Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #194

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

Hey folks, a couple of things:

1) A few years ago, I told you the story of Andy Acosta and his family (Issues #130 and #132 – General Comments). Tim Staples had told me about Andy. Andy has eight children and, at the time, had lost his job and was going through some severe financial difficulties – including losing the family’s home. They were also going through some severe spiritual difficulties as Andy’s wife had basically lost her faith in God. Well, once I put the story out there, you guys responded with such generosity, that Andy was able to come up for a bit of air, financially speaking, finally found a job, and was able to get his ship righted and back on course. I received an update from Tim not too long ago, and he said Andy and his family were doing well, and that Andy’s wife was back in the Church with her faith in God renewed. Tim said all of that was possible because of your generosity.

2) And, now that I’ve updated you on Andy’s family, I want to tell you about another family that could use any help you could give. Mark and Susie are parishioners at a parish I used to attend here in Birmingham. They have 3 children – 1 in college, 1 in high school, and 1 in junior high. Mark was diagnosed a few years ago with a serious blood disease and a liver disorder that has disabled him and rendered him unable to work. Not too long after Mark’s diagnosis, their home was destroyed by fire. Then, last year, Susie was diagnosed with cancer. She was treated with chemotherapy and radiation, but the cancer has recently returned. She is down from 140 lbs. to only 77 lbs. She also is unable to work and unable to function as Mark’s caregiver. Through it all, though, the family has maintained a strong faith in God. Their fellow parishioners have helped out as they can, but the family is still in great need.

So, I’m putting this out there in case you would like to help out. If you feel moved to do so – even just $5 or $10 or so – you can send a check to the Bible Christian Society, PO Box 424, Pleasant Grove, AL 35127. Please include a little note that the check is for Mark and Susie. I will use all the checks to purchase gift cards from Wal-Mart or a grocery store or pharmacy for them.

I had told myself that I wouldn’t do something like this again, but they are such a humble family, and the two younger kids are the same age as two of my kids, and it just kicks you in the gut to hear what they’re going through, so here I am doing it again.


Okay, this week, I am going to re-visit my exchange with Mr. Bud Weber, which is recorded in Issues #184 and #185 on “absolute assurance” of salvation. But, I am doing so not to talk about absolute assurance of salvation, but to simply give you an example of how you can deal with a particularly difficult anti-Catholic. Not difficult in the sense that he is making some arguments that are difficult to respond to, but difficult in the sense that he won’t respond at all to the arguments you are making.

You see, as I predicted in my newsletter, Mr. Weber did not respond to the questions I asked of him and to the arguments I made in my responses to his emails. I generally predict that the folks I’m dealing with will stop after one or two rounds, at the most. There is the exception to the rule, but once I have answered their questions and then get to asking some questions of my own – which I usually get to pretty quickly – the responses to my emails generally stop. Why? Because they have no answer to the questions! I might get a, “Well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree,” type response, or I may get some angry response, or I just get no response. It all means the same thing – they weren’t expecting a response from a Catholic and they have no answer to that response. You need to remember that: “Well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree,” really means, “Your questions have totally flummoxed me and I have no clue how to respond so I need to extricate myself from this situation as quickly as possible.”

Sometimes, however, even after I’ve gotten that type of email, or no email, I will still take a shot at continuing the dialogue. That’s what I did with Mr. Bud Weber. So, below you will get my email “provocation” that I sent to a third party, Pat, who was the person through whom I was originally put in touch with Bud Weber. Pat forwarded my email to Bud, which I was hoping he would do, and that did indeed prompt a response from Bud. You will see the exchange that ensued, with my “Strategy” comments interspersed between the emails.


From John Martignoni to Pat, re: Bud Weber:
Pat, by the way, I just found your original email [regarding Bud Weber] in a stack of papers on one of my desks – I’m trying to clean up my office this week – and I just wanted to remind you, so that you could remind Bud, that I predicted in my newsletter that he would not respond to me.  Just let him know that I had him pegged…these guys are all the same and they are all very predictable.  They are more than happy to tell you where you are wrong (as a Catholic), but they are not expecting you to reply to them and when you do, they act all offended and put out, when in actuality, they can’t answer because they simply have no answer.  When faced with legitimate arguments, backed by Scripture, for the truths of the Catholic Faith, they withdraw from the field so as to avoid embarrassment.

