Sunday, November 17, 2019

THE END OF SOLA SCRIPTURA?


Sola Scriptura – the “Bible Alone” doctrine – is one of the main teachings of the Reformation.  It can be briefly and accurately described in one short sentence: “Scripture is the only infallible source of truth for the post-apostolic church.”  That is, after the apostles died off, there is no more need of new revelation from God.  We have all the infallible truth we need today in the Bible.  (2 Timothy 3:16)

“Infallible” means “unable to make mistakes or be wrong.”  This teaching of “Bible Alone” is loved by some and hated by others, often either fully embraced or completely rejected.  Many Catholics (and others) would love to see the end of Sola Scriptura.  It seems that those who believe in “the Bible plus some other source for infallible guidance” would prefer that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura just die.

Catholic apologist John Martignoni is one of those people and he often openly speaks against this doctrine.  In a recent newsletter of his (Apologetics for the Masses #357), he attempts to tackle a very important and relevant question.  His newsletter can be found here:


In John’s newsletter, a fellow Catholic named Robert writes in and asks him:

“You constantly argue against the Protestant view because it is strictly their opinion and carries no more weight than my opinion, but can’t the same be said about the claims of the Catholic church being infallible just be your opinion and your interpretation of those verses in the bible?”

Excellent question!  I have often seen John attack Sola Scriptura (and often misrepresent it, by the way), but I have never seen him address this particular question before.  So I was eager to see how he would answer this.

To answer, John Martignoni starts off by presenting three premises.  In a nutshell, they are:

        1) Jesus Christ is God and He is a historical fact
        2) Jesus started a church
        3) The Bible is inspired

Ok, Protestants and Catholics will both agree with these premises. 

But then he says that the idea that “anyone’s opinions or interpretation of Scripture are no more valid than anyone else’s” is only true in Protestantism, and that this “fact” is the Catholic’s “ace in the hole” when discussing theology with a Protestant.  He also calls it the “Achilles heel of Protestantism.”  Then Martignoni says that it all comes down to the question of who wrote the Bible and how do we know we have the right canon? 

Actually, Robert’s question has nothing to do with the canon (list of Bible books) and much more to do with proper interpretation of the Bible texts.  But anyway, let’s address his assumption about who wrote the Bible.

Of course, John’s answer to that question is the Catholic Church, which is supposedly “the Church founded by Jesus Christ.”  He says that for us to trust that the Bible is inspired and without error, we have to trust “someone, somewhere, that we can rely on as being absolutely authoritative and trustworthy.”  I would actually agree with that, and those with such authority were the prophets and apostles, and those very close to the apostles, those who were inspired by God to infallibly write Scripture down (2 Peter 1:20-21).  So John, there’s your answer to the question of who wrote the Bible:  It was GOD who wrote the Bible, through certain temporarily inspired men: Old Testament prophets (Hebrews 1:1), New Testament apostles (Matthew, John, Paul, Peter) and some very close associates of the apostles (e.g., non-apostle Bible authors like Mark, Luke, James and Jude).
  
But John Martignoni goes on to say that we can know for sure that we can trust the Bible only if we have someone who came after the apostles who is “infallible in their decision regarding which books are, and are not, to be considered the inspired, inerrant, Word of God.”  In other words, we can only be sure of the Bible if we have someone today who knows the canon of Scripture infallibly.

See how he unnecessarily brings the canon into the equation?  But this has nothing to do with Robert’s question.

At the beginning of his answer, Martignoni first gives three premises, with which we agree.  But his conclusion is that we can only trust Scripture if an infallible person or persons (the Catholic Church) gives Scripture to us and tells us what it is.  In other words, he is telling us that one has to be infallible to recognize infallible Scripture.  But that’s not true.

An infallible person is not needed to recognize an infallible source (Matthew 27:54).  If he were, a fallible person could NEVER recognize when God (Who is infallible) is speaking to him.  But Martignoni’s view would create an infinite regress like this:

        1) God speaks infallibly to person A. 
        2) Person A (who must be infallible to recognize it) hands down the infallible information to Person B. 
        3) But since infallible information is being passed on, Person B must necessarily be infallible, also… etc., etc.  Thus, producing a never-ending chain of “infallible” people.  But this is ridiculous.

