Apologetics for the Masses #243 - Blue Collar Apologetics (cont'd)

Bible Christian Society

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General Comments

Hey folks,

The answer to my question from the week before last about what movie gave us the quote, "Endeavor to persevere," was indeed The Outlaw Josie Wales.  A whole bunchy of you hit the bullseye on that one.  I noticed, though, that a lot of you apparently didn't know the answer at first, but then looked it up on the internet - I could tell because the answers were worded in the exact same manner (as if copied from somewhere).  My first reaction to that was to think, "Now, that's not really fair," and to disqualify anyone who I could tell had looked it up rather than just knew it by virtue of being a fan of the movie - as I am.  But then it occurred to me, that here I am talking about an apologetics strategy where I teach folks to say, "I don't know, but I will found out and get back to you," and then I tell them to use the internet to look stuff up, and I'm going to say it's not fair if they actually follow my advice - even if it is not in relation to an apologetics matter?!  That wouldn't be right.  So, no disqualifications, just a "Good job!" to all those who endeavored to persevere and answered correctly.  Now, obviously, only one person can be the first person to answer, but I had so many folks answer that I've decided to send a full set of CD's to each of the first 20 folks that got the answer right.  So, I will be contacting you 20 folks - probably some time next week - to get those addresses from you if you didn't already provide them.  Again, job well done!

Introduction

Finishing up chapter 1 of Blue Collar Apologetics, which covers the 4 apologetics strategies I teach folks...

Blue Collar Apologetics, Chapter 1...cont'd

But It’s the Principle of the Thing!
“Where is Purgatory in the Bible?” is one of the most popular questions that “Bible Christians” ask Catholics.  And, it’s a question that many Catholics, unfortunately, have a good bit of difficulty answering.  And when Catholics have difficulty answering a question about Purgatory and the Bible, or anything else related to the Catholic Faith and the Bible, it generally does two things:

First, it reinforces the belief of many non-Catholic Christians that the teachings of the Catholic Church are contrary to the Bible - which means they won’t be considering becoming Catholic anytime soon; and, secondly,  it can weaken the faith of the Catholic.  The Catholic might start asking himself, “You know, if Purgatory isn’t in the Bible, then why does the Catholic Church believe it?  Could it really be something some Pope made up like I was told?” And when a Catholic starts having thoughts like that, it’s not going to take very long for them to walk right out of the Church.  

You see, it’s questions like these, that Catholics get from non-Catholics, that are one of the main reasons there are tens of millions of former Catholics now in any number of Protestant denominations here in the U.S.  A question gets asked to a poorly catechized Catholic, one who is not prepared to explain and defend their faith, and when they can’t answer it, it makes them think that the Church doesn’t have a good answer to the question, because they’ve never heard it.  And, if the Church doesn’t have an answer to a question about its doctrine and practices, then how can it be a legitimate church, right?  

Which is actually a very reasonable question to ask.  The problem is, though, the Church does have a good answer to the question, and any question, about its teachings and practices, it’s just that the majority of Catholics haven’t been taught these answers and so don’t know the answers are out there.

So, where IS Purgatory in the Bible?  To answer that question, I want to introduce you to the third of the apologetics strategies I’ve been talking about.  I call this strategy: “But It’s the Principle of the Thing!”  All it is, is learning how to establish Catholic principles from Scripture.  And then use these principles to build your case for the Faith, which is basically what apologetics is all about - building the case for the faith.  

That’s the strategy, now let’s see it in action in answering the question about Purgatory.  First we start with 2 Sam 12:13-18.  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.”  

So Catholic scriptural Principle #1 in relation to Purgatory: There is the possibility of punishment due to sin even after one has received forgiveness.  David was forgiven - his sin was “put away” as the Bible tells us; yet, there was punishment due to that sin even after it had been forgiven.  

Now, we turn to the New Testament, Rev 21:27, “But nothing unclean shall enter it…” Scripture is talking here about the New Jerusalem -  Heaven.  So, Catholic scriptural Principle #2 in relation to Purgatory: Nothing unclean, in essence, nothing with the stain of sin, will enter Heaven.  

Next, we look at Heb 12:22-23, which says, “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, or you could say the spirits of the just, made perfect.  So, Catholic scriptural Principle #3 in relation to Purgatory: There is a way, a process, through which the spirits of the “just” are “made perfect”.  And pay close attention to this, it very specifically states that it is the “spirits” of the just being made perfect.  

