Friday, June 23, 2017
Today, we are briefly addressing some more comments from the world of Catholic apologist, John Martignoni. He was recently writing to his Bible Christian Society audience, and he said something very interesting. His comments can be found here:
In his comments, Martignoni claims some unique insight concerning a passage in the book of James:
My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)
And then Martignoni writes immediately after this:
“Did you catch that? Most people who read this passage do not stop to think about what it is really saying. If you do something to bring a sinner back from the error of his way, you will save YOUR soul from death and will cover a multitude of YOUR sins. What an awesome promise God has given us in Scripture! Zeal for the souls of others will cover a multitude of our sins and save our soul from death!” (Emphasis in original)
Martignoni acts as though he has discovered some deep revelation that few have ever seen before. But, at this point, we feel the need to ask Martignoni some questions that he, himself, often asks those with whom he debates. For example, we would ask him: John, is your interpretation of this passage of Scripture infallible? Is the Holy Spirit guiding you when you interpret this? Or is this your own private interpretation? Since you have already admitted previously that you are not infallible, then the Holy Spirit might not be guiding you, and you could be wrong, couldn’t you? And lastly, is your interpretation what the Catholic Church officially teaches?
We’re pretty sure that this passage has not been infallibly defined by the Catholic Church, nor do we believe that Martignoni’s interpretation is official Catholic teaching. If anyone claims that it is, then please show us where.
These questions from John are not actually a problem for Protestants at all, but we wanted to turn the tables on John, since he very often asks these same things of his opponents when they quote the Bible. But his own questions come back to haunt him. Those same questions that he uses in an attempt to frustrate or neutralize Protestants now have the same effect on him. John seems to think that for any interpretation to carry any weight, it must be infallible. But he cannot demonstrate that his interpretation is infallible, so (according to his own logic) why should anyone accept John’s interpretation?
We think that John will have to admit that his interpretation of James 5:19-20 is indeed private interpretation, and it is fallible. And further, it is not official Catholic doctrine. Although, we will give him credit for admitting that he is not infallible.
As to the actual meaning of the passage above, we’d have to say, sorry, John Martignoni, your interpretation is NOT what the passage is actually saying. We believe that this passage is easy enough to understand by itself. But we will try to make it even easier. For the sake of simplicity and to keep track of things, let’s apply names to both of the characters in this scenario (James 5:19-20). Let’s call the one who wanders from the truth, Bill. And we can call the one sharing the gospel, Tom. Tom is the one who rescues the sinner (Bill) from the error of his way.
Ok, so one of these guys is saved and one is not. We must understand that Tom is not saving his own soul, since he is already saved - he is not the one who has lost his way. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be sharing the gospel. If Tom is not saved, he would not be capable of effectively bringing Bill back from the error of his way. It would be “the blind leading the blind” (Matthew 15:14; Luke 6:39). So, no… Tom did not save his own soul by bringing Bill back from error. “Winning” souls is a job for those who are already “won over.” So Bill is the one whose soul is saved from death and whose multitude of sins are covered, because HE was the one who strayed. Pretty straightforward.
Now, of course, God wants Christians to win souls (Proverbs 11:30; Mark 16:15; Jude 23), but engaging in this activity does not save the one who does it. So, how does one enter into a right relationship with God? Salvation does not come by dipping a person in water, memorizing certain prayers or Scripture verses, helping your neighbor, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, etc., etc. These are all good things for which we can get Heavenly rewards, but they don’t accomplish justification / salvation. It is only by the humble acceptance of the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ that one is saved, because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Justification / salvation is accomplished by simply embracing the truth of the gospel message by surrendering your own life to God and believing / trusting in the work that His Son accomplished on the cross, and that alone. It is in realizing that you stand utterly lacking and spiritually bankrupt before a holy and perfect God. Then will God give you the desire and ability to do true good works that He has planned for you to do.
So, what about John Martignoni’s interpretation of James 5:19-20? Is this just another attempt to promote a “works-based salvation”? We believe it is.
Thursday, June 8, 2017
Catholic apologist, speaker and author Steve Ray has written an article about the debate between Catholics and Protestants on the topic of faith and the role of works in salvation. The article is titled, “St. Paul did not Write to Us!” and it can be found here:
In the article, Steve Ray mentions that when arguments about salvation come up:
“Protestants quickly accuse Catholics of teaching a salvation based on works and Catholics quickly point out that Protestants have swung the pendulum too far in the other direction by refusing to accept human cooperation and obedience as necessary to the process.”
