Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #173

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

To all of those who emailed me after my last communication to tell me that I needed to slow down and not burn myself out, I’ll first say that I very much appreciate your concern, but I’ll add that a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Although, as I mentioned, I am about to be rid of my day-to-day duties with the Catholic radio station, so that will free up some time which will help me to do more with the BCS and with the Office of Evangelization at the Diocese. Plus, I will be taking a little time away from it all next weekend when I go on a two-day golf outing with about 30 or so of my ATO fraternity brothers from the University of Alabama (which should be ripe fields for evangelization!). My first vacation, such as it is, in many many moons. Although, I’ve only picked up my golf clubs twice in the last 25 years, so I don’t know how the golfing part of the vacation is going to go.

Also, I have a couple of speaking engagements lined up for September I want to let you know about:

1) St. Anthony’s in Wylie, Texas, on Saturday, September 10th. I believe everything starts at 9:00 AM.

2) Fort Walton Beach Municipal Auditorium, Saturday, September 24th, at 7:00 PM.

If you’re in either of those areas, I would love to have you come out and say hello.


Okay, when last we spoke (Issue #172), I was in the middle of giving you the answers to the 42 questions that I had highlighted in Issue #170. These questions had been asked, by me, during a rather protracted dialogue I had with one Matt Johnson, a minister from the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ denomination (see Issues #32 – #38).

I had asked those 42 very simple questions throughout the dialogue and not a single one of them had been answered. So, I put them all together in one email, and sent them to him saying that until he answered those questions, the dialogue could go no further. He emailed me to tell me that he would indeed answer the questions…and then I never heard from him again.

So, I wanted to present all of those questions to you, since most of you have joined this newsletter list after that dialogue had taken place, to give you some questions you can use in your own conversations with Protestants, and to give you an idea of how easy it is – using Scripture and a little bit of logic and common sense – to thoroughly confound and confute the theology of your average Protestant.

So, Issue #171 has my answers/explanations for Questions #1-18; Issue #171 has them for Questions #19-26; and this issue contains #27-42.

And lest you think that my asking questions and having the person I’m talking with never respond to them was an experience unique to my dialogue with Pastor Matt Johnson, all you have to do is read through any of my dialogues with Protestants that are in the newsletters – even the notable anti-Catholics like Mike Gendron, James Swan, Joe Mizzi, and Todd Tomasella – to see that asking a Protestant a question and not having them respond is the rule, rather than the exception. That is why it is so important for Catholics to learn how to ask questions, and not just answer them, so that we can hopefully make the non-Catholics in our lives stop and think about what it is they believe, and why they believe it.


27) Did Jesus give His real flesh or His symbolic flesh for the life of the world? Real or symbolic?

Pastor Johnson believes that the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper, as he calls it, is merely a symbolic re-enactment of what Jesus did at the Last Supper.  He does not accept the idea of the Real Presence.  That’s why I asked him this question.  And this question, or series of questions, is exactly what you need to ask of anyone who does not believe in the Real Presence.  The question is rooted in John 6:51, which says: "I am the living bread which came down from Heaven; if anyone 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." 

Well, as a Christian, this is an easy question to answer, right?  I mean, he has to say, as any Christian would, that Jesus gave His real flesh for the life of the world, not His symbolic flesh (were he to ever actually answer the question).  And, when did He give His flesh for the life of the world?  On the Cross, right?  But, to admit this causes him a bit of a theological problem, as we see with the next question.   

28) Did Jesus say that the bread He would give us to eat, which, if we ate we would live for ever, was the flesh that He would give for the life of the world? Yes or no?

Uh-oh.  The answer, for anyone who can read, is obviously, "Yes."  Yes, Jesus did indeed say, in John 6:51, that the bread He would give us to eat is the flesh that He would give for the life of the world.  But, if the bread Jesus is giving us to eat, is the bread that He will give for the life of the world, and the bread which He will give for the life of the world is His flesh, and it was His real flesh not His symbolic flesh that He gave for the life of the world, then it is His real flesh that He is giving us to eat, not His symbolic flesh.  It’s all right there in John 6:51.  And, what He says in verses 52-58 fit perfectly with the fact that Jesus was giving us His real, not symbolic, flesh to eat.  "Eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood."  "Eats My flesh and drinks My blood."  "For My flesh is real food indeed and My blood is real drink indeed."  "Eats My flesh and drinks My blood."

