Friday, January 07, 2005

A brief response to Paul Owen

reformedCatholic Paul Owen recently came to the defense of Dave Armstrong over our criticsm of the DA's feeble attempt to show that Mary's Immaculate Conception can be extracted from Luke 1:28. (View article).

I was going to post a full-length response to this; but I just now read the comments section of that article. The right people corrected Owen (and did so quite well--Jason Engwer's remarks are especially lucid, as are those of "Ronnie" [Brown?]), and the wrong people supported him (as expected). Let me just call attention to a few obvious flaws in his article:
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 consensus 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.
Actually, they're not; and they would be quite surprised to know that little fact. Dave Armstrong's book is subtitled, "95 Passages that Confound Protestants." Here is a sample of his intent from his introduction:
Moreover, only rarely do [Protestants] seriously engage the biblical texts utilized by Catholics to support their positions through the centuries. In probably most cases, they are not even aware of any passages that a Catholic might use to prove anything that would be contrary to Protestantism.

I will be asserting – with all due respect and hopefully a minimum of “triumphalism” -- the ultimate incoherence, inadequacy, inconsistency, or exegetical and theological implausibility of the Protestant interpretations, and submitting the Catholic views as exegetically and logically superior alternatives.

The 95 “Catholic Verses” here considered are (I submit) so closely related to Catholic “distinctives” that they form an essential body of biblical material, useful and crucial for every Catholic who wishes to better understand and defend the Catholic faith, with regard to its solid biblical moorings. Nothing is more effective (or more respected), in discourse with our Protestant brothers and sisters in the Lord, than a cogent, persuasive biblical argument.

As always in my apologetics, I ask readers to have an open mind and to be as objective as possible in their appraisal of competing points of view. I ask (in fact, plead with) non-Catholic readers to allow the Catholic outlook a “fair hearing.” Perhaps many will be surprised to see that Catholicism can be so strongly supported by the Bible.

In any event, I trust that all students of the Bible will be interested in comparative exegesis and a side-by-side analysis of competing views. Of course my ultimate aim is persuasion, but increased understanding (even while still disagreeing) is also a worthy accomplishment.

In effect, Catholics are saying, "so you want to argue doctrines based on the standard of Bible Alone? We can match you verse for verse (without adopting your principle of sola Scriptura). We aren't afraid to subject our views to the most intense biblical scrutiny and exegesis. In fact, we eagerly welcome it."
Here is where Paul Owen's criticism of us is most misguided. We have responded to Armstrong on his own terms, so we can't be criticized for pushing the exegesis of the text (on which exegesis Owen would agree with us). So when Owen writes . . .
So what is significant is NOT that you cannot "exegete" the Immaculate Conception of Mary out of Luke 1:28. For goodness sakes, everyone knows that! What shallow thinking.
All he's really doing is summing up what we've been trying to tell DA all along! Because DA (and others) actually believe you can exegete the IC of M out of Luke 1:28, so long as "exegesis" is "done correctly."