Friday, April 01, 2011

Presuppositions

Since this is going to be such a dry topic, I thought I’d begin with a little bit of humor.




As you watch this video, note that there is some confusion on the part of one of the actors. The tall guy knows something the other guy doesn’t know:
“Who’s on first”
“What’s on second”
“Idunno’s on third”
Bud Abbott, the tall guy, knows that these are the names of the players who are actually playing the field. Costello doesn’t know these are the names, and that’s where the confusion comes in. What’s humorous in this is the equivocation that’s rampant here, but not being reported.

In a way, David Waltz is playing Costello to my Abbott. Except, I’ve always laid all my cards (and definitions) on the table. He said in his most recent post:
John (and others), continues to ignore the fact that presuppositions have serious implications concerning one's assessment of raw data that can legitimately be interpreted in more than one sense, and there is no question in my mind that this is especially true when one attempts to determine the form/type of ministry that Jesus' apostles had intended/instructed to be functioning after their departure into heaven. And further, it is one's view of the Christian ministry which constitutes one of the preeminent factors in determining the very nature of the Church founded by Jesus and His apostles.
David muddles things, and he does so pretty badly. I do not “ignore the fact that presuppositions have serious implications.” There are presuppositions all over the place. Some people try to slip in presuppositions without us knowing it. That’s where these folks find me so frustrating. I isolate Rome’s presuppositions, and I say, “let’s start without these.” That’s the main thing I try to do.

David is not even talking about the right set of presuppositions.

My goal all along, and I’ve stated this many times, is “to understand what [the early church] knew, and when they knew it.” Direct question for David Waltz: Have you ever seen this in any of my blog posts?

The effort to “understand what they knew and when they knew it” is an effort to exclude all presuppositions about what the early church believed. It is an effort to create a “presupposition-less” understanding of what the early church believed. Now, to be sure, nature abhors a vacuum, and trying to create a “presupposition-less” understanding, is to try to create a kind of vacuum.

If the early church truly believed certain things, I want to understand what those were. But if they did not believe things, then to suggest that they did, in any way, would be equally wrong. And as I’ve stated many times, it is necessary to exclude one particular, pernicious modern-day Roman belief as a presupposition of what the early church believed:
God the Father passed His authority on to Jesus (cf. Matthew 28:18), Who passed it on to the apostles (cf. Luke 10:16 and Matthew 28:19), who passed it on to their successors.
This is not something that the early church believed. And if you think they did, in this presupposition-less world, it is up to you to show where they believed it.

This statement is a conception of authority that Roman Catholics today believe, and at every occasion, they try to say, “It was this way with the early church, too, they just didn’t know it.” Now, that is the unstated presupposition that Roman Catholics, especially the Called to Communion sort, try to impress upon us. They just simply assume that’s the case.

In any discussion of “church history,” you have to understand, as Turretin says,
Thus this day the Romanists (although they are anything but the true church of Christ) still boast of their having alone the name of church and do not blush to display the standard of that which they oppose. In this manner, hiding themselves under the specious title of the antiquity and infallibility of the Catholic church, they think they can, as with one blow, beat down and settle the controversy waged against them concerning the various most destructive errors introduced into the heavenly doctrine (Turretin, Vol 3 pg 2).
And what is “the controversy waged against them”? In Turretin’s day, it was the Protestant Reformation. And what did the Reformation say? It said, repeatedly, “Roman authority is not God-given authority.” “Roman authority is not God-given authority.”

I ask them to show where this authority came from; the most that I get in response is a variation of the “authority” quote above. They can’t prove it from the records. Instead, they have to come up with nonsensical explanations such as, “they believed it ‘implicitly,’ they just didn’t know it. It took ‘further reflection’. What did Newman say? “No doctrine is articulated until it is opposed.” That’s just a nonsensical way to look at things, and it did not in any way correspond with the historical facts on the ground.

If you look at the actual historical events, you’ll see raw power struggles and a Roman authority that was determined to assert itself at every turn.

The thing that I am most trying to do is to provide a positive picture of what the world was like in the days of the early church. Lampe is not the only writer I’ve cited. I’ve been citing from F.F. Bruce and Roger Beckwith - not liberals at all, to be sure - and many others as well. I do this because, when you try to understand what the church, as a whole really believed (in various places and at various times), you first have to understand the world as it existed in those times and places. What it was really like.

Lampe is one of those historians who genuinely succeeds in reconstructing that ancient world, its ancient beliefs. To do so, he has done actual historical work – “historical-critical” work. These historians (Bruce and Beckwith and Lampe and others) go to those places, and cite not just religious documents, but all documents – they check the archaeology for what the land structure was like, what the topography was like. Where the rich people lived, where the poor people lived. Where they worshiped. What they worshipped. The kinds of building structures they worshipped in. The kinds of authority structures that were existent in the ancient world. Where these folks died and were buried.

And they create a picture of that ancient world that is more complete, more complex in all of its interactions, than anything else that any writer in the 12th or 15th or 17th or 19th centuries can imagine. They don’t take a video camera back there, but the work that is produced is probably as close as we will come to that ideal.

