Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #80

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

I got a kick out of the emails a few of you sent me about how “nice” I was being to Tricia in the last newsletter. The difference is this: Let’s say you have to go from point A to point B. Blocking your way is a stack of feathers in one instance, and a brick wall in another instance. Do you need to use a hammer to get through the stack of feathers? No. But, you need to use that hammer to get through the brick wall.

Anyway, I’ll be taking a few days off – as soon as I get this newsletter out. Going up to my mom’s in Huntsville for a few days with Janel and the kids. But I’ll be back in time to get a newsletter out next week.

Oh, one more thing…please keep Queen of Heaven Radio, Inc. in your prayers. We’ve just purchased a radio station and hope to have Catholic radio back on the air here in Birmingham sometime in May. I’ll be the station manager. Should be fun…


Continuing the conversation with Tricia that was started in the last newsletter.


Hello John!

Thanks for this email… very educational and also respected by how you know where it all is in the Bible… A lot of time I just know “it’s in there” like Ragu… My mind is in definite need of educating on Scripture (much of which will come in time with study). I am in the process of renewing my mind, so this is very good information and reference to me.

I believe the Bible is the Word of God because it says that all Scripture is God-breathed. I believe that. I also know that because God has spoken into my life greatly (sometimes very loudly!!) with His Word. I know there is a history of how it was put together, but I have not studied that. I also know it’s the Word of God because of my faith. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. I believe that much of our christian journey is about faith when our minds don’t really know all the details, but our reading and church life help to guide and answer. I rely on the Bible itself and other Bible scholars and teachers, who not only have knowledge, but appear to live and walk close to Christ. I have access to the Bible on my own, but I do respect other leaders like you and other knowlegable teachers. I do respect authors (like Lee Strobbel and Josh McDowell) who have turned to great biblical scholars to help prove christian facts.

I believe (when I say “believe” I really mean have learned from the Bible) that Christ came to show us who God is and to also relate with us so we could know Him. It is through that relationship that grows that His Word keeps teaching, rebuking, and guiding us along the journey. The Bible and prayer is our life source. I know that when I read the Bible, in essence I think of it as God talking to me and guiding me. I ask the Holy Spirit to interpret and help me and comfort me before I read the Word.

I know that there have been divisions and disputes among people since the early church. That’s why I have a hard time taking any one church as considering themselves set apart or the only church that has it right. I believe that the Catholic church and Church of Christ consider their churches as “set apart” as the only church to be a member of to go to heaven. I can understand your being leary of other denominations as being the true one church, but I don’t know if other churches consider themselves the one true church, or if they just consider Jesus and His followers as “the one true church”. Any church who recognizes Jesus as the Son of God and the Bible as the Word of God, and the Trinity… these are the basics…

The Bible says that Christ himself is the head intercessor who continues to live to intercede for us (it’s His divine purpose) – and I don’t see the other Saints as having that as their divine purpose. When the veil was torn, it symbolized that there was nothing that could separate or come between us anymore. He desires an intimate relationship with us. Like all fathers, He disciplines and makes everything come under His authority, which includes our mind (the biggest contaminated part along with our heart)… When I became a christian, my mind and heart both needed changing. They still are in the process of restoration to His likeness, but I know it’s a journey. When I feel overwhelmed, I just know to be still and know… and to read and pray! I would like for you to intercede for my knowledge and walk with the Lord. I do need to work on memorization. At least I’m reassured by Jesus always saying “it is written…” Not that it’s an excuse, but for a new christian it’s His mercy that kept me alive long enough to turn to Him and I still love how He shows mercy..

I know that I need to listen to the cd’s with Amy… here are some more questions:

After Christ’s death and resurrection, what can we offer that will measure up to that or what good enough work can we do? I know that faith without works is dead, but salvation is a gift that we are to receive, not earn. I know Jesus grieved over the fact that we refused to receive His gift of peace and salvation. He grieved over Jerusalem when He saw it, for knowing the people were rejecting Him and the awesome gift that He was giving them… their salvation. I know this week is considered Holy Week, so it is a good time be still and to empty ourselves of all the nonsense and fill ourselves with Him. For me, that also comes through a daily routine of quiet time and repentance, reading, acknowledging, praising, and supplication for me and others. Is it different to do this in a church building, than in my home or anywhere else for that matter? I do know that doing that in a set apart place is a good place, obviously, but what if we are in the middle of a situation where we can’t be at a church? I guess my question is what does the Catholic church believe you must do to go to heaven and how is a church building involved?

