Sunday, April 17, 2011

Further Comments on "Another Thing Needful"

I went back and re-read Carl Trueman's post, and with each reading, I tend to get even more agitated. Trueman is correct that the modern hodge podge of evangelicalism typically has no idea what to do with Romanism. Because of their usual disdain for Reformed theology, they wind up with stuff like Geisler's "Rome is a true church with significant error" or they ignore Rome altogether, and then wonder why their friends end up converting to Romanism.

In this generation, official Roman dogma has been responded to by a handful of Godly men including Dr. White, David King, Eric Svendsen, William Webster, to name but a few. In previous generations, a host of other older Reformed sources have done so as well. God out of his mercy raises up men who exhort us to recall that our differences with Rome boil down to sola fide and sola scriptura. Rome has not changed on her denial of these basic truths. Her theologians may play around with them. Her theologians may try to dress these denials up in new clothes. But the devilish dogmas of Romanism remain consistently against the sole infallible authority of the Scriptures and the pure gospel.

The authors I mentioned above have also engaged Rome's defenders. Each generation will produce Romanist sirens who attempt to woo sheep over to Rome. Anyone who has read through Pastor King's footnotes in his Holy Scripture book realizes he simply doesn't engage Rome's pop apologists (Sungenis, Madrid, etc.).  King also went up the Romanist food chain and dealt with statements from their more "official" theologians. He still continues to do this.

What agitates me about Trueman's blog post is that he seems completely unaware that there have been men in this generation who have done a tremendous amount of work in refuting both Rome's dogmas and apologists. I'm fairly confident though that Carl Trueman has some of the contemporary books by the authors mentioned above. Did he read them? I have no idea. He says, "We need a thoughtful, learned, respectful, confessional Protestant book on Roman Catholicism." I can't help but wonder if Dr. Trueman is simply being an intellectual snob. Maybe there's no "thoughtful, learned, respectful, confessional Protestant book" because the materials available come from a baptist (Dr. White), or from books published personally by pastors (Webster / King). I hear Trueman saying in effect, "We intellectuals need to put out books engaging Romanism. Until we do it, no one has."

Trueman says, "Küng and Benedict represent in many ways the two possible paths of Roman Catholicism into the future. These men are substantial, worthy of sophisticated engagement." I have a feeling that even if White, Svendsen, King, etc. were to write books interacting with Küng or Benedict,  I wonder if Trueman would still maintain a "thoughtful, learned, respectful, confessional Protestant book" was needed.

I have though come up with a plan for Dr. Trueman. Rather than help the evangelical world by writing a definitive book on Romanism, perhaps it would be best to figure out why a few WTS folks have ended up in Romanism or Eastern Orthodoxy. He could start by challenging these WTS folks gone Romanist to public debate. His choices? Robert Sungenis, Gerry Matatics, Kenneth Howell, Paul A. Sauer, Albert Scharbach, or Taylor Marshall, to name a few (these are the ones at least a basic Google search will reveal, there are probably others). Then maybe he could mold some of the WTS curriculum to address issues involving Romanism from the outcome of these debates.

37 comments:

Pastor Aaron said...

I know it won't be any comfort, but we have the same problem at Asbury Seminary. A number of our people have gone EO or Anglican.

One of the issues I would identify is that Protestantism is pretty simple. The worship is usually "plain." Perhaps a certain mindset is susceptible to heading out-- a desire to have more "richness;" to be "moored" to an ancient tradition.

I also would not underestimate the desire to learn something new. For the studious type, there is a whole new vocabulary and system of thinking. Kind of an intellectual fad?

James Dean said...

"In this generation, official Roman dogma has been responded to by a handful of Godly men including Dr. White, David King, Eric Svendsen, William Webster, to name but a few"...

"What agitates me about Trueman's blog post is that he seems completely unaware that there have been men in this generation who have done a tremendous amount of work in refuting both Rome's dogmas and apologists"

I don't think Carl Trueman would be caught dead saying something this stupid. You neither have to be great Scholar nor a snob to know the King/Webster book is nothing more than sophistry masquerading as refutation.

Carl Trueman is smart enough to know that he will only soil his reputation if he actually endorses the trite work of these amateurs

James Swan said...

James Dean,

I would usually delete such a comment. However, I'd like to know first if you've actually read the books in question.

Ken said...

