I’ve put up with his personal insults since 1996, sniping footnotes in papers, the regular drumbeat of the “thorn in the flesh” that we sometimes must bear with as much grace as we can. But over the past year Dr. Owen has decided to take a much more public role not only in his ever-personal campaign, but now he is rallying the rag-tag group of “reformed Catholics” around himself, sowing confusion and division, all in the service of his own much-vaunted brilliance and scholarship. Despite having only written a couple of articles and being a general editor of Zondervan’s 2002 release, The New Mormon Challenge, Owen boasts loudly of his great insights and abilities. Some who follow cyber-exchanges know he speaks of beating opponents like “red-headed step children,” and driving them back into the “caves” from which they came. Meanwhile, he sings the praises of Mother Church, promotes odd, eisegetical interpretations of key texts (such as Galatians and the nature of the error of Paul’s opponents), is one of the two favorite “evangelical theologians” (a title given he and his cohort even before their graduation from seminary) of F.A.R.M.S. (The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies out of BYU), and has confirmed his role as “Alexander the Coppersmith” to almost anyone involved in inter-faith apologetics of any type (having expanded out from shredding those who have sought to minister to the LDS people to now giving aid and comfort to Roman Catholicism as well). This former-Mormon has established himself as king of the below-the-belt punches and that while still in only his fourth decade.
Over the past few months Owen has been posting, sporadically, on Eric Svendsen’s NTRMIN webboard. In that process he has run into David King, co-author of Holy Scripture, the 3-volume defense of sola scriptura we have spoken of many times here at aomin.org. And while Pastor King has extended to Owen a Jobian-level of patience and long-suffering, Owen has chosen to leave that forum in a huff, and take his case elsewhere (specifically, to reformedcatholicism.com). To those of us who have followed the situation, the reason is obvious: Owen, who boasts of his great apologetic abilities and victories, had his head handed to him on a silver platter. He was out argued and out cited 2:1 or more. He was soundly and roundly trounced in direct debate on the topics he chose to engage, often leaving the forum in a huff only to return a few days later to repeat the cycle over again. The documentation is there for all to see. The debate was primarily inter-presbyterian, but was still very enlightening for us non-presbyterians to read.
Having been soundly defeated (if the roles were reversed, Owen would be speaking of beating red-headed step children and driving them back into their caves), Owen has chosen the “Internet Option.” When you can’t handle the heat, get a blog! (Yes, I know my low-tech blog doesn’t engender debate: you don’t think we do enough debating as it is? And remember, the phone number is 877-753-3341 and it is called the Dividing Line). And so Owen launched off into a tirade (“rant” is the technical term) on the blog today. In classic Owen humility, we read of pastors (i.e., Pastor King, who dared to stand up to him) who
simply do not understand the historically conditioned nature of all written texts, biblical or otherwise. They simply look at the Bible, or Reformational commentaries on the Bible, as a phone directory of prooftexts, from which they are free to choose at random. This is how they preach, and this is how they conduct their ugly polemics on the internet.
Owen, himself not ordained (to my knowledge), dares to speak to the preaching of a Presbyterian pastor, when he has never, to my knowledge, heard that man preach and has not the slightest idea whether what he is saying is true or false? I have heard Pastor King preach. I have never heard Owen preach. Owen should think very carefully about posting such comments when he himself has no basis upon which to speak. Then, having been driven from the field of intellectual battle by overwhelming argumentation elsewhere, Owen soothes his wounds by assuring his followers:
Recently, a Presbyterian pastor, who has shown himself to be particularly prone to melting down when confronted with facts that conflict with the canned, simplistic presentations of theology which were spoon-fed to him in seminary, has taken to posting little snippets from Calvin on the internet, which allegedly promote his own ugly and just downright ignorant view of the Roman Catholic Church. The reason this pastor can quote such comments with glee is because he is not conversant in any serious way with the historical context of the Reformation.
Owen goes on to summarize his viewpoints (it is so much easier to sound like you know what you are talking about without anyone around to contradict you!), including aspects he completely failed to defend on the webboard, and then has the audacity to conclude,
Keep these FACTS in mind the next time some internet wonderboy tries to quote some out-of-context statement of Calvin to justify his own ugly attitude towards our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.
“Internet wonderboy” summarizes the attitude of Owen, Enloe, and company. It is very, very hard to try to keep in mind the fact that these internet theologians do not, and cannot, represent at least some of those holding similar positions but for (we can only hope) meaningful reasons. This is especially true when some of them will stoop to this kind of behavior—behavior normally aimed at yours truly. But this time I simply could not allow it to go by unnoticed, especially when the one engaging in it has so very little ground upon which stand in praise of himself.