Let’s Play Fair
Over at Called to Communion, Darryl Hart has once again criticized me and my pals for our conspiratorial plan to dupe humanity by waging a massive cover-up of all the Catholic Church’s misdeeds over the past 2,000 years. He wrote in a comment in this thread:
What I believe to be dishonest about Jason and the Callers is the partial evidence they give for the truth of Roman Catholicism, and the neglect of those historical realities that could (and do) give even reasonable Roman Catholics pause about the claims of the papacy or those of high papalists.
Now, I have lost count of how many times I and “the Callers” have freely acknowledged Rome’s serious warts and problems, and that Vatican 2 brought about a huge change in the posture of the Church toward the modern world, but why let the facts get in the way of a good tune, even if the guy playing it only has one string on his gee-tar?
You see according to Darryl, unless every single misstep of the Church is included in each article we write, we are being “dishonest.” Setting aside whether such a criterion for honesty is even legitimate (it’s not), do Protestants play by those rules when they defend their positions? Now I can already hear the objection: “But we don’t have to meet your standards since our claims about our churches are not as high-falutin’ as yours are!” In other words, since the Reformed claims about the church are so measured, modest, and reasonable, those who make those claims don’t need to “come clean” about their denominations’ sordid histories. They acknowledge their own fallibility from the get-go. But the Catholic, with all his delusions of ecclesial grandeur, is lying when he speaks favorably about his Church unless he also includes caveats and disclaimers about priestly abuse and the Avignon papacy. Darryl continues:
Whether they (or you) read Roman Catholic historians (like John O’Malley, John McGreevy, Mark Massa, or Francis Oakley), I don’t know. But I do think these Roman Catholics (some lay, some priests) would guffaw at the allegedly air-tight arguments that Jason and the Callers make for Rome. It would be like my reaction to the arguments of young-earth creationists. Even if I can see the use of reason, logic, and evidence, I find creationists to be simplistic.
I would be curious to hear from Darryl what exactly he thinks these historians deny about Catholicism that I and “the Callers” affirm. Do these men deny that Francis is the episcopal successor of Peter, or that the bishops of the Magisterium are the successors of the apostles? Or is there some other Catholic dogma that they reject?
My guess is that Darryl’s answer is no, these men don’t reject the Church’s dogmas, but they would laugh at the approach CTC takes in defending those dogmas. But is this really all that surprising or earth-shattering? These men are historians, while CTC is comprised of philosophers and theologians. I mean, Darryl largely agrees with the views of his fellow OPC cohort David VanDrunen, but the latter promotes those beliefs by employing exegetical and systematic theology, while Darryl does it by writing books about Machen and the history of American Presbyterianism. So what? All Darryl is showing by his constant diatribes is that history and philosophy are different. Mind. Blown? Not so much. . . .
In other words, I think it is better for me to be modest about the truth claims of Reformed Protestantism. I see no such modesty on Jason and the Callers part. And this comes at a time when the RC hierarchy itself has abandoned its former immodest claims. But then again, no one here ever acknowledges the detour that Rome took with Vatican 2. (It’s as if Jason and the Callers believe post Vatican 2 is really no different from the church for which SSPXer’s pine.)
While we’re speaking of Darryl’s incredible modesty and my incredible lack of it, I would like to encourage an experiment: Go to his site and do a couple hours’ worth of poking around to discover how often he, when speaking of something he does consider infallible (like, I don’t know, the Bible), includes any reference to or acknowledgement of the scholarly, historical, or theological views of all the Department of Religion heads in all our American universities who would not only chortle or guffaw at Darryl’s naïvely simplistic theological conservatism, but who would lump him in with the Catholics he despises and the young-earthers he dismisses.
I mean, if Darryl is going to hold our feet to the fire and insist that honesty demands we acknowledge every objection to the Church’s claims by those who claim to be Catholic, would not what is good for the goose be also good for the gander? Would not consistency dictate that Darryl do the same, and would it not be sheer hypocrisy to expect such a thing from us, while he himself has the chutzpah to let his QIRC-y and utopian views of the Bible’s infallibility slip by without acknowledgement of how quaint they sound to the real experts who teach religion at our nation’s greatest academic institutions?
For my part, I think such an expectation is retarded. If every claim has to be qualified by a host of footnotes to so-called experts who insist on the contrary, no one will ever be able to say anything, but we will all be paralyzed with fear over not giving both sides of the story. Plus, not every social medium can be that, ahem, fair and balanced. I mean, we’re not Fox News up in here. . . .