Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #69

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

I hope all of you have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Wanted to give you a heads up on a wonderful resource for Catholics that I’ve come across. It’s called “The Catholic Response” and it’s a little bi-monthly publication edited by Fr. Peter Stravinskas…an excellent priest and a very smart man. You can find out more about it by going to jhcnewman.org (for John Henry Cardinal Newman) and clicking on the “Catholic Response” page.

I recently subscribed to it for $30/year – again, you get six issues in a year. It has articles on a variety of topics – apologetics, Church history, liturgy, etc. Very well done. The thing I may have liked the most, though, is that the first issue I read had pages and pages of Q&A. One problem, though, is that you cannot order it through their website, you have to actually mail in your order. Anyway, if you’re looking for something to add to your reading library, you might want to check this out. I like that it comes every other month…gives me time to actually read most of it.


I hope to get back to answering the 2nd part of Dr. Steven Novella’s original response to my article, “Was Hitler Right?” but this week I wanted to report on a meeting my pastor, Fr. Bean, and I had with some strident anti-Catholic folks who had come down from Arab, AL to save our souls and to specifically warn me that I was courting eternal hellfire with my plan to convert at least 50% of the Greater Birmingham area to Catholicism by the year 2038. (I guess I must be doing something right to have these folks come down from Arab to tell me that I’m doing wrong.)

These gentlemen’s names were: Michael, Marty, and Rich. Michael had originally contacted me – he had somehow come across my website – and asked if he could meet with Fr. Bean and me. I assumed he wanted to meet with Fr. Bean because his conversion story, “From Baptist Minister to Catholic Priest,” is one of the talks offered through my website. Anyway, we were finally able to set up a date to meet and Michael asked if it was okay if he brought some other folks with him. I said that was no problem. So, he showed up for the meeting with Marty and Rich – both of whom are ex-Catholics. We met them at Father’s office at the parish.

Below is just a summary of what happened.


The conversation started off with Rich basically asking about whether or not the Inquisition was moral. And then Michael jumped right in quizzing us on whether or not what happened to John Hus (he was burned at the stake for heresy) was moral.

The whole point of this line of questioning is a rather feeble attempt to throw water on the claim of papal infallibility. If the Popes allowed these horrible and dastardly things to happen, then how could they be infallible, is the reasoning used. Well, this line of reasoning fails for a number of reasons which I’ll get into in a minute. But, before I do, I’ll talk about my response to their questions.

First, I asked Rich how many people died in the Inquisition. He answered exactly as I thought he would – he said 68 million people died in the Inquisition. Which immediately identified him as one who is totally ignorant of the actual facts of the Inquisition and who has swallowed – hook, line, and sinker – the false claims that some folks make about the Church and particularly about the Inquisition. Instead of doing some actual research and investigation, he just accepts these lies as fact. You would think that someone who claims to be a Christian, would be concerned about truth when talking about the Catholic Church – even if they disagree with Catholic teaching. You would think they would be concerned about spreading falsehoods about the Catholic Church. But, alas, ‘tis not necessarily so.

For 68 million people to have died in the Inquisition, it would have been the equivalent of killing the entire population of Europe at any given point in the 1400’s, twice over. Which is the height of absurdity. It is now believed by reputable historians, Catholic and non-Catholic, that in the four or five hundred years of the Inquisition, fewer than 5000 people were put to death by the civil authorities as a result of the Inquisition.

How do we know this? Because the folks of the Inquisition kept meticulous records. These records have received close scrutiny from honest historians now for the last twenty years or so, and they’re finding that the Protestant propaganda about the Inquisition is far removed from the actual facts.

Now, the question is, though, were any of these 5000 +/- executions moral? Well, it’s not really our place to say. Heresy, back in the 15th-17th centuries, was usually viewed as not only rebellion against the religious authority, but against the political authority as well. Just as treason in our day carries the potential of the death penalty, so did heresy carry the potential of the death penalty. Is it moral to put someone to death for treason? Maybe centuries from now people will judge us as barbaric and immoral for having a death penalty for any reason – some people already do in our day and age. The problem comes in when someone tries to impose 21st century legal concepts and standards onto the folks of the 15th and 16th centuries. You just can’t do it.

