Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #42

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

I hope everyone has a Happy and Holy Easter weekend!


Below is the continuation of my dialogue with Raymond Woodward. I don’t have any commentary along with it because my response is several pages long (although, not as long as the ones with Matt Johnson), and to keep those who complain about the length of some of my newsletters from getting too upset with me, I’m not making any additional comments.

Mr. Woodward’s comments are in italics. His response is in reply to the last of my responses in Issue #41. My response is below his.



You’ve repeatedly said nobody ever directly, Biblically answered these questions. Here goes.

First, it seems that the BIG question is whether anyone is saved by faith “alone” or by faith plus works. Everything else certainly pales in comparison of importance.

YES, YES, YES!!!! OF COURSE there’s a place for good works, but not at the point of salvation.

You’re right, there’s no verse that I know that says explicitly “faith alone”. But there’s at least one that comes dangerously close and plenty more that clearly express the thought.

One simple request: just read & think about what God’s Perfect Word is saying, then formulate your rebuttal later. Otherwise, you & I are both wasting our time, right?

John Martignoni wrote (last email):

Dear Raymond,

With all due respect, Todd has not answered a single one of my questions. Yes, he has thrown Eph 2:8-9 out as a response to my email, but that is not an answer to a single one of the questions that I asked him. I will list those questions again here, for your sake, so that you can see quite readily that he has not answered a single one of my questions.

1) Can you give me one verse of Scripture that states we are justified (or saved) by “faith alone”?

(Back to Raymond Woodward): Assuming we’re not just playing some trivial semantics game here, let’s go back to Eph 2:8-9, “…by grace, through faith..not as a result of works, that on one should boast…”

Yep, “alone” is not explicitly included, but human works ARE EXPLICITY EXCLUDED here as causative agents in salvation of any man/woman. Paul even bothers to tells us why works are excluded here. Good works aren’t excluded any other context, but unambiguously excluded as any contributing cause of salvation. But there’s much more to the Bible, so let’s go look at the process of salvation in more or less chronological order…(you asked for just one verse, but we protestants will throw in some freebees).

I. Romans 3: 10-20, 23 — No need to type it all out; I’m sure it’s been cited to you before. Note the use of absolute qualifiers here: “…no one…not even one…there is none who seeks for God…ALL have turned aside…useless…none who does good…not even one…” (Vs 10-12)

My question to you: are you, or I, Billy Graham, or even the Pope, excluded from this list? Is anyone? Obviously not; that’s beyond word games; that’s just silly. So the starting point for every single human is ‘lostness’ — utter inadequacy for a place in God’s kingdom.

Note v.20. It’s equally unambiguous, “…because by the works of the Law, no flesh will be justified…” NO flesh, precisely none, NOT by any works of the Law. So now, we’re not only utterly inadequate, but utterly unable to do anything about it, unto ourselves.

(I know that you didn’t say salvation by works, alone, so stick w/ me…I’m getting there.)

Carry on to Vs 21-31, especially:
v.21: what does the Law demand? Works, of course, but Paul says the righteousness of God has come apart (separate) from the Law (works).

-V22: “…even the righteousness of God thru faith in Jesus Christ for ALL those who believe…” Faith plus something, for some qualifying individuals?? No, read on, “…for there is NO distinction.” Paul unequivocally lays out ONE SINGLE condition here for all salvation of ALL people. (you might guess that I’m not a Calvinist)

-v.23: perfection is the only standard of behavior that’s good enough, and it’s eerily reminicscent of Isa 64:6-7: “…all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags…” There’s that word “all” again, which unavoidably takes in me & you & ALL our works. What’s to gained, therefore, by tossing our filthy rags into the spotlessly white purity of Christ?? How does that help? How does that glorify Christ?

The big problem w/ justifying works, is that our works are not endearing to an utterly perfect God. They are, in fact, deeply offensive if driven by own design & power. Gotta be some other way to find His favor.

-v.24: by contrast this verse sez that justification is a GIFT. Ponder the implications of “GIFT” - partially-earned gift? or just pure “GIFT”? And how would you react if you handed your child a gift from your heart and he responded with a qualified “thankyou”, saying that it was partially EARNED?

(don’t bail on me, I’m headed toward your requested verse……)

v.25 “(Christ) whom God displayed publically as a propitiation in His (Christ’s) blood thru FAITH, (plus works?)…” Nope, just faith. The propitiation is in Christ’s blood, alone, available thru faith. OK, so maybe you could still argue that a few good deeds would sweeten the deal for Jesus, but don’t forget Isaiah & do keep reading.

-v.26 "…that He might be just and the justifier (NOT “a” justifier - “the” justifier) of the one who has faith in Jesus, (plus works?)…." Nope, just faith again.

But here’s the clincher….maybe the verse you’ve been asking for…

v. 27-28 "Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No by the law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith APART FROM WORKS OF THE LAW " (Italics mine, of course)

John, it’s clear that you devote a great deal of time and devotion to God’s Word, but can it get any clearer than this? Just in case your answer is ‘yes’, here’s more scripture….just keep reading in Romans 4, and YES, I’m coming to your scripture in James about works.
- v 4:1-2 - OK, so if Abraham was justified by works, Abraham has bragging rights, right? Can we logically agree that partial justification by works brings partial bragging rights? Problem is the last part of v.2, “…but not before God.” Hmm, so Abraham’s prodigious good works didn’t cut any ice w/ God? So I have to out-work Abraham??

