Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #110

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

I’ll be in Dixon, CA, outside of San Francisco, this Sunday, speaking at the Dixon Fairgrounds at 3:00 PM.

I’ll be speaking at St. John the Evangelist parish in Borger, TX, (outside of Amarillo) on the 27th and 28th of February. If you’re in the area, call the parish for more details.

On March 6th I’ll be speaking at St. Martin Church in Yorkville, IN (southeast Indiana).

And I’ll be speaking at St. Anthony’s parish in Fayetteville, TN on Saturday, March 14th.

If you are close to any of those areas, I’d love to see you come out to the talks.


Here’s the next chapter of the book. Again, all comments are welcome and will be read. If you spot spelling errors, grammar errors, etc., I want to know about them. Any ideas and suggestions on content will be considered.

A couple of things, though: 1) No need to tell me about random spaces between letters – they are not in the original. Those spaces are a result of email server-to-server miscommunication; and 2) This book is a book on apologetics – it is not a book on spirituality or liturgy or canon law or any of those things. There are plenty of books out there on those topics that are by people much more qualified to write on those things than I am. So, if you want to read a book on any of those topics, this book will not be it.


Chapter 2

Apologetics for the Scripturally Challenged

Someone once said, "The Catholic Faith is like a lion in a cage, you don’t need to defend it, you simply need to open the cage door." In this chapter, I want to start teaching you how to open the cage door. I’m going to give you some techniques or strategies which will enable you to engage in apologetics – which will enable you to open the cage door – with pretty much anyone, even if you don’t really know the Bible all that well.

As I talked about in the last chapter, apologetics is simply about being able to explain the Faith to someone. The phrase, "scripturally challenged," refers to those folks who don’t know the Bible all that well. We all know who I’m talking about, don’t we?

This book is aimed specifically at Catholics who are not all that familiar with the Bible; although, all Catholics are much more familiar with the Bible than they might think they are – after all, the thousands of Masses we have attended in our lives are filled, beginning to end, with Scripture. Every prayer and every action in the Mass has it’s basis – directly or indirectly – in the Word of God. So we actually know Scripture better than we think we do, because we have heard it over and over again in the Mass, even though we may not necessarily know book, chapter, and verse.

This book is also aimed at Catholics who might be fairly familiar with the Bible, but they are not all that confident in their ability to relate to others the teaching of the Church from the Bible. In other words, they are not all that confident in their ability to do apologetics.

And the reason I focus on the Bible, or on Scripture, is because whenever we, as Catholics, talk about our Faith with non-Catholic Christians, the number one most frequently asked question is, "Where is that in the Bible?" Or, we are told over and over again that this or that teaching of our Faith isn’t in the Bible. Whether the topic is the Pope, Mary, Confession, Purgatory, the Eucharist, Works, Tradition – it doesn’t matter – it always comes back to, "Where is that in the Bible?"

These folks don’t care what the Pope says, or what the Catechism says, or what Vatican II says, they want to know what the Bible says – period! So if you, as a Catholic, are not prepared to answer the question, "Where is that in the Bible," you may not get very far when it comes to a religious dialogue with most Protestants.

Well, what if you, as a Catholic, don’t know where it is in the Bible? And, what if…it isn’t in the Bible…at least, not directly? The Catholic Church’s teachings on the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, for example, are not found directly in the Bible. What do you do when you’re asked, "Where does it say anything about the ‘Immaculate Conception’ in the Bible?" What do you do?! Are you helpless? Should you look for somewhere to hide? Should you say, "Look! What’s that over there?" And then, when they turn to look, take off running in the other direction? What do you do?

It is my contention that many Catholics today are afraid to discuss their Faith with non-Catholic Christians because quite often they don’t know how to deal with the question, "Where is that in the Bible?" Many Catholics have had a Baptist, Evangelical, Fundamentalist, or some other Bible-only Christian* beat them over the head with the Bible at least once in their lifetimes. Which may have made them a little gun shy, and which has led many Catholics to hold to the mistaken notion that just about any and every Protestant knows the Bible better than we Catholics do.

Well, let me tell you, they don’t. They may have more Scripture passages memorized than you, but memorizing more Scripture is not the same thing as knowing the Bible better. As Catholics, we have the Magisterium of the Church as our guide when we open up the Bible. The Magisterium, which is the Pope and the bishops in union with the Pope, has the apostolic authority with which to give God’s people an authentic interpretation of Scripture. The Magisterium has, in essence, laid down the parameters within which we are free to interpret Scripture.

