Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #70

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

Sorry for the delay in getting the last two or three issues out – I’ve been heavily involved in the attempt to purchase a radio station here in Birmingham in the last couple of months and the process has taken up a lot of my time in the last few weeks as the negotiations got serious. Happy to report that Queen of Heaven Radio (the non-profit I formed to bring Catholic radio to Birmingham) has signed a deal to purchase a 5000 watt station that covers most of metro Birmingham. If all goes well, we should be on the air with Catholic radio sometime in April – we have 30 days to check out the station and its equipment to make sure everything is as it should be and then it takes 90 days for the FCC approval process.

Plus, my wife left me – to go down to Florida for a few days with her sister. So, I had the kids to myself, which means I was out of the office a good chunk of last week. Three of the kids are in school for most of the day, but Noah isn’t yet three, and it is next to impossible to come into the office and get any work done with him in tow. So, things got really backed up.

So, I simply ask for your forbearance. I think things should be a bit more normal starting next week.

A couple of things pertaining to the last issue:

First, there was something from the meeting that Fr. Bean and I had with the three gentlemen from Arab, AL, that I forgot to mention in the last newsletter. But, one of you wrote in the following question which jogged my memory:

“Wow John. I can’t believe [Rich] claimed to be infallible…When you asked him how he knows he is infallible how did he handle that? What was his proof? Anyone who makes such a claim will get my attention. I’m open to anything but we need proof to believe the claim. The Pope has 2000 years of background on his side, that helped push me over the line to accepting Papal infallibility (among many other convincing arguments). What does this guy have to back up his claim to infallibility?”

Well, the answer to that question is…nothing. I directly asked Rich by what authority he taught what he taught. He held up his Bible and said, “By this authority.” I then asked him where in the Bible his name is mentioned so that I might believe the Bible gives him authority to teach what he does. This was another moment where he hesitated after I asked him a question. So, I stepped right into the hesitation and stated that authority, at least in the Bible, is passed on through the laying on of hands. And, I told him to read Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus as proof of this. I then asked him, “Who laid hands on you?” Can you guess what he said? He said, without blinking an eye, that Jesus Christ had laid hands on him. Another moment in my life where I simply had to stare in disbelief at what otherwise seemed to be an intelligent human being.

The second thing I wanted to mention also pertained to the last newsletter. As I mentioned in that issue, I sent a copy of the newsletter to Michael, the gentleman who had initiated the whole thing, and told him that I understood he may have a different take on things, and offered him the chance to make a reply which I would publish in this newsletter. (I always try to be as fair as possible with the folks I highlight in this newsletter.) Here is a part of his response:

Hi John,

Thank you for allowing us to come down and meet. Please tell Gray
[Fr. Bean] that we thank him as well. I read your account and it was similar to my recollection. If Rich and/or Marty wants to respond, I’ll e-mail you the response.

That was pretty much it. I have to admit that he caught me by surprise. I thought for sure he would send back several pages of response. I took what he says here to mean that he either thinks I’m too far gone to even bother responding, or that what transpired in our meeting caused him to seriously consider what he believes and why.

My first reaction was to think the former, but then I couldn’t understand why he would admit that my account was “similar to his recollection” without any further comment. So, I’m hoping and praying that he is seriously examining his beliefs, and ours, and that the Holy Spirit will bring him into the fullness of the truth. I did send back an email in which I simply asked, “Do you believe Rich is infallible,” to see what he says about that. I would love to have had a hidden mike in the car as the three of them drove back to Arab.

As he said, though, he was forwarding the newsletter to Rich and Marty, so maybe I’ll get a response from one of them that I can publish in a future issue.


This newsletter is going to be a bit different, because I’m still way trying to tie up some loose ends with the radio and I have some financial reports due today for a Board meeting of the crisis pregnancy center I work for. Plus, I’m leaving town early in the morning for a speaking engagement tomorrow night in Temecula, CA. In other words, this week is still crazy busy, and I have a very narrow window of time to get this newsletter out.