Where does the Bible reference Mary as without sin? I read it as only Jesus was without sin and was the only perfect sacrifice. I adore and look to Mary as a wonderful example of love and humility and kindness and the best mother of all time (she was the one fit for God), but I still don’t have the information that she was not a person born from Adam like you and me. She obviously had God’s favor with her heart and mind and He also had it all planned out since the fall of man. So, I’m not arguing that she was set apart, but she was not probably considered highly esteemed or respected by people (she lived a simple life and she was a woman in those days in that culture). The main lesson I get is to be highly esteemed by God is the most important. He takes the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, so we need to always keep our hearts in check. I am not taking this casually or passively, I believe that Mary is a true example of a loving mother. The best. But, I still see her as ordinary (which God chooses, so it’s not that I mean that in any bad way whatsoever). I see that as refreshing and more inviting to Him.. You and I are ordinary folks. The more ordinary, the better, of course, the heart makes all the difference.

If baptism with water is more than a symbol, then how can babies that are baptized end up being anything they choose in society? If it’s more than a symbol, where’s the proof? Jesus was baptized when He was 12 years old. That to me appears to be more of the age of accountability to know better and a more appropriate time of life to be baptized. I believe in dedicating your child as parents to be raised in a christian home to the best of your ability. At some point in life, an individual has to choose one way or the other. I think in these extreme days, earlier than 12 is fine. I believe by letting our children choose, while raising them right, lets God be God. I believe with all my heart that my niece is a christian at 6 years old. She knows more than many about the Bible, but more than that, she is an innocent child. At some point, God is going to convict her that she needs to be baptized and to dedicate her life to Him as her choice. It is my hope and prayer that she will do that before middle school.

I do believe that loving the Lord with my mind includes applying it to my life. How could I live it out without the knowledge? They go together. All your heart, mind, and soul… that’s always with us walking around. I do want to be more diligent in studying the Bible… especially since I did not grow up memorizing it. This is a new routine for me.

You are right in finding one true source for my information. I’ll choose to stick to the basics and keep reading and listening. I know the Word is the sword of the Spirit. I’ve got to have it every day. He always shows me what I need to hear on time with that daily routine…

I know you helped Amy much with helping her understand that we can’t count on churches to have the full knowledge or be doing things the “right way” just because they are labeled as a church. I do believe we have to be guarded against that bigtime. Again.. helps to guide us back to intimate relationship with Him and His Word and to make sure our leaders have the credentials with their education and evident lifestyle (maybe this was all confirmed for you in a Catholic church) but I’ve had it confirmed for me that me being Baptist is right. Guess that’s why I go to a Baptist church. A great Baptist church with smart leaders. I very much admire the different gifts of different churches and the people they are able to help be an answer to prayer to and do God’s will in their lives. I’m thankful for how the Catholic church has fought for certain things like adoption instead of abortion especially…

Oh! Another question… How is someone excommunicated from the Catholic church? How do they gain back their membership? How does that relate to heaven?

I’m glad you wrote me back. Sometimes people with a lot of studying and referencing could be intimidating, but I don’t feel that way. I consider you and I to have very basic similar beliefs which lead to Jesus, but different beliefs on church (which I know you will back up scripturally, which I can back mine up too I’m sure if I go there). I know there are very smart scholars who are baptist, methodist, catholic, presbytarian and so on… Hopefully they are all doing their part in leading others to Christ and discipling them in a good way. Like you said, how will we know it’s a good way? I believe God will show us with the fruit in our life and will tell us when we go home. I want to be fruity! Maybe you think I’m a fruitcake by now!!! Ha! Ha!

Hope you have a very blessed week and Easter!

