Apologetics for the Masses #341 - An Evangelical Pastor and Mary

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The Sinlessness of Mary - A Debate With an Evangelical Pastor (Part 2)

 

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Introduction

Continuing my debate on the Sinlessness of Mary with Evangelical pastor Greg Smith.  (For the first few rounds of the debate, see: http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter/447-apologetics-for-the-masses-340.)  I am going to start off this newsletter explaining a bit about the strategy for what I said in the last newsletter.  Why did I respond to a question about Mary's sinlessness with a question about seeking God?  Then, I will repeat my last response to him, which was in the last newsletter (so if you want to go straight to the new stuff, you can skip this section), then give you his latest response, followed by my reply to that.  Hope you enjoy...

 

Challenge/Response/Strategy

Strategy

     One of the two main verses that Protestants will go to in order to "prove" that Mary was not sinless is Romans 3:23 (the other being Luke 1:47): "...since ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  "See," they say, "the Bible says 'ALL' have sinned.  And 'ALL' means 'ALL.'"  So, I always start off a conversation about Mary being sinless by asking the person who is arguing that she is not sinless this question: "Are you seeking God."  The reason I ask is because Romans 3:11 says, "No one seeks for God."  My reasoning is, that if "all" in verse 23 is an absolute, then "no one" in verse 11 has to also be an absolute.  Yet, virtually every single Protestant I've asked that question of says, "Yes, I am seeking God in my life."  (I had one, and only one, Protestant tell me that "No," they were not seeking God in their life.  Apparently, Jesus was seeking God for him, or some such nonsense.)

     Well, if "all" is an absolute, and "no one" is an absolute, then that can't be.  They can't be seeking God in their life because the Bible says "no one" seeks God.  Yet, they claim they are seeking God in their life.  Which means, they don't believe "no one" is an absolute.  But, if "no one" in verse 11 is not an absolute, then "all" in verse 23 is not necessarily an absolute either.  They're interpreting one verse one way, in order to fit their beliefs, but then they're interpreting another verse in a completely different way, in order to fit their beliefs.  Uhm...that's not the way it works. 

     When you point that out to them, you will quite often get something along the lines of what Pastor Greg says - that none of the unbelievers seek God, but the believers do seek God and that verse 11 is talking about the unbelievers.  Amen!  That's exactly the case in Psalm 14 - which Paul is quoting from here.  There are those fools who say there is no God, then there is the generation of the righteous.  And that is exactly the case in Romans 3.  Which means "no one" is not an absolute, and neither is "all." 

     Paul is not talking about individual cases here.  He's talking about two groups of people - Jews and Gentiles.  Chapter 3 is all about telling the Jews that, just because they are Jews, it doesn't mean they are better off than the Gentiles.  The context of the chapter is that Paul is making the case that righteousness does not come from the Law, and so Jews are not at an advantage vis-a-vis the Gentiles when it comes to sin.  That Jews are not exempt from the power of sin just because they are Jews.  We see this context most readily in verse 9 and verse 29. 

     So, when Paul says that "all" have sinned, he is talking about Jews and Gentiles - as groups - have sinned.  That Jew and Gentile are both under the power of sin.  That you aren't granted an exception from sin just because you're a Jew.  It is not, however, a universal absolute, just as "no one seeks God" is not a universal absolute.  If "all" is interpreted as a universal absolute, then you've got a problem, because Jesus would be included in "all."  At least, His human nature would be.  And we know that isn't the case.

 

John Martignoni (from Apologetics for the Masses #340)

     Well, [Pastor Greg,] 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?


 

Pastor Greg Smith

     Let me attempt to answer your question, the question you commonly bring to all Protestant pastors.  “Where does your authority come from?”  Our authority comes from God.  God is the final authority and He has revealed this authority by direct revelation to the prophets and apostles who wrote the Scriptures, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:20 – 21). 

