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Why I Don’t Trust My Own “Scholarship”

Those who know me, know that I am an easy target for a good laugh. There is a certain part of my brain that I am convinced has never functioned. It is that part which has to do with remembering, among other things, names and faces. I remember when I watched Grease as a kid. I liked the movie, but I could not understand why “Danny” (John Travolta) ended up with a new girl other than “Sandy” (Olivia Newton John) at the end of the movie. I came to realize many years later that it was not a new girl, just Sandy with a different hairdo! Then, the movie made much more sense.

The other morning, I came into the Credo House and made my way back to my office. I mingled with all the people at different tables and finally sat down at my desk. I opened my computer to find an email that had just come in from a guy who wanted to say how nice it was to see me again (the first time since our time at seminary together) and, how happy he was that I started the Credo House. I did not quite remember who he was, but I was determined to express cordial words in a way that would not undermine our renewed “friendship” that must have been forged recently.  Immediately, I wrote him back (why couldn’t I have waited for just a couple of hours?), “It was great to see you again too. You should stop by the Credo House sometime.” His reply came back two minutes later, “I am here right now.” My face turned red. I got up and peeked outside my office door, looking at all the people with whom I had just mingled, wondering which one he was. Finally, I just shut the door and sighed, wondering once again why this part of my brain does not work. I have dozens of other stories just like that.

This begs the question: Who do I think I am teaching eternal truths, when I can’t even remember the most basic, everyday, temporal happenings? If I don’t really trust my memory, can I trust my theological “scholarship”? So much of what I believe and teach is built upon stories, information, and “facts” that I don’t even really know are true, since I can’t, for the most part, remember exactly from where they came. I have just said some things, told some stories, and relayed some information so many times that I don’t think about it anymore. For example, in class session 4 of The Theology Program, I talk about the rise of Modernism through the story of Rene Descartes (the “father of modernism”). I tell about his “Dutch oven” epiphany. I tell about how he would not come out of this oven until he found a legitimate (indeed, indubitable) source for his knowledge. Ironically, I don’t know where I first heard this story about the Dutch oven. I am not sure about the legitimacy (much less indubitability) of my source! I am fairly certain I did not make it up out of thin air, but the fact remains that I don’t really remember from where it came. But even if I could remember it came, for instance, from a book, encyclopedia, or biography, this fact would not guarantee that the person from whom I originally received this information was accurately remembering or representing his sources. Even if it was an autobiography, I have no guarantee that Descartes, himself, remembered things correctly.

But don’t get too haughty. I know that I may have a personal memory “condition” (which I am calling prosopagnosia, for now!), but I don’t really trust your “scholarship” that much either. You have a memory condition. After all, you are not perfect. You have bias, age, lifestyles, hopes, legacy, commitments, and pride (not to mention the glue you sniffed when you were a kid) which affect your memory.  Furthermore, even if you had a perfect memory, that does not mean you have the ability to process information with impunity. You are selective in what you choose to know, focus on, and evangelize. Some things you will choose to forget.  Others will become part of the story you tell people. However, you really don’t have an objective basis to know which things deserve to be timeless and which can be discarded. You have plenty of Rene Descartes’ Dutch oven stories too. These are all the things, personal or academic, which you have repeated so many times that, by virtue of their mere repetition, have become fact in your mind.

The problem is that we often carry these stories with an incredible amount of confidence, being unwilling to critically examine their credibility. There was a recent book by Kathryn Schulz called Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margins of Error in which she argues that our perceived personal certainty is not as sure as we often like to think.  (Watch an intriguing video here that will give you the essence of her argument.)  In it she gives the example of what psychologists call “flash-bulb” memories. For example, where were you when you first heard about 9/11? I have been asking this question all morning to people at the Credo House.  Just about everyone can answer without hesitation. Tim, my executive director, went into great detail (exhausting detail!) about what he was doing. Why? Because these things represent impactful events, and our brain registers them differently. Even I can  remember where I was! (I was at my apartment on Preston Rd, just about to leave for work.) Well . . . not according to Kathryn Schulz. I just think I remember, but there is a ninety-three percent chance that my memory is not serving me correctly. That is right. Studies of “flash-bulb memories” – the type of memories about which we are most convicted – have shown that only seven percent of these memories are accurate. After 9/11, this was tested. People were asked to describe what they remembered about the event the day after 9/11. Three years later, the same group was brought in again and asked to recount a second time their memory of the same event. The result was that only seven percent had the same stories the second time around. Schulz’s point is that trusting too much that you are correct in a situation like this is dangerous.

