Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #171

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

I have a prayer request of everyone. A good friend of mine, Peter, who is the godfather of one of my children, was recently diagnosed with leukemia. He is in his early forties, married, with six young children. He is a good Catholic husband and father. He is just beginning his chemotherapy and they have high hopes that he will come through this with flying colors, although it is going to be a tough fight, especially this next few months. Please keep him, and his wife, Sharon, and their kids in your prayers. Thanks!


After last week’s newsletter, I received a number of emails from folks asking me to answer the questions in that newsletter and to explain the reasoning behind them, so in this week’s newsletter, I will do just that.

Keep in mind that the context for all of these questions was a debate with a pastor, Matt Johnson, from a specific denomination – Christian Church/Disciples of Christ – but even though some of the questions are denomination specific, most of them can be adapted to use when talking with folks from pretty much any denomination.


1) Where in the Bible does it say that we should go by the Bible alone when it comes to all matters pertaining to faith and morals? Scripture verse?

The answer is: There is no such Scripture verse.  Now, there are a few Scripture verses that people point to and say, "See, right there it says to go by Scripture alone," but, the problem is, those passages don’t really say what they think they say if you actually read them and pay attention to what the actual words are saying.  For example, 2 Tim 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof…that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."  "There!" the Protestant will say, "Right there it says Scripture alone is all that is necessary for the man of God to be complete."  Well, not so fast.  Catholics agree with that passage 100%!  But, nowhere does it say, "Scripture alone is the sole rule of faith for Christians," nor does it say, "That Scripture is the only thing that the man of God needs to be complete."  All the passage says is that Scripture is inspired by God and that Scripture is needed by the man of God to be complete.  No argument from the Catholic on either of those points. 

The purpose of the question was: 1) To point out that there is no verse that states the Bible is to be the sole rule of faith for Christians; and 2) to use his answer (if he had ever given one) to get him to carefully examine the meaning of any Scripture verse he may have given me and to eventually get to a discussion about authority – which is also the purpose of several of the other questions – since the question of authority is the ultimate question behind all doctrinal disputes with other Christians.  Who has the authority to decide what is right and what is wrong?

2) Where in the Bible does it list the books which should be part of the Bible? Scripture verse?

There is no such Scripture verse.  If a person believes in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura – the belief that the Bible is the sole authority in all matters pertaining to faith and morals – and they refuse to accept many Catholic teachings because, as they say, they are based on "tradition" and not on the Bible, as this pastor did, then I use this question to show them that they actually believe in tradition, too, whether they realize it or not.  And, not only do they believe in tradition, but they believe in tradition in order to have their Bible – which is all they believe in – in the first place.  In other words, the dogma of Sola Scriptura has an inherent flaw: Sola Scriptura is dependent upon a Scriptura that is dependent on tradition.  Nowhere does the Bible give us a list of the books that should be in the Bible.  So, there is some authority, some tradition, outside of the Bible, that everyone relies upon in order to have the Bible in the first place.  Sola Scriptura is a logical inconsistency.

3) Where in the Bible does it say that public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle? Scripture verse?

There is no such Scripture verse.  I use this question to also show "Bible only" believers that they believe in non-biblical traditions.  There is not a single Protestant that I have ever come across who does not believe that the canon of Scripture is closed, and that public revelation – God’s revelations relating to the deposit of faith – ended with the death of the last Apostle.  This is why they believe, as do Catholics, that Scripture cannot be added to.  The problem is, though, nowhere does the Bible say public revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle…that is a tradition.  Which means they believe in non-biblical traditions, which is the very thing they accuse the Catholic Church of teaching and for which reason they reject those Catholic teachings that they consider to be non-biblical.  That’s being a bit hypocritical I do believe.

4) Do you believe the writer of the Gospel of Mark was inspired by the Holy Spirit? Yes or no?

This is a set up question.  Every Christian believes the writer of Mark was inspired.  The question is, why?  Why does a Bible-only believer believe that the writer of the Gospel of Mark was inspired by the Holy Spirit?  The Bible nowhere tells us such a thing, and since the Bible is the sole authority on matters of faith and morals, why do they believe it?  This is yet another "tradition" that people who don’t think they believe in tradition, believe in.

5) If yes, where in the Bible does it say that the writer of the Gospel of Mark was inspired by the Holy Spirit? Scripture verse?

This is the follow-up to the set up question #4 above.  There is no such verse in the Bible.  And, no matter what verse they may sling at you, simply point out to them that nowhere does that verse even remotely say that the writer of the Gospel of Mark was inspired by the Holy Spirit. 

6) Do you believe the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews was inspired by the Holy Spirit?

Another set up question like #4 above…same reasoning.

7) If yes, where in the Bible does it tell us that the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews was inspired by the Holy Spirit? Scripture verse?

Same reasoning as #5 above.  No such verse exists in the Bible.

8) Where in the Bible does it tell us who the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews was? Scripture verse?

No such Scripture verse.  Again, this question points to the fact that the reason anyone believes Hebrews is inspired Scripture is because of tradition.  If the Bible doesn’t even tell you who wrote the letter, then how can you know they were inspired when they wrote the letter if you rely on the Bible alone for everything related to faith and morals?  You can’t. There is an underlying logical contradiction here that needs to be brought out into the light.

9) Is keeping someone from profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord an act of charity? Yes or no?

This question is more specific to the particular conversation I was having with Matt Johnson, but it can be used when discussing the issue of non-Catholics not being able to receive Communion in the Catholic Church with anyone who has a problem with that particular discipline of the Church.  In my discussion with Matt Johnson, he claimed that the Catholic belief in regards to the Eucharist was "unbiblical" and "illogical," yet he said he felt "excluded" by not being allowed to receive the Eucharist at the Catholic Mass.  So, I first asked him why he would feel excluded by not being allowed to participate in something that he considered "unbiblical" and "illogical."  If you want illogical, that is illogical. 

