Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #107

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

I hope all of you have had a happy and holy Christmas and that the new year brings many blessings for you and your family.


In the last few weeks I received a number of emails from readers of this newsletter asking about one of Dr. Joe Mizzi’s recent anti-catholic e-newsletters, in which he comments on what Pope Benedict said in one of his November audiences. Several of those emails had a sense of the writer being very agitated or disturbed by what Dr. Mizzi said in this particular newsletter, as if Joe was actually making sense to them and they needed to be re-assured that he was wrong…that somehow, somewhere, he was wrong.

First of all, let me say this: if you are currently receiving Dr. Joe Mizzi’s e-newsletters, and they upset you, then cancel your subscription! Just click on the “Unsubscribe” button at the bottom of his newsletter and be done with it!

Next, for the benefit of those who emailed me, and hopefully as a benefit to all the subscribers to this newsletter, I will respond to this particular e-newsletter of Dr. Mizzi’s. But, after this, please do not send me any more of his garbage.

Dr. Mizzi, being a medical doctor, is obviously a very smart man. But, unfortunately, when it comes to theology, to the Bible, and to the teachings of the Catholic Church, Joe, like so many others, does what I like to describe as, “gets stupid in a hurry.” Logic goes out the door. Sound reasoning goes out the door.

When it comes to the Bible, Joe has his beliefs and he will twist the Bible any way necessary to make it fit his beliefs. When it comes to Catholic teaching, Joe will ignore what I, and many many other Catholics, have told him about our faith, and claim the Catholic Church teaches things that it doesn’t actually teach – because that is simply what he wants to believe – proof to the contrary be damned.

So, I will respond to this e-newsletter of Joe Mizzi’s, but this will be the last time. So, again, I simply recommend that if you do not want trash coming into your inbox, please unsubscribe from Joe Mizzi’s newsletter at the first chance you get. And, even if he responds to what I say here, please don’t forward it to me, I will not respond to someone whose sincerity I doubt and whose motives I question.

Okay, below is what Dr. Mizzi wrote with my comments mixed in between his.


Joe Mizzi’s Newsletter:

Pope Benedict and Justification:
Pope Benedict said that Martin Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone is correct if ’faith is not opposed to charity.’ The Pope said this during a general audience in a speech on St Paul’s teaching on justification.

I am glad that the Pope corrected the false idea popularized by some irresponsible apologists that ‘sola fide’ (faith alone) implies freedom from doing good and license to sin (‘antinomianism’). The Reformers vehemently resisted and opposed the antinomian heresy. The Protestant concept of justification by faith alone never excluded good works in the life of the believer. On the character of genuine faith, Luther wrote: ‘Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever.’

My Comments:  Sorry, but the Pope did not correct any false ideas by irresponsible apologists regarding sola fide. The Pope actually corrected the false ideas of many Sola Fide adherents that works, and love, have no role in our salvation. The error, the really critical error, that Joe Mizzi and most, if not all, Sola Fide adherents make, is this belief that faith without works really isn’t faith. They have to say this in an attempt to make their theology fit scripture. As Joe quotes Luther above, "Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever."  Problem is, for those who go by the Bible alone, the Bible nowhere says such a thing

As those who are regular readers of this newsletter know, I have, time after time after time, shown that Scripture teaches us, as does the Catholic Church, that faith without works is still faith…it is just dead faith. Faith alone is still faith, but it is dead faith. How many times have I asked Sola Fide adherents, in past issues of this newsletter, to read James 2:26 – "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead," – and then answer one simple question: Is the body without the spirit still a body…yes or no?

I have yet to receive an answer. Why? Because they can’t answer that question without contradicting themselves. Think about it, this verse says that both body and spirit are necessary for life – physical life. Then it draws an analogy – faith is analogous to the body, works are analogous to the spirit. So, for the analogy to hold, both faith and works are necessary for life – spiritual life. Does this verse say that the body without the spirit really isn’t a body? No It says the body without the spirit is dead. So, again, for the analogy to hold, is faith without works not really faith? No It is still faith, but it is dead faith.

So, when anyone claims, as Sola Fide adherents are forced to claim, that faith without works really isn’t faith – they are directly contradicting the very clear words of the Bible. Which is why no one has ever answered my question. Because all the bodies down at the morgue are still bodies – they just happen to be dead. Faith, without works, is still faith, but it is dead faith – it cannot save you. So, Sola Fide, faith alone – without works – cannot save you. Sola Fide – faith alone – is dead faith. Faith without works is not the equivalent of not having faith – as Martin Luther used to believe and as Joe Mizzi and his ilk still believe – it is the equivalent of having dead faith. (By the way, I said as Martin Luther used to believe because now he knows better.)

