Tuesday, August 2, 2022

“WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?”

 

Many readers will no doubt be familiar with the above title.  They might recognize it as the name of a song by singer/actress Tina Turner.  But this phrase is also the title of Catholic apologist John Martignoni’s Newsletter #353.  This newsletter is actually Part 2 of his theme, “Problems with Protestantism,” and it can be found here:

https://www.biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter/470-apologetics-for-the-masses-353-problems-with-protestantism-2

In this particular newsletter, John attempts to deal with the doctrine of Sola Fide (salvation by “Faith Alone”).  John’s whole theme in this newsletter is the question of the role of love in salvation.

John says:

“In Protestant theology, one of the two main dogmas is Sola Fide - salvation by faith ALONE!  That is the belief that all I have to do is believe that Jesus is God incarnate and that He died on the Cross for my sins and - BOOM! - I'm saved.  I don't have to do any works.  I don't have to be baptized. I don't have to worry about sacraments or growing in holiness or anything else.  All I have to do...the only thing I have to do...the only thing I can do that counts for anything...is to have faith.  I am saved by my faith, and by my faith alone, period!”

Ok, I must say that John Martignoni goes out of his way to mischaracterize this doctrine, as I’ve seen him do before.  But the truth is, he knows better!  No doubt John has spoken to many Protestants about this topic and he has heard many of the arguments for it.  So this is not at all new to him.  But let’s break his comments down a little.

Notice that he says that a person who believes in Sola Fide does not have to do any works or be baptized.  He says that the person doesn’t have to grow in holiness – only have faith.

Yes, getting saved/justified is the beginning of a person’s spiritual journey.  But John makes it sound like this person can choose to never, ever do works, get baptized or grow in holiness!  This is an utter misrepresentation of Sola Fide and John Martignoni knows this. 

Please hear me on this: Sola Fide means that a person gets saved/justified by faith, through God changing his heart.  Salvation is caused by faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross APART FROM THE MERIT OF OUR OWN WORK.  Protestants don’t hate good works nor do they try to avoid them.  John knows well that Protestants will, and gladly do, perform good works.  But these works are done because we are ALREADY saved/justified at this point, by God giving us a new heart.  It is this faith, this trusting Him alone that saves us, not works, sacraments, or rituals. 

How Does Love Fit In?

Now, John is basically asking, “But what about love?  Don’t we find love anywhere in this equation when a person gets saved?”

Again, Sola Fide is about denying the merit of good works to cause salvation.  It doesn’t say that you won’t afterward do any works, or mandate that you can’t have any feelings of love, joy, peace, thankfulness or desire to serve God.  This is John’s faulty definition, his misrepresentation of “Faith Alone”: He’s trying to say that in Sola Fide, only faith can exist and absolutely nothing else!  But this is not Sola Fide. 

According to his faulty reasoning, he states:

If we are saved by faith, and faith alone, then love has absolutely nothing to do with our salvation.” 

Not so, John.  Every true Christian exhibits love.  Love toward God and love toward his fellow man.  But according to Scripture, it is his faith, his trust in God that saves him (Ephesians 2:8-10).

But You Gotta Have Love!

John Martignoni goes on, using Scripture, to tell us the great importance of love (as though we Protestants didn’t think it was important).  He goes on a ridiculous rant to try to convince people that we MUST love.  Well, of course we do, John!  Nobody’s denying that.  But the Bible tells us very clearly, over and over, that the medium that God continually used over the centuries to cause salvation is faith (Romans 4:1-3).  Of course, we’ll exercise love toward God and man.  But John is attempting to say that our love (i.e., through our actions/works) is necessary to save us. 

But no, it is through faith in GOD’S love that saves us, not our own.  We cannot possibly love in the perfect way that God loves, since we are sinful creatures who so often fall short in our walk with God.  And that is exactly why NONE of our works can save us.  Sola Fide believers are not against love or any other fruit of the Spirit. 

Our good works are beautiful in the eyes of God… UNLESS we are trying to use them to accomplish our salvation!  Then, they are loathsome in His eyes (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10) and they disqualify us from salvation (Romans 4:4-5).  Sola Fide is an acknowledgment that our puny works are insufficient to save.  Nothing we do can compare with His work on the cross.   That’s why God basically says, “Let this, and this alone, save you.  And quit trying to add your tainted works to the equation” (Galatians 3:1-3).  Catholics actually believe in faith plus works.  But salvation/justification is either all Jesus’ work, or it is not of Jesus at all.

Misrepresentation

John goes on to say:

 "For God so loved the world that He gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life," (John 3:16).  Awesome!  God loves me.  He loves me so much that I don't have to do a thing...not one thing...other than believe in Him...and I am saved.  He loves me, but I don't have to love Him, and I am still saved.  I can sin all I want, and as long as I have accepted Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior, I'm saved.  And who was it that said the road to salvation is narrow and difficult?  Silly rabbit...no it's not...it's pretty easy actually.”

John continues to mock this biblical doctrine and suggests that “I can sin all I want” and still be saved.  This is an utter perversion of Sola Fide.  No valid biblical argument is saying that we can continually sin to our heart’s desire without repentance and still be saved (Hebrews 10:26-29).  The person who is truly saved will not want to sin, knowing that sin grieves our Lord. 

