Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #79

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

Hey folks. I hope every one has a blessed and holy Easter and Easter season!

Wanted to mention real quick about something I’ve come across recently – Faith and Family Flix. It’s a family friendly, and Catholic run, online DVD rental organization. They just got up and running in December, so their selection is not as voluminous as more familiar sites like Blockbuster and Netflix, but they still have plenty of really good movies – the classics as well as more recent fare. And they’ve got TV shows, movies on the saints, and other types of offerings, too. I’ve signed up and got my first 3 movies within just a couple of days or so.

I’m always looking for good organizations to support, and this looks like one. So, if you are a renter of movies, please give them a look (www.faithandfamilyflix.com).


This newsletter is a bit different than those past. This one is a response to a very sweet young lady, a friend of a friend, who is attending a Baptist church. We exchanged one round of emails already – she had some basic questions about Catholicism and I simply answered her questions. From her questions, I know that she has probably never heard the Catholic Faith explained from the Catholic perspective. She is not, however, openly hostile to Catholicism as a result. She was genuinely curious about the Faith and open to hearing what I had to say.

However, in her response to my email (which I’ve included below), she seems to start to go (unless I have misread what she’s saying) down the path of: “Well, doctrine really doesn’t matter all that much, we simply need to believe in Christ and apply that belief to our lives – we don’t need to squabble about doctrine.” (But then she kind of gently squabbles about doctrine.)

So, in my response (below hers), I simply try to get her focused on how important doctrine is…it’s important because truth is important. It’s important because true doctrine is a unifying aspect of faith, whereas false doctrine is a divisive aspect of faith. I don’t really try to squabble about doctrine, per se – although I do use Baptism as an example of where we differ on doctrine – but the quest here is just to get her to consider the importance of doctrine and not to simply shrug it off as a secondary concern.

This is a problem that many of you have faced – especially in dealing with our fellow Catholics. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a fellow Catholic say something like: “Oh, it doesn’t really matter what one believes…it just matters that you love everyone.” Well, as John Paul II said, love without truth, isn’t really love.

So, the challenge is to gently shake the tree a bit, and see if I can’t arouse some sort of intellectual and spiritual curiousity about doctrinal matters. I hope this will help any of you who face similar situations.



Thank you John! This was all very helpful to me and I gained more knowledge of history of the church too.

I’m not going to get too much into doctrine. I know that I have hidden key Scripture in my heart and also it’s my heart I want to guard. Having educated christians around me helps me to guard my heart. I’m not too much on studying facts as much as studying life application. I think God has gifted me more in this area, but yet He has surrounded me with sound knowledgeable people to help in this area.

I understand all that you have said and concur. I do know the Bible is clear on baptism of water and Spirit.. I still believe that there is a prayer of salvation after you hear, believe and when you choose that, water baptism as a symbol of your profession of faith and burial of sin and a new creation in Christ, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit that comes with the territory. Now for me, I did not understand or “feel” the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life until much later after water baptism because of backsliding and lack of roots (all Baptist terminology I’m sure). I do believe that God has ordained all of those to take place in one’s life and we need to be obedient to Him if we really are one of His children.

Okay a few more thoughts:

My reading today (good timing on God’s part) – was 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:1-9. My understanding was there was too much division already (early church folks). My interpretation is that Paul was saying “The question is whether or not you follow Christ. No one else matters.” He was saying quit acting like middle school girls (drama queens with one best friend that is ever-changing) and mature. Follow Christ period. I understand Paul to also say church should have great human leadership, but no human lordship. I understand that your view (you can obviously correct me) is the same, it’s just this perfect church scenario has Christ as the head of the church and this way (the Catholic path) is the way to achieve that. Does that sound close? I know that the Church is the Bride of Christ, but I guess this is where chronological order of the Bible and the other 7 books that may have more of this information. Like I consider “the church” to be all christians, but I think you are referencing the church to be the very earliest church. My problem with this view is that even in the early days, the church Paul was addressing was not “perfect” and they were rebuked, and so it goes on in this world we live in today. Has there ever been a time that has described the perfect church or one that has been pointed out by God? If the Bible I read is missing 7 books, then can you elaborate on this (because maybe it’s in that part). I think you and I both believe that the so-called perfect church on earth has Christ as the head. I just believe that that can be achieved by way of the Holy Spirit and time and that God is refining and correcting and still evolving the church into His image. This is a process still going on. Like us as people. No perfect people and no perfect church. “From glory to glory” … I know I need to get better on memorizing “where it says it”.

Denominations appear to be man-made to me and gets hairy when people start to pick apart the Bible live exactly by this or that. We have Old Testament and New. But, now, more importantly, we have the Holy Spirit which guides us into all the truth there is (which like you and I know is Jesus). The Isrealites also lived in different “camps” but had to cross the Red Sea as one. I know that all believers are one in Christ Jesus and He is the ultimate, divine judge and intercessor for us.