In His love,



Hey Tricia!

Well, were I to think of you as a fruitcake, you would be able to consider that as a compliment – coming as it would from someone as far off-center as I am.

Before continuing on, I just wish to say that I appreciate your tone and attitude. As I’ve told Amy, I quite often find myself speaking to people about the Catholic Faith who, instead of accepting what a Catholic says about his own faith, insist instead on telling me that I don’t really believe what I say I believe, but that I really believe something that is actually a gross caricature of Catholic teaching. They then proceed to attack and villify this “Catholic” teaching that someone has invented and are absolutely unwilling to accept proof that what they think we believe is actually not what we believe. I always tell people that if you want to disagree with what I believe…fine. But, disagree with what I actually believe. So, it’s nice to talk with someone who is open to hearing about what I believe – even if you disagree with it – instead of telling me what I believe.

Anyway, I want to re-visit the questions I asked you in my last email: “Why do you believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God? What authority is it you trust in that regard?” You stated that you believe the Bible is the Word of God because the Bible says that “all Scripture is God-breathed.” Forgive me if I nudge a bit here, but you believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God because the Bible says so? If you think about that, it’s actually a bit of a logical inconsistency.

The Koran states very plainly that it is the inerrant Word of God. Do you believe the Koran is the Word of God because the Koran says it is? You don’t, do you? If, in this email, I claimed that this email was the Word of God, would you believe it? After all, the email says the email is the Word of God. But, you wouldn’t believe that, would you? Of course not.

This is where I’m going to nudge a bit…I hope you don’t mind. If you don’t believe my email is the Word of God, even if it said it was; and you don’t believe the Koran is the Word of God, even though it says it is, then why do you believe the Bible is the Word of God simply because the Bible says so?

What I’m hoping to do here is make you realize that you are actually not relying just upon the Bible in your belief that the Bible is the Word of God, but also upon some authority other than the Bible itself. There has to be some authority, outside of the Bible, that confirms the Bible is what we think it is – the inspired, inerrant Word of God.

The key here is in what you said. The Bible says that “all Scripture is God-breathed.” But, what is Scripture? How do we know, for example, that the Gospel of Mark is Scripture? The Bible never tells us that it is. The Gospel of Mark never says it is Scripture. It never says it is the inspired Word of God. So, how do we know it is? Yes, all Scripture is God-breathed, but how do we know what is and is not Scripture? Who told you? Who told me? How do you know who wrote Mark? The title, “The Gospel of Mark,” is not inspired Scripture – it was put in there by the publisher. So, who wrote Mark? If someone named Mark actually wrote the Gospel of Mark, then which Mark wrote Mark?

Now, you might say, as I’ve had some say to me, it doesn’t matter who wrote Mark. But it does. It actually matters a great deal. The Gospel of Mark is inspired Scripture, if and only if the writer of the Gospel of Mark was inspired by the Holy Spirit when he wrote it. But, if we don’t know which Mark wrote Mark, then how can we know that it is inspired Scripture? None of these questions are answered by the Bible itself. Which means, we got the answer to those questions from somewhere else…but where?

The question of where we got the Bible, is actually a central question to the Christian Faith. All Christians need to realize this. And, when all Christians do realize this, it will work towards greater unity amongst the various Christian faith traditions. The books of the New Testament were written separately over a period of anywhere from 40-60 years or so after the death of Jesus. They were written in different places, at different times, and sent to different people in different cities throughout the ancient Roman Empire. How did these different books and letters come to be regarded as Scripture? How did they find their way into what we now call the Bible? Who put the Bible together as we have it today? This is important because if we cannot trust the veracity of the folks who put together the Bible, then we cannot trust the veracity of the Bible itself. That’s why these questions are so important

You are absolutely correct when you say that without faith it is impossible to please God. Amen! Without faith there is no salvation. But, faith in what? Faith in what God says in Scripture according to our own private interpretation of that Scripture? Or, according to some other individual’s private interpretation of that Scripture? What if we are interpreting incorrectly? After all, as I pointed out in my last email, all the pastors of all the denominations claim to go by Scripture alone and all claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit…yet, they often teach conflicting and contradictory doctrine. If they are all indeed guided by the Holy Spirit, then that cannot happen. The Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself!