Interestingly, John’s description of the Sola Fide believer in his newsletter happens in the Catholic Church, as well!  For example, in the confessional, many believe you can flippantly say three ‘Hail Marys’ and you are absolved of all your sin.  You might object that any person who flippantly says the prayers of the sacrament of penance is not a true Catholic.  But that’s exactly my point!  Likewise, no truly saved person will say that he can purposely sin all he wants without repenting and still be saved.  What John is talking about is a person who has had a false conversion.   

But both of these scenarios are unbiblical!  The Catholic mindlessly repeating canned prayers (Matthew 6:7-8) to get right with God is just as futile as the Protestant mindlessly quoting some form of “sinner’s prayer,” but intending to continue living in sin (1 Timothy 5:20; 1 John 3:6, 9). 

John continues:

“Now, someone might say, ‘John, you're being ridiculous.  That's not what Sola Fide folks believe.’  First point in response, it is actually what a number of them believe.”

Maybe so, John, but these are not mainstream.  And even if they were – even if most people believed it – that still wouldn’t make it right.  The “sin-as-much-as-you-want” mentality is obviously wrong and unbiblical.  But the misuse or misunderstanding of Sola Fide by some people does not negate its truth. 

You may complain that Protestants don’t have a “fixed” or “authoritative” definition of the term, and then dismiss all Sola Fide arguments based on the one you choose to attack.  But that’s dishonest.  If you want to tear down those non-mainstream arguments, then that’s fine, but don’t pretend that you have disproved the doctrine when you do that.

John says that his statements, his reasoning and examples of Sola Fide in this newsletter are the logical consequence of the doctrine.  No, John, neither the Bible nor the doctrine of Sola Fide says that freely and purposely continuing to sin has no impact on your salvation (Hebrews 3:12-13)!  Again, you are misrepresenting Sola Fide.

James Settles It

He goes on:

“One final matter: Someone might say, "Well, if you don't love the Lord, or do the works of the Lord, then that means you haven't really accepted Him into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior."  My response: Really?!  Where does the Bible tell me such a thing?”

Concerning us doing the works of the Lord, yes, saved people certainly will.  Of course, it is not in those exact words, but James 2:18 expresses that same concept – a person’s salvation is shown/demonstrated by his works:

But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; SHOW ME your faith without the works, and I will SHOW YOU my faith by my works.” (Emphasis added)

See that, John?  Your works demonstrate the reality of your faith.  That whole context in James chapter 2 confirms this fact.  So, your argument is with James! 

Now, James’ point was not that works are absolute proof of salvation (because even atheists can do “good” works), but rather his point is, if you really are saved, you will have some good works to show for it.

John continues:

“Furthermore, how many works do I have to do to ‘prove’ that I have truly accepted Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior?  10?  20? 5 years worth?  10 years worth?  How many works does it take to ‘prove’ that you're saved?”

Of course, there is no precise number of works that will absolutely “prove” that one is actually saved.  And of course, there is no totally foolproof test, since only God knows your neighbor’s heart perfectly.  But we can have a pretty good idea if he is saved or not, by his works, as James said above. 

Furthermore, I could turn the tables on John and ask him, “If good works contribute to one’s salvation, as the Catholic Church’s teachings insist, how many good works must one do to be saved?  Exactly where is the threshold?” 

There really is no answer to either of our questions, but my question here is based on a scriptural concept (that works cannot save you).  But John’s question is based on an unbiblical concept (that works don’t demonstrate you are saved).  It is indeed important to know if a person is saved, so if works don’t show that you are saved, then by what biblical measure can you tell if someone is saved or not?

Actually, the Catholic Church teaches that (without a revelation) a Catholic can never really know if he will be saved, because that would be the sin of presumption (CCC #2092).  So, according to this, no matter how many good works are done, I guess that no Catholic can assume that any other Catholic is saved, can he?  You see, John, your question cuts both ways.

Conclusion

Ok, John knows what Sola Fide is really all about, but he has resorted to nit-picking the less-than-perfect NAME of the doctrine so that it will appear foolish.  The term “Faith Alone” may not be precise, but he knows what it really means. 

So maybe the term “Faith Alone” is not a perfect name, so what?  Here is an excerpt from one of my previous articles on Sola Fide:   

“First off, we want to say that the term ‘faith alone’ is not a perfectly accurate term, in the sense that faith is not the only thing present at the moment of conversion. Along with faith, there will certainly be joy, thankfulness, sorrow for one’s sins, a love for God and a willingness to serve Him, etc. A similar (imperfect) expression would be the Catechism of the Catholic Church saying that ‘Christ alone’ teaches us (CCC #427), yet the Catholic Church (as well as every other church) also has human teachers. Another example is the phrase ‘salvation comes from God alone’ (CCC #169), yet Catholics will argue that the Church certainly has a part in it. Just as these Catholic phrases are not precise, so it is with the phrase ‘faith alone.’  The focus of the term “faith alone” is on the absence of WORK done in attempting to make Heaven.”

See that article here:

https://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2010/01/faith-alone-part-1.html

The word “alone” in “Faith Alone” is simply meant to deny any saving merit of our works – it is not to suggest the absence of love or any of the fruit of the Spirit.  In other words, man’s works are never a cause of salvation, but rather a sign that he has already been saved.

It is important to understand that good works don’t save you at ANY point of your spiritual journey – beginning, middle or end (Galatians 3:1-3).  But if you continue in faith till the end, your works will bring you rewards in Heaven.  Faith is about salvation itself and works are about rewards.

