Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #82

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

I had a great time in Kalamazoo this past weekend and I welcome all the folks from up thar who signed up for the newsletter and so are receiving it for the first time with this issue. If you want to catch up on the background to the conversation in this current issue, you can go to the “Newsletter” page of our website (www.biblechristiansociety.com) and read all the past issues there.

I won’t be traveling again until May, when I go up to Boise on the 16th and 17th. I’ll be speaking at one parish on Friday night and another on Saturday. I’ll post details on my website as I get them in. If you’re in the neighborhood, I’d love to have come by one of the talks.


This is simply a continuation of the conversation with Tricia that I’ve highlighted in the last few issues. The basic thrust is to try and get her to realize that doctrine is vitally important, even if (especially if) you’re in a church that teaches love for Jesus and that it’s important to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

Not that she dismisses doctrine as unimportant, at least not in word, but in practice, doctrine really is not a big concern for her. So, how to make her, or anyone with a similar mindset, realize that you can’t relegate doctrine to something that is basically in the background? That it doesn’t make sense to act as if doctrine is important, but not as important as having a personal relationship with Christ, when each and every true doctrine leads us into a deeper relationship with Christ, while each and every false doctrine leads us away from Christ?

Well, I give it a shot, and hopefully am planting some seeds…if not with her, than with one or more of her friends who are reading these newsletters.


Hey John!

Thank you for this thought-provoking message. I take this as a very good statement of why it is so important to understand the history of Christianity.

I really want to emphasize that Joyce Meyer doesn’t claim to be “above” anyone, she really humbles herself as an imperfect person, but helps bring people to a perfect God and encourages them to persevere and press on and points to Scripture over and over. She’s the first one to tell you that deep roots come from “studying” the Bible, not just “reading” it and that she is not a perfect person, but she shares how God has worked in her life and points to key Scripture that has really helped her. She comes from major sexual abuse and was emotionally scarred from many things as a result. It has taken her many years of studying. What she does is when she gets healing in her life, she passes that on to others. She also talks about the Fruit of the Spirit… and that He will know us by our fruits… fruitcake-kind I hope.

Now, that being said, she is also the first person who will tell you that your Christian faith is not based on your “feelings”. God is always the same. Never changing. It’s not that we are perfect, but we believe in a God who is. His Word never changes. It is also alive and is the sword of the spirit.

My journey as a Christian is to know Him and love Him more, not only for me, but to also share the love that God has for others. I want to be blessed so that I can bless others.

I believe in sound doctrine, and the truth! I grew up in a home where I heard the truth whether I wanted to or not. Truth can hurt. But it is the truth that does set us free.. being truthful ourselves and lining ourselves up to God’s truth.

It is through His grace that I am able to accomplish the things in my life. I have a rough past too. I went to a high school where when I was finally at the end of my rope, the Baptist kids were inviting me and encouraging me and holding me accountable to going to church..

Not that the Baptist are “perfect”, but I don’t believe there is a perfect church because it is made up of imperfect people.

I went to college and was really close to 2 of my roommates who were Catholic. The reason they bragged about being Catholic was because they didn’t have to hide their alcohol in church. You could have wine at a wedding with the Priest joining you and not condemning you. You didn’t have to be a hypocrite. I went to Mass with them and was really confused because I was not familiar with the routine. Not to say anything bad because I didn’t walk away of course, with a bad feeling, but needless to say, I would have a hard time discussing my personal relationship with Christ to them (even though I’m Baptist.. imagine that!! ha! ha!)

What I tend to believe that is a concern (and you can help me with this) – is that people in the Catholic faith seem to worship the church also. Which I do believe it a very wise thing to revere and take care and pray for your church and be regarding it as the Bride of Christ.

What I got from going to a Catholic church though was that you could go to church and that made you a good person. You didn’t need to change your lifestyle. That’s not truth. Whatever it is that we think we have to “earn” our way to God misses the point that we never deserved God’s salvation, yet He gave it to us anyway. Our good deeds and all don’t get us there. Only to have Jesus as our Lord and Savior because He is the way, the truth, and the life. And no man comes to the Father except through Him…. I don’t see any other person of mention in this and not mention of a church either.

Our righteousness only comes through our identification in Him. How will we know? We believe, we are baptized with water and we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. We admit we are a sinner in need of salvation, we believe that Jesus is who He says He is, we believe He died for us, rose for us, and is coming back for us, and He forgives us, and we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts, and we commit our lives to serving and loving Him then we shall be saved.

If you believe (and you have a very good case I’m sure) that this only comes through only the Catholic church (which I believe all that are in Christ are the church), the first church, then I can understand why. I am happy for you and your roots and your assurance. I know that you have studied and found truth in all of this.