Which leads one to conclude that, oftentimes, when someone thinks he/she is being guided by the Holy Spirit…they really aren’t…they’re being guided by someone else. Which is a scary thought, because as I pointed out previously, Peter states that there are folks out there interpreting the Scriptures in such a way that they are “twisting them to their own destruction.” But, these people who are twisting the Scriptures to their destruction, think they’ve got it right. Think they’re doing the right thing. They don’t realize they’re twisting Scriptures to their own destruction. But, Peter says they are.

Now, please don’t take me to be saying that an individual reading Scripture on their own cannot come to some knowledge of the truth…they can. And, anyone can read the Bible and get valuable life lessons out of it, as you have and as I have. But, the Bible itself tells us that there are things in Scripture difficult to understand, and it also tells us that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of “one’s own interpretation.”

So, that brings us back to my previous question of: Does truth matter? It does because Jesus is the Truth and He Himself says that He came to witness to the truth and that those who have the truth hear His voice. Which means, if we don’t have the truth, if we don’t have correct doctrine, we don’t hear His voice. Or, if we only have partial truth, we can only partially hear His voice. Well, that’s not enough for me. I don’t want to partially hear His voice, I want all of it! That’s why I do what I do. I am constantly seeking for truth.

Now, forgive me if all of this sounds a bit hard, or leads to some uncomfortable conclusions, but I believe, especially as Christians, that we cannot back down from the truth…and if I don’t have the truth, I want someone to show me; and, if I do have the truth, I want to share it with everyone – the whole truth.

You stated that all the divisions and disputes in the church since the early church is why you have “a hard time taking any one church as considering themselves set apart or the only church that has it right.” But, consider this, if there isn’t one church that has it right, then that means that every church has it wrong. Every church has to be wrong on one or more of its teachings! That, to me, is an incredibly depressing scenario. We have to know the truth if we are to be set free (John 8:32), but we can’t know the truth because there isn’t a church out there that has the all of the truth as given to us by the Apostles, as given to them by Jesus Christ Himself. Based on what you’ve said, I’m assuming you believe the Baptist Church…as all other churches…teaches error. Well, I don’t want to be in a church that teaches error, because I don’t believe a church founded by Jesus Christ, with Jesus as its head and guided by the Holy Spirit, can teach error. Do you?

I believe the disputes and divisions within Christianity, even from the very beginning, lead to the inescapable conclusion that there is one church, and only one church, that has gotten it right. Jesus stated to Peter that “upon this rock I will build My church. And the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” But, if every church out there teaches error in some way or another, if there isn’t a single church that has it right, then the gates of Hell have prevailed against the church founded by Jesus Christ. Because, every church that teaches error, whether big error or little error, is teaching a lie. And, Satan is the father of all lies. So, if there isn’t a church that has it right, then that means that every church out there teaches something founded on Christ, and something founded on Satan. How is a person in any given church to know which is which?

Which leads to my other question: “What for a Christian is the pillar and foundation of the truth? The Bible?” Guess what the Bible tells us is the pillar and foundation of the truth? The church (1 Tim 3:15). But, how can the church be the pillar and foundation of the truth, if the church teaches error? If every church teaches error? If no church has it right? God is indeed talking to us through the words of Scripture, but the question is, did He give us an inerrant guide to better understand Scriptures…to help us in interpreting Scripture – as He did for the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 – or did He just drop a book down out of Heaven and say, “Here’s the instruction manual guys, you’re on your own?”

I’ve gone on way too long here, so I’m going to just comment very briefly on a couple of other things you said in your last email:

The saints in Heaven:

Jesus is indeed, as you say, the “head” intercessor. But the saints in Heaven are the “body” intercessor. The saints in Heaven are perfectly united to the Body of Christ. You cannot separate the Head from the Body. What Jesus the head does, so His Body does…although not in the same way as the head. You cannot separate the Head from the Body. Did the saints in Heaven pray for people when they were here on earth? Of course they did. Well, do they not now realize much more how important prayer is? And, do they not now love more than they ever did while on earth? Then why wouldn’t they pray for us? Asking the saints in Heaven to pray for us does not separate us from Christ anymore than me asking you to pray for me separates me from Christ. And, remember James 5:16 – “the prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” What man is more righteous than the saints in Heaven? In other words, their prayers are powerful prayers indeed.