The link you gave to Taylor Marshall's list of Presbyterian/Reformed folks who have converted to Rome - in seeing that kind of a list was quite shocking, although I already knew about most of the modern ones.

I did not know that Avery Cardinal Dulles was a former PCUSA man.

One of the more shocking ones is Dr. Kenneth Howell, who also taught at Reformed Seminary in Jackson, MS for a while.

Are there many (or any ?) Reformed Baptists who have converted to Roman Catholicism?

I know of Southern Baptists who have done that; but never heard of any Calvinistic Reformed Baptists who have crossed the Tiber.

Is there any such list?

I just don't see how in the world they could do that - convert to Rome -
especially with the idolatry of the mass and the idolatry of prayers to Mary and saints and angels and all the statues, etc. How can any of that be attractive? (per Pastor Aaron's comment that Protestant worship is "plain".)

It really does boggle the mind.

Ken said...

Someone should write a letter to Dr. Trueman and list the books that we all know about here; and ask if he knows about them and if he has read them or not.

I looked for an email address and could not find one either at the Reformation 21 nor at Westminster Philadelphia. (will try again another day; its late and I'm tired.)

He mentions Geisler and Boettner. Maybe he genuinely doesn't know about King and Webster, Dr. White's books and debates, Eric Svendsen, etc.

Surely he knows about Keith Matthison's work.

James Swan said...

Yes, Romanists are fond of making converts into trophies, but then again, I guess they learned that from Evangelicalism.

Taylor Marshall tends to make a big deal of his WTS fame. I would love to see a few of the WTS folks stop over at his blog, and at least ask him some questions, like What part of your education lead you to Romanism? What did we teach you (or didn't we) that lead to your conversion to Rome?

James Swan said...

I probably have his email address somewhere,It is probably on the WTS website. You could always ask Pilgrimsarbour, who if I recall, knows him personally.

Pastor Aaron said...

I wonder if the guys swimming the Tiber has less to do with curriculum than we might think? Is it a broader cultural force? I suspect Asbury and WTS are quite different places, but we see the same issue. Granted, our guys go EO vs RC (I think b/c of Methodsim's debt to Chrysostom and the Cappadocians).

I don't think ATS does a good job of teaching the Reformation, but I net WTS does.

Could it be something as simple as ceding some pride of place to Rome? Or thinking that we are upstarts who have to answer Rome's questions?

James Swan said...

I wasn't going to mention this, and i don't think I ever have before. I submitted a paper to a well respected WTS teacher in charge of WTS apologetics a while back.

The paper was on Tradition in Roman Catholicism. If I recall correctly, he said something to the effect that he didn't know a lot about the subject. I scored well on the paper, but frankly I would've rather been scrutinized by a Reformed person who knew the issues well.

Ron DiGiacomo said...

"I don't think Carl Trueman would be caught dead saying something this stupid. You neither have to be great Scholar nor a snob to know the King/Webster book is nothing more than sophistry masquerading as refutation."

James,

Are there any Protestant refutations of Romanism that you consider better than mere sophistry? If so, then please explain why those works are more persuasive than the ones you find lacking.

"Someone should write a letter to Dr. Trueman and list the books that we all know about here; and ask if he knows about them and if he has read them or not."

Ken,

Whether or not Dr. Trueman knows about those works doesn't seem germane to his concerns. It seems to me that he is less concerned with refutations of Roman doctrine than with polemics against the opinions of contemporary pseudo-Romanists who have no ecclesiastical sanction and prefer to posit non-essential dogma. In other words, he could care less that Romanism has been refuted on points essential to the gospel. What Dr. Trueman seems to be after is point-counterpoint with theorists (e.g. Kung) who have no reputable standing with Romanists who adhere to doctrinal-Romanism.

Ken said...

In other words, he could care less that Romanism has been refuted on points essential to the gospel. What Dr. Trueman seems to be after is point-counterpoint with theorists (e.g. Kung) who have no reputable standing with Romanists who adhere to doctrinal-Romanism.