But, even if we say, for the sake of argument, that all of those executions were immoral, the point is that it says nothing about the infallibility of the Pope. These 3 guys were confusing infallibility – the inability to teach error; with impeccability – the inability to sin. If every one of the executions that took place as a result of the Inquisition was wrong in the eyes of God, then what that means is that every Pope who allowed them to take place was a sinner and sinned by allowing these executions to take place. It does not mean, however, that the Popes taught doctrinal error. If you believe that someone being a sinner prevents them from teaching truth in the areas of faith and morals, then no one can teach truth, because everyone is a sinner.

In other words, even if every single execution that took place as a result of the Inquisition was a sin in the eyes of God, and even if the execution of John Hus was a sin in the eyes of God, it is completely irrelevant as to whether or not the Pope is infallible when it comes to teaching doctrine. Furthermore, I do not admit that every single one of those executions was immoral, as I am in no position to judge such a thing. In point of fact, it is known that the Inquisition was hundreds of years ahead of its time in its legal practices regarding evidence, legal representation of the accused, and so on. So fair, in fact, were the courts of the Inquisition, that there are records of people who were arrested for civil crimes asking to be tried in the courts of the Inquisition.

For a more balanced treatment of the Inquisition, I suggest you read “Why Apologize for the Spanish Inquisition.” It’s a short booklet that quotes a lot of Protestant historians to give you the truth about the Inquisition. I recommend that everyone have more than one copy – one for yourself, and other copies to hand out to Protestant friends. Here’s a link where you can order a copy: http://loretopubs.org/index.php?target=products&product_id=36. (I think there may be some copies available on Amazon.com for a dollar or so less.)

Also, two books that give an even-handed treatment of the Inquisition are: “Inquisition,” by Edward Peters, and “The Spanish Inquisition,” by Henry Kamen.

One last point that I brought up in response to their question about whether or not God would ordain such a thing as the Inquisition, is that in the Old Testament the Israelites conquered territory and killed people, and it was apparently ordained by God that they do so. When I brought this up, they responded with, “Well, that was the Old Testament.” But, the point is, that according to their belief, God did ordain the killing of others (note: which God, being the Author of Life, has every right to do). Plus, in the New Testament, we see that Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead for lying to Peter (Acts 5:1-11). So, we do have a New Testament example of people dying and that it apparently being in accord with God’s will for that to happen to them. The whole point of this being, that they could not offer me any proof that the Inquisition was not in accord with the will of God. I’m not saying that it was or wasn’t, but they claimed it was not, so the burden of proof is on them – and they had no proof. Which means their entire line of reasoning was based on nothing more than their animus against the Church.

‘Nuff said ‘bout the Inquisition.

Another topic that we got into was Sola Scriptura…using the Bible as the sole rule of faith. They said that everything that we need to know about the Christian Faith is in the Bible. I then asked them, “How do you know the Bible is indeed the inerrant Word of God? Who told you?” They then said something along the lines of “we have the witness of the early Christians to rely upon.” When it was pointed out that the early Christians were Catholics, they strenuously objected. Fine, but they couldn’t seem to understand that you cannot claim that all questions about the Christian Faith can be answered by the Bible, when the most fundamental questions about the Bible – Where did it come from and who says it’s the inerrant Word of God? – are not answered by the Bible. To rely upon the witness of the early Christians, is to rely upon an authority outside of the Bible, even if you wish to believe that the early Christians were not Catholic. In other words, Sola Scriptura is a logically inconsistent dogma, because you have to have some authority outside of Scripture to tell you what Scripture is in the first place.

Does the Bible tell us which books should be in the Bible? They had no answer for that one. Who wrote the Gospel of Mark, and how do you know? Which Mark wrote Mark and how do you know he was inspired of the Holy Spirit? Again, no answers. Now, they didn’t sit there dumbfounded, they were saying things in response, but they never answered the questions.