Just think of them as your older brothers and sisters in Christ. They gave us good examples to follow, and they love us and want what’s best for us, so of course they’re going to pray for us, just like your family here on earth prays for you.


There is nothing that we can do that will “measure up” to Christ’s death and resurrection or that is “good enough.” Catholics do not believe that we are saved by our works, or even that we are saved by our faith…we believe that we are saved by God’s grace and God’s grace alone. However, we believe that both faith and works are both necessary responses to God’s free gift of His grace…as the Bible itself tells us.

In John 15:1-6, what do we see? Jesus is the vine, and His followers – Christians – are the branches. How did the branches become branches…by something they did? No, only because of the vine…the branches had nothing to do with their attachment to the vine. But, what does Scripture tell us? That the branches will not remain branches if they do not produce good fruit. How do they produce that good fruit…on their own? No…only by what they receive through the vine, as part of the vine. But, it is obvious that the branches have to do something to remain branches…they have to cooperate with the vine in producing good fruit. If they don’t, they don’t produce good fruit. And, if they don’t produce good fruit, they are cut off, wither, and are thrown into the fire to be burned. An obvious reference to Hell.

As a Catholic, I believe what the Bible says in terms of what one must do in order to get to Heaven – Have faith (Rom 3:28, John 3:16, 1 John 4:15); forgive the sins of others (Matt 6:14-15); care for one’s family (1 Tim 5:8); feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned (Matt 25:31-46); keep the Commandments (Matt 19:17 and 1 John 2:3-4); love my brother (1 John 2:10); deny ourselves and pick up our cross daily (Luke 9:23); do the will of the Father (Matt 7:21); eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man (John 6:51-58); give a return for the talents the Master has given us (Matt 25:14-30); be baptized (John 3:3-5, 1 Ptr 3:20-21); confess our sins (1 John 1:9)…all by the grace of God.

God’s gift of salvation is free, but we cannot take it for granted. We have to apply it to our lives. We have to untie the gift, apply it to our lives, and bear fruit with it. If we don’t, we are cut off from the vine and thrown into the fire. Or, as the unprofitable servant (Matt 25), tossed into the outer darkness. A good summation of Catholic theology on salvation is from Gal 5:6, “Neither circumcision or uncircumcision are of any avail, but faith working through love.” We have to love in order to get into Heaven…love God and love our fellow man. Faith working through love.

Regarding the church building, I guess I would point to the fact that Jesus always kept holy the Sabbath by attending the synagogue. Plus, Hebrews 10:25, “…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…”


Jesus is indeed the only perfect sacrifice. By the way, you might want to take a look at Malachi 1:11 – it’s a prophecy of how worship will be done after the coming of Christ…offering of incense and a pure offering. It’s a very interesting passage to ponder…does my church offer incense and a pure offering during its worship services? Anyway, Mary was without sin, because God saved her from sin at the very moment of her conception. She is a daughter of Adam, no one has ever claimed otherwise. But, we believe God saved her from the stain of original sin at the moment of her conception. Eve was created without sin, could not God do the same for Mary if He wanted to? Mary is a creature and is in no way equal to Christ. However, she was sinless.

Does the Bible say that directly? No, but there are a lot of things the Bible doesn’t say directly. For instance, the Bible nowhere says that God is three persons, each fully and consubstantially God, yet there is only one God. Yet you believe that, don’t you? Nowhere does the Bible say anything about altar calls, but I believe they have them in your church, don’t they?