- v.3 — What was credited to Abraham as righteousness? “…Abraham believed (plus he did good stuff?)…” Nope, Abraham just believed. No credit given here to works.

(Tell me, if works of some sort are so critical to your imputed righteousness — salvation — don’t you suppose Paul would toss a little credit to ‘works’ somewhere in here?? Instead, he goes the other way in Vs. 4-5…)

v.4 - seems to say that if you work at gaining God’s favor, He will pay you for however much favor you EARN – the antithesis of GRACE. but here’s where Isa 64 comes back to haunt, right? So, this last bit of V.4 becomes downright threatening, when he speaks of us receiving a wage “…as what is due…”. So what is due, due to our works apart from faith in Christ? Evidently whatever is due to someone who throws filthy rags at a Holy God, right?

(Are you willing to bet on your ability to beat Isaiah at his own game here — your ability to gain “what is due” and it be something you really want when Isaiah says so graphically that the best you can do is a filthy rag?? I’m not, but it gets better….)

v.5 - by contrast, the one who does NOT work, but simply believes in “Him who justifies the ungodly” has his faith credited as righteousness. BINGO!! Righteousness is what we need to get along w/ God, and Paul for a second time explicitly says that righteousness is available to those who DON’T work for it. Third iteration in the next verse…

v.6-8 - Paul quotes King David talking about God’s imputation of righteousness upon someone who EXPLICITLY does NOT work for it

(OK, so we don’t see the exact quote “faith, alone”. But you cannot possibly argue with a straight face that that’s not what Romans is describing for almost the entirety of Chap’s 3 & 4. And I do NOT see how you could, in good conscience suggest to your readers that Protestants are somehow reading adulterated Bibles, or just don’t know what it says, or chosse to ignore it, or something like that. But maybe Martin Luther was a little sloppy or even bastardized Holy Scripture in Romans, so let’s look some more…)

Even the Old Testament loudly foretells God’s pattern here in Deut 9:4-6.

There’s more:
II Tim 1:8-10, especially v.9, “…called us w/ a holy calling NOT according to our works…”

- entirety of Galations 3, especially vs 5-14, and notice how he describes those who’re still slugging away at trying to earn something, “…foolish..bewitched…under a curse…cursed (passive voice here means God is actively cursing you)…”. Also especially note the last part of v.14 about receving the “…promise through faith (plus works?)…” Nope, just faith again.

- Romans 9:30-33

- I Peter 1:5

- and finally Titus 3: 5-11, which not coincidentally, gives a harsh warning about being “fractious” (NASB translation)

Now, can you show me a a single scripture which says we must be saved by faith plus works? Just one. Oh, I know there are scriptures that talk about works, but can you show me or your readers JUST ONE actual scripture, taken IN CONTEXT which actually says we’re saved by faith plus works of any sort?? Just one!! It’s not in James (see below).

Nonetheless, there is absolutely a place in all this for good works, but it’s a RESULT of salvation, an outworking of saving faith, an evidence of saving faith. Let’s look at James, the “works book”, which is ever bit as inspired and as important as Romans.

-Jas 2:14-26 Where you salvation-partially-by-works guys usually miss it is right at the beginning. Does it say this, “What use is it, my bretheren, if a man has faith, but has no works…”? NO, NO, NO!!!!!! What James said was, “What use is it, my bretheren if a man says he has faith, but has no works…”

(You might try to tell me that Martin Luther stuck that word in there, in which case I might point out to you that at the time of the Protestant Reformation, there were three competing popes for a time, all claiming to be God’s special guy, sole divine descendant of Peter. So let’s just skip the sins & errors of long ago & stick w/ scripture. Our modern Bibles go back a lot further than the 15-16th centuries for their source material, now don’t they? We both know that, so please quit peddling that hokum to your readers.)

This whole discussion in James is rightly framed in terms of someone claiming to have faith but having no works as evidence thereof. The conclusion is painfully obvious - that individual might have some intellectual assent to the divinity of Christ and sovereignty of God, but he never had a saving faith.

See it again in v. 18, “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith…’” Then, the gross inadequacy of mere intellectual assent is laid out in v.19.

Notice vs 21-23 carefully. V.21, if taken out of context, seems to say Abraham was fully justified by his good works, but that’s flatly wrong. V.22 begins a transitional thought, saying that Abrahams amazing good work was an outworking of Abraham’s faith, but his exemplary work perfected (completed) his faith. Then DO NOT SKIP VERSE 23. What was credited to Abraham as righteousness??? Well what was it? Has James suddenly forgotten that this passage is all about works, gotten addled in mid-sentence? Or has he carried the thought to its climax?

You gotta abandon this one as a favorite text on salvation by works. You need another scripture, you might need another Bible, I don’t know.

It’s all thru the Bible - genuine (saving) faith MUST INEVITABLY bear the fruit of good works “..that He prepared in advance for us to do…” Absolutely yes.

To close the loop on this subject, you mentioned that I have trouble w/ Ephesians 2:10. How so? That verse says we were “…created in Christ Jesus…” ((passive voice, aorist tense, meaning created by someone else at a point in time)) for some purpose of God’s. It neither says nor implies anything about good works causing or contributing to salvation.

I’m exhausted and you probably are, too, if you’ve actually read all this. My purpose is not to bash you, your church, or anything of the sort. It is my purpose to show you as clearly as possible that you’re spreading well-intended but toxic falsehood about THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION IN ALL OF HUMANITY, not to mention protestants and their seminaries.