If Martignoni were correct about this, an infallible leadership would be no good to a fallible congregation.  At some point, the fallible MUST meet, and understand, the infallible.  And this is, in fact, exactly what happened in history – infallible Scripture was given to fallible men (the universal church – all true believers worldwide).

John also mentions “logic” a dozen times in this particular newsletter, but ironically his conclusion here is not based on good logic, because his belief that the Catholic Church is infallible does not at all follow from his premises.  Catholics start off with the assumption of the need for an infallible church.  But that is neither logical nor scriptural.

He also claims that his arguments are based on common sense.  We agree that common sense is certainly useful, so why can’t we simply use that common sense up front when interpreting Scripture to start with?

The bottom line is that John Martignoni does not really answer Robert’s question in a satisfactory way.  Robert’s question was basically, “If Protestants can never be sure of their interpretation of Scripture because Protestants are fallible, then shouldn’t we say the same thing about Catholics, since they, too, are fallible?”

The answer to this question is yes, because we are all fallible, and we are all prone to make mistakes.  No one today is infallible, individually or collectively.  Only the Scriptures (God’s word) are infallible (2 Timothy 3:16-17) – that’s why it is called “Sola Scriptura.”

But John’s response to Robert’s question was basically, “We have an infallible Church to interpret for us and Protestants don’t.”

That is not true, but even if that were true, it wouldn’t help Catholics at all.  If the Catholic Church is infallible, they’d have to have another infallible middle-man between the infallible Magisterium and the Catholic in the pew.  But, as we pointed out above, that wouldn’t solve what Catholics see as the “problem.” 

The point is, fallible interpretation of Scripture is not a problem at all, but simply a fact of life.  Again, because every one of us is fallible, and if we want to approach and interpret infallible Scripture, we must use our own fallible reasoning and imperfect understanding to do so.  And that goes for every person on the planet. 

John Martignoni needs to quit pretending that Protestants are “reduced” to using their fallible reasoning to interpret Scripture, but that Catholics are not.  Catholics are not exempt from fallible interpretation, even when it comes to trying to prove the infallibility of their Church.  They appeal to Scripture, but when they do that, they must still first use their fallible reasoning to interpret those Scripture passages that they claim “prove” the Church’s infallibility.  Fallible interpretation is unavoidable.

Again, the infallible must intersect with the fallible somewhere down the line.  There is no need for the existence of infallible people or infallible institutions today in order for “the common man” to understand the Bible (Matthew 7:24; Mark 4:9; Luke 6:47). 

Now, no one is suggesting that we can interpret Scripture just any way we want.  It is possible for someone to carelessly, foolishly, or unreasonably interpret the Bible.  But a fallible interpretation does not automatically mean a WRONG interpretation.  There are basic hermeneutical (interpretation) principles that we use all the time, e.g., context, history, Scripture interpreting Scripture, etc.  Though we are not infallible, God gives us sufficient ability to interpret and understand.

In the newsletter, John Martignoni states that he is not merely expressing his own opinion, but rather, his logic, based on “what the Church founded by Jesus Christ teaches.”  But have the verses that he uses to attack Sola Scriptura been “infallibly interpreted” by the Catholic Church?  No, most of them he generally uses have not.  In fact, there are very, very few verses that have this exalted status. 

But why are there actually so few Bible passages that are supposedly interpreted “infallibly” by the Catholic Church to become dogma?  Why is there such a very tiny percentage interpreted in this way if there is such a need for it?  Shouldn’t the Catholic Church have infallibly interpreted all of the Bible, or at least most of it if infallible interpretation is really that important?  One has to wonder.  See also this related article:


Catholics put down Protestants because of their “lack of certainty” in Bible interpretation, but you see, Catholics don’t really have the certainty that they claim to have, or would like to have.  Their “infallible certainty” is simply a mirage.

So, with all the Catholic apologists attacking the “Bible Alone” doctrine today, is this the end of Sola Scriptura?  Not even close.  The Bible and its teachings are not merely profitable, but they are God-breathed (i.e., God-inspired) and sufficient to equip Christians for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and it will be so until the end of time.