However, the Bible is not totally silent on this matter either. First, we must note that Jesus refers to His mother as “woman,” (John 2:4). This is very interesting when you consider that in Gen 3:15, God says He will put enmity between Satan and “the woman.” What woman? The woman whose seed will crush Satan’s head. What woman was that? Mary. Also, in Rev 12:1, we see a great portent in Heaven – “a woman” clothed with the sun and so on. What woman? The woman who brings forth the male child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. Mary. And, what else is said about this woman in Rev. 12? The dragon – Satan – tries to catch her, but he doesn’t. So, in Genesis and Revelation, the woman spoken of is said to have enmity between her and Satan (enmity put there by God Himself) and Satan never catches her. If I sin, Satan does catch me. If I sin, I put myself on Satan’s side – so, at least while I’m in the state of sin, there is no enmity between Satan and me. In other words, one can make a very good argument that this woman was without sin. Plus, think about this…would not God need a sinless vessel to hold His son, since God and sin are incompatible?

In regards to Mary being “ordinary,” I would ask if you would say the same about the Ark of the Covenant…was it just an “ordinary” box? Far from it. The Ark of the Covenant contained the Word of God in stone. Mary contained the Word of God in the flesh. The Ark of the Covenant contained manna from Heaven. Mary contained the living bread Who would give His flesh for the life of the world. No, Mary was anything but ordinary. Does Scripture not say “all generations will call me blessed?” Does Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Spirit, not call Mary, “the mother of my Lord?” What other woman is so referred to in all of history? None. That is far from ordinary.

You are correct when you say that the important thing is not whether one is highly esteemed or respected by man, but whether or not one is “esteemed by God.” But, it is quite obvious that Mary was indeed highly esteemed by God. We know this by the fact that He chose her, out of all women who will ever live, to bear His son. What greater honor could God bestow upon a woman? And, Jesus, as a loving and obedient son, undoubtedly highly esteemed and loved and respected and honored His mother. If Jesus highly respected and esteemed and loved and honored His mother, who are we to do otherwise?


You’re going to have to help me out here in regards to your question: “If baptism with water is more than a symbol, then how can babies that are baptized end up being anything they choose in society?

I’m not really sure I understand your question. Baptism does not take away one’s free will. A baby that is baptized can grow up and commit sins just like anyone who accepts Jesus Christ into their heart as their personal Lord and Savior can and does still commit sin.

Regarding “proof” that Baptism is more than a symbol, I would simply say to read the Scriptures and to read how the early Christians viewed Baptism. Is there a single reference to New Testament Baptism as being a symbol? If so, I’m open to hearing about it. Why do you think Baptism is symbolic, when the Bible nowhere states such a thing? I don’t wish to appear too disagreeable here, but where is the proof that Baptism is symbolic? If the Bible doesn’t say such a thing, then what authority are you relying on for your belief in this particular matter?

Regarding Jesus’ baptism, He was actually 30 when He was baptized, not 12. And, He was baptized with the Baptism of John, which is clearly identified as something different from New Testament Baptism. Under the Old Testament law, how did one enter into covenant with God? Through circumcision. And, when was a male child circumcised? At eight days old. When was Jesus circumcised? When He was eight days old. Baptism is the New Covenant equivalent of circumcision. One entered into covenant with God through circumcision in the Old Covenant, and one enters into covenant with God through Baptism in the New Covenant. The male children under the Old Covenant could make no profession of faith or do any work, yet they entered into covenant with God. How? Through circumcision. If babies were allowed into covenant with God in the Old Covenant, why not in the New Covenant?

Yes, once the child reaches the age of accountability, then they have to do something in order to abide in God. They do have to choose. They have to do all the things I mentioned above. Have faith. Produce good fruit. Forgive the sins of others. Eat the Body and drink the Blood of the Son of Man. And all the rest. But, the fact of the matter is, the Bible clearly states – and the early Christians clearly believed – that through Baptism one is born again; receives the Holy Spirit, has sin washed away, and becomes a member of the Body of Christ.

Well, I hope this hasn’t taken up too much of your time and I hope I haven’t come across as being too disagreeable. I just love a good argument…and I mean that in the classical sense of the word argument – to persuade by reasoning. A mature discussion of what is the truth.

God bless!


In Conclusion

I hope all of you have a great weekend!

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Apologetics for the Masses