I wouldn’t say that you’re simply lost, unable to understand or rightly divide scripture. (I might wonder, but that’s not my venue, that’s God’s territory, and neither I, nor any priest or preacher, nor any other man has a vote in that decision).

But unless this pivotal issue is settled, you could be lost. It won’t matter how many filthy rags you or me or anybody else throws at the foot of the “Great White Throne” if this isn’t right. That, by the way, is where salvation or damnation is determined, strictly on the basis of our relationship w/ Jesus.

Temporally speaking, all your other questions are frankly meaningless if this part is wrong…they’re non-sequitur matters that go nowhere if this part is worng.

…Can you loose your salvation by disobeying God?…Can you loose what you never had? Did Peter or Paul ever disobey God?

…Must you eat the body and blood of Christ to be saved?…Can you eat of His body and blood if you aren’t? (No, He won’t let you. You can go thru some ceremony, but we both know what the Bible says about empty ritual.)

…Can you loose your salvation by not tending to your family?…you probably never had it, but if you did, the answer is NO because YOU didn’t provide and YOU don’t maintain your salvation. Your sin isn’t nearly as powerful as Jesus’ blood…period…or you never would have been saved in the first place. (Remember at this point that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his followers to pluck out their eye if it caused them to sin. How many one-eyed disciples do we find in the Bible? There is such thing as hyperbole in scripture.) You CAN, however, find yourself under painful chastisement in this life and you WILL find yourself grievously squirming before the Bema Seat of Judgement.

…Does God assign salvation or damnation according to our works? Absolutely YES, but not in the sense you intend. He does if we’re counting on our works, in which case we’re in the skillet for eternity. He also does if we’ve accepted Christ’s propitiation by faith, but then our works go to the assignment of rewards in Heaven.

John, I earnestly admire your zeal, your learning, your diligence, all that. I really do. But you’re trying to jump the Grand Canyon with nothing but your own legs if you think you’re earning anything. And you’re trying to get your readers to follow you!! What a miserable burden.

Why burden yourself this way? How can you justify burdening your readers this way? Go back to Galations 3 & ponder those first few verses. Who brought you to this “I gotta earn something” mindset? It wasn’t Jesus. He just wants a love relationship with you; the good deeds will follow naturally, if not always flawlessly.

thanks for your patience

Yours in Christ,

Raymond Woodward


Dear Raymond,

My response will pretty much follow the order of your email, from top to bottom. Quotes from your email will be in italics. And, yes, I do quite often say that no one has ever directly answered my yes-no questions, and I can still pretty much say that you have not directly answered my questions…with one or two exceptions…as we shall see. Now, on to it…

You stated the following: “YES, YES, YES!!!! OF COURSE there’s a place for good works, but not at the point of salvation,” implying that Catholics believe our initial justification is dependent upon our good works. This indicates a fundamental misunderstanding on your part of Catholic teaching. I would ask you to go to my website, then go to the “Debates” page, click on the debate with Joe Mizzi, and read what I said in my Round 1 and Round 3 comments about salvation. To summarize those comments, I will quote from the Council of Trent:

“…[we] are, therefore, said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things which precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace itself of justification; for, ‘if it is a grace, it is not now by reason of works [Rom 11:6]…’”.

Catholics believe that at the “point of justification,” as you call it, we are justified (saved) by God’s grace alone. No amount of works, or no amount of faith, which precede our justification, merit the grace of justification. Nowhere is this belief more easily demonstrated than with infant baptism. The infant can do nothing…no works, no faith…by which to be saved. Yet, we believe that infant is saved through Baptism – by God’s grace alone. Peter 3:21, “Baptism, which corresponds to this [Noah and his family being saved through water] now saves you.” John 3:5, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit [Baptism], he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

You believe (and correct me if I’m wrong) that infants are saved just by the fact that they have been born…because they are in the flesh, don’t you? Catholics do not believe that being born, that being in the flesh, saves anyone. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” (John 6:6). “The flesh is of no avail,” (John 6:63). When you are born, you are born of the flesh, you are born into Adam…and by being in Adam, we are born unto condemnation (see Romans 5:15-19 & 1 Cor 15:22). Since the flesh is of no avail, one must be born again, born of water and the Spirit, in order to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5). You don’t believe that because you believe infants are automatically saved (should they die) even without being born again, do you not?

Now, all of that was just a short background on what Catholics believe regarding salvation, which will be useful throughout this response and which I will re-visit when challenging your interpretation of a number of the Scripture verses you mentioned. Through Baptism, through being born again, through being born of water and the Spirit, one receives the grace of justification. Before you are baptized, nothing you do…faith or works… can save you. Period. When you are baptized, you go from being of the flesh, to being of the Spirit. You go from being “in Adam,” to being “in Christ.” You become a member of the Body of Christ (see 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27).

So, Catholics agree that at our initial justification, at what you call the “point of salvation,” works do not merit salvation for us. So, you spent a good deal of your arguments trying to convince me not to believe in something that I already don’t believe in.

