Are Reformed Really this naive?

I try not to keep interacting with Orthodox Bridge.   I certainly can’t comment over there, given their commitment to triumphalist rhetoric.  However, as bad and insulting as some of their articles are, they can be helpful to Protestants.  If you are a Protestant looking at Orthodoxy, yet you also really know what you believe as a Protestant (an increasing rarity), and you see Orthodox guys reading your beliefs as such, you will be insulted.  Similarly, I am doing the Orthodox a favor.  If they will take my comments seriously, they will be better able to help honest seekers who know that the smarter Reformed, even if they are wrong, probably aren’t this intellectually stupid.

I am not going to interact with the whole article.  It is somewhat self-feeding and you get the idea after a while.  It is about a Jewish convert to Orthodoxy who detoured through low church evangelicalism.

The bad news is that often I would decide for myself what the Scriptures meant.

This is ambiguous.   If he is saying “my mental faculties were functioning correctly and I was able to use syntax to figure out what the sentence said” then there is no problem.  This is simply how language works.  If he is saying, “I found out the meaning apart from any interpretive community,” then it is naive.  But no Confessional Reformed church believes that.

I mean, I took sola scriptura (“only the Bible”) seriously!

No, you didn’t.  That is not what sola scriptura means.  It means the Bible is the norm that norms our norms.   If you don’t understand that sentence then you need to quit apologetics for a while and study some more.

Let me hasten to say that the Bible is all God intends it to be. No problem with the Bible. The problem lay in the way I individualized it, subjecting it to my own personal interpretations-some not so bad, others not so good

Every evangelical leans this in the first 5 minutes of hermeneutics 101.

In fact, it seemed to me that the more one held to the Bible as the only source of spiritual authority, the more factious and sectarian one became.

My tradition, the Westminster Confession, explicitly condemns the above statement.

Even the Old Testament was still in the process of formulation, for the Jews did not decide upon a definitive list or canon of Old Testament books until after the rise of Christianity.

This isn’t exactly true.   Paul’s statement that the Jews received the oracles of God would be meaningless if those silly Jews couldn’t identify the oracles of God.

Interestingly, it is this later version of the Jewish canon of the Old Testament, rather than the canon of early Christianity, that is followed by most modern Protestants today.

After Beckwith’s book on the Old Testament, few scholars seriously hold the above line.  Granted, if it falls much of Anchorite apologetics crashes to the ground, so they have a vested interest.

The rest of the article is too painful to continue.  If Orthodox Bridge wants to operate with childish notions of Evangelical scholarship, that is their prerogative.  I know they think that converts by the dozen are fleeing the Evangelical world, but I suspect those numbers are inflated.   I will leave them with some key evangelical works on hermeneutics:

Kevin Vanhoozer, First Theology.

Michael Horton, Covenant and Eschatology

James K. A. Smith, The Fall of Interpretation

Merold Westphal, Whose Community? Which Interpretation?

If you are even remotely familiar with the arguments in the above texts, then you can’t keep with silly posts like above.  If you choose to ignore these above arguments, then you’ve essentially conceded the game.

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15 comments on “Are Reformed Really this naive?

  1. Matthew C says:

    I wish you would interact with them; those guys need somebody to argue with them.

    When a bunch of guys who all agree with each other keep talking, they get sloppy.

  2. John* says:

    Jacob,

    I, too try not to keep interacting with Orthodox Bridge. I, too, certainly can’t comment over there, given their commitment to triumphalist rhetoric.

    It seems to me that they are playing an elementary school game: “My daddy’s bigger than your daddy and if you don’t agree with me, he’ll come round and punch your face in.” Mix this in with a blinkered catechism-approach – where you dare not even think sideways, for fear of being undermined and being found wrong, and the scene is set for a disaster. No more so that with the blinkered immaturity of James Bernstein.

    I, too read this article on OB, and was frankly appalled at the level and degree of ellipsis in the narrative from James. Here follows my jottings that took no more than an hour to collate. Give me time and I could easily critique the whole article in far more detail:

    Torah

    – this had a role in the Jewish Community superior to the Protestant “Sola Scriptura”.

    Yeshiva

    – no mention thereof as the place where the role that Torah played was paramount – Torah supra totus.
    This generated the derivative Jewish approach of Tanak supra totus, and the Judge of the Oral Torah.

    PaRDeS

    – no mention of this as his guiding hermeneutical tool to guide him in his pilgrimage of faith.