Non-Catholic Christians have no such authentic guide for interpreting Scripture. They have their own personal, fallible, interpretations to rely on. They have no boundaries, other than their own imagination, within which to properly interpret Scripture. And let me tell you, there is some outright craziness going on out there when it comes to folks interpreting the Bible.

For example, a few years ago I came across a movement calling for the "right division" of Scripture. This movement seems to be running through a lot of Baptist and Fundamentalist congregations all over the country. Right division of Scripture, in a nutshell, says that Jesus came for the Jews, as Scripture says; and that Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles, as Scripture says; therefore, since we are Gentiles, not Jews, we need to listen to Paul and not to Jesus.

We need to focus on what Paul says. What Jesus said in the Gospels isn’t meant for us. It’s meant for the Jews. That’s nuts! But, that’s what happens when you don’t have an authoritative guide who can lay down some boundaries for you. That’s what happens when each individual is allowed to pick up a Bible and decide for themselves, without regard to any outside authority, what is and is not authentic Christian doctrine.

Now, as I said, I want to outline some strategies for you which will help you in dealing with folks who might be able to quote more chapters and verses than you can. These strategies will help you in explaining and articulating your Faith to others. They will help you to open the cage door.

Before I get to these strategies, let me briefly re-state the Rules of Engagement:

Rule #1: Pray. Pray to the Holy Spirit that He give you the courage to share your Faith and the wisdom to choose your words carefully and profitably.

Rule #2: You don’t have to know everything right now. Just learn a little bit more about your Faith each and every day.

Rule #3: Luke 5:10, "Do not be afraid, henceforth you will be catching men." Jesus said this to Peter, but He’s also saying it to us. Will you make mistakes…will you get into tight spots…when you start sharing your Faith with others? Of course you will, but Peter made mistakes…he got into tight spots. Yet, Jesus told Peter not to be afraid. Why? Because if we are sincere in our desire to share the truth with others…to share Jesus Christ with others…then Jesus will find a way to make good come out of even our mistakes.

Rule #4: Always view a question about your Faith, or even an attack on your Faith, as an opportunity – an opportunity to share the truth. Don’t get angry! Just stay calm and stay determined to bring light into darkness.

Rule #5: Don’t get frustrated. Quite often Catholics get frustrated by what I call the doctrinal dance – you get asked about Purgatory, Mary, the Pope, the Sacraments all in rapid-fire succession. Before you can answer one question, you’re asked another. Before you can answer that question, you’re asked another, and on and on it goes. The doctrinal dance. Just keep gently guiding the discussion back to one topic until you’ve said all you want to say – then move on.

Rule #6: Very, very important! Never be afraid to say, "I don’t know," when asked a question about your Faith. Don’t try to "wing it." However, always follow, "I don’t know," with, "But, I will find out and get back to you." And then make sure you find out and get back to them!

Okay, those are the Rules of Engagement. Now, I’m going to give you four strategies, or tactics, or techniques, whatever you want to call them, that you can use when engaging in apologetics. You can use them individually, all at the same time, or any combination of them. If you learn these, if you adapt these to your particular situations, if you make these strategies your own, I guarantee you that you will be surprised with what you are able to do in the realm of apologetics and evangelization. You’ll be out planting seeds of truth all over the place.

These 4 strategies are: 1) The Ignorant Catholic; 2) Being Offensive (Aw-fensive) Without Being Offensive (Uh-fensive); 3)It’s the Principle of the Thing; and 4) "But That’s My Interpretation". I’ll get into each of these strategies in just a second, but I want to first mention that these four strategies rest on a two-layered foundation. Two things that these four strategies rest upon and depend upon. And you must not just know these two things, you must have them seared into your minds, hearts, and souls!

These two things are: 1) The Bible is a Catholic book! The Catholic Church gave it to the world. It’s ours, folks! So, you can rest assured that there is nothing in the Bible that contradicts anything in the Catholic Faith and there is nothing in the Catholic Faith that contradicts anything in the Bible. If you ingrain that fact into your psyches, then you will have the confidence to go out and evangelize anyone. 2) There is an answer for every "intelligible" question you receive about the Catholic Faith – you might not know the answer to a question, but rest assured that there is an answer – you just have to go looking for it. Again, I’m talking about intelligible questions. There are some questions I’ve been asked that I just had to look at the questioner and stare in wonder as to how that question could have come out of the mouth of a sane human being.

