Eric Svendsen: Catholics Raise Mary to the Holy Trinity

Eric Svendsen: Catholics Raise Mary to the Holy Trinity January 28, 2018


The anti-Catholics always readily supply Catholic apologists with nonsense and silliness . . .

[Eric Svendsen’s words will be in blue; ecumenical Reformed scholar Paul Owen’s in green; James White’s in purple]


As a Catholic apologist, I have a constant, readily-available supply of nonsense from the anti-Catholics; particularly their big “champions” and leading lights. No satire I could come up with would be remotely as silly and funny as what these people say on their own.

I thought nothing the anti-Catholics do or say would ever surprise me again, but this instance came awful close, I do confess. I didn’t have to work hard at all to find it. I was just casually surfing around and there it was. The anti-Catholics just won’t give it up.

It’s as if it is a conspiracy to be as ridiculous and outrageous as they can be (maybe there is some contest going on or something: “Who can say the stupidest stuff about the Catholic Church? $1,000,000 reward, to be donated to Jack Chick Ministries in honor of the person who comes up with the most inane, fatuous, vapid, most obviously false, most easily-refuted lie, er, truth about the Catholic Church”.

The bogus charge under consideration is a remarkably (almost unbelievably) absurd charge, even coming from someone like prominent anti-Catholic apologist Eric Svendsen, who likes the Catholic Church about as much as the Israelites loved the Babylonians. Even an unplugged clock is right twice a day, but when it comes to an anti-Catholic apologist with an axe to grind against the Catholic Church (doctorate or no), I guess being right about Anything Catholic is beside the point and an impossibly difficult thing to demand.

This is from a post in Svendsen’s forum, The Areopagus (“The Coppersmith in Paul Owen”). He details his correspondence with this Reformed Protestant, and assistant professor of biblical studies and languages at Montreat College in Montreat, North Carolina.

Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White has been deriding Owen lately by calling him “Alexander the Coppersmith” (the person whom the Apostle Paul chided as one who had done him harm). Svendsen picks that up and continues the mockery. I will cite mainly the portions having to do specifically with Mary and Svendsen’s quick descent to ad hominem attack.

Dear Dr. Owen,

I read with interest your letter to John Pacheco, now posted at his website. I must say, while I found your analysis of the texts you treated to be exegetically tenuous, I was even more disturbed by your decision to write and send the critique in the first place, which does little more than give a foothold to those who would raise Mary to the status of the Trinity and proclaim a false gospel that condemns. What motivates that kind of decision from someone who claims to be Reformed? . . . [1-17-04]

Dr. Svendsen,

. . . Reformed Christians can keep an open mind about the perpetual virginity of Mary, since the NT data does not preclude it, and many of the theological lights of the Reformation held to it. What is so threatening about that?

I reject your caricature regarding Roman Catholic theology. They do not elevate Mary to the status of the Trinity, as any person who knows the first thing about RC theology would acknowledge. And Roman Catholics are not necessarily to be viewed as condemned, as Calvin properly recognized. There remains a remnant of Christ’s church even within the structures of Rome. Sorry if you have a problem with that. I’ll side with Calvin the pastoral theologian on these issues over modern day Evangelical professional polemicists any day of the week . . . [1-18-04]

If what you mean by this is that you’ll find no official RC statement that says “we elevate Mary to the status of the Trinity,” then I’m happy to agree. Of course you’re not going to find anything as overt as that. What you’ll find instead is that Mary is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Mother of the church, the Mediatrix between Christ and mankind, the Co-Redemptress apart from whose decision mankind could not have been saved, the Immaculately Conceived, the Ever-Virgin who was not “tainted by the stain of carnal commerce,” the Exalted Woman who is clothed with the sun and has the moon under her feet, the Queen of Heaven/Queen of the Universe, the Mother of God whose every word Christ himself obeys, She to whom we pray for grace and to whom we flee for refuge. With titles like these, who in the world needs an explicit statement that Mary is on par with the Trinity? Is it idolatry to pray to Mary or not, Dr. Owen? Is it idolatry to ascribe to her these titles and positions or not? If you believe it is idolatry, then you really have no basis for what you imagine RCism teaches. If you believe it is not idolatry, then I have more questions about you than I previously did.

