Revising Opinions of People

Sometimes, first impressions are not always right. I did something that I usually don’t do in regard to people in the course of writing this blog: I let the opinions of others unduly influence my opinion of another blogger. I generally ignore what other people say about a person I’ve just met and form my own opinion. But I never did that with a particular individual that I’ve had the fortune (or misfortune?) of encountering in the past.

The individual of which I speak is Dave Armstrong. I have said of Dave:

Words in English are precise, and are chosen to convey something specific. No convergence was ever meant or implied between the words “vicar” and “disciple.” Dave needs to head to the book store and get himself a copy of On Writing Well by William Zinsser and carefully read the chapters on Simplicity, Clutter, and Words before he constructs his next “paper.” (source)

This pretty much summed up the position I held about Dave. I thought (and still do, in some respects) that his blog posts are unnecessarily long. Conventional wisdom says that a blog post should run 200 to 500 words. After that, your audience tends to lose interest.

However, I’m not one to talk. My posts can reach 1100 words or better on a regular basis. I think that when a person blogs about philosophy or theology, it requires more words than the average blogger since the average reader isn’t as studied in the background of such posts. Therefore, the blogger has to lay the groundwork for why he (or she) thinks what he (or she) does.

That said, I’ve recently started to take a liking to many of Dave’s recent posts. He disagreed with an atheist on YouTube (beginning of series) and constructed a post about the top 10 atheist arguments. He also has a project in the works about Christianity and modern science, trying to explode the atheistic myths that Christianity had nothing to do with the rise of science. More recently, he commented on Anne Rice’s deconversion from Christianity. In that post, Dave said something that I agree with in spirit, though being a Protestant I would understand “Christian authority” differently than Dave:

There are serious lessons to be learned here: along the lines of having an informed, reasonable faith (complete with apologetic knowledge as necessary), and of yielding up our private judgment and personal inclinations to a God and a Church much higher than ourselves. Faith comes ultimately by God’s grace and His grace alone: not our own semi-understandings. Christianity is not “blind faith”; it is a reasonable faith. But there is such a thing as allegiance and obedience to Christian authority, too.

This is rather similar to my expressed sentiments here. I state emphatically that I don’t question Rice’s salvation, for that (as Dave aptly expresses) is a gift from God resting solely on faith in Christ. Rice still expresses faith in Christ; she just refuses to be bound by some of the strictures of doctrine (e.g. being against homosexuality, birth control, feminism, and Democrats). What I question is Anne Rice’s sanctification: whether she has submitted to the authority of God expressed in Scripture. That is something that she must wrestle with, and I pray that God can show her the error of her ways.

In sum, my opinion of Dave has changed drastically. Dave is a capable writer and meticulous researcher. I was very wrong in my initial impressions of him, and for that I apologize.

5 thoughts on “Revising Opinions of People

  1. Hi Cory,

    1) On Dave and yourself, I think Catholic scholars are right that “Sola Scriptura” and the idea of “Scripture interpreting itself,” is a Protestant myth.

    2) On connections b/w Christianity and science, there are some, but the Bible is not a scientific textbook. In fact in the book, Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion (NOT a “new atheist” book), Myth 9 is that “Christianity Gave Birth to Modern Science.”

    My own historical intuition suggests to me that modern science seems to have taken off via the invention of the telescope and microscope, that extended humanity’s vision and curiosity in dimensions both large and small. Also, science appears capable of continuing to investigate the cosmos and learn more about it regardless of the religious views (or lack thereof) of the scientists involved.

    1. 1) I defend the concept of sola scriptura, but in practice it is difficult to abide by 100%. Especially in light of verses like 2 Peter 1:20. Catholics have the idea that tradition defines the books of Scripture as inspired and infallible. Then, certain Scriptures define tradition as inspired and infallible. Circular logic. You can’t conclude something from a premise, and then use the conclusion to bolster that premise.

