09 August 2006

Before Dan comes up with another post ...

by Frank Turk

I’m taking some flack from readers because I’m only posting at my personal blog rather than here at TeamPyro, so on the one hand I’m thinking, “Who knew people read teamPyro for my posts? I thought I was filler of the sake of stringing people along until Phil can paste a post together.” On the other hand I’m thinking, “Geez, I don’t want to end up like Pecadillo as a sort of token blog member.”

I have been blogging about a couple of things over at my site – like Baptist prohibitionism and the matter of whether or not most people exercise or demonstrate the actual doctrine of separation rather than some thin-skinned phobic response to imperfect people. And for the record, these topics are mostly denominational, which is why I have sort of not blogged them here – we’d like to have TeamPyro be a little more broadly-interesting than Southern Baptist navel-gazing. You know: especially since I’m the only decent Southern Baptist on the team.

Anyway, I had something that I have been mulling over since yesterday which started when I told Ed Komoszewski that Daniel Wallace was a Greek scholar and not a NT scholar – which was a rather glib statement, I have to admit. This is where I am Right Now What I’m thinking about is this: we would all be served much better in our Christian walks – especially when we are talking about discernment issues – if we spent our time reading and thinking about things in the way they are intended to be received rather than getting very geeked up about something which, superficially, sounds pretty bad.



Let me give you two examples. The first would be me personally – especially my penchant for sarcasm. Like yesterday when I chided Phil into making graphics for the blog to prop up a rating system for when we review books or whatever. That was sarcasm for the sake of berating Phil into doing something I would have done if I had the time, but if you were looking for a fight you could have taken what I said as insults.

“Oh heavens! TeamPyro is coming apart at the seams and it’s all that Turk fellow’s fault! Look how he treats his host Phil – and Phil’s a pastor!

Well, everyone needs a hobby I guess, and for me it’s sarcasm – but for some it seems to be finding trouble where there is none. There’s no reason, in our example here, to think that there’s more to it than the common fare of TeamPyro baiting. It’s how we interact. We’re men, and we don’t break down into tears the first time a buddy gives us a verbal smack in the arm. (no offense, ladies)(...and speaking of a statement that’s bound to start up a controversy ...)

My second example would be whether or not we can “trust” Dr. Wallace regarding how to interpret the NT. I have significantly nuanced my glib 2-liner to Ed K. in the meta, but in saying Dr. Wallace is a Greek Scholar and not a “NT scholar”, let’s rest assured that I didn’t mean he’s someone who doesn’t handle the text of the NT. I meant that his forte is the text and the language, but not the theology. Is that wrong to say, really? It’s like saying that I’m a pretty good blogger but not much of a political commentator – I think that’s fair, and it makes a fine distinction.

In saying what I did about Dr. Wallace, I was making a distinction (and I made it poorly – I admit it) between being a theology guy and being a language guy. To make a poor comparison, Kurt Aland is a wildly-talented language guy – most of us bank on his scholarship to use a translation of the NT in English. However, I wouldn’t give you the change in my pocket for his theology -- unless you'd let me throw it away for you. He can be someone in whom we trust on an academic question like which variant most likely captures the earliest source, but then he can also be someone whom we ignore when he starts running down the idea of inerrancy – because that’s not his field.

I happen to have a copy of Wallace’s Greek Grammar beyond the Basics because all kinds of people make ignorant statements about “what the Greek really says” based on ... complete ignorance of Greek. It’s handy to have Wallace’s summary (for example) of the many layers of meaning under the subjunctive mood as you might see on pp. 461-480 when someone else tries (mistakenly) to leverage the subjunctive into a one-dimensional mood of doubt or uncertainty. By no means does it make me a scholar of Greek.

But I bring it up for this reason: Dr. Wallace sees the correct understanding of Greek as absolutely necessary for the purpose of proper exegesis. He says so in the preface of his text:

too much exegesis is not properly based on syntax; too many works on syntax show little concern for exegesis. The result of this dichotomy is that intermediate students do not see the relevance of syntax for exegesis, and exegetes often misuse syntax in their exegesis. This work attempts to offer an initial corrective to this situation by properly grounding the exegesis in the idiom of the language and by orienting the syntax to its exegetical value.[pg x]
Dr. Wallace is trying to advocate for a comprehensive critical literary view of Greek – which really is a very robust underpinning for those of us who say we are inerrantists.

In that, he’s advocating for a robust text in the NT – one which is not some kind of flat, linguistic calculus that yields only one byte of information per annotated verse. And when he says something like, “Luke changes the meaning of Christ’s words” in a paper on some portion of the NT, he is not advocating for some quackery that demands that Luke was a scoundrel who was trying to make a Jesus relevant to his own time through ammendation and distortion: he is making the right-minded decision to believe that some human being with a writing instrument wrote down that passage we are reading, and he had some motivation for writing which the text reveals by what it says.

