13 June 2005

More BlogSpotting


SKH said...

Your invitation must be lost in the mail somewhere. I'm sure we sent one. I'm just sure of it. Or, my wife figured that after last year's gala I'm not entitled to another party until hitting 52.

Matthew said...

Now that is some weird wild stuff.

Mike said...

You'll have to trust me on this: I never thought I would find myself defending iMonk!

Michael can be overly caustic and a tad narcissistic at times, but his point is still valid re self-proclaimed authorities in blogging. I've posted similar thoughts in the past and been all-but blacklisted for it by some!

I spent 6+ years in seminaries and earned a couple of degrees (at one seminary that had a "real campus and real classrooms," and at another that had both even though I never saw the inside of them). If seminary teaches you nothing else, it should teach you that you don't really know as much as you think you do. Genuine expertise on most biblical topics is quite rare and usually reflects a lifetime of study in a very narrow field.

(I suspect/hope that Michael was being facetious when he called himself a "sort of kind of" expert on the Book of Mark. If he was serious, then he's been hoisted with his own petard.)

This is not to suggest that only experts are entitled to opinions. It is, however, to suggest (to the outrage of some postmoderns, perhaps) that not all blogs are created equal and we all need to have a bit more humility when posting. Most of us have far more ignorance than knowledge and perhaps are driven more by a need for certainty and finality than by a passion for truth. Have an opinion, but pass on the dogmatism (except re the essentials of the faith - which are not as many as we might first believe).

Or, as I like to say re non-essentials of the faith, "I am absolutely convinced of the truth of my position, although I could be wrong."

Michael Spencer said...

I never called you or anyone else a twit. Just because you don't like my point isn't any reason to start name-calling. If I were going to call names, it would be a better one anyway.

I'm not done pursuing this business of postmodernism and how its represented by various bloggers.

I'll repeat the offensive passages here Phil: I have a real academic background in English and Philosophy, and I wouldn't try to teach an intro to postmodernism anywhere to any audience. I believe your introduction and description of postmodernism wouldn't be recognized by specialists and you need to deal with this. Why don't you link the Stanford Philosphy professor's comments on postmodernism as described by you and others that was posted on the BHT?

Andrew said...

Carla Rolfe thinks she has spotted me in the crowd at the Gloved One's acquittal.

Man, I thought for sure you were the guy waving the French flag!

Carla Rolfe said...

Naw, he's making stuff up. That was Dave Hunt in the rainbow wig. I'm sure of it.

Dave said...

I am not techno-savvy enough to do those fancy things with the words - you know, change their color and all. It was an accomplishment to even get the link in my post. I am still learning. Sorry, Phil!

Frank Martens said...

I was going to use the formatted way of puting PyroManiac, but that green background just doesn't work with it (and sadly this comment adding thing won't let me put the right formatting in this comment either). Maybe I should make a .jpg of the word and stick it in my posts everytime I use it :)

And Carla, how does Dave Hunt fit into this mess? :)

Solia Deo Gloria!

Jeremy Weaver said...

Wow! Phil Johnson linked to me. This is the Phil Johnson of Darwin on Trial fame, right? Just kidding. Wrigley and I also look a lot alike, we could be brothers.

Phil Johnson said...

Mike: Thanks for your valiant defense of the iMonk. However:

1. He didn't complain about anything I blogged. What he was torqued about was something I taught in a Sunday-school class to people who are under my pastoral care.

2. Moreover, it was evidently not what I said that chafed him so badly, but the fact that I said anything at all about a subject he feels he doesn't really understand very well.

3. In fact, it needs to be noted that he did not actually interact with anything I said. If he even listened to anything I said, this was not apparent. Instead, he dismissed the whole matter by suggesting (in a "funny" way, lest he become depressed) that people without advanced academic credentials simply have no business trying to explain the basics of postmodernism to lay people.

4. Since he has so much more formal education than I do, and he wouldn't touch the subject with a ten-foot pole, I'm wondering if I would even be entitled to an opinion if I just kept it to myself. (He seemed to think not.)

5. That is high irony, because his own defense every time I have ever challenged him on anything has been to protest that he runs a virtual drinking establishment where all members are free to say anything they like. Outside critics should just pretend it's a private conversation like you'd find in any bar, and leave them alone, thank-you-very-much.