As a Catholic, you are standing on the shoulders of 2000 years worth of folks defending the Faith against all comers. You have St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Therese of Liseaux, and thousands more on your side. You have Peter, Paul, and Mary on your side – and I’m not talking about the folks who gave us Puff the Magic Dragon. You have the holiest people who have ever lived on your side. You have any number of apologists and evangelists – Scott Hahn, Karl Keating, Tim Staples, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Johnette Benkovic, and a host of others – alive today, on your side. There are answers to the questions – sometimes you just have to go looking for them.

Now, on to Strategy #1, this was also rule #6 that I gave you above. This strategy will allow you to talk to anyone about the Faith. I call this strategy the Ignorant Catholic strategy. All it is, is this: never be afraid to say, "I don’t know". However, always follow…always follow!…"I don’t know," with, "But, I will find out and get back to you".

Example: Non-Catholic asks, "Where does it mention anything about Purgatory in the Bible?" Catholic response, "You know, that’s a good question. And, right off hand, I don’t know the answer. But I’m gonna find out and I’ll get back to you on that." Boom! You’re out of a potential jam. Don’t be afraid to appear ignorant – especially if you are ignorant. Besides, there are a whole bunch of folks out there being taught that Catholics don’t know anything about the Bible. They’re being told that if we did know anything about the Bible, we wouldn’t be Catholic. Take advantage of that.

The worst thing you can do is to try to "wing" it. Don’t ever "wing" it. The stakes are too high for you to give it your best guess just because you don’t want to be embarrassed by not knowing the answer to something. Especially when there is an answer out there, you just have to go find it. Or, maybe you do already know the answer, but you’re not quite sure on one or two details, and you want to get it down a little bit better. No harm in not answering at that moment so that you can come back better prepared.

What you have just done by being the "Ignorant Catholic" is you have performed a tactical retreat from the battlefield, a retreat where you have suffered no losses. But, you now have the advantage. The next time you talk about Purgatory with this person will be when, where, and how you decide to do it. And you will talk about Purgatory, or whatever topic, with this person again. Once someone questions, or even attacks, the Catholic faith in front of you, the door has been opened. Do not let that door shut!

You go and do your homework. You listen to a CD, read a book, do your internet research – whatever you need to do – and then, when you are ready, you get back to that person with further dialogue, with books, with pamphlets, with tapes, with whatever – but, do not let that door shut! It could be the next day, the next week, the next month, or six months later, but you get back with that person! You could get back with them in person, you could write a letter, make a phone call, send an email. You could talk to them yourself, or you could give them a tape to listen to, or a book to read – that’s the beauty of this – you decide when, where, and how. Just remember: "I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you." Simple, safe, and effective.

Strategy #2: Being Offensive (Aw-fensive) Without Being Offensive (Uh-fensive). In a nutshell, this strategy is about learning to ask questions rather than answer them. Catholics seem to always be on the defensive when it comes to talking about the Bible or about religion in general. "Where is that in the Bible?" "Why do you confess your sins to a man rather than to God?" "Why do you believe you can work your way into Heaven?" "Why do you believe the Pope can’t commit a sin?" "Why do you baptize babies? Where is that in the Bible?" And on and on and on. We are always answering questions. We need to start asking the questions, we need to go on the offensive instead of always being on the defensive.

But, we don’t want to do it in such a way that we will offend someone or that will cause their defensive walls to go up or that will scare them away from further discussion. Most non-Catholic Christians are not prepared to deal with a Catholic who can answer their questions, so when they do come across one, they generally retreat and wait for a softer target, or they get offended by what you have to say and refuse to discuss the matter any more. Sometimes that cannot be avoided. Afterall, truth is offensive to a lot of people, just look at what happened to Truth itself – He offended people – they crucified Him. Truth can also be very scary to people.

However, if you can avoid causing offense and if you can avoid scaring them away, then you want to do so. You want to keep them engaged, you want them to come back for more. So, how do you be Aw-fensive without being Uh-fensive? You simply let them evangelize you! Whenever someone starts coming at me with questions about the Catholic Faith or attacks on the Faith, I just let them bring it on. The number one principle in Judo is to use the opponents force against him. That’s what I try to do. I try to use someone else’s zeal to evangelize me, to actually evangelize them. I’ll say something like this: "Listen, Scripture tells me that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. I believe that. I want to know the truth, because to know the truth is to know Jesus Christ! You’re telling me that the Catholic Church is not giving me the truth. Well, I’m open to hearing what you have to say about the Catholic Church because I’m searching for truth – I want truth in my life – and if the Catholic Church doesn’t have it, then I want to know that."