Sunday, October 27, 2019

THE TREASURY OF MERIT


In the teaching of the Catholic Church, there is a sort of spiritual “bank” called the Treasury of Merit.  In it are the merits (good works, righteousness) of Christ and of Mary and of the “saints.”  These merits are obtained through something called indulgences, which can only be granted through the authority of the pope (CCC 1478), and are offered to man so that all who partake of them might be “set free from sin and attain communion with the Father.” 

In other words, the Treasury of Merit exists to help people by applying its contents toward their salvation, i.e., to pay for their sins.

The Catechism

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

“We also call these spiritual goods of the communion of saints ‘the Church’s treasury’, which is not the sum total of the material goods which have accumulated during the course of the centuries.  On the contrary the ‘treasury of the Church’ is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God.  They were offered so that the whole of mankind could be set free from sin and attain communion with the Father.  In Christ, the Redeemer himself, the satisfactions and merits of his Redemption exist and find their efficacy.” (CCC 1476)

Furthermore, it says:

“This treasury includes, as well, the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God.  In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord… In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body.” (CCC 1477)

The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia

First of all, is this an authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church?  Indeed, according to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, the Treasury of Merit is a dogmatic teaching, and therefore, an “infallible” doctrine of the Catholic Church.  See here:


This same link admits that Christ’s satisfaction / payment for sins is “infinite”:

“Since the satisfaction of Christ is infinite, it constitutes an inexhaustible fund which is more than sufficient to cover the indebtedness contracted by sin.”

Yet, the Catholic Church adds the “merits” of Mary and the “saints” to this treasury, as well.  But if Christ’s merits are infinite, why add the merits of anyone else?  If they are adding anything, they must not really believe that His merits are “more than sufficient,” after all.  So, is there something lacking in the work of the Savior on the cross so that the merits of others must be added?  It would seem so in the Catholic system of salvation.

Nowhere does Scripture describe or even imply a “treasury” in which human merit is mixed with the merit of Jesus Christ to bring about justification / salvation.  The Catholic Treasury of Merit offers a false hope.  Salvation cannot be purchased with money, human merit, or good works.  It comes only from a surrender to Jesus Christ and trusting in His work on the cross, which results in a changed heart.

The Great Insult

Imagine that you owed someone a hundred million dollars (in other words, an impossible debt).  But a generous billionaire felt sorry for you and offered to fully pay that debt for you.  But let’s say that you wanted to “chip in” and you added five cents to the billionaire’s payment, then you went around bragging to your friends that you “participated” in paying your incredibly enormous debt.  But this would be an awful insult to the billionaire, whose ample wealth more than covered your debt, and he (not you) had every reason to boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

It is the same thing with salvation.  Trying to add human merits (even from the “saints” or from Mary) to the perfect and completely sufficient merit of Jesus’ work on the cross is an incredible insult to God.  It would be poisoning the pure and infinite well of salvation that Jesus provided.

No Mixture Allowed

If anyone appears before God on Judgment Day with the hope of such mixed merit, he will be rejected!  Only the pure merit of Jesus Christ will be sufficient to allow us to enter glory, and He needed no help from anyone to do it.

If you attempt to add anything (any work, any merit) to the cross, you bring upon yourself the curse of the Judaizers (Acts 15:1, 5; Galatians 1:8-9).  See this link:


A Catholic Objection

But the Catholic may say, “But there are two types of punishments for sins:  One is eternal punishment (which has to do with the guilt of sin – CCC 1472, 1473).  In this case, a person is forgiven the guilt, yet still requires work, effort, or suffering by the sinner.  That is, he is still required to satisfy some temporal punishment (CCC 1471, 1472, and 1473), which is satisfied either by suffering and / or good deeds done here in this life, or suffering in Purgatory.  This Treasury of Merit is to provide remission (forgiveness) only for the temporal punishments for sin.”

But isn’t this Treasury supposed to contain Christ’s merits?  And isn’t His merit “inexhaustible” and “more than sufficient to cover the indebtedness contracted by sin”?  So why would this “treasury” not be enough to take care of ALL punishment for sin, both temporal and eternal?
 
Again, the following are the phrases that the Catholic Church itself uses in describing the contents of the Treasury of Merit:  Its merits supposedly “set [a person] free from sin,” they “attain communion with the Father,” they are “truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value,” they are “an inexhaustible fund which is more than sufficient to cover the indebtedness contracted by sin,” and they consist of Christ’s merits, which are “the infinite value, which can never be exhausted.” 