Salvation – what does love have to do with it?  Love is a vital ingredient in the life of the Christian.  It should be embraced and used throughout his spiritual journey.  But the love and works that man expresses is not what saves us (Romans 4:4-5; Titus 3:5).


Monday, July 11, 2022

THE LONELY PILGRIM AND SACRED TRADITION

 

I have recently run across an article by a Catholic person whose blog is identified as the “Lonely Pilgrim.”  On his blog, he has some thoughtful articles and he seems to be very intelligent and down-to-earth.  The article I want to address today is titled, “What Sacred Tradition Is and Is Not: 7 Answers to Common Misconceptions” and you can find it here:

http://lonelypilgrim.com/2013/09/07/what-sacred-scripture-is-and-is-not-answers-to-some-common-misunderstandings/

Oral Versus Written

I would love to respond to every item in his article, but that would make my response way too long.  So, I’ll just try to hit some of the main points.

He starts off saying that “Sacred Tradition – including Sacred Scripture – started out as oral tradition.”

Ok, no problem.  It is true that the contents of the Bible were first received orally (spoken) before they were ever written down.  Most things do start off that way.  That’s not an issue and it doesn’t prove anything against the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura, by the way.

Next, the Lonely Pilgrim points out the fact that not everything that Jesus and the apostles said or did was written down (i.e., in Scripture).  He says:

But what do you suppose happened to all the stories of the other things Jesus said and taught and did, all the other things that Paul and the Apostles taught? …Everything that came from the mouth of Jesus was the Word of God. Did it cease to be the Word of God, cease to be Divine Revelation, because it was among those ‘many other signs Jesus did’?”

Ok, good questions, and he is, of course, referring to John 20:30-31 that says that there was much, much more information about Jesus than what is contained in John’s gospel.  Now, no one is saying that what Jesus said (apart from the Bible) stopped being Divine Revelation – but the problem is that no one knows with certainty exactly what all was said in the first place!  Catholics are willing to take the word of certain men (who, by the Lonely Pilgrim’s own admission, were not speaking infallibly) and put some of what they said on the same level as Scripture.     

Now, of course, many from the early church claimed to know what Jesus said.  What they’re telling us He said may, or may not, be accurate.  Now, no doubt, they got at least some of the things right that Jesus and the apostles said.  After all, some of them lived in the same time period.  Nevertheless, “closer in time” does not necessarily mean that everything they claimed that Jesus taught was true (John 21:20-23).

The Lonely Pilgrim then states that these sayings of Jesus were remembered and passed down to the following generations.  So, he is implying that all these things that were spoken and done by Jesus (while never written) were indeed known and kept by the early church.  But since they were not written, they couldn’t be considered Scripture, so they had to fall under another “infallible” category, one created by the Catholic Church – Sacred Tradition.  It seems that the Catholic Church saw an opportunity here, and they latched on to it.  But it is always dangerous to assign infallibility to something so vague, to such a body of information that they can’t even tell us what it is!

Transparency?

The Lonely Pilgrim says:

“Protestant critics complain that ‘tradition’ is something nebulous and undefined that Catholics can say is whatever they want it to be.”

And he then boasts:

“I have never seen an organization [the Catholic Church] go to greater lengths to be open and transparent as to the content and basis of its doctrines.”

He then goes on to mention the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Church documents and Church fathers, and how they can all be easily found online.  He seems to boast of the “availability” of the Catholic Church’s sources, but this all begs the question…

A Clear Definition?

Ok, so the big question is this: What exactly were all those unwritten things Jesus said and did?  Can any Catholic tell us every word?  Can anyone know for sure, or tell us infallibly?  No, the best they can do with such information (that’s not in the Bible) is read what the fathers said that Jesus said.  But that certainly doesn’t imply any kind of infallibility. 

As far as the content of Sacred Tradition, some of the Catholic Church’s “definitions” include “the living and growing truth,” or “the common teaching, common life, and common worship of the whole Church.”  The Second Vatican Council says that Tradition is all that she herself [the Catholic Church] is, all that she believes.” (Dei Verbum, chapter. 2, paragraph 8).

THIS is supposed to be meaningful?  Is this as understandable and exact as they can make it?  If so, is it any wonder why Protestants complain about Sacred Tradition being nebulous or unclear?  These “definitions” are not telling us anything.  Sorry, but that’s not being “open” and “transparent” about the contents of your Sacred Tradition. 

Remember, we’re talking about teaching that is supposedly inspired and infallible here.  When he mentions the Catechism (above) as Tradition, is the Lonely Pilgrim saying that every part of the Catechism is inspired?  I certainly hope not.  If not, then which parts?  I don’t think anyone can tell us, and I know of no infallible list of those parts.    

But maybe we can find the perfect definition of Tradition in Pope Pius IX, who was speaking with Cardinal Guidi of Bologna about popes having infallibility.  The Cardinal pointed out that the idea of “papal infallibility” did not agree with Church Tradition.  So the pope arrogantly roared, “I AM TRADITION!”  Yep, I think this pretty much sums it up.  In essence, he was saying, “Who are you to tell me what Tradition says?  Whatever I, the Vicar of Christ, want Tradition to be is Tradition!”  This speaks volumes.

Tradition Inspired?

