From time to time, I want to make a few comments on passages of the Robbins/Gerety Not Reformed At All book. The passages generally have this in common — they are marked with exclamation marks in the margins, sometimes more than one, in my personal copy of this book. I will not be yelling at these margins for, as everyone knows, it does no good to yell at inanimate objects.
In their discussion of authority and tradition, these gentlemen reveal that they have not mastered a basic distinction in this argument. They take me to task for saying the traditions of the Church are not infallible, and yet claiming at the same time they are authoritative.
“This is the same position on church tradition — it is both authoritative and fallible — that many so-called scholars take about the Scriptures. One must ask of Wilson, as we ask of them, what epistemic authority does error have? Why are we obliged to believe something that might be false?” (p. 27).
I have been asked a question, and I answer the call!
First, if we are not obliged to believe error, as Robbins claims, then I wonder what he is doing publishing a book full of them. What did he want us to do with them?
Second, to answer the question seriously, error has no epistemic authority at all. If a father commands his young daughter to make meat loaf with five times more salt than the recipe demands, she can know that he is being silly even while she graciously makes the meatloaf. His folly has no epistemic authority over her at all. She is not required to believe it is going to be edible. But is there no authority here? This question they ask me is the fruit of hyper-propositionalism. If everything in the universe is a proposition with a little T or F beside it, then of course, everything reduces to epistemic issues. But the universe is not like that (what is the propositional value of the music in Handel’s Messiah?), and everything does not so reduce.
Third, what possible relevance does it have to bring up scholars who deny the infallibility of the Scriptures in a debate with someone who affirms sola Scriptura? Scripture alone provides an ultimate and infallible word. Other spiritual authorities exist — parents and pastors, to cite two — but they are not ultimate (appeal can always be made past them to the Scriptures) and they are not infallible (they can and do err, like me and John Robbins).
And last, I am thinking of inventing a new school of theology, since that is all the rage these days, and Robbins has already shown us the way. But instead of hyper-propositionalism, I think we need to pay some attention to the neglected prepositions of Scriptures. I call this school of thought hyper-prepositionalism, and want to reduce everything to words like, above, to, on, under, and so on. I think this is the key to answering the rampant unbelief of our day.
Hyper-propositionalists, please note: the paragraph above is a trap. Beware of it.