Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Damage Control

This post is commentary on the little kerfluffle that arose from Prof. McGrew's remarks regarding Mr Enloe's essay.

The first shot fired across the bow was given by Mr Kevin Johnson here in a piece titled Academic Hubris and Arrogance is One of the Reasons the Internet Prospers. I wish to offer some commentary on what was stated.

These criticisms of Tim Enloe regarding recent comments he made at Communio Sanctorum are filled with the sort of academic hubris that ought to be unwelcome in any circle.

I know smarter folks (as opposed to mere lettered academics) can see through this sort of thing. I just think it’s a shame that Tim’s exceptionally bright and appropriate take on the matter in question (foundationalism, etc) is neither read graciously or charitably by men who call themselves our opponents.

It is difficult to see this as anything more than defensive posturing, and the attempt to isolate McGrew in the "lettered academic" category in compared to the "smarter folks" category is, I suppose, Johnson's idea of graciousness and charity. Furthermore, it would have been nice to see some specific examples of where McGrew was ungracious or uncharitable, rather than a mere assertion. Even more importantly, let's see some instantiations of where McGrew is wrong about what he says.

Communio Sanctorum is not intended to be an academic journal where men wax eloquent about the technical details of this or that piece of information valuable only to men who spend their entire lives out to pasture chewing on such irrelevancies. To the extent that you find language or ideas on our site acceptable to the various reigning academies of the day it will be the exception and not the norm. There is a time and a place for higher education but it certainly shouldn’t be used to tear down our brothers and the academy has deceived itself all too long to think that it is merely the accurate detailing of information that is important for us to consider. It is a limited view caused by a limited ecclesiology–doubtless hampered by a limited epistemology.

I can be somewhat sympathetic to the idea that some academics spend their entire lives chewing on certain things that are irrelevant. I wonder about my own little mathematical and statistical corner at times. But if Johnson wants to make such a snide comment without any sort of evidence, it undercuts Enloe's essay as well, for McGrew's response dealt with the content of Enloe's essay. If McGrew's response was irrelevant, being factually correct and pointing out some glaring errors in the Enloe essay, what does that say about the Enloe essay, then? Is an essay containing a number of errors more relevant than an essay which corrects the first essay? You can't have relevance for one but not the other.

The last sentence of the quote above is mere triumphalism, something that seems to be rather par for the course for Johnson and Enloe. It would have been nice to have some specific examples, unless the only point of CS is to make triumphalistic claims without support.

Communio Sanctorum is a website that purports to be a serious theological and communal effort at examining our contribution to Reformational catholicity and what that entails. Part of that effort is most certainly about being charitable both to those who are our brothers and those who are not.

Two examples of Communio's charity:

(1) Prof. Owen's generally snide comments regarding Dr Svendsen in their latest exchange. Such comments involve false statements such as
(a) Attempting to cast aspersions on Dr Svendsen's Greek and exegetical skills without much of an actual argument, as seen here.
(b) Referring to Dr Svendsen as an "Evangelical Gnostic," as seen here.

These are just two of the many specimens of general charity that Prof. Owen often exhibits, which, I suppose, makes him fit right in with Johnson and Enloe.

Another example of charity, Communio-style, is given above in Johnson's defensive response:

(2) Without a scintilla of evidence, accuse somebody of hubris, and attempt to portray them as seekers and students of irrelevancies. Again, all that I'm looking for is an actual argument here as opposed to an assertion.

Turning back to Johnson's response:

If and when it ever becomes merely academic or it represents the sort of scathing critiques made famous by those all too impressed with the letters they find after their last name, I hope we don’t do anything but bring it down and let someone else take the battle forward.

There really doesn't seem to be much here to dignify a response, as the issue is not degrees and such, but actual argumentation. McGrew brought up not a few instantiations of where Enloe's essay [or the material he was citing] was, to put it nicely, deficient. Again, Tim McGrew could be the undergraduate with no formal training, degree, published works of peer-reviewed scholarship, etc, and Tim Enloe could be the person with the degrees and the professorship and the papers and book and conferences and talks, but all such things are irrelevant: What matters is that, despite Johnson's words, he can't or won't produce any evidence to demonstrate that McGrew is on the wrong side of things here.

In closing, the entire defensive response with its attempt at a blanket smearing doesn't give one instance of where McGrew is incorrect or uncharitable. It is a mere emotive posture adopted.

Perhaps Johnson or Enloe or somebody will produce something with actual examples where McGrew is wrong in the following days. This sort of blanket dismissal of Prof McGrew, if left alone, says various things about both Mr Johnson and Mr Enloe, none of them being particularly flattering.


Blogger centuri0n said...

You forgot to mention the number of letters to the editor they have responded to. Gosh, how do they have time to do anything else but write all those replies to people who are asking them questions?

Oh wait -- I was confusing them with NYPress.com. The standard answer from CS.com is "I haven't read his reply and I'm not likely to bother," which only goes to show exactly what they mean by "ecumenical dialog". Tim talks to Kevin, Kevin to Perry, Dr. Sandlin to, um, somebody, Kevin to Dr. Owen, Dr. Owen to, um, somebody ...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 8:26:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Frank: The folks at Communio have every right to do whatever they'd like to do, obviously, and they, in a strict sense, don't owe anybody an explanation --- they can ignore who they want and such.

But, of course, if they want to blow people off and be dismissive, this goes against their pretense to being more open minded than "certain Reformed polemicists," "Evangelical gnostics," etc.

And, if, for example, Tim Enloe or other people don't want to respond to Tim McGrew's reply in some period of time, then the talk about being open-minded and the request for serious engagement with his work is hollow. It will also indicate a desire to merely lecture instead of interact, which would go against the fuzzy-wuzzy ecumenical pose.

Based on Kevin Johnson's substance-less post, it is hard to have too much confidence that an actual substantive reply will be forthcoming.

[I corrected a few egregious errors in grammar and am reposting this.]

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 10:13:00 PM  

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