Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Limits of Non-Confessional Professionalism

The New Pantagruel crowd has been annoying the nice folks at Get Religion about a stray quotation from Luther implying he believed Jesus was an adulterer. Jape calls these questioners "socratic pests," which reminds me of an old line I picked up while studying Plato: "The more I read of Socrates, the less I wonder that they poisoned him."a hr

Here are the words of a man who will, I hope, avoid the hemlock, Caleb Stegall:

"You said, in essence, that no reasonable person could come to the conclusion that Luther believed that Jesus had sex with MM. I think it is very pertinent to ask whether you would say the same thing with respect to Christ's resurrection. You sense a trap and don't want to answer the question, and you're right, because I think this question exposes the weakness and contradictory nature of your position vis-a-vis reporting in the public square.

If you say that reasonable people can disagree about Jesus's resurrection, ultimately, your explanation for the difference between the two historical question will boil down to something along the lines of: some things can be known by a positivistic methodology that is neutral and objective while other things can only be believed or accepted by faith. No person can disagree with the former without revealing themselves to be either wickedly dishonest or a brainwashed ignoramus, while disagreements regarding the latter fall into the category of "mere opinion." Luther would not approve."

In this instance the standards of professional journalism create difficulties for the confessing Christian, but such difficulties happen in many other areas: medicine, law, education, and even small-business ownership or employment generally. I do not think it merely coincidental that the word "profession" has creedal connotations as well as secular ones. In some circles "unprofessional" can be as damning a charge as "heretic" is in others. It's the old pluralism-particularism dispute, a question of dueling catholicities: who's the sectarian here? It's a good question to ask, and a better question to answer.

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