6. So is this a comic situation, or what? In essence we have a mouthy cyber-drunk (JN) who runs a forum where free, populist expression is supposedly regarded as sacred, wagging his finger at a Sunday-school teacher about the Sunday-school teacher's academic credentials while questioning the Sunday-school teacher's right to say anything at all to the Sunday-school class about an issue that the virtual bartender (with all his bartenderly wisdom and advanced degrees) is struggling to understand (JN).

7. Actually, I originally thought Michael was just needling me, and I was needling him back. I keep forgetting how easy it is to set him off. I'll try to lob fewer comments his direction for at least the next few days.

8. However, the fact that Michael apparently wasn't merely needling me (in spite of his declaration that his post was meant to be "funny") is rather amazing, because now I'm getting a very dark feeling of deja vu. Michael's first interaction with me ever stemmed from a derisive remark he posted at the BHT where he noted the enormous difference in "scholarly gravitas" between Phil Johnson and N. T. Wright and questioned whether an academic Luddite like me has any right whatsoever even to speak of Bishop Wright, except with hushed tones of deepest reverence. (Yes, Michael, I know that's hyperbole. You didn't say those exact words. And although you seem to take great delight in treating me like a twit, you have never actually called me one. You have shown truly marvelous restraint there. JN)

Anyway, as I pointed out to Michael, I have never critiqued the Bishop's scholarship; I have disagreed with his theological opinions. My response to the iMonk included this:

"I admit freely and without reservation that there is a vast, almost unbridgeable chasm—nay, virtually a bottomless pit—of "scholarly gravitas" between Wright and Johnson. No argument there."

Nonetheless, I assured him that I am not the least bit offended by people who notice my lack of scholarly credentials. I value my status as a layman, and have never tried to cover it up or pretend I am any kind of scholar. I try to do my homework, but I admit I don't always get everything right. I sincerely hope I am even more open to criticism than I am willing to hand it out. But I do think honest criticism ought to deal with what I said, and not merely the question of my status in the Academy.

At the time, Michael graciously apologized, and removed the offending post.

As I see it, the exact same issues all apply in exactly the same way in this exchange. I gave an overview of postmodernism as a lay person, for lay people. If I had pretended to have degrees or expertise I don't have, Michael's criticism of my credentials might have validity. But I did not pretend to have any kind of unusual qualifications. I actually bent over backward to make it clear that I was not attempting any kind of academic treatment of pomoism.

So why did this come up? I dunno, but it seems to me that the iMonk has an unwholesome fixation with the admittedly meagre number of diplomas on my wall—or else he just has a really, really hard time accepting the fact that a barely-educated meatball like me would venture to have an opinion on any topic where my perspective might be different from Michael Spencer's. Maybe it's just me, and I could solve the problem by clearing all my opinions on philosophical or technical matters with Michael before saying anything in public. Or perhaps he thinks all academic or philosphical debates should be off limits to everyone but highbrows and drunks in bars (JN).

Anyway, I'm happy to admit what I've never denied or tried to cover up anyway: It's quite true that no special or advanced degrees of any kind have ever been conferred on me. I'll say that as freely and as often as the iMonk does. Everyone except my dog, Wrigley, is perfectly free to dismiss my opinions if you care to.

Now, I hope everyone's clear on that, because I would hate for this matter (which ought to have never been a point of contention in the first place) to keep clogging the normal deluge of brilliance that pours forth so freely from the BHT (JN).

And regarding postmodernism in particular:

1. I don't regard myself as an expert (much less a "specialist") on this subject, and I said so in the actual message the iMonk saw listed at my Sunday-school class's website. (The fact that he didn't notice this is one of the things that makes me suspect he he didn't bother to actually listen to the message.)

2. I have, however, studied the subject, and think I have a basic understanding of how to recognize postmodern influences. That is all I have ever claimed.

3. If someone who knows more than me wants to listen to the message and correct me on points where you think I'm wrong, I would be happy to receive instruction, and even discuss it with you. I certainly don't think I've given the last word on the issue. Hopefully, no one seriously thinks a mocking dismissal of my right to speak on the issue should stand as the last word, either.

