Thursday, July 14, 2005

In Case You Missed Last Week's Episode...

A quick recap of the latest episode in the Tim Enloe saga:

Enloe first produces this essay.

After that, Tim McGrew responded to Enloe's essay.

After this, both Enloe and his associate [at least in this affair] Kevin Johnson did, among other things, the following:

(1) Backtrack from their generally authoritative tone.

(2) Make sweeping claims [without providing evidence] that the sort of response that McGrew gave:
(a) instantiated "academic hubris,"
(b) instantiated a lack of charity and graciousness,
(c) instantiated somebody all-too-impressed with the letters after their last name
(d) is representative of the sorts of things through which "smarter" folks, "as compared to mere lettered academics," can see.
(e) represents "mere academics."

(3) Met with disdain any requests for specific examples of the claims made in (2). [But see my response here.]

[Note: for more requests for evidence to uphold the Enloe/Johnson sweeping claims, see Steve Hays' requests for evidence here; my request can be seen here.]

After a post here linking to examples of Tim Enloe's calm, measured reasoning and charity, where again Enloe's charges are unsupported by any sort of given actual instantiations, [and if one makes charges of the gravity Enloe makes, one should have evidence!], and after Enloe's demurral regarding responding to McGrew, we arrived at the present stage.

To Tim Enloe's credit, he has decided to respond to the McGrew piece.

On the technical merits, if any, of Enloe's response, I shall let Dr McGrew respond, if he so chooses. For now, I observe the following:

(1) Once more, sweeping unsubstantiated claims regarding Svendsen [and others] are made, where the sweeping claims are serious enough, impugning the integrity, competency, etc, of the individual, to where there must be evidence provided lest one is merely engaging in a campaign of potshots. Examples:

(a) Fourth paragraph:
Certain types of apologists--e.g., Eric Svendsen and a few others--tend to speak in stark absolutes regarding their methods and the conclusions they draw from their use of the methods. Men such as these think in very simplistic Black Hat / White Hat terms, and it shows in the way they constantly, deprecatorily, treat others who disagree with them.

Comment: no evidence given, just a sweeping claim.

Let us observe too the simplistic Black Hat/White Hat treatment that Enloe is giving to Svendsen and a few others here; and let us observe the deprecatory remarks coming from Tim's keyboard.

(b) Eleventh paragraph:
Now perhaps I'm wrong in making this association between Descartes's method and these men's methods, but if one has read any Descartes firsthand and spent any serious time considering secondary works of scholarship, and then spends enough time reading Svendsen and White and their exegetical like, one can easily be forgiven for concluding that they have bought into Descartes hook, line, and sinker and simply do not realize that fact or know about the problems that philosophers often point out regarding Cartesian thinking.

Comment: no evidence given, just a sweeping claim.

Steve Hays' comments regarding Enloe's penchant for bringing out talismanic names and words and stringing them together comes to my mind.

(c) Twelfth paragraph:
It's an open question whether Eric Svendsen has the wherewithal to correct me, since his degree in exegesis, which is coupled with an open scorn for other fields of study relative to that field, typically leads him to issue "corrections" that consist merely of repeating the very things that are under dispute, and / or to make accusations about things such as "postmodernism", of which it is evident he has a very poor understanding. I want to see constructive conversations take place, want to see the level of consciousness in Internet Protestantdom raised--which is one reason I think it's so important to take a stand against the obscurantizing portrayals of many issues done by men like Svendsen. Ironically, Svendsen's bringing McGrew into this in order to expose my simplistic-ness has exactly served the purpose of showing how simplistic some of Svendsen's views actually are.

Comment: no evidence given, just a sweeping claim.

As for Tim's desire for constructive conversations, those can't really begin until we're sure of terms and specifics. He seems to prefer, based on what he writes, to deal in the most abstract generalities.

(d) Thirteenth paragraph:
Dr. McGrew is probably unaware of the extremism which his friend Svendsen's blog entries very often demonstrate about people who disagree with his conclusions about various items of doctrine. For instance, Svendsen's (and White's) persistently vague, extremely condemnatory rhetoric about the evils of "postmodernism" and people whom they identify as embracing it and therefore "falling away" from "clear biblical truth" and leaving us with nothing but "relativism" is exactly the sort of thing I had in mind with remarks like this one from my paper...

