Dave Armstrong, upon realizing it was unwise to post
Columbine-style pictures of Reformed apologists on the same
blog that talks about how he respects Protestants, pointed to
a response he wrote to the comparison of his "exegesis" with
an example of my own (found here) as
a means of providing cover for his mistake. I had
briefly looked at the response, thrown my hands up in despair,
and chosen to ignore it. Why? Because, as is so
often the case, Mr. Armstrong just didn't get it. It was
obvious he thought I had written my exegesis as a response to
his own. I hadn't. As I had pointed out, I took
the sample of his own writing from his book. Mine I took
from an article I was writing at the time for a scholarly
journal. That was what made the comparison worthwhile:
his example was not directed at me, specifically, and mine was
written without any connection whatsoever to Armstrong.
The point of the comparison was completely lost on Mr.
Armstrong as well. The point was to illustrate the
difference in exegetical methodologies between us. It
was not to provide a point/counter-point argument. But
Armstrong treats it like it is supposed to be a debate
presentation. As such, he misses the entire purpose of
But since he has insisted I have "ignored" his "reply," a few
comments are in order. Armstrong's "response" can be
found here. I will be very brief...no, downright
terse, as there is little of substance here to respond to.
A) Upon reviewing a footnote that discusses a range of
lexical and LXX background information, Armstrong writes,
"Nothing to quibble with here." Of course not: it is
factual information, the very kind of factual information
that plays no part in his own 'exegesis.'
B) Next, I commented very briefly, and in a summary
fashion, on Hebrews 7:22. Armstrong replies, "But of
course White does not here deal with my own particular
argument." How on earth could I? I wasn't writing
this in response to Armstrong. But the argument that
follows again displays the very point I was making all along:
that what Armstrong calls "exegesis" is actually Roman
Catholic proof-texting. Note he says:
Jesus holds a
perpetual priesthood ("He holds his priesthood permanently,
because he continues forever" -- 7:24; not just a one-time
priestly sacrifice of Himself that has no application to His
priesthood beyond the time it occurred in history).
Yes, we agree that Jesus sacrificed Himself once on the Cross
(7:27). But that is a one-time act, in history. Why, then,
does 7:26 continue to refer to Jesus as a "high priest" in the
present tense, "exalted above the heavens"? It is this
paradoxical interplay between the one act and the
"present-ness" of Jesus' priesthood that suggests a timeless
nature of the sacrifice: precisely what Catholics claim is
occurring at the Mass: the one-time sacrifice is being made
present to us, because Jesus is a priest "forever."
exegesis, the burden of proof lies upon the one asserting.
No one has argued that Christ's priesthood is anything but
permanent. But note the shift in Armstrong's terminology
from Christ's priesthood to "a one-time priestly
sacrifice of Himself." No basis for this exchange is
offered, and it then becomes the basis of the statement, "that
has no application to His priesthood beyond the time it
occurred in history." Of course, we've already left the
realm of exegesis at this point, but Armstrong is not aware of
the parameters of the activity, and hence thinks that these
kinds of statements are exegetical in nature. The second
paragraph contains only one exegetically-relevant question
(not even an assertion) in the midst of its theological
speculations. Evidently the entire argument is based
upon the fact that Jesus is, present tense, the one,
singular High Priest, and therefore, there must be an on-going
aspect to His priesthood, and hence an on-going, perpetual
sacrifice. Of course, to substantiate such an
argument one would have to provide a textual basis for the
perpetual sacrifice and this is the very thing Armstrong
does not attempt to do. Using his "Socratic"
methodology, however, he forges a plausible line of thinking
and seemingly believes this is sufficient. Exegesis this
is not. Christ's priesthood is permanent not because His
sacrifice is perpetual but because He ever lives to make
intercession for us: intercession cannot happen without a
completed sacrifice. To make the sacrifice perpetual is
to destroy the perfection of both it, and the intercession
made upon its completed nature.
C) Next, in
my comments I worked through the supremacy of Christ to the
old priests. Armstrong's response? Exegetical?
Sure, but this
doesn't rule out the Catholic claim with regard to Jesus'
priesthood. It makes little sense to me to keep referring to
Jesus as a "priest" in the present tense when He is (according
to most Protestants) no longer doing at all what a priest does
(sacrifice). Jesus sacrificed Himself as the Lamb of God. That
was His priestly act (this is stated explicitly in 7:27, so it
cannot be doubted).
But if that was
strictly a past tense and not perpetual, why keep calling Him
a priest after He is glorified in heaven? It would seem much
more sensible to refer to His one-time priestly act, rather
than continuing to call Him something denoting a
characteristic activity that He is no longer performing.