To move on, you state that there is no verse that explicitly states “faith alone,” but that there is one that comes “dangerously close” and “plenty more that clearly express the thought.” I have to admit that I found that a bit humorous, since I can point to a verse, the only verse in all of God’s Word, where the words “faith” and “alone” are used together, which states very clearly and very unambiguously that we are NOT justified by “faith alone,” (James 2:24) – which, by the way, you seemed to avoid mentioning directly. James 2:24 doesn’t come “dangerously close” to saying we are not justified by “faith alone,” it actually says it! So, who goes by what the Bible actually says, and who goes by what the Bible comes “dangerously close” to saying? Now, you sort of have a response to that, which I will deal with below, but it is a very weak response and it is a response that is entirely contrived and it is not, in spite of your claims to the contrary, in keeping with the context of this passage.

On to the Bible verses you bring up. I will state flatly, that I believe in every single one of the verses you cite…I believe in them 100%…however, I do not necessarily believe in your fallible interpretation of these verses. Also, in a lot of these cases, because of your misunderstanding of Catholic teaching regarding salvation that I pointed out above, you are arguing against things that are not Church teaching. In other words, you are building straw man arguments and then knocking them down, but you are not addressing what the Church actually teaches.

For example, Eph 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God – not because of works, lest any man should boast.” Regarding these verses, you stated “human works ARE EXPLICITY EXCLUDED here as causative agents in salvation.”

As I stated above, at what you call “the point of salvation,” the initial point of one’s justification, Catholics agree 100% with the fact that our works do not merit our justification…that our works do not save us. Again, I point to infant baptism as evidence of this belief. Therefore, you are actually arguing against something that is not Catholic teaching. Official Catholic teaching explicitly excludes any works prior to our justification as being “causative agents” in our salvation.

Eph 2:8-9 is saying that salvation is a gift from God. Man cannot merit salvation by any effort of his own…whether that effort takes the form of works or of faith or both. Because apart from God’s grace, man can do nothing. He cannot do good works. He cannot have faith. We cannot boast of anything, then, because everything we have is a gift of God’s grace. As Scripture states: “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7). “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above…” (James 1:17). “No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven.” (John 3:27). So, your arguments regarding Eph 2:8-9 are arguments that Catholics would, for the most part, agree with regarding the “point of salvation.”

Romans 3:10-20, 23. You mention how the qualifiers used here are “absolute qualifiers.” Are they really? “None is righteous, no not one?” In Luke 1:6, it says that both parents of John the Baptist – Zechariah and Elizabeth – were “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments of the Lord blameless.” How is that possible if absolutely “no one” is righteous according to your interpretation of this passage in Romans? In Matthew 1:19, Joseph is described as being a “just” man…some translations say “righteous” man. And, wouldn’t you agree that John the Baptist was righteous? After all, he was filled with the Holy Spirit his entire life, “even from his mother’s womb” as it says in Luke 1. Also, it talks about “righteous” men in Matt 10:41, Matt 13:17, James 5:16, and elsewhere. Simeon is described as being righteous in Luke 2:25, as is Joseph of Arimathea in Luke 23:50. Are you sure Paul is using “absolute qualifiers” in Romans 3? If so, it seems that Scripture is contradicting itself. What about newborn infants? Are they righteous or not? What about Paul? Was he righteous? Was Peter? Again, your interpretation of Romans 3 results in seeming contradictions within Scripture. Does Scripture contradict itself? We both agree that it doesn’t. Therefore, there must be something wrong with your interpretation here.

It also says in Romans 3 that “no one seeks for God.” Really? Aren’t you seeking for God? I am. I know others who are. Weren’t Paul and the other Apostles seeking for God? What about Cornelius the Gentile who we read about in Acts 10? Wasn’t he seeking God? Are you sure Paul meant that as an “absolute qualifier”?

Are you not aware that Paul is quoting the Old Testament here? Specifically, Psalms 14 and 53? In that context it was clear that the psalmist was talking about two groups of people, the fools – the children of men – who say, “There is no God,” and God’s people – the generation of the righteous (wait, no one is righteous, are they?). It is of those who say there is no God, that the psalmist says there is none that does good and that none of them seek after God. And, even though the psalmist says, “there is none that does good,” – what you call an “absolute qualifier” – he is not referring absolutely to all people, rather just to those who say there is no God. He is not referring to God’s people. So, if that phrase is not an “absolute qualifier” in the Old Testament passage, why then do you believe it is an “absolute qualifier” in the New Testament passage that is quoting it?

In addition to my disputing your interpretation of these passages, I return again to the fact that you are arguing here against that which is not Catholic teaching. You stated: “My question to you: are you, or I, Billy Graham, or even the Pope, excluded from this list? Is anyone? Obviously not; that’s beyond word games; that’s just silly. So the starting point for every single human is ‘lostness’ — utter inadequacy for a place in God’s kingdom.” I have never stated anywhere that the Pope or anyone else for that matter (save the Blessed Mother – which is an argument for another time) is without sin. I agree that the “starting point” for every single human (exception noted above) is “lostness” – we are born of the flesh and born outside of covenant with God. We are born lost.

But, with all due respect, I don’t think you really believe what you’re saying here. I ask you, if a one-year old infant dies, does that child go to Heaven? Is he saved? If the starting point for every single human is “lostness,” and this child has never accepted Christ as his personal Lord and Savior – he’s never been born again – then isn’t he lost according to your statement above? But you don’t believe that, do you? You believe a child that dies before the age of reason is indeed saved, don’t you? I think you have a bit of a contradiction in your theology here. And, in addition to this contradiction in your theology, you have once again built a straw man and knocked him down, but you have not presented one argument against actual Catholic teaching.

