Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
An Addition to Eric Svendsen's Refutation of Dr. Owen
10/18/2005 - James WhiteWhile I was away in Omaha I noted that Paul Owen had posted what honestly sounds to me like a slightly modified transcription of a Gerry Matatics lecture on the Immaculate Conception. Eventually one begins to get used to Owen's promotion of any kind of false teaching in the name of scholarship, but when you have refuted these arguments over and over again it is still frustrating to see them repeated.
There is no reason to repeat what Dr. Svendsen has said, for he has truly refuted Owen at each and every point, fully, and in a compelling fashion. Instead, since that duty has been dispatched with alacrity and skill, I would like to illustrate once again the eisegetical nature of Owen's claims. That is, Owen has repeatedly demonstrated that he is not, in fact, an exegete: he is a (very poor) theologian who forces, often in a very awkward fashion, his theological system into the text of Scripture. He has given us an excellent example of this in his current attempt to promote Roman Catholicism.
Luke 1:38 reads, "And Mary said, 'Behold, the bondslave of the Lord (h` dou,lh kuri,ou); may it be done to me (Latin: fiat mihi) according to your word.' And the angel departed from her." Outside of the huge edifice of theology built upon the fiat mihi phrase in this text by Roman theologians, Owen uses this text to substantiate his Roman reading of Mary's words to the angel, allegedly indicating a vow of celibacy. Dr. Svendsen has refuted his arguments at this point, but my desire is to point out the sources and methods Owen uses and how they differ from sound exegetical practice. This would help to explain his wildly inconsistent and incoherent theology.
Does the use of h` dou,lh kuri,ou at 1:38 indicate Mary had made some kind of vow of perpetual virginity, to be a "Temple Servant"? Owen musters a truly rag-tag group of arguments, but he doesn't even attempt to begin where sound exegesis begins: by looking at the lexical meaning of the term, and, especially, given the context, its Old Testament usage. The use of the phrase "servant of..." with a reference to deity, or, in direct address, "your servant," in both masculine and feminine forms, is exceptionally common in the LXX (for example, 1 Samuel 1:11 for the feminine form, Joshua 24:39 for the masculine singular, Deu. 32:36 for the plural). What is not found in the LXX, nor in the New Testament usage, for that matter, is the idea of the term meaning a dedicated temple servant who has made a vow of poverty. Now, Owen did say, in response to Svendsen, that the term is "ambiguous on its own." Actually, it is anything but ambiguous, and given the rich and full Old Testament context in which it can be placed, there is not the first reason, outside of those odd motivations that keep heretics busy looking for ways to draw disciples aside and ravage the flock, to look for any other meaning to the phrase. Mary places herself firmly in the tradition of the godly women of Israel, Yahweh's servants, in accepting His will for her life, despite the challenges she now knew would come with that act of faith. There is simply no reason in the context or the language to read anything else into the text and hence to obscure its true meaning. Despite the maddening insistence of many post-moderns, the text is not a pliable substance that allows for all sorts of contradictory meanings---Luke communicated in such a fashion as to make his meaning known.
Owen argues that it is the context in which the term is placed that leads to the conclusion that Mary had taken a vow to be a Temple Servant. Again, Dr. Svendsen has refuted each of Owen's points, but it is educational to see what kind of information Owen's kind of "scholarship" uses to create its distorted teachings.
First we have the "Luke mentions Anna in the Temple, and since Luke does not list her geneaology or mention descendants, though he does say she was married, she must have been a virgin Temple Servant, too" argument. No outside verification of this "Temple Servant" position that allowed marriage but enforced virginity is offered outside of Owen's "apparantly." To derive such a sweeping conclusion from the fact that Luke does not mention Anna's children is an excellent example of the kind of meaningless argumentation one finds in so much modern writing. Since only a minority of people mentioned in the Bible are described so fully as to know their children, does it follow they had none? Of course not.
Next we have a gnostic Gospel, one of those gospels opposed by faithful and orthodox believers, now transformed into a "Christian" document that "preserves" ancient "traditions" that we are then to import into our interpretation of the text. These second-century works are the actual sources for the Marian dogmas in general. They seek to fill in where the Holy Spirit chose not to speak, and that on the basis of a completely different worldview---one contradictory to God's truth. To invest them with this kind of authority, so that their passing references to such gnostic-tinged ideas are to be read into our interpretation of documents written a century earlier in a completely different context, at the expense of the clarity of the text and its clear meaning, is yet another example of why so much of modern "Christendom" is confused as to the message of the faith.
Owen repeats the oft-refuted Roman Catholic argument drawn from John 19:27. Once again, I refer to it only for the purpose of illustrating the stretches false teachers will present in their writings: while the meaning of "brothers and sisters" is turned into a mockery by the argument of Rome and Owen, those clear terms are dismissed in favor of a secondary argument drawn from a text that is not even seeking to address the issue at hand. Only the person looking for a reason to believe these things can find such argumentation compelling. Owen seeks to dismiss the fact that Jesus' brothers disbelieved at this point as "without merit" since, he asserts, "the obligation to care for one’s mother is rooted in the Law of Moses, not in a distinctive Christian ethic." John was the disciple "Jesus loved." He and Mary are among the very, very few who are at the foot of the cross. The Christian faith, as Jesus Himself taught, transcended family relationships, and there upon the cross there was only one person to whom the Lord could entrust His mother, and that was John. It is absurd in the extreme to think Jesus would have said from the cross, "Find, evangelize, convert, My brothers, then hand My mother off to them." Once again a clear, fully understandable Scriptural text is twisted and distorted by those seeking to conform the text to their traditions.
Finally, the woman in Revelation 12, seen in the earliest Christian sources not as Mary, but as the Church, is pressed into service, once again showing how weak and indeed simply worthless this kind of eisegetical interpretation truly is.
And so what do we learn from this latest defense of Rome by Owen? Aside from the fact that there is no theology bad enough that Dr. Paul Owen of Montreat College won't defend it (and undoubtedly teach it to his students--be warned!), we are here given yet another example of how meaningful exegesis is overthrown through the rejection of sound methods of hermeneutics and the willingness to cast a wide net in search for sources that one can then claim have relevance to the text. Sadly, much of what you find appearing in print these days partakes of the same kind of attitude, which is why God's people find the older works of godly men so often more useful than much of what is produced today (hence the popularity of reprints of older works by such groups as Solid Ground Christian Books and Soli Deo Gloria).