Notice the utter
disconnection from the text under discussion. Exegesis
has been abandoned, we are back to theological jargon.
In response to the theological (non-exegetical) argument: what
makes little sense to Dave Armstrong is hardly the basis for
theological truth. Note the errant assumption made:
"what a priest does (sacrifice)." Oh? Mr.
Armstrong, what was the priest doing in the Holy Place on the
Day of Atonement? Was he sacrificing? No, he
wasn't. He was presenting a finished sacrifice.
Did he cease to be a priest as soon as the sacrifice was
completed? By Mr. Armstrong's reasoning, yes. Of
course, that reveals its fundamental error. The writer
to the Hebrews teaches us that Christ has entered into the
holy place in heaven. If he were to follow the analogy,
does it not follow that just as the high priest ceased
sacrificing when he entered the holy place in the earthly
tabernacle, that likewise the one High Priest accomplished His
one sacrifice on Calvary, and has now entered into the holy
place, having obtained eternal redemption (9:12), so
that His priestly work now is, as Hebrews 7:24-25 says,
intercessory, not sacrificial?
his non-exegetical "response" to exegesis, Armstrong replies
to my noting Christ's ability to save (7:25):
If He is actively
saving men -- present and future tense -- (as is undoubtedly
true), but is doing so as a priest then He is presently saving
by the sacrifice of Himself (i.e., the priestly act) which is
an act made eternally "now". Thus we are right to the heart of
the Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the same concept. Jesus
saves us as a priest. The sacrifice is of both an ongoing and
salvific nature. This is the Mass! It's heartening to see that
James White can present it so clearly from the Bible despite
his own lack of belief in it.
Notice again that
there is absolutely, positively not the first attempt to make
a connection to the text that is supposedly being "exegeted."
None. This is what makes it next to impossible to
respond to Armstrong without writing page after page of
disjointed rebuttals. In response to the assertions
made: the text under discussion defines for us, directly, in
the clearest language, why the Lord Jesus has complete
salvific power: "because He ever lives to make intercession
for them." Does Armstrong note this? No, of course
not. Does he note the difference between saving to the
uttermost and the Roman concept of satispassio in
purgatory? No. Instead, we get the repeated error
of thinking a priest only sacrifices (refuted above),
which is used to slide directly into modern Roman dogma
without the first attempt to draw this from the text itself.
This is eisegesis in its purest form. Nothing I said is
even slightly relevant to Rome's Mass; Armstrong is the one
closing his eyes to the text and its assertions of Christ's
saving power, intercession, etc., and yet, in the midst of
presenting this kind of eisegetical nonsense, he finds a way
to "take a shot" as if I were presenting Rome's position, but
am just not bright enough to "get it."
E) The rest
of this "response" is a flight of fancy, leaping out of
Hebrews to all sorts of other passages, and demonstrating, for
any thinking person, that Dave Armstrong has never once
cracked the binding of a book on exegesis, let alone taken the
subject seriously enough to equip himself to honestly approach
the subject with integrity. Note just one last example.
I had written:
As noted above, the
soteriological content of the superiority of Christís work as
high priest and of the new covenant cannot be dismissed
completely misunderstood the point: I was focusing upon the
fact that the new covenant is soteriological in nature.
He is probably unaware of the viewpoint expressed by those who
see a non-soteriological element to the new covenant, and
hence did not even notice the italics as they flew by.
But he had plenty of time to respond as follows:
I agree 100% That's
why I go to Mass every Sunday and partake of the body and
blood of the once-for-all-sacrificed Lamb of God, my Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ, made sacramentally present by the sublime
miracle of transubstantiation, because this sacrifice is my
salvation. It's not often that I get excited about the Mass
based on the arguments of an anti-Catholic Baptist who detests
the very concept. :-)
Again, this is
simply beyond rational discourse. This is not exegesis,
and the one acting as if he knows what exegesis is cannot,
seemingly, even make a show of it.
I have often had
folks comment, "Man, that Dave Armstrong sure has a lot of
stuff on his website!" Yes, he sure does. The IRS
website has a lot on it too, so if verbosity is the measure of
religious truth, we should worship toward our local tax
office. But verbosity is not the measure of truth, and
as we have seen above, Mr. Armstrong's vain attempt at trying
to act as if he can engage in exegetical work only shows that
he has a tremendous amount of time on his hands, a
high-quality keyboard, a large hard drive, unlimited ISP
space, and no end of mental energy to dedicate to his cause.
But anyone looking for substantial biblical exegesis from him
will be sorely disappointed.