Now, regarding the “works of the law” mentioned in verse 20. What exactly is Paul talking about here? You seem to think he is talking about anything and everything that could be classified as a work? Again, I agree with the verse, but I disagree with your interpretation of that verse. The phrase “works of the law,” as it is used here in Romans, is specifically referring to the works of the Mosaic law…the ritual washings, animal sacrifices, dietary laws, and so on…it is not referring to all good works. Gal 3:17 tells us specifically that “the law” came four hundred and thirty years after Abraham. In other words, “the law” is what we see God giving Moses and the tribes of Israel in Exodus and Deuteronomy. We can simply call it the Old Testament law or the Mosaic Law.

And, we are told in Heb 10:1 that “the law” has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, "it can never…make perfect those who draw near.” Which tells us that the phrase, “the law,” refers to something in the past, not to good works in general, and that this law is but a “shadow” of the good things to come. In other words, it is an outline, but it is not the real thing. So, just as Romans 3:20 states, and just as the Catholic Church teaches, no one is justified by “works of the law.” Again, your interpretations are faulty, as is your understanding of Catholic teaching. You are arguing against something that Catholics do not believe. We believe everything that is said here in these verses.

As verse 24 states, and as official Catholic teaching basically states, “they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” In regards to this verse you stated, “by contrast this verse sez that justification is a GIFT. Ponder the implications of “GIFT” — partially-earned gift? or just pure “GIFT”? And how would you react if you handed your child a gift from your heart and he responded with a qualified “thankyou”, saying that it was partially EARNED?”

Again, your argument here is based on a flawed understanding of Catholic teaching – the Catholic does not believe the gift was partially earned. A gift is just that…a gift. But, this is a good place to plant the seeds for the rest of the argument I’m going to make below regarding Catholic teaching on salvation…that it is a process and not a one-time event. What if you handed your child a gift, and he never opened it? Or, what if he just threw it away? Or, what if he opened it, but he never used it? Or, he opened it, used it for a little while, and then threw it away? What then?

Regarding verses 25-28: Yes, a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law…that is very clear and every Catholic who knows their faith believes that 100%. But, again the works being spoken of here are the “works of the law”…the Mosaic Law…the Old Testament Law. As such, that phrase is not a blanket phrase for all works in general. What Paul is doing here is juxtaposing faith in Christ – the new way – against the works of the law – the old way. Paul is focusing on faith in Christ as a necessary component of salvation, and showing that the works of the Mosaic law are not a necessary component of salvation. But, he is not making a general statement of faith vs. works…he is not making a general statement of salvation by faith alone. If you interpret him that way, then you have him contradicting himself and other New Testament writers, as we’ll see below.

Before moving on to more of your verses, I wish to comment on a couple of things that you mention, to demonstrate to you how badly and how often you misinterpret the Scriptures. Let’s look at the passage you mention from Isaiah 64…verse 6. This is a verse commonly cited by Protestants to prove that our good works are nothing but “filthy rags” before the Lord. Is 64:6, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

What you fail to see here is why the righteous deeds are like filthy rags. Are righteous deeds in and of themselves, like filthy rags? No. The righteous deeds spoken of here are like filthy rags because they were done by folks who have since turned away from God. Folks who have become “unclean.” That’s why their righteous deeds are like filthy rags. Because, as it says in verse 7, these folks no longer call upon the name of the Lord. And, as it says in verse 5, they had sinned. But, look at the first half of verse 5, what does it say? “Thou meetest him who joyfully works righteousness, those that remember Thee in Thy ways.” So, for those who remember the Lord, who joyfully “work righteousness,” it seems they find favor with the Lord. Are their righteous works considered to be “filthy rags”? Apparently not. But, if they then turn away from the Lord, then all their works of righteousness are indeed considered filthy rags. But, righteous works in and of themselves are not like filthy rags, that classification is applied to the works of those who have turned away from the Lord.

We see this again in Ezekiel. Ezek 18:24, “But when a righteous man [I thought no one was righteous, no not one?] turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does the same abominable things that the wicked man does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds which he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, he shall die.” It is obvious that the Lord does indeed remember the deeds of the righteous man as long as the man continues to do righteousness. But, once he turns from righteousness to wickedness, then none of his righteous deeds will be remembered by the Lord…they will be like “filthy rags.”

And it is similar for a wicked man who turns to righteousness. Verses 21-22: “If a wicked man turns away from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness which he has done he shall live.” Did you read that? For the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Now, using the method of interpretation that you used for Romans 3 and 4, I would have to say that since faith is nowhere mentioned here, but all sorts of good works are (read all of chapter 18 and chapter 33, too), then it must be by good works alone that one is saved, right? As it says in verse 27, “Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and DOES what is lawful and right, he shall save his life.” Salvation by good works alone, right? It is if one interprets Scripture in the same way that you do. In Romans, and other places, faith is emphasized moreso than works. In these verses, and other places, works are emphasized moreso than faith. Does one trump the other? No. Taken together, you get exactly what Catholics believe.

So, again, we see that righteous deeds, in and of themselves, are not filthy rags. The righteous deeds of those who turn from righteousness to evil are like filthy rags. You were not interpreting Isa 64:6 properly because you were taking it out of context. Same with Deut 9:4-6, which says that it is not because of the righteousness of the children of Israel that God is giving them the land, but because of the wickedness of the current inhabitants of the land that God is driving them out. You are basically saying, “See, their righteousness means nothing to the Lord.” But, you are missing the point…they’re not righteous! Beginning in verse 6 and continuing through the rest of the chapter, the point is being made that the Israelites were not righteous! That’s why it wasn’t their righteousness which is the reason for their successes…because they aren’t righteous! The whole point here is not that righteousness counts for nothing, but that the Israelites thought they were going to whip up on folks because of their righteousness, but God is saying to them, “Hey, forget that notion…you guys ain’t righteous at all!” And He proceeds to tell them why that is so. You missed the entire point! Your interpretation badly mangled these verses. And, if you misinterpret verses that are so clear…how can your interpretation of any verses be trusted?