Joe Mizzi:  Moreover the Pope also said that faith means to trust in Christ. ‘Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ…’. In traditional Catholic theology, faith is defined as the assent of the intellect to divine truth. Protestants emphasized trust (‘fiducia’), in addition to knowledge and assent, as the essential element of saving faith. It is not enough to know God’s Word, or even to be convinced that it is factually true – to be saved, one must entrust himself to Christ, resting on him alone for salvation.

My Comments: The Pope is not coming up with some “new” definition of faith as Joe seems to believe. If you read what the Pope said in context, he is basically saying that if you define “faith” as being faith accompanied by works, then the Catholic Church essentially has no problem saying that faith alone, by God’s grace alone, saves us. That’s why the Pope said, as Dr. Mizzi quoted above, “If faith is not opposed to charity.” In other words, if by “faith” you mean faith working through love (faith and works), as it says in Gal 5:6, then we’ve got no problem with that. If, however, you say that works done in love through faith play no role in our salvation – meaning you have set faith and charity in opposition to one another – then we do have a problem with that.

Joe Mizzi: The Pope noted that the apostle Paul places at the center of his Gospel an irreducible opposition between two alternative paths to justice: one based on the works of the law, the other founded on the grace of faith in Christ.’ In other words, one cannot be saved by faith in Christ if he also attempts to be saved by ‘works of the law’. This is exactly what Protestants mean when we speak of ‘sola fide’ – we are justified by trusting in Christ and not on account of our works.

My Comments:  In other words, one cannot be saved by Christ if he also attempts to be saved by the Old Testament rites and practices. Paul was saying to the Jews: the Old Covenant has been fulfilled in the New Covenant instituted by Christ. No need for circumcision, you now have baptism. No need for animal sacrifices, you now have the one perfect sacrifice. And so on. The distinction Paul makes is not one that puts faith and works – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, etc. – in opposition to one another, it is a distinction that puts the Old Covenant practices and institutions – circumcision, the Passover meal, animal sacrifices, dietary restrictions, the Levitical priesthood, etc. – in opposition to the New Covenant practices and institutions – baptism and the other sacraments, the sacrifice of Christ as the true Lamb of God, essentially no dietary restrictions, the priesthood of Christ after the order of Melchizedek, etc.

The phrase, “works of the law,” refers to the Old Testament rites and practices, not to works of love done by faith. Joe Mizzi is sorely mistaken in this.

Joe Mizzi: By Faith and Works
On one hand the Pope endorses Paul’s teaching of justification by faith, apart from works of the law; on the other, he insists that we can really be just in the eyes of God on account of our love for God and neighbor. That is justification by love, or, justification by human works, for how can we express love apart from doing good works?

The Pope argues that faith unites us with Christ, enabling us to love God and others, and in so doing, we fulfill the law and become really righteous. He said that the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity.’ He concluded his speech by saying that ‘transformed by his love, by love of God and neighbor, we can really be just in the eyes of God.’

To be sure such works of love are not done by our natural abilities; we must have faith, we must be united with Christ to really love. But ultimately, it is on account of these personal works that we are justified by God, according to Catholicism.

My Comments: This is where Dr. Mizzi shows himself, once again, to be either willfully ignorant of Catholic teaching, or to be an outright malicious liar. I have told him over and over again, that we are not justified by our works. In fact, in at least one of our previous exchanges, he stated that he knows the Catholic Church does not teach that we are justified by our works. Yet, he claims here Catholics believe just that. He is contradicting himself. Why does he do that? Again, it’s either out of willful ignorance, or because he is simply a liar and he is lying to try and sway the ignorant to his position and away from the truth.

The Catholic Church teaches that one’s works are of absolutely no avail, unless one is already in a state of justification. Dr. Joe Mizzi, what about that can you not understand? How can you say that Catholicism teaches justification by works, when the Church clearly teaches that one must be in a state of grace…must be a member of the Body of Christ…must be already saved…must be already justified…for any personal works of theirs to have merit (in, through, and by Christ).

So, to say that we believe we are justified by our personal works, when we teach that our personal works are of no use unless we are already justified, is the height of absurdity! If I’m not already in a state of justification, then my works don’t count for anything. They certainly do not justify me. If I have to already be in a state of justification before my works count for anything, then how can you say we believe works justify us? We’re already justified before we do a single work that counts for anything!

Works do not justify us. God’s grace does that. However, if we do not respond to God’s grace, with faith and works, then we can indeed lose our justification. Faith and works help us to hold on to what God has already given us. If we lose our faith, or if we do not do the works that God has prepared for us – we do not do the will of God for our lives – then we can lose the gift of justification…the gift of salvation…that God has given us through Baptism.