     Our authority to preach comes from the Scriptures alone.  Paul wrote to Timothy in II Timothy 4:2 to, “Preach the word.”  Pastors are also responsible to teach (I Timothy 3:2, 5:17; Ephesians 4:11), lead (I Timothy 3:5, 5:17), pray (James 5:13 – 16), and shepherd the church (I Peter 5:1 – 4).  This authority is delegated by Jesus Christ, the rock, the cornerstone, and the head of the church, directly to pastors and elders.  Nothing else is authoritative.  God is the ultimate authority and all spiritual commands that we must obey come from God through the Scriptures alone.  It does not come through popes or church councils or church fathers or church creeds or traditions.  It only comes from the commandments of God as found in the Scriptures. 

     As pastors, we are to preach this word, not what we think, but preach the Scriptures, His word.  Pastors do not have any authority in their own reason or experience or what our church might think.  The only authority that we have is in the Word of God.  Only “Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). 

     So, when evangelical pastors preach, we let the Word of God speak.  We get out of the way of what is in the Scriptures.  We (hopefully) do not try to come up with some clever message or pithy thing to say.  We dig deep into the passage to find out what God’s message is to us.  And then we let the Scripture speak.  Under the authority of Scripture, we command those that hear to believe and obey.  That is the authority God passes on to preachers to "preach the word.”

     Most Evangelicals have a high regard for the teachings of the early church fathers, but do not believe it is infallible, like Scripture is.  No church has the right to formulate new doctrine or to make decisions contrary to the teaching of Scripture because church leaders and church councils can and do make mistakes.  Only Scripture is inspired by God (II Timothy 3:16).  God superintended on the human authors so that, using their own individual personalities and writing styles, composed and recorded God’s word without error.

     In addition, all of the apostolic teachings and traditions necessary for faith and practice that God wanted communicated to His people are found within the New Testament (II Timothy 3:15 – 17).  Paul did tell the Thessalonians to stand fast and hold the traditions that were passed down from us, what he had personally taught as an apostle of God.  The apostles for a time communicated their teachings orally until those teachings could be permanently recorded in written form.  Once the apostles committed their teachings to written form and then died, the written Scriptures alone became our final authority for matters of faith and practice.

 

John Martignoni

     First, Greg, let me make a distinction regarding a question I had previously asked you.  It might be a fine distinction, but it is an important distinction, nonetheless.  And it is this: I did not ask you "where" your authority you claim to have comes from, I asked how this authority was given to you.  All authority ultimately comes from God...absolutely.  But, how exactly was the authority you claim to have given to you?  And, how am I to know that you have been given such authority, by the Holy Spirit, to preach the Word of God and to claim that what you preach is true? 

     You mention Paul writing to Timothy and telling him to "preach the word."  Well, how was Timothy's authority to preach the word given to him?  I suppose you would answer, "From the Scriptures alone," as you did above?  Yet, that is not what Scripture tells us.  In 1 Tim 4:14 and 2 Tim 1:6, it is made very clear that Timothy's authority to preach, as well as to command others, comes from the laying on of hands of Paul and the elders. 

     Forgive me, then, if I reject your answer to that question since I do not find your answer in Scripture, which you tell me is "the only authority that we have."  So, I must needs ask: Who, if anyone, laid hands on you?  And, if someone did lay hands on you, what authority did they have?  And, who laid hands on them?  And what authority did they have?  And, who laid hands on those people?  And so on and so on back into time.  In other words, how far back can you trace whatever line of authority you might claim to have, if you do indeed claim authority through the laying on of hands?

     Furthermore, you state the following: "This authority is delegated by Jesus Christ, the rock, the cornerstone, and the head of the church, directly to pastors and elders."  Actually, no, it is not.  At least, not according to your theology.  (By the way, this is actually an answer to the question that I did ask you.)  Your answer is not found in the Bible, so, again, I reject it.  Are you saying that anyone can simply declare they have been given such authority directly by Jesus Christ and then go out and start their own church?  What if I claim such authority?  Can you deny my claim?

