"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Friday, November 16, 2007

J.P. Moreland: "Fighting Bibliolatry"

Today I finished substitute teaching some classes on natural theology for a friend from seminary who is presently at the ETS meeting in San Diego. I see now that J.P. Moreland's talk on Wednesday seems to be the subject of conversation. Among the interesting points in Moreland's talk is this:

"A third area where Moreland critiqued evangelical over-commitment to Bible was in the scarcity of evangelical appeals to natural theology and moral law in their political and cultural discussions."
I agree. Subjects such as cloning, abortion, and sexual ethics are often treated as if there is no such thing as natural law. And sacred theology is often treated as if there is no such thing as natural theology or a positive philosophy that can provide a support for sacred theology. Moreland's call for a continued movement away from fideism is much needed. I was at the ETS meeting in Philadelphia in November of 1995 when Moreland gave the keynote, advocating the importance of the place of philosophy. When Moreland finished speaking, Greg Bahnsen stood up and went right after Moreland: "Couldn't you just replace [in your talk] every instance of your use of the word 'philosophy' with the word 'theology'"? asked Bahnsen. Moreland responded by explaining why he believed that philosophy served as a praeambula fidei. About two weeks later, Bahnsen died of mitral valve failure. (May his soul rest in peace.) From the point of view of improving prospects of a reunion between Catholics and evangelicals, Moreland's position is much better than Bahnsen's presuppositionalism (which is a form of fideism).

Protestantism is still recovering from its initial low view of reason, characterized, for example, in these statements by Martin Luther:

"Reason is the devil's greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the devil's appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom ... Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is, and she ought to be, drowned in baptism . . . She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets [i.e. toilets]."

"Reason is contrary to faith."

"Reason is directly opposed to faith, and one ought to let it be; in believers it [i.e. reason] should be killed and buried."

Granted that everything Luther said has to be taken with a grain of salt, but when one's view of reason is that low, fideism (and its resulting biblicism) is one's only option. As evangelical philosophers continue to discover the possibility of genuine philosophy and develop its role in the practice of theology, I think the prospects for Catholic-evangelical reunion will continue to improve.

4 comments:

Kevin said...

This continued diatribe on your behalf is absurd, Bryan. Bahnsen was never into fideism and both Van Til and Bahnsen make it quite clear that their presuppositionalism does not descend into fideism. You would know that if you read the requisite literature on the subject.

But you continue to make these straw men and refuse yet again to deal with the actual positions of these or other Protestant men. You are not really pointing out anything useful when you cannot construe the arguments of your opponents in any way except that which is satisfactory for yourself. At least let the works of Bahnsen and Van Til rebut the claims you are putting forward by quoting the relevant parts of their works which have some bearing on what you are claiming.

Further your assertion that Protestantism has a low view of reason is also stunningly inaccurate and especially so of a man like the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen. No doubt your quoting of Luther is also completely selective and without any basis when you accuse him of similar things.

But your glaring issues regarding the above are also compounded by considering Luther representative of Protestantism as a whole--as if the whole Reformation hung in the balance on his words.

Do yourself a favor--deal with John Calvin--and others who had many relevant things to say during the Reformation on this and a plethora of other subjects.

I'm just amazed at the absolute refusal to allow Protestantism to speak for itself and the miscasting of men like Bahnsen and Luther in the process. Surely you can do better than this.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

I agree that Bahnsen did not describe his position as fideistic. But presuppositionalism is a form of fideism. Perhaps I'll write up post in the future explaining why that is so.

You would know that if you read the requisite literature on the subject.

I have read it.

But you continue to make these straw men and refuse yet again to deal with the actual positions of these or other Protestant men.

That is an ad hominem.

You are not really pointing out anything useful when you cannot construe the arguments of your opponents in any way except that which is satisfactory for yourself.

This too is an ad hominem.

Further your assertion that Protestantism has a low view of reason is also stunningly inaccurate and especially so of a man like the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen.

Bahnsen had a very low of reason. We'll have to agree to disagree until I can write up an explanation of why I think that. As for Luther, his words speak for themselves.

But your glaring issues regarding the above are also compounded by considering Luther representative of Protestantism as a whole--as if the whole Reformation hung in the balance on his words.

I don't think the whole Reformation hangs in the balance on his words. But he is the father of Protestantism, and as such, it was deeply influenced by him.

Do yourself a favor--deal with John Calvin--and others who had many relevant things to say during the Reformation on this and a plethora of other subjects.

I have and I will.

I'm just amazed at the absolute refusal to allow Protestantism to speak for itself and the miscasting of men like Bahnsen and Luther in the process.

This is an ad hominem.

Surely you can do better than this.

This too is ad hominem. I'm willing to dialogue, Kevin, but the ad hominems are not helpful to a constructive dialogue. If any of my claims are false, or my arguments unsound, please feel free to show that.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin said...

No, I think we're done here. We've tried a number of times to engage with you and you have consistently refused to really consider what it is we are saying.

contrarian 78 said...

On the contrary, we will be done seeking dialogue when we are dead and we know even as we are known. At that point, all of God's people will be ultimately united.

Jonathan