. . . You seem to have a proclivity for commenting on things about which you have no knowledge . . . Those who lock themselves away behind the walls of the ivory tower usually have little more than a vague concept of what “pastoral concerns” are.

. . . Plenty of time to enter the fray and write an inept critique regarding my views on an issue about which you are clearly uninformed, but no time to accept correction by those of us who know better. That’s the luxury of your “theoretical ministry.” You can commit careless and disgraceful drive-bys and hit-and-runs on the ministry labors of others–all in the name of “stirring up a discussion” in which you have absolutely no intent to engage–and then happily claim impunity. For the record, I view practices such as yours as despicable and unworthy of the gospel of Christ . . . [1-19-04]

Catholic prayers to Mary are not necessarily idolatrous. Maybe if you didn’t work four jobs you would have time to read your Bible on occasion. Idolatry involves the worship of other gods (Exod. 20:3-5), or conflating the characteristics of the true God with pagan deities (Deut. 4:15-19). Catholics do neither. They do not view Mary as divine in the sense that the one God is divine, whatever titles they might ascribe to her.

Indeed, Owen seems to enjoy rubbing shoulders with heretics. He has been invited to write articles in Mormon journals, and he has befriended one of the most vitriolic anti-evangelical Roman Catholic epologists that exist. I suppose he thinks that makes him look “open” to other ways of thinking, and I suppose he sees some kind of virtue in entertaining idolatrous beliefs. It’s amazing what men do these days to gain a name for themselves in “scholarship.” We must ever ask ourselves, Would Paul, or John, or Jude, or Peter, or any of the New Testament writers have approved of rubbing shoulders with Judaizers, or coming to the defense of Gnostics while criticizing the work of Christian workers who were exposing their false teachings, or writing favorable articles in the theological journals of heretics? Of course, not. Yet this is just what Dr. Owen prides himself in doing.

Yet, Owen does not do this in a neutral way. Not satisfied with being on the wrong side of the issue, he makes it a point of undermining the evangelistic efforts of others. He himself is not providing the gospel to these audiences, and he wants to make sure we aren’t either. In other words, Owen has an unhealthy obsession for undermining the ministry efforts of his fellow Evangelicals. For those of you who missed the reference, Alexander the Coppersmith is the man Paul mentions in 2 Tim 4:14-15: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.” James White has very aptly applied this title to Owen—for that is just what he is.

After corresponding with Dr. White on Owen, I decided to drop the matter. Such a man who has idle time to run around the Internet picking fights with fellow Evangelicals who are hard at work in the gospel is, to my way of thinking, emotionally disturbed and extremely divisive. This kind of man has been around since Paul’s day: men who have an unhealthy interest in quarrels, and are little more than cowardly antagonists who go around “picking fights,” but then run once their target takes them up on it. Dr. Owen has no interest in dialoguing with me on this issue in public debate; but he seems to be obsessed with slandering and undermining my ministry efforts at every turn. I have no respect for that sort of thing.

. . . we’re not dealing with someone who is truly interested in constructive dialogue but rather someone who simply wants to stir up the pot and flee . . . He does indeed engage in theological drive-bys, sticking his nose into an issue and then fleeing from it when answered.

It is humorous that one who scours the Internet to find ministries that proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ with the same passion as the writers of the New Testament, and follows them around with the sole purpose of siding with those who blatantly oppose that gospel and who have made it their goal in life to destroy those ministries, could actually claim that someone else is “divisive, sectarian, and schismatic.” But, as James White has aptly suggested, that’s what the “Alexander the Coppersmith”s of the Evangelical world thrive on.

My offer to Dr. Owen stands. He seems to have plenty of time to disrupt the ministries of others who are carrying out the mission of the New Testament church and the charge of the gospel. But his idle time suddenly diminishes when someone takes him to task for it. Perhaps he’ll read this and offer us his own explanation of his baffling behavior.