You can stop there, but I usually go on further by saying: "And, if you can prove to me that the Catholic Church is wrong on any of its doctrines, any single one, then I will renounce my Faith and I will be fellowshipping and worshipping side-by-side with you this Sunday in your church." And I mean that when I say it!

If anyone can ever convince me that the Catholic Church is wrong on any one of its doctrinal teachings, just one, then I would leave the Church. It wouldn’t make any sense to stay. Now, what I don’t tell this person I’m talking to is that I believe they have about as much of a chance of proving the Church wrong on any of its doctrines as they have of proving that 1+1 does not equal two. In fact, they have a better chance of proving 1+1 does not equal two than they do of proving the Church wrong.

In other words, they cannot prove the Church wrong. Even if they can confuse you or befuddle you or aggravate you or twist your arguments around, they cannot now, nor will they ever, be able to prove the Catholic Church wrong. Remember, there is nothing in the Bible contrary to the Catholic Faith and there is nothing in the Catholic Faith contrary to the Bible.

So, what have you accomplished by saying these things? By telling them that you are searching for truth and that you are open to hearing their arguments that the Church might be wrong? Essentially, you’ve done three things: 1) You probably have them salivating at the opportunity to "save a Catholic" from the darkness of Romanism. In other words, you’ve almost guaranteed that they will engage you in dialogue. 2) You have basically said, "Teach me, I’m an ignorant Catholic (which overlaps with Strategy #1)." In other words, you have elevated them to the role of teacher, and lowered yourself to the role of student. And, what does a good student do? Ask questions. 3) You have conveyed the feeling that you are willing to hear them out – which you are – and that you’re giving them the benefit of the doubt, so to speak.

And all of these things lead to one very important result: You have gotten them to lower their defenses. The Trojan horse is inside the city walls. You have made them think that they are on the offense, that they are evangelizing you, that they are in control of this dialogue, and that they have an opportunity to possibly pluck you out of the Church – when actually the exact opposite is true. You are on the offense, you are evangelizing them, you are in control of the dialogue, and you are about to expose them to truths that they may never have considered before. You are about to plant some seeds. You might just be about to open the cage door.

You’ve also done something else. You’ve changed the dynamics of the dialogue. It is no longer you vs. them. It is no longer Catholic vs. Baptist or Catholic vs. Evangelical or anything else like that. You’ve made this a discussion of, "What is the truth?" Which is what the discussion should be about…what is the truth? And you’ve made it very clear that you want to follow the truth wherever it leads…and you do! And you hope that they are willing to follow the truth wherever it leads. And, again, you’re not going to broadcast that you know exactly where the truth leads: the Catholic Church. You’re going to let them find that out on their own, with just a little guidance from you and through the workings of the Holy Spirit. Remember, your mission is to plant the seeds. Your mission is to open the cage door.

Okay, what does all this mean in terms of hands-on, real life situations? How do I put into effect the strategy of being Aw-fensive without being Uh-fensive? Well, step 1 of the strategy was telling whoever you’re talking to that you are searching for truth and are open to hearing whatever it is they have to say. Step 2 is this: ask questions. Be the good student, ask questions. Stop answering questions and start asking them. Answer questions with questions, just like Jesus did. "Is it lawful to pay taxes," Jesus was asked. "Whose head is on the coin?" Jesus answered.

An example: Non-Catholic question, "Why do you Catholics believe in confessing your sins to a priest, a mere man, instead of straight to God?" Catholic response: "Well, you probably know the Bible better than I do (which is indeed what most of these folks believe), so tell me, does it say somewhere in the Bible that we should not confess our sins to a man? That we should confess our sins to God alone?" Let them show you the direct Scriptural prohibition against this particular Catholic teaching. They can’t do it.

And, as your knowledge of Scripture increases, you could add something like, "Well, if we’re not supposed to confess our sins to men, then I’m a little confused here. Maybe you can explain this to me, since you know Scripture better than I do, doesn’t James 5:16 tell us that we are to confess are sins to men? And, in Mt 9:8, it says that God gave the authority on earth to forgive sins to "men?" Can you explain those passages to me? Why would God give the authority on earth to forgive sins to men, if we are supposed to confess our sins to God alone? And take them to Matthew 9:8, read it to them, and say, "What does that mean?"