    His Marcion elliptical pseudo-history

    – “pure” Marcion was simply a straight line trajectory from Saul (Paul) of Tarsus through Ignatius, (The Epistle of ) Barnabus, and Justin Martyr (as in his Dialogue). Thus delegitimizing the ability to cite the Pauline texts of “My teaching/tradition” etc.

    The assumption of “normative-ness” of the Hellenistic Orbit (I find it difficult to call them “Church”)

    – this is the pure arrogance of Antiochus IV (the “epiphanes”). This de-facto “sanctified” an anti-Judaic and anti-Semitic approach to the First Century, all-Jewish Church of Jerusalem.

    Insidious misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the history of the Protevangelium of James

    – it should have been the Fifth Gospel, playing the same role for the NT as Genesis does for the Torah.
    After Genesis:
    Two Torah: Leviticus and Deuteronomy
    Two History : Exodus and Numbers
    After Protevalgelium:
    Two for primarily the Jews: Matthew and Mark
    Two for world Christianity: Luke and John

    Inability to understand the true reason for extensive debates over the content of the NT Canon in the Greek speaking church

    was totally unwilling to accept the superiority of Jewish input into the process of Canon formation. All non-Pauline writers of the NT were in some way connected to the Jewish Royal Line who were the Presidents of the “Men of the Great Assembly” and had experience in Canonical Tanak Formation.

    Inability to accept that Hellenes had no tight to determine the content of the NT Canon

    – they had NO experience in Tanak formation.

    The relationship between the Bible and the Church

    – the Bible was most certainly born within the Church but its contents was not a product of the Church – it was the Holy Spirit working within the Church and independent of and above any “clergy” of the day. The NT to be an authority superior to all clergy and “church Fathers” and the standard by which all clergy and “church Fathers” would have their “orthodoxy” and orthopraxy determined.

    Question of Authority

    1. Holy Spirit leading the Church – where necessary independent of its clergy
    OR
    2. The Church Clergy pretending to read the mind of God

    The two Greatest Non-Sequiturs of all time:
    # The First Century all-Jewish Church at Jerusalem being the same as the Fourth Century Church of Constantine.
    # The Oral Tradition of First Century all-Jewish Church at Jerusalem being the same as the Hellenised Oral Tradition of the Fourth Century Church of Constantine.
    Too much change had happened between these two “snapshots in time” to credibly make the linkage tout court.
    At least 80% of the Oral Tradition of the First Century all-Jewish Jerusalem Church was shared material with their non-Messianic counterparts, and most of it found its way into the Mishna. Is there any trace of the Mishna in any Hellenised “church Tradition” of Constantine, especially in the light of Constantine’s letter to the First Council regarding the timing of the celebration of Easter?

    The False Question

    – Which came first? – NT or Church.

    His time to decide

    – too many ellipses in front of him to make a soundly-based choice.

    I trust that this assists

    J.

  3. stewardman says:

    John, Bayou, & Jacob,

    A few word on Jacob’s (john’s) supposed martyrdom at the hands of that vicious Robert Arakaki, PhD on the Orthodoxy-Reformed Blog! 😉 It is laughable to all who know Mr. Arakaki and the truth. Jacob is my local friend, and was once one of several very sympathetic Orthodox tutors. He has commented dozens of times on Mr. Arakaki’s Blog, both with sympathy and in opposition – as have a host of other knowledgeable Protestant Pastors and laymen many times. It was only when Jacob suddenly became hostile to Orthodoxy and became increasingly snarky and antagonistic that Robert (a most gentle, patient and Godly man of Okinawan & Hawaiian decent) was forced to reluctantly object and disapprove off-topic and tediously snarky posts. One need only read several of the comments section to see it.

