one:

“[The Scriptures] are written in human languages, whose words, inflections, constructions and idioms bear everywhere indelible traces of error. The record itself furnishes evidence that the writers were in large measure dependent for their knowledge upon sources and methods in themselves fallible, and that their personal knowledge and judgments were in many matters hesitating and defective, or even wrong.” (B.B. Warfield & A.A. Hodge, Inspiration, pp. 73–82)

If the Warfield quote, which originally appeared in Truth, 9 (1883) 124–29, was served to you in such incomplete fashion in course syllabi, then that is quite damning. However, if you edited it to leave a false impression, that is evil. We’ll ignore the fact that you cited the full pagination of Appendixes 1 and 2, rather than the specific page where the quote appears in Baker’s reprint (p. 78), though that does seem to suggest you were spoon fed and haven’t done this research yourself (please don’t say you were just trying to provide context).

Following the quote above that you provided, Warfield continues:

“Nevertheless, the historical faith of the Church has always been that all the affirmations of Scripture of all kinds, whether of spiritual doctrine or duty, or of physical or historical fact, or of psychological or philosophical principle, are without any error, when the ipsissima verba of the original autographs are ascertained and interpreted in their natural and intended sense.”

It goes on, but the point is that you omitted a critical portion of Warfield’s statement. Take heart, for you’re not alone; Warfield notes:

“The italicized portion of this section [the very portion you cited], the Truth [a periodical of that era] singles out for attack as being rash, untrue and hopelessly inconsistent with the infallibility and divine inspiration of the Scriptures.”

Now Snubs, please note Warfield’s next statement:

“The careful reader who will glance at it in its context may be trusted to take another view of it. It is to be observed that it is a portion of a rejoinder to the rather common objection to verbal inspiration, that it makes the human authors of the Bible omniscient. No, it says, verbal inspiration only supposes errorlessness in what is actually said. However much they did not know, however wrong they may have been in their notions on many points — whatever they set down in their books, and thus actually teach, is found to be absolute fact. In fine, however human they may have been in other respects, so far forth as they affirm anything, every statement accurately corresponds to truth. This is what verbal inspiration means; it does not hold that what the sacred writers do not affirm is infallibly true, but only that what they do affirm is infallibly true.”

You, Snub, like most of the other SOS supporters, are obviously quite young. Your arrogance shows. You’ve learned a lot, but you are still incompetent in handling the mysteries of God. You are like a child playing with a loaded gun. You’re going to hurt someone. You are going to mislead God’s people if you teach on these matters while holding these views. Please bridle your tongue until you have learned some humility and a good deal more of what Warfield and Old Princeton actually taught.

Before I say thank you, you have to check out Dude, where’s my seminary? Methinks I see the handiwork if not the syntax of DaFedSez.

Thank you.

12 comments:

snubnosed in alpha said...

Well, gee, I hope I don't qualify as a grammar Nazi. Perhaps it was a bit off-sides for me to pick on your typo. However, I am still struck by the fact that the two things Mark railed against SOS for were grammar and lack of discursive argument. Again, SOS was never intended to be a forum for airing arguments in favor of the biblical studies guys' positions. SOS is a place where students, alums, staff and others in the WTS community can give their takes on what's going on at WTS (in a way that might actually get the board's attention). Folks are pretty emotional indeed. Beloved teachers have either lost their jobs already or are in danger of losing them in the near future. Forgive us for weeping with those who weep.
You may have a problem with us loving (and in some measure agreeing with) those professors. Fine. But as far as I can tell, you seem to be under the impression that everyone WTS is abuzz with controversy over FV. They're not. Hardly anyone cares about FV at WTS. Enns' I&I and the NPP are the real hot-button issues at WTS. But I might have misjudged you. Maybe you know all this.