Another example: You could ask someone this, "The Catholic Church teaches that both faith and works play a role in one’s salvation. But I think you believe in salvation by faith alone, right? Where in the Bible does it say that we are saved by faith alone?" And then they will take you to one of several passages and say, "See, here it is." They might take you to John 3:16, "God sent His only Son that whosoever should believe in Him shall not die." Or, Romans 3:28, "We are saved by faith."

The key here is to actually read what they put in front of you and match what you’re reading with what they are saying. You know what? They don’t match. What came out of his mouth was faith "alone." What it says in the book is, "faith." Catholics believe we are saved by faith and that we are saved by believing in Jesus, just as the Bible says. But the Bible doesn’t say believing "alone". Nor does the Bible say faith "alone." Remember, whatever answer they give you, whatever it is they say, don’t accept it. Because any non-Catholic doctrine that they are trying to justify from Scripture, cannot be justified from Scripture – not when Scripture is interpreted in context. Pay close attention to what they say and pay close attention to what the Bible says, I guarantee that the two will not match.

This is where it is necessary to have it ingrained in you that there is nothing in the Bible that is contrary to the Catholic Faith. Nothing! Because when you ask your questions, you will get hit with Bible verse after Bible verse. And a good habit to adopt is this: whenever someone puts a Bible verse in front of you that "proves" the Catholic Church is wrong, just slam your hand down on that Bible and say, "AMEN!!! I believe it. As a Catholic I believe 100% of the Bible – 100%! However, I do not necessarily agree with your fallible interpretation of that passage."

As I just said, either what they are saying doesn’t actually match what the Bible says, or they are taking the verses out of context. You have to pay close attention to the answers you get to your questions. After one or two questions, the answers start to contradict each other, but you have to be paying attention so that you can point out the inconsistencies. With just one or two questions, you can cause some folks some major consistency problems. I have a list of 12 Questions for Protestants at the end of this chapter that I will show you what I’m talking about.

So, no matter what passage they put in front of you to answer your questions and to "prove" that the Catholic Church is wrong, you can rest assured that: 1) either that passage doesn’t actually say what they are trying to make it say, in other words, what’s coming out of their mouth doesn’t actually match up to what’s written on the page, or 2) they are taking the passage out of context.

Remember that. This is very important. When you get to your second or third question on the same topic, I can guarantee you that most of the responses you receive will start contradicting themselves. But, always keep in mind the "Ignorant Catholic" technique. If you get turned around, if you get confused, if you feel like you’ve gotten in over your head, simply say, "You know, that’s a good point and I don’t know the answer to that. I’ll have to think about it and pray about it and do a little research and then get back to you." And then go do your research and get back to them.

By asking questions of your "teacher," you are simply being a good student, a curious student. Through your questions, you are in fact the one doing the evangelizing. You are, through your questions, hopefully leading this person to examine their position a little more carefully. Protestant theology, where it differs from Catholic theology, is razor-thin. There is no depth to it and it does not hold up well under scrutiny. The problem is, many folks just accept it at the surface and never try to dive under. That’s what you should be attempting to do through your questions – get these folks to examine exactly what it is they believe and why. Now, as with anything, it takes practice, but this is something that all Catholics can be doing and should be doing. Make the other guy defend their position just as much or more than he makes you defend your position. You should be asking more questions than you answer.

This particular technique is also very useful in taking the first step when wanting to engage people in a discussion. For example, let’s say you have a family member who has left the Faith and become a member of a non-denominational church and you’ve wanted to start a discussion with them, but you just don’t know how. Just go up and say something like this: "I’ve been thinking a lot lately about truth, and I was just wondering about why different Christian faiths believe different things and I was wondering if you would mind if I asked you a question or two about your church?" People generally love to tell you about their church.

Then, when given the green light, you could ask, for example, why do they believe in salvation by faith alone? Exactly what does that mean? Where did that teaching come from? Remember, you’re the ignorant Catholic, searching for truth. Then, when they go to the Bible and point out a passage or two, start asking why, in all of the passages they point out, does the word "alone" not appear? And just keep asking more and more questions. And remember, not only is the Bible on the Catholic’s side, but so is logic. Use it.

And, very importantly, listen carefully to the answers you get once you start asking the questions. Again, I guarantee you that the answers you get to your second round of questions, will, in one or more ways, contradict the answers you got to your first round of questions. I guarantee it. When that happens, politely draw them back to what they had previously said and, using their own words, help them to see the logical and scriptural inconsistencies in their position.