She is not the only one who makes such observations. Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson make similar points in their book Mistakes Were Made but Not by Me. About our memories, they say:

Memories are often pruned and shaped by an ego-enhancing bias that blurs the edges of past events, and softens culpability, and distorts what really happened. . . Over time, as the self-serving distortions of memory kick in, we forget or distort past events. we may come to believe our own lies little by little. (p. 6)

Tavris, Aronson, and Schulz all have brought to mind our own subjective cerebral frailty. They have called for epistemic humility and self-criticism due to the fact that we are so often wrong. What is the solution? Tavris and Aronson call on us all to “fess up” to our mistakes and ignorance. Schulz pleads with us to open ourselves up to the contributions of other minds, instead of letting our own subjective emotional convictions cement our beliefs. According to her, knowledge needs to be “open source” as we invite critique. They have all brought into question much more than just accuracy in our knowledge of names, faces, and plots of classic movies.  Admission of our own ignorance needs to be applied to family life, the medical field, science, car sales and, God forbid, politics. But, what does this mean for Christianity? What does this say about our assurance of Christ? How can we be asked to hold on to our most assured and precious beliefs more loosely?

Unfortunately, the much needed critique can be spun. Some of the more liberal side will take this information and say, “See, we can’t really know anything at all.” Others on the more conservative side will feel threatened and retreat to the “burning in the bosom” justification. However, not only will Christianity absorb such a call for humility, it continually calls for it. Let me give a few points here:

1. Christians need to be honest with themselves.

We don’t know that much. And I don’t just mean Christians don’t know that much. I mean man doesn’t know that much. Our delusions of grandeur often outweigh our three pound brain (two and a half pounds if you are a girl – sorry, just reporting the facts as I . . . ahem . . . remember them). Paul tells the Corinthians: “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). There is a whole lot which we may be wrong about, individually and corporately. Maybe “wrong about” is not where I want to go right now. How about this: There is a whole lot on which we are out of focus. Therefore, it is only “dimly” perceived. In life and in doctrine, we can overstate our case. We need to open ourselves up the the possibility that we could be wrong.

2. Christians need to speak with disarming honesty.

We need to be able to admit when we are or were wrong. And this is not simply a “be-ready-just-in-case” thing. We are and have been wrong and others know it already. As Tavris and Aronson say, “Would you rather admit you’re wrong now or wait until someone else proves it?” (p. 221). How many arguments are lost mid-argument, but the losing arguer continues pressing his point to preserve his pride? How many people have you ever seen concede a formal debate? Think about it: what if you were watching a debate and one party stopped and said, “You’re right.” No, “buts…” Not even a, “You won the debate, I lost” (as that is not saying enough). But a “You’re right; I’m wrong.” I don’t know about you, but that type of honesty would completely disarm me and endear me to the one who conceded. Why? Because I would then perceive that the person was more concerned with the truth than their reputation. Ironically, their reputation would gain ground in ways that all the right answers in the world could never achieve. I think some of us Christians need to do some serious rethinking. I’m beginning to think it is equally important not just to have the right information, but to go out of our way to admit when we have the wrong information.

3. We need to admit our need for others.

Before I come across as a wholesale advocate of Tavris, Aronson, and Schulz and the ideas they offer, let this point and the next buffer such thoughts. This stuff is nothing novel for Christians. I know I have already said as much, but it bears repeating. We have not just discovered that we have been wrong, with a great gasp. The Bible offers many of these same encouragements. In fact, in support of Schulz, I seem to remember somewhere in the Bible that says, “The fool is right in his own eyes; but he who is wise listens to counselors” (Prov. 12:15; cf. Prov. 3:7; 14:16; ). Only the Lord knows the truth in an infallible way. We don’t even completely know ourselves at present, much less in the past. (Prov. 16:2; 30:12). We need to seek the help of others and to give them permission to correct us at the deepest level.