Which means that if Pastor Johnson were to answer these two questions in a scripturally consistent manner, then he would have a theological inconsistency on his hands.  How can he believe that Jesus gave His real flesh on the Cross, yet also believe that Jesus only gave us His symbolic flesh as the bread He gives us to eat, when John 6:51 clearly identifies the bread Jesus will give us to eat as the real flesh that He will give for the life of the world on the Cross?  Do you begin to understand why Pastor Johnson never replied to my questions?  He can’t, not without exposing huge holes in his theological system. 

29) Did Jesus say that we had to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life? Yes or no?

Yes, He did.  And, if Pastor Johnson tries to argue that Jesus was merely speaking symbolically, or metaphorically, then we simply go back to John 6:51 and ask again: Did Jesus give His real flesh on the Cross or His symbolic or metaphoric flesh on the Cross?  You can’t say Scripture is speaking of His real flesh in verse 51, and then turn around and say Scripture is speaking of His symbolic flesh in verses 52-58.  It always comes back to: Was the flesh Jesus gave on the Cross real, or symbolic?  If it was real, then when He says "the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh," He is speaking of His real flesh.

30) Did Jesus say that His flesh was food indeed and that His blood was drink indeed? Yes or no?

Yes.  "So, Pastor Johnson, was does it mean when God says His flesh is real food and that His blood is real drink?"  "Why, John, that means that we are to read Scripture and really chew on what God is saying to us in His Word."  Vomit. 

"Why, John, if you go back to verse 35 of John 6, Jesus says that whoever believes in Him shall not hunger nor thirst.  So, when Jesus said to eat His flesh and drink His blood, He meant to believe in Him."  "But, Pastor, in verse 35, does not Jesus say that He is the bread of life?  And, back to verse 51, does not Jesus specifically tell us that this bread is "living" bread, and that this "living" bread which He shall give us is the flesh that He will give for the life of the world, and not merely a belief in Him?  With all due respect, Pastor, but your interpretation results in Jesus telling us that He will give us His real flesh to eat in verse 51, but then in verses 53-58 He is telling us that He will give us His metaphorical flesh to eat.  That doesn’t make any sense, Pastor." 

Folks, they cannot get around the very clear implication of verse 51, which is why you need to keep bringing them back to it because they will do everything in their power to run away from it.

31) Do you believe the Body of Christ, the church, with Jesus as its head, can teach error in the areas of faith and morals? Yes or no?

This question is dedicated to all of those (like Pastor Johnson) who say that Christians can disagree on the "non-essential" doctrines, as long as they agree on the "essential" doctrines.  Which is, in essence, a tacit admission that there is not a Protestant faith tradition in existence that believes it has the "whole truth and nothing but the truth."  This is a CYA kind of thing.  "Well, no, we don’t insist that we have all Christian truth, but it’s not necessary to have all Christian truth as long as you believe in the essentials."  Really?!  Which means they believe, whether they admit it or not, that the Church Jesus founded can, and does, teach error. 

If they say, "Yes," I believe the Church can teach error, then you simply ask how it is that a "church," with Jesus as its head and the Holy Spirit as its guide can teach error?  Either Jesus is not the head or, if He is the head, then He obviously is not guiding this particular "church."  And, if they say, "Yes," the church can teach error, then ask them which errors their church is currently teaching.  And, if they know they are teaching error, then why don’t they change what they teach?  And, if they know other Protestant denominations are teaching error, how can they say that the members of those denominations are in the church?  After all, if other denominations are teaching error, and Satan is the father of all lies (i.e., doctrinal errors), then these other denominations are, essentially, teaching some things that are of Satan.  Would Jesus’ Church teach things that are of Satan?

If they say, "No," the Church that has Jesus as its head cannot teach error, you need to then ask them how it is that people in those denominations that teach at least some error, even on the "non-essentials," can be said to be in the church which has Jesus Christ as its Head.  If they’re in a church that teaches error, and Jesus’ Church doesn’t teach error, then they can’t be in Jesus’ Church, can they?  And, you need to ask them, if their church possibly teaches any error.  And, if not, is their church then THE Church that was founded by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago in Israel?