Hi Ron,
I appreciate your take on what Trueman seems to be saying. Since he included Benedict XVI in his statement of a need for a response and “sophisticated engagement”; it did not seem to me that he was limiting the need for a response to those like Hans Kung, who are doctrinally censured by the RCC. (From my limited understanding of Kung, I gather he questions dogmas like Infallibility and Justification and also the RCC stand on contraception; celibacy for priests, wants women to be able to be priests, and wants ecumenical fellowship around the eucharist with other non-Roman Catholics, and “world peace” type meetings with other religions. )

To me, he is calling for a book that deals with all and everything significant in response to post Vatican 2 Roman Catholicism, including dogma, doctrine and other post Vatican 2 issues. He includes the need for a response to both the Hans Kung types and Benedict XVI types.

One of Kung’s statements I found on line (at the Wikipedia article about him): (I know, I know, Wikipedia is not scholarly, but it is convenient and a useful overall summary and quick.)

"The Pope would have an easier job than the President of the United States in adopting a change of course. He has no Congress alongside him as a legislative body nor a Supreme Court as a judiciary. He is absolute head of government, legislator and supreme judge in the church. If he wanted to, he could authorize contraception over night, permit the marriage of priests, make possible the ordination of women and allow eucharistic fellowship with this Protestant churches. What would a Pope do who acted in the spirit of Obama?"

Ken said...

Trueman wrote:
“You can tell evangelical Protestantism's disregard for Rome by the parlous resources we have on the subject. Boettner is pre-Vatican II and so profoundly limited; Geisler is tendentious and, well, Geisler.”

This statement reveals Trueman’s ignorance or dismissal (or ?) of the other works that we have mentioned here. (Webster, White, King and Webster, Svendsen; even Matthison and even his fellow Westminster colleague (although California), Scott Horton.

[“tendentious” –having or showing an intentional tendency or bias, esp a controversial one ; tending toward a certain bias, even controversial” – I wonder if he means Geisler’s - 1. Dispensationism or 2. his Thomas Aquinas educational background, or 3. The controversy with defending Ergun Caner or 4. Geisler’s anti-Calvinism or 5. That he writes that “the Roman Catholic Church is a true church with significant error” or all of that ?
. . .

Trueman again:
“Küng and Benedict represent in many ways the two possible paths of Roman Catholicism into the future. These men are substantial, worthy of sophisticated engagement. Post Vatican II Roman Catholicism is long overdue a thoughtful, learned Protestant response. . . . We need a thoughtful, learned, respectful, confessional Protestant book on Roman Catholicism. “

This to me, shows he sees the need for a book that deals with both the doctrinal and dogma issues (like White, King, Webster, Svendsen, Matthison, and Horton have done); but also include the other issues and movements and Post Vatican 2 RCC issues.

Maybe, the reason he ignores those is because they ONLY deal with doctrine and dogma.

Tim Enloe said...

Another way to look at all this is that scholars such as Trueman are aiming for constructive contributions to knowledge, whereas apologists are aiming for the destruction of opposing positions. Both are necessary, but being the kinds of things they are, they are to some extent going to be uncomfortable with each other.

I'd be careful calling a respected Reformed scholar an "intellectual snob." Perhaps he doesn't even know about the works listed here. Scholars tend not to know about what is going on on the layman's level, not because they are "snobs" but because their orientation and goals are different. The scholarly task done (outside of a concern for apologetics wars) consumes so much time that little is left for finding out what's going on in "Average Guy Land." That's not "snobbery" - it's just the nature of the discipline.

Also, scholars such as Trueman do not believe that the Reformation is reducible to two simple points, sola fide and sola Scriptura. They believe that the field of knowledge itself, let alone the field of Reformation knowledge, is a lot bigger than that, and certainly a lot bigger than refuting blowhard Catholic laymen on the Internet. Even if they were aware of the work being done on blogs like this, they would certainly not agree with the basic assumptions that drive the work, let alone would they mold their scholarly work to fit it.

Ron DiGiacomo said...

Another way to look at all this is that scholars such as Trueman are aiming for constructive contributions to knowledge, whereas apologists are aiming for the destruction of opposing positions. Both are necessary, but being the kinds of things they are, they are to some extent going to be uncomfortable with each other.

Tim,

I'm fine with the pursuit of stimulating thought but what I'm not fine with is collapsing one category into the other. If the book Trueman longs for, because in his mind it doesn’t exist, is a refutation of Romanism, then he is simply uninformed. They do exist, even in abundance. If the book Trueman would like to see written is not that, then what is he asking for that doesn’t exist yet is so needful? Could a thoughtful, learned, respectful and confessional Protestant work on Romanism entail less than a “destruction” of Romanism? Of course not, because a work that would not collapse Romanism would not be PROTESTant, let alone thoughtful and learned.