4. Saying that we have some things wrong does not mean that we have everything wrong.

Lest we sink into despair, we need to remember that being wrong about some details does not translate into being wrong about the main events. Mike Licona, author of The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, tells the story about the sinking of the Titanic in relation to the certainty that we can have about our faith even in the face of (what seems to some to be) conflicting testimony surrounding the events of the resurrection of Christ. When the Titanic went down, some of the survivors say that it broke in two and then sank. Others said that it went down intact. Which was it? Well, until explorers took underwater pictures, the conflicting testimony left us without assurance. Later, we found out that the Titanic did indeed go down in one piece. How could two groups of people watching the same event have been in disagreement about such a detail? One group was wrong and the other was right. However, we must stop and realize that while some were wrong about this detail, no one was wrong about the main event: the Titanic sank that night.

I have not seen the studies Schulz referenced concerning “flash-bulb” memories, but I think these two observations need to be made: 1) Though only seven percent of the people remembered what they were doing on 9/11 with perfection, it goes without saying that one hundred percent remembered 9/11. In other words, 9/11 did happen, and everyone interviewed agrees about this central fact. As well, I imagine that if we were to look at the study closely, we would see that most of the major details were still the same. It is probably just some of the minor details that were inconsistent between the two interviews. Still fascinating? Sure. But it lacks the intrigue (or provocativeness) of an unqualified “only seven percent remembered correctly.” And (just throwing this out there) doesn’t the unqualified “only seven percent remembered correctly” manipulate the data in precisely the way that we are talking about? It serves as a good illustration for Tavris and Aronson’s “mistakes” and manipulations that are not easy to admit. 2) Why should I trust what Schulz says about the seven percent anyway? After all, if the best memories we have have a ninety-three percent chance of being wrong, what does that say of her memory of the study she sources? What is ninety-three percent of ninety-three?!

In short, I think the authors of these books make some incredibly biblical observations with which Christians need to wrestle (though, to my knowledge, they are not Christian). I appreciate intellectual honesty quite a bit. But I don’t like it when it turns into the “we can’t know anything at all” type stuff. My memory does play favorites and I don’t have perfect cognitive discernment on all things. Sometimes, I trust my “scholarship” and, sometimes, I don’t. I need to be able to admit when I am wrong and recognize that I need help. However, I think I am justified in believing that Danny did end up getting the girl, Descartes did have an epiphany, the Titanic did sink, and 9/11 did happen. And, most importantly, I am justified in teaching eternal truths. Why? Because the possibility of being wrong does not equate to the probability of being wrong. When it does, we have adopted the insanity of hyper-skepticism that won’t function in any area of life.

40 Responses to “Why I Don’t Trust My Own “Scholarship””

  1. Sorry CMP, let me be the first to say this: You are getting OLD! };P~ (And if you know what that Smilie is you are even older!)

    Actually I just read the first couple of lines and boy can I empathize with you. I’ll be back to finish reading the post and comment further, but I’ve had the same problems as you and it has gotten much worse for me in the past few years. Come to think of it since I’ve had children. Hmm.

    Well I’ve got to keep working on my goal for this year. To live long enough to qualify for the McDonald’s Senior Coffee. Less than 30 days to go!! Woo Hoo!

  2. BlueCat: I love Micky D’s coffee, black and large! But since I am a Brit I just pay the full price. I drink it almost every a.m.!

  3. *applause*

    A+ for selection of topic for thesis
    A+ for presentation
    A+ for conclusion, with the exception for the last two sentences.

    the possibility of being wrong does not equate to the probability of being wrong. When it does, we have adopted the insanity of hyper-skepticism that won’t function in any area of life.

    That only applies to the set “non charismatic”, really, doesn’t it? LOL

    Good post.

    / H-man

  4. Loved your thoughts, Michael!

  5. Wonderful!!!

    I can tell you from my dealings with atheists that perhaps the most significant things that turns them off to Christians and Christianity is our certainty, our unwillingness to *really* question our sources, our willingness to accept data that supports our theologies, and our inability to consider data that would contradict it.