So, what I thought I would do in this issue is let someone else do some talking. Do you remember Joe Mizzi – the Maltese doctor I had a debate with on salvation and who continues to distort Catholic teaching on his website? Well, he sends occasional emails to some of you folk who then forward them to me. The last email he sent out had some folks asking me how I would respond. Well, instead of me responding, I’m going to show you how one of you responded to Dr. Mizzi. It’s an excellent example of what I teach folks to do. Ask questions. Stick to the basic issues.

Below is Dr. Mizzi’s email to us Catholics, then below that is the email exchange between Gary B. (“Apologetics for the Masses” reader) and Dr. Mizzi, with my comments interspersed.


Joe Mizzi’s Email:

The Futile Faith of Some Catholics

Do you fully rely by faith on the Lord Jesus for your salvation? I’m not asking you if you believe in Jesus in a vague and general way, but whether or not you trust him with all your heart to get you to heaven.

If you were brought up in the Catholic religion, you have been told at confession to make satisfaction for sins by doing penance, such as prayer and fasting. You were also taught to merit grace by doing good works.

You believe in Jesus, and yet, if you follow the official teaching of the Catholic Church, you don’t fully trust him with the salvation of your soul. The focus of your heart is shifted from Christ and his cross to self and your deeds. You must make satisfaction; you must merit grace; you must add works to your faith in Christ for your final justification.

My friend, I am constrained to forewarn you that such faith cannot justify you before God. I say it again, on the authority of the divine Word: if you attempt to add works to faith for justification, Christ is of no value to you. Listen carefully to what the Bible says:

“But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5 NKJV).

And again, read the same scripture in a Catholic version:

“But when one does not work, yet believes in the one who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (NAB).

Whose faith, according to the inspired Scripture, is credited as righteousness? Is it the faith of him that believes and works? Or of him who believes and does not work? Are you attempting to be justified by faith apart from works, or by faith and works combined?

The apostle is not excluding works as the fruit or purpose of salvation. Elsewhere he is adamant on the absolute necessity of works, godliness and love in the Christian life.

But in this context he is speaking on a different matter, on how God justifies the ungodly. He speaks of righteousness “accounted” or “credited” to the sinner that believes in Christ. Paul tells how the legal debt is crossed out and instead God writes “Righteous by Faith” on the believer’s account.

Paul will not allow us to miss the point. The Protestant motto “faith alone” is definitely feeble in comparison to the powerful apostolic statement: “him who does not work but believes”! The Bible does not merely say “faith alone” but it positively excludes works altogether for justification. Indeed the Spirit defines justifying faith by contrasting it to works. He rightly believes in God who makes no attempt to present his personal works for justification.

What about the person who both works and believes in Christ? Can he be justified also? As much as I wish to give a positive answer, I would be deceitful if I do. No, sadly, the person who attempts to be right with God by faith and the merits of his works will most certainly fail. There aren’t two ways to God; there aren’t two contradictory gospels – one that excludes works and the other that includes them. There is but one gospel: the justification of whoever does not work but believes.

Add one grain of works to your faith, and it is no longer the faith that justifies but a futile and demonic counterfeit.

Dear friend, are you justified by faith; are you at peace with God? Are you convinced that a fatal heart attack will usher you straight to the glory of heaven? If you are doubtful and uncertain, it is because you are not grasping the cross of Christ. You cannot - as long your hands are filled with “good works”.

Throw them away! Discard your works-merit in the rubbish bin where they belong. Come empty-handed to Christ and hold fast to him as your only defense before the God’s Law. If you do not work but believe on the Lord who justifies the ungodly, your faith will be accounted for righteousness. That’s a divine promise!


One Catholic’s Response – Gary B.:

Sorry, Joe. But I believe John Martignoni already won this debate with you.

Comments/Strategies: Gary is referring to the debate I had with Dr. Mizzi that you can read on the “Debate” page of our website (www.biblechristiansociety.com) and also to several issues of the newsletter (Issues #46-47, 50, and 52). In all of these places I explain how Joe, either through purposeful ignorance or outright dishonesty, continually misrepresents Catholic teaching on salvation (and many other things) and continually refuses to accept my explanations and the explanations of many other Catholics who write him in regards to what authentic Catholic teaching is, vs. his poor rendering of Catholic teaching. I continually compare what Joe says we teach with what we actually teach. Yet, he continues to pass off his counterfeit version of Catholicism as the real thing. But, Gary is going to very easily and very simply point out a real problem with Joe’s theology.