Really, it is quite compelling and a very good witness for the Catholic faith. I still want to be able to have access to pray at any time and I do have friends who are close to Christ and that I can trust to confess my sins with along with my daily confession to God in my quiet time.

There may not be so much structure in my church that someone can really come to “know” who Jesus is if they walked in off the street. I have a friend who grew up Catholic and was going through getting a divorce and she was visiting me (praise God she and her husband are going to work things out!!!) – she came to church with me and she said it was her first church experience where it felt “real” to her. She felt as if God was talking to her and helping her and giving her wisdom and really drawing her to get Him back in her life. She had not been to church in a long, long time. She’s a Notre Dame graduate. I went to visit her school and was really amazed and I do believe a lot of the rituals were created for us human beings because that’s how God made us to worship… but it all comes down to the heart anyway. We can acknowledge Him with our lips and our hearts can be far from Him… Jesus called that out a lot!

I know that it is obvious I am quite content where I am and it is my heart to bring people to Christ. Maybe that scares you if I don’t direct them to the Catholic church. I can see why… One of the things pointed out by my other friend Amy – is that her church stays the same…. there is something to be said about that.

I like a lot of teaching and learning which the Baptist do with Sunday school and we have a “teaching” pastor. He brings a simple message, but full of grace and love. Evident he brings “good news” every Sunday. He lets God do the convicting. I believe that God is improving the church as a whole (all denominations) and just simply bringing those together who are really abiding in Him. Those who don’t just do that on one day and go out and forget Him all the rest of the days.

It’s hard to know for sure. I’m not God..

I love this email and I will forward it to my friend Amy. She is not as emphatic about being Catholic as you are.. she works with moms and Christians of all denominations and hardly brings up things about her Catholic faith.. Funny because I was always scared to ask too because I didn’t want to be offensive in any way because I know there are a lot of so called “Christians” who bash the Catholic church. I NEVER want to do that. I hold it in high esteem as well. I brought it up for the first time after I told her about you. She let her daughter come to a service with the Baptist kids and her daughter went up for the “altar call”.. She was not “offended” in any way.. she was happy for her… she wasn’t concerned about her losing sight of the “truth” because Jesus is the truth. He’s the Word made flesh. Anytime you come to Jesus, it is a good thing.

I will read over this again that you sent me… Amy H. told me she was scared she would become Catholic if she kept listening to you… You have a very strong case and I think you are going to help out your church a lot!!!! I wish I had maybe talked about what some of these things meant to my Catholic friends.. We were just partying in college though…

I hope your day is blessed… you never know… I would love to go to Mass sometime… I’m absolutely fine with that..

Take care!



Hey Tricia,

First of all, I want to make clear that I in no way mean to impugn Joyce Meyers’ personal integrity. I assume she is a fine and sincere Christian lady who truly loves the Lord. But, the problem is, what if she is a fine and sincere Christian lady who is sincerely wrong on some things she teaches about the Bible and about Christianity? What if she is sincerely wrong in some of what she teaches about knowing the Lord?

And that was simply the point I was making…she got the answer to that particular question – “How do you know the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God?" – wrong.

Now, one might say that, “Well, as long as she’s teaching people to love the Lord and to do their best to follow God’s will for their lives and to study the Bible more deeply and intently, what does it matter if she gets some things wrong here and there? What if she gets a doctrine or two wrong…no big deal.” And, that same logic is often applied to others…preachers, pastors, deacons, Bible study leaders, and so on….who teach people to love the Lord.

I’ve often heard it said among folks of various denominations that it’s okay to disagree on the non-essentials, as long as they agree on the essentials. And, I think I’ve seen something along the lines of that thinking in your emails where you mention “foundational” or “basic” principles.

That sounds good on the surface, but when it comes to doctrine…who gets to decide what is essential and what is non-essential? Does the Bible ever mention non-essential doctrines? The Bible teaches us that man shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God…well, that’s what doctrines are…words of God. Which words of God are essential, and which are non-essential?

For example, is infant baptism an essential doctrine? Well, most non-Catholics I know say that it’s not. But, what if the Catholics, the Lutherans, the Orthodox, and the Episcopalians are all correct when it comes to the Sacrament of Baptism…that it is through Baptism that we are born again…that it is through Baptism that we become members of the Body of Christ? Then, for any baby that dies unbaptized, that could indeed be an essential doctrine, couldn’t it?

In John 3:3-5, Jesus states that one must be born again in order to enter the Kingdom of God. I think we both believe that one must be “born again” in order to enter the Kingdom of God, but we disagree as to how one is born again. I believe one is born again through Baptism…you believe it is through a confession of faith, right?.

