Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Reformed Professor Matthew Barrett and the shallowness of the Protestant grasp of Scripture

I'm not writing this brief article to make fun of anyone, but simply as an example of the sad situation Protestantism finds itself in when it comes to interpreting Scripture. I really want to emphasize this because for a long time and even still to this day Protestants are under a serious delusion that Catholics are too dumb to really know the plain teaching of Scripture. In this post I want to give a brief look at what a Reformed Seminary Professor posted on his blog.

Matthew Barrett has a PhD in systematic theology, is editor of a major Reformed magazine (Credo), and is a professor at a Reformed college. Just yesterday he posted on the Credo Magazine blog a post titled "It is finished: A reflection on John 19:30." Just by the title, you'd think that Dr Barrett is going to exegete this verse, and in fact I was drawn to read this post precisely because I know this verse is important for the Calvinist view of the Atonement. But when you read the brief "reflection," there's no actual exegesis of the text at all. He merely quotes the text in passing a few times, which is simply how most Protestants approach this verse. 

These two concluding paragraphs form the heart of his post, so that's all I'll quote and comment upon:
When we come to the cross and we see the enormous amount of suffering Jesus underwent, we tend to focus solely on his physical suffering: the crown of thorns, the nails, and the crucifix. But as important as all of this is, we cannot miss the main thing: the most excruciating thing about the suffering servant’s cross is that he bore the very wrath of God that was ours. The Lord laid upon Christ our iniquities and Christ took the due penalty for those iniquities. We see this and we hear it when Christ cries out, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34). And then come three beautiful words, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

What is finished? Christ, as he says in the garden of Gethsamani, has drunk the cup of God’s wrath in full (Matt. 26:39), and by doing so, as Hebrews 1:3 reminds us, Christ “made purification for sins.” As our high priest Christ “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:11-12; cf. 9:13, 25-26). Indeed, this is good news.
Again, this man has a PhD in systematic theology, so he should know how to exegete Scripture and know how things fit together. And yet these handful of sentences show the most embarrassing level of interpretive skill and grasp of theology. But really, this is par for the course for the highest levels of orthodox Reformed Protestant scholarship.

Dr Barrett starts off by making the standard Protestant claim that Christ's physical sufferings at the hands of men, as dreadful as they were, were in fact nothing compared to the spiritual suffering of enduring the Father's Divine Wrath. Such statements are so obviously outrageous that I'd expect others to be speaking up against it. Dr Barrett both trivializes the physical sufferings of Our Lord and introduces a completely foreign concept of God's Wrath being poured out on Christ. Sadly, as I noted earlier, this is in fact the best Protestantism has to offer. It's not that they do this on purpose, but they have serious 'blinders' on that prevent them from thinking clearly. Such is the reality of sin, and such is the position one is put in when they're outside the Catholic Church. Trivializing the physical sufferings of Christ is equivalent to denying the Crucifixion, and God help me if I or any Catholic trivializes the heart of our salvation like that.

I'm not going to beat a dead horse on the "My God, why have you forsaken me?" comments, because I've covered that many times before. I just want people, Protestant and Catholic, to just stop and look at how shallow Reformed theology is and the liberties and desperation it takes with the Sacred Text. It's truly an abuse of God's Word if there ever was one. And to follow this up, Dr Barrett brings up the main text in question, "It is finished," as if he had actually exegeted and proved his thesis. He is oblivious to the fact "It is finished" has it's own context in John, and he's oblivious to the fact John (and Luke) never mention the "forsaken me" quote, despite Dr Barrett's insistence that this "forsaken me" text is the heart of the true understanding of the Cross. He has the audacity to ask "What is finished?" without even looking at the context. And he concludes by quoting all these texts from Hebrews, not realizing the absolute silence in Hebrews about any reference to God's Wrath (or Active Obedience). What's going on folks? And to think this is the enlightened 'wisdom' of men who don't want you to be Catholic? Give me a break.

Once you have the right glasses on, you have a hard time taking Protestantism seriously. To get the right glasses on, you just have to realize that Protestants don't really follow the Bible at all, but rather they follow a completely unbiblical "tradition of men"  called Sola Fide, and they accept this as a starting premise and from there proceed to make Scripture fit. The Reformation wasn't about Sola Scriptura, it was about Sola Fide, specifically the agenda of presuming its truth and forcing the Scripture's to agree (resulting in numerous other "traditions of men" they are forced to embrace). 

I guess what's really hard about reading this kind of stuff is that I really hoped for better, and I truly believe Protestants owe us Catholics better. But it's almost as if God's Word has a built in safety feature, where the moment someone starts to tamper with it, absurdities surface. That's precisely what happens with Protestant scholarship, and Reformed theology in particular. If the Reformed blogosphere isn't going to call out such embarrassing statements which the Reformed PhD's routinely make, then how can we really take them seriously?