    John Hutchinson said “An unthinking faith is a curious gift to offer the creator of the human mind.”

    While we may be unclear as to the details of “how Christianity works,” that in no way takes away from the fact that the Bible is the word of God, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he came to seek and to save those who are lost.

  6. Mike O – Funny, that’s exactly what turns me off to atheists. They claim to be “thinking people” and to “follow the facts.” But when you point out that:
    1. Most Christians have actually thought about our faith as much, if not more, than most atheists they won’t accept that we came to our conclusions after much thought.
    2. That their logic is fundamentally flawed, they won’t accept that fact.
    3. That their conclusions are at least as much “belief” as our’s are, they won’t accept that fact.

    Most atheists are no more prepared to defend their unbelief than Christians are prepared to defend their faith.

  7. As one that is a “presuppositionalist” with Holy Scripture, like John Frame, ‘God’s governance of our ethical life: revelation, providence, presence.’ (DCL, 24)

  8. @BlueCat, Amen.. I have found few honest seekers myself in the atheist crowd!

  9. I would agree with you that trusting too much your own scholarship is problematic. The next logical question after this realization though, is whose scholarship you should trust. It seems to me that the answer has to be something to do with the historic church going back to the very beginning. Anyone who diverts from that is by definition somebody who trusted THEIR own scholarship too much. This does not allow you to stay Protestant.

  10. John: Jesus’ scholarship? Holy Spirit? Prophesy? Revelation? Inner voice? Oh, sorry, this is an academic forum. Forgot that….

    / H-man

  11. Well, I would say that unless you criteria is absolute indubitability—an endevor of modernism—one does not have to completely trust anyone’s scholarship. The history of the church is a good way, though, to find general consensus in the vincentian variety. Roman Catholicism ecclesiology, while a nice idea, has contributed to the uncertainty just as much as the other traditions.

  12. H-man: If your post was serious, take Michael’s article and do a global search and replace for scholarship and replace with convictions about inner voice etc etc, and arrive at the same problem.

    Michael: since I’m not RC, and am not sure what exactly you are saying about RC ecclesiology, I can’t comment further on that specifically. But I’m pretty sure you don’t hold to any Vincentian consensus on many issues. Do you claim to?

  13. Definitely. I have the Vincentian Canon written on the wall at the Credo House. It’s a staple definition of Orthodoxy.

  14. Michael: This probably deserves its own thread, but to pick one topic, what does the Vincentian canon say about chrismation, and what does your theology say about it? I mean, chrismation is taught to be an essential of the faith by Tertullian, Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose of Milan, Leo the Great, The Apostolic Constitutions, Clement of Alexandria, St. Ephraim the Syrian, Theophilus of Antioch, Hippolytus of Rome, Council of Laodicia, Serapion of Thmuis, St. Basil of Caesarea, Gregory the Theologian, Jerome, Augustine… I could go one quite a way, but you get the point.

    Just one example: Wherefore we are called Christians on this account, because we are anointed (christos) with the oil of God. (To Autolycus, Book II, chapter 12, by St. Theophilus of Antioch, 115-181 A.D

    Chrismation may be about the clearest case of the Vincentian canon ever. So what do you say? An essential of the faith, as all these people taught, or not?

  15. I think the better point would be what is the regula fide and the canon veritas of the early church. It would be question begging, in my opinion, to limit the vincentian canon to the early church fathers as that would give it a subjectively defined termination point. However, you are very right. Not for this thread. I have written quite a bit on this blog about the development of doctrine, covering all theories. It was a great discussion with some EO representation (I am assuming that it what you are).

    BTW. I love and agree with (well, hope for) the views of Bradely Nassif.

  16. I wouldn’t want to put any termination point on either. On the other hand, if someone comes along at a late date and teaches contrary to the earlier folks, then they’ve departed from the Vincentian canon, and they’ve trusted their own scholarship too much.

    So, what does the Vincentian canon say about chrismation? I could quote folks right through to the 21st century and everywhere in between, but you knew that already. I think I’ve pointed stuff like this out to you before, but it ends up with you seemingly promoting the supposed Vincentian canon as a moving target. What was a Vincentian truth yesterday, can be overturned tomorrow if a lot of folks decide to think different.

