Friday, August 05, 2005

Monoemania

Over at Greg K.'s usually-interesting Crowhill board, there has been a thread in which that intellectual titan Timothy G. Enloe of Reformed Catholicism fame has chosen to opine.

From what I've seen in the last two years, passed-up Enloevian opportunities to slam conservative evangelicalism and a view of scripture that I happen to hold [along with those he demonizes] are as rare as Bigfoot sightings or non-leftist victim studies professors in academia. I don't know Enloe personally, but when he attacks those with whom he has feuded, he is attacking my views on scripture as well, and hence, it might be worthwhile to discuss his material, even though I am not one of the former bogeymen who apparently still hide under his bed or in the darkened back corner of his anxiety closet.

The reader needs to keep in mind that Mr Enloe has waded into the waters of epistemology before, and he has been exposed as pretty much the amateur. This isn't a crime, since we all start from humble beginnings, but Mr Enloe presents his conclusions with dogmatic certainty without any real argumentation or evidence. For example, in the final paragraph of his attempt at epistemology he states
My conclusion is this. Over the last two hundred years or so, some of the worst features of classical foundationalism have become buried at the heart of contemporary American Protestantism generically speaking, and at the heart of its Evangelical variety in particular. In everything from its morbid fear of “slippery slopes” in doctrine, its obsession with “scientific proofs” of the “literal truth” of Scripture, its absurd belief that all “truth” is inherently propositional in nature, its un-Christian assertion of epistemological and hermeneutical neutrality and exegetical “objectivity”, it reveals itself as a child not of the Christian religion but of Christians so confused by vain philosophy (cf. Col. 3:8) that they end up adopting vain philosophy as the cure for vain philosophy. In some of its more radical forms foundationalism’s implacably impersonal placement of what it calls “Truth” above every other factor, including the basic maintenance of healthy human relationships, leads to a type of theological solipsism, a radical isolation of the individual and his utterly private faith from all moderating and restraining factors outside of his sovereign control. And at the last, in its absolute unwillingness to face other traditions head-on without simply calling them evil names and retreating into an impenetrable fortress of “plain truth”, foundationalism has failed to provide Christians with a workable epistemological vantage point that does not fundamentally compromise central Christian testimonies. Paradoxically given its Evangelical spin’s insistence upon the absolute authority of Scripture, the firm foundation of foundationalism turns out really to be the shifting sand of mere human autonomy.

Throw in the humorless affectations of somebody with intellectual pretensions, and you have what on my side of the fence is a rather strong irritant.

Given the exposure of Mr Enloe as a dilettante [see the link given above as well as the threads following that link], and given his shrill haranguing of certain Evangelicals, he doesn't exactly have a line of credit nor goodwill built up to where one can cut him some slack, saying that perhaps he had a bad hair day which made him a bit cranky when wording things.

That is some background information. Now on to the new pearls of wisdom benevolently dispensed by the Mighty Mind of Moscow, ID. The reader can read the entire thread if he wishes to see the context.
This is why it's so important to temper one's claims to "exegesis" of the "plain" Scriptures with some kind of intelligible and responsible understanding of the historical progression of ideas. Hodge's Common Sense Realism is not really all that far removed from Humean skepticism before it and 20th century positivism after it. That's a problem, John. It's a problem that Hodge didn't see, but that we can, and it is thus our responsibility not to follow him down that road, how ever much we respect him otherwise.

No, it's not OK to demand that every item of belief be "verified" by some "rational" criterion before it's acceptable to believe. That way lies the collapse of Christianity into just one more autonomous human philosophical system. I understand that you deeply respect the people you're listening to right now, but in many ways they just aren't working with a full intellectual deck. I mean that not in the sense of their basic intelligence, but in the sense that they've artificially lopped off whole areas of inquiry and thus lost the ability to articulate their claims in ways that don't come off looking like little more than backwoods Bible-thumping and preaching to the choir.


The second paragraph is what interests me. In usual Enloevian fashion, a broad statement is made: somehow one is defective [in what way is not specified] to base or want to base not just some of his beliefs, but all of his beliefs, on "rational criteria." Now even with the provided context, it is hard to tell why Mr Enloe is putting scare quotes around the word "rational."

Given that I feel that I can justify my all my beliefs according to evidence, probability, firm historical foundations, sensory input, etc, I am, in Enloe's eyes, defective.

What do we do when we're defective? We seek help and try to remedy the defect.

Now the Enloevian idiom in these matters is to make charges of defectiveness, but to only speak in generalities while at the same time avoiding making any sort of mention of a positive presentation of your case.

And, once again, an allegedly epistemologically-defective individual such as myself is left hanging when help appeared to be on the way.

To top things off, my position on things is said by Enloe to lead to a collapse of Christianity as "just one more autonomous human philosophical system." This is an even worse fate, since those who know me can easily produce great inventories of my failings, and a mere autonomous human philosophical system won't save me from an alienated God. So, once again, I'm in hot water.