At this point, I had absolutely nothing to lose, as it had been several weeks since I had heard from Mr. Weber and I knew I would never hear from him again unless I could get under his skin and provoke a response.  So, I thought I would attempt to poke a finger in his eye – basically an appeal to his vanity – by essentially calling him a coward (although, for all of you kinder gentler folks out there, please note that I did not actually call him a coward). The fact that I used a third party to send the message, raised the stakes a bit as Bud could easily ignore me, but this was coming from one of his Bible study partners – much harder to ignore. Pat forwarded my email to Bud and, sure enough, it worked.  I received the response below from Bud in very short order.

From Bud Weber:
I had decided not to respond to your last email, not because you were correct, but because you have been so indoctrinated by the catholic church from your youth, that instead of reading the Bible and interpreting it, you take a catholic position and try to find verses out of context to support your position.
I recently saw the president of a catholic university on TV clearly illustrate my point when, at the end of his show about the Bible, he made the statement, "remember, the Bible can not conflict with the position of the church."  The clear meaning was, if you interpret the Bible and it does not say what the church says, then you have interpreted it wrong.
Since you have thrown down the gauntlet, if you will resend your last email to me, I will respond to it.

Look at his feeble excuse for not responding – I took a “catholic position.” Uhh, yeah.  And you, Bud Weber, took an anti-Catholic position. Now that we’ve clarified our positions, let’s have a rational discussion about them. But, did he ever attempt to show how the “catholic position” is wrong?  No. Did he ever attempt to show how I took verses out of context (as he claims)?  No.  Why not? Because he can’t. Which is why, even though he said he would respond to my last email, I knew he wouldn’t, because I knew that he couldn’t. So, I responded to his email and tried to add a little sweetener to get him to really and truly engage in a meaningful discussion by letting him know that he would, in essence, be talking to close to 30,000 Catholics. 

John Martignoni
I will gladly re-send my last email to you, but I first want to say that you have made some assumptions that are quite incorrect.  I was never "indoctrinated by the Catholic Church [in] my youth."  The state of Catholic education when I was growing up was absolutely abysmal.  I learned little to nothing about my faith as a child and as a teenager.  Which is why I left my faith when I went off to college.  After 13 years of being away from the Church, I returned.  But, even upon my return, I was still a very poorly educated Catholic.  And, there were several teachings of the Church that, quite frankly, I disagreed with.  So, what caused me to turn around and start believing what the Church teaches?  I started reading the Bible.

So, I did not approach my Bible reading from a Catholic perspective, I approached it with a decidedly Protestant perspective – I can read this book for myself and decide for myself what it means, thank you.  The problem was, the more I read the more I had to concede that the Catholic Church was right in what it taught.  I had to change my position on several occasions and believe what the Church was teaching because the Word of God made it abundantly clear that I was wrong and the Church was right.  So, your assumptions about my approach to the Bible are entirely without merit and quite erroneous.

Regarding what you heard the President of a Catholic University say, about no conflict between the Bible and the Church – sorry, but that does not prove your point about anything.  If I interpret the Bible in a certain way, and that disagrees with your interpretation of the Bible, then would you not say that I was wrong?  Which, in essence, would be saying that if someone interprets the Bible in such a way that does not agree with what Bud Weber says the Bible says, then you have interpreted it wrong.  So, it’s okay for you to do, but not for the Church to do?

Actually, I will not be re-sending my emails to you, but I will instead give you a link to my last reply to you as it appears in my e-newsletter that goes out to some 30,000 folks – mostly Catholic, but not exclusively so – around the world.  The 1st link contains our last exchange, and the 2nd link below contains our 1st exchange, if you need to refresh your memory on it.  I am giving you the chance to tell some 30,000 Catholics the truth…I hope you take advantage of it.

I took his example of what the President of a Catholic university had said, and turned it around on him.  Bud was being a hypocrite.  He does the exact same thing that he accuses the Catholic Church of doing, yet it’s okay for Bud Weber to do it, but not okay for the Catholic Church to do it.  That is hypocrisy, plain and simple. 