Strategy #3: It’s the Principle of the Thing. Learn how to establish Catholic principles from Scripture. And then use these principles to build your case for the Faith. For example: Non-Catholic question, "Where in the Bible does it say anything about Mary being assumed body and soul into Heaven?" Catholic Response: "Well, let’s take a look at that. Is a person being assumed body and soul into Heaven in direct contradiction to the teaching of Scripture? No, it’s not. We see from Genesis 5 and Hebrews 11, that Enoch was apparently assumed body and soul into Heaven. Elijah, in 2 Kings 2 is assumed body and soul into Heaven. The two witnesses from Revelation 11 are assumed body and soul into Heaven."

So, it is very obvious that a person being assumed body and soul into Heaven is not contrary to Scripture. Every non-Catholic Christian, based on the Bible, has to agree with you on that. You have then, established a Catholic principle. You haven’t conclusively "proven" that Mary was assumed into Heaven, but you have made the first step in that direction. You’ve put a chink in the anti-Assumption case. If Mary was assumed into Heaven, it would not be counter to scriptural principles. Now, if someone says, "Well, the Bible nowhere says she was assumed into Heaven." You can simply reply, "Well, we just established the Catholic principle that bodily assumption into Heaven is not contrary to the Bible, and nowhere in the Bible does it say that Mary was not assumed into Heaven. So, why can’t I believe that?"

Another example: Purgatory. Non-Catholic statement: "Nowhere is Purgatory mentioned in the Bible." True. The word, "Purgatory," nowhere appears in the Bible. But let’s look at 2 Sam 12:13-18, "David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘the Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.’ And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became sick…On the seventh day the child died." Catholic Principle #1 – there is the possibility of punishment for sin even after one has received forgiveness of that same sin.

Rev 21:27 "But nothing unclean shall enter it…" This is referring to the New Jerusalem – Heaven. Catholic Principle #2 – nothing unclean, nothing with the stain of sin, will enter Heaven.

Heb 12:22-23, "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living god, the heavenly Jerusalem…and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect…" The spirits of just men – all those who have died in a state of grace – made perfect. Catholic Principle #3 – there is a way, a process, through which the spirits of the "just" are "made perfect".

1 Cor 3:13-15, "…each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day [the day each person is judged] will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." Where is this place that a man, after he dies, suffers loss, as through fire, but is still saved. Hell? Once you’re in Hell, you don’t get out. Heaven? You don’t suffer loss in Heaven. Hmmm…must be somewhere else. Catholic Principle #4 – there is a place (or state of being) other than Heaven or Hell.

Reviewing the Catholic principles we just established from Scripture: 1) There is the possibility of punishment for sin even after receiving forgiveness; 2) nothing unclean, nothing with the stain of sin, will enter Heaven; 3) there is a way, a process, through which the spirits of the just are made perfect; and 4) there is a place other than Heaven or Hell. All principles backed up by Scripture which, when put together, make a very good case for Purgatory.

You can do this with pretty much any Catholic teaching. This does require a little more knowledge of Scripture, but it is not anything that is beyond the reach of anyone reading this book right now. Just remember, when you read the Bible, pay attention to what you’re reading. Is there a Catholic Principle that you can take away from the verses or the chapters you’re reading? Remember, it’s the Principle of the Thing.

Last strategy…Strategy #4: "But, That’s My Interpretation". This is your ace in the hole, so to speak. When you start using strategies #2 and #3 above…when you start asking questions about Scripture passages and you start asking questions about Protestant theology and when you start pulling Catholic principles out of Scripture, you will inevitably be hit with, "Wait a minute. That’s not a sound interpretation you’re making." Or, you’ll be told that you’re not interpreting Scripture with Scripture. Or, you’ll be told that you don’t have a proper understanding of the Greek behind the text. Or any one of a number of other ways to tell you that, basically, your interpretation is wrong.

That’s when you ask this question: "Wait a minute, don’t you believe that as Christians we should go by the Bible alone? And do you not further believe that each person has the right to read and interpret Scripture for themselves as they feel guided by the Holy Spirit?" And they will usually say, "Yes," of course they believe that. Then you respond with, "Well, that’s my interpretation. Are you saying that I can’t interpret the Scripture as the Holy Spirit is guiding me to do? Are you saying that you’re interpretation of Scripture is better than mine? How can you say that if everyone has the right to interpret Scripture? Do you really believe that or not? Or, did you just mean that only those folks who agree with you have the right to interpret Scripture?"