But am I? There is no argumentation for Enloe's sweeping claim. Perhaps he had a winning argument or evidence for his position, but the Crowhill board's built-in argument detector removed the argumentation after Enloe hit the "post" button, which would render the post nothing but emotive, which is often in keeping with the idiom of the more obnoxious posters at Crowhill.

And, Enloe once again impugns others, and the audience knows full well of whom he speaks. He states that these people [who share similar views to mine] "just aren't working with a full intellectual deck. I mean that not in the sense of their basic intelligence, but in the sense that they've artificially lopped off whole areas of inquiry and thus lost the ability to articulate their claims in ways that don't come off looking like little more than backwoods Bible-thumping and preaching to the choir."

This too is part of the Enloe monomania --- the constant slighting of certain individuals with his know-it-all attitude without any evidence to support his assertion.

In a later post on that same thread, Enloe states again regarding his foes:
Oh, I stipulate that they're very good technicians. Unfortunately for them and their Pharisaical pretensions about everyone outside their little theological clique technology isn't neutral, nor does it fully describe the reality we inhabit under the sun.


I'm sure that Drs Svendsen and White and Rev King and all others have a bounce in their steps knowing that Enloe --- the inventor of nonexegetical exegesis --- approves of their skills.

Enloe then throws in a straw man representation by somehow implying that our side views exegesis and such as "fully describing the reality we inhabit under the sun."
Again, confer a conservative Evangelical commentary in, say the NICNT series [the older volumes especially], or any of the Lenski volumes, or Carson's works, etc. Or, examine Lightfoot and Trench, say, from the 19th century. This is our method, and our side has, at the very worst, a tangible product that arises from our exegetical theories on things. If you sit down with me and want to go over Romans, say, I can put my theory to action and produce something tangible [which won't differ from conservative Evangelical exegeses of Romans], and I daresay that my arguments would be concrete and solid.

Mr Enloe though, does not have any specifics. If he is true to his m.o., it seems to me then that he'd just sit with Romans in front of him and berate you or mention how defective you or that nasty Dr Svendsen [with his "PURE BIBLICAL EXEGESIS SEVERED FROM ANY ASSUMPTIONS" and his "DOCTORATE IN PURE EXEGESIS"] are, while berating Evangelicalism in general. I've never seen Tim offer any supporting exegetical arguments to bolster his wide-ranging claims on any of his websites. This isn't any different than a physician coming up to you, telling you there's something wrong with you, but not telling you what it is, nor prescribing any care nor medication, but just berating you for your mysterious health problem.

If Enloe wants to say silly things, let them be done in private, where his words can wreak limited havoc on the reputations of individuals. If Enloe wants to go public with his criticisms of individuals and Evangelicalism in general, playing the role of provocateur, there should be no surprise that those attacked will defend themselves or attack back. Now I have no bad nor good blood personally with Mr Enloe, but his fatuous pseudointellectual ravings about matters on which he has no warrant for his hectoring tone are beginning to be a real internet pet peeve of mine.

5 Comments:

Anonymous greg said...

Enloe is merely a caracature of the Steve Hays, PP, White, Swendsen, King types. Enloe thinks biblical understanding can be found by reading a thousand primary sources in pre-Reformation church history, whereas you others think reading a commentary 'cover to cover' (the more modern and "up to date scholarship" the better!) actually gives you understanding of the Bible that can only be received and developed via reading the Bible itself with the illumination of the Holy Spirit inside you.

Saturday, August 06, 2005 4:19:00 PM  
Anonymous John Bugay said...

PP, I am glad to make your acquaintance, though I’m sorry it is over a matter like this one.

To be fair to Tim, he and I have had some past discussions about this, some of them in public, more of them off line, and his response was written to me (albeit in a public forum), and so I would not expect him to justify his broad statements with specific examples, because he has already done so in the past.

I have known Tim for a long time, and I have learned a great deal from him over the years (as I have learned a lot from Drs. Svendsen and White and others). I am very much saddened by their falling out, because I remember a day when they were all good friends.

Sunday, August 07, 2005 8:39:00 AM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sunday, August 07, 2005 1:22:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Hello John B.

Welcome to my molecular-sized corner of the internet.

To be sure: I am neutral with respect to White. Frankly, his style annoys me. So it isn't a matter of sticking up for White.

For Svendsen, he can stick up for himself if he wants, as he's a big boy who can more than handle his own affairs. The matter here is that, for the life of me, I don't see any difference between his view of scripture and mine, so when somebody wants to publicly attack Svendsen's view of scripture and such, they're attacking mine. Enloe can send Svendsen a heart-shaped box of chocolates with a message saying "You're my bestest friend in the entire world" if he wants and I'd still take the same low view of his evidence- and specifics-free assertions.

Sunday, August 07, 2005 1:24:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

The deleted comment was mine, btw. My post here is the deleted comment, minus a few whoppers with regards to spelling and such.

Sunday, August 07, 2005 1:25:00 PM  

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