Joe Mizzi: Works of the Law
How does the Pope resolve the contradiction between Paul’s teaching and Catholic doctrine? Didn’t Paul clearly state that ‘we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law’? (Romans 3:28).

My Comments: There is no conflict between Paul’s teaching and actual Catholic doctrine. There is, however, conflict between Paul’s teaching and Joe Mizzi’s version of Catholic doctrine.

Joe Mizzi: In effect the Pope says that Paul was only referring to the Torah, the first five books of Moses. The Torah included rituals and cultural observances, in addition to ethical and moral principles, which distinguished and guarded Israel from the false religions of the pagans. But since the coming of Christ, those observances are no longer necessary. Thus when Paul says that we are not justified by the works of the Law, he was really saying that we are not justified by the Law of Moses, but he does not exclude that we are justified by the works of love. That’s the Pope’s argument in a nutshell.

My Comments: That is not the Pope’s argument “in a nutshell.” That is Joe Mizzi’s erroneous interpretation of the Pope’s argument based on his blatantly prejudiced and erroneous assertions regarding Catholic doctrine. The Pope does not teach that we are “justified” by works of love. Again, as I said above, works of love are of absolutely no use unless one is already justified.

Joe Mizzi: The Pope rightly points out that in his epistles Paul discusses the division between Jews and Gentiles, and that now all believers are united in Christ irrespective of the ethnic background. But that was not his only concern. Paul also addresses the universal human tendency to self-righteousness, that is, our attempts to gain favour with God on account of personal works and merits.

We agree that when Paul spoke about the Law, he was thinking particularly of the Torah, the Law of Moses, and not of the law in general. But that does not mean that we can dismiss his argument as irrelevant since we are no longer required to obey to Jewish ceremonies and rituals. The Torah did indeed include ceremonial and civil precepts, but it also included moral laws. Jesus summarized the Law of Moses as the supreme love for God and love for our neighbor, and said that ‘on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 22:37-40).

What then, if the Mosaic Law – with its ceremonial, civil and moral laws – could not justify, how can we now become just in God’s eyes if we take away the ceremonial and focus on the law’s moral teaching, namely love? Can we obey the law perfectly?

My Comments: Once again, Joe is arguing against a supposedly Catholic belief, but it is a Catholic belief of his own making – not one that the Catholic Church actually teaches or that Catholic actually believe. We cannot become “just in God’s eyes” simply by focusing on the Mosaic Law’s moral teaching. Nowhere does Pope Benedict say that…nowhere does the Catholic Church teach that. This is a straw man that Joe has invented from his own imagination.

Joe Mizzi: The problem is not with the Law of Moses; Paul declares that ‘the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good’ (Romans 7:12). The problem is with us, sinners by nature, and even after regeneration, the remaining corruption prevents the most mature Christians from reaching moral perfection on this side of eternity. If the Jew could not be justified by the works of the perfect Law, no-one could be justified by the works of any law. After all did not the Gentiles, though ignorant of Moses, also have ‘the law written in their hearts’ (Romans 2:14)? Yet they too were unable to be justified by works.

The Law of Moses served the purpose of keeping God’s covenant people, Israel, distinct from pagan idolatry, as the Pope said. But the moral aspects of the law, whether written on tablets of stone or on the human conscience, also served to expose our depravity, guilt and helplessness. ‘Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin’ (Romans 3:20).

My Comments: No, the problem is not with the Law of Moses, the problem is with Dr. Joe Mizzi and his imaginary Catholic beliefs. By the way, Joe, where does the Bible say it is impossible for anyone to reach moral perfection “this side of eternity?” Does not the Bible say that all things are possible with God? Apparently you don’t believe that, do you? Because if you did, you wouldn’t throw out such unbiblical statements like that.  Again, we do not believe that we can be justified by works, so Joe is arguing against a straw man of his own creation. As he has every other time we have debated.

Joe Mizzi: By Faith, Not Works
To the Torah. He presented the Patriarch Abraham as the primary witness to his doctrine. He wrote:

“What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-5).

In this context “works” could not refer exclusively to obedience of the Torah, for Abraham lived many centuries before Moses. It is therefore wrong to force Paul’s concept of ‘works of the Law’ exclusively to the Law of Moses. Clearly Paul applies the same principle to works in general. Abraham could not boast before God because he was justified faith and not by works. The same applies to us all.

Paul then gives an example from ordinary life – when a worker receives his payment at the end of the month, could it be considered as grace, a free gift, a favour? Certainly not The worker has every right for the money he earned by his labour.