You have just made a very valid, logically-consistent point. If they truly believe that we go by the Bible alone, and that each individual has the right to interpret the Bible as they see fit, then the best they can hope to do against you is, in a sense, a tie. You need to understand this because this should give you tremendous confidence when talking to any non-Catholic Christian.

Ultimately, in any disagreement between Catholic theology and Protestant theology, when being discussed by individuals, the best the Protestant can do is to say that they believe their fallible interpretation is better than your fallible interpretation, but they cannot say that your interpretation is wrong. To say your interpretation is wrong would be going against one of their core beliefs – the belief that every individual has the right to interpret Scripture for themselves. They have to believe that your interpretation is a valid interpretation, even if they disagree with it. After all, all believers have the right to interpret Scripture for themselves. If they tell you that your interpretation is not valid, then they are being a hypocrite!

Now, as a Catholic, I believe that each individual has the right to read and interpret Scripture, but that any valid interpretation has to be within the parameters laid down by the Church founded by Jesus Christ. So, the worst that I can do, as long as I stick to what the Church teaches, the worst I can do, in a sense, when discussing theological differences with a Protestant…is a tie. If I keep my wits about me, I cannot lose a theological debate with a non-Catholic Christian. I can’t. Neither can you. Remember, you have the right, by their theology, to your interpretation.

This is a very important thing to remember:  In the Protestant theological system, when there are two people who diligently read and study Scripture; two people who prayerfully seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit; two people who are intelligent and faithful Christians; yet these two people have contradictory interpretations on what a particular verse or verses of Scripture means – ultimately there is no authoritative means of deciding who is right and who is wrong.  The best they can do is agree to disagree.  There is no one, or no institution, within Protestantism that can authoritatively decide the issue when there is a disagreement of this nature.  Everyone is ultimately left with their own fallible opinion of what the Bible says or doesn’t say.  Not so in the Catholic theological system, as we’ll see.

I hope these strategies have made sense. It might take a little pondering to fully realize what I’ve been saying here, but then again it might not. It might take a little practice to make these strategies your own, but I’m hoping the following chapters will help with that process. I just hope that something in these four strategies that I’ve presented will prove helpful and useful to you.

One of the main things I hope you take away from this chapter is the idea of learning to ask more questions than you answer. And please don’t take that to mean that you should try to avoid answering questions. That’s not what I mean at all. I simply mean that you should be asking the other guy as many questions or more as he is asking you. You should be able to answer questions about your faith. You should be able to defend against attacks on your faith. But so should the other guy. You will quite often find that once you start asking questions of your own; once you start asking the other guy to defend his beliefs and his theology; once you start doing that, all of a sudden the other guy isn’t as quick to attack your beliefs as he used to be.

I want to close this chapter with some examples of questions that you can begin asking folks. Here are Twelve Questions to Ask a Protestant. It’s actually more than twelve, because there are setup questions and then follow-up questions, but it’s basically twelve main questions. What I want you to see is how, with just one or two questions, you can cause some folks some serious problems with consistency. I will be developing these questions in a bit more detail in the chapters to follow:

1) Question: "Do you believe that the Bible is the sole rule of faith for Christians regarding matters of Christian beliefs and practices?" If they answer, "Yes," which most Protestants will, then ask: "Where in the Bible does it give us the list of books that are supposed to be in the Bible?" In other words, folks, if the Bible is our only authoritative source for Christian belief and practice, and the Bible doesn’t give us a list of what books should be in the Bible, then how do we know which books are supposed to be in the Bible?

2) Question: "Do you believe that we are saved by faith alone?" If they answer, "Yes," which most Protestants will, then ask: "Since it’s faith alone that saves us, then whether or not we love God and love our neighbor is irrelevant to our salvation?" That’s a logical question to ask someone who believes in salvation by faith alone. And you’ve just put them in a difficult position. If we do indeed need to love in order to be saved, then we are not saved by faith alone, are we? We are saved by faith and love – which Catholics refer to as faith working through love (Gal 5:6). If we do not need love in order to be saved, then they are saying you can get to Heaven without loving God and without loving your fellow man – a pretty ridiculous position to take.

3) Question: "If you have faith, but have not works, can your faith save you?"  If they answer, "Yes," then they contradict Scripture itself (James 2:14 -17). If they agree with Scripture and answer no, then they agree that it’s not faith alone that saves us.

4) Question: "If salvation by faith alone is the most central and most important Christian doctrine, then why does the phrase ‘faith alone’ appear only once in all of Scripture, and that is to say that we are not justified by ‘faith alone’ (James 2:24)? Listen carefully as they begin to tell you what James really means, according to their fallible interpretation.

5) Question: "If God alone can forgive sins, and we are to confess our sins only to God, and not to men, then why does Matthew say that God gave the authority on earth to forgive sins to ‘men’ – plural (Matt 9:6-8)?" Again, listen carefully as they begin to tell you what Matthew really means, according to their fallible interpretation.

6) Question: "Is whether or not we have faith God’s sole criteria for judging us worthy of salvation?" If the answer is, "No," then it is not salvation by faith alone, is it? If the answer is, "Yes," then why does pretty much every passage in the New Testament that speaks of judgment, say that we will be judged by our works? For example: Matthew 24:14-30 & 31-46; John 15:1-6; Rom 2:6; Rev 20:13; just to name a few. Why don’t they say we will be judged by our faith?

7) Question: "For a Christian, what is the pillar and ground – in other words, the upholder and foundation of the truth – is it the Bible? If they answer, "Yes," which most Protestants will do, then they are disagreeing with the Bible which says the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15)? If they answer, "No," then how can they believe the Bible alone is the sole rule of faith, when the Bible tells us that the Church is the pillar and ground of truth?

8) Question: "Is God’s revelation to men ongoing, or did it end with the death of the last Apostle?" If they say it ended with the last Apostle, then ask them: "Where does it say that in the Bible?" It doesn’t. In other words, this is a non-biblical tradition they believe in!

9) Question: "Jesus tells us in John 6:27 to ‘labor for the food that leads to eternal life’ which He will give us. If we are saved by faith alone, and our works have nothing to do with our salvation, then why does Jesus tell us to ‘labor’ for food that will lead to eternal life?"

10) Question: "Christ redeemed all men with His death on the cross. In other words, He paid the price for all men’s sins. Yet, not all men are saved. What is the difference between those who are redeemed and saved, and those who are redeemed but unsaved? Is it something Jesus did, or is it something each saved individual did? If it’s something Christ did, then why doesn’t He do the same thing for all men? After all, Scripture says He desires that all men be saved (1 Tim 2:4)? If it’s something the individual believer did, then isn’t that a work? The point here is that the believer has to "do" something in order to be saved.

11) Question: "Do we have to forgive others in order to be saved?" If they answer, "No," which many Protestants will do, then they contradict Scripture itself. Matthew 6:14 says that our sins will not be forgiven if we do not forgive the sins of others. If we do not forgive, we are not forgiven. If we are not forgiven, we cannot be saved. If they answer, "Yes," then we are not saved by faith alone. After all, forgiving others is a work.

12) Question: "Where in the Bible does it say:

           A) Scripture alone is the sole rule of faith for Christians?

B) We are saved, or justified, by faith alone?

C) Baptism is a symbolic gesture that the already saved believer makes to show his commitment to God?

D) That every individual, Christian or not, has the right to interpret every single passage of Scripture on their own in order to determine, by their own authority, what is true doctrine and what is false doctrine?

E) That you are to have altar calls?

F) That you are to meet at your church every Wednesday night?

G) That it is okay to disagree on the ‘non-essential’ doctrines as long as you agree on the ‘essential’ doctrines?

H) That there is even such a thing as a ‘non-essential doctrine’ – a non-essential part of the Word of God?"


The answer to all of these last ones is: it’s not. None of those things are in Scripture.  Ask for a Scripture passage that says any of these things - you won’t get it, because it’s not there. And, again, listen to the answers to all of these questions. Listen for the inconsistencies and make sure you bring them to folks’ attention.

Using the strategies I’ve outlined here, I guarantee that you will be able to plant the seeds of truth with family members who have fallen away from the Faith, with Evangelical co-workers, non-denominational friends, and any other non-Catholics you may come across. I always tell people that if I can do this, you can this. After all, people, I’m from Alabama.

One last thing. I hope and pray that if you currently fall into the category of "scripturally-challenged," that you will do your best to heal that affliction. As St. Jerome said, "Ignorance of Scripture, is ignorance of Christ."


In Conclusion

I hope all of you have a great weekend!

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Apologetics for the Masses