Wow! All these insults, coming from a man with a doctorate, who is silly enough to think that Catholics elevate the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Trinity and the level of God! Is this beyond bizarre or what? I couldn’t come up with something this sublimely surreal and ridiculous if I sat and thought about it for a hundred years. Here is a list of what Dr. Svendsen charged Dr. Owen with (ethical shortcomings which he was shameless enough to advertise to the world on the Internet). Dr Owen, according to Dr. “idol talk” Svendsen:

1) is of questionable motivation.
2) is of questionable adherence to Reformed Protestantism (“claims”).
3) has “no knowledge about that which he addresses.
4) is locked up in “an ivory tower.”
5) is insincere when he claims he wants to engage in discussion with different viewpoints.
6) dares to befriend a Catholic apologist!
7) “entertains idolatrous beliefs”.
8) rubs shoulders with “Judaizers”.
9) undermines “evangelistic efforts of others.”
10) is equivalent in character to Alexander the Coppersmith.
11) is “emotionally disturbed.”
12) is “extremely divisive.”
13) has “an unhealthy interest in quarrels.”
14) is a “cowardly antagonist.”
15) is obsessed with “slander” (of Svendsen).
16) wants to destroy ministries that proclaim the gospel.

Whew! He hasn’t even been this vicious with Catholics. Nothing is worse than a perceived “traitor” and an “apostate.” Owen cavorts with the forces of darkness and evil and everything wicked (even bing friends with Catholic apologists! Scumbags like me; of that ilk . . . ). Is there any need of further witnesses? Svendsen is the judge and jury and he has spoken!

Not only that, we are also treated to a nauseating display of extreme self-importance, as Svendsen actually equates his and James White’s passion for ministry with that of St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Matthew, and St. John:

“It is humorous that one who scours the Internet to find ministries that proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ with the same passion as the writers of the New Testament, . . .”

James White also chimed in about Owen in a post on his blog for 3-20-04:

“Your opposition to those who seek to promote the gospel, especially in apologetic contexts, is well known, though, of course, you are constantly working to keep up that “image” behind which you hide your true motivations. I knew it was only a matter of time when I saw you weigh in (without even bothering to engage in fair reading) regarding yet another apologetic issue, and that on the side of certain Roman Catholics . . . Only the Lord knows what other mischief you have been up to. But then again, that’s really what matters, isn’t it Alexander? The Lord knows. He knows my motivations, and He knows yours as well. He knows what fills your heart, and over-flows into your written words. And as Paul said long ago about your ancestor, “The Lord will repay him according to his deeds.” “

Well, folks, it will be hard to top this post in the “Whoah! Can you believe he said this?!” sweepstakes . . . Maybe Svendsen will accuse me or John Pacheco or that “wascally scoundrel” Paul Owen of elevating ourselves to the Trinity. That might do the trick. The bar is set very high, for sure.

Who knows? Maybe Svendsen will proclaim himself to be God one of these days. He certainly acts like he thinks he is, often enough: condemning people out of the evangelical circle and damning people to hell in public forums. I was under the impression that Protestants thought God chose the elect. So why is Dr. Eric “idol talk” Svendsen doing it?


(originally 4-2-04)

Photo credit: Pinocchio: photo by Tristan Schmurr (4-15-13) [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]


"It's liberal / skeptical "biblical" scholarship -- not the entirety of "biblical scholarship" and its ..."

Golden Calf & Cherubim: Biblical Contradiction?
"Hi, Dave ~I think there is still something you are not recognizing.DiMattei does not have ..."

Golden Calf & Cherubim: Biblical Contradiction?
"Your last statement is absolutely right, but it's a logically and theologically separate matter from ..."

Seidensticker Folly #64: A Saved Dahmer ..."
"I'd quibble with a few things, but I pretty much agree. Of course, you pass ..."

Golden Calf & Cherubim: Biblical Contradiction?

Browse Our Archives