  17. So John, you are a relativist. Whatever the most people decide to think is what is right. What about minority rights? But this like the Vincentian canon would be a digression from the topic.

  18. Firstly, what most people think is not relativism. Do you think who is president of the United States is a matter of relativism?

    Secondly, I didn’t suggest anything about “most people” as if every person’s opinion is equal.

    Thirdly… where was it exactly that you found out about the canon of scripture? Alone under a tree?

  19. Wow, another great post by CMP. I have 9 new tabs open from following links from the article.

    One of the white conservative radio hosts I listen to has a regular black liberal caller. (Note: I said color not race. Anyone want to get into that discussion?) On the show the day before the host had discussed the murder in Florida and had spoken with the caller then. The caller called back the next day and told the host that he had reviewed the information available about the case and had changed his mind. I had come in on the middle of his call but recognized the voice and thought, “Is that really Anthony?” So CMP there is an example of someone stopping in the middle of a debate and saying, “You are right, I am wrong.” It really does happen.

    I just read an article in World magazine about DNA evidence. Basically the article pointed out research that DNA evidence may not be as reliable as we think because fallible man does the analysis of the results. Reminded me of something I heard on a podcast about the death penalty. The standard is “reasonable doubt” not “100% certainty.” Seems like atheists hold us to 100% proof and themselves to reasonable doubt or an even looser standard.

  20. As for books & research referenced. You can’t trust any of it. From the stories of “In Search of Excellence” and “Sybil” being made up. To Climategate (fudged data in the UK). To stories and research exposing irregularities in “scientific” research (I’m thinking red wine.). To conflicting research (Is coffee good for you or bad for you? It must be if a Godly man like CMP sells it to you.) I’m to the point where I’ve become fatalistic. We’re all going to die let’s just eat, drink and be merry. (That’s sarcasm. I don’t think I was sarcastic enough for y’all to pick up on that.)

    We need to “trust but verify” all that we read.

    My memory isn’t all that great. I avoided one of the most popular Bible profs in college because his tests were 100% rote memory.

    I may not be able to memorize things but I do know that I have come to my conclusions through research and reasoning. Maybe I can’t tell you exactly where I read something and exactly what it said; but I can tell you that I did do my research and thinking and came to the conclusions I now hold.

    Atheists imply that Christians are just mind numb robots repeating whatever superstition the mind numb preacher they listened to last week said, while they have followed the facts to their logical conclusion with objective scientific rigor. What bunk! Sorry, I seem to be a bit down on atheists today.

    Who should we trust? God and ourselves. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us. But I’m guessing many would…

  21. I’d agree with John’s first comment and would like to add to it a little. 
    It’s good, as he implied, not to put _too_ much confidence in your own or anybody else’s scholarship. If Christianity derives its truth primarily from scholarship, then you’ve turned Christianity into a theory.  Theories are subject to change with the waves of scholarship. I, for one, am not willing to trust my soul to a theory. Scholarship and intellectualism are not enough.  Christianity needs the bedrock of divine intervention to survive, because as CMP implied above, humans are capable of messing up anything.  Human intellect alone is sinking sand. 

  22. There was a study done in 1999 that identified something called the “Dunning-Kruger effect.” It’s where experts in a field are more likely to doubt their abilities and question their understanding than someone new to a field.

    The Dunning-Kruger effect illustrated that when you become an “expert” you begin to realize just how little you know compared to what there is to know. While being a novice you have no idea just how BIG a topic is, so you over-estimate your own abilities.

    Sounds like a lot of conversations about God, doesn’t it?

    While we should be confident that God is real (and provable), we should always be humble enough to admit, as you say, we don’t know everything. God is big enough to handle our confusion and doubt – and it opens us up to further understanding who He is.

  23. The Vincentian Canon is a nice general statement…’Was believed everywhere (ubique), always (semper), and by all (ab omnibus). That’s about it, but of course this is just a wee ad hoc itself. What we Christians always need is “spirit and truth”! And here we have a Historic Church Catholic, that is itself always a “Pilgrim” Church. In the Church God’s uses brokeness to teach us our need, and even hope!