I think my view is that yes, God has put certain wonderful friends (like he did Jesus) in my life that are disciples with me that I can sure ask to pray for me and be “transparent” with… Amy being one of very few of them by the way. But, that He put us here in this present generation for His reason and will supply Christian brothers and sisters to intercede and pray for us as well. I do consider all the Saints in Heaven to be my brothers and sisters (but to be honest I don’t meditate or ask them to pray for me), but the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) as all sufficient for me to pray to. I do not feel it is harmful or a bad thing to pray to the saints for intercession, but it does work as a divider among denominations and is one of those things that puts us into “camps”. I know and you know that it was not meant to do that and there are different views on everything. Maybe you were put in this generation to help eliminate barriers a nd hel p bring us all more together as one (that’s a big calling!). But it sounds like you’re passionate and God has annointed you to do the work.

It is my heart to get people to come together as one in Christ also. I think that’s why we keep seeing different denominations and changes, but ultimately, we have to come together. So, how do we do that? If He loves us all like a father loves his children (but better), then how much can we imagine it grieves Him that we are divided (maybe just in mind, but not in heart?? that probably depends on the person) I choose to focus on our similarities, but like you, I am leary of false teachings and anything that tries to re-create who Jesus was and is (like this new-age crap scares me)…. I know it can’t be founded on emotions, but truth. Jesus is the truth. The Holy Spirit guides us into all the truth there is. The Holy Spirit lives within every believer, so there needs to be some great leadership to get this all worked out.

Bottom line… I’m glad Jesus kept it pretty basic in saying “love the Lord your God with all your heart mind and soul, and love your neighbors as yourself” I just have to keep going back to it and praying for God to unite us.

Thanks again!




John Martignoni


All too often in our day and times, people do not guard their hearts, so you are to be commended for your efforts in that regard. With all the trash in print, on television, on the radio, and elsewhere, Christians have too often let the culture influence them, instead of they influencing the culture. We need to change that. However, I have some concern about what you’ve stated above. And, if I’ve misunderstood, please let me know…my intent in all of this is to reach a greater understanding, all the way around, so if I’m not properly interpreting what you’re saying, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

You stated: “I’m not going to get too much into doctrine…I’m not too much on studying facts as much as studying life application.” Does Scripture not state that we are to, “Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” (Matt 22:37-38; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27)? You seem to be saying that you love Him with your heart and soul, but not necessarily with your mind? Or, at the least, you seem to be saying that the “mind” part of the equation is not nearly as important to you as is the “heart” and “soul” part of the equation.

What if I turn around what you said: “I’m not going to get too much into life application…I’m not too much on studying how all this stuff actually applies to my life, my strength is in studying doctrine.” Would that take you aback a bit…if I’m more concerned with the actual doctrines than with applying the doctrines? If I’m more concerned with the mind part of the command to love God, and not so much with the heart and soul part? Can I simply say, “Well, I’ll let other folks worry about the heart and soul part of loving God?”

The problem, from my point of view, is what you seem to be saying is that doctrine is merely a secondary matter, if that, as far as you’re concerned. But, my question is: What if you’re receiving bad doctrine from others, and this bad doctrine is part of what you are trying to put into practice? Or, this bad doctrine is keeping you from putting things into practice that you should be putting into practice? Does that matter or not? Should we shuffle the question of doctrine off into the corner, make it a secondary concern to leave to others?

For example, you mention that you came out of a “cultish-feeling” Baptist church. I’ll bet you that the “cultish-feelings” this church was putting out originated with their doctrines. Don’t misunderstand me on this, but, at least for a while, did you believe what these folks were telling you or not? Did you consider the pastor and the elders to be so knowledgeable in doctrinal matters that you didn’t have to worry about all that?

What you said about Baptism, for example. The Bible is indeed clear on baptism of water and Spirit. And, nowhere does the Bible say, or even hint, that water baptism is a “symbol” of anything. Yet, you seem to accept it as such. Why? The Bible is very clear that Baptism itself washes away sin (Ezek 36:25-27; Acts 2:38; 22:16) . Through Baptism we receive the Holy Spirit (Ezek 36:25-27; Acts 2:38). Through Baptism we are made members of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27; Col 2:11-12). Through Baptism we are saved (John 3:3-5; 1 Peter 3:20-21). There is nothing in Scripture that points to Baptism as a symbol of anything.

Now, you might say, “No big deal.” But, the question is: Does truth matter? Does proper interpretation of the Bible matter? If we misinterpret the Bible, could it cause separation from each other and, more importantly, separation from God? Peter tells us that there are folks out there interpreting Scripture in such a way that it is leading to their destruction (2 Pet 3:16). Paul tells us that one can leave the faith by believing false doctrines (1 Tim 4:1). Pretty scary stuff.