All this, yet this treasury’s merits can only satisfy the so-called temporal punishments of sin?!!!  The best we can say is that it is only partially effective in setting one “free from [his] sin.”  The Catholic Church speaks highly of this treasury’s “efficacy,” but apparently, it is not effective against the eternal penalty for sins, i.e., it is not enough to satisfy one’s guilt.  Therefore, it cannot be of Christ (John 1:29; 19:30; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

There is a great contradiction here!

Conclusion

One last thing.  Note that CCC 1477 above says that Mary and the “saints,” through their own merits, have not only attained their own salvation, but have merit left over to apply to others in need of merit.  This would mean that they were able to obtain for themselves excess righteousness!  They were able to earn more than enough to be saved!  This is an absurd and absolutely unbiblical concept.  According to Scripture, we can’t pay for our own salvation (Romans chapters 3 and 4; Galatians 2:16; Titus 3:5), and if we can’t even pay for our own, then how in the world could we get “extra” merit to pay for others?!!!  If anyone could merit salvation for himself, then Jesus came and died for nothing! (Galatians 2:21) 

This concept of the Treasury of Merit totally nullifies the sufficiency of the Savior’s suffering and work on the cross.  And not only that, according to Indulgentiarum Doctrina (an Apostolic Constitution of Pope Paul VI – Chapter 4, Section 8) the Catholic Church threatens an anathema (condemnation) for anyone who says that indulgences are useless, or for anyone who denies the power of the Catholic Church to grant them.  So the Catholic is obligated to believe in this false “treasury.”

It is obvious that the Treasury of Merit is part of a system designed to make its members totally dependent on a man-centered, works-based salvation… which is no salvation at all.

See also this article on indulgences: 




Monday, September 30, 2019

JOHN MARTIGNONI AND “DECAPITATING” JESUS

In a fairly recent newsletter (#352 of his “Apologetics for the Masses”) put out by Catholic John Martignoni of the Bible Christian Society, he again brings up the topic of infallibility when he says that “…no one – absolutely no one! – in Protestantism can make an authoritative interpretation of Scripture that is binding on anyone else, because each and any interpretation, being fallible, could be wrong.”   And because of this, he says that Protestantism is a “free-for-all.”  See the newsletter here:


It is interesting that John says that any fallible interpretation could be wrong, yet, in this very same newsletter, he tells us what John 1:16-17 “very clearly states.”  Now, I agree with John Martignoni concerning what John 1:16-17 states, but we have to ask, has this verse been “infallibly interpreted” by the Catholic Church?  No, it hasn’t.  So how can John know that his interpretation of this verse is “authoritative” or even correct?  After all, as John himself said, if it hasn’t been infallibly interpreted by the Church, then it could be wrong, right?  But by telling us what this verse “very clearly states,” he’s using his fallible interpretation of this passage to make it “binding” on everyone.

You see, John is trying to play both sides.  He knows that many Bible verses are absolutely clear for both Protestants and Catholics, alike.  He is enjoying the freedom to fallibly interpret Scripture according to what it plainly says without worrying about his interpretation being wrong.  But he doesn’t want Protestants to be able to do the same thing.  He’s concerned about the “problem” of fallible interpretations for Protestants, yet it’s not a problem when he fallibly interprets a verse.  

He does the same thing with a couple of other passages right after this (Colossians 1:19 and Colossians 2:9-10) and says that these are also clear to both Catholics and Protestants.  Again, he doesn’t seem to care that the verses he mentions are fallibly interpreted by him.  I suspect that the real reason that Catholic apologists push infallibility is to protect those very few “infallibly defined” uniquely Catholic interpretations of certain passages that falsely exalt the Catholic Church. 

Anyway, we’ve already dealt with this issue of Protestants lacking infallibility when we addressed some of John’s other articles.  For example, see here:



But in this more recent newsletter (#352), John has added a unique accusation against Protestants… he accuses us of “decapitating” Jesus.