Not only does the Catholic Church seem to say that they have all the words of Jesus and the apostles in Sacred Tradition (which is not true), but also that this “deposit of faith” is equal to Scripture.  After all, Sacred Tradition is also considered by Catholics as “the Word of God.”  The official Catholic document, Dei Verbum, chapter 2, paragraph 9, says:

“Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.” (Emphasis mine)

So that, to me, means that Dei Verbum is saying the two would have to be equal.  But interestingly, the Lonely Pilgrim says that Scripture and Tradition don’t have “equal authority,” because they have “different characters.”  So, it seems he is free to disagree with a statement that the Catholic Church considers infallible. 

It is also interesting that only the Catholic Church can authentically interpret this Sacred Tradition (CCC #100)!  Hmmm.  Seems to be self-serving, doesn’t it?

The Lonely Pilgrim claims:

“The Church Fathers are not Sacred Tradition, but they do contain Sacred Tradition. “

Well, he needs to demonstrate exactly WHICH PARTS of the fathers’ teachings are infallible.  Can he give us all of them, so we can know?  Sorry, but just throwing a bunch quotes into a pile, calling it the “deposit of faith,” and saying that “Sacred Tradition” is somewhere in there just doesn’t cut it. 

Concerning the fathers, the Lonely Pilgrim admits:

“And sometimes they are plain wrong. Sometimes, many times, the Church Fathers even disagree with each other! But it is the things they agree upon, the core of apostolic teachings, that we receive as Sacred Tradition.”

Agreeing upon a core of “apostolic” teachings is fine if they are indeed apostolic.  And if they are, they will be consistent with Scripture.  The Bible tells us to test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21), including Tradition.  When determining doctrine, Scripture is not tested by Tradition, but Tradition is tested by Scripture (Mark 7:1-13), thus showing they are not equal.

Furthermore, when you read the fathers, how do you know that you have interpreted them correctly, since they are a long way off from our culture (as Lonely Pilgrim stated elsewhere in his article about Scripture interpretation)?  If it is hard to interpret Scripture (as Catholics often claim), why should it be any easier to interpret the fathers, since they use language quite different from our own?

Taking Liberties with Scripture

As I said above, the key passage from which all this stems is John 20:30-31:

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

Now folks, let’s take a deep breath and put aside any preconceived Catholic or Protestant ideas, and just take this passage at face value. 

What is the intention of the apostle John here?  He is revealing the purpose of his book/gospel in this passage so that the reader might believe in Christ and have eternal life.  That’s it. 

He’s not saying that there are many other signs that Jesus did and the church fathers will have all this external information.  He’s not saying that the reader can find these signs in some other (infallible) source.  He’s not saying that we are obligated to hunt for and collect all these acts to preserve them for the church.  And he’s not saying that we need to gather them into some new infallible category alongside Scripture.  

No, he’s simply saying that there were too many deeds, sayings and signs to be included in his book.  In fact, there are more than could ever be collected on earth (John 21:25), but these (in John’s gospel) are sufficient to cause one to believe.  Reading anything else into the passage is irresponsible Bible interpretation.

Conclusion

If anyone says he has access to everything Jesus ever said, he is a liar.  No person, institution, or church has this information.  The point is, we don’t need access to everything that Jesus ever said.  But Scripture is sufficient to equip us for every good work when it comes to doctrine, reproof, correction and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

In other words, correct doctrine comes from Scripture, not Tradition.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn things from the fathers, history or Tradition, but these things will not be infallible like Scripture is.

I am not saying that the things He said (outside of Scripture) were unimportant, but that we just don’t have access to all of them.  Each and every one of these things He said were no doubt very important and infallible – and none of it returned void, but it accomplished its godly goal (Isaiah 55:11).

But what we see is Catholics taking liberties with this passage (John 20:30-31) and making unfounded assumptions.  They think that every time Scripture uses, or alludes to, the term “tradition” in a positive sense, it is talking of Catholic “Sacred Tradition.”  But that’s just begging the question.

We have asked the one question about Sacred Tradition that they never can seem to answer: What exactly is Sacred Tradition?  Don’t give us examples of it, but tell us exactly what it contains.  All of it, not some nebulous, ever-increasing and growing entity that changes year by year through “development of doctrine.”

That is the Protestant challenge to Catholics.

There is so much more I would have liked to have covered in Lonely Pilgrim’s article, but I will stop here.  Perhaps, if there is enough interest from readers to address more of it, I may do a “Part 2.”

See also this article on Tradition:

https://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2010/05/what-about-tradition.html

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

CATHOLIC CONVENTS AND MONASTERIES: SANCTUARIES OR CESSPOOLS?

  • “Sanctuary” – A place of refuge or safety.
  • “Cesspool” – A disgusting or corrupt place.

It is normally admirable to see someone who is sold out to God, serving Him at all costs, and is willing to do anything to please our Lord.  This often appears to be the case with Catholic monks and nuns.  Most of the people within these two groups appear to have a very sincere dedication to God (or to the Church), since they have chosen “the consecrated life.”

Now, understand that there are different groups of nuns and monks and they don’t all have the same rules.  Some are stricter than others.  But all of them have a measure of asceticism built into their system.

Asceticism

The online dictionary.com describes asceticism as:

1) The manner of life, practices, or principles of an ascetic.

2) The doctrine that a person can attain a high spiritual and moral state by practicing self-denial, self-mortification, and the like.

3) Rigorous self-denial; extreme abstinence; austerity.

According to the Oxford Languages dictionary, it means:

"Severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons."

So that is why when a would-be monk or nun enters these groups, they will then be isolated, at least to a certain extent, for a period of time to live very closely together in a monastery (monks with other monks or nuns with other nuns).  In extreme cases, they will be completely isolated from the outside world (cloistered), with almost no exceptions.  Sometimes, nuns will live in a convent, where there seems to be a little more freedom.   