I absolutely agree 100% with what Paul says in the passages you reference from 1 Corinthians. Paul is basically saying that there should be no factions within the Church that can result in jealousy and strife (1 Cor 3:1-9). He’s not really mentioning doctrinal differences, but I would say that what he says here supports my argument that there is no room for doctrinal differences within the one Body of Christ, which is the Church. Why? Because doctrinal differences result in division. Doctrinal differences necessarily mean that someone is following Christ, and someone isn’t.

For example – you and I have doctrinal differences. Which means, both of us cannot be right on those issues where we differ. So, at least one of us has to be wrong on baptism. The one who is wrong – whether it’s you or it’s me – is believing a lie, and we know who the father of all lies is, don’t we? In other words, when one believes in a false doctrine, he/she is believing Satan instead of Christ. Could that affect one’s salvation? Could that affect one’s relationship to his fellow man? I believe it can, and the Bible supports me on that. Doctrine is important, because truth is important, because Jesus Christ is the Truth.

Denominations are indeed man-made and your comment about individuals picking apart the Bible is right on target. But, you have a contradiction in your words that I don’t think you realize is there. First you state that it “gets hairy” when people start to “pick apart the Bible,” but then you say we have the Holy Spirit to guide us into all the truth. Don’t the folks who “pick apart the Bible” claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit just as you claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit? How does one know one is being guided by the Holy Spirit, and not by one’s own ego?

How do you know you’re guided by the Holy Spirit? And, if you are guided by the Holy Spirit, why is it that you leave it to others to tell you about doctrine? If you’re guided by the Holy Spirit into all truth, why do you need a Bible study or the advice of others when it comes to doctrinal matters? Isn’t the Holy Spirit guiding you? And, what about the fact that all the ministers of the various denominations all claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit, yet, all the ministers in the different denominations teach different doctrines. How can that be if they’re all guided by the Holy Spirit?

This is where I have a problem with each person just picking up a Bible and reading it, without answering to anyone other than themselves, to determine doctrine and morals and practice and such. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but I believe in it first and foremost through the Church, the Body of Christ, founded by Christ Himself.

Regarding the different camps of the Israelites, I have heard that before to justify different denominations, but what folks seem to forget when they say such things, is that the various tribes of the Israelites did not have doctrinal differences, and they all answered to one supreme leader – Moses. Something to think about.

I think you’ve misunderstood what I’ve said about “praying to” the saints. For a catholic, to “pray to” means to ask, to request of, to talk to – it does not signify worship. We merely ask the saints in Heaven to intercede for us, just as I would ask you to intercede for me. When I ask for your prayers, it is not an act of worship. Just as it is okay for us to ask the members of the Body of Christ on earth to pray for us, so it is also okay for us to ask the members of the Body of Christ in Heaven to pray for us. And, if you think about it, whose prayers do you think are more effective? James 5 says the prayer of a righteous man availeth much – who is more righteous than a person perfectly united to the Body of Christ in Heaven?

It does indeed grieve the Father that we are all separated. And I believe it is indeed my mission to do what I can about that. But, I believe it is your mission as well – the mission of all Christians. At least in the sense of being open to discussing and considering such matters. Don’t simply dismiss doctrinal disputes as not being up your alley, and so you’re not going to be bothered with them. Consider the arguments, do your research, pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. Be open to where the truth leads. That is all I ever ask of anyone.

I will close with just a couple of questions for your consideration:

1) Why do you believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God? What authority is it you trust in that regard?

2) What, for a Christian, is the pillar and ground of the truth? The Bible?

3) If two people, both of whom believe in God…believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior…believe in the Bible as the inspired and inerrant Word of God…pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance…if these two people read the same passage of Scripture and come to different and contradictory interpretations of that passage – if that happens, did God give them a way to settle their disagreement so that they could indeed know the truth and be set free?

And, I ask these not as some sort of test, but to get you thinking about things that are absolutely crucial for Christians to think about, but few rarely do. And, again, if I have misinterpreted anything you said in your email, I apologize. My intent is not to misinterpret or mis-characterize in any way, shape, or form – the good Lord knows enough folks do that with Catholic teaching, so I don’t want to do that with other people’s beliefs. And, please forgive the length of this email…didn’t mean to go on so long.

(By the way, I sent those CDs to Amy, I hope she’s received them and possibly given them to you by now. I hope they will be helpful in explaining other facets of Catholic teaching about which there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation.)

In Christ!


In Conclusion

Again, I hope all of you have a beautiful and holy Easter weekend and season!

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Apologetics for the Masses