But, what does the Bible say? Jesus says being born again is a process that involves being born of water and the Spirit. So, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. As a Catholic, I see Scripture pointing directly at water baptism here. If you look at all 4 accounts of Jesus’ Baptism, what do you see? Jesus is baptized with water, and then what happens? The Holy Spirit comes upon Him. And, in case one misses Jesus’ meaning in John 3:3-5, John has provided a context that leaves little doubt as to the meaning of Jesus’ words when he tells us that immediately after Jesus talked with Nicodemus in John 3, what did He do? Verse 22: “After this Jesus and His disciples went into the land of Judea; there He remained with them and baptized!” Water baptism!

Now, let’s step back for a minute. Again, I think we both agree that one must be born again in order to enter the Kingdom of God…after all, that’s pretty much a direct quote from Jesus’ lips. So, if, as many Christian faith traditions believe, one must make a confession of faith to be “born again,” then where does that leave babies? A child can make no profession of faith. Therefore, under that theology, a baby cannot be born again. Yet, Jesus says one must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God. Where does that leave the babies?

Jesus goes on to say in John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Everyone, when they are born, are born of the flesh. John 6:63 tells us that the flesh profiteth nothing. Ephesians 2:3 tells us that we are, “by nature,” children of wrath. In other words, when a child is born into the flesh, it profiteth them nothing…they are – by nature (by their human nature…by the flesh) – a child of wrath. In other words, they are not in covenant with God. We can see this in Gen 17:10-14, when God entered into a covenant with Abraham and his descendants. At what age was the covenant with God to be instituted? 8-days old. Can a child of 8 days make a profession of faith? No. Yet, through the act of circumcision, each male baby entered into covenant with God. And, if they weren’t circumcised, what happened? Verse 14 says that one not circumcised shall be cut off from his people; “he has broken My covenant.”

The Sacrament of Baptism is the New Covenant equivalent of circumcision (see Col 2:11-12). Through Baptism everyone, even children, can enter into covenant with God. You might be interested to know that there were no debates in the early Church as to whether or not children should be baptized, the only debate was whether or not they had to be baptized on the eighth day – clearly showing the early Church’s recognition of Baptism as the New Testament equivalent of circumcision.

One last thing on this. God used the Old Covenant laws to prepare His people for what He would give them in the New Covenant. Jesus does not represent the discarding of the Old Covenant law, but the fulfillment of it. Hebrews 10:1 says the old covenant practices are a shadow…an outline…of the good things to come. If the Jews had been taught for centuries that their children could enter into covenant with God at day 8, what do you think they would say if all of a sudden they’re told that now, under the New Covenant, their children are no longer able to enter into covenant with God…they have to wait until they’re old enough to make a profession of faith to do so?

Now, why did I go through all of that? Because I wanted to just pick one example of where a doctrinal difference – over infant baptism – could potentially affect someone’s salvation. Another I could mention is the doctrine of once saved always saved…are we still saved if after we’ve committed our lives to Christ we go out and do things like commit adultery? Rape? Murder? If we backslide? The Catholic says, “No,” if we commit such sins, we put our salvation in jeopardy. The belief of many…including many Baptists…is that such sins do not jeopardize our salvation – we’ve had our ticket punched to Heaven and nothing we do can undo that. Now, if Catholics are right, and the Bible has much to support our belief on this, then this doctrine of once saved always saved could be leading many people straight into Hell.

In other words, believing correct doctrine is very important in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Believing correct doctrine is very important for our salvation. I hope you will agree with me that anything that leads to the truth, leads to Jesus Christ. And, I hope you will also agree with me that anything that leads to error, leads away from Jesus Christ. So, if we believe false doctrines, we are unknowingly following a path that leads away from Christ…maybe a little bit, maybe a lot. If we love Christ, but believe in doctrinal error concerning Christ, we will reach a point past which we cannot go in regards to our personal relationship with Him. We will reach a point where the errors we believe stymie our growth in Christ.

That’s why doctrine is a great concern for me. Because false doctrine can keep us from growing in Christ as we could…as we should. Scripture even tells us that believing false doctrines can cause us to depart from the faith. That’s pretty serious business!

So, it’s not that I put more emphasis on doctrine than I do on practical application…or that I put more emphasis on dogma than I do on loving and knowing Christ; I simply believe that doctrinal error prevents one from knowing and loving Christ as fully as one can and ought to know and love Christ. Doctrines and dogmas are nothing more than lampposts which light the path to Christ. If those lampposts have been dimmed, we could wander from the path.

That’s why I try to get discussions going with folks on matters of doctrine and dogma. I don’t believe they distract from the essential thing of knowing and loving Christ, I believe they are essential to the process of knowing and loving Christ.