Now, on to more of the Scripture verses you cited. 2 Tim 1:8-10…Catholics agree 100% that we are not called because of our works. Again, you are arguing against a perverted understanding of what we teach.

Galatians, chapter 3. Again, you have badly misunderstood the context. The Galatians were being influenced by the Judaizers…those who felt the Gentile converts had to follow all the “works of the law” – the Old Testament law, which included circumcision, ceremonial washings, animal sacrifices, etc. – in order to be truly Christian. The Judaizers were confusing the Galatians, that’s why Paul was saying they were “bewitched,” because they were turning from what he had taught them and were going back to the Old Testament law. Paul is telling them that it didn’t work for the Jews and that it won’t work for them. Chapter 3 of Galatians is not about good works in general, it is specifically referring to the works of the Old Testament law. Same thing with Romans 9:30-33.

Titus 3:5-11. Again, you argue against something that isn’t Catholic teaching. We agree that He saved us, “not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy.” We also agree that we were saved “by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,” (aka Baptism). Which fits perfectly with my earlier comments on Baptism. We also agree that “good deeds…are excellent and profitable to men.”

Now, you want me to show you just one verse that says we are saved by faith plus works. I will show you many more than just one. But, first, I want to tackle your interpretation of James, chapter 2. You build your entire case around your interpretation that James is speaking of an “intellectual assent,” but not a “saving faith.” And you apparently get that from James 2:14, “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man SAYS he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?” “See,” you say, “It says that a man SAYS he has faith, not that he actually has faith.” Well, first of all, nowhere do I see the words “intellectual assent” or “saving faith” in this verse or any verse in James.

Secondly, if your interpretation is correct, then why does James ask if the man’s “faith” can save him in the second half of verse 14? Why doesn’t he say the man’s “supposed” faith? Or, the man’s “intellectual assent”? Why does James ask if the man’s faith can save him, if, as you interpret it, the man doesn’t actually have faith? Why does verse 17 say that “faith, by itself, if it has no works, is dead?” Why doesn’t it say, “So intellectual assent, by itself, if it has no saving faith, is dead?”

Third, as you interpret it, verse 17 basically says, “So, intellectual assent, by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” Right? Well, this again presents you with a problem. By fitting your interpretation of verse 14, into verse 17, we end up with an equation where intellectual assent, if it has works, is not dead. In other words, we don’t need a saving faith, we just need a saving intellectual assent. Fourth, again according to your interpretation of James 14, James uses the word faith, when he actually means “intellectual assent” – “can his FAITH save him?” In verses 18-26 of chapter two, the word “faith” is used 8 times (if I counted correctly). Is James talking about a “saving faith” or merely an “intellectual assent” each time he uses the word “faith?” Or, is he talking about an intellectual assent some of the time, but a saving faith the rest of the time. And, if so, which one is which? Your interpretation creates a lot of confusion here.

Fifth, I noticed you stopped short of verses 2:24-26 in your arguments. Why is that? Is it because you couldn’t bring yourself to try and square those verses with your interpretation? Your interpretation of these verses, as well as the others in James 2, which hinges on your interpretation of James 2:14, is not in keeping with the context of the passage. You have James using the word “faith,” when, according to you, he actually means “intellectual assent,” which makes a mockery of the rest of these verses. James 2:20, “Do you want to be shown you foolish fellow, that intellectual assent without works is barren?” 2:24, “You see that man is justified by works and not by intellectual assent alone.” 2:26, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so intellectual assent apart from works is dead.”

Again, your interpretation is once again shown to be lacking in consistency. It does not hold true to the context. Let me ask you a few questions based on these verses:

Does the Bible say that faith without works is not really faith, or does it say that it is dead faith?

Can dead faith save anyone? Yes or no?

Does the Bible say that faith apart from works is barren, or does it say that it is not really faith?

Can a barren faith save anyone? Yes or no?

Does the Bible say that works complete faith? Yes or no?

Can an incomplete faith save anyone? Yes or no?

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but you believe James 2:24, which says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone,” should be interpreted as, “You see that a man is justified by faith alone and his works show that he has a saving faith.” Is that correct? If not, please give me your interpretation of James 2:24.

Why does James use the phrase “justified by works,” if we are not justified by works? Doesn’t “justified” mean “saved?” Don’t you wish he had never said that?

In James 2:26, James draws an analogy between faith and works, and the body and the spirit. He compares faith to the body, and works to the spirit. As both body and spirit are necessary for life, according to James, then for the analogy to hold both faith and works are necessary for life, right? However, your interpretation would render James 2:26 thusly: “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so works show forth a saving faith.” Or is it, “For as the spirit shows forth the body, so works show forth a saving faith.” If that’s not correct, please give me your interpretation of James 2:26.

