Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #52

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

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Next week I will start a dialogue that’s a bit different than others featured in this newsletter to date. It is an ongoing exchange with someone who does not believe Jesus is God. He is the pastor of a congregation in Conyers, GA, and seems to be heavily influenced by Messianic Judaism, as you will see. He is not a Jehovah’s Witness (JW), as far as I know, but since the JW’s do not believe in Jesus as being God, the arguments I use with him should be able to be used with JW’s.

This week, though, I will devote one more newsletter to my on-again-off-again exchange with Dr. Joe Mizzi. He issued a response to what I said in Issue #50. He claims this will be his last, and I wish to respond to what he had to say. And, since he says that it will be his last response, then that means I get to have the last word on the matter. And, I do so enjoy getting in the last word.

First, for the background on this issue, you can go back and read Issue #50 (on the “Newsletter” page of the website: www.biblechristiansociety.com). Then read his response below so that you will be able to see very clearly how he, once again, does not really address any of my arguments. He simply repeats what he said and ignores what I said. Then, after each point of his response, I will make my comments.


Joe Mizzi

John, I read through Newsletter #50 with the hope that you would give some sort of explanation, if not a formal apology, for your slanderous accusation.

Instead you resorted to your usual strategy of rhetoric, digressions and fallacies. Here are a few examples: (1) Is it possible that you do not know the difference in meaning between ‘legalistic’ and ‘legal’ – and yet you confuse the two terms and go on to build an argument on sand. (2) Why do you ask me if my interpretation of the Bible is infallible since it seems that you already know the answer (‘he claims to be the infallible ‘truth of the gospel’’)? (3) You point out the obvious – a word like ‘father’ may be used with different meanings in different contexts – to cover the contradiction that Christ ‘alone’ expiates our sins and yet the faithful have to expiate their sins too. If expiation was made by the mystical body of Christ (which is not the case, as I had shown), the Catechism should say ‘Christ with the church’ rather than ‘Christ alone’. (4) Why did you insert the little word ‘only’ in the analogy of marriage and good works? Love to your spouse is the concrete evidence to the reality of marriage, but nobody will argue that it is the only evidence? With St James, I do not argue that good works are the only evidence of saving faith, but surely they are!

John Martignoni

Joe, don’t you mean that I’m going off on a tangent by trying to put things in context, as you stated in your last response? Let’s go through Joe’s points one-by-one:

1) Legal: Established or authorized by law; Legalism: strict adherence to the law. So, yes, I do know the difference in meanings. My whole point was, and is, that your whole system of theology is based on the courtroom. It is much more focused on legalities than my system of theology is. You are forensically, or legally, declared innocent by a Judge in a court of law. Your judge is unable to ever rescind your sentence because, in a legal sense, He doesn’t see you in front of Him, rather, He sees the Innocent Lamb – legally speaking. In order to know that you have been legally declared innocent, you must perform good works. (Note: Joe previously says one must perform good works in order to know one is innocent, but he is saying something a bit different above.)

2) Why is it so hard to answer the question about whether or not your interpretation of the Bible is infallible? My whole point is that while I suspect you admit that you are not infallible in interpreting the Bible (since you admit, below, to being fallible in general), you nevertheless act as if you are infallible when presenting your opinions about biblical interpretations, about the teachings of the Catholic Church, and about salvation. So, you may say that you are not infallible, yet you act as if you are. And, if you will admit that you’re biblical interpretations are fallible, then will you not also admit that your beliefs about salvation as you interpret them from your reading of the Bible, could indeed be wrong?

3) In order to make your theology have even the appearance of some sort of consistency, you must divide the Body of Christ. How many bodies of Christ are there, Joe? You apparently know of at least two. In Catholic theology, there is one body of Christ. Any one who is truly Christian is so because they are a member of that body of Christ. If I am a member of the Body of Christ, then, when Christ alone expiates sin, do not I, as a member of His Body, share in that expiation? This is why divorce is so readily accepted in Protestantism, because you are divorcing people from the Body of Christ in the very essence of your theological system. Does not Scripture, in Ephesians, say that Christ and the Church are one? How is it you separate the Head from the Body when Scripture does no such thing?