      I’m okay with tradition establishing an infallible Scripture and leaving it at that. Interpretation of Scripture, however, is more difficult to arrive at and that is where the multitudes of denominations come into play. There is no infallible interpreter of Scripture. That can be a problem. That’s when epistemology comes into play. How much can you know for certain? I touched on that a little bit as I (ineptly, I think) explained my views on creationism in the post on why former believers annoy me.

      2) I think that modern science depends on a theistic worldview, though not necessarily a Christian one. Without a lawgiver, what reason would anyone have to think that natural laws exist in the first place? Living in an orderly and rational universe implies an intelligence that defined it.

      Reading your comments on my site have also caused me to realize that you, Mr. Babinski, are a far more credible critic to Christianity than J.P. Holding and his entourage give you credit for. Unlike with Dave, I withheld judgment until I personally dealt with you. And I’m glad I did, because you’re giving me a lot to think about.

  2. Hi Cory,

    I appreciate your thoughtfulness and kindness very much. It took guts to write this, especially if folks in certain quarters (who continue to be my irrationally severe critics) see it. Then you’ll have to deal with their protests.

    I bear you no ill will at all and am happy to accept your apology. In fact, as soon as I can I’ll remove some old papers where we clashed, as a little “thank you” and reciprocal act.

    I’m glad to see too, your emphasis on replying to the arguments of atheism. That is my current emphasis as well. I’ll be dealing with alleged Bible contradictions and deconversion stories after I get done with the very involved Christianity & Science project.

    I get tired at times of wrangling with fellow Christians, and enjoy defending Christianity as a whole against the attacks of those who have no Christian affiliation at all. That is a large part of the apologist’s task, I think.

    To Ed Babinski:

    Hi guy! I think you’ll enjoy my new set of papers very much, and can learn a great deal about the history of science (as I am doing myself: learning about scores of important Jesuit scientists, etc.). Perhaps you will revise your opinion a bit, in light of the overwhelming number of facts along these lines.

    In Him,

    Dave Armstrong

    1. Although I do still look at some heresies within the church, I did have a minor go-around with J.P. Holding a year or so back on Theology Web, and I told him essentially the same thing that you said above: It would be more constructive for us, as Christian apologists, to work together rather than fight each other. He seemed to take to it reluctantly.

      I’ve always thought that my energies were better spent on external criticisms more than internal bickering anyway. Especially after I read Religious Literacy by Stephen Prothero. It wasn’t the atheist movement that kicked Bible study out of public schools. According to Prothero, it was inter-denominational bickering that led to it: Catholics wanted their interpretation taught while Calvinists in New England wanted their interpretation taught. The Methodists began to get a toehold in many central states shortly thereafter and fought both other denominations. The Baptists came into the picture in the southern states and fought for their interpretation, too! Eventually, all agreed to just not teach Bible study in public schools so that it could be taught with more force and emphasis in the church itself–and this only after some lawsuits that went to the Supreme Court.

      Interdenominational bickering has led to many problems and is best left to one side for now, especially when we have a common enemy in the external critics that should be dealt with first.

      And I’ll return the favor on removing some clashing posts.

  3. Also, science appears capable of continuing to investigate the cosmos and learn more about it regardless of the religious views (or lack thereof) of the scientists involved.

    Yes, of course. I don’t deny that at all (though there are axioms in all science that atheists often ignore, that are unproven and unprovable and themselves not empirical). Our objection is to the ridiculous notion that a Christian cannot do science just as well as an atheist or agnostic, simply because he is a Christian, as if the two are antithetical and fundamentally at odds. That is sheer nonsense. It couldn’t be any more ludicrously untrue than it is. And the history of science spectacularly shows this, since virtually every important field and discovery made came from Christian or otherwise theistic scientists (such as the Arian Newton).

    Therefore, to attempt to separate science and Christianity altogether would be to explode (or implode) science itself, in that very act. Since it is a viciously self-defeating notion, it obviously has to be discarded.

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