    He also must know that he avoids the point of Father Berstine’s article per the Church historically preceding the canon of the New Testament by centuries. It was a testimonial of his discovery, a recognition that the New Testament canon lagged the Liturgical and Sacramental practice & life of the Church by several centuries. Any charitable reader would know this testimony was not intended as a scholarly polemic against a distinctively Reformed view of Sola Scriptura. Jacob is plenty smart enough to charitable notice this – if he were not so ready to score some easy points via derision and sarcasm. Indeed, he knows well that Dr. Arakaki engaged historic sola scriptura in his Four-Part series on Sola & Solo Scriptura. He begins Part one with a long critical review of Dr. Keith Mathison’s book, The Shape of Sola Scriptura. http://orthodoxbridge.com/contra-sola-scriptura-1-of-4/ This is followed by a blog devoted to The Biblical Basis for Holy Tradition here: http://orthodoxbridge.com/contra-sola-scriptura-part-2-of-4/ This is followed by a historic review of The Humanist Origins of the Protestant Reformation as it relates to Scripture here: http://orthodoxbridge.com/contra-sola-scriptura-part-3-of-4/, the finally Part Four on the fatal flaw in protestant hermeneutics here: http://orthodoxbridge.com/ contra-sola-scriptura-part-4-of-4/ Again, one only has to read the articles and the comments section to see a lively and open debate with knowledgeable Protestant…Jacob included via various names.

    Will these articles persuade all Protestant immediately? Of course not. Most Protestants, converts or not, usually struggle for months & years through various issues here, nor does Robert pretend they are exhaustive. Yet there is enough here to engage most Protestants per the life, worship and practice of the Church during the first several centuries before the new Testament canon was settled. Using Father Berstine’s testimonial as a straw man foil for his polemic is really an uncharitable cheap shot for a man of Jacob’s ability and the bible’s call to charity.
    david e. rockett
    agsteward@gmail.com
    33-yrs plus Reformed/twice PCA Elder father of 8…now Orthodox largely due to the CREC men and others who got me reading — and a host of conversations Jacob/Bayou

    • Here goes:

      Never claimed I was martyred, but even folks critical to me (e.g., Promotheus) specifically took RA to task because he only approved comments he liked.

      ***It was only when Jacob suddenly became hostile to Orthodoxy and became increasingly snarky and antagonistic that Robert (a most gentle, patient and Godly man of Okinawan & Hawaiian decent) was forced to reluctantly object and disapprove off-topic and tediously snarky posts. ***

      That is anecdotal and subjective. Several of my posts specifically dealt with key issues RA raised (like on Nevin) and he dodged them.

      ***He also must know that he avoids the point of Father Berstine’s article per the Church historically preceding the canon of the New Testament by centuries***

      I never denied the church existed before the NT canon. I was attacking conclusions Bernstein drew from that (and rebutting factual errors he made on the OT canon).

      ***It was a testimonial of his discovery, a recognition that the New Testament canon lagged the Liturgical and Sacramental practice & life of the Church by several centuries. Any charitable reader would know this testimony was not intended as a scholarly polemic against a distinctively Reformed view of Sola ***

      His comments were specifically aimed at the inadequacy of sola s. He even admittd as much by saying he was a “strong proponent of sola scriptura.”

      As per RA’s posts on Mathison, I might review those. I’ll have to do them here. They will end up in inter-limbo otherwise. SUffice to say I think Mathison misread Heiko Oberman and neither Mathison nor his critics really understand what Oberman meant.

    • John* says:

      Sewardman,

      Thank you for your illuminating reply. I, too can only agree with “Bayou” with this, although not in specific connection with the “Prometheus” he cites:
      “ Never claimed I was martyred, but even folks critical to me (e.g., Promotheus) specifically took RA to task because he only approved comments he liked.”

      Some time ago, RA posted a critical memo specifically aimed at Bayou describing him as a “resident naysayer”, and encouraging “positive” posts (whatever he meant by that). Thereafter, very little of cutting-edge Bayou was released for public view on RA’s blog. Since that posting by RA, the volume of posts on OB has declined precipitously. OB is now little more that a back-slapping club of bonhommie ever-appreciative of RA’s “pearls of wisdom”.

      Jacob’s critique of OB would come across as “snarkiness” to someone with an insecure position to defend and themselves insecure in that insecure position.

      I find an echo of this in my own posts:
      “ Several of my posts specifically dealt with key issues RA raised (like on Nevin) and he dodged them.”

      While I did not raise Nevin, as did Jacob, my posts specifically challenged the Orthodox position on the Vincentian Canon, the illegitimacy of Hellenism in the Church, and the authority of Scripture in the Church, and RA likewise dodged them. On the VC, Jacob in his site sidebar has excerpted them with his commentary.