32) If all scholars disagree as to what constitutes exegesis and eisegesis, then do you know with 100% certainty what constitutes exegesis and eisegesis? Yes or no?

Exegesis, essentially, is listening to what Scripture says – getting out of Scripture what God put in it.  Eisegesis is telling Scripture what it says – putting your own pre-set beliefs into Scripture.  He accused me of eisegesis, but then said that "all scholars" disagree as to what is or is not exegesis vs. eisegesis.  So, I asked him the above question.  Essentially, the core question I’m getting at is one of authority: By what authority do you declare something to be exegesis or eisegesis?  By what authority do you declare any interpretation of Scripture – yours, mine, or anyone else’s – to be right or wrong?  Basically the same thing as asking any Protestant who believes in Sola Scriptura and in each individual privately interpreting Scripture for themselves: Are you an authoritative interpreter of Scripture?  By what authority do you tell me that my interpretation of Scripture is wrong, and yours is right? 

33) Can God appear to you under any form He chooses? Yes or no?

He was having problems, obviously, with the Eucharist.  It looks like bread and wine, but it’s really God…yeah, right!  So, just a simple little question to see if he really believes that all things are possible with God.  If he says, "No," then he doubts the power of God.  If he says, "Yes," then he is tacitly admitting the possibility that Catholic belief on the Eucharist could be true.

34) Is the correlation I am drawing between the flesh that Jesus shall give for the life of the world and the bread that Jesus shall give us to eat, found in John 6:51? Yes or no?

Obviously it is and, given the questions above, it obviously presents a problem to him to admit that it is. 

35) Do we need to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus Christ in order to have eternal life? Yes or no?

A set up question for #36.  His answer, if he is to be in line with Scripture, has to be, "Yes." 

36) If the answer to #35 is yes, then can we say that His flesh does indeed profit us? Yes or no?

For Pastor Johnson and all those Protestants who try to point to John 6:63 – "It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail…" – and say, "See, the flesh is of no avail, so Jesus is not talking about us eating His real flesh," these two questions show the twisted logic they are using.  Jesus just repeated Himself as nowhere else in the Gospels saying that eating His flesh leads to eternal life, and now they think He is turning around and contradicting Himself just seconds later by saying, "Oh, just kidding, My flesh is of no avail."  Plus, this interpretation they use for verse 63 causes another problem for them.  In verse 51, as discussed above, they have to believe Jesus is talking about His real flesh.  Then, in verses 52-58, they believe Jesus is talking about His metaphorical flesh.  Now, in verse 63, all of a sudden Jesus is talking about real flesh again.  It’s amazing how Jesus keeps switching back and forth between talking about his real flesh and his metaphorical flesh – that must have been very confusing for everyone who heard Him that day.  Not a very good Teacher to be switching around like that all the time, is He?

37) If the answer to #36 is yes, then does verse 63 of John 6 mean that it counts as nothing to eat Jesus’ flesh and to drink His blood? Yes or no?

See above. 

38) Does Jesus’ flesh “count for nothing?” Yes or no?

See above.  With these four questions, you’ve demonstrated that the Protestant interpretation of John 6:63 that has Jesus saying that His flesh is of no avail, is in direct contradiction to the verses immediately preceding and to the message of the Gospels as a whole.  You’ve demonstrated that, once again, they have some big logical inconsistencies in their theology and in their interpretations of the Bible.

39) Are you an authentic interpreter of Scripture? Yes or no?

See explanation under #32 above.  If a Protestant is being honest, he has to admit to you, if you press him on it, that his private interpretations of Scripture are indeed fallible in nature – that he could indeed make a mistake in interpreting the Bible.  Oh, they may say they are guided by the Holy Spirit and thus their interpretations are true, but if they say that, then ask them if that means they are infallible.  Because, that is essentially what they are saying.  If they are truly guided by the Holy Spirit in 100% of their interpretation of the Bible, then they truly are infallible.  Yet, pretty much every Protestant believes that no man is infallible – which is one of their arguments against the Pope.  So, if they are not infallible, how is it they are guided by the Holy Spirit?  Are they guided by the Spirit 80% of the time when they interpret Scripture?  75%?  50%?  If they are guided sometimes but not others, how do they know which times they are being guided by the Spirit and which times they aren’t? 

