Dave Armstrong has it right: Dr. Paul Owen of Montreat College is, in fact, one of the best friends the Roman Catholic apologetics community has ever come across. It is always good to have folks “inside” the other camp to come to your aid, sort of like a fifth column (“men will arise from your own ranks“). The tactic is as old as the hills. Note Armstrong’s glee:
Great article by our friend, Reformed professor Dr. Paul Owen: Five Reasons Why Paul’s Anathemas Against the Judaizers in Galatians 1:8-9 Do Not Apply to Our Roman Catholic Brethren Read it! Master it! Share the information with your anti-Catholic buddies who don’t understand this. You never know what effect you might have in the long run.
And, not overly surprisingly, the article is hosted by TGE (is this all starting to make sense?).
I have been waiting for Owen to put his theory in a form that can actually be addressed. He proposed his rather unique viewpoints on the NTRMin web board months ago. I got the impression he was going to publish his views. So this is either a summary of a longer article to come (this seems far too short for Owen), or he hasn’t found anyone interested in his particular views. In any case, Eric Svendsen has already critiqued elements of this view, but I have been waiting for something more concrete. As the issues are grave, a response is necessary; but for the same reason, one will not be rushed. I will offer, for the moment, the following observation: the center of Owen’s argument is that it was part and parcel of the Judaizer’s position that the death of Christ was not necessary to salvation. He is quite right that Paul makes this very point in Galatians 2:20-21, but where he has completely missed the text (and surely, the insightful comments on Galatians provided by great men of the past) is that this is not Paul repeating, or summarizing, their arguments, but it is part of his argument. That is, the Judaizers would never dream of attempting to stay in the church while denying the necessity of Christ’s death, for that was central to the public profession of the church itself (Gal. 3:1). Paul’s argument shows Owen’s is backwards: his argument is that the Judaizers are, by joining human actions and works with faith (Gal. 3:2), nullifying the grace of God and making the death of Christ of no effect. This isn’t an argument if you as one of the Judaizers are already preaching that very thing! But it is an argument if it is showing that your confession and teaching are self-contradictory. It is very clear to the exegete-sans-ecumenical-agenda that Galatians 5:1-4 likewise undermines Owen’s thesis, for Paul’s concern is that the Galatians stand firm, not in defense of the necessity of the cross (a given), but in resisting being “subject again to a yoke of slavery.” And what is the essence of this “yoke”? Verse two tells us that if they take that first step down the road of legalism, that first step in joining to the faith that everyone in Galatia claimed to have, including the Judaizers, any element of human action, law-keeping, etc., would place them outside the realm of Christ’s grace (which, the Judaizers were obviously claiming to be in) and Christ would be of no benefit to them (showing again that they were not denying the necessity of a “benefit” from Christ—they were claiming faith in Christ, but were adding to what it takes to receive from Christ the fulness of salvation). These are observations that exegetes have made for many centuries, and only a strong desire to remove the multitudes of additions to faith dogmatically taught by Rome as the means of justification can explain Owen’s viewpoint.