Furthermore, Catholic nuns and monks generally will be forced to live a celibate life, meaning that they will not be allowed to marry and they must abstain from sex, in some cases, for the rest of their lives.

If that’s not hard enough, some of these “religious,” as they are sometimes called, are usually expected to discipline and punish themselves by eating very small and simple meals (e.g., bread and water), sometimes only once a day.  Depending on the type of monastery, they are expected to fast often for long periods of time, sleep on hard floors or boards, wear extremely uncomfortable clothing (sometimes made of itchy hair or sharp metal pieces) for long periods, whip themselves (self-flagellation), wear tight cords around the body, and/or sometimes taking vows of silence or vows of poverty, etc., etc. 

Obviously, this won’t make most people say, “Hey, sign me up for that!”  No, this lifestyle is unusually harsh and most Catholics will avoid it.

 Motive?

Again, it is indeed rare to see such dedication toward God or Church, but what is the reason for going to this extreme?  Why choose to live such a harsh lifestyle?

Perhaps it is because they are trying to follow what Jesus said:

“And he said to them all, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23)

Or maybe they are thinking of what the apostle Paul said:

 “but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27- NASB)

Do they intend to emulate the apostle Paul in his hardships and suffering (Galatians 5:24; 2 Corinthians 6:4-10) or are they even trying to outdo the apostle Paul? 

But what they do in the monastery is not what Jesus and Paul were talking about.  There is a balance in your spiritual life and its discipline.  In fact, Paul warned against legalistic asceticism.  Such a life of legalism will only keep you from serving God properly:

“If you have died with Christ to the spiritual forces of the world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its regulations: “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”? These will all perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such restrictions indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-prescribed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body; but they are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:20-23 - BSB)

It is possible that their motives are well-intended, but we need to remain biblical if we really want to please God.  Much of convent/monastic life is unnecessary.  If you really want to please God, try spending more time at home in prayer, and in the Word of God. 

Thinking about a vow of silence?  How about keeping your mouth shut at the appropriate times, but use your freedom of speech to spread the true gospel! 

Instead of taking a vow of poverty, get a job and actually help others financially who live in poverty!

Instead of trying to live a life of isolation in a monastery (which you won’t find in the New Testament), do what Jesus said and interact with the lost by taking the gospel to the world! (Matthew 28:18-20)

Instead of making yourself miserable, pray for those who ARE ALREADY miserable! 

This life in the convent or monastery is closely tied in with a works-based salvation, that is, they believe that they get more “points” doing this and they have a “better chance” to get into Heaven.  It is an earning system.

 Bad Environment

Not only is there an issue with asceticism in convents and monasteries, but there is something that is recognized by most as a more sinister problem.  When there are so many celibate people of the same sex trapped together indefinitely, bad things tend to happen.  An environment like this invites trouble.  We’ve all heard of pedophile and sexual predator priests in the Catholic Church, but what about nuns and monks?  Can it be that the same things happen to them, as well?  Indeed it can.

Back in January 2019, CBS News did a video on nuns accused of sexual misconduct.  One of the former nuns that CBS interviewed, Trish Cahill, was sexually abused by an older nun.  Cahill, when speaking to the CBS News correspondent, used the phrase “pedophile nun.”  And the correspondent said that the phrase “‘Pedophile nun’ is a phrase I think most of our viewers will have never heard.”  The former nun replied, “Really?  Wow!  That’s really a shame because there’s a lot of them out there.  It’s the secret not yet told.”

The Catholic Church is very aware that it breeds such victims.  Cahill also later said, concerning a financial settlement she received from the Church for the abuse she suffered, “They had canon lawyers on retainer just for people like me!”  That is, the Church had lawyers ever ready to defend against the inevitable… those who would make accusations of a sexual nature against Catholic leaders.  Again, the Catholic Church knows very well the monster they have created with these convents and monasteries and their forced living conditions. 

But thank God, some are finally realizing what Protestants have been saying about the Catholic Church for a long time: In this same video, another former nun, Mary Dispenza, said, “The demands of chastity and celibacy are unrealistic demands for many of us.”

Exactly!  They may mean well in the beginning, but it often ends in disaster.

See the video here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THoy6mLX9r4

Problems in the Church

Again, sexual abuse by priests (and others in the hierarchy) is well known and documented.  But there are many reports and stories of monks and nuns who have abused others, as well. This abuse has fallen under different categories.  Sometimes it is psychological, sometimes verbal, very often it is sexual, and many times it is strictly physical abuse. 

These stories and accusations have been around for a long, long time - for decades, or most likely, centuries.  Sexual deviancy in the Catholic Church was especially a problem during the time of the Borgia popes (in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries), but the Catholic Church, not surprisingly, not only tries to downplay these perverted activities, but the Vatican will also hide their modern predators from the public by not contacting law enforcement, but rather, shuffling off offenders to other areas of the country where they are unknown, starting the same cycle all over again.

The Cat is Out of the Bag

Interestingly, the popular website Catholic Answers wrote an article in March of 2008, titled “Convent Horror Stories.”  See here:

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/convent-horror-stories

According to this article, when Catholics first came to America, Protestants viewed the Catholic Church as the “sworn enemy of freedom.”  The author tells us of (alleged) liars who came against the Church and spread horrible stories and “urban legends,” making it sound as though Catholic priests were perverts.  The author of the article mocked those Catholic haters who seemed to view the responsibilities of a nun to be “serving the perverse sexual needs of Catholic priests.”  Catholic Answers mocks these (allegedly) fabricated “convent horror stories,” and considers them all to be false.  They try to make it appear as though no such thing has happened among the priesthood.

But more interesting yet, is the fact that in August 2018, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report came out nationwide and it revealed that some of those very types of things mentioned in the Catholic Answers article were actually true and still happening today.  The types of activities they brushed off as nonsense in 2008 were actually confirmed in 2018.  Not only those things that were mentioned in the Catholic Answers article, but far worse, including pedophilia.  See here:

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4757021-Pennsylvania-Grand-Jury-Report-on-Catholic.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/08/14/pennsylvania-grand-jury-report-on-sex-abuse-in-catholic-church-will-list-hundreds-of-accused-predator-priests/

https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/14/us/pennsylvania-catholic-church-grand-jury/index.html

Here is an article with some of my thoughts on this:

https://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/search?q=pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report also mentioned the involvement of at least one nun, who helped a priest in some of his assaults upon certain victims, and who also, herself, sexually assaulted a male victim (more than once).

The report also includes an incident of at least one monk who abused a male victim.

The focus of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report seems to have been mainly on priests, but one would be naïve to think that nuns and monks are exempt from such behavior.

If you think that nuns abusing others is something that doesn’t exist, see this link:

https://www.snapnetwork.org/nun_abuse

And these two by the New York Post:

https://nypost.com/2019/02/16/inside-the-horrifying-unspoken-world-of-sexually-abusive-nuns/

https://nypost.com/2020/12/22/nuns-were-pimps-for-sick-priests-says-sex-abuse-victim/

If you think that monks abusing others is something that does not exist, see these links:

https://www.snapnetwork.org/man_claims_monk_sexually_abused_him_more_than_100_times_as_a_kid

https://www.snapnetwork.org/west_abused_children_spent_time_philadelphia_aug19

This is some Jeffrey Epstein type of behavior!

And in case you’re thinking that this Grand Jury Report is not substantial, or even fake, the Vatican acknowledges the seriousness of those Pennsylvania findings:

“The Holy See treats with great seriousness the work of the investigating Grand Jury of Pennsylvania and the lengthy Interim Report it has produced.”

See here:

https://ucatholic.com/news/vatican-breaks-silence-on-pennsylvania-sex-abuse-scandal-criminal-and-morally-reprehensible/

Conclusion

So, the conclusion is that convents and monasteries are indeed not the sanctuaries they claim to be. 

Note that I am not saying that there has never been anything good to come out of those places.  For example, monks used to make copies of the Scriptures in monasteries.  But that doesn’t negate the problems within them.

There are several things I blame for the problems therein:

First, I blame the social structure of these monasteries and convents to a large extent.  These living conditions certainly provide an unnecessary “occasion of sin,” as Catholics call it (Baltimore Catechism #3, Lesson 18, Question 770-775).

Here, we have a bunch of unmarried men (or women) who are celibate, with no chance to relieve sexual tension, while living together in close quarters for long periods of time.  Concerning these living conditions, someone once so eloquently stated, “That just ain’t right!”

Secondly, they have a powerful Church which is willing to cover up their sins of perversion for them by keeping their crimes from the police, and then removing those offenders to another location for a fresh start.  Thus, they have an incentive to continue in this perverse lifestyle.  They know others around them in the same convent/monastery are doing it, as well, so they all have a dirty little secret, yet they are quietly protected by the Church.  This, alone, tells us that the leaders in the Catholic Church (including the pope) don’t care about the innocent lives that are being destroyed.

Thirdly, to make matters worse, false doctrine pervades not only monasteries and convents, but the Catholic Church as a whole.  No amount of magnificent architecture, or well-meaning occupants, can make up for false doctrine.  False doctrine is a curse that will destroy eternal souls.  If there is any doubt as to whether there is false doctrine in the Catholic Church, see the multitude of articles in this blog.

Are these Catholic convents and monasteries considered sanctuaries – are they bastions of truth with biblical principles – or are they cesspools of false doctrine and perversion?  The answer is clear for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear (Isaiah 6:10; Jeremiah 5:21; Matthew 13:15).

 

 

 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

JOHN MARTIGNONI’S LOSING BATTLE

 

I’ve previously devoted several of my articles to addressing comments made by Catholic apologist and speaker John Martignoni, who maintains the Bible Christian Society newsletter.  Today, we will deal with his Newsletter #410.  You can find it here:

https://www.biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter/586-apologetics-for-the-masses-410-private-interpretation-of-the-bible-vs-church-teaching

John often speaks about how Protestants (who admit to being fallible) will have a problem correctly interpreting Scripture, while claiming it is not an issue with Catholics.  He emphasizes that what the Protestant believes depends entirely on his private, fallible interpretation of the Bible, while the Catholic can rest confidently in the authority of the Catholic Church for correct interpretations.

In this particular newsletter, he gets a question from someone named “Cary L.” who asks:

“Why is your potentially fallible decision to trust the claims of the Roman Catholic Church for your salvation correct?

John Martignoni states that it is an excellent question, and I agree!  In fact, I don’t think that John (or any other Catholic) can adequately answer it the way he wants to without violating Scripture or common sense.

First Things First

But John requests that Cary first deal with a question of his (John’s) own:

“If you are not infallible in your interpretation of Scripture, then how do you have any sure way of knowing what is and is not authentic Christian doctrine and practice?”

Ok, so let me try to adequately answer John Martignoni’s question to Cary L.  It’s about certainty.  The question is assuming that infallibility is a must to be able to know basic Christian doctrine.  But this doesn’t follow.  This is the same old false dichotomy that some Catholic apologists use over and over: 1) either your interpretation is infallible (i.e., unable to err), or 2) it has to be wrong.  It is as though there is no third option.  But every single person is fallible, yet, many times a person gets the interpretation correct!  Just because an interpretation could possibly be wrong doesn’t mean that it will indeed be wrong.

Post-apostolic Christians don’t have infallibility, but we don’t need it to have enough certainty to come to the knowledge of the truth, or to be saved.  We only need a sufficient amount of certainty. 

Are there some passages more difficult than others?  Yes, there are (2 Peter 3:15-16).  Do we get it wrong sometimes?  Yes, we may.  And you may say, “That’s not very reassuring if it’s possible that we can be wrong!”  But that’s what Bible study is for, and nowhere in that Bible are we told that we need infallibility to interpret a Bible verse.  In fact, Scripture points out that the common person can indeed understand it.  Jesus expected exactly that!  See here:

http://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2013/07/quick-notes-on-sola-scriptura-part-6.html

https://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/search?q=interpretation

In fact, it was mostly the common people who listened to and followed Jesus.  Basic hermeneutical concepts (i.e., Bible interpretation principles) and common sense go a long way here. 

What’s the Difference?

Ok, back to Cary’s question.  Cary is basically asking: “Isn’t the reasoning of the Catholic who is trusting in his understanding of Church teachings just as fallible as the reasoning of the Protestant who is trusting in his understanding of Scripture?  The answer is yes, indeed.

But Martignoni is saying no, it isn’t.  He says that what Protestants do “does not at all equate with my accepting the teachings of the Catholic Church as being authoritative and infallible.”  In other words, the Protestant has a problem, but the Catholic can’t go wrong when trusting in his “infallible” church. 

Supposedly, Protestants can’t read and understand infallible Scripture with certainty, yet Catholics can confidently read and understand their church’s “infallible” teaching.  But how is it that the Catholic is supposed to somehow have more certainty than the Protestant?  He doesn’t.  There is no difference.  Even if they end up with an infallible source, they still both have to begin with their fallible reasoning.

Martignoni’s “Infallibility”

John Martignoni goes on to state that he is indeed infallible in his first-hand knowledge of some things, for example, he “infallibly” knows that he is married, that he lives in Birmingham, that 2+2=4, etc. 

He further says that he can know something infallibly about matters of which he has second-hand knowledge, like the speed of light, the fuel for the sun, the year of the death of George Washington, etc.

Ok, I get his point, but these last things he mentioned would have less certainty, since some scientists, researchers, historians and authorities may have actually got some of their information wrong.  It happens from time to time.

But, of course, the infallibility that we are concerned with here is not about these things.  We are speaking of having infallible certainty in spiritual and moral matters.  No one but God has this level of certainty.  But again, He does give humans sufficient certainty in spiritual matters (1 John 5:13).

But John’s whole point, I think, is that the things he mentioned here are told to us by an “authoritative” source (scientists, researchers, historians, etc.).  So, apparently, according to John, if it’s based on some authority, it must be true, correct?  And of course, depending on an authoritative source is exactly what John will claim, concerning the Catholic Church.  He also makes a big deal over Cary’s admission of fallibility, and he keeps throwing it back into Cary’s face.  But fallibility is not necessarily a weakness when it comes to Bible interpretation.  We all have fallibility and Martignoni needs to stop pretending that Catholics are somehow immune to it, just because they believe their Church to be infallible. 

Double Standard

We use our fallible reasoning daily in everything we do, and most people use it effectively.  By the way, every type of communication has to be interpreted.  And the Catholic, just like the Protestant, is obligated to use his own fallible, “non-authoritative,” “private” understanding to interpret not only the Bible, but also to interpret his own church’s teachings.  Again, no one has moral infallibility today, and it doesn’t take such a gift to have a sufficient amount of certainty.  There is no getting around this fact, in spite of what John Martignoni says.  There is a double standard being used here.

All Christians should use the Scriptures to evaluate their own church’s teaching.  1 Thessalonians 5:21 says to “… test all things.”  But this does not apply only to the leaders, but to the “laity,” as well.  Checks and balances.

The problem is that John has been pushing his version of “fallibility-can’t-produce-certainty” for a long time.  He refuses to give up his argument, but he is still wrong on this. 

Biblical “Proof” of the Need for an Infallible Magisterium?

He then demeans the God-breathed Scriptures when he tells Cary:

“The Scriptures reflect the tradition of the Christian faith, they are not the source of the Christian faith, as you make them out to be.” (Emphasis mine)

Ok, first of all, I’ve never seen a Catholic who can actually fully define this Sacred Tradition.  You can’t trust in it if you can’t accurately tell us what all it contains.  See here:

https://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2010/05/what-about-tradition.html

Second, the Christian faith is indeed encapsulated in Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  This is how we know what the true Christian faith is, and this is also how we detect false doctrine.