Comment: no evidence given, just a sweeping claim.

Let me add something else here: the big deal is not whether Svendsen or anybody is condemnatory. The important points are:

(i) Whether the condemnation is just, and
(ii) Whether the point of contention merits the wrong side being condemned.

Surely Enloe, who claims to know how to do exegesis, has read the condemnations of Jesus, Paul, Peter, Jude, and John in the NT! If somebody is following in the footsteps of these aforementioned NT authors, then, even if one proves that somebody else is condemnatory, so what? This isn't Oprah, where everything is A-OK and any challenges to our worldview are met with a good cry and vague platitudes about spirituality and open-mindedness!

(e) Following the quote after the quote above, the lead sentence of the fifteenth [or fourteenth, depending on how one counts Enloe's quote in the piece]:
Anyone who has dealt with Svendsen and his followers long enough knows quite well what I am talking about.

This is not true. I've dealt with "Svendsen and his followers long enough" and, despite a number of exegetical disagreements, political disagreements, and some philosophical disagreements, I don't "know quite well" of what Enloe is talking about. If we want to make a charitable allowance for hyperbole in Enloe's statement, we may make it. But then the question is, once again, so what?. We could boomerang the statement back to something regarding Enloe: Anybody who has dealt with Enloe and his followers long enough knows quite well his propensity for intellectual affectation, sweeping claims, caricatures, etc. This makes me yawn.

(f) Same paragraph. Here Enloe pats himself on the back:
Perhaps I am wrong to trace such rhetoric back to the influences of Cartesianism, etc., but if so, at least I am making the kind of mistake that causes others to take notice and ask the kinds of deeper questions about Svendsen and his like that they simply do not encourage to be asked themselves.

Are readers overcome with this sense of Tim Enloe's noble and tragic sacrifice of his own correctness because he causes others "to take notice and ask the kinds of deeper questions about Svendsen and his like that they simply do not encourage to be asked themselves"? When you think you're a hard luck case, do you look at poor Tim Enloe and think of the heroic sacrifice he makes pounding out those banal generalities from his keyboard, making your situation seem fine by comparison? My answers are both in the negative.

Once again, a big claim, zero evidence.

(g) Same paragraph. This is getting a bit depressing by now:
Svendsen once claimed that his exegetical prowess enables him to divorce his mind from all preconceived biases when he sits down to do exegesis, so that what he does in his exegesis is just get directly at divine truth itself.

Apparently, being Tim Enloe means you can caricature people without having to back anything up. Again, the reader should see that this isn't merely Tim on a bad hair day or in the painful throes of some male menstrual cycle, but it is par for the course.

Well, point (1), consisting of parts (a)-(g) was long. But it serves as evidence for the claim that Enloe has some sort of fixation with James White and Eric Svendsen. Would the reader write a response to a critique of one's statements on foundationalism and throw in at least seven reasonably detailed and inflammatory statements about somebody?

(2) There is a prevalent attitude that details are not particuarly important, and that the material is not designed for academics.

(a) See the second paragraph of Enloe's essay. It is all about getting "interesting conversations going about interesting issues, and to bring these issues to the attention of an audience composed primarily of laymen," according to Enloe. Nothing wrong with this, but if one wants to popularize some ideas and posture as an intellectual vanguard, one needs to still be factually correct and have some idea as to the advanced matters and details.

(b) If I've counted correctly, Enloe, in the seventh paragraph, alleges that what he wrote was adequate for his limited purposes, and he was not trying to give some definitive treatment. This is fine. However, errors are errors. Sometimes, one makes a mistake and it doesn't blunt the force of the argument. Other mistakes are fatal to an argument. In what category are Enloe's mistakes? He doesn't clarify matters here.

(3) Tim Enloe surprises this small corner of the internet by admitting that he is not an expert on certain things.

(a) Paragraph eight: Is Tim an expert on the subjects mentioned in this paragraph [this is what the context seems to indicate]? "Of course not." Let's remember this if at some future point he decides to harangue people with his broad philosophical charges and name-drops. Let's also remember that if he says something along these lines in the future, he may very well be correct, but, like everybody else, he needs to have an actual argument as compared to overheated rhetoric.

