Apologetics for the Masses #340 - An Evangelical Pastor and Mary

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The Sinlessness of Mary - A Debate With an Evangelical Pastor

 

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General Comments

Hey folks,

     Sorry for the long hiatus, but January was a crazy busy month.  Things are just now settling down a little bit.  So, hopefully, I'll get back into a decent rythym with the newsletters here in February. 

     First thing I want to say is "Thank you!" to all of those who responded to my end of the year appeal.  I very much appreciate all of the prayers and all of the support.  We can't do what we do here - share the truths of the Catholic faith with folks all over the world - without you. So, again, thank you. 

     On another note, I don't know if I've mentioned it lately, but if you haven't joined our group on Facebook, you need to check it out.  The page is: John Martignoni and the Bible Christian Society.  Lots of good folks on there and some really good discussions. 

 

Introduction

     Awhile back I had begun a debate with an anti-Catholic named Steve Fitz on the topic of: "The Sinlessness of Mary."  The debate did not last past the first round as Mr. Fitz, who had given his word that he would provide direct answers to any questions I asked, failed to do so.  So, after giving him a couple of chances to make good on his word and answer the questions I asked of him in the first round, I suspended the debate.  I would be happy to get back to it if ever Mr. Fitz decided to honor his word and answer those questions.  

     Anyway, in response to one of the newsletters I sent out which had the debate in it, I received an email from Pastor Gregory H. Smith, an Evangelical pastor.  Pastor Smith took issue with my contention (the Church's teaching) that Mary is sinless.  He and I exchanged some emails but I got really busy and was unable to continue our exchange, until now.  So, after many moons, I am finally picking up where I left off with Pastor Smith. 

     So, below is our exchange to date.  It starts with his initial email to me, and goes from there...I hope you enjoy.

 

Challenge/Response/Strategy

The Sinlessness of Mary

 

Pastor Greg Smith

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  This includes Mary.  Please stick to the Scriptures, not Catholic dogma.

 

John Martignoni

Are you seeking God in your life?

 

Pastor Greg Smith

     Yes!  Daily I try to seek God in my life.  But I do not seek religion.  I study God's word and pray and am led by God's Holy Spirit.  I know I am forgiven and saved because I have by faith through God's grace confessed that Jesus is Lord and believe that God (Father, Son, and Spirit) has raised Him from the dead.  I try to live my life full of good works in obedience to Christ's commands.  I do sin, but as part of the royal priesthood of believers, go directly to Christ for forgiveness, not needing any intermediaries.  As an evangelical pastor, I preach God's word each Sunday under the authority of the Holy Spirit and as a priest of God.

    Are you seeking God in your life or just following your religion?

 

John Martignoni

     Well, now we've got a problem.  First, you told me to "stick to the Scriptures".  Second, you said you do indeed seek God.  Third, problem is, the Bible says, "no one seeks for God," (Rom 3:11).

     So, "sticking" to the Scriptures, and to the way you interpret the Scriptures, then either you do not seek God in your life, or the Scriptures are wrong.

     Which is it?

 

Pastor Greg Smith

     You are right!  No one who is an unbeliever seeks God, BUT, keep reading in chapter 3.  Apart from the Law, the righteousness of God has been revealed through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Romans 3:21 – 22).  No one can find God or even seek God apart from God’s grace through faith and even that is a gift from God.  No one can come to God on their own.  That is why He had to foreknow us and predestine us, and then call, justify, and someday glorify.  So now, with God’s Holy Spirit in me, as a redeemed justified sanctified follower of Christ, I continue to seek God!

     I hope this answers your question John.  You still did not answer my question:  Are you seeking God in your life or just following your religion?  Are you in a religion or a relationship with Jesus Christ?

 

John Martignoni

     I will be happy to answer your question, Greg, once we've finished getting your answer to my question.  The verse in Romans 3:11 does not say, "No one who is an unbeliever seeks God."  It says, "No one seeks God."  Are you telling me that "no one" does not actually mean no one?  That "no one" is not an absolute?

 

Pastor Greg Smith

     I apologize.  I thought I did answer your question but let me try again in a more detailed response.  Then I look forward to answers to my questions!

     No one seeks God.  Everyone is condemned.  There are no exceptions.  All humanity is under sin and the control of Satan, his power, authority, and control.  And everyone has been charged with breaking God’s Law.  Everyone has been arraigned to answer to his sin.  And one can only be made right before God by acknowledging their sin and coming in humble faith before the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and cleansing.

     John, if you look at the context of this paragraph in Romans 3, Paul brings up the accusations, the charges against us in verses 10 – 12.  These charges come from the Old Testament as Paul summarizes several texts from the Psalms and Isaiah.  These charges apply to people at that time and people today as it condemns us with an objective standard of holiness we cannot keep.

     The first charge is that there is none righteous, not even one (Psalm 14:1).  This also is absolute.  Mankind though thinks they can escape the judgment of God on Judgment Day because they have done some good things.  But mankind is universally evil.  Yes, they can do some good works, but their inner character is evil and there are no exceptions, not even one.  Righteousness means being right before God and only Jesus Christ has lived a righteous and sinless life (II Corinthians 5:21).  God has provided a way, the only way, for mankind to become righteous and that way is only by responding by faith to accept Jesus, that He took our penalty on the cross.  When we do, the righteousness of Christ is imputed or given to us.

