I never dreamed just how appropriate the terminology I chose was. For a number of years I had experienced the constant hatred and attacks of Paul Owen, first when he was a student in seminary, then when we was off in Scotland working on his doctorate, and now that he has returned and his spreading his unique variety of theology as a teacher. Since he seemed to live to oppose me, in whatever I say or do, I saw a parallel to Alexander the coppersmith, whose ignominy was established by the apostle Paul when he wrote,
2 Timothy 4:14-15 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.
I guess having an Alexander in your life is good for you. You can’t get apathetic when you have someone who simply lives to oppose you. Of course, it must be miserable that such a person has such a life, and one can only wonder at what kind of a life it is, but such folks exist. That’s just the way it is.
Over the past number of months Paul Owen’s crusader-like mentality has caused him to become ever more unstable, and has driven him farther and farther out into the “fringe” of strange theology, so much so that many are taking note. While he had already made himself notorious in the apologetics community, now he is working on marginalizing himself with an ever wider range of the church. He has been putting himself in print in support of numerous odd views, mainly, it seems, so that he can take shots at yours truly and anyone who would dare stand with me. His recent “serious Arminian exegesis” debacle is just one of many such instances.
Today Owen has truly exhibited, for all to see, that there is no limit to how low he will stoop just to find a way to lob some of his arrogant condescension my way. As most regular readers of this apologetics blog know, I have recently been reviewing Dave Armstrong’s book, The Catholic Verses. The book purports to provide us with verses of Scripture that “confound” Protestants. Armstrong promises in his book to “incorporate scholarship wherever necessary to substantiate the argument.” He expresses a hope that students of the Bible “will be interested in comparative exegesis and a side-by-side analysis of competing views” (xvi). He says “We aren’t afraid to subject our views to the most intense biblical scrutiny and exegesis. In fact, we eagerly welcome it” (xvii). And in the particular section where he invests his greatest effort in defense of the Immaculate Conception, he lists Luke 1:28 and says, “I have done a great deal of exegesis and analysis of this verse…and so I shall draw from that thought and experience in this chapter.”
Armstrong is not alone in taking this “the Bible supports, even teaches, our view, exegetically” approach. It has been the mark of the resurgence of Catholic apologetics since the late 1980s (when, I believe, Paul Owen was in high school) to make sure to include a biblically-based appeal. This is seen in Hahn, Matatics, Keating, Madrid, Sungenis, Akin, and those who seek to emulate them. One need only read the relevant works of Keating (I cited him in the response to Armstrong), Madrid (from This Rock magazine and then Envoy) and others to know how frequently the claim is made that the Greek term kecaritwme,nh means “sinless” or “endowed with grace throughout her entire life so as to be protected from the stain of original sin” and all sorts of other such claims. And they can hardly be blamed. The Universal Catholic Catechism says in paragraph 490:
Para. 490: To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role” (LG 56). The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace” (Lk 1:28). In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.
Armstrong is surely well within the “stream” of modern Roman Catholic teaching and apologetics to make the claims he does. And he is just as wrong. But the fact is that only a person utterly ignorant of the field of Roman Catholic apologetics and ignorant of the scholarly material related to Roman Catholic teaching on Mary could possibly fault a Protestant apologist for addressing the grammatical and contextual issues surrounding kecaritwme,nh and its meaning at Luke 1:28.
Paul Owen today demonstrated that all the degrees in the world cannot keep you from utterly self-destructing on a scholarly level. His self-serving, condescension-filled entry at reformedCatholicism.com is a classic study in someone so intent upon their own brilliance and their crusade to “get” someone else that they run headlong into utter foolishness. Anyone, and I do mean anyone, who has the first bit of knowledge of modern Roman Catholic apologetics, and who has read Dave Armstrong’s book, knows that Roman Catholic apologists, and Armstrong in particulary, do claim Luke 1:28 substantiates, but does not prove, in and of itself, the Immaculate Conception of Mary. They boldly proclaim that the form of the verb indicates the very sinlessness and “fullness of grace” that Owen (rightly) scornfully dismisses. The documentation is simply too voluminous to ignore. And yet, despite this, Owen, ever sure of his own brilliance and insight, blunders into error after error.
You see, these critics think that they have really accomplished something by demonstrating that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary cannot be “exegeted” out of this verse. There is no lexical or grammatical evidence which shows that Gabriel’s words to Mary are meant to convey the idea that she was delivered from original sin from the moment of her conception.
Now, given the rather simple fact that Armstrong’s book says what it says, and when you review a book, you sort of have to actually deal with what it says, not with what Paul Owen would like it to say, it follows that in these words, Owen has not only affirmed the accuracy of what I have said (I assume he is using the plural because he is including Eric Svendsen in the mix), but he is likewise affirming the error of Armstrong. But that wouldn’t leave him any basis upon which to condescendingly lob grenades my way, so why let the facts stand in the way? He continues,
Now let me make one thing clear. While I do cautiously affirm the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, I do not affirm her Immaculate Conception, for the simple reason that it is nowhere taught in the Bible, and it was not held as a concensus (sic) in the earliest centuries of the Church. But that is neither here nor there. Every Roman Catholic, including Dave Armstrong, is well aware of these facts.
If Mr. Armstrong is “well aware of these facts,” maybe Owen would like to explain his own words in his own book? He adds,
In other words, Roman Catholics have never claimed that the “grammatical-historical” meaning of Luke 1:28 requires the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. To imply otherwise, and to then castigate them for their failure, is a tremendously sophistic example of straw-man argumentation.
Well, we do beg to differ, but it seems the Great Scholar of our Generation is simply abysmally ignorant of the facts in this case (I’m sure he will seek to help the Roman Magisterium come to understand his wisdom and insight in time). Having never actually debated any Roman Catholic apologists on the topic, and ignoring the materials cited above, Owen pretends expertise yet once again, only to fall into error. He blunders on, having ignored the reality of Armstrong’s own words, those of the Catechism, Keating, etc., arrogantly deriding those who have actually engaged men like Matatics or Sungenis for our ignorance and shallow thinking. His crusader mentality finally drives him to write,
So this latest debacle has provided yet another example of the inability of “Reformed” apologists, particularly those who ply their trade on the internet, to deal with alternative theological systems on their own terms. Demonstrating the inability of Roman Catholic theologians to accomplish a task they never claimed or intended to achieve, is certainly a hollow victory. Such antics simply discredit the Protestant religion, and expose us to the charge of being simple-minded, shallow-thinking Fundamentalists who are incapable of engaging meaningfully with other traditions, due to our inability to understand others on their own terms before engaging in criticism. I for one, want to apologize to my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters on behalf of the Reformed community for being particularly prone to such straw-man tactics, and for constantly engaging in such shallow misrepresentations.
What utter nonsense, given that any semi-unbiased person who would take the time to simply read what has been written would know he is so far removed from reality that one is almost tempted to think this is meant to be taken as some kind of joke. But sadly, it is not. Paul Owen is completely serious. He cares nothing about what Armstrong actually wrote. I bet he didn’t even bother to look at the book, nor the pages Armstrong devoted to the very attempted argument he scornfully dismisses. Owen would apologize to Osama bin Laden if I dared write something about him, too. Alexander the coppersmith is alive and well, that is for certain, and he’s poisoning minds at Montreat College.