I also took his false assumption about my “indoctrination” by the Catholic Church as a child, and turned that around on him.  For anyone who knows anything about the state of Catholic education in this country in the last 50 years or so, his charge of “indoctrination” is absolutely laughable. 

But, again, I gave a direct counter-argument to what he said, something he has never done in response, and then asked him a some questions.  Will he answer them?  I think you already know the answer to that question…

Bud Weber
The information is welcomed.  Wasn’t it a catholic cleric that said, "give me a child till he is ten and I will have him for life!"  Maybe you think you didn’t interpret it from a catholic perspective, but it is odd that you arrived at that point.
I got saved reading the Bible.  I am not associated with any church doctrine.  My learning comes from people who are not interested in promoting a religion – they are interested in teaching the Bible so that each individual man can come to a decision about Christ as savior.  You are interested in promoting the catholic church.  I am interested only in presenting Christ.  If people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, it is irrelevant which church they attend.
I didn’t respond to your last email because you had the audacitiy to take a verse out of context in Galatians to try to prove your point.  The ENTIRE book of Galatians was written to prove that there is NOTHING man can do for his salvation.  Jesus Christ did it all.  Christianity is Jesus plus nothing – not Jesus plus your works.  In order to arrive at your conclusion, you have to ignore the beginning verses of Galatians 3 where Paul says, in effect, if you didn’t get saved by something you did, how can you think you have to work to maintain your salvation?

Incidentally, when Jesus met with Nicodemus and was asked about salvation, He said, "You must be born again!"  The birth he referred to was a one-time occurrence.  Not something that occurred over a long period of time, or that could be reversed.  In order to support your position, you have to ignore that.
Unfortunately, like so many of the catholic positions, i.e.: purgatory, elevation of Mary, there is little or no Biblical substantiation for those positions.  In fact, purgatory can be specifically traced back to a period of time in the catholic church when it was used to extract money from unsuspecting parishioners, who were paying to get loved ones out of purgatory.  But the Bible says, "It is appointed to man once to die and then the judgement".

I could go on, but you would likely extract individual verses that can be taken to mean something the writer did not intend, to try to prove your point in the face of what scripture overall says.
The president of that catholic university spoke very clearly when he said "scripture can not conflict with church doctrine"  He was clearly saying the position of the church came first regardless of what the Bible says. No mistake about it. That is the catholic position.
Church first – Bible, if we can use it!

John Martignoni
I had the audacity…really!?  You’re telling me what I believe and what the Catholic Church teaches – even though I don’t believe what you say I believe and the Catholic Church does not teach the things you say it teaches, yet you say I have audacity?!  Really!?  I at least take you at your word as to what you believe.  I question it, I say it is false, but I believe you when you tell me you believe something.  You do not give me the same courtesy.  Instead you fly off with the same old misconceptions, half-truths, and outright lies that have been spread about the Catholic Church for the last few hundred years among all those who love a good fish story.

Now, who is it that takes Scripture out of context?  Let’s look at your misinterpretation of the first few verses of Galatians 3.  You interpret Paul here as saying that works have nothing to do with salvation.  That is a gross misreading of the passage.  You interpret his phrase, "works of the law," in verse 2 to mean all works whatsoever.  However, if you look down just a few verses to verse 17, you will see that the "law" Paul is talking about is the Mosaic Law, which came into being "four hundred and thirty years afterward…," after Abraham.  So, Paul is specifically talking about the works of the Mosaic Law when he says, "works of the law," he is not talking about good works in general.  So, Paul’s discussion here in Galatians is not a discussion between faith alone vs. faith and works, which is what you are trying to make it, it is a discussion of the New Testament covenant vs. the Old Testament covenant.  It is a discussion of having faith in Christ for salvation vs. the keeping of circumcision, animal sacrifices, dietary laws, etc. for salvation.  It is a discussion of what was before Christ vs. what is now after Christ.  We know this because the whole letter to the Galatians is about the Galatians falling under the influence of the Judaizers – who were telling them they needed to follow the old law in order to be saved.  Look at Galatians 5 where Paul tells them that if they receive ritual circumcision, then they will be severed from Christ.