4) Joe here is referring to the fact that in Issue #50 I stated, “By Joe’s analogy [between marriage and salvation], the only way you can know you truly were married is if you do ‘good works’ for your spouse.” I said that because the only way he has ever stated to me that one can know he is saved is by doing good works. He apparently is now stating that there are other ways to know one is saved, besides doing good works. Well, I apologize for my misrepresentation of his beliefs…but, again, it was done out of ignorance of those beliefs, because, again, this is the first time he’s ever mentioned such a thing. (I wish Joe would accord Catholics the same respect when it comes to his misrepresentation of their beliefs.) So, there are other ways to know that one is saved, besides doing good works, eh? Isn’t that interesting. What is this other “evidence” that one can know he is saved, Joe? A burning in your bosom along the lines of what the Mormons speak of?

Joe Mizzi

I read all that you had to say about me. In our formal debate you were supposed to prove that I misrepresented Catholic teaching – you failed; rather you exposed yourself as the one who misrepresented the historical Protestant teaching on sola fide.

And again, in your recent writings, your arguments fall short of proving that I misrepresent Catholic teaching. The closest you could get is show that sometimes I do not say all that the Catholic Church has to say on a particular subject. For instance you wrote: ‘What is the distinction between venial and mortal sin in Catholic teaching? Is it the distinction between serious sin and non-serious sin, as Joe Mizzi claims it to be on his website.’ That is not a misrepresentation, or distortion as you put it, of the Catholic position. The statement is perfectly true as far as it goes. In the answer to my inquirer, I did not say all that the Catholic Church has to say about venial/moral sins, but a comprehensive exposition was not required in the particular context. If you read the Catechism (1854-1864) you will discover that gravity is one important difference between venial/mortal sins, just as I wrote, but then the Catechism addresses other aspects, which you too, John, did not mention. Should we then say that you are misrepresenting the Catholic teaching because you were not comprehensive?

John Martignoni

I am not misrepresenting Catholic teaching by not being comprehensive, because my “partial” explanations do not lead one in a different direction than that of the “comprehensive” teaching. The same cannot be said for you. Your statement on Purgatory was indeed misleading. If someone came to your website with absolutely no knowledge of Catholic teaching, then by reading that statement, they would think: 1) The Catholic Church downplays the seriousness of sin – which is a false statement on its surface; 2) That the Catholic teaching on Purgatory allows one to commit sin freely knowing that he can make up for it in Purgatory – which again is false on its surface. You take the beliefs of Catholics that you claim misunderstand the Catholic teaching on Purgatory, and hold them up as an example for why Purgatory is a dangerous and misleading doctrine. Is that being honest and truthful? Why not take the beliefs of Protestants who you claim misunderstand the Protestant teaching on salvation by faith alone and hold them up as an example of why Sola Fide is a dangerous and misleading doctrine? You would never do so. As such, you are being hypocritical and duplicitous.

Yes, there is a difference between the seriousness (gravity) of mortal sin and venial sin, as I stated in Issue #50, but, once again, the difference is not between serious and non-serious sin; the difference is in levels of seriousness. They are both serious. One, though, moreso than the other, at least, according to the Bible.

By the way, once again, as per your usual and customary way of doing things, you avoided answering my questions on this matter:

1) Does the Bible, in 1 John 5, mention that there are two types of sin with differing levels of seriousness?

2) Yet, do you not believe that all sin is the same?

3) Also, please Joe, on your website, please let us know what 1 John 5:16-17 is talking about if all sin is the same, as you believe?

4) And, please let us know which kind of sinners you will not pray for? And, which kind of sinners God doesn’t want you to pray for?

Folks, please notice that Joe never addresses any of these questions. He’s very quick to jump on Catholic teaching as being wrong, but he’s not so quick to let us know what he believes about this passage. Could it be because he doesn’t have a clue? Or, because whatever he says is going to contradict something he has already said? I do believe so.

Joe Mizzi

You had ample opportunity to ask forgiveness for your slanderous accusation that I always leave Christ out of Catholic teaching on salvation and that by their own works and prayers, apart from Christ, Catholics have to save themselves. As you know too well, in our debate I had conclusively demonstrated that your allegation is false.

Your current defense is yet another untruth: ‘Joe is not pointing you to anything on his website that existed before his debate with me to prove his point, is he?’ As a matter of fact, I am pointing to the same article on my website that had been published before the debate, which you had used to accuse me of misrepresentation, and from which I had quoted to prove the falsity of your accusation.

[See: http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/page/RoundOneMartignoni, the introductory statement of Round 1, where John quotes my article; and my defense http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/page/RoundTwoMizzi, Round 2 Mizzi – Rebuttal where I quote extensively from the same article.]