You say not to skip verse 23, and you ask exactly what it was that was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. Well, I don’t skip verse 23. Believing was credited to Abraham as righteousness. But, verse 21 says Abraham was justified by works. So, which is it? Faith, or works? Your interpretation causes conflict between the verses, my makes them complementary to one another. Plus, verse 19 tells us that believing alone doesn’t save the demons…even the demons believe! But, are they saved? No! You put all these verses together, and you come up with salvation by God’s grace, with faith and works both being necessary components in the salvation process. Faith and works, by God’s grace. Your interpretation has verse 21 at odds with verse 23. And verses 24 and 26 become nonsensical under your interpretation.

Now, you attempt to answer some of my other questions, after first trying to make some claim that they are meaningless if the question of salvation by faith alone isn’t first addressed. In other words, you don’t like the questions and don’t really want to answer them so you need some justification for not really doing so. Well, these questions do indeed pertain to that very question, and your inability to answer them speaks volumes (forgive me for saying so, but your answers made absolutely no sense whatsoever.)

I asked: “Can we be saved if we go against God’s will and do not walk in the good works that God has prepared for us beforehand? (Yes or no?)

You answered: “Can you lose what you never had? Did Peter or Paul ever disobey God?” Sorry, but I have no clue what you are trying to say here. No, you cannot lose what you never had. Which will be exactly the point I make in a moment. Answer the question with a simple yes or no, please.

I asked: “Do we need to eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood in order to have eternal life? (Yes or no?)”

You answered: “Can you eat of His body and blood if you aren’t? (No, He won’t let you. You can go thru some ceremony, but we both know what the Bible says about empty ritual.)”
Again, I have no clue what you are trying to say here. What does that mean? It certainly isn’t an answer to the question I asked. Yes or no…Do we need to eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood in order to have eternal life?

I asked: “If a man does not care for his family, does that affect his salvation? (Yes or no?)

You answered: “Can you lose your salvation by not tending to your family?…you probably never had it, but if you did, the answer is NO because YOU didn’t provide and YOU don’t maintain your salvation.” Well, at least you answered the question. And, we see from your answer, that what you believe goes against the plain teaching of Scripture. In 1 Tim 5:8 it says this, “If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Paul tells Timothy that if someone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, that he has disowned the faith. You cannot disown something unless you first have it, can you? As you said above, you cannot lose what you do not have. And, Paul further tells Timothy, that such a person is worse than an unbeliever. Which, by implication, means that they are a believer. In your salvation by faith alone theology, don’t unbelievers automatically go to Hell? So, if you are worse than an unbeliever, you’re definitely going to Hell, aren’t you? Probably end up in some very low pit of Hell. So, here Paul is saying that believers, those who have the faith, can end up disowning the faith and finding themselves worse than unbelievers, if they do not support their family and relatives. So, based on Scripture, your answer is incorrect.

I asked: “In Romans 2:6-10, it states that God will give or deny eternal life to every man according to his works. Do you believe that? (Yes or no?)”

You answered: “Does God assign salvation or damnation according to our works? Absolutely YES, but not in the sense you intend. He does if we’re counting on our works, in which case we’re in the skillet for eternity. He also does if we’ve accepted Christ’s propitiation by faith, but then our works go to the assignment of rewards in Heaven.”

Once again, your answer is not in line with Scripture. Let’s read Romans 2:6-7 and insert your interpretation: “For He will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will assign rewards in Heaven.” But, wait a minute. First, it says these folks are seeking their way to glory and honor and immortality by “patience in well-doing.” In other words, by doing good works. But, according to you, that’s a bad thing, isn’t it? Doesn’t that mean they are relying on their works to obtain these things? But, aren’t their works filthy rags? Does God reward people in Heaven because they brought Him a bunch of filthy rags? Furthermore, the verse actually states not that God will assign them rewards in Heaven because of their good works, but that He will give them “ETERNAL LIFE”…salvation…because of these good works! It is very plainly written there, yet you refuse to believe it.

Now, I want to look at some more “faith and works” passages, but, before I do, I want to complete the explanation of the Catholic belief on salvation that I started above. Catholics believe that nothing that comes before the “point of salvation”…whether faith or works…merits salvation for us. We believe that we are saved by God’s free gift of His grace that comes to us through Baptism…the washing of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Obviously faith is critical to our receiving Baptism…our own personal faith if we are baptized as adults, the faith of our parents if we are baptized as infants. But, our faith itself does not save us, it is God’s grace that saves us. Once, however, we become members of the Body of Christ, through Baptism, then we have a job to do. The process of salvation does not end there. As Paul says in some letters, “We were saved,” and in other letters, “[We] are being saved,” and in still other letters, “We will be saved.” Past, present, and future…salvation is a process.

We must become properly functioning members of the Body (Eph 4:15-16). We must produce fruit. Scripture tells us that any tree that does not produce fruit will be cut down at the roots and tossed in the fire to be burned. Just as if any cell in the human body will ultimately be rejected by the body if it doesn’t do what it’s designed to do, so, too, any cell in the Body of Christ will ultimately be rejected if it doesn’t do what it’s designed to do. And, we are designed to produce fruit. We are designed to walk in the works that God has prepared for us beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10). We are designed to abide in Christ (John 6:56).

Now, do we automatically walk in these works as you believe? Do we automatically abide in Christ as you believe? Do we automatically produce fruit, as you believe? No, no, and no! Nowhere does Scripture say any such thing. We have to cooperate with God’s grace. We have to open the gift, so to speak. We have to use the gift. And we are free at any moment to reject the gift and to walk away from the gift. We have to choose on a daily basis to walk with Christ. Luke 9:23 tells us that any man who would come after Christ must do two things: 1) Deny himself, and 2) Take up his cross daily. Would you put those two things under the category of “faith,” or under the category of “works”? But, we need both faith and works, because without faith, we aren’t going to even bother to do the works. Why should we if we don’t believe?