Question for you: If assurance of salvation is true, then how can one be severed from Christ by being circumcised?  They can’t be if your reading of Scripture is true.  Which means your reading of Scripture renders Paul’s words to the Galatians in 5:4 a meaningless and empty threat.

Regarding Nicodemus, I agree 100% that to be born again is a one-time occurrence.  Why would you think I believe otherwise?  If you knew anything about Catholic teaching, you would have known that.  But, you are more satisfied spreading the aforementioned half-truths and lies about the Catholic Faith then in actually looking into what we believe and why we believe it, aren’t you?  As a Christian, do you not have the obligation to fairly represent the beliefs of others, including the beliefs of those you disagree with?  I hope you will say, "Yes, I do have such a responsibility as a Christian to tell the truth about others’ beliefs."  If you do say that, then I tell you right now that what you believe about the Catholic Church is wrong and I adjure you to research the truth about what we believe and why.

You quote from John 3 while ignoring a whole lot of other things that Jesus said.  Do you know that there was one instance in Jesus’ ministry of Him being asked directly what one must do to have eternal life?  Just one.  And what do you think Jesus said?  Well, according to your theology, He must have said, "You don’t have to DO anything to have eternal life, just believe in Me."  Funny thing, though, the Gospels don’t agree with your theology.  Jesus said, "If you would enter life, keep the commandments."  So, who should I believe: you, or Jesus?  And, is keeping the commandments a one-time event?

Furthermore, let me ask you this: Can you get into Heaven if you do not forgive the sins of others?  Remember, now, you said it is Jesus and Jesus alone, we don’t have to do anything to be saved, right?  "Christianity is Jesus plus nothing," right?  So, please answer the question and I will prove your theology wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt to everyone on this email list and to the 30 thousand folks on my newsletter list.

You got saved reading the Bible, eh?  So does that make you better than me…better than Catholics?  Can you give me one instance, from Scripture, of someone who was saved by reading the Bible?  You do realize, that the early Christians were not saved by reading the Bible, right?  They were saved by men who were indeed interested in promoting a Church…the Church founded by Jesus Christ.  I am interested in promoting the truths of the Catholic Church, because they are the truths of Jesus Christ as given to His Apostles and as handed down by the Apostles to us throughout the centuries by His Church.  You, in fact, owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Catholic Church, and I will prove it:

You believe the Gospel of Mark was written by a man named Mark and that this man named Mark was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write his gospel, correct?  Well, did the Bible tell you that or did some man tell you that?  If the Bible told you that, then please give me book, chapter, and verse that says such a thing?  Please answer the question: Who wrote the Gospel of Mark, and how do you know?  And how do you know that the Gospel of Mark is indeed the inspired Word of God?  Who told you?  I think that would be a very interesting answer for all those reading this email to see and ponder.

I am going to let your remarks about Mary and Purgatory and the rest go for now, because they are based, again, on half-truths and outright lies that people have told for centuries about the Catholic Faith.  I will be happy to re-visit those topics later.  I’ll conclude here, though, by just repeating the questions that I have asked, and I pray that you will do your best to answer them directly and without obfuscation.  I know, however, that you will be unable to do so.

Here are the questions:

1) If assurance of salvation is true, then how can one be severed from Christ by being circumcised?

2) When Jesus was asked, "What good deed must I do to have eternal life," how did He answer?  How would you answer that question?

3) Can you get into Heaven if you do not forgive the sins of others – yes or no?

4) Can you give me one example in the Bible of a Christian who was saved by reading the Bible?

5) Who wrote the Gospel of Mark and how do you know?  And how do you know the Gospel of Mark is the inspired Word of God?

Two other questions that require very easy answers:

6) For a Christian, what is the pillar and ground of the truth…is it the Bible?

7) Are you infallible in your interpretation of the Bible – yes or no?

