So who am I to pontificate on the pros and cons of scholarship? I am not a scholar, so how could I possibly voice any of the above concerns? Here's an excerpt from the CARM boards from one of my adoring fans who asked a similar question:
The great Jaroslav Pelikan warned against amateurs and their presumptions:
“Only a working scholar, one who is himself engaged in the investigation of texts and sources, is in a position to summarize and evaluate the work of his collegues, for his command of these texts and sources puts him into a position to pass expert judgment on the quarrels among the learned. Yet he cannot claim to have formed his opinions of such a vast subject (the Reformation) strictly on the basis of his own research. That is why Professor Dolan (Catholic) alludes to earlier studies, and why someone who has himself a working knowledge with these materials will catch many other echoes of these studies in the pages of this book.” Jaroslav Pelikan, (Lutheran, Professor of Church History at Yale), Introduction to: John P. Dolan, “History of the Reformation”, pg ix-x
Here we have a Lutheran Introduction to a Catholic History of the Reformation, in which the Lutheran states quite clearly that non-professional, non-working, non-Scholars are NOT in a position to judge those who are. Now James, this is exactly what you have done.
Despite the sentiment against me in the above statement, I'd like to thank my fan for pointing out this book: John P. Dolan, History of the Reformation, A Conciliatory Assessment of Opposite Views (New York: Desclee Company, 1964). That book arrived a few days ago, and I finally had a chance to thumb through it. Dolan is a Roman Catholic scholar. I was familiar with Dolan, as he is the author of the Luther entry in the New Catholic Encyclopedia, an entry far different than that in the old Catholic Encyclopedia.
Below is the actual context of Pelikan's statement. Pelikan explains that Dolan has given a scholarly overview of recent Reformation research. Pelikan explains that a working scholar familiar with the issues is the only one in a position to present his materials evaluating all the differing perspectives on the Reformation. That is, Dolan's book is a credible scholarly book needed to be taken seriously. My fan though used the quote to take a jab at me: "Here we have a Lutheran Introduction to a Catholic History of the Reformation, in which the Lutheran states quite clearly that non-professional, non-working, non-Scholars are NOT in a position to judge those who are. Now James, this is exactly what you have done." This is not what Pelikan said. Pelikan is referring to Dolan's book and its value as a scholarly study.
Here is Jaroslov Pelikan, from the Introduction to Dolan's book:
IntroductionThe irony is that the person chastising me for commenting on this or that scholarly opinion went on to do the same thing. He cited Heiko A. Oberman, Luther Man between God and the Devil, pg 92-93 and then stated,
The great Protestant theologian and historian, Ernst Troeltsch, once coined the epigram: "We must overcome history by history." By this he meant not only that history, as a bearer of the will and purpose of God, can transcend and break the forms of the past by producing something new, but also that historical research can be a means of renewal and reform if it subjects those forms to honest examination. A prime illustration of Troeltsch's axiom is the history of the Reformation. Scholarship in Reformation history has been shaped as much by the religious and theological presuppositions of the scholar as by the historical materials. A careful study of a volume on the history of the Reformation can give the reader a pretty good idea of the theology of the author — perhaps even a better idea of this than of the theology of the Reformation. Conversely, the more honestly `historical" one's research is, the more carefully will he examine his presuppositions. And as historical research participates in the give-and-take of the scholarly community, everyone's presuppositions come in for review and criticism.
Such review and criticism have dominated recent scholarship in Reformation research. The succinct history of this research in Chapter I of this book can introduce the reader to the currents of scholarly debate and give him a sense of how deep the currents of that debate are. A clearer sense of this can come only from an exposure to the actual data of Reformation research, as these are summarized in the main body of, this book. To an extent that the modesty of its scholarly apparatus may belie, Professor Dolan's History is based upon extensive study both of the source materials and of the scholarly research produced by Protestant, Roman Catholic, and secular students of the Reformation era. In many ways, his account could be called a Forschungsbericht, a report on the present state of scholarly investigation and on its tentative results. Only a working scholar, one who is himself engaged in the investigation of texts and sources, is in a position to summarize and evaluate the work of his colleagues, for his own command of these texts and sources puts him into a position to pass expert judgment on the quarrels among the learned. Yet he cannot claim to have formed his opinions of such a vast subject strictly on the basis of his own research, but must rely on the mining and minting of many other scholars. That is why Professor Dolan alludes to earlier studies, and why someone who has himself been working with these materials will catch many other echoes of these studies in the pages of this book.
"Normally Oberman is a voice of reason. However, it seems that his statement that Luther’s vow was “not abnormal”, is more than a little “hopeful”. In order to find Luther’s terrified vow as being “normal”, we would be required that many monks decided to enter the monastery in moments of bone crushing terror. That would be a stretch to say the least."
According to this Romanist, he doesn't have the authority himself to make such a statement! Many Romanist apologists comment on scholars and texts, and some of these guys don't have any sort of theological degrees. If my detractor wants to continue with a such a notion, he's eliminated a large chunk of Romanist apologetics. Maybe that wouldn't be a bad thing.
So who am I to comment on scholarship? I'm just a guy with a blog. I simply post the way I work through things as I seek to understand. It's up to you to check facts and sources, be they something I post, or something in a book you're reading for yourself. I don't think any scholar would object to a layman checking his facts.
Remember when Paul spoke in Acts 17 to the Bereans? Did Paul say "I'm an Apostle, therefore an authority, you have no right to question me"? The Scriptures say, "Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." In Galatians Paul says his very words were to be scrutinized: "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!"