The fact of the matter is, Trueman is uninformed or else has lousy taste in polemics. Don’t mislead yourself. He wants someone finally to take Romanism seriously and to deal with the supposed massiveness and alleged “intellectual firepower” of Romanist theologians. Such an undertaking reduces to the destruction of the opposing position, which is an apologetical undertaking and not a matter of mere intellectual pursuit. Trueman said: “The intellectual weight of these men reminded me that one of the problems with evangelical Protestantism is surely that it no longer takes Roman Catholicism seriously; and, given the size of the Roman Catholic Church and the intellectual firepower of its theologians, that is a stupid and short-sighted mistake.”

The church is stupid because the church has not yet satisfied Trueman’s standard for an apologetic against Romanism. Let's not pretend he means something else.

Ken said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this Tim.
The thing is, most of content of Dr White's book (The Roman Catholic Conversy) and his debates, and Webster and King are quoting from official dogma and doctrines and Papal encyclicals, and early church fathers, etc.

the books don't quote much from internet "pop" RCs. King and Webster's work quotes from Philip Blosser and Patrick Madrid, and Robert Sungenis works, "Not by Scripture Alone" and "Not by Faith Alone"; but they sure spend MOST of the space in the ECFs, theologians, historical documents, and official RC statements and papers.

Ron is right, in that official Rome does not debate anyone; and they claim they are infallible, so no matter how many mistakes and contradictions we find; they say, "no, there is no contradiction; since we are infallible".

A Roman Catholic named Randy (his old site was "Purify Your Bride", but no longer there), even admitted to me that the Infallibility thing is an authority that sets the rules and one cannot argue with them. I cannot remember the exact quote, since the host of his blog took everything down.

Tim Enloe said...

Well, Ron, I don't know Dr. Trueman, so I can't speak for him. I'm making a more general point, really.

Ken, I wasn't saying anything derogatory about the books you mentioned, which, by the way I do own and have read. I do agree that one can't truly argue with the Magisterium, since it is convinced it can't be wrong on anything really important. To me, in fact, the only reason to engage anything any lay Catholics say is to try to help our own laypeople not feel any discomfort at any of it.

What we need to do is spend less time arguing with these Internet blowhards and instead systematically and thoroughly raise our own people up above this level, so that there will be no need even to take it seriously. If Trueman is after a more constructive and systematic presentation such as that, and if such a project is done and the results can be disseminated to the laity and they stop fretting about the Taylor Marshalls and Mark Sheas and Patrick Madrids and all the rest, that can only be to our good.

Ken said...

Tim,
Thanks! I appreciate your contribution to the discussion.

I did not mean to imply you said anything derogatory about those books (you didn't); my point is that they are scholarly and adequately refute all the main dogmas and doctrinal points of Roman Catholicism, and they are post Vatican 2. So Trueman should know better. He does not even mention them!

You wrote:
"To me, in fact, the only reason to engage anything any lay Catholics say is to try to help our own laypeople not feel any discomfort at any of it."

Obviously, that is still a great need, because if you look at Taylor Marshall's list (that James Swan linked to) of former Reformed/Presbyterians (and not just laypeople, in fact mostly, if not all former pastors, professors of Reformed seminaries, and very educated men) who converted to Rome, and they are in my opinion, the most educated and intellectual branch of Christiandom, as a whole, then that is still a great and ongoing need. They are smart and gifted and very deep. You may not think so; but I will give them that much credit, even though their doctrines are abominable.

The Called to Communion web-site is a great challenge and needs to be seriously countered. Look how long it took Keith Matthison to write a response to the solo/Sola Scriptura challange to his book from CtC. I am glad he finally did and it was very good. I think CtC is wrong and unbiblical, but they are not dumb, nor "pop" or easy to ignore or dismiss. We ignore or dismiss them to our detriment, in my opinion. I am grateful for others who have interacted with them and their ideas at Green Baggins and Turretinfan, and Pastor David King and others.

No, we still both kinds of refutation of both kinds of Roman Catholicism. (Lay-internet and scholarly vs. Magisterium and their scholars.)

James Swan said...

Ken, I wasn't saying anything derogatory about the books you mentioned, which, by the way I do own and have read.

