Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Some Parallels...

...between these two pieces:

1) "The defining moment of the Protestant Reformation was its protest against the absolutizing tendencies of the medieval church as exhibited in its ecclesiastical structure and its doctrine of the sacraments. As an intramundane historical institution, the church along with all other intramundane entities and organizations testifies to its finitude and frailties, and any claim for ultimacy on its part in matters of faith and morals is but another species of idolatry. This defining moment of Protestantism, its iconoclastic principle of protest, was however attenuated, if not straightway abandoned, in the course of the development of the various forms of Protestant orthodoxy. In this development, Protestantism found itself unable to use the Protestant principle against itself as it gravitated toward multiple forms of its own idolatry -- absolutizing church doctrines, creeds, scriptures, founders of sects, or ritual practices."
Calvin Schrag, God as Otherwise than Being: Toward a Semantics of the Gift, 92.

2) Here.


Blogger Ken Archer said...

A smart guy once said we should avoid comparing our best with the other group's worst.

In that spirit, I'm not sure I agree with Schrag that the Reformation was fundamentally asserting our epistemic humility as fallen men. If anything, it seems the opposite. The authority of the Church is justified based on a commitment to epistemic humility with regard to individual men. By contrast, Luther's epistemic confidence is remarkable.

Epistemic humility must have a reason. Otherwise, it's just sentiment. And the reason for a commitment to epistemic humility is the Platonic-Aristotelian view of knowledge that the Catholic Church has recognized as true and has developed over 2,000 years. Just as Schrag points to the Church's structure and the sacraments as evidence of absolutizing tendencies, one should in fairness also point to the slow (but steady) pace of change in Catholic practices as evidence of its anti-absolutizing humility with regard to what anyone, even a reformer, can know for certain.

It is precisely because the reformers rejected the Church's view of knowledge that they lost any reasoned basis for epistemic humilily, clearing the way for the absolutizing tendencies amongst subsequent reformers down to the present day that Schrag appropriately deplores.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Ken Archer said...

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8:33 PM  

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