     The second charge is that there is none who understands.  We all are completely unable to grasp the truths of God.  We may understand the facts but cannot exercise the faith.  We do not have the spiritual capacity to know or understand God.  It all seems foolish to us (I Corinthians 2:14) and we have a hardened heart (Ephesians 4:18).  We do not know how to get righteousness nor do we understand God’s standard of righteousness.

     The third charge is that there is none who seeks for God.  This is what we are talking about.  No one in his natural condition seeks after God.  With all of the religions in the world, one would think that there are a great many people seeking after God.  But, all false religious systems are really attempts to escape from and rebel from the true God and to discover or manufacture false gods of one’s own liking.  None seek God.  Instead, it is God who has to seek out individuals to draw them to seek Him first (Jeremiah 29:13, Matthew 7:8).  It is the Father who draws us to Himself (John 6:37, 44).  God is the One who initiates salvation.  It is only then that a person can seek God, who has responded to Him.

     The fourth charge is that all have turned aside (Psalm 14:3).  All of us lean in the wrong direction, deserting Him, each turning to our own way (Isaiah 53:6).  Jesus is the right way, the only way (John 14:6).  We must forsake our way and follow Jesus.

     Charge 5 is that together they have become useless.  We are spiritually worthless, like milk that has turned sour and rancid.  Apart from Christ we are spiritually dead, unable to produce any fruit, fit only to be thrown into the fire to be burned (John 15:6).

     The last charge is also a summary.  There is none who does good, there is not even one.  No one has the ability to do anything upright and good as measured by God’s perfect standard of righteousness.

     I hope this answers your question John.  Sorry for being wordy, but I thought it was important to look at the context.  Without the Father, we would not be able to seek after God.  But now, as a believer, we can seek God.

     I look forward to your answers now!

Greg

 

John Martignoni

     Well, there are still some problems with your answers that need to be cleared up.  But, since you have been very patient, I will answer the two questions you have asked, and then I will get back to the problems that are inherent in your answers.

     Your Question #1: Are you seeking God in your life or just following your religion?  My answer: Yes, I am seeking God in my life.  And, I am following my religion.  It is not an either-or situation, rather it is a both-and situation.  There is no conflict between the two as everything in my religion is designed to lead one to God. 

     Your Question #2: Are you in a religion or a relationship with Jesus Christ?  My answer, again, is: Both.  You are creating a false dichotomy between religion and having a relationship with Christ.  Nowhere do I find Scripture doing such a thing.  It is because of my religion that I have a relationship with Christ, a very intimate relationship with Christ.  I have life in Christ because I was saved through Baptism (1 Peter 3:21), and I abide in His love by keeping His commandments (John 15:10), and I will be raised by Him on the last day because I eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:54), but only if I hold firm in my first confidence to the end (Heb 3:14) and I can only do these things by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9).

     Now, I would like to get back to the problems I have with your answers to my questions.  First, I'm glad to see that you recognize that in Romans 3, Paul is quoting from Psalm 14.  But, you have made a rather basic mistake in your interpretation of Psalm 14.  You stated that "there is none that is righteous, not even one," is an absolute that applies to all of mankind and you referenced Psalm 14:1.  The problem is, Greg, that Psalm 14:1-3, is not referring to all of mankind.  Rather, those verses are referring to those fools who say, "There is no God" (Psalm 14:1), the "children of men" (v. 2), the "evildoers" (v.4). 

     Psalm 14 goes on to talk about God's people (v. 4) and the "generation of the righteous" (v. 5).  So, it is clear, from the context, that "there is none that does good, no not one" and "they have all gone astray" and "they are all corrupt" are not referring to all of mankind, rather those phrases are referring to those who reject God.  There are two distinct groups in Psalm 14 - the "evildoers" who reject God and the "generation of the righteous" who are God's people, and verses 1-3 refer to the former, not the latter.  You have erred in your interpretation.

     Pastor Greg says that it is an "absolute" that "there are none righteous, no not one."  The Bible says there is a "generation of the righteous."  The Word of God also says that Noah was a "righteous man," "blameless in his generation" (Gen 6:9).  In Exodus 23:7, God tells the Israelites not to slay the innocent and the righteous.  If no one is righteous, no not one, then who is God talking about?  John the Baptist is described as a "righteous and holy man" (Mark 6:20).  He is also described as being filled with the Holy Spirit, "even from his mother's womb." John's parents are said to be "righteous" and "blameless" in "all" the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.  "The prayer of a righteous man availeth much," (James 5:16).  How is all of that possible if no one is righteous, no not one? 

     So, should I believe the word of Pastor Greg, or the Word of God?  And that is my general issue with your answer.  So much of what you state as fact, are words that I do not find in the Bible.  It is, for the most part, Pastor Greg's word that you gave me - your personal interpretation of God's Word that you gave me. 

     Now, you claim that the Holy Spirit is guiding you and that you "preach under the authority of the Holy Spirit."  Yet, nowhere do I see your name in the Bible that tells me you have such authority or that the Holy Spirit is guiding you.  So, since we are called to test the spirits (1 John 4:1), I hope you don't mind if I test your spirit.  Are you infallible in your interpretation of God's Word...yes or no?  And, how was the authority of the Holy Spirit that you claim to have, given to you?

    

Closing Comments

I hope all of you have a great week! 

 

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