Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #203 (12/21/12)

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

Hey folks,

I hope this upcoming Christmas Season is a happy and holy one for all of you. And I pray that the new year will be filled with many blessings for you and your loved ones. Please keep the Bible Christian Society in your prayers – we will be keeping you in ours.

God bless!



Okay, I received the question below via email from David who is in an online debate with some non-Catholics and who describes it as his first attempt at apologetics. It is one of those Evangelical “test questions,” as I call them, which are asked in order to determine whether or not the person being questioned is “really” a Christian or not. I’ve put down how I would answer the question.


Evangelical Test Question:

If you subscribe to Roman Catholicism as your religion of choice then out of love we ask this VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION: Is your eternal salvation in heaven with God secured and if so how did this come about? The lead admin of PRO-LIFE ROCKS, who is now by choice an Evangelical Protestant Christian, was raised Roman Catholic from a baby but this question was never brought up and/or the answer covered by any priest and/or in his confirmation classes.

My Response:

I very much appreciate your question, and out of love I will answer it and will also ask you, out of love, a question or two of my own.    

Is my eternal salvation in heaven with God secured?  Yes, as long as I do not separate myself from God through sin.  As I’m sure you know, 1 John 5:16-17 talks about the "sin unto death," because it is sin that kills the soul…sin that separates us from Jesus Christ Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  So, as long as I do not commit a sin unto death – or what we Catholics would call a "mortal" sin – then, yes, my salvation with God is secured. 

Now, you may ask, how exactly is it that we can separate ourselves from Christ?  Well, we separate ourselves from Christ by, in essence, not following His teachings.  By not doing what He has told us we must do, or doing what He has told us we must not do.  For example, Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that in order to have our sins forgiven, we must forgive the sins of others.  If we don’t, then our sins are not forgiven.  Can we get into Heaven if our sins are not forgiven?  No, we can’t.  So, we must forgive the sins of others in order to get into Heaven, in order to not separate ourselves from Christ – that is a plain truth of Scripture. We must also care for our families as we are able.  This is very clear in 1 Tim 5:8 where we are told that anyone who does not provide for his family has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  Someone who is worse than an unbeliever can’t get into Heaven, can they?  They have separated themselves from Christ.

Then in John 6, Jesus tells us that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood, or we have no life in us.  So, can we be saved if we have no life in us?  if we do not eat His flesh and drink His blood, will we get to Heaven?   We also have to love our brother.  It says so plainly in 1 John 4:20.   We also have to seek for glory and honor and immortality by patience in well-doing, according to Rom 2:6-7, in order to have eternal life rendered unto us. 

In Hebrews 6:4-6, it tells us we can separate ourselves from Christ through apostasy.  In Romans 11:22 it says we will be cut off from Christ if we do not continue in God’s kindness.  And, in John 15:1-6, it tells us that we will be cut off from the vine which is Christ if we do not produce good fruit. 

I could go on with many other examples, but I want to move on to your 2nd question: How did this [eternal salvation] come about?  By the grace of God.  Because it is by the grace of God that we are born again through Christ – which is what occurs through Baptism.  As Jesus tells us in John 3:3-5, we must be born again of water and the Spirit (Baptism).  Without this, He says, no one may enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  As it says in Acts 2:38, through Baptism we receive the Holy Spirit and our sins are forgiven.  God freely gives us His grace – grace merited for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – through Baptism.  His grace washes us free of sin and brings us into covenant with Him (Titus 2:4-7).   And it is by faith that we turn to Baptism to receive the promise of Christ – redemption unto eternal salvation (Rom 2:25).  Because without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).  And, this is not our doing, "lest any man should boast" (Eph 2:8-9), it is a completely gratuitous act of God on our behalf. 

So, God freely saves us by His grace; however, to reiterate what was said above, in order to avoid separation from Christ, we must follow Him by denying ourselves and picking up our cross daily (Luke 9:23).  Furthermore, we must do His will in order to be saved (Matt 7:21).  I guess a good one verse summary of the Catholic belief in salvation is this: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love," (Gal 5:6).

Now, as I mentioned, I have a couple of questions for you:

1) How would you answer the question: "What good deed must I do to have eternal life?"   

2) Have you judged yourself to be saved?

My Strategy:

What I am doing here is using the Bible to show these folks that the Catholic Church’s teaching on salvation is very much in line with the Bible.  I am giving them a Catholic perspective on a number of Scripture verses that I can pretty much guarantee they have never considered before.  I am giving them some verses that they may never have "seen" in the Bible.  In other words, verses that they just skim right over ordinarily without giving any consideration to, but which they now have to stop and think about. 

By the very fact of their question, they are showing their cards -  they believe in salvation by faith alone, and they also believe in once saved, always saved – also known as the doctrine of eternal security.  Once you’ve accepted Jesus into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior, then that’s it – nothing you do or don’t do can get you unsaved.  No amount of sin, no amount of hate, no amount of apostasy…nothing can get you unsaved. 

Neither of these dogmas – salvation by faith alone or once saved always saved – however, are in the Bible.  So, by using a few select Bible verses, I am showing them that not only is Catholic teaching biblical, but their teaching is not.  Finally, by asking them a couple of questions, that are based directly on a couple of Scripture verses, I am giving them some fat to chew on, because they are going to have a difficult time reconciling their answers to both the Bible and their beliefs.

For example, the first question is straight from Matthew 19, where the rich young man asks Jesus that very question.  Jesus answers by saying, "Keep the Commandments."  Yet, I know of not one single believer in salvation by faith alone, who would answer that question like Jesus did.  The believer in salvation by faith alone would say, "There is no deed that you can do that will result in eternal life!"  Yet, Jesus says keeping the Commandments will get you there.  So, they are in the position of answering in accord with their belief, or in accord with Scripture – one or the other, but not both.  That’s a bit of a problem for a "bible-only" believer.

The second question comes from 1 Cor 4:4-5.  You see, folks who believe in once saved always saved have already judged themselves as being irrevocably saved.  Yet, we find in 1 Cor 4, that Paul – who if anyone was "saved" it was Paul right? – Paul does not judge himself as being saved, and he goes on to say to leave judgment for the Lord.  So, anyone who judges themself as being already saved, is doing something that runs directly contrary to what Paul says here in Scripture.  Oops. 

Finally, one of the things I did was to use several verses from Romans in explaining the Catholic Faith, because many Protestants tend to think that Romans is "their" epistle and that just about everything in it proves the Catholic Church wrong, so I try to use quotes from Romans as much as possible when explaining/defending Catholic teaching.  In my explanation of Catholic teaching I also used what many Protestants consider their "trump" verse against Catholics when it comes to salvation by faith alone – Ephesians 2:8-9.  What Protestants do not understand is that Eph 2:8-9, nor any other verse of Scripture for that matter, is in no way contrary to Catholic teaching, when Catholic teaching is properly understood and not made to be some caricature of what it actually is.  So, by using their trump verse to explain Catholic teaching, I turn the tables on them and take away what they see as one of the main arrows in their quiver.   


In Conclusion

Again, I hope all of you have a happy and holy Christmas Season and New Year!

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Apologetics for the Masses