John proceeds to mention a couple of Bible passages to attempt to prove that we need more than just the Bible.  He uses Nehemiah 8:1-8 to suggest that it was the leaders in this passage (like in the Catholic Magisterium) who had to explain what the Book of the Law was saying.  But we have to remember that, in this context, these Jews had just returned from Babylon (whose language had become ingrained in their minds for many years while there).  Many of those Jews grew up with the Babylonian language.  But the Book of the Law was written in Hebrew, so, many Jews in that seventy-year exile had to now “brush up” on their native language, while some could probably speak very little Hebrew!  That’s why the Jewish leaders had to expound/translate the Law for the people.  So, this passage does not at all prove that we need an infallible magisterium to interpret for us.

Again, John Martignoni also uses Acts 8:30-31 for the same purpose.  In this passage, the Ethiopian eunuch is reading the book of Isaiah aloud, and Philip asks the eunuch if he understands what he is reading.  The eunuch responds, “How can I unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:31).   Catholics will often respond, “See, there it is!  We need an infallible Magisterium to interpret Scripture for us.” 

But, to use the words of John Martignoni, “Not so fast!”  Philip was NOT an apostle, a pope, or part of an infallible magisterium, but simply a deacon in the church (Acts 6:5)!  So why does John use this passage to try to prove a magisterium?  Is there some intentional deception going on here? 

Furthermore, these passages that John quoted do not negate the abundance of verses showing that the common man is expected to understand Scripture, as revealed in the links above.

Later on, John points out more passages to demonstrate that the (Catholic) Church has authority to bind and loose (Matthew 16:19), to decide between disputes (Matthew 18:15-19), to teach with authority (Luke 10:16), etc., etc., to suggest that the Catholic Church fits all that criteria.  But most of these points are addressed in the following links:

https://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2016/10/matthew-16-keys-binding-and-loosing.html

https://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2016/09/matthew-16-who-or-what-is-rock.html

https://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2009/09/pillar-and-foundation.html

https://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2011/08/hi-jacking-of-john-2023.html

http://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2009/12/apostolic-succession.html

John’s attempt to use Scripture to show that the Catholic Church is infallible falls far short of its goal.

John’s System

It’s a losing battle, but John gives it his best shot and waxes eloquent in his explanation of how he arrives at his conclusion:

“My theological system is based on the teachings of the 2000-year old Catholic Church which I believe, after careful consideration of the available evidence, and there is a lot of evidence - historical, scriptural, logical, etc. - was founded by Jesus Christ and is guided by the Holy Spirit and operates with the authority of Jesus Christ which He Himself gave to it.”

But unfortunately, John had to use his fallible reasoning, step by step, to come to this conclusion!  This happens in each of those steps in this process, yet John thinks he is bypassing this issue of man’s fallibility.  He is not.

John Martignoni greatly downplays fallibility, but if it weren’t for his fallible reasoning, he would have never discovered his “infallible Church” (even though his conclusion is wrong).  So, if John’s fallible reasoning is good enough to get him to that conclusion (after plowing through the logical data, Scripture, tons of church history, studying the multitude of church fathers, studying Sacred Tradition, etc., etc.), wouldn’t that same fallible reasoning be good enough to simply read and understand Scripture in the first place?  If your fallible reasoning can help you navigate through all that, you should be able to trust it to understand and interpret Scripture.  Apparently, the Catholic Church can’t trust you to read Scripture directly, but they can trust you to go through all the above process with no issues!  Interesting logic.

Conclusion

It is not only John Martignoni, but there are many Catholic apologists that emphasize the Catholic Church’s ability to “infallibly interpret” the Bible. 

We need to ask, though, exactly how much of the Bible is actually interpreted infallibly by the Church?  No one really knows, since Catholics disagree on the number of verses with such a status.  But know this for sure… it is only an incredibly tiny fraction of the Scriptures that the Catholic Church has interpreted with such certainty!  If infallible interpretation is so critical (and the Catholic Church seems to think that it is), then why are so few verses rendered as “infallibly” determined?  What about the “certainty” of the rest of the verses in the Bible? 

If you appeal to common sense (or something like it) then why can’t Protestants do the same thing?  The Catholic’s certainty is not any greater than ours.  See also this link:

http://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2015/10/martignoni-and-authority-to-interpret.html

Catholics will say, “But if you misunderstand something in Scripture, the ‘Living Church’ can correct you, unlike the Bible.” 

But misunderstandings don’t just happen to Protestants. 
There are plenty Catholics who also misunderstand “infallibly-interpreted” Church teachings.

But the Bible is indeed a living book (Hebrews 4:12), given to us by the Word of God, Himself (John 1:1), and its words will judge us on the last day (John 12:48).  It is not the Catholic Catechism that will judge us on the last day.  And neither will the Catholic Church.  It will be the words of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, penned inside the greatest book the world has ever known.  It is a miraculous, God-proven and God-breathed book (2 Timothy 3:16), with its contents perfectly interwoven by God.  And if a person studies it, he will soon see that it does indeed correct misunderstandings, if you take it in context, and in its totality.  It is a life-changing book of such great magnitude, yet it can be understood sufficiently by mere humans whose hearts are right.

So what’s the answer when we disagree with someone else about Bible passages?  Horror of horrors [for some Catholics], it simply comes down to us debating the Bible using our fallible minds (along with decent biblical hermeneutics, common sense and a humble attitude -Luke 8:15).

John Martignoni, I hope that you will be humble enough to recognize (and admit!) that your worn-out arguments about man’s uncertainty due to his fallibility don’t hold water.  Stop misleading your audience.  Since this is a losing battle for any Catholic, let’s put this false teaching to rest.