     You had written: "[God] has revealed this authority by direct revelation to the prophets and apostles who wrote the Scriptures, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."  You were correct in that statement.  Authority, in the New Testament, was delegated to the Apostles directly by Jesus Christ (John 20:21; Matt 28:18-19; Matt 16:19; Matt 18:18).  This authority was then passed on through the laying on of hands.  In the New Testament, we do not see leaders of the Church simply declaring themselves to have the authority to preach, teach, lead, pastor, and command that they have received straight from Jesus Christ through the Scriptures.  So, again, who laid hands on you?  And how did they receive the authority to do such a thing?

     There is another problem I have with what you have written.  You stated: "God is the ultimate authority and all spiritual commands that we must obey come from God through the Scriptures alone."  God is indeed the ultimate authority, but where does the Bible say, "All spiritual commands that we must obey come from God through the Scriptures alone?"

     In that same vein, you also said this: " In addition, all of the apostolic teachings and traditions necessary for faith and practice that God wanted communicated to His people are found within the New Testament (II Timothy 3:15 – 17)."  Is knowing that the books of the Bible are the inspired, inerrant Word of God "necessary for faith and practice"?  I ask, because nowhere does the Bible say, for example, that the Gospel of Mark is the inspired, inerrant Word of God.  Is knowing which books are indeed supposed to be in the Bible "necessary for faith and practice"?  I ask, because nowhere does the Bible give us a list of which books are supposed to be in the Bible. 

     How do you know that Mark is inspired and inerrant if the Bible doesn't say so?  How do you know which books are even supposed to be in the Bible if there is no list, in the Bible, that gives you that information?  What authority outside of the Bible are you relying on to know that Mark is inspired?  Or Hebrews?  Or Revelation?  Or any of the other books?

     You also stated the following: "As pastors, we are to preach this word, not what we think, but preach the Scriptures, His word." That is demonstrably false.  How long is your average sermon?  30 minutes?  45 minutes?  Are you simply standing up there reading from Scripture the whole time?  No, you are not.  You probably read a verse or two, and then you expound on those verses for several minutes using your own understanding and knowledge.  In other words, you read a little Scripture, and then you tell the people what YOU think it means.  The vast majority of each of your sermons is actually the word of Greg - what you think Scripture means - as opposed to the Word of God.  Do you deny this?

     There is so much more that is wrong in your reply that I could expound on, but this is getting a bit long, so I'll close with two things:

     1) Again, you stated the following: "...all of the apostolic teachings and traditions necessary for faith and practice that God wanted communicated to His people are found within the New Testament (II Timothy 3:15 – 17)."  I find it remarkable that you cited 2 Tim 3:15-17 there.  You do realize, don't you, that Paul was specifically talking about the Old Testament in that passage?  He says in v.15, "...and how from CHILDHOOD you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."  When Timothy was a child, few - if any - of the books of the New Testament had been written.  Also, it would have been from his Jewish mother, not his Gentile father, that Timothy would have learned of the "sacred writings."  I.e., the Old Testament.  Not a good passage to cite for a Sola Scriptura claim, as it would prove Sola Old Testament Scriptura, if anything.

     2) I noticed that you studiously avoided answering the first of the questions I had asked you in my last reply: "Are you infallible in your interpretation of God's Word...yes or no?"  So, are you?  I think, from what you've said about church leaders and chuch councils making mistakes, that you would not claim infallibility (correct me if I'm wrong on that).  Which, if that is indeed the case, leads me to ask: Why should I accept anything that you have to say as being true, if any or all parts of what you say could be wrong? 

 

Closing Comments

There really is a good bit more of what he said that is contrary to the Bible and even contradictory to his own statements.  If the conversation allows for it, I will bring those things up.  If not, then I may come back to this when all is said and done, and point out other errors in his reply so that you can be looking for these same errors folks will make in conversations that you have.

Hope all of you have a great week!

 

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Apologetics for the Masses