Plus, the corollary dogma to Sola Scriptura is that every Christian has the right and the duty to read Scripture for themselves to determine what is truth and what is error. So, given that, when we were discussing the interpretation of a particular passage of Scripture, I looked straight at Rich and said, “Why do you think your interpretation of this passage is more valid than my interpretation of this passage? Are you infallible?” He just stared at me for about 5-6 seconds and I could see his brain working behind his eyes…he knew that if he answered he was indeed fallible, that it would cause his arguments to come tumbling down. But, the only alternative was to say he was infallible, yet they had started off the conversation arguing against the infallibility of the Pope and I would be willing to bet that in the past he has railed against papal infallibility by saying that no man can be infallible because all men are sinners (again, confusing infallibility with impeccability, but the point being that he didn’t believe any man could be infallible as he understood it).

So, what did Rich do? Did he concede my argument? Nope. Rich claimed to be infallible in his interpretation of that particular passage. I ‘bout fell out of my chair. I turned to Father Bean and said, “We have the Pope here with us.” I couldn’t believe I heard what I had just heard. A Protestant actually admitting that they were infallible. Even though I can guarantee you that he came into that meeting believing that no man could be infallible. Do you see what logical conundrums Sola Scriptura theology can cause for folks? He knew he had no choice, so instead of sticking with his convictions and losing an argument, he went against them and made the outrageous claim that he was infallible. Why? Because he would rather do that than give in to a Catholic’s argument. A very telling moment in the entire conversation. I’m hoping that Marty and Michael realize what happened there and that maybe it would cause them to think about things a little bit.

After that, every time we would disagree on the interpretation of a Scripture passage with Rich, I would ask him point blank, “Is your interpretation of this one infallible, too?” And, each time he would say, “Yes,” his interpretation was an infallible interpretation. I have to say that this is the first time I have ever had someone go to that extreme to avoid losing an argument. Again, it was quite revealing.

Another part of the discussion centered on once saved always saved. Marty stated that if we could lose our salvation, why isn’t there a single passage in the Bible that says so? When I started pointing out that there is passage after passage that says, either directly or indirectly, that we can indeed lose our salvation, the river of illogic just kept on flowing.

I pointed out in Galatians 5, that Paul, when talking to Galatian Christians (in other words, they were saved!), told them that if after believing in Christ, they then accepted the “yoke of slavery” and received circumcision, that Christ will be of “no advantage to you.” In fact, Paul goes on to say that whoever received circumcision would be “severed from Christ” and would be “fallen away from grace.” So, Father and I pointed out that being severed from Christ meant that you would no longer be saved. You have to be a member of the Body of Christ in order to be saved. If you are severed from Christ, you are no longer a member of the Body and therefore cannot be saved. They replied that “severed” didn’t really mean that you were actually detached from Christ but that you were no longer “walking in grace” or some such thing. I would go on about this, but in all honesty neither Father nor I could make any sense out of their argument, which was basically, “Severed doesn’t mean severed.”

Father then pointed out John 15:1-6 which talks about how those who are members of the vine (Christians, aka “the saved”), could be cut off and thrown into the fire to be burned if they didn’t produce fruit. The response? “Well, those people weren’t really saved in the first place.” When we responded that if they weren’t saved, then how could it be said they were branches of the vine, they responded with even more nonsense that again we could not make heads or tails of. Yes, the branches were saved, but only if they were really saved. Huh?

And, that discussion led into one of the funniest parts of the conversation, at least to me and Father. They talked about how there were millions of folks out there who think they’re saved, but they’re not. And, to their credit, they did not discriminate between Catholic and non-Catholic on this one. “So,” I asked, “there are a lot of folks who think they’re saved, but they’re not, right?” They responded in the affirmative. I then said, “But, if you ask these folks if they’re saved, they will say that they are because they truly think they are?” Yes, they responded. I then asked them if they were saved. They said of course they were saved. I just looked at them for a second to see if they were understanding my point.