He says that we Protestants are “pitting the Bible against the Church.”  And he claims that Protestants say 1) that “we can’t trust what a church tells us,” 2) that “you don’t need the church as long as you’ve got the Bible,” and 3) “the church isn’t necessary for one’s salvation.”  John accuses us of “separating the Church from Jesus,” thus cutting the Head (Jesus) off the body (the church).   
   
First of all, I believe that very few knowledgeable Protestants would say these things using the biblical definition of “the church,” and they would certainly need to qualify these statements.

One problem is, when Catholics mention “the church,” they are often thinking of the Magisterium, or the leadership of the Catholic Church, specifically.  But there is absolutely no biblical reason to describe the church this way.

But John Martignoni then quotes Ephesians 1:22-23, which says that the body (the church) is the “fullness of Jesus Christ.”  Then he strings this verse together with Colossians 2:9-10, which tells us that Jesus is Head over “all rule and authority.”  But John’s logic gets twisted here and leads him to believe that the church itself is somehow “all rule and authority!”  But it doesn’t say that about the church. 

His logic here says, 1) “Jesus is the Head over the church,” and 2) “Jesus is the Head over all rule and authority.”  Therefore, the church is “all rule and authority!” 

But that would be like saying, 1) God is Head over the planet Mars, and 2) God is Head over the planet Neptune.  Therefore, Neptune is the same thing as Mars!  It just doesn’t follow.  But it does show their desperation to exalt the authority of the Catholic Church.  We can’t let John get away with this.  If he wants to be recognized as a credible and trustworthy apologist, he can’t be using this kind of logic.

Then John claims that this concept is “further strengthened” by Matthew 18:15-18 where Jesus speaks of “binding authority” in the church. 

Therefore, he concludes that all this, taken together, means that the church must enjoy “infallibility” and “freedom from error” in its judgments.  But that is a giant illogical and unbiblical step to take.

When the apostle Paul says that the church is the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23), he is saying that the church, the universal body of believers, in its best light, is the fullness of the expression of Christ.  It cannot mean that the church is infallible, as John Martignoni says, because Ephesians 3:19 also speaks of “fullness” (using the exact same Greek word):

“… that you may be filled up to all the fullness [“pleroma”] of God.” [NASV]

If this “fullness” means “infallibility” in Ephesians 1:22-23, then it also means “infallibility” in Ephesians 3:19, as well.  But in Ephesians 3, it was speaking directly to the members of the church of Ephesus.  So does this mean that all the members of the Ephesian church were infallible, also?  Someone might point out that it applies to all Christians, by extension, not just to the Ephesians.  Ok, if that’s true, then by John Martignoni’s reasoning, it would mean that all Christians world-wide are infallible.  But does John Martignoni want to say this?  I seriously doubt that.

So there is no infallibility in the New Testament church (after the apostles).  The Protestants that John Martignoni complains about are simply reacting (possibly over-reacting) to Catholics’ unbiblical over-emphasis of the authority of the church.  There is a balance here.  Yes, the church is indeed made up of God’s people, but Protestants honor the Bible more than the church because Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  It is the very message of God to mankind.  It is the infallible standard and guide by which the church should live. 
  
And finally, there is no “decapitation” on the part of Protestants.  Putting the church in its proper biblical role is not “decapitating Jesus.”  Christ and the church are intertwined, but not on the same level.  The Head (Jesus) doesn’t need the church in order for Him to exist, but the church needs Him.  It is almost as if some Catholic apologists try to make the church [read “Catholic Magisterium”] equal to Jesus.

Friday, August 30, 2019

"WHY I AM NOT ROMAN CATHOLIC"


Greetings! 

I just want to share a brief story / testimony with you today.  I am sharing a link to Tim Challies’ website, in which he tells his personal short story titled Why I am not Roman Catholic.

In this story, he briefly tells of how he grew up and the things he believed about the Catholic Church in his early years.  He, like me, had some misunderstandings at first about what exactly the Catholic Church teaches.
 
I want to point out that I don’t agree with everything Tim believes, since he is a Calvinist and I am not.  But he tells his story with grace and respect.  He gives a respectful, yet honest, assessment of the Catholic Church’s teachings.  He briefly summarizes his thoughts and gives three main (and compelling) reasons why he is not a Catholic and why Catholics should seriously and prayerfully consider these reasons.