He also said he was "astonished" that I would use the passage from 1 Cor 11:17-34 – Paul’s warning about receiving the Eucharist unworthily – as a reason behind the practice of not allowing non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist.  So, I asked him the above question to hopefully help him understand that we believe, as Catholics, that anyone who does not believe as Catholics do, is participating in a lie if they receive the Eucharist, since the Eucharist is, for us, the sign and seal of unity.  If they don’t believe as we believe, on all things Catholic, then they are not in unity with us and should not, therefore, participate in this act that signifies and seals our unity. There can be no Comm-union without Union.  So, if we believe that someone who is not Catholic would be receiving unworthily…would be participating in a lie…if they received the Eucharist, and we, therefore, are preventing them from doing something that St. Paul says is a very bad thing – is that an act of charity, or an act of exclusion?  It’s an act of charity.  The follow up question to this, had he ever answered this one, would have been: Given our beliefs on this matter, would you not be, in essence, thumbing your nose at our beliefs…deliberately dishonoring our beliefs…by receiving the Eucharist in our Church…would that be the Christian thing to do?

10) By using musical instruments in your worship services, even though you know folks in the Churches of Christ believe that musical instruments should not be used in worship services, are you being “exclusive” in your worship service? Yes or no?

This one is definitely specific to this denomination.  Johnson is the pastor of a denomination that split with the folks in the Campbellite Church of Christ years ago over the issue of using instruments in worship services…which the Church of Christ feels is forbidden by God.  The purpose of the question was to point out that Johnson’s congregation, by the very fact it uses musical instruments, knowing that the folks from the Church of Christ will not attend any service with musical instruments, is inherently excluding the members of the Church of Christ from their worship services.  The point being that it is hypocritical to accuse someone of being "exclusive," when you yourself are being exclusive. 

11) Do you interpret the Bible? Yes or no?

Set up question.  An honest answer has to be, "Yes."  Everyone interprets the Bible when they read it.  Interpreting is inherent to communication – whether it be through the written or the spoken word.  When you read, you interpret symbols that we call letters as certain sounds.  When those symbols are combined they form words which are symbols that represent things, ideas, concepts.  You have to interpret those word symbols.  When words are combined into sentences, those sentences represent thoughts, ideas, expressions, etc. that all have to be interpreted in order to try and understand the meaning, the thoughts, the ideas the author was trying to convey.  So, yes, we all interpret when we read the Bible. 

12) If the answer to #11 is yes, is your interpretation infallible? Yes or no?

Follow up question. Most Protestants will not answer this question.  At least, most Protestants I have dealt with.  They know that they cannot say, "Yes," because they have been taught to tell Catholics that no man (i.e., the Pope) is infallible; yet, they realize they can’t say, "No," because by saying no, they instinctively know they are opening the door to having to admit that their interpretation of this or that Bible passage could be wrong.  And they just can’t admit that.  So, most will not answer and will try to change the subject or will go on the offensive at this point.  The honest ones will say, "No," but they then start trying to talk their way around their admission rather than entering into what could be a productive conversation about how then do we know truth, if there is no authority that can infallibly decide what is true.

13) If the answer to #12 is no, then will you admit that your interpretations of the Bible could be wrong in one or more places? Yes or no?

Follow up question as explained above. 

14) If the answer to #11 is yes, then does anyone have the authority to tell you, Matt Johnson, that your interpretations of the Bible are wrong? Yes or no?

Again, trying to establish who, or what, has final authority when it comes to interpreting the Bible.  Is it each individual on his own, which leads to chaos; or did God set up some authoritative guide that we could rely upon to help us understand His Word?  Does this pastor confer upon himself the ultimate authority to read and interpret Scripture, so as to decide for himself what is true and what is false doctrine, without regard to any authority outside of himself? 

15) If the answer to #14 is yes, then who? Just one name please.

This question points out that Matt Johnson, as do most Protestant pastors, and laity, believes he has been given the sole authority to decide for himself what is true and what is false when it comes to the Bible.  A follow up question to this, had I ever received an answer, would be to point out that nowhere does the Bible give each and every individual such authority.  Rather, the Bible is pretty clear that the church has such authority.  The question, ultimately, for Pastor Johnson is whether or not he submits to the church in matters of faith and morals, or if he can decide for himself regardless of what the church teaches – if he is, in essence, a church unto himself.  So many Protestants give lip service to the authority of the church, but when it comes right down to it, their churches have no binding authority over any individual when it comes to teaching on faith and morals. 

16) Do you believe that participating at the Lord’s Table in an “unworthy manner” and “profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord” would cause grave peril to someone…either physically or spiritually? Yes or no?

Follow up to #9 above.  Simply asking him to comment on what the Bible teaches in 1 Cor 11:17-34, which seems to be at odds with his own words.  Another example of a Bible-only believer whose beliefs actually contradict what the Bible says.

17) If the answer to #16 is yes, then shouldn’t pastors continually warn their congregations about participating unworthily at the Lord’s Table? Yes or no?

Again, trying to show his inner confusion in this regard.  Trying to get him to examine his beliefs at more than just a surface level to help him realize that there are some logical contradictions in what he says and practices vs. what the Bible says.

18) Do you believe that profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord is a serious sin? Yes or no?

Same line of questioning.

I’m going to stop there for now and finish up with the rest of the questions in next week’s edition. 


In Conclusion

I hope all of you have a great week. Look for the next issue next week…God willing!

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Apologetics for the Masses