Dr. Mizzi’s Response:

This is not about John and me, but about you and Holy, Almighty God. What is your defence before him — would you appeal to Jesus, Mary, the Saints, your penances, your good works? Or would you hold on the Christ alone as you only right to heaven?
Please think about this matter. May God give you understanding.



One Catholic’s Response – Gary B.:

Who did Jesus die for? Just the Jews? Just for Gentiles? Just for Europeans? Who did Jesus come down to this earth to die for?

Comments/Strategies: This is what I call the setup question.

Dr. Mizzi’s Response:

Jesus died for his sheep (who comes from the Jewish race and every nation of the world), but then not everyone is of his sheep, as the following scriptures prove:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. … but you do not believe because you are not my sheep” (John 10:11, 25, 26).

If you are not one of his sheep — if you don’t believe in him as you should — then his death is of no benefit to you. But if you belong to him, you are secure in the hands of your saviour:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”

May the Lord bless you,



One Catholic’s Response – Gary B.:

Very good! So Jesus died for His sheep. Those that are His sheep, are they His sheep because of something they did or because of something Jesus did? By the same token, those that are not His sheep, are they not His sheep because of something they didn’t do or because of something Jesus didn’t do? Obviously, our act of faith is something we do. It is a “work” on our part.

Comments/Strategies: Beautiful! Joe actually answers incorrectly, because Jesus died for all men, not just for His sheep; however, not all men take advantage of the fact that Jesus paid the price for their sins and they end up dying in their sins rather than as members of the Body of Christ. But, it doesn’t really matter that Joe answered incorrectly, because no matter what he answered, Gary slammed the door on him. Read Gary’s response very carefully. Joe says that nothing we do matters. That Jesus did everything and that we do nothing in terms of our salvation. That we cannot rely upon our works. But, Gary shows Joe, with just a very simple question, that the very act of believing is, in and of itself, a work (which is actually what it says in Scripture – John 6:27-29). In other words, works, or at the very least one work, play an important role in salvation.

Gary’s question is about what separates the saved from the unsaved. Is it something Jesus did, or something the saved person did that the unsaved person didn’t do? Jesus did the same thing for everyone. 1 Tim 2:4 tells us that Jesus wants all men to be saved. So, if it was entirely up to Jesus, then all men would be saved, because that is God’s will for us – to be with Him in Heaven forever. That’s why He created each and every one of us. But, not all people are saved. Why? Because God gave us free will to turn away from Him. In other words, not all people DO what is necessary in order to be saved. People who are saved, are saved because of something they did that the unsaved didn’t do. Salvation by “faith alone”? Not happenin’ here, Dr. Mizzi.

Let me share one final note from Gary: “All this took place in one day, which was three days ago. I have yet to receive an answer to my last reply to him.”

And, he probably won’t hear back from him, at least, not until Dr. Mizzi hears that I wrote about all this in my newsletter.

Again, the basic lesson here is that believing in God is a work…it is something we do (by God’s grace, but we do it in cooperation with that grace)…and that there are works that we have to do, as adult Christians, in order to abide in Christ and be saved. However, as I say over and over in my exchanges with Dr. Mizzi, neither faith nor works justify (save) us, only God’s grace does that. But, we then have to have faith and works in order to abide in Christ and finish the race and receive the prize. (For more on the Catholic view of salvation, please read my debate with Dr. Mizzi or the above referenced newsletters. Also, Issue #56 on the “Process of Salvation” would be good to read for more on that topic, as well.)

In Conclusion

Next week, barring any unforeseen circumstances, I should be back on track in terms of getting these newsletters out. I hope to have more on my exchange with Dr. Steven Novella of the Yale School of Medicine, unless something better comes up between now and then.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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Apologetics for the Masses