And he also shares his belief that in spite of Catholic teaching, there are still some individuals in the Church who are saved.  But their being saved is, again, in spite of what the Catholic Church teaches, and not because of it.

Hope you enjoy the article.  Here is the link:



Wednesday, July 31, 2019

NO RESUME ON JUDGMENT DAY



Man, by nature, is not a humble creature.  All of us like to think highly of ourselves and we like others to think highly of us, as well.  Here in America, we spend billions of dollars every year on cosmetics, beauty aids, gym memberships, fine clothing and fancy cars.  We are very concerned about our image.  We want to look good and we want our friends, neighbors and co-workers to think we look good.

And that spills over into our morality.  Not only do we want to look good, but we want to believe that we are good persons.  Many, if not most, consider themselves to be moral people.  They just can’t imagine that they would be in the “bad person” category.  After all, they are better than Adolf Hitler, or Joseph Stalin, or Jeffrey Dahmer, or Saddam Hussein, aren’t they?  It’s hard to convince most people that they are not as good as they think they are.  For one example, see this short video:


Judgment Day

So, what about Judgment Day?  Will God consider most people to be good enough to get into Heaven?  Do any of them think that there’s a possibility that they might be shocked on that critical day?  It seems that many will expect God to react in their favor.  For example, let’s look at “George” (a fictional character).  George thinks that God will most likely say, “George, why should I let you into Heaven?”  And then George pulls out his lengthy resume, unrolls it like a scroll, and begins to show God, one by one, how many good things he did for the church, his family and for other people, causing “oohs” and “ahhhs” of approval from the angelic hosts.  God responds, “Wow, George, I am very impressed!  You’ve certainly earned your way into Heaven.  Come on in!”

Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but this is, I believe, pretty much what many people will be expecting on Judgment Day.  They’re trusting in their goodness, hoping that the good things they’ve done will outweigh the bad.

Is Anybody Good?

But the Bible sheds some light on Judgment Day.  In Matthew 7:21-23 we see that there are many who will be utterly shocked that God finds them to be “workers of iniquity,” instead of “good people.”  The people in this Bible passage did many “good” deeds, and they even did them “in Jesus’ name.”  And they definitely expected this to work in their favor, i.e., to merit entrance into Heaven.  Yet, to their horror, they were rejected, they were sent to Hell.  What did they do wrong?  Well, for one thing, they were trusting in their works to get them in:  “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?”  But the Bible is clear that we are saved only by the grace of God, through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5), and not by works (Romans 4:4-5).  Remember, Jesus said that no one is good but God (Mark 10:18). 

An Apostle’s Resume

Consider the apostle Paul.  Now this guy had an impressive resume!  He was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, a zealous Pharisee, a Hebrew of Hebrews and was considered faultless under the Law by his peers (Philippians 3:3-6)!  Yet, he counted all these things as dung that he may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-9)!  Not only that, but Paul also suffered often in hard labor, imprisonment, beatings, scourgings, stoning, shipwreck, hunger, thirst, cold, lack of sleep and in frequent danger of death.  Not to mention his constant and deep concern for the churches (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).  But even this resume would not be sufficient to merit Heaven, and Paul would be the first to admit this.  No one’s resume is good enough, except for the one provided by Jesus Christ through His work on the cross (1 John 2:2; 4:10).  THAT is the resume we should boast in when we stand before God!

What About Catholics?

So what about those who teach faith plus works to be saved, like the Catholic Church?  Doesn’t this type of mindset leave room for boasting?  Indeed it does (Romans 3:27; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Many Catholics will deny that theirs is a works-based gospel.  They will often quote the Council of Trent and say that they do not believe in salvation by works.  Trent says:

“None of those things which precede justification – whether faith or works – merit the grace itself of justification.”  (Session 6, Chapter 8)

Ok, this may sound good on the surface, but it is misleading for at least two reasons:  1) Scripture tells us that faith does indeed come before and produce justification according to the plan of God (Romans 4:1-3; 9-10), and 2) Trent is saying that works don’t come before justification, yet in other places they tell us that baptism (which is a work) is indeed the cause of salvation!  So they’ve got it all twisted.