Again, if you press them, you will get them to either admit that they could indeed be wrong in what they believe because their interpretations of the Bible are indeed fallible, or they will get upset with you and stop talking to you, or they will say something like, "Listen, it’s obvious we’re not going to agree on this, so let’s just agree to disagree."  Don’t let them do that, especially if they’re the ones who started the conversation!  "Let’s agree to disagree" means: "Look, I recognize that I am getting my tail kicked here and I have no clue how to respond to you but I simply cannot admit that a Catholic could be right about anything."  Keep pressing the point until they either answer or walk away.  And then, next time they come up to you and start asking you questions, or attacking more Catholic beliefs, you come back to this very point and tell them: "You answer this first, and then we can move on to other things.  And, if you don’t answer it, then we have nothing else to discuss because I have to assume that you concede the point I was making but simply will not admit it, and, with all due respect, I have no time to engage in discussions with someone who is not willing to honestly evaluate their position when they are presented with evidence contrary to that position."

40) If #39 is yes, is your interpretation of Scripture infallible? Yes or no?

If they answer, "Yes," then that means their interpretation of Scripture should be infallible.  And, if they answer, "Yes, then ask them who it is that appointed them an authentic interpreter of Scripture and what evidence they offer to show that they have indeed been appointed an authentic interpreter of Scripture.  Let them know that the Catholic Church can historically trace its line of authority back to Peter and the Apostles.  Can they similarly trace their line of authority?

If they answered, "No," to #39, then ask them how they know any of their interpretations of Scripture to be right, and follow with #42. 

41) Am I an authentic interpreter of Scripture? Yes or no?

Regardless of whether they say, "Yes," or "No," your response is: "By what authority do you say that?" How do they know if I am an authentic interpreter of Scripture or not?  And, if they don’t know if I am or not, or have no authority to say if I am or not, then they really have no authority to say if anyone is or not, including the Pope and Magisterium of the Catholic Church.  Which means, there is the possibility that everything they believe that is contrary to Catholic teaching, could be a lie since it is based on no authority other than themselves.  Make sure you point that out to them.  We’re not talking absolute proofs here, we’re talking about possibilities.  But, possibilities plant seeds.  If you can get whoever you’re talking to to start using a bit of logic and common sense, you may be helping them start down the path to the fullness of truth.

42) If you are not an authentic interpreter of Scripture, then who is?

It’s all about authority.  Every dispute between Catholic and non-Catholic Christians can be boiled down to a question of authority.  If there are no authentic interpreters of Scripture out there, then how does anyone know that anything about the Bible is true?  How does anyone know that any interpretation of Scripture is true or false if every interpretation of Scripture has no authority behind except that of any given individual? 

But, if there is an authentic interpreter of Scripture out there, then shouldn’t we try to find them and listen to them and be guided by them?


I hope all of these questions, and the explanations of them, have given you a sense of how easy it is to point out to someone that they need to do some serious examination of what they believe and why they believe it, as it painfully apparent that there are some major contradictions…some major logical inconsistencies…with their theological system and their interpretations of the Bible.  Several of these questions I have asked numerous times to any number of Protestants, and I have yet to get anyone to even attempt to answer them.  They either answer by saying something totally unrelated to the question, or they try to switch the subject altogether, or they get angry and walk away.  Why is that, I wonder?  I believe they either consciously or subconsciously realize that by answering a simple little yes or no question, they would be stepping into some deep Martin Luther and they would not be able to get out of it very easily, if at all.  So, when asked such questions, they follow a strategy of: avoid, avoid, avoid, distract, avoid, cast aspersions, avoid, walk away. 

Most people are comfortable with what they believe, and they don’t like having their worlds rocked.  But, it is our job to do just that.  As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, "Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable."  We need to continue in His footsteps.   


In Conclusion

Next issue I’ll wrap up the debate with Mr. Thomas Thrasher of the Campbellite Church of Christ on Peter as the first Pope.

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Apologetics for the Masses