Armstrong stumbles right out of the block when he insists that Protestants are “hostile” to the idea that Mary was sinless and Immaculately conceived because this makes her a “sort of goddess.” No, we are hostile to all dogmas and doctrines that are claimed to be derived from Scripture or God’s authority but that are, in fact, completely devoid of Scriptural basis or apostolic authority. There is a much more fundamental problem with Rome’s traditional teachings than Mr. Armstrong seems to understand. I am offended when anyone claims Christ’s authority without echoing Christ’s voice in the Word, especially when they pretend that Christ’s voice is found within the boundaries of their particular infallible group/organization (such as the Roman magisterium).
Next, Mr. Armstrong invests a fair amount of time establishing facts that are not, in actuality, in dispute. Please note I am not being inconsistent here: establishing the facts of a context, passage, lexical meaning, etc., are all quite relevant if, in fact, the intent was to offer meaningful and consistent exegesis in a positive fashion. But Armstrong tips his hand repeatedly, couching his comments in terms of “and this writer was no friend to Catholicism” etc., as if the mere statement of a fact supports or proves the RC point. No one questions, for example, the fact that carito,w is related at its root to ca,rij, itoj, “grace.” Noting Tyndale or Wycliff using “grace” or “endued with grace” is barely relevant to the massive edifice of doctrine based upon what Rome says this means. For, as I pointed out in The Roman Catholic Controversy, the claimed meaning of the term in regards to Mary has to be related to one of two elements of this perfect passive vocative participle: either the root communicates something about sinless perfection, or the form of the word (vocative, perfect, passive participle) does. Armstrong simply doesn’t understand the process of scholarly examination of a text, and as a result, runs headlong into walls trying to act like he does. The result would be humorous if 1) this wasn’t a serious subject, 2) if he didn’t think he was truly providing meaningful exegesis, and 3) if the doctrine was irrelevant (and as a de fide dogma of Rome, it isn’t).
Here is what Armstrong does not understand: if you are going to say kecaritwme,nh means “sinless,” there are certain canons of scholarship you must meet. You must provide a foundation lexically; the root term’s semantic domain must include the proposed meaning you are promoting. Further, if that meaning is specialized (i.e., it represents a smaller, focused area of the semantic domain), you need to provide evidence from its form (grammar) and its contextual usage that drives you to that conclusion. With reference to kecaritwme,nh that means Armstrong needs to establish that the semantic domain of the verbal form carito,w includes within it the concept of sinlessness (needless to say, he does not do this). Secondly, if the argument is that the verb itself does not mean sinless, but that the form and context it is in demands that we assume, as a pre-condition of the use of the term, a sinless condition on Mary’s part, then there must be something in the use of a perfect passive participle as an angelic greeting (it is in the vocative after all) that indicates this. But it is just here that Armstrong shows he is lost in the discussion, for when Eric Svendsen makes mention of facts in passing that are directly related to these very issues, DA misunderstands them and does not see their relevance.
For example. Does the root term carry the meaning of sinlessness? No, it does not. Svendsen’s material lists a number of Roman Catholic statements that militate directly against Armstrong’s view (DA ignores them and does not refute them). Svendsen notes Ephesians 1:6 (as I did), which is the only other usage of the verb carito,w in the New Testament. No serious investigation of the meaning of kecaritwme,nh could possibly ignore or downplay the only other use of the term in the NT. And yet, does Armstrong give us a positive exegesis of the passage so as to support his own position? No. Instead, he piles error of reading and understanding upon another. First, note his citation of Svendsen:
[C]haritoo … occurs in the same participial form in Sir. 18:17 with no theological significance. It also occurs in Eph. 1:6 where it is applied to all believers. . . . Are we to conclude on this basis that all believers are without original sin? (Svendsen, 129).
But note what disappeared in the ellipses:
While carito,w is indeed used in the perfect tense here (kecaritwme,nh), both Keating and Laurentin have given far too much significance to this. This word occurs in the same participial form in Sir 18:17 with no theological significance. It also occurs in Eph. 1:6 where it is applied to all believers. As even McHugh grants, “there is no doubt that Luke uses the word in the same sense as the author of Ephesians.” Are we to conclude on this basis that all believers are without original sin?
McHugh is a Roman Catholic scholar and writer. Armstrong consistently ignores the citation of Roman Catholic scholarship when it stands in his way. Again, wouldn’t you have to provide a response to such material if you are going to seriously suggest that these passages “confound” Protestants, and that the exegesis you are presenting is sound? In any case, the relevance of Eph. 1:6 is clear. If the Roman Catholic proponent is suggesting that the Greek term itself is what is important here (and Armstrong is: problem is, he is ignoring the difference between the verbal carito,w and the noun ca,rij, and in the process wastes his effort seeking to establish only the meaning of “grace” as a noun, failing to take into consideration the need to take the next step and establish that whatever element of the semantic domain of ca,rij he is examining transfers to the verb and then through the contextual usage in Luke 1:28 or elsewhere. We will note this error in his thinking again below.), then the question must be asked, “Why doesn’t all the argumentation about the meaning of grace transfer over to all believers in Ephesians 1:6?” I mean, think about it: Ephesians 1 is a considerably more likely text in which to find deep, even transcendent concepts of grace, is it not, than in the greeting of an angel in a narrative? Here we have God’s eternal election, His grand design, His over-arching purpose in all of salvation itself, laid out. And in the midst we read, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed (evcari,twsen) on us in the Beloved.” Surely, if all the insights into the meaning of grace Armstrong quotes from various sources would come to fulfillment anywhere, here, in the midst of this great passage, where the union of the elect with Christ, to the praise of the glory of His grace (!) is being discussed, would be the place! The verb is the same, so why does the verb mean one thing in Luke 1:28 and something completely different in Eph. 1:6? [Continued in Part III]