(b) Paragraph eleven: Tim has "a mere B.A. level understanding of Descartes." No problem here. I'm probably, at best, at Tim Enloe's level here, though the money is on his out-Descartesing me. However, the problem arises when Tim says something like

Truly, in spite of their overweening pride of place about their educations in Evangelical seminaries, they are not even the best of the Evangelical tradition but are mere fringe fanatics hanging on the edges of a much larger, more eclectic movement and yet absurdly pretending to represent the mainstream. Their "Gospel" is a reductionistic obsession with a radicalized Baconian mechanism, their concept of "truth" an uncritical Cartesian chimera, their pretensions to superior spirituality a ludicrous slander on the very Holy Spirit they claim guides their thoughts and actions.

[One of the choice quotes from the AOMin link above.]

Enloe seems to have a split personality. When confronted by those in the know, he is a bit more humble. But when the cat is away, so speaking, Enloe, as in the above quote, sees no problem in using his omnibus declarations. This is not honest.

One thing that piqued me to write about this whole thing is Tim Enloe's recurring habit of denigrating Evangelical schools, Bible colleges, etc, because, in the mind of Enloe, they don't deal with his emphases, or, because they're uninitiated into the glorious mysteries that the Enloe reading list contains. On the one hand, if somebody who is still an undergraduate wants to criticize schools, he certainly has the right to do so. But, good arguments need to be made as to how they're deficient. From what I've seen, we once again, you may guess, get banal generalities in place of actual instantiations.

(4) This point was mentioned at the end of (1): the fixation with Svendsen et al that goes throughout the article.

(a) Paragraph four: In discussing McGrew's issues with Enloe's definition of foundationalism, Enloe starts bringing up Svendsen. Since it is a safe bet that Enloe's feelings about Svendsen are logically independent of foundationalism, the reader is left rather befuddled at this change of topic.

(b) Paragraph nine: [I fear, due to a poor page break in printing, that I may be off by a paragraph number or two in these lists. This paragraph deals with "Pyrrhonism in the 17th century."] Enloe brings up David King's Scripture volumes and, in a similar spirit to (1), makes another sweeping claim about King employing "all manner of Pyrrhonistic arguments against the Catholics." One might pull a hamstring of calf muscle stopping like a dime on that and changing directions!

(c) Paragraph eleven: Somehow, in discussing his own inadequacies as a Cartesian scholar, Enloe again drags in the Svendsen-non-sequitur. This is old news, but, it is good to document these things from time to time.

(d) Paragraph twelve: in responding to McGrew's comments on Cartesian foundationalists, somehow, Enloe leaps to McGrew's being unaware "of the extremism which his friend Svendsen's blog entries very often demonstrate about people who disagree with his conclusions about various items of doctrine." Where did this statement about Svendsen come from in this discussion? The fixation continues.


Leaving technical points aside [waiting to see if McGrew responds], Enloe's response has the following documented characteristics:

(1) More big sweeping claims that we're just supposed to take at face value.

(2) An attitude that details aren't important given the audience.

(3) Stealing Hays' language, a faux-innocence, where the faux comes from comparing Enloe's more humble stance in this paper with what he has said about others elsewhere.

(4) A fixation with Svendsen et al whereby discussions of topics will suddenly shift to accusatory charges against Svendsen and his brood.

At this point, the depressing thread ends.

[EDIT: Fixed some spelling errors, added a marginal amount of material.]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I find interesting is the uncharitable things Kevin said about Dr. McGrew's response and what Tim had to say about it. Doesn't seem like Tim was responding to the same paper that Kevin lambasted.

Thursday, July 14, 2005 3:23:00 PM  
Blogger steve said...

As to Enloe’s split personality, to understand that you need to understand a little known fact about his medical history. You see, Enloe was the victim of a transporter mishap that bifurcated his personality into the sunshiny Ego and the shadowy Id. Being the dominant side, his malefic alter-ego hogs the computer, but during the occasional bathroom break, the cherubic, but recessive Ego is able to briefly regain control of the keyboard.

Thursday, July 14, 2005 6:52:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

If I remember that episode of ST correctly, the way Captain Kirk was cured was to have the good Kirk and the bad Kirk be placed on the transporter pad and beamed out, with the idea of putting them back together.

Meanwhile, Sulu and company were freezing on the planet below!

Thursday, July 14, 2005 8:56:00 PM  

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