Towne,
Mea culpa! It’s been a while since the Warfield passage came to my attention. I think Moises Silva cited it in his essay in Inerrancy and Hermeneutic. I had it typed up in a powerpoint presentation I used while on a church poisoning spree a few years back. So I could look up the reference again, but, frankly, I don’t think it’s really worth the effort at this point. Perhaps I’ve been a bit wreckless with my invocation of St. Warfield.
I am young, indeed. Are you quite old? So old as to have not been at WTS since Enns began teaching? If so, then I might see where you are trying to go with your rejoinder. Are you suggesting that the WTS biblical studies crowd has radically departed from Warfield’s insistence upon the inerrant character of Scripture’s teachings? I doubt that that suggestion could be really born out by the evidence.
The question swirling around WTS is this: What is the place of historical-critical scholarship within Reformed theology? Punching-bag? Tool? Now, with respect to Old Princeton you have a mixed bag. You have Robert Dick Wilson and co. strenuously attacking Wellhausen’s hypothesis. But then you have E.J. Young and William Henry Green rejecting Solomonic authorship of Ecclesiastes. Of course you have A.A. Hodge and Warfield insisting upon the infallibility of Scripture’s didactic content (however, note that in Old Princeton lingo “errorless,” “infallible,” and the like are used more or less interchangeably and do not carry the technical meaning they do today in our post-Chicago Statement world). But that fact cannot be divorced from the fact that Warfield saw Calvin’s doctrines of creation and the accommodated character of Scripture (a notion very similar to Enns’ idea of inspiration, I might add) as precursors and precedents for his own theistic evolutionism. Nor can Old Princeton’s high view of Scripture be cordoned off from, say, Vos’ contention that both Jesus’ and Paul’s thought was dependent upon and structured by Second Temple Jewish apocalypticism.
A second big question is: What does it mean to carry on the Old Princeton tradition? What does that look like? Does it mean continuing to teach theistic evolution in the name of Warfield? Does it mean taking non-traditional, critical stances on questions of special introduction, if the evidence so leads, as Young and Green did? Or does it mean fighting with all our might against source-critical hypotheses like Wilson did? Does it mean abandoning Van Til to return to Warfield’s evidentialist apologetic? Does it mean setting Jesus and Paul in their Second Temple context like Vos did? What does it mean?
The issues surrounding our relationship to the tradition of Old Princeton are manifold and complex no matter which side of the debate one falls on. But, frankly, the two big questions I raised above leads to one more: What do we owe Old Princeton? Why this easy assumption that “Old Princeton” (whatever that even means) embodies orthodoxy and any fresh grappling with the data (particularly data to which Old Princeton had no access) constitutes a lapse into heterodoxy? I don’t think anyone can or wants to employ a crass axiom of “Warfield said it. I believe it. That settles it.” Sooner or later we’ll have to come to grips with the fact that the diverse theological solutions offered by the Old Princetonians don’t satisfactorily handle many of the problems that have cropped up over the past century. Do we really do them justice by sweeping such issues under the rug in their names? More importantly, do we honor Jesus and serve His bride well in so doing?
I haven’t any great answers to any of these questions. For my part, when I look at WTS’s current biblical studies faculty I see men faithfully asking: What would Vos say about the Dead Sea Scrolls, about Covenantal Nomism and Paul? What would Warfield say about Genesis and Enuma Elish? What would Green say about the authorship of 2 Peter? Given the ways the Old Princetonians did their scholarship, if they had access to the information that has been dug up in this century, would they say the exact same things they said then or would they say something else? Perhaps asking such questions represents a departure from Old Princeton. Perhaps not.

Ever Watchful said...

Now here’s a question for you Mark T.

In another connection you say...

“Yes, indeed. No one dare defy the holy decrees of the Fearless Leader or he shall visit you with fierce wrath and indignation”.

I see in this an allusion to the evil schemes of the Truemanistas who are in charge at WTS. You MUST be thinking of them given the angst they are causing and that has been reflected on the Save Our Seminary blog. Unless of course the Truemanistas are behind the SOS site and are engaged in some sort of elaborate double bluff.

Life is confusing aint it?

Mark T. said...

Dear Ever Watchful,

You need to watch more carefully. I suggest opening your eyes for starters because you see no such allusion.

Mark T. said...

Anon,

I deleted your “douche” comment. Please make an argument such as your predecessor Mrs. Featherbottom and then I will post it. It makes your cause look much better.