Into this mix, David Waltz wants to inject the illegitimate method of “smear by association” and suggest that “Lampe’s presuppositions caused him to misunderstand that world.” And in an effort to try to somehow to “prove” this, Waltz, in his most recent post, takes a long selection from the writings of the most well-known of the German liberals, Adolph von Harnack, and says, “Lampe and Von Harnack both believe the Pastorals were not written by Paul. Therefore, their work is flawed in exactly the same way.” Here is his “analysis”:
Enter Dr. Peter Lampe and John Bugay: A careful reading of Dr. Lampe demonstrates that he sides with Dr. Aland and the modern higher critical school in accepting the following presuppositions: first, the Pastorals were not written by Paul, and were composed at a much a later date; second, the original Christian ministry consisted of "charismatic offices"; third the "Catholic" concept of the ministry did not have apostolic warrant, and was an evolutionary development that took place at different times in different geographical areas, with the churches at Rome being one of the last regions to fully endorse the "Catholic" development. John accepts the last of these presuppositions, seemingly ignoring the fact that it is built upon the foundation of the other presuppositions, which John rejects. I have gone on record as maintaining that John is being inconsistent, and none of my continuing research into this important issue suggests otherwise.
“Take my word for it,” he says. This is the sum total of David Waltz’s analysis.

He doesn’t prove that Lampe has these presuppositions. He doesn’t describe how and why these alleged presuppositions exist within Lampe’s work. He doesn’t describe the historical situation and say, “this begins here, that begins there”. David Waltz simply makes some loose assumptions, he declares “guilt by association,” and then he wants to go and take a nap or something.

This is not an analysis. It is a smear tactic. Pure and simple.

If Waltz ever wanted me to take him seriously, he would have dived into Peter Lampe’s work and show, not some kind of implied “guilt-by-association,” but rather, thought-by-thought, how Lampe’s portrayal of historical facts somehow becomes corrupted.

But Waltz does not do that. He is not capable of doing such a thing.

Bud Abbot isolates on the fact that “‘Who’ is the name of the player on first, and ‘What’ is the name of the player on second, and ‘Idunno’ is the name of the player on third,” and in doing so, he is able to keep his story straight, in the face of a confused sidekick who equivocates without even knowing that’s the source of his own confusion.

17 comments:

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Although Lampe did err on some things, he did get other things right.

Heck, just looking at myself alone, there's lots of things I get wrong which don't invalidate the things I do get right.

Thanks for the post.

So who's on first? John Bugay?

John Bugay said...

No, Who. ;-)

John Bugay said...

Hi Truth. My hope is to work now through Waltz's individual objections.

Not sure where that link is right at the moment, but David Waltz's really big ace in the hole was Robert Lee Williams's work "Bishops Lists".

Williams wrote in about 1982. I've been able to access some of that work through Google Books -- it doesn't seem to be near the problem that he thinks it will be.

In fact, Jason Engwer cites from that book quite extensively in his series on Apostolic Succession at Triablogue.

My hope is to tie all that together in the days ahead.

Rhology said...

And no, we don't think the early church believed identical to Presbyterians.

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They were Baptists.

John Bugay said...

I'm inclined to agree with you. Infant baptism was a development ...

John Bugay said...

And then there was ... "John the Baptist."

Rhology said...

Of course, Jesus was a Nazarene...

John Bugay said...

There was a typical Protestant lack of unity even back then.

Raymond said...

If Waltz ever wanted me to take him seriously, he would have dived into Peter Lampe’s work and show, not some kind of implied “guilt-by-association,” but rather, thought-by-thought, how Lampe’s portrayal of historical facts somehow becomes corrupted.

a start.

John Bugay said...

Raymond -- (a) that's not David Waltz, and (b) that's not a serious response to Lampe.

Raymond said...

How about Bernard Green: Christianity in Ancient Rome in the First Three Centuries - Oxford Press 2010?

"It might be noted that although Green readily acknowledges doctrinal diversity, he is less inclined than some recent scholars to see “fractionated” multiplicity as a defining feature of the city’s Christian social landscape2 or to postpone the emergence of a fully fledged Roman episcopate until as late as the 230s and 240s (98)."

Review here.

John Bugay said...

Raymond -- Green's objection is based on something to the effect that "the evidence is pretty thin back then." (I checked Green some time ago, and that was the gist of it). And so certainly he is, as a Roman Catholic, "less inclined" to see that multiplicity.

But when you talk about evidence, all of the evidence that we do have points to that very scenario. Lampe is just one writer; there is an incredibly broad consensus on how authority developed in the early church.

And the reason for this is because there are big stakes. There is a nagging sense that the Reformation solved nothing.

But the Reformers did a fantastic thing, when you consider the world they lived in the kind of access they had to historical knowledge back then.

Don't make light of evidence. If you find a murder weapon with fingerprints on it, and a dead body with a slug in it, you can match the slug to the weapon and a jury will convict someone for murder.

With DNA evidence, we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt who raped Jane Doe.

The case that Rome had no single episcopal figure for a very long time is a broad and compelling one.

Raymond said...

You said, "The case that Rome had no single episcopal figure for a very long time is a broad and compelling one."

Then I wonder why you offered no such evidence in this conversation?

Raymond said...

Green's objection is based on something to the effect that "the evidence is pretty thin back then." (I checked Green some time ago, and that was the gist of it). And so certainly he is, as a Roman Catholic, "less inclined" to see that multiplicity.

That is a quaint dismissal of his work, John. I wish I thought of that.

We could say that Lampe's thesis of fractionation is based on something of the effect of 'the evidence of a monoespicopate is thin back then so there must have been fractions.' And so certain he is, as a Lutheran, 'less inclined' to see the monoepiscopate.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Raymond,

Are you Sean Patrick?

You're the same personality that appeared over at Triablogue after Sean Patrick (using three different user names) was banned from there, acting in similar ways, using similar arguments and using similar language.

Either way, if anyone wants to see the lack of value in reading or engaging Raymond, see his conduct in the comments section of this thread, or this one.

Raymond said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Bugay said...

Raymond -- let me ask that in a different way. If you'd care to comment here in the future, then identify yourself for us in a way that demonstrates you're not Sean Patrick under a pseudonym.