Sunday, August 28, 2005

Doctrinal eugenics

For a while now, Paul Owen was hiding and cringing under the bed after Eric Svendsen argued him into silence.

But Dr. Owen apparently feels that it’s safe again to crawl out from under the bed and resume his career as a theological ankle-biter and doctrinal eugenicist.


Recently I saw reference made to some comments by Dr. John MacArthur on the Roman Catholic Church. MacArthur was basically complaining about Protestants who believe that the Roman Catholic Church is a true Christian church. As much as I respect John MacArthur, and as much benefit as I have derived from his books and ministry over the years, his comments remind me once again of the huge gulf which exists between confessional Lutherans, Presbyterians and Anglicans on the one hand, and Baptists and sub-confessional Presbyterians on the other hand. I cannot state more strongly that the idea that the Church of Rome is not a member of the visible body of Jesus Christ is a radical, un-Reformational, sectarian opinion which does not reflect the teachings of true Protestantism.

The most ironic thing in the world is when supposedly “Reformed” Protestants cite the Westminster Confession of Faith 25.6 (which identifies the Pope as Antichrist) as evidence that the Church of Rome is not to be viewed as Christian. Yet the wording of that very article makes exactly the opposite point! The Antichrist exalts himself “in the church.” The very identity of the Antichrist as one who exalts himself “in” the church argues for the fact that the Church of Rome remains part of the visible Church “out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation” (25.2).

When Baptist sectarians (even those disguised as Presbyterians) declare that the Church of Rome is not to be viewed as Christian, they are simply showing their true identity as illegitimate children, who were not born of the Protestant Reformation.


1.Much as he respects John MacArthur, Paul Owen regards Dr. MacArthur as a spiritual bastard, along with every Baptist, Anabaptist, Fundamentalist, and Presbyterian who disagrees with him on the spiritual identity of Romanism.

2.Notice that he never calls a Mormon or Roman Catholic a spiritual bastard. No, he reserves this term of endearment for those whom he “respects.”

3.So anyone who is not a confessional Protestant is a spiritual bastard.

4.He brings up the Westminster Confession, which identifies the Pope as the Antichrist. So then, does Dr. Owen believe that the Pope is the Antichrist? If he denies that the Pope is the Antichrist, then would make him a sub-confessional Presbyterian, which is no better than a spiritual bastard in Owen’s book.

5.Presumably Dr. Owen would not attempt to hide behind the American revision. For one thing, that would mark a break with traditional Protestant theology, and any break with tradition is tantamount to spiritual bastardization.

6.Notice that Dr. Owen is highly selective in what he chooses to cite, for the Confession prefaced its identification of the Pope with the papacy in 25:6, by saying, in 25:5, that some churches “have so degenerated, as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.” Given that 25:5 is the lead-in to 25:6, it is logical to infer that Roman Catholicism is a special case or illustration of the general principle stated in the prior article.

7.Dr. Owen has a decidedly eccentric view of the relation between parents and children. By his lights, if a child disagrees with a parent, then the child was conceived out of wedlock.

One wonders if Dr. Owen has any teenagers. Do his kids ever disagree with him? In order for the child to be a bastard, the parent has to be an adulterer or fornicator.

Actually, a degree of intellectual independence is a natural aspect of maturation--that your kids are growing up, have minds and lives of their own, will be leaving home some day. Is that a bad thing?

8.According to the Tridentine anathemas, Lutherans and Presbyterians are schismatics as well.

So, by Dr. Owen’s logic, we should regard Rome as legitimate even though Rome regards all of us as illegitimate.

9.The walk of faith is a relay race. Each Christian generation must hand off the baton to the next generation. Each Christian generation has its own adversaries and obstacles.

Luther and Calvin were cradle Catholics. They were writing about the Catholic church of their own time and place, the church they knew, in which they were baptized and brought up.

We, living hundreds of years later, must judge the Catholic church we know, the church of our own time and place, We have our own perspective. We have the advantage of historical distance. We know what it was, and what it became.

The contemporary Catholic church is even worse than the Tridentine Church. For it retains all the old Tridentine errors, but has added to these the liberalizing tendencies of the modern mainline denominations.

10.We are not answerable to Calvin and Luther. We are answerable to God and God’s word. Even if Paul Owen were a consistent partisan, which he isn’t, when Dr. Owen is on his dead-bed, it will be cold comfort that he played the dutiful role of the company man. For the company man is the chump, schlemiel, and all-purpose fall-guy. His misplaced loyalty leaves him holding the bag.

Guys like Paul Owen can get away with these snobbish dismissals because they are never made to confront those they so smugly dismiss.

If you don’t agree with Owen’s characterization of your spiritual parentage, why not drop him a line at:


  1. If I start a pseudo-Christian cult, Dr Owen will be the first person to whom I turn for the mainstreaming of the cult. I know that, after our closed-door meetings at my cult headquarters, I can count on his yeoman efforts in marginalizing those Baptists and Presbyterians he doesn't like.
    And perhaps we can write a book together about how my cult is really misunderstood too, if he can condescend from his ivory tower.

    It is also rather strange to see somebody hold up Luther and Calvin as if they're infallible or authoritative, instead of being important but fallible figures. I mean, I almost enrolled as a Lutheran seminarian, but I still had plenty of gripes about things Luther wrote.

  2. Dr Owen has something to teach us all about the fine art of gnat straining. Okay, so admittedly the Westminster Divines thought the Pope was "that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself ... against Christ and all that is called God" -- but the important thing is that they also said he exalts himself in the Church. Sure, they called him the Antichrist, but at least he was a Christian Antichrist!

    Hmm. I wonder whom the Divines had in mind when they wrote of those Churches who had "so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan."

  3. So Dr. Owen's point is that if we want to be "true children of the Reformation" we must agree with his version of the Reformers? Wow. I never knew that the Reformation was frozen event in time! I thought it was a movement, one that was open to growing and changing as it followed "semper reformanda."

    I hope Dr. Owen gets out of his "Reformation in Amber" mentality soon.

  4. I am SOOOO Glad that you posted this. It cleared my afternoon fo I can do what they really pay me for today ...

  5. I can't believe you published his e-mail address. Have ct drop him a line -- that'd be a match-up for PPV.

  6. I have always believed that Protestantism has a lot more in common with Islam than with Christianity - the same mind set; the same philosophy and the same disdain for authority and tradition. Too many people who are far more intelligent have tried to talk sense into these folks without success; I would be foolish to even attempt to try any argument. I just have to say that in the final analysis, Protestantism is Islam of the West. The motivation is never the love of God, rather the control of God who is unable to protect himself.

  7. Islam has a disdain for authority? You think Islam is not an authoritarian religion? Where have you been living all your life? A broom closet?

    Islam has a disdain for tradition? Ever heard of the Hadith? Or the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence?

  8. I come from Nigeria. I know Islam; we have radical "Islam" which has no regard for authority, except that which it wishes to accept. They are "laws" unto themselves and hence one of the similarities with Protestantism. The mindset of a moslem is the same in every way with Protestantism. They (Islam and Protestantism) have the same zeal to defend the god they have fashioned after their vain ideologies.

  9. Catholics have no regard for authority except what they wish to accept. Church discipline is almost nonexistent in Catholicism. It's one of the most morally lax denominations around.

    As to "idolatry," Catholicism is centered on idolatry: the idolatry of the Mass, the idolatry of Mary, the idolatry of the Pope.

    If you come from Nigeria, you might try observing the parallel between Catholicism and tribal polytheism. It's quite striking.