On the one hand, they will say that it’s not a works-based salvation, yet, when discussing salvation with them, they will quickly turn to James chapter 2 and insist that salvation is by works, without realizing their flip flop.  I have seen this many times. 

But let’s dispel this myth that Catholicism is not a works-based religion.  This is what they teach…

Official Catholic Teaching

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“The authority of the Magisterium extends also to the specific precepts of the natural law, because their observance… is necessary for salvation.” (CCC #2036) [Emphasis added]

“…the Second Vatican Council confirms: ‘the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments.’” (CCC #2068) [Emphasis added]

“The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant [which are works] are necessary for salvation.” (CCC #1129) [Emphasis in original]

“…The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude…” (CCC 1257)

According to the Council of Trent:

“If anyone saith that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation… let him be anathema.” (Session 7, Canon 4)

“If anyone saith that the justice [justification] received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.” (Session 6, Canon 24)

According to the Second Vatican Council’s Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences, Chapter 3:

“From the most ancient times in the Church good works were also offered to God for the salvation of sinners… indeed the prayers and good works of holy people were regarded as of such great value that it could be asserted that the penitent was washed, cleansed and redeemed with the help of the entire Christian people.”

This is ample evidence that the Catholic Church teaches salvation by works.  And there are many more examples we could provide.

Conclusion

So, no informed Catholic can honestly deny that the Catholic Church officially teaches that salvation is (at least to some extent) based upon one’s own works.  But according to Scripture, salvation is not of works (Ephesians 2:9), not even by works of righteousness (Titus 3:5), but rather, it is for the one who does not work, but believes (Romans 4:5).

This doesn’t mean that we Christians are never to do any good works, because God certainly wants us to walk in these (Ephesians 2:10).  But our mindset should be that it is only through God’s grace and the cross of Jesus Christ that we are saved, apart from the merits of any of our good works. To say that your works contribute in any way toward your salvation is to say that Jesus’ work on the cross was not sufficient to pay for the sins of the world.  Does anyone really want to say this?

Once again, salvation is not about how great you are, and neither is it about the good things you did for God.  Rather, it is a surrender to God, an admission of helplessness and unworthiness, a humble confession of spiritual bankruptcy on your part.

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  Accept and believe this simple gospel (the good news) of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, trust in HIS work and suffering and you will not regret it.

I pray that this article is both humbling and encouraging to all.  But I want everyone to know that if you think that your resume will pull you through Heaven’s gates, you don’t stand a chance.




Tuesday, June 11, 2019

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS - CATHOLICS AND CHARISMATICS


Some things just don’t seem to mix – oil and water, good and evil, pain and pleasure, alcohol and a sharp mind, Batman and the Riddler, etc.  Another example is different types of churches… 

Two Churches

On the one hand, one might see a large, ornate church building with stained glass windows, filled with still, quiet members.  In the background can be heard somber (and often creepy) Gregorian chanting.  The church is highly ordered and ritualistic, with members sometimes repeating the words of the priest in typical monotone fashion.  They receive a short sermon from the priest and afterward they line up in orderly fashion to go up front to receive Communion.

On the other hand, in a church across town, one might find a radically different scene.  Here, it is anything but still and quiet.  There is the thunder of loud, repetitive music by a group on a stage, perhaps not unlike a rock concert.  After the music, many, if not most, of them are speaking in a strange language and praying with their hands raised.  Then there is a lengthy sermon, which often includes shouts of approval from the congregation during the sermon.  Often, there are also people getting a “touch from God,” creating obvious emotion in them, or they might be falling backward onto the floor, being “slain in the Spirit.” 

As one could possibly guess, the first group above is having a typical Catholic Mass, while the second group is typical of many Charismatic churches and events.

Two different churches that are miles apart in the way they operate.  These are two totally different expressions of faith, yet there seem to be certain members on either side who are drawn to certain elements from the other side.

Favor With Rome

In fact, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) has been acknowledged and supported (or at least received  positive mention) by Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis.

Many Catholics think that the Charismatic Movement is not only compatible with Catholicism, but it also helps to strengthen them in their Catholicism! 

According to Walter Martin’s Cult/Occultic Orthodox Christian Full Apologetic & Expositional Studies, (online) Cardinal Manning of Los Angeles is known to have said:

"Anyone who has become a genuine Charismatic, to my knowledge, has become a better Catholic” (Charismatic Renewal for Catholics, 1976, p. 48).