Tim, given many of our past conversations and statements you've made over the years, I mistakenly took it that you were. When you stated, "aiming for constructive contributions to knowledge" I thought you were saying Protestants writers (like perhaps the ones I mentioned) don't yet understand Rome well enough, or that there are things we need to learn from Rome.

As to Trueman not knowing about particular works that have been done on Romanism, I find that extremely hard to fathom that he he thinks Geisler & Boettner are sort of all that's out there. But if true, it does prove my point that sometimes scholars are out of touch because they dwell in the groves of academia. They don't know about certain things because of Ivory Tower Syndrome.

Ken said...

oops - this

No, we still both kinds of refutation of both kinds of Roman Catholicism.

should have been this

No, we still need both kinds of refutation of both kinds of Roman Catholicism.

Ron DiGiacomo said...

"Well, Ron, I don't know Dr. Trueman, so I can't speak for him. I'm making a more general point, really."

Tim,

I'm not sure what it is to "know" Carl, but I do believe that one can exegete his words. You suggested earlier an interpretation that appears to me contrary to the plain meaning of what he said.

Cheers,

RD

Turretinfan said...

Tim E.:

It would be great if all Christians were sufficiently well educated by their churches so that they could readily see that the popular-level Roman apologetics is garbage.

When that time comes, the need for responding to the popular-level material will dissipate. Until then, the need remains (as I think you acknowledge).

What Trueman seems to imagine is that there is this wealth of scholarly Roman apologetic material, and no scholarly Reformed answer to it. He's mistaken about that, if I'm not mistaken about what he imagines.

- TurretinFan

James Dean said...

"I'd like to know first if you've actually read the books in question."

Read Vol. 1 & 2 only skimmed through Vol 3.

James Dean said...

Are there any Protestant refutations of Romanism that you consider better than mere sophistry?
There is one very good one written a few hundred years ago, however i'm drawing blanks right now.

If so, then please explain why those works are more persuasive than the ones you find lacking.
Let me put it this way. On an "exponential" scale of 1-12. With 12 representing top notch Trueman level scholarship and 1 representing John Bugay like scholarship. William webster and David Kings work can be rated a 2.5. It's just like having turretinfan's musing published.

James Dean said...

"However, I'd like to know first if you've actually read the books in question."

Read volumes 1 & 2 and only "glanced" volume 3

Tim Enloe said...

Ken, no, Called to Communion is not really that great of a threat, except to hasty-minded Protestants who are ill-educated in history, philosophy, and theology to begin with, and who on top of that are not being taught adequately by their churches. These are the two needs that I think we need to address, and back of that is, I think, the sort of scholarly work that Trueman was calling for. No Presbyterian church I've been in for the last 10 years has had any sort of concern for what the laity need in the areas I mentioned, save for theology, where all the time is spent on the Catechisms and Confessions rather than on important matters in other fields where distortions tend to make people begin questioning their faith and looking across the Tiber for answers.

James, sure, scholars do sometimes have Ivory Tower Syndrome. But at the same time, they also often have the ability to recognize where their gifts are best used, and for many, that is NOT in popular forums engaging popular distortions.

I don't have a problem with the Webster/King books unless they are held up as the end-all of discussion and Protestants who read them stop there and don't pursue the various issues discussed therein further. But of course, if people do that, that is not Webster's or King's fault.

What I meant by "constructive contributions to knowledge" was a difference in "orientations," so to speak. Apologetics/polemics is necessary, of course, but they should not be the center of our lives as Protestants. The Reformation has a lot more to offer the world than endless debates about justification, the authority of Scripture, and the various twisted-up errors of "Romanism." Apologetics can be constructive in a way, but as the meaning of the word shows, it is primarily a defensive task. But battles do not last forever, and we need to learn to focus on what happens BETWEEN the battles at least as much as we do on the battles. There's a place for works such as Webster/King books, but patristic knowledge is valuable for its own sake, not just for the sake of refuting "Romanists." We need to train up people who will seek that knowledge for its own sake, not just for the sake of refuting "Romanists." That's what I meant by "constructive contribution." Sorry if I made it sound like a slam on the books.

James Swan said...

William webster and David Kings work can be rated a 2.5. It's just like having turretinfan's musing published

I rate your comment a .05 on the same scale because it has no substance, and frankly, I have no idea who you are and why your opinion should matter.