John Martignoni

Well, in the comments of his that I published in Issue #50, Joe actually did point specifically to our debate. In fairness to Joe, though, the article he mentions from his website is quoted in that debate. However, I quote it to show precisely how he misrepresents Catholic teaching! And, his quote of that same article, is from the precise spot that I was specifically citing as a misrepresentation. In that article, he quotes from the Council of Trent, and then, in his summary of what he quoted, he completely ignores what it says and concludes that Catholics teach that we are saved by our “GOOD WORKS” [emphasis in the original].

Here is a quote from that article: “So then, what is required for a person to be justified at the end, that is, to be accounted to have fully satisfied divine law, and therefore to merit eternal life? Trent answers: THEIR GOOD WORKS! Their good works fully satisfy the divine law. Their works merit eternal life.” In other words, he quotes what Catholics say, and then tells you what it really means. So, in a legalistic sense, he can claim he states authentic Catholic teaching (actually, he doesn’t state it, his quote of the Council of Trent does), but then he gives his reader what that really means. And, what it really means, according to Joe, is diametrically opposed to what the Church actually teaches.

How can you say, Joe, that you tell people the Catholic Church puts an emphasis on grace when you tell them that we teach we are saved by our “GOOD WORKS!?” How do you have the audacity to say that the Catholic Church talks out of both sides of its mouth?!

Joe Mizzi

If you admitted a mistake (after all you make no claim to infallibility, just as I don’t!), you would have gained my respect even though we would continue to disagree on a hundred issues.

But alas, once again you have showed me what kind of person you are. John, you are not trustworthy. I see no point in going any further with you. I sincerely hope that you will repent of your sin and ask God to create in you a clean heart. I pray that this will not be held against you on that Day.

John Martignoni

In other words, Joe, you don’t believe I have committed a sin unto death? Because, if I had committed a sin unto death, you wouldn’t pray for me, would you? Again, what is it that you believe to be a sin unto death?

Joe Mizzi

To John’s Readers

Undoubtedly many of you respect and admire John Martignoni. He loves and dedicates himself to the Catholic Church. But I think that John would not want you to follow him blindly. For like myself, John is also fallible; we all are liable to make mistakes.

In his writings John reasons with you and appeals to a higher authority than himself (the teaching authority of the Catholic Church and the Holy Scriptures) because he wants you to rest your faith on a sure foundation. But since he is fallible it is possible that sometimes he gives the wrong interpretation of the Bible and the teaching of the Catholic Church.

John Martignoni

I don’t ask anyone to follow me. I don’t want anyone to follow me. Unlike Joe, who wants everyone to accept his own personal, private, fallible interpretation of the Bible as if it is an infallible interpretation of the Bible…as if his words are God’s own words…I merely ask one to accept the teachings of the Church founded by Jesus Christ. And, if anything I say ever contradicts anything that Church says, then it is out of ignorance and I will repudiate it the moment it is brought to my attention.

Joe admits, at least verbally, that he is fallible. So, Joe, please answer this question on your website: Since you are fallible, does that mean that your interpretation of the Scriptures in regards to salvation could possibly be wrong? The answer has to be, “Yes,” but Joe will never admit that. So, again, he gives lip service to his fallibility, but he doesn’t act as if he is fallible. I, too, am fallible, which is why I rely not upon my own understanding – Scripture says only a fool relies upon his own understanding – but I rely upon the understanding of the Church founded by Jesus Christ.

Joe Mizzi

Therefore I encourage you to test all things; search the scriptures to find out whether the things you learn from John (and whoever else) are so. Ultimately the responsibility for what you know and believe rests squarely on your shoulders.

Let me give you a concrete example. In my first letter, I asked you to consider an important spiritual question: If you die right now (God forbid!), do you feel that: (1) You will go directly to heaven? (2) You will go to hell?

John argued that only God knows. He wrote: 1) Who decides who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell? God. 2) Who knows the mind of God? No one. Joe Mizzi, however, believes ‘Joe Mizzi’ is the answer to both of those questions. He declares something that even the Apostle Paul did not have the audacity to do. He declares himself saved. As Paul says in 1 Cor 4:4-5, ‘I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me [Are you reading this, Joe?]. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, Who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.’ Joe has already judged himself, even though Paul says not to judge before ‘the time.’ And, even though Paul says it is the Lord who judges, not us. So, I want ask the reader to consider that every thing Joe Mizzi writes is coming from someone who deliberately and conspicuously goes against these words of Scripture.