Mark T. said...

Dear Snub,

Please don’t feel snubbed. I fixed the typo and you have not answered my argument; so I’ll repeat it: If you’re going to appeal in public to a higher-ed crowd asking them to sign your petition, then you should write a petition in proper English with correct grammar and you should frame logical arguments. However, if you choose to publish a poorly written petition full of weenie arguments, then don’t come crying to me when I note the sloppy style and absurd substance of your effort. And since you want to play the rhetoric card, please don’t change your tune to the argumentum ad misericordiam. I don’t feel sorry for the profs and I don’t feel sorry for you. Go cry somewhere else. But don’t cry too much, you’re already in way over your head.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to clutter up this blog with comments on the SOS site, but the good folks who are running that site would be be taken with greater seriousness if they would either...

1]allow contrary opinions on their site. Thoughtful people with differing views have tried to make submissions but these have not been published.

Or 2], if they want to say that it is a petition and so will only allow one view, then stop allowing people to post without giving their names. A REAL petition uses REAL names.

Ever Watchful said...

Sorry Mr. T I was kidding! :-)

snubnosed in alpha said...

Dearest Brother Mark,
I don't feel snubbed at all. Like I say, I should not have responded to you by pointing out your typo. I repent.
And (note, I am siding with you on the question of the propriety of beginning a sentence with "and") I concede all points on questions of grammar. Though I have not bothered to look over SOS with an editorial eye, I will assume that your concerns on all matters linguistic cannot be gainsaid. You may tout your philological, semantical and syntactical criticisms as an outstanding victory for the anti-Enns, anti-NPP, anti-FV, anti-whatever cause. I do not object.
I am still a bit unclear on why you object to the petition's lacking (non-"weenie", as you say) discursive arguments. Petitions, as I understand them, are essentially statements of (not apologetics for) positions that allow those who are in agreement to voice their agreement. So when I think of a petition, say, the Declaration of Independence, for instance, I tend to think of a document mostly consisting of assertions that warrant a few major declarations and then a place where people can voice their assent. The Declaration, I suppose, may be a poor example. It is full of "weenie arguments." I mean, the proposition "[King George] has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good" (a proposition to which I doubt the King would consent) stands without any substantiation. I suppose that if one takes a petition to be a place for argumentation, then you've won the day. But then, if one takes a petition to be a place for laying before the world truths held to be self-evident, then perhaps the Declaration and SOS aren't such shabby examples after all.
How about this? I'll grant you all points concerning the genre of SOS. SOS should have contained beefier arguments to support its complaints and assertions. Those signing SOS should have ripped into the Lillback administration and co. without mercy, rather than expressing appreciation of and concern for those profs at the nasty end of all this. Clearly this is what all genres are about, not least 'petitions'. You can now celebrate another astounding victory. Let me be the first to congratulate you.
I should also apologize for having voiced my love for the profs on the bad end of all this. I was under the false impression that you had a flicker of compassion in your soul. I will henceforth weep my little eyes out elsewhere.

p.s. Have you any thoughts concerning my questions to Towne concerning historical-criticism, Old Princeton and so on? Should we all be theistic evolutionists and reject Solomonic authorship of Ecclesiastes or what? Just curious.

Mark T. said...

Snub,

You and your pal 007 don’t get it, and comparing your cause to the Son of God, as 007 did, and to the Declaration of Independence, as you did, demonstrates that you live on some kind of fantasy island where pink elephants roam free and the governor freely distributes cotton candy laced with Prozac to the natives to maintain their fantasies uninterrupted.

Please pull your head out of its fantasy world and join the rest of us who live in real life. Academia is a universe of cutthroats. This is true of secular universities and it’s true of Christian schools, including seminaries. I wish this wasn’t the case, but all my wishing won’t change this fact. I have a dear friend who taught at the University of Idaho, but when his Christian witness rubbed the administration the wrong way, they unceremoniously cut him loose. Did he get screwed? You bet. Did it hurt? Absolutely. Did he get over it? Exceedingly well.

He understood that losing employment in unfavorable circumstances is just another part of life. Furthermore, he never believed that anyone “owed” him employment at the UI, which appears to be a driving assumption of your petition. WTS owes its student body a good education and it owes its faculty the terms of their contracts. Period. And if you don’t like seeing some professors realize the terms of their contracts executed, then I can’t help you.

And please drop the boohooing about weepy love. If you must needs weep, go visit Calcutta, for crying out loud. And don’t overestimate your cause either. You don’t like the philosophical direction of WTS. Big deal. I don’t like a lot of things about WTS (and a few other seminaries) and if I cared enough to change those things I would adopt a hands-on policy of getting close to the administration so that I could help effect the changes I thought necessary. I would not take my cause to the web with a weepy-whiney petition and berate others for criticizing it. Moreover, I would not compare my cause to the gospel or the American Revolution when others saw through my utterly transparent and manipulative devices.

Finally, just in case you’re tempted to play the weepy card again, my neighbor is dying of brain cancer, his house is in foreclosure, and his soon-to-be widowed wife has a million physical problems that keep her from tending to her husband, let alone her home. I know the difference between real-life tragedies and hard-luck providences. You don’t. So please stop hectoring me. You have a fat head and a foolishly immature ego, which is a deadly combination.

I suggest that you and your pals pull your site and apologize to the WTS administration in public. Admit that you made a colossal error in judgment when you mistakenly thought that the whole world should agree with you. Humble yourselves. It’s good for you. And then grow up.

snubnosed in alpha said...

Mark,
Oy vey! My comparison of SOS to the Declaration traded solely upon the two documents being of the same genre. Formally I could likewise compare Danielle Steel's Sunset in St. Tropez with, say, Crime and Punishment. Both are novels and thus they share certain traits appropriate to that genre. They are not expected to relay true events, have pictures, rhyme, and so on. They are expected to mostly be fictional, to have characters, a plot and so on. Such a comparison says nothing about the relative significance or merits of the works being compared. The fact that Crime and Punishment is a literary classic and Sunset in St. Tropez is a pulpy piece of tripe does not undermine the fact that they share the same genre.
When I compare SOS to the Declaration I intend nothing more than to offer another example of a petition. In fact, I only picked the Declaration because it was the first instance of a petition that came to mind. I could have just as easily picked the petition to save the Rain Forest that I signed when I was a kid. That the Declaration is far more significant and far better written a document cannot be denied.
That said, cotton candy laced with prozac does sound pretty good.

I'm really quite struck by you saying I have a "fat head" and a "foolishly immature ego." You don't know anything about me. Perhaps I was wrong to take such a playful tone when granting your points on SOS's grammar, etc. It probably was a bit snarky of me. I apologize. I didn't really mean it as a dig.

Maybe I can't distinguish between real life tragedies and hard-luck providences. I'm pretty young and have had it relatively easy thus far. I'll take your advice on Calcutta. I'll begin planning a trip once I return from Haiti (we need donations for medical supplies, by the way).
Well, I'll quit "hectoring" you. Regrettably, this conversation probably will never go in any edifying direction. Thanks for your time.
Yours ever,
Snub


p.s. So no thoughts on historical-criticism, Old Princeton, etc., huh? Like I say, I don't have any great answers either. But, in my judgment (for what it's worth), these would be more constructive conversation topics.

Mark T. said...

Snub,

You are self-infatuated to a fault, which explains your blindness. You’re not “young”; you’re a selfish brat who thinks he knows everything. You have no business discussing the things of God and I will not indulge you. WTS should have expelled you the first time you popped off, to teach you a lesson. And now their negligence has become my annoyance. John Bunyan said, “A man lying down need fear no fall.” You, Mr. Snub-nosed Brat, are headed for a fall. I’ve seen it happen a million times and few people if any heed the warnings (plural) when they hear them, and your arrogance is significant enough that I am confident this is not your first warning. Once again I urge you to pull your pathetic site and learn a little humility, if possible. You are a disgrace.

Foolish Sage said...

So....about that Ol' Princeton???