We know, from examining Dave Armstrong’s The Catholic Verses that he has one of my books, and has looked at a portion of it, though, seemingly, not all of it (even regarding the passages that are directly relevant to his own claims and work, which I am not alone in finding quite odd). And we know that at least a few times he chooses to try to take on my position directly (like on Matthew 23). But for many Protestants, the greatest example of Rome’s misuse of Scripture, and the greatest evidence that, in fact, Rome does not bow to “Scripture and tradition,” is found in the complex of dogmas and teachings she promulgates on the subject of the blessed mother of Jesus, Mary. And so since we have found it difficult to get Mr. Armstrong to offer us exegesis that we can really “sink our teeth into” so to speak, we turn now to the section on Luke 1:28, one of the “95 Verses” that allegedly confound Protestants, pp. 181-190, one of the lengthiest sections in the entire work.
Now, it is only fair to note that Armstrong concludes this section by stating,
Most Protestant thinkers and opponents of Catholic doctrine would, I think, assume that the Immaculate Conception could easily be disproven from Scripture. But from an analysis of the verses cited, we see that, although it cannot be absolutely proven from Scripture alone, it cannot be ruled out on the basis of Scripture, either. What is more, a solid deductive and exegetical basis for belief in Mary’s sinlessness, and thus her Immaculate Conception, can be drawn from Scripture alone. (p. 190)
While that sounds at first like it is limiting the claims being made, let’s keep a few things in mind. First, the Immaculate Conception is taught as dogma by Rome, not as opinion. Hence, this “dogma” cannot be “absolutely proven from Scripture alone.” Well, of course. But beyond this, I would never assert that it should be “easy” to disprove a false doctrine just because it is a false doctrine. Doctrines utterly unknown to the Apostles, that require glaring eisegetical insertion of entire concepts and beliefs, are actually the most difficult to disprove, simply because the Apostles never addressed them. It is far easier to disprove elements of proto-gnosticism, such as docetism, from the Scriptures, since the Apostles struggled against those very errors. But take a doctrine that was unknown to them, and unknown to the early centuries of the faith, combine it with convoluted, yet strongly held beliefs about the authority of a particular person or group, and then demand that it be “seen” in the most innocuous statements of Scripture (without the slightest concern for the original intention of the authors), and you have the substance of Rome’s Marian dogmas and doctrines. Armstrong seemingly tries to “lower the bar,” but then claims a solid “deductive and exegetical” case for Mary’s sinlessness. Once again we see DA claiming exegetical content. In fact, he says at the beginning of the chapter, “I have done a great deal of exegesis and analysis of this verse.” And later he attempts to interact with Eric Svendsen (I only get a brief and errant reference) and makes the comment, “Eric Svendsen’s attempt to lump in Luke 1:28 with other ‘similar’ passages has failed, because reputable linguists demonstrate that there are enough differences to cast doubt on his argument. Context, grammar, and hermeneutical principles alike sink his case.” DA claims to be able to handle context, grammar, and hermeneutical principles. Let’s see if he delivers.