Michael Spencer said...

>In fact, it needs to be noted that he did not actually interact with anything I said.

Look! Look! A true statement! Take a picture!

fickett said...

I actually heard Phil's Sunday-school lesson live at Grace Community Church. It was well received, and very helpful.

While Phil may not possess a collection of advanced degrees, he does have an erudition most would desire for themselves. He is one of the most well-read men I know; his opinion should not be dismissed lightly.

N.B. I may not possess enough doctorial degrees to be entitled to an opinion.

Andrew said...

Amen to what fickett just said!

David said...

Good grief, Charlie Brown! Why does commenting on postmodernism require any advanced degrees, or a H.S. Diploma, for that matter? All they ever say is,

1. We don't know anything

2. Neither do you

3. So stop being so arrogant

I know, they use a lot more words, but isn't that about it?

Mike said...

Obviously there's a lot of history between you and iMonk of which I am unaware. Perhaps I understated the "overly caustic and a tad narcissistic at times"?

At any rate, I didn't mean to fan the flames. I was only trying to make a single point (about less dogmatism) and not deny anyone the right to an opinion.

D.R. said...

One of my professors in seminary used to say that postmodernism is like pornography -- it can't be defined, but you sure can recognize it when you see it. And he had a Ph.D in philosophy and studied under Tom Wright at Oxford. By the way, N.T. agreed with him.

Habitans in Sicco said...

LOL. David. Bingo!

Carla Rolfe said...

lol David... that pretty much summed it up.

Kurt N. said...

Yeah, let me sum up Calvinism, "David-Style".

1. God is sovereign.
2. Your efforts are meaningless.
3. If you wanna go to heaven, better hope you're one of the lucky ones.

My feeling is that's about as accurate a summation of Calvinism as the preceding is a summation of postmodernism.

I'm not saying that postmodernism is right or good, but if we don't try to look past the knee-jerk stereotypes, we'll never connect with our emergent brethren.

Frank Martens said...


If they don't believe the gospel and can't define the gospel, I'm not going to call them brethren.

To say you are a postmodernist and also say you are a believer is contradictory!


Sled Dog said...

Here's my working definition of postmodernism:

Postmodernism is a societal state...the beginning place where a culture or empire goes from its perceived pinnacle of greatness and influence to gradual decline and destruction. I believe this decline occurs when God no longer blesses or protects a nation, but instead concerns himself only with a remnant. Much like the builders of Babel's tower who were driven by pride, empires become so full of themselves that God, much like in Romans 1, turns them over to their sinfulness.

So, to a degree, all Americans are postmodernists because this is the state of our culture.

Postmodern churches feel the burden to reach out to world affected by the state of the culture...a culture that is full of despair, confusion, pride, relativism, self-gratification, etc. (A bit like Corinth!)

I've seen some pomos do an excellent job of simply preaching Christ as Paul intended to do for the Corinthians. They've met the culture where it is, translated the truth to a generation that has been innudated with media falsehoods, and brought individuals to reconciliation to God. But there is another arm of the postmodern church movement that I feel has been consumed by the attitudes and angst of the very ones she sought to minister. Doubt, confusion, relativism are her guides.

Brad Huston said...

So why did this come up? I dunno, but it seems to me that the iMonk has an unwholesome fixation with the admittedly meagre number of diplomas on my wall—or else he just has a really, really hard time accepting the fact that a barely-educated meatball like me would venture to have an opinion on any topic where my perspective might be different from Michael Spencer's

I don't understand the need to be bitter about it either way, or to take such a rift between the two of you to a public forum. Phil, why even repsond to something like this in such a way? Can't you guys work this out via email?


Habitans in Sicco said...

Hmm. Broken Brad, it's interesting that YOU didn't email your remark privately to Phil. What exempts you from your own rule about dealing with differences privately?

Brad Huston said...

"What exempts you from your own rule about dealing with differences privately?"


I didn't realize it was a rule. But I have no quarel with either, if I did, I would.


jc said...

So since Phil Johnson is in the "No-to-Evangelical-Cobelligerence" Camp (Steve Camp camp), does this mean he doesn't approve of how World Magazine does things?