And, this faith and these works can be rightly said to “merit” reward for us. This is where you actually object to what Catholics believe and teach. Again, I would say to read the debate I had with Joe Mizzi that is on my website. How is it that we can be said to “merit” anything? Well, because once we have been justified, we have become members of the Body of Christ. And, as Paul says, it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me (Gal 2:2). Christ working in us that which is pleasing in His sight (Heb 13:21). God at work in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). So, it is because we belong to Christ, because we are members of His Body, that we can said to merit, because it is Christ Himself working through us…can Christ not be said to merit? If so, as members of His Body, can we not be said to merit through Him and in Him? As one of the Church Fathers said, I believe it was St. Augustine, when we “merit,” it is simply Christ crowning His own glory as He works through us. When we cooperate with Christ’s grace, when we cooperate with God’s will for our lives, as members of the Body of Christ, we are said to merit. This is why Scripture speaks of God giving us a reward (Matthew 5:12, 6:4, 10:41; Luke 6:23; Col 3:24; and elsewhere). We merit not in and of ourselves, but as members of the Body of Christ. Christ meriting in us and through us. It is all by God’s grace.

But, if we do not cooperate with God’s grace, and we do not do the works which God has prepared for us beforehand, and we do not bear fruit, then we will not abide in Christ and we will not be saved. This is most easily seen in John 15:1-6. Jesus is the vine. Believers, Christians, are the branches. Would you say that the branches have a saving faith, or only an intellectual assent? They have to have a “saving faith” if they are attached to the vine…to Christ…don’t they? Yet, if they do not bear fruit (good works), what happens to them? Are they still saved? Not unless you think that being cut off from the vine and being cast into the fire to be burned is a metaphor for being saved. Did the branches, who had to have had a saving faith in order to be attached to the vine in the first place…did these branches automatically do the good works as you believe? Absolutely not. That’s why they get cut off from the vine. Once saved, always saved? I don’t think so.

Through faith and works, we abide in Christ, and He abides in us. Through faith and works, we produce fruit. By doing these works, we are fulfilling the will of God for our lives (Eph 2:10), and it is only those who DO the will of God who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt 7:21). Therefore, both faith and works are necessary for salvation. Or, as Galatians 5:6 says, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith WORKING through love.”

Finally, here are some questions that you didn’t attempt to answer at all…not even with an answer that made no sense. If you don’t mind, I will answer them for you according to the dictates of your theology as I understand it. If my answers do not correspond to what you would have answered, please let me know.

1) Do we need to labor for the food which endures to eternal life? (Yes or no?) Your answer is, “No!” We don’t need to labor for anything. However, in John 6:27, Jesus commands us to labor for the “food that endures to eternal life.” Food which He will give us. So, we see Jesus giving us this food (a gift) but also telling us that we have to labor for it. Hmmm.

2) Do we need to keep the commandments in order to have eternal life? (Yes or no?) Your answer, “No!” We don’t have to do anything in order to have eternal life other than have faith.” But, in Matthew 19:16-17, Jesus is directly asked what “good deed” one must do in order to have eternal life. Did Jesus say, “You don’t have to do any good deeds, you just need to believe?” No. Did He say, “Simply believe in Me and you will have eternal life?” No. Did He say, “Faith alone is all you need in order to have eternal life?” No. He said, “Keep the commandments.” Would that fall under the “faith” category, or the “works” category? And, he didn’t mention faith at all, so, according to your method of interpretation, that means that we are saved by keeping the commandments alone!

3) Do we need love in order to be saved? (Yes or no?) Your answer is, “No!” You only need faith in order to be saved. In other words, you believe that one can break the two greatest commandments, love God above all else and love thy neighbor, and still be saved. But, in 1 Cor 13, Paul says that if he has “all faith,” but has not love, he is nothing. How can that be? And, in verse 13, it says that, “faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” If faith is all we need to be saved. And, being saved is the greatest thing that can ever happen to us, then why is love greater than faith? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

I apologize for the length of this email, but I wanted to be very thorough in my response. I actually had a whole lot more that I could have brought into play here, but decided not to do so. Maybe another time. I hope and pray that you will read what I wrote and not put words in my mouth or jump to hasty conclusions or make assumptions that are not there in my words. I ask you to pay careful attention to what I have written, because I am very careful in what I write. You have already made assumptions about what I believe that are wrong. Please try to avoid doing so in the future. And, I hope you will allow me my beliefs and trust me when I say that I don’t believe this or I do believe that. In places where I have made assumptions about your beliefs, I very clearly state that if I am wrong in what I have stated about your beliefs, then please correct me. I do not wish to put words in your mouth. Please do not put words into mine.

Thank you for your patience.

God bless!


In Conclusion

Please feel free to pass this along to anyone on your email list. And please let them know about all the free apologetics materials available at our website: www.biblechristiansociety.com. Thanks!

How to be added to, or removed from, the list

If this newsletter was forwarded to you by a friend, and you would like to be added to our distribution list, all you have to do is go to www.biblechristiansociety.com and click on the “Newsletter” page to sign up. It will take you about 10 seconds.


Apologetics for the Masses