      Once you concede that Hellenism has no place in the Church, as Jacob is beginning to explore (see his “De-hellenizing the Old Testament” Aug 10″) many Orthodox dominoes start to fall, all of which fundamentally and fatally undermine the Orthodox position on many major issues:

      1. It destroys the legitimacy of the entire LXX project and condemns the LXX as a sub-canonical and unreliable paraphrase, and not a legitimate Canonical-level translation.
      2. Once the LXX is gone as a legitimate Bible (as for the 1st Century NT Church), the entire project of translating the non-Pauline NT corpus into Greek after 135CE is likewise rendered illegitimate (as is their bone-lazy use of the LXX in the NT), as is Paul’s use of Greek as his Lingua Textus.
      3. Once these first two are conceded, the entire praxis of doing theology in Greek is rendered illegitimate and unreliable – subverting the vast majority of “Church Fathers” as now unreliable interpreters of Scripture, given their near obsessive use of Allegory and Symbolism in their hermeneutical methodology.
      4. Once these three have been conceded, the entire use of Greek as a valid and legitimate Lingua Liturgica is successfully challenged, rendering the entire chain of liturgical dependence on Greek-language liturgies suspect and unreliable. This fundamentally challenges and renders suspect the entire Orthodox project of “Liturgical Theology”.
      As a related issue forming #4A from #3 in the above development sequence is the issue of the Orthodox Hagiographical Method – which itself is a direct derivative on the pagan Greek “Ode”. This is not sound history as is understood in the Jewish Hebrew Tradition, and renders both the text of the hagiographical narrative and its use in the development of “Hagiographical Theology” a dangerous and misleading corpus of material – better left unused. As an example, the Orthodoxwiki “biography” on Luke is little more than pious wishful thinking, largely devoid of fact and dateable material – given the fact that we can almost to the month date both the Gospel ministry-sequence of Jesus; and Pauline history – especially that of Acts.
      5. Once these five issues have been dealt with, the issue of the continuing legacy of Antiochus IV (the “epiphanes”) in the Greek-Orbit Church is confronted next, generating a profound reappraisal of fundamental Ecclesiology provoking a re-thing on the Schism between Church and Synagogue and the role Hellenism played in it. Once Hellenism is condemned in this Church-Synagogue Ecclesiological Schism, the entire legitimacy of the Hellenistic Orbit as being a valid “continuation” of the First Century all-Jewish Church is questioned, exposing the claim of the Orthodox vaunted “unbroken continuity” since the beginning as nugatory.

      Even at this point, severe fatal damage in many areas has arisen, which is apparently too much for RA and his coterie on OB. I have tried to patiently and gently probe these issues with RA, but to no avail.

      I could go on, but I think that this small offering may whet the appetite for more.

      As I draw to the end of an all-too-short reflection on RA and OB, I find him a somewhat schizoid individual – a Jekyll and Hyde persona:
      A: When you are agreeing with him (as in his role as teacher and you as his respectful apprentice), he can be quite personable, affable and welcoming. Something you quite rightly observe.
      B: When you are challenging his core foundations, he gets nervy, and if your challenge to him is too profound, he will pay you the ultimate insult by blocking you so as to not reveal an alternative point of view to that of his on his blog.

      It is this latter side that both Jacob and I have experienced – each for our own issues. And which he has never shown to you. While Jacob and I are not clones of each other – with the same interests as each other, as he will only too readily agree, on a few key issues, we are in an in-principle agreement, in pursuit of Pliate’s question: “Quod est veritas?”

      I trust that this assists.
      J.

  4. John* says:

    Jacob,

    A few minutes ago, I tried to post something neutral to OB in response to:

    “An Orthodox Critique of the Cultural/Dominion Mandate”

    Erik says:
    August 16, 2014 at 4:23 am

    Just to test if I was a persona grata there.

    Within 3 seconds of hitting “post”, I got this message:

    “ERROR: Your comment appears to be spam. We don’t really appreciate spam here.

    Please go back and try to say something useful.”

    There was no attempt to even moderate it.

    It was auto-deleted before moderation could take place.

    stewardman – August 10, 2014 at 9:27 am – For your information.

    I refer to my post of August 10, 2014 at 8:26 pm at point “B” above.