Plus, as you said, so I also say, we need to all be one in Christ. God is not pleased with all the divisions in Christianity. A house divided against itself cannot stand. But, how do we unite the various churches and denominations? We have to begin at the beginning. We have to not just ask, but answer the question Pilate asked, “What is truth.” Jesus says He came to bear witness to the truth and that those who know the truth hear His voice. So, as I said previously, we can only hear His voice to the extent that we have truth. If we have only partial truth in matters religious, we can only partially hear His voice. If we have the full truth, we can hear His voice fully and completely.

False doctrines separate us one from another. That’s why discussions about doctrine are so very important. That’s why coming to know the truth about doctrine…any doctrine…is so very important. Jesus wants us to be one as He and the Father are one. Do they disagree on doctrine? Any doctrine? If not, then neither should we.

I’ll close with just a few points from Scripture that I would ask you to consider…to ponder:

James 2:26, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.” This is quite an analogy here. The body is equated with faith. The spirit is equated with works. As the body apart from the spirit is dead (physical death), so faith apart from works is dead (spiritual death). So, if it is necessary to have both body and spirit for physical life; analogously, it is necessary to have both faith and works for spiritual life. Is it “faith alone” then, that saves us?

In John 15:1-6, Jesus says that the branches (Christians) of the vine (Jesus) are cut off, cast forth, wither, and are thrown into the fire to be burned if they do not bear good fruit. Once saved, always saved? Works do not effect our salvation, but through bearing good fruit (works) we remain saved (attached to the vine)…by the grace of God.

John 20:21-23 – why is it that the very first thing Jesus does, in His very first meeting with His disciples after His resurrection, is give them the power to forgive or retain sins? How can they forgive, or retain, someone’s sins, unless folks confess their sins to them?

John 6:51, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Jesus says in John 6:53-58, that we must eat His body and drink His blood to have eternal life. And, He says that the flesh and blood He wants us to eat and drink is the flesh that He “shall give for the life of the world.” When did He give His flesh for the life of the world? On the cross, right? So, my question is, if He wants to give us to eat the flesh that He gave for the life of the world, was that flesh real, or symbolic? Was the flesh on the cross, that Jesus gave for the life of the world, real or symbolic?

Again, I am going to be a bit bold here, but I claim that what the Catholic Church offers everyone and anyone, is the fullness of Him Who is all in all. I believe that the deepest relationship one can have with Jesus Christ, is through the Catholic Church. The deepest love one can discover with our Lord and Savior is through the Catholic Church. Why? Because the Catholic Church is the church founded by Christ to bring the world into union with Him. He gave her all that she needs to participate fully in the marital union with Christ. Those who have broken off from the Catholic Church in the last 2000 years, have only part of what He gave her, not the fullness.

Again, this is not to disparage the Baptists, Methodists, Evangelicals, etc., there is so much that is good in all of those faith traditions. But, whatever good is found in those faith traditions, is amplified and deepened and perfected in the Catholic Church. That’s why I tell people not to let the good become the enemy of the best. A dating relationship is good…very good…but it can take one only so far with the one you love. Marriage…the two becoming one…provides an intimacy with the one you love that dating cannot.

Now, this is not to say that every Catholic out there gets this. Sad to say, the majority of Catholics do not. So, you will have many Catholics who think they can go to church on Sunday and don’t have to change who they are the rest of the week. I was once one of those Catholics. Unfortunately, much of the information non-Catholics hear about the Catholic Church comes from these Catholic zombies. They’re going through the motions, but they’re dead to what is actually taking place all around them. And, the examples many of these folks provide to those who are not Catholic, leaves much to be desired.

They may think that they don’t have to change who they are, but that is not what the Catholic Church teaches and practices. If one has an encounter with Christ, one simply cannot remain who they are the rest of the week. Christ changes us. If He doesn’t, it’s because we haven’t truly recognized Who it is we have encountered. Or fear or the cares of the world or the delight in riches, choke off the Word in their lives. If someone ever tells you they like being Catholic because they don’t have to change who they are, then please rest assured that they really have no grasp whatsoever of the Catholic Faith.

Sorry to go on so long.

God bless!


Comments/Strategies: Basically, I am not trying to answer everything she says on a one-to-one basis, as I do in most of the exchanges I have with folks in these newsletters. If you’ve noticed, she has not really commented directly on much of what I’ve said. She takes an idea or two from my emails and responds to them in a bit of an indirect manner. So, there is no sense in trying to force particular points on particular doctrinal matters. Being right on doctrine is a secondary matter for her…not the prime concern.

So, the challenge is not to plant seeds to “prove” a particular doctrine or set of doctrines, but the challenge is, rather, to show that true doctrine is necessary for a proper relationship with Christ…that true doctrine is necessary in order to grow in love and knowledge of Christ. Then, once the importance of doctrine is established, individual doctrines can be looked at and discussed.

In Conclusion

I hope all of you have a great weekend. Comments…pro and con…are always welcomed and all will be read, even if I’m unable to respond to them.

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Apologetics for the Masses