See here:


“This then is the diagnosis of those involved in the CRM [Charismatic Renewal Movement]… In practical terms the benefits to the [Catholic] Church have already been immense in that thousands of lukewarm Catholics, have been released of their spiritual paralysis and have found new life and a deeper appreciation of their faith [i.e., Catholicism]… Unanimously, people report a greater appreciation of the sacraments, especially the Mass, as meaningful encounters with Christ, the Real Presence and the role of Mary.” John V. McHale, The Charismatic Renewal Movement, pp. 262-263, The Furrow, Volume 24, May 1973 (Emphasis added).

The following five quotes are all from Robert Hogan’s “Mary and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal” (online):

“Another man, Audrey Guillet, explained the effects of being baptized in the Spirit in his life: ‘Not only do I have a tremendous new interest in Scripture but also my childhood devotion to Mary has returned, with the daily recitation of the rosary with my parents.’” (p. 248 – Emphasis added)

“[George] Montague began by directly confronting the ecumenical tension.  He explained that the Pentecostal experience among Catholics has seemed to help in reviving Marian devotion. (p. 307 – Emphasis added)

“[Vincent M.] Walsh mentioned Lourdes and Fatima to help demonstrate that the Church has affirmed the legitimacy of healing ministry.  He also noted how involvement in CCR reawakens an appreciation of traditional practices such as the rosary.” (p. 254 – Emphasis added)

Hogan speaks of a book, Power in Penance, written by priest Michael Scanlon: “The book described how Scanlon’s experience in CCR helped him to realize, in a deeper way than he had known before his involvement in CCR, the power of God available for reconciling and bringing Christ’s healing to people through the Sacrament of Penance.” (p. 243 – Emphasis added)

Hogan also says of priest / author Simon Tugwell, “His only other citation on Mary was to say that involvement in CCR leads to an increased devotion to Mary in many cases.” (p. 255 – Emphasis added)

Red Flags?

Ok, so according to these quotes, the Charismatic Movement has helped many Catholics “become better Catholics,” increased their devotion to the Sacraments, the Mass, and the Real Presence,” “revived Marian devotion,” and has given them a “deeper appreciation” for the Sacrament of Penance and the rosary.

My (Protestant) Charismatic friends, does this not raise a red flag for you?  Does this not bother you in the least?  Are you not aware of the abundant errors of the Catholic Church?  Don’t you find it strange that your own “biblical” teachings and your “Holy Spirit manifestations” are causing Catholics to be “more Catholic”?  Where is the discernment?  This “spirit” which you both embrace is not the Holy Spirit of Scripture, but another spirit (2 Corinthians 11:4).  We also suspect that the Catholic Church is taking full advantage of this opportunity to push the Ecumenical Movement, as well.  They want to join with their “separated brethren” in a one-world church (Revelation 13:8, 16-17).

Charismatic Issues

As most of our regular readers already well know, I have strong issues concerning many of the Catholic Church’s teachings.  That’s why this blog was created.  But I also have some serious issues with Protestant Charismatic groups, as well, at least with some of them.  In fact, I just recently started a brand new blog on this very topic to deal with those issues that I believe to be unscriptural in the Charismatic Movement.  The new blog can be found here:


But I want to be clear that I am not against all Charismatic churches, since they don’t all teach the same things, or all operate in the same way.  But it is obvious that both the Catholic Church and the Charismatic churches (in general) have some truth and some hazards.

Conclusion

This article is intended to be more of a rebuke toward Charismatics, rather than toward Catholics.  The abuses in this group are a growing problem.  Not only are these harmful doctrines and activities overflowing into the Catholic Church, but America seems to be exporting these same corruptions to many other nations.  In the Catholic Church alone, there were over 160 million members in 2013:  


No doubt, that number is greater today.  So, with its growing influence in mind, the Charismatic Movement, as a whole, has some serious issues, which include encouraging and solidifying the errors of the Catholic Church.

This relationship between these strange bedfellows is not good news.  In this union, they are not helping themselves, each other, or the church of Jesus Christ, in general.  So, Houston, we have a problem… and the problem is not just the Catholic Church.