But in all of that, Dr. Wallace is specifically not doing something, and with good reason: he is not trying to make some passage fit into a systematic theology. That doesn’t mean he’s trying to roust up some heretical truffles from the mud of the text because that’s how he maintains his tenure: it means his approach to the text -- because of his expertise and his training -- is specifically text first, theology second without any regard for denomination or confession. That is, in his view we should be masters of what the text says, in the way it says it, for the purpose it says it, before we start affirming confessional drama or making homiletic points.

He’s not a theologian: he’s a language guy, and his specialty is the NT. In that, he has something valuable to offer us – even if it’s not systematics, and even if some of it superficially seems to poke our confessional standards in the chest. And in this case, I think it’s OK to get poked in the chest – because the source of the poking happens to be the word of God.

But all that said, and getting back to my main point, I don’t think Ed K. somehow misunderstood me. I was too glib – but the reaction to Dr. Wallace was something else: I think that the disagreement in the meta looks a lot like a lot of blogospheric disagreements in which one side is so church-bent on affirming a confessional standard that it misses something of critical importance that the one(s) it is criticizing are saying which would improve the critics’ walk substantially.

This opens a lot of other cans of worms up – like what do I mean by “confessional standards”? And who is this post for, specifically – do I have anyone in particular in mind? Do I include myself, or am I exempt from the criticism because of course if I can see it in others it must not be a part of my own repertoire?

Yeah, I dunno. I’m thinking about it and I’ll get back to you.









26 comments:

Kim said...

Well, everyone needs a hobby I guess, and for me it’s sarcasm

I tried to convince my family once that sarcasm was a "love language" but they didn't buy it.

I can actually be a very sarcastic person, but as you so accurately pointed out, as a woman I'm very thin-skinned, so I try to keep its use to a minimum in public.

centuri0n said...

Sarcasm is a spiritual gift. I'm completely convinced -- it's the only way that non-cessationsist can make their point. For example, look at Spurgeon -- never spoke in tongues, but he had a car-o-nine-tails for a tongue.

Who can doubt that kind of reasoning?

centuri0n said...

That should be "cat-o-9-tails". sorry.

Gummby said...

Kim: plus, with so many sarcasm specialists in our circles, it's hard to even keep a foot in the ring even if you would desire to be sarcastic. Reminds me of the Sumo Wrestling Championships on ESPN2, when the poor skinny Americans go up against the huge Japanese wrestlers--you just know those guys don't stand a chance.

Frank: I thought your hobby was collecting sidekicks!?

Oh, and if we're calling Sarcasm your spiritual gift, I'll nominate Typos as your thorn in the flesh.

Trinian said...

Subjunctives are the free plastic dinosaur in my sugary breakfast cereal.

~Trinian

TEXpresby said...

Turkmeister,

It SEEMS your hem is showing...which is what happens when things come apart at the SEAMS.

Sarcastically yours brother!

TEX

centuri0n said...

PREBSY YOU CHANNEL RAT!

Oh booyah -- my friends kill me.

centuri0n said...

btw, tex, I have no idea what you're talking about. I thought you were kicking me for a typo, but I can't find it.

TEXpresby said...

Ahem,

It SEEMS that either someone has done some quick editing, or I am losing my eyesight (which is a distinct possibility).

perhaps it is only my sanity that is coming apart at the SEAMS.

your friendly neighborhood channel rat,

TEX

Libbie said...

*runs away, sobbing at the cruel slight about women's ability to deal with sarcasm*

LeeC said...

Now look what you've done to poor Libbie. I'm telling ya this bickering and in-fighting has got to stop!
Or as my word verification would say "Mukazdau!"

Steve said...

*slaps his knee and guffaws at the "only a guy would understand" remark*

Annette Harrison said...

"This opens a lot of other cans of worms up . . ."

"worms UP"? And just how high "UP" would that be?

Add grammar to your thorn in the flesh.

(I know, I know . . . nasty me! Couldn't resist!!!)

Kim said...

Gummby:

Kim: plus, with so many sarcasm specialists in our circles, it's hard to even keep a foot in the ring even if you would desire to be sarcastic.

Actually, to be 100% honest, it's more of an issue that I can dish it out, but I can't take it!

Kim said...

Libbie, you crack me up!

Carla said...

I'm glad I know nothing of sarcasm...

J. Ed Komoszewski said...

These are good thoughts, Frank. Many of them resonate with my own.

One of my biggest concerns is for unity in the body of Christ. Yes, there are places where we must draw lines in the sand, stake out our territory, and dig in our heels. But too often we do this with respect to things that are not ultimately matters of life and death, heaven and hell. And, sadly, we often do it before we even understand what we’re fighting against. Such is the plight of our sinful, reactionary natures.

The fact is that there are many regenerate, Christ-centered, Scripture-focused men and women with whom I disagree on particular things. Important things. Even things that affect the health of the church. But not necessarily things that threaten the life of the church.

When it comes to the latter things, I’m more than ready to shed the gloves. There’s simply no room for compromise on stuff like the deity and bodily resurrection of Christ, the Trinity, or salvation by grace alone. But when it comes to the former things, things of non-salvific importance, I owe it to godly, well-trained, and well-spoken individuals to actually listen to what they’re saying. And once I’ve listened, and listened some more, I need to let things simmer and stew. Perhaps then I’ll come closer to understanding the viewpoints of brothers and sisters with whom I disagree.