What do you think of John’s argument? Is it biblically correct? Is it true that we cannot know whether we’re saved or not?

Let’s take 1 Cor 4:4-5 first. Was the apostle Paul expressing doubt about his salvation?

As always it is crucial to look at the context (at least please read 1 Cor 4:1-5). Paul is addressing the problem of divisions and factions in the Corinthian church. Some Corinthians exalted Paul, others Apollos and yet others glorified Cephas. But the apostle corrects them for their wrong attitude. Paul, Apollos and Cephas are but servants of Christ. The Corinthians were not competent to make a correct estimate of their teachers; in fact, Paul himself is unable to evaluate himself infallibly. Only when the Lord comes, in the Day of Judgment, will the worth of every servant be made manifest and then each one will be rewarded accordingly. ‘Then each one’s praise will come from God.’

We note that the issue is not whether Paul will be declared saved or lost on that Day (after all Paul is now already in heaven and he does not have to wait until the Second Coming to find out). It was not a question on whether Paul, Apollos or Cephas would be saved, but on the value of their ministry and the rewards they deserved. Hence this passage affords no proof that Paul was uncertain of his salvation; it deals with a different subject.

John Martignoni

Yes, let’s discuss the context of 1 Cor 4:4-5. The context is one of judgment. God’s judgment. Joe states that this passage is simply speaking of how much reward one will get and how valuable one’s ministry is? Really? Then why does Paul say that he is not “thereby acquitted?” Doesn’t being acquitted have to do with a judgment of guilt or innocence vs. a judgment of how much one’s reward should be? And why does this passage talk about bringing to light the things hidden in darkness? Are good things, things that lead to rewards, “hidden in darkness?”

And, let’s look at some other passages about Paul and his “assurance” of salvation: “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling,” (Phil 2:12). Well, that certainly is the language of absolute assurance, isn’t it?

“That, IF POSSIBLE, I may attain the resurrection from the dead. NOT that I have ALREADY obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own…I do NOT consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Phil 3:10-14). Why is Paul “straining” and “press[ing] on” toward the goal, if he has already achieved the goal?

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it…Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air, but I pommel my body and subdue it, LEST after preaching to others I myself should be DISQUALIFIED,” (1 Cor 9:24-27). Why is Paul worried about being “disqualified” from the race if he has already won the race? And why is he telling others to run so that they may obtain the prize if they have already obtained it?

Again, Joe expects us to view his interpretation as an infallible statement and to jump ship based on it. Now, again, he claims that he wants us to rely solely on Scripture, but, in actuality, he really wants us to rely solely on his flawed, biased, personal, fallible interpretation of Scripture. And, again, he never ever speaks to this point about the fallibility of his interpretations. Ever! Why? Because he can’t. Either he knows that what I’m saying is true and simply refuses to admit it because that would cast serious doubt on his arguments, or he is afraid to even think about this point because something deep down inside is telling him where the logic of it could lead. If there is even the remotest possibility that Joe is wrong, and that he is leading others astray, then, for the sake of his soul and the souls of those who follow him, he should shut down his website immediately and never teach anyone anything again. He should simply tell people: “You’ve got a Bible? Read it and decide for yourself.” To do anything other than that, is doing himself and others a grave injustice.

Joe Mizzi

Elsewhere the apostle Paul directly expressed his conviction on salvation. In Philippians 1:21-24, Paul said that for him ‘to die is gain’. But if Paul was uncertain whether he would go to heaven or hell, how could he say that? To go to hell is certainly not gain! Well, Paul himself explains why he considered it profitable to die. He desired to depart in order to ‘be with Christ’ which is far better than staying here on earth. Paul knew that after death, he would be with the Lord in heaven.

John Martignoni

When Paul wrote Philippians, he was in jail. Why? Because of the Gospel. He was on his way to eventual death. Why? Because of the Gospel. If I knew I was on my way to martyrdom, I would have no trouble saying the same thing. In fact, I can pretty much say the same thing right now, grounded on my hope in Christ and my belief that I am not currently in a state of mortal sin. I cannot have “absolute” assurance, however, but then, neither did Paul. But, in the situation he found himself in, Paul could be as certain as anyone could be, without being God, as to their salvation. Again, if Paul had absolute certainty, why did he say later in that same letter that folks should “work out their salvation in fear and trembling?” And why did he say the other things that I quote above? One of the problems with this whole “absolute assurance” thing is that it completely negates any reason for hope. Hope is not necessary if we have absolute assurance. Yet, the Scriptures speak constantly of hope. The two are incompatible. Joe tends to take things as absolutes, as Paul’s statement here, when they are not necessarily absolutes.