I then said, “How do you know you’re not among those who think they’re saved, but they’re really not saved.” We just know, they answered. I then asked, “If I asked that question of someone who thinks they’re saved, but, according to you they really aren’t saved, wouldn’t they answer in the same way you answered?” And, they conceded that someone who thinks they’re saved but really isn’t saved would answer exactly as they had answered. So, I asked, “Then how do you know you’re saved?” We just are, was the response. I looked at them, then I looked at Father, and all Father could do was smile and shake his head. “In other words,” I asked them, “you have no assurance of salvation because you might be among those who think they’re saved but really aren’t.” Oh no, they said, they have 100% assurance of salvation, they just knew in their hearts that they weren’t fooling themselves into thinking they were saved when they really weren’t. Again, a logical contradiction that seemed to have little impact on them.

At one point we got to talking about how they think a person’s righteousness is “imputed” to that person. In other words, they aren’t really made righteous, but they are just declared righteous by God in a legal sense, because God sees the finished work of Christ on the cross and sees that our sins are paid for and, therefore, declares us legally righteous, but not actually righteous. Kind of like Martin Luther’s argument that before we’re saved, we are just like piles of dung. After we’re saved, we’re still piles of dung, but we are, in essence, covered over by the pure white snow of Christ. So, we look pretty on the outside, but on the inside, we are still pretty disgusting. As opposed to the Catholic belief that we are actually made righteous by the grace of God. We are no longer piles of dung, we are members of the Body of Christ. And Christ is not full of…dung.

Marty asked me if I believed I was dead in the flesh because of the sin of Adam (Original Sin). And I said yes. He then compared my being dead in the flesh because of Adam’s sin to my being alive in the spirit because of Christ’s obedience. Which I agreed to 100%. He thought he had me in a corner at that point. He said, “Well, just as Adam’s sin was imputed to you, so Christ’s righteousness was imputed to me.” He was arguing that I hadn’t actually sinned to be dead in the flesh, Adam had…therefore Adam’s sin was imputed to me, and he thought he had won the argument. But I then asked him, “Marty, do you believe we are actually dead in the flesh, or are we just declared dead even though we’re actually alive?” And he said that he believes we are actually dead in the flesh. I then pointed out to him that if we are actually dead, and not just declared dead in some legal sense, then Adam’s sin is not “imputed” to us…we are actually made dead in the flesh. And, if the comparison to the new Adam, Christ, is to hold, then our righteousness is not just imputed to us…we are not just declared righteous in a legal sense…we actually are made righteous. Otherwise, the analogy between the 1st Adam and the 2nd Adam doesn’t hold. He really had nothing to say about that.

Again, folks, there is a lot in the theology of many non-Catholics that generally goes unexamined. And, when you do examine it, when you ask a few questions and hold their positions up to scrutiny, their positions don’t hold up very well…whether you’re using a common sense test, a logic test, and/or a scriptural test. The positions these guys were putting forth contradicted themselves over and over again. They were not only scripturally indefensible, but at an even more basic level they were all logically indefensible.

One last point to make is that I earlier mentioned how Marty had asked why, if one can lose their salvation, there is nothing in the Bible that says that. Well, as I mentioned, there is plenty in the Bible that says that, both directly and indirectly (listen to my talk on “Once Saved, Always Saved?” for scads of Scripture verses), so at one point I turned his question around on him by asking him, why…if salvation by faith alone is the most central dogma of Christianity…why does the Bible nowhere state that we are saved by “faith alone”? To my surprise, they all admitted that the Bible does not directly say we are saved by “faith alone,” which again caused me to just stare in wonder at these guys. Marty believes that the Bible doesn’t say anything about a person being able to lose their salvation (according to his interpretation) and he believes that means that one cannot lose their salvation because it’s not in the Bible; yet, he believes that salvation by faith alone is the central dogma of Christianity, while at the same time admitting that the Bible never actually says that. Fr. Bean and I had front row seats in the theater of the absurd.

I’m writing all of this to point out that even though someone may have more of the Bible memorized than you and they can run circles around you in quoting chapter and verse (and I freely admit that these guys probably have more of the Bible memorized than I do), if you just use a little logic and a little common sense and remember to ask a few basic questions like the ones I mention above, then you will have no problems. The questions I asked did not result from years of study in theology and philosophy. They were just common sense questions. How do you know the Bible is the Bible? How do you know who wrote Mark? Do you have proof that the Inquisition was not in accord with God’s will? Why is your interpretation more valid than mine? Are you infallible? These are questions you can use regardless of what particular topic you may be discussing…Mary, the Pope, Confession, Purgatory, the Communion of Saints, etc.

