My personal Alexander the Coppersmith, Paul Owen of Montreat College, has offered his views of my various heresies today. I note that the best that has come out of my bearing his animosity and constant vociferous hostility over the years is that he has been forced, for various reasons, to become ever clearer in revealing his theological positions, and for that I’m grateful. I would imagine blasts like the one below should help those who would involve themselves with him in any kind of church or conference setting see where he is really coming from. He is surely no friend to the vast majority of the apologetics community (they already figured that out for other reasons), but in reality, he is no friend to the largest portion of anything that would call itself “conservative Evangelical” or “conservative Reformed.” I guess if something good comes out of his constant rants (i.e., the church is warned of a wolf in sheep’s clothing), that is a good thing. Here’s his most recent missive:
Ironically Tim, the clearest sign of heresy is a claim that the truth of the gospel is found only within some sectarian wing of the Church. The Gnostics were easy to recognize as heretics, for they claimed that true salvation was not found in the Catholic Church, but only by those who had access to the gnosis they offered. So it is with modern-day Gnostics like Dr. Svendsen and Mr. White. They think that true salvation is found, not in the simple public gospel of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, applied for the salvation of believers in the sacrament of Trinitarian baptism (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21), and understood within the boundaries set forth in the New Testament itself (which requires that faith be placed in the one Triune God confessed in baptism: Ephesians 4:4-6); but rather, salvation is obtained through esoteric understandings of the mechanism of justification itself.
Not only must we believe that we are saved by God’s undeserved grace, which sinners receive if they exercise faith in the Son, but we must also cling to a particular understanding of the way justification works–namely, that justification takes place through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer (not explicitly taught in the NT), and faith is the sole passive instrument for receiving that justifying righteousness (not explicitly taught in the NT). And don’t forget, contrary to the NT, this all takes place without the mediation of “works” like water baptism! BTW, one of these two gentlemen has made it quite clear to me that he really doesn’t care what Luther and Calvin taught about baptismal efficacy anyways, since in his judgment both of these men were pretty awful. Spoken like a true son of the Radical Reformation.
Never mind the fact that neither sola fide nor imputation were clearly taught or understood by the vast majority of Christians throughout Church history. Not much of a suprize in that, since these are, at best, only valid inferences based upon the logic of a handful of Pauline texts. These sectarians insist that such an understanding of the mechanism of justification is itself necessary for salvation, which is why Roman Catholics who don’t have the same intellectual gnosis floating around in their heads must be damned. Faith alone is not sufficient to justify according to Svendsen and White; we must add to our faith in Christ a particular belief about the way that faith receives justification. For these Gnostics, faith is not directed ultimately towards the Son of God, but towards their own theological gnosis. Ironically, by means of their theological legalism and sectarianism, it is Dr. Svendsen and Mr. White who have added the necessity of good works to faith for justification. So who are the real heretics here?
Yes, that’s the kind of professor you want instructing your young people in the things of the faith, no? And yes, I’ve challenged Owen to call in and defend his multitude of cavils—he won’t. He knows he can’t, but that won’t stop him from repeating them. Sure is nice to know there is a day coming, when every thought and motive will be laid bare, and justice will truly be done. Till when, we press on, as Spurgeon wisely put it, despite the swarm of Alexanders who can, at times, well-nigh madden you “by their scorn, their ridicule, their slander, and their misrepresentation. Their very littleness gives them the power to wound with impunity.”
Frank Turk dared to ask the GSOOA (Greatest Scholar of Our Age) a question, and his response was, to say the least, the model of humility and sound character:
I’m sorry that you are apparently not familiar with the history of Christian Theology, from the period AD 55 to 2005. There is nothing esoteric about my views on baptismal efficacy. It’s what Luther taught in his Large Catechism, and what Calvin taught in the Institutes, in his baptismal liturgy, and in his replies to Lutherans like Westphal who accused him (wrongly) of denying baptismal regeneration. It’s also what happens to be taught in the New Testament. We are saved by God’s grace in baptism (Tit. 3:5; John 3:5; Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). We are saved by faith in baptism (Romans 6:4; Col. 2:12). The saving efficacy of baptism is good, wholesome, Catholic and Reformational doctrine (though Protestants obviously deny ex opere operato efficacy), as the Westminster Confession of Faith 28.6 and the Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 161 tell us.
If it sounds esoteric to you Mr. Turk, it is because you do not think like a Reformational Christian, but like a Baptist. I’m sorry if that hurts. Luther and Calvin were Old World, European Catholic Protestants, not American, evangelical, anti-sacramental gnostics.
As I said above, I’m glad Owen’s real views are coming out. How many evangelical churches want someone who not only behaves like this (and my e-mail files are full of this kind of thing), and who is a rather open advocate of baptismal regeneration, joins in the attack upon the centrality and importance of imputation, but who likewise has such a tremendously condescending and nasty view of Baptists? His ecumenical spirit is truly on display!