  24. Btw, everyone knows my place by now: Ecclesia semper reformada – the Church always reforming! But again, this is only done by “Spirit and Truth”! And there is no perfection here, as both Roman Church and the EO think, but there is spiritual direction and proper doctrine.

  25. BlueCat, regarding your comment #6 – I couldn’t agree more! It’s interesting that, with the WIDE chasm between atheists and Christians, we do tend to use a lot of the same techniques (lfawed on both sides?) to reach and support our conclusions.

    That is actually “common ground,” of which there is precious little between Atheists and Christians.

    What *hopefully* happens is, during dialogue with atheists, we *both* realize the fallacy of our thinking, and that removes the certainty of our conclusions. It’s a scary thing to be willing to consider that you might be wrong — when you are SO sure you are right. But in the final analysis, isn’t that what we’re asking everyone else to do?

  26. Fr Robert, as a long time veteran of most of the Protestant denominations, I didn’t see a single one of them “reforming”, no matter what your beliefs might be about which direction reform should take place. ( well… Maybe if you think liberalism is reforming, I could grant that one).

    Semper Reformanda is a utopia that doesn’t exist. All the denominations are simply stuck doing what they’ve always done. The only real changes that take place are when bits of the church break off to form new churches – I.e. exactly what happened in the original reformation. Churches never reform.

    Ecclesia Numquam Reformanda

  27. @John: Were not talking “denominations” here at all, the Reformed have many Creedal statements, as the Irish Articles 1615, etc. And the ecclesia semper reformada, also includes the very Ecumenical Councils themselves, again note the Anglican history, we are very close to the Councils. As to the essence of the Vincentian Canon. The Anglican Communion has always been via-media, church of the middle way: both “catholic” and “reformed”.

  28. PS..John: I hope you get the point? The ‘ecclesia semper reformanda’ is a spiritual principle, as I keep quoting John 4: 24 “in Spirit and Truth”!

  29. What sort of spiritual principle is it that either never works, or only works in the context of church splits? What happens in real life is that individuals get a bee in their bonnet about some point, then for good or for bad they can’t get their church to change. If their bee is big enough, they leave the church, and if they have enough charisma, they take a lot of people with them. Then the church is divided once more. Note that this says nothing about whether the point at issue is legit or not. Sometimes maybe it is, sometimes maybe not. Either way, the result is less unity and a lot of upset people on both sides. Eventually both sides tend to forget the reason for the split and decend into ambivalent liberalism, making the whole thing moot.

    The ecumenical councils never considered themselves reforming. Only stating the true faith. Reforming implies something universally went wrong and needs restoring. The councils are about saying some people went wrong and need to be reconciled with those who did not go wrong.

    Being catholic and reformed is a bit like saying you are both fish and fowl. They are in conflict. That’s why there are least three factions of Anglicans. The old reformed (e.g. Sydney Anglicans), who are a bit like the original reformers and can barely abide the concept of ordination at all, the new reformed, who keep “reforming” with things like women’s ordination, and Ango-catholic who disagree with both other groups.

  30. @John: Again, you might want to check the history of the 2nd century and Monarchianism, certainly later some of this was pressed into the efforts of First Nicaea 1 to combat these errors, etc. And Arianism just did not drop out of the sky, Arius has a history, back to his sources, etc.

    Note, I have seen myself the ethnic problems with the EO, and so the EO is not monolithlic, either. It is a myth that there are not real differences in the EO! And of course the Anglican Communion needs “reformation”, just like all the churches of God. There is really no church tradition that does not make some changes! To “change” is to live and breathe! Of course the Historic Church Catholic does not change “dogma”, but it does and can change doctrinal expression to degree. This is part of that biblical tradition itself!

  31. Not sure of your point about Arianism and Monarchianism. Unless you want to claim that every single church was Arian, then my point is unassailed.

    So what are the “real” differences in EO? Hard to discuss abstractions.