Joe Mizzi

Now consider John’s argument: 1) Who decides who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell? God. 2) Who knows the mind of God? No one.

No objections about the first statement: God decides the destiny of his creatures! However the answer to the second question is misleading. Rather than ‘No one’ we should answer ‘God’ knows the mind of God!

John Martignoni

Joe knows perfectly well that I am talking about human beings when I say “no one” knows the mind of God. Another example of him taking something as an absolute, when it was not meant as an absolute. He’s being pretty legalistic here.

Joe Mizzi

Not only so, it pleased God to reveal his mind to his people. The apostle Paul writes: ‘For who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2:16). Christians have the mind of Christ! He does not tell us everything, of course, nor can we know everything. But he does tell us something about his purposes and his intentions for us, and whatever God declares about his people is ‘gospel truth’!

John Martignoni

So, even though Scripture says no one knows the mind of God, Joe says, “Hey, all you have to do is read Scripture and you can know the mind of God.” Joe, should I believe you, or the Bible?

Joe Mizzi

We only need to ask whether God’s Word tells Christians that they are saved. Please read the following scriptures:

Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) (Ephesians 2:5).

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8).

[God] has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. (2 Timothy 1:9).

John Martignoni

This is a specious argument. All Christians are saved, if they are truly members of the Body of Christ…truly Christian. I never said they aren’t. However, nowhere does the Bible say they cannot become unsaved…that they cannot be severed from the Body of Christ…cannot, in essence, become non-Christians. None of the verses Joe gives here says anything to the contrary. Let’s look at 1 Tim 5:8, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, has has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Okay, you’re a Christian, you’re saved, but then you decide to discontinue support of your relatives…what happens? Are you still saved? Not unless disowning the faith and being worse than an unbeliever means you’re saved.

Joe Mizzi

With grateful hearts, Christians confidently shout for joy: We are saved! We have eternal life, and we know it, because God has so declared about us!

May the Lord richly bless you.


Joe Mizzi

John Martignoni

This is another example of how Joe needs to pay closer attention to Scripture. In Ezek 33:13, God tells the righteous that he “shall surely live.” So, God has told someone who is righteous that he “shall surely live.” So, that person has absolute assurance of salvation, right? After all, God told him he shall live. And not just live, but “surely” live. Who can get more assurance than that?! Well, in Joe Mizzi theology this guy has absolute assurance of his salvation, just like Joe does. Without a doubt, this person is going to Heaven, just like Joe is. But, look at the entire verse: “Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in the iniquity that he has committed he shall die.” In other words, even though he is saved, if he presumes upon that salvation and commits sin, he will die in his iniquity…unsaved.

One last thing on this. Please take note that Joe didn’t even begin to touch my question about how he knows that he hasn’t deceived himself into falsely thinking he is saved. He admits that there are folks out there who think they are Christians and who think they are saved, but they actually aren’t. Which begged the question: How then, Joe, do you know that you are not one of those self-deceived people? Who can assure you that you are not self-deceived in what you believe and in what you teach? No one can. Joe is his own authority. Joe claims not to be self-deceived. How can he know this with certainty? He can’t, because he could be self-deceived. Please, Joe, on your website, if you don’t answer any other question I’ve asked here, please answer this one: How can you know with absolute certainty that you are not self-deceived?

Please pray for Joe Mizzi and all like him who teach this false and dangerous dogma of once saved always saved and pray for all those that are influenced by these false prophets…that they may come to know the fullness of the Truth.

In Conclusion

Well, that should close the book on “My Adventures With Joe,” at least for a while. I will probably, from time-to-time, comment on other misrepresentations of Catholic teachings that appear on his website, so I can’t say with “absolute assurance” that he won’t respond to anything that I have to say in the future.

As always, I am more than happy to read your comments should you wish to send them. Because of the volume of emails I receive, however, I probably will be unable to respond…but I will read them.

For those of you who wish to ask me a question or two, I can say that as of right now, I am backlogged by several months in answering questions, so you might want to save yourselves the time, at least for now. You can always go to www.catholic.com and type whatever topic you are interested in into the search engine on their home page, and you will almost always have several articles pop up on that topic. Sorry about that, but there is just one of me and I’m getting way more questions than I can field until I’m able to afford more help around here. I hope you’ll understand.

God bless!


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Apologetics for the Masses