James Swan said...

The Reformation has a lot more to offer the world than endless debates about justification, the authority of Scripture, and the various twisted-up errors of "Romanism."

Agreed, but I would add, each theological Reformation issue typically boils down to authority and gospel.

Apologetics can be constructive in a way, but as the meaning of the word shows, it is primarily a defensive task.

I think some of the authors I've mentioned have done just that. Dr. White has done The Roman Catholic Controversy which is primarily apologetic, but has also done doctrinal works like The God Who Justifies. Both make an excellent pair to be read together.

As to Pastor King's book, if you recall, he does engage in apologetics, but also has chapters specific to a positive presentation of particular issues. I find the book helpfully balanced. I've yet to find any other contemporary work addressing the same subjects with the same excellence.

Ken said...

Tim,
Do you think Dr. Kenneth Howell, who was a professor at Reformed Seminary in Jackson, MS, was not educated or equipped enough to deal with the challenge of Rome/Newman/Hahn/Romanist take on efcs, etc. ?

Or any of the others in the list that James Swan linked to at Taylor Marshall's site?

Why did they succumb?

they all seemed pretty educated and equipped, pastors, professors, seminarians . . . ?

What was missing?

Turretinfan said...

James Dean:

What scholarly work by Trueman have you read?

-TurretinFan

Tim Enloe said...

Ken, I haven't examined the list to which you refer so I can't speak to the particular people you mention. However, to be plain, what I mean by ill-equipped, especially in history, is that most, if not all, converts with whom I've spoken these past 5 or 6 years are not only extremely generic in their knowledge of Church history - most particularly regarding the critical 250 years or so prior to the Reformation - but also have an unrealistic idea of what "history" itself and the historical discipline actually is. I've lost count of the number of Ph.D wielding Catholics whose historical arguments for Rome amount to rehashes of simplistic materials found in pop-magazines like This Rock and Envoy. Evidently the Ph.D. in ___ (fill in the blank) did not train them what history was, how it is to be done, and what one can reasonably expect historical analysis to "prove" or "disprove." Not too long ago, a fellow graduate of the University of Dallas, I think with an M.A. in politics, who is now a lawyer, made some ridiculous arguments about Medieval political theory relative to the papacy. I challenged him with remarks drawn from primary sources. He went away for two days, and when he came back, it was to sling four or five quotations at me that he had transcribed from an encyclopedia of political theory. He had not read the texts from which I got my arguments, and likely had no intention of reading the texts. The appearance of providing an answer, via citing someone else's summary work, was more important than just "manning up" and saying he didn't know anything about that, and would be humble enough to stop making claims based on demonstrated ignorance. In my experience, this example is the norm among intellectuals who convert to Catholicism and later cite "historical" reasons for the conversion.

The lesson is this: letters after one's name don't necessarily say anything about one's ability to intelligently navigate an area outside of the one the letters go with, and in fact, many people with multiple letters after their name were so narrowly educated that to expect them to even be able to bring to bear the same depth of thought they bring to bear on their own special discipline is really not an assumption that should be made.

Tim Enloe said...

James, if I haven't been clear, let me try again: I'm not commenting on this thread with the motivation of denouncing the authors or the works you mention. It's true that I have a different approach and different goals than them, but that doesn't mean I fail to recognize the value of their work. You are free to think those works you mention are the most excellent, and they might be, given their purpose. But if one's goal was, say, less to refute "Romanists" than to gain knowledge for its own sake as one pursues wisdom, then it *might* be that there are better works out there than the books you mention. Much comes down to one's purpose and approach, and that's no slam on the works you mention.

Honestly, I'd have to see you spell out what you mean by saying all Reformation issues boil down to authority and Gospel before I could agree. I might be able to agree, mind you, but I'd want that statement unpacked quite a bit.

Ron DiGiacomo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron DiGiacomo said...

Tim,

I posted something before to you and quickly took it down because I realized I was misreading you. I'm sorry for the post as it no doubt ended in some email boxes. Now that I think I understand you better, let me make a few comments. You wrote:

There's a place for works such as Webster/King books, but patristic knowledge is valuable for its own sake, not just for the sake of refuting ‘Romanists.’

That Webster and King say “therefore” (the fathers belong to Protestantism) does not mean that their research only has polemical value. Leave the “therefore” out and there is much to feast upon.

