On Continuing To Grow Up

In James Tunstead Burtchael’s study on early church polity, From Synagogue to Church, Burtchaell explains one aspect of the (largely German) consensus about the development of that polity:

…one must not presume any constancy of tradition that would allow one to project the settled usages of later times back into the primitive record. Thus, for instance, if Paul never mentions presbyteroi we must infer that there were none in his churches. (183)

As I’ve been reading more in biblical critical scholarship, I have come to appreciate just how faulty it is as a science. For an entire generation of scholars, forming a consensus, to not see how baldly fallacious this argument is (a truly cautious scholar would infer nothing from silence in itself, not a negative conclusion), suggests something deeper is motivating these biblical scholars than just a search for the truth (since a brief perusal of their writings can easily demonstrate their intelligence was not lacking). This has been a maturing process for me, and I believe a helpful one.

(And, after all, scholars have noticed many wonderful things in scripture and history that have been missed in the past; but for all that, if someone encounters scholars disagreeing with what seems to be the plain evidence, one should not immediately assume that one is mistaken. It is indeed more than possible that the consensus has been drinking the coolaid instead.)