But justification is not based on the principle of merit. The very opposite is true. Justification is by grace, pure and underserved grace. Only he is counted as righteous by the divine Judge who ‘does not work’ but ‘believes’ God. That is grace

My Comments: First of all, if you read Romans 4, you see that the context in which Paul is speaking is one of circumcised vs. uncircumcised…in other words, Jew vs. Gentile. Circumcision, while existing before the Mosaic Law, was one of the works that identified one as a Jew. That along with adherence to the precepts of the Mosaic Law. Paul’s context was not one where works referred to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and so on. But, even if it was, Joe is still arguing against something that we don’t teach…that one can be justified by good works. We don’t teach it…we don’t believe it. If we believed that, then we would believe that an atheist is justified by his good works. But, we don’t. Yet, Joe Mizzi is arguing against it as if it was Catholic teaching.

Abraham was justified, by God’s grace, through faith. Yet, if Abraham had disobeyed God after he was justified – if, for instance, he had said, “No,” when God told him to sacrifice Isaac, would he not have lost his justification for disobeying the will of God? If Abraham had refused to circumcise himself and all in his household, would he not have lost his justification for disobeying the will of God? Joe Mizzi believes Abraham could have refused God’s command to sacrifice Isaac and to circumcise all in his household and that Abraham would have still been justified. Yet, Scripture tells us that if we do not do the will of God, we do not enter the Kingdom. Who do you want to believe…Joe Mizzi, or the Bible?

Joe Mizzi: Faith Working Through Love
Once more it must pointed out that the question is not about the propriety and necessity of good works in the life of believers. On this point, Paul, Luther and the Pope are in agreement. The question, though, has to do with the purpose of such works.

In Catholicism, the faithful are urged to do works in the hope that they will eventually become ‘really’ just in the eyes of God on account of their ‘love to God and neighbour’. In Paul’s teaching, we are not justified on account of any personal works, but by faith; good works follow after faith and justification. In Catholicism faith is insufficient; it must be supplemented by works to really justify. In biblical Christianity, faith is sufficient, faith truly justifies the beliver on account of Christ’s blood and righteousness, and having justified the sinner, faith then works by love (Galatians 5:6) to the glory of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. In Catholicism justification is by faith and works – therefore it cannot be of grace (Romans 11:6); in biblical Christianity justification is by faith, that it might be of grace (Romans 4:16).

My Comments: The question is not about the “purpose of such works,” the question is this: If we do not do the works that God has prepared for us beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10), will we still keep our justification, or will we lose our justification? In other words, if we do not do the will of God for our lives, will we still enter the Kingdom (Matt 7:21)?

In Catholicism, the faithful are urged to do good works for the love of God. If one does good works for any reason other than the love of God, then the good work is essentially useless, in spiritual terms. They are urged to continually grow in love of God, by opening their hearts up to more and more of God’s grace through prayer, reception of the sacraments, and good works.

In Catholicism, as in the Bible, faith alone is indeed insufficient (James 2:24). In Catholicism, as in the Bible, works alone are indeed insufficient (Heb 11:6). What counts is faith working through love (Gal 5:6) and all by the grace of God (Titus 3:7).

Here we see Joe once again asserting that “good works follow after faith and justification,” but notice he doesn’t give us a scripture verse which tells us such a thing. Has he not read Jesus’ words to the seven churches in Rev 2 and 3? It is obvious that some of the justified failed to do the good works Jesus requires of them.

Joe goes on to say one of the things that has absolutely puzzled me about folks like him. Consider that he admits, earlier in his email, that good works are done by grace. And, he also believes that faith is by grace. So, when he says that in Catholicism salvation is by faith and works, “therefore it cannot be of grace,” that is one of the most ridiculous things I believe I’ve ever read. Faith is by grace. Works are by grace. But, faith and works together, are not by grace. I don’t know what else to call that kind of logic, except idiotic. A first class example that the dumbest of ideas come out of the mouths of the smartest of people.

One last thing: If we need works in order to be "really" justified as Catholics, then how can we say an infant is justified after his or her Baptism?  What work did that infant do to be justified?  None.  Is that infant not "really" justified because it hasn’t done any works, as Joe contends?  No!  That infant, upon its Baptism, is as justified as a soul can possibly be – yet it has done no works.  Think about that, Dr. Joe.

Joe Mizzi: Here then is the dividing line between Trent and Luther, Catholicism and Protestantism, the true gospel and its counterfeit. May God give us the grace to believe in Jesus his Son, and being justified by faith alone, to give ourselves to love God and our neighbour from our hearts.

My Comments: Here then is the dividing line between truth and error, between Joe Mizzi’s version of Catholicism and the true version of Catholicism, between insanity and reason, between the true gospel and the false gospel, between those who believe the Son and those who believe the father of all lies. Let us pray that Joe Mizzi will one day have the scales removed from his eyes and that his wounds will one day be healed.

In Conclusion

Again, I hope 2009 brings many blessings to all of you and your loved ones.

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Apologetics for the Masses