    Every time I’ve pressed someone about the distinction between dogma and doctrinal expression, they’ve had to eventually break down and admit that they have no way of distinguishing which is which with even a modest amount of certainty. No doubt there is such a distinction, but nobody save God himsef knows what the distinction actually is. That’s why EO take all the tradition with a fair amount of seriousness. To split it is like to divide soul with body. The distinction may be there but it is beyond human ability to make the split.

    Of course some change occurs in all traditions. But the mere fact of change in all traditons does not thereby sanctify change carte blanche, any more than the existence of a New Testament sanctifies all additions to scripture.

  32. @John: “The ecumenical councils never considered themselves reforming. Only stating the true faith. Reforming implies something universally went wrong and needs restoring. The councils are about saying some people went wrong and need to be reconciled with those who did not go wrong.” This IS Reformation and Reform, simple! Thus the reform of Monarchianism! Of course the Father is the monarch or regal of the Godhead, but God besides being One is Three, etc.

    My point about the ethnic probelms in the EO is vast, one can see this with the Russian history, etc. I have been very close to different groups, or people therein, of Orthodox, in my Anglican history. This post is not the place to get into all of this, but the EO are hardly monolithlic, especially in the ethnic area. Indeed there is no “infalliblity” in any of the churches of God, right doctrine and dogma certainly, but even this was hammered-out with and in the Pilgrim Church. Your belief in the Infallible nature of the EO is a position of “faith”, not doctrine or dogma. At least for those of us that are not Orthodox! You have taken your shots at Anglicanism, and the Reformed, etc. This is fine, it is not your Faith!

  33. Fr Robert: there’s a pretty big difference between saying certain parts of the church need or needed reforming, compared to saying that the entire church needed reforming. In the context of this blog article, the latter implies someone trusted their own scholarship in preference to EVERYONE else’s. The former does not.

    I don’t know what “ethnic problems” are, nor whether it even has anything to do with the topic. No doubt if you’re not Russian or Greek or Serb etc etc, they appear ethnic to you, and things that go on appear to be “ethnic problems”. I don’t know what that has to do with anything.

    It’s all very easy to say “well there’s no infallibility in any of the churches of God”. But then the question becomes “where then is there infallibility, how do you know, and who told you?”. You’ll end up having to say some church told you, you’ll have to trace the provenance of such claims somehow, and functionally trust some church as infallible.

    And if your ecclesiology says that the church can and was in need of reform in its entirety, then your chain of provenance that gives you such surety is broken.

  34. @John: You don’t understand, or perhaps want to understand the Reformational and Reformed position? I surely don’t believe the Historical Church Catholic has ever been lost, but yes.. I do believe in the constant principle of “always reforming”, and this by Holy Scripture (“spirit and truth”).

    Again, I have many Orthodox friends, but many of them also admit the many Ethnic problems in Orthodoxy. Wake up mate and smell the coffee! If you believe in the Orthodox Theological Infalliblity, fine, but one surely must admit the sinful humanity of the humanity of the Church, itself! Note the Jesus Prayer!

    Now let drop this shall we?

  35. Sure there’s ethnic problems in Orthdoxy. The Greeks eat too many olives and the Russians drink too much vodka. It’s not really relevant though.

    If the historic church catholic was never lost as you say, where was it in… Oh say the 10th century?

    Who told you the canon again?

    Understandable you want to drop it since all you seem to be doing is saying Nyah Nyah, ethnic problems.

  36. @John: I have a blog myself, if you really want to go after this? (Though no crowd there!) I’ll take it on there. But you seem to be seeking to posture, and want to try and prove your suppositions here, and this is just not the place, on Michael’s blog! As I have said, I have a great respect for much of Orthodoxy, though surely mostly Christology and the Trinity of God. But I am not in agreement with the lack of Pauline Imputation and Adoption with the EO, and of course of the Doctrine of Justification!

  37. Happy to discuss it on your blog (which article?) , but I was trying to keep it on topic here about whose scholarship to trust.

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    […] Why I Don’t Trust My Own “Scholarship”: Who do I think I am teaching eternal truths, when I can’t even remember the most basic everyday temporal happenings? If I don’t really trust my memory, can I trust my theological “scholarship”? Share:SharePrintEmailDigg […]

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