Oh, actually, there is one more thing I want to mention. This is killer. Please remember this when talking to anyone who believes in once saved always saved. We were discussing that particular subject and I brought up the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The story talks about a son who was with his father (and the father here is representative of God the Father). In other words, the son was alive, and in his father’s house…he was safe. He was saved. The boy reaches a certain age and basically rebels against his father, asks for his inheritance (asking for the inheritance was basically saying that you view your father as being dead to you – it was a grave insult), and goes off from the father. He twitters away his inheritance on sinful things and ends up repenting and returning to his father. And, what does the father say? Does he say, here is my son who, even though he turned away from me and went and lived a sinful life, he was still my son and never lost his salvation? No! The father says, “For this is my son who was DEAD.”

Again, this is a story where the son represents any one of us, and the father represents God the Father. The son is alive, he is in his father’s house. We could rightfully say he is “saved,” because he is alive and is a member of his father’s household. But, he ends up rejecting his father and turning to sin and squandering his inheritance. How is he then described? As being dead. But, he comes back to life, in the eyes of the father, by repenting and turning back to the father. He was alive, then dead, then alive again. Once saved, always saved? Not happenin’ here.

When I pointed out to Marty and Rich and Michael that the father described the son as being “dead,” they all said, “Oh, but he was still his son.” When I told them that according to Jewish custom of the time, when a father said his son was dead to him, even though the son was still physically alive, that meant that the father had severed all family ties with the son. That the son, in essence, was as good as dead to the father. That legally, and in every other sense of the word, the son was no longer a member of the family. He had lost all familial rights, including rights of inheritance. In other words, when the father said his son was dead, the son, for all practical purposes, was indeed dead in the eyes of the father. Making the analogy to God the Father, I asked, “If God says to you that you are dead in His eyes, are you still saved?” To which they responded, “Yes.” Which, again, made them appear ridiculous.

If the Father says you are dead, and you are therefore no longer entitled to His inheritance, then how can you be saved? I mean, after all, what is the Father’s inheritance? Eternal life. So, if you were at some point no longer entitled to any inheritance, how can you still be saved? Plus, if you read the story closely, not only does it say “my son was dead,” but it goes on to say that the son is “alive AGAIN.” AGAIN! It doesn’t say, “My son is still alive.” It says, “My son was dead and is alive again.” Folks, in order to be alive again, you have to first, be alive. Second, die. Third, come back to life. Alive…dead…alive again. Just like once saved always saved, right? Hardly. This story of the Prodigal Son takes the false doctrine of once saved always saved and chews it up, spits it out, and then steps on it and spits on it. In other words, the Prodigal Son treats the doctrine of once saved always saved in a rather rude manner.

But, they sat there and tried to talk all around the fact that the father in the story says his son was dead. I would write what they said here, but it was so convoluted and so nonsensical that I couldn’t make any sense of it and none of it really stuck in my memory. So, I am sending a copy of this newsletter to Michael to give him the opportunity to respond in his own words to what I’ve said here. If he does, I will print it in a future newsletter. I’d actually like to get it down in print so that I can maybe figure out exactly what it is they were trying to say.

Anyway, there was more, but those were just some of the highlights. And I don’t mean to slight Father Bean’s contribution to the conversation by not mentioning much of what he said, he answered many of their questions and explained a great deal about Catholic theology and teaching, but I wanted to focus on the questions that anyone, whether you have a theological background or not, could ask of any folks who have similar anti-Catholic attitudes. And I wanted to show how common sense and logic can play an important role in theological conversations. The approach and the questions that I describe above can be used by anyone and everyone.

In Conclusion

Again, I hope all of you have (or had if you’re reading this after the fact) a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday. And, as always, any comments you send will be read, even if I don’t have the time to respond to them.

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Apologetics for the Masses