  5. stewardman says:

    For the record, Jacob has replied a seven times & Erik 5 times, of the 37 comments in about a week after this Orthodox-Reformed post just mentioned…as have several other gracious protestants. The longest by far was Erik’s post of disagreement, defending Rushdoony. 😉 Fact is, Robert Arakaki is kind and gracious. And typically…ad hominem attacks on a person normally means your argument has little substance. 😉 Just go read the blogs there & comment to see.
    http://orthodoxbridge.com/an-orthodox-critique-of-the-culturaldominion-mandate/#comment-87615

    • He’s approved my comments because I am attacking theonomy. The moment I start asking questions outside the pre-established realm of discourse, I am sure those comments will never see the light of day. I have a number of issues on scale-of-being ontology, Hellenism, Reformed historiography, etc that don’t fit in the neat pop-Reformed apologetics categories. Those comments will never see the light of day.

  6. stewardman says:

    Oh, Ok I see. Any obscure off-topic fringe issue you imagine is a “problem” for orthodoxy should be aired without any restraint whatsoever, at your whim. [Why not provide this sort of essential service to legion of followers here on your Blog?] But then I know Robert and the way he’s run the blog from the beginning. He’s more than fair and you know it. IF the comment is related to the topic at hand, and presented as a sincere inquiry (not a snarky bomb to score point with your buddies) we both know Robert will deal with it openly…or if fringe/obscure [NOT a mainstream Orthodox belief & praxis] ask that it be taken private.

    • John* says:

      stewardman,

      Just a little question for you:

      Can you account for a maximum 10 *second* interval between posting a comment and –
      A: the above automated message, and
      B: the automatic deletion of the putative post?

      Are we to believe that RA :
      1. is actually on line at that time in the morning (US time) to actually see the putative comment the moment it is posted, and
      2. is such a fast reader that he can both scan and appreciate its contents so fast that he
      3. is able to manually send such a message as above and
      4. delete the putative post without trace . . .

      All within 10 *seconds*.?

      I support Bayou’s posts of August 18, 2014 at 3:36 pm, and August 18, 2014 at 7:45 pm.

      Any lateral comment (either apparent or real) that lays the foundation for the refutation of “RA’s” article is deemed an “obscure off-topic fringe issue” and receives the treatment as indicate by Bayou above.

      Every time I attempt to post anything on any topic, I get this standard message:

      “ERROR: Your comment appears to be spam. We don’t really appreciate spam here.

      Please go back and try to say something useful.”

      And when I go back to check to see whether it is in the queue for moderation, it is not there – even 10 seconds later.

      I, too have questioned the legitimacy of Hellenism in the Church, and even this is apparently too much for RA. See my post above of August 10, 2014 at 8:26 pm for the implications of the elimination of Hellenism for the Church, and this is just the start.

      I commend Bayou for his further explorations on this topic of Hellenism in other threads, and while I may not take the same tack as he does, we both share serious, major reservations on the presence of Hellenism in the Church.

      I challenge you with this apparent series of “hypotheticals”:

      > What shape would the Church’s Doctrine, Faith, Worship and Practice have been had Hellenism never been there to make a contribution?

      > Would the schism between Church and Synagogue either have taken place at all, or if it did, have been as radical and ultimately as acrimonious and fatal to the Jewish Community over the centuries?

      > Would Adolph Hitler been able to claim with complete legitimacy that he was merely “completing the work of the Church” – as exemplified in Martin Luther and John Chrysostom (who both formed their anti-Judaic position from the position of the Selucid Antiochus IV – the “epiphanes”) – – – and the Church could have nothing to say because to say anything would admit to the accuracy of Hitler’s retort?

      > Would we have ever seen the rise of the anti-Semitic Russian Romanovs? And thus the May Laws of the late 1800’s, the rise of Konstantin Pobedonetsov and Nicholas II?

      These four “hypotheticals” alone seem to challenge RA to the core of his being. And seem to frighten him into some sort of irrational series of fear-responses.

      Bayou’s thread-heading that started this whole discussion-thread thus generates a “No, but . . .” response which follows up with “. . . but they are willing to be wittingly and deliberately ignorant when it comes to core shibboleths that must not be admitted-to in Orthodoxy if these shibboleths both challenge and refute Orthodox positions refined over time.Here, only standard catechism-answers are to be given, with no deviation therefrom permitted – very much like a horse with blinkers on who can only see the road ahead, and nothing sideways from this path”

      I trust that this assists.

      • John* says:

        the “they: in the above post was put that way to test stewardman. The “they” in question, as context demands, are actually the Orthodox. We will see if the pro-RA stewardman makes anything of it.

  7. By fringe issues you mean stuff published by Baker Academic, Cambridge, and Oxford University?

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