We need to train up people who will seek that knowledge for its own sake, not just for the sake of refuting "Romanists."

My journey in epistemology and metaphysics has been useful in refuting so-called “atheists” but the real value has been in the intrinsic value of understanding that God is the necessary precondition for intelligible experience and Scripture is the necessary precondition for the justification of intelligible experience. Bahnsen, in other words, is a delight apart from all the “therefores”. In the like manner, I can only believe that those acquainted with Webster and King appreciate that what is gained by their research is not merely a refutation of certain Romanist claims but that the fathers belong to Protestantism. That there is a succession of doctrine and a rich Protestant heritage that goes back to Christ and the apostles is the real cash value. I just don't want anyone to think that all they did was refute Romanism.

Ron DiGiacomo said...

As I consider this matter more, I would be hard pressed to say that the ultimate goal of these authors was to refute Romanism, as if that were the prize. I could very well imagine that what I perceive to be the greatest value in their books was in fact the telos of the project, to bring glory to God through the edification of the saints. Maybe the impetus of the project was a response to Romanism, but at the very least once the project got going the goal must have been multi-faceted and not merely polemical in nature. After all, how could one immerse himself in the Fathers only with the goal of refuting Romanism? Such a mindset would preclude one from being struck by the grandeur of it all. That seems unthinkable.

The 27th Comrade said...

Hello, James;

Two things, one of them a question.

The first: Do you intend to study German? Because, you see, Luther scholarship has chosen you, so you might as well consider learning German. Three years interning in a German seminary could be shocking enough to enable you to go far enough the language.

The second: consider this article. It is something like a reaction to this your article, and the whole theme in general.

James Swan said...

At this point, I don't plan on learning German, but I have considered it. I have a few other languages first that I need to study.

Tim Enloe said...

Ron,

I guess I've still not made it clear that I was not attacking the works mentioned, e.g., the Webster/King books, James White, etc. I nowhere said any of those works are "merely polemical," and I'm sure you're right that becoming immersed in the Fathers is bound to have more of an effect on one's mind than a "merely polemical" one. I have indeed found this to be true in my own immersion in classical and Medieval literature.

I tend to be a "Big Picture" thinker, and so I often springboard from particular statements made by others into talking about general, large-scale trends and ideas. That's what I've done here, using the discussion about Trueman's remarks and then the subsequent remarks by others calling attention to the Webster/King books and others.

It is hard to judge anyone's life from knowing them only over the Internet. Nevertheless, the rather large amount of time that I see many Protestants spending on the Internet in activities that are, apparently, mostly polemically-oriented tends to give an observer the impression that polemics against "Romanism" are, in fact, the main reason that motivates the various studies going on.

As Protestants, we are often criticized by Roman Catholics for, as they see it, not having much of a religion beyond endless PROTESTing. We would all argue, of course, that we have quite a lot going on in our religion other than PROTESTing, but at least from the ways we spend our time in public, outside observers can surely be forgiven for wondering what else we DO have going on besides that. The Gospel is not just something to be endlessly contended for; it's something to be LIVED, and LIVING it involves quite a bit more than doing apologetics.

Apologetics, an honorable Christian discipline with a long, rich pedigree, seems for many Reformed people to be the very stuff of the Reformed life, not just one discipline among many that needs to be continually informed by all the others, and put into a place that does not dominate all the others. That is my "Big Picture" point. If, over the long haul, we want to get our people into a position where they are able to look at all this Catholic apologetics smoke-and-mirrors and see that it IS just smoke-and-mirrors, and is not worth stressing out over, let alone upending their life over, then it seems to me we need to develop a PUBLIC culture of positive activity - say, a public culture where we are seen actively (and with a sense of that grandeur you spoke of) discussing the Fathers just because they are worth knowing about - and who gives a rip what any "Romanist" anywhere is saying about them. Luther is worth reading just because, not mainly because we need to defensively react against all the idiocy that "Romanists" say about him. And so forth, for any issue you can think of. Knowledge is valuable for its own sake, because we, made in the image of God, are made to know. Knowledge is not meant to be merely a means to something else, even if that something else is the admirable desire to defend the Gospel.

Once more, this is a "Big Picture" point. I hope it can be taken that way by any who have read my remarks, because that is my honest intention in writing as I have.