Notice, again, I answer his arguments, if you can really call them that, with direct counter-arguments.  Notice, also, that he did not respond directly to any of my arguments nor did he even attempt to answer any of my questions. And, notice, how he is now distorting the words of the Catholic university President he quoted by interpreting them as meaning, “Church first, Bible if we can use it…” 

Also, notice how he tried to start the doctrinal dance – by bringing up Mary and Purgatory – but I won’t go there.  Stay on course until you’ve said all that you want to say about a particular subject, or until you’ve had you’re questions on a particular subject answered, and then move on, not before. 
You know, usually, I would not be bothering with someone like this for more than one or two exchanges, so why am I trying to continue this conversation with Bud?  Because I have an audience.  He made the mistake, with one of his first emails to me, of including all of the members of his Bible study group on the distribution list. So, this whole email conversation was being read by those gentlemen, one of whom is Catholic. Hopefully, my conversation with Bud is bolstering that Catholic’s understanding of the Faith and will help him better defend the Catholic Faith in their Bible study should Bud ever try to attack it (although I’m sure that never happens). 

And for the non-Catholics in the Bible study, I hope it helps them to see that Bud is all talk and no action. That he is incapable of defending his positions, which probably happen to be their positions as well, and that that just might plant a seed with one or more of them – that maybe their positions can’t be defended from the Bible – you never know.   I’m also forwarding this newsletter to each one of them so as to put even more pressure on Bud to respond to me, with clear, cogent, and rational defenses of his statements…if possible. Or, for one of them to respond and to pick up the gauntlet and defend Bud’s honor.

Bud Weber
Audacity is the proper word.  You ignore a whole book along with the book of Romans to take a verse out of context because you want people to believe their salvation is not secure in spite of all the teaching in the Bible.
The Lord said, "let him who has ears to hear, let him hear".  Obviously you are too steeped in church doctrine to hear what the word of God says.  Nothing more needs to be said on the subject.  God help the people you are misleading into thinking they can not know of their salvation.  You are incorrect, sir, and damaging the lives of the people who read your column.

First thing to note here, is that I took the passage from the beginning of Galatians 3 that he referred to in his last email, and, using Scripture itself, showed him how he had taken those verses way out of context, which caused him to grossly misinterpret them.  Now, what is the difference between him saying I took a verse out of context and me saying he took a verse out of context?  I actually explain how and why his interpretation is out of context, I don’t just declare it to be so.  He, on the other hand, presents no reasoning, no argumentation, no scriptural support for what he claims, he simply claims it and expects that all who disagree with him should simply bow to his authority. 

I showed him how other parts of Galatians supported my interpretation and not his.  So, what does he do in response?  Does he counter my arguments?  Does he attempt to dismantle my reasoning?  No.  He now switches to Romans, although he gives no specific quotes, and simply declares, apparently infallibly, that I am still taking Galatians out of context.  He does not seem to care about what the Bible actually says, he is simply interested in forcing his pre-determined beliefs, that he has learned from those who “are not interested in promoting a religion,” onto the pages of Scripture, no matter how badly Scripture is mangled in the process. 

Second thing to note, is how he again absolutely refuses to attempt any answer to even a single one of my questions.  Not one! 

So, and this is directed to Bud’s Bible study members, I give each and every one of you the opportunity to answer the questions I have repeatedly asked of Bud, but which he has repeatedly shown himself unwilling, or more likely, unable to answer.  I will make you the same offer I have made to Bud: I will be happy to print any response you make, in its entirety, in this newsletter which goes out to some 30,000 Catholics.  Any takers? 

Bud, this is to you: I hope you will never again have the temerity to say anything about Catholics and the Catholic Faith as you have proven yourself to be willfully ignorant of what we believe and why we believe it; and you have proven yourself incapable of answering even the simplest of questions that have been put to you in defense of the Catholic Faith.  Therefore, if you are indeed a Christian, then have the decency to speak not about that of which you know not.  To misrepresent another’s beliefs, beliefs which you have been shown to be ignorant of, is behavior not worthy of one who calls himself a Christian. 

There is more to this conversation, but this has gotten a bit lengthy and so I will continue it in the next newsletter.  Just remember, folks, Bud Weber fancies himself a Bible scholar; yet, as you can clearly see, he is nothing of the sort.  You will run into people like this as you go out and share your faith.  Do not be intimidated by this sort!  They’re just like the emperor without any clothes – they try to project the image of being clothed in Scripture – they try to make you think they know it all and you know nothing – when in truth, their knowledge of Scripture is rather naked. 

In Conclusion

I hope all of you have a very blessed week!

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Apologetics for the Masses