This is pretty much an accurate account of what normally happens. Catholics emphasize the role of works (faith plus works) and Protestants emphasize “faith alone,” or faith apart from the merit of works in order to be justified / saved.
Ray mentions the fact that Protestants usually go to the books of Romans and Galatians in the Bible to prove their point (and we would say, rightly so, because this is where justification is defined). But according to Ray:
“But there is a huge problem here. Paul did not write these letters to us and he knew nothing of the Catholic-Protestant debate. The huge problem we have is the problem of anachronism.”
He goes on to define “anachronism,” which means:
“1. the representation of an event, person, or thing in a historical context in which it could not have occurred or existed; 2. a person or thing that belongs or seems to belong to another time.”
For example, saying that Moses looked at his wristwatch to see what time it was… or saying that the apostle John got in his Ford pickup to go to the market… these would be anachronisms, since wristwatches and Fords didn’t exist during their day.
So, Steve Ray’s main points here are 1) Paul did not write specifically to us, 2) Paul didn’t know anything of a “Catholic-Protestant” debate back in his day, and 3) Applying Paul’s teaching in Romans and Galatians to the present day Catholic-Protestant debate is out of touch with reality in the sense that it is anachronistic.
But first of all, Ray’s point that “Paul didn’t write to us” is actually untrue and Ray is simply using this as a diversion. Now, of course, we all know that Paul was not purposely writing SPECIFICALLY to us in the twenty-first century. But the title of Ray’s article and his opening comments seem to suggest that Paul’s writings don’t apply to us today in any way.
But with this kind of reasoning, why should we obey any of the Ten Commandments today? Would Ray say that since these also were not specifically written to us, but to Old Testament Jews, therefore, they are not to be observed by modern Christians? He obviously wouldn’t say that! So why does Ray even bring up this point? Why use this deceptive title? Again, this is simply a diversion that he uses to try and weaken or disregard the biblical evidence found in Romans and Galatians against Catholic teaching.
But in a real sense, Paul did indeed write to us through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s words were infallible and God-breathed because they were Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15-17). And ALL Scripture was written to us, indirectly, and ALL Scripture has some application for us today. Paul’s words were not only directed to the people of his own day, but to all generations in the future, as well. The principles within Scripture are always there, for every generation, to guide us into the truth.
Furthermore, the fact that Paul had never heard of a “Catholic-Protestant debate” is irrelevant. But Paul was certainly very familiar with the substance of that debate. It is not just about “Jew versus Gentile.” It is the argument of the Judaizers, which was “faith plus works = salvation.” But Paul specifically dealt with this same problem in both the Roman church (Romans 3:19 thru 5:21) and the Galatian church (epistle to the Galatians) in his day. So today we are still wrestling with the same issues as they did back then. Yet, Ray tries to spin this in such a way as to accuse Protestants of anachronism.
But the fact is, Ray contradicts himself and admits at the end of the article that there is not really a problem after all, since he confesses that:
“… even though Paul didn’t specifically write his letters to us, if we study the cultural climate in which they were written, and stay faithful to the tradition in which they were passed on to us, the Holy Spirit (the primary author of the letters) will help us apply the principles and truth of those letters to our current situation.” (Emphasis added)
Notice the bold print. Ray now admits that the Holy Spirit is able to help us apply these same biblical principles to our situation today. But this is what we already said earlier. So, where is the anachronism now? First, he says that the principles in Romans and Galatians are anachronistic (don’t apply today), and now he’s saying that they do apply today (with the Holy Spirit’s help). But if it applies today, then it is not an anachronism. Steve Ray is backpedaling and admitting that there IS no “huge problem” here. What starts off as his main complaint is now dismissed as no problem at all! Confusion indeed.
But perhaps he would say that the biblical principles would only apply within the context of “Catholic Tradition,” but there is nothing in Tradition that can offset the clear message of unearned salvation in the inspired books of Romans and Galatians.
No, the real “huge problem” is that Catholics often ignore context in those sections of Romans and Galatians that actually deal with the specific doctrine of justification, and they try to add their works to their faith in order to earn salvation, as we have demonstrated elsewhere on this blog. But, tragically, in combining their own works with Jesus’ work on the cross, Catholics are telling Jesus that His work and suffering was just not enough, thus bringing upon themselves the same curse that the first-century Judaizers brought upon their own selves (Galatians 1:8-9; 3:10-11; 5:1-4). See this link:
See also these other related articles: