I sometimes receive new comments on older blog entries. I recently received a comment on one of my blog articles on Alister McGrath. This time Fr Alvin Kimel (aka “Pontificator”) stopped by posting a link as a response. His link-comments can be found here. Now, I’ve never heard of this guy, but I have learned one thing about him: he read my entire post, and completely missed the point.
A few months back, I wrote a few blog entries on Alister McGrath’s book, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification:
Alister McGrath on Augustine and Justification- McGrath documents that Augustine misunderstood the biblical term “justification” and thus set the tone for the understanding of the Roman Catholic Church.
Response on McGrath’s Book Iustitia Dei- A look at Catholic usage of McGrath’s book on Justification. A response to the Catholic attempt to show that that the protestant understanding of justification was unknown in church history previous to the Reformation.
The Alleged Roman Catholic Tradition of Justification- An entry showing that there was not “one” tradition of justification before the Council of Trent made its declaration. Also included is a review of Catholic layman Apolonio Latar’s use of Alister McGrath’s book on Justification.
I wrote these entries because I found Roman Catholics love to quote this book as proof Luther introduced a “theological novum” into the history of the Western Church. I guess using McGrath is supposed to prove that the Reformers deviated from the historical Catholic understanding of justification, and a Protestant scholar admits it. Implied in this argument is the proposition that the Roman Catholic Church received their understanding of Justification from the Apostles, and subsequent Church history records the passing on of its understanding to the Church Fathers, and then ultimately to its dogmatic proclamation at the Council of Trent.
Now, I’m not going to re-write these entries here. The interested reader can see my work on McGrath’s book in the above links. Basically, I argued most of the Catholics I’ve come across quoting McGrath haven’t actually read McGrath. They’ve probably just swiped some of his quotes in the service of Mother Church. McGrath’s book is not easy reading, and the statements the Catholics selectively cite also come with a broader context that explains what McGrath means. I think that if a Roman Catholic actually read McGrath’s book, they wouldn’t cite him. He does not establish Rome’s view on justification, and his comments in context do not say what Catholics think they do.
Now, read through Fr Alvin Kimel’s comments. Do his words show that he grasped I was presenting McGrath’s material? No. Does he even attempt to answer or respond to the six questions/conclusions I posed in the blog post? No. Does he attempt to prove I’ve mis-cited McGrath, and Catholics quoting him are accurate? No. The Pontificator did not provide any meaningful response to my blog entry.
But then, I came home today to find the Pontificator’s blog entry now included comments from the peanut gallery. Sure, I realize that’s an uncharitable statement- but I can’t help but see a few more Catholics following along with Kimel in missing the point. Can’t somebody at least read with comprehension? One comment couldn’t even get my name right, calling me, “Swain”. But, my favorite was Jonathan Prejean:
“James Swan himself went to none other than Eric Svendsen and David T. King for help, admitting that he was out of his league in trying to follow McGrath: Augustine and Justification. A bit of “blind leading the blind,” to be sure, particularly given Svendsen’s recent admission that “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.”
I have to immediately wonder if Mr. Prejean has ever read McGrath’s book on Justification. I’m tempted to say he hasn’t, because if he had, he would probably agree it is a difficult book. One needs to be familiar with Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, as McGrath provides no translations of many citations used throughout the book. I appealed to David King, Eric Svendsen, and others, hoping they had read McGrath’s book. If I had misunderstood McGrath, I wanted to be corrected, I still do. Prejean seems to miss that I actualy care about reading accurately, and interpreting accurately.
“The fact is that they don’t know anything about what the Fathers believed, and I wish we had more candid confessions by people like Swan that they more or less don’t know and don’t care. It would save the rest of us who DO know and DO care the bother of interacting with them, except as an example of what the true attitude behind Protestantism is, as was the case with Fr. Al’s post.”
Here it is again- Catholics read what they want to. My question on the Areopagus was about McGrath’s book, and whether or not I properly interpreted it. If Mr. Prejean would like to play in the “same ball field” as I, he could pick up McGrath’s book and let me know if I interpreted McGrath accurately. But no, he really just wanted an opportunity to bash Eric Svendsen on Patristics, so it’s probably best he doesn’t pick up McGrath’s book. I recall hearing Prejean’s call to James White’s Dividing Line Show, and after hearing his inability to answer simple questions, I really want nothing to do with him. I would’ve hung up on him five minutes before James White did.