Sunday, December 03, 2006

Responses to Paul Owen’s Four Points

Paul Owen has offered his comments on my recent blog entry about Denver Seminary. In it he imagines I have “launched a scathing attack” upon the seminary, and laments that my post “illustrates all that is wrong with ill-informed evangelical anti-Catholic apologetics.” Before getting into the detail of his “four points,” I must clear up Owen’s confusion about my intent. I have not “launched a scathing attack” against Denver Seminary. I have merely put to voice the very real concern many (including myself and including some very concerned alumni and even faculty members of the seminary, both current and former) have over the seminary’s recent rapprochement toward religious movements that were once firmly considered heretical. Owen’s naïve and uninformed assessment of the situation is typically Owenian, and may safely be written off as such. However, for the sake of those who are unfamiliar with Owen's devices, here is my response to Owen’s "four points”:

1. There is no denying that the seminary’s name change is in accordance with the dubious rapprochement to which I alluded in my opening paragraph. If others are reticent to make that connection, I am not. The reason for the “swipe” at the NAE should be evident. The NAE is the evangelical equivalent to the United Nations—as an organization, it is meaningless, irrelevant, and completely anemic; and its statement of faith (which was the target of my mention of the NAE in the first place) is purposely vague. It is governed by Evangelicals of questionable doctrinal heritage, and maintains absolutely no connection to historical Evangelical concerns. It is noteworthy that one of the commenters on Owen’s post seems naively to think that the NAE somehow operates as the designated accountability structure for Evangelical belief, and chides me for criticizing it--which is especially ironic for that particular commenter, who regularly dispenses with all doctrinal authority and accountability, save his own opinion and that of a highly fringe movement in the Presbyterian church.

2. The distinction Owen makes about what the Denver Seminary article says regarding modern critics of Rome and what I said about Reformation critics of Rome is entirely moot. Those criticisms are, at a fundamental level, the same criticisms; and whatever the article implies about modern Evangelicals “misunderstanding the official Roman Catholic documents on justification by faith” applies equally to the Reformers. As a Tractarian, Owen hates the Reformers; but as a pandering prophet, he will never admit to that hate. He will instead vent his frustration vicariously by acerbically attacking those who share identical assumptions as the Reformers about apologists of the Roman religion. Whereas the Reformers uniformly spoke of the “antichrist” nature of the “papists,” Owen refers to them as “our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters,” and launches into a seething rage against modern defenders of the Reformed position on this. He hates Luther, Calvin and Cranmer, but he will never express that publicly.

3. The “well known canons” that Owen claims I “trotted out” are well known for a very good reason: They are the coup de grace against rapprochement with the “Romanists” precisely because these canons remain the “official” and unretracted Roman position on this issue. In true Tractarian form, Owen naively imagines “these canons allow more room for nuance than Svendsen is apparently able to grasp” (and, by extension, the Reformers themselves!). Yes, when one is looking for it, one can find room for agreement in all kinds of “official documents,” including the Jehovah’s Witness belief in the “unity of God,” and the Mormon belief in “progressive deification” and “many gods”—after all, like phrases can be found in the Bible, can they not? The problem is, Owen’s postmodern “nuancing” is, as always with him, nothing more than historical revisionism.

4. The “root of the problem” is not with those “who think that their ministry is to warn others in the body of Christ to flee the latest virus which has infected the Church”; the root of the problem is rather with those who, following the wisdom of this world and rejecting the wisdom of God, willfully ignore the biblical injunctions to “contend earnestly for the once-for-all-time-delivered-to-the-saints faith” (Jude 3), reject Paul’s injunction to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ . . . standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27), and instead embrace as “brothers” those whom Paul insists are “accursed of God” (Gal 1:8-9). Unfortunately, Owen is the epitome of those the NT writers refer to as “shipwrecked in regard to the faith”; and as I have pointed out in past blog entries, his voice in this is not that of a faithful shepherd; it is instead the howl of the wolf from which the sheep will rightly flee.