Now, I confess that I don’t sleep with a copy of Thomas’ and Farnell’s Jesus Crisis under my pillow, if you get my drift. But I have the book. I study it. And I try to understand where they’re coming from. After all, they’re competent scholars with deep devotions to Christ. I don’t appreciate anyone summarily dismissing them by calling them “uptight fundies” (as I’ve heard them called before) any more than I like people calling critical, believing scholars like Dan Wallace, Darrell Bock, or Craig Blomberg “liberals in evangelical garb” (as I’ve likewise heard them called). Such reactionary antics are childish and accomplish nothing in the end. What’s more, they destroy any potential for fruitful dialog before it even starts.

So, Frank, my own quibbles don’t have anything to do with people disagreeing with Dan Wallace or me. My beef is that people are quick to reach for the pitchforks, and they’re more than willing to thrust them in the dark before ever reaching for their torchlights. And where that mentality rules, there’s no hope for forming a united front before an unbelieving world.

We’re all going to be on the same side in eternity, so why not start acting like it now?

Peter D. Nelson said...

Okay Frank I confess it I read TeamPyro for Dan and Phil's works not yours. Now see what you made me go and do.

Besides ever since that "marriage" post of yours at your blog I can never go back to looking at your blog as a place for my daily dose of sarcasm.

Finrod said...

Douglas Moo, in his excellent commentary on Romans in the NICNT series, makes a telling and humorous statement. Somewhere - I can't find the exact verse; sorry - he offers his translation and comment on the verse and then, almost as an aside, says that he's glad he's an exegete and not a systematic theologian who would have to reconcile this verse with other passages!

I think, if I understand you correctly, he's making the same point you are making regarding Dan Wallace.

Phil Johnson said...

centuri0n: one of your graphics isn't working. Can you fix it?

J. Ed: I appreciate what you're saying about pitchforks and itchy trigger-fingers (if you can get past my mixed metaphors).

However, in an age where the evangelical movement is in rapid flux and fairly seething with miscreants, I'm not going to agree with anyone up front that I'll embrace him and his views no matter what he says. Putting Dan Wallace at the center of our little group hug may be a bit premature.

For the reasons I cited in my latest post in the previous thread, I think it's perfectly right for someone to raise the hard questions about where Dan Wallace stands on inerrancy. He has deliberately set himself apart from the stance defended by ICBI, or it seems so from his article about Bart Ehrman.

The quotes that were cited by Doutell I had never seen before, and you dismissed them by an appeal to context without saying anything about what that context was. In the context of the Ehrman piece, however, those statements look troubling. Since we're all trying to get along, here, I hope you will try to grasp why some of us aren't quite prepared to set the inerrancy question aside as an irrelevancy.

Phil Johnson said...

centuri0n: Nevermind. I fixed the rogue graphic. Your html code had a stray hyphen in it.

J. Ed Komoszewski said...

Phil (and others),

I’d never ask anyone to blithely set aside their concerns about biblical issues. And I’m not much of a hugger.

But you’ll get a rise out of me every time that someone who, for various reasons, should be given the benefit of the doubt (even if not wholly embraced) but instead finds himself the target of an attempted theological lynching. That’s even truer when the guy who’s the target is a friend, confidant, and partner in ministry.

I think, and I trust, that I’ve made clear my primary beef with this blog over the past few days. In spite of the fact that Dan Wallace calls himself an inerrantist, signs the DTS doctrinal statement, signs the ETS doctrinal statement, is courted by numerous evangelical schools, serves on the pastoral staff of an evangelical church, has the endorsement of top-notch evangelical scholars, and has produced a wealth of writings defending a high view of Scripture, people here have been tripping over themselves to ready the noose.

And what’s worse is that people here are willing, and in many cases, eager, to let a few snippets from something they’ve never seen firsthand undermine all the stuff noted in the paragraph above. Do I expect the above to fully satisfy people here? Of course not. I’d be disappointed if it did! But I do expect that it gives reason for pause, as people realize how unlikely it is that all of those institutions and individuals have gone to hell in a handbasket.

Look at Dan’s writings--a wide assortment of them. Read Reinventing Jesus. And if you choose to contact Dan to ask for clarification on something, drop the pitchfork while you’re listening. The conversation will go better. Besides, you’ll know where he is if you decide to pick it up again.

centuri0n said...

I hate it when my really good visuals -- like "torch and pitchfork" -- get used against me (or my buds here at TeamPyro).

centuri0n said...

And I'm looking for something I thought I posted here yesterday evening, and somehow it didn't stick.

Shoot.

David said...

NET Bible

You shouldn't be without it.

J. Ed Komoszewski said...

Some folks here will be interested to know that Dan Wallace has weighed in on the controversy surrounding his bibliology.

His article entitled “My Take on Inerrancy” can be found here:

www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=4200