One more.  1 Cor 3:13-15, “…each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day [it’s talking about a person’s judgment day here] 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 [Jesus Christ]  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?  No, you suffer loss as through fire in Hell, but once you’re in Hell, you don’t get out...you can’t be saved.  So, is it Heaven?  No, because you don’t suffer loss in Heaven.  Hmmm…must be somewhere else.  Catholic scriptural Principle #4 in relation to Purgatory: There is a place, or a state of being, other than Heaven or Hell.

Okay, let’s put together all of these Catholic principles we just established from Scripture: 1) There is punishment due to 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, or a state of being, other than Heaven or Hell, where a person can suffer loss after they die, as through fire, yet still be saved.  All principles backed up by Scripture which, when put together, make a very good case for Purgatory.

So, even though Purgatory is nowhere mentioned directly in the Bible, you can make a very, very good case for Purgatory, straight from the Bible.

Folks, you can do this with pretty much any Catholic teaching.  Now, this does require a little more knowledge of Scripture, but it is not anything that is beyond the reach of most of you reading this right now.  Just keep in mind that 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!  

But That’s MY Interpretation!
This last apologetics strategy is one that levels the playing field, in a sense.  I call it the: “But That’s MY Interpretation!” strategy.  This is your ace in the hole.  When you start using strategies #2 and #3 that I just mentioned - “How to Be Aw-fensive Without Being Uh-fensive,” and “It’s the Principle of the Thing” - when you start asking non-Catholic Christians questions about Scripture passages and you start asking questions about Protestant beliefs and when you start pulling Catholic principles out of Scripture, you will inevitably be told something along these lines: “Hey, 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 that each person has the right to read and interpret Scripture for themselves as they feel guided by the Holy Spirit?”  And they will say, pretty much 100% of the time, “Yes,” of course they believe that Christians should go by the Bible alone, and that each person does indeed have the right to read and interpret the Bible as they see feel guided by the Holy Spirit.  

That’s when  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 everyone has that right 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 they have a problem here, because you have just claimed your right to your interpretation. This is a very important point to realize.  By their theology you have the right to read and interpret the Bible for yourself, and to decide for yourself what is and is not authentic Christian teaching and practice, without answering to any other person’s or institution’s authority.  

I want you to really understand this and take it to heart, because this should give you tremendous confidence when talking to any non-Catholic Christian. By their theology, your private fallible interpretation of the Bible, has the exact same authority as their private fallible interpretation of  the Bible.  

Which means, ultimately, that in any disagreement you have with someone about Catholic theology vs. Protestant theology, 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 - that 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...they have to...believe that your interpretation is a valid interpretation, even if they disagree with it.  And they will disagree with it.  But, if all believers have the right to interpret Scripture for themselves, which is what they believe, then if they tell you that your interpretation is not valid, that you can’t interpret the Scriptures the way you want to interpret them, then they are being hypocrites!  There’s no way around it.  

As a Catholic, however, I believe that each individual has the right to read and interpret Scripture, but that any valid interpretation has to be within the parameters, or the boundaries, laid down by the Church founded by Jesus Christ.  As long as we stay within the boundaries, we’re okay.  It’s when we stray outside of the boundaries set for us by Jesus’ Church - when we start rejecting the authority of those that govern Jesus’ Church - that’s when we start running into trouble.

So, the worst that I can do, as a Catholic, as long as I stay within the boundaries laid down by the Church and 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.  I can’t.  Neither can you.  Remember, you have the right, by their theology, to your interpretation of the Bible.  

That’s the beauty of this strategy, it levels the playing field.  You could be talking to a guy who graduated from his denomination’s seminary and who has 2-3 Ph.D’s in Bible studies and such, and who studies the Bible 40 hours a week, and when he is talking to just the average Catholic in the pews, to you...to me...it all boils down to his fallible interpretation of the Bible vs. your fallible interpretation of the Bible.  At least, according to his theology.  You need to really remember this, because this is something that most folks within Protestantism have never thought about.

As a Catholic, I may not be personally infallible, but the difference is, I am not relying on my private fallible interpretation to decide Christian doctrine and dogma; rather, I am relying on the infallible teaching of the Church founded by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit for doctrine and dogma.  I don’t teach people John Martignoni’s fallible interpretations of Scripture, I teach people the infallible doctrines and dogmas of the Church that was founded by Jesus Christ Himself.  That’s the difference between a Catholic and a Sola Scriptura believer.  

Most non-Catholic Christians have never thought about things from this perspective.  Using the “But That’s My Interpretation” strategy, helps to drive home this point, and could cause someone to stop and take a long hard look at what they believe and why they believe it, which is what you are hoping for.

Summary

I hope all of you have a great week!  That's pretty much it for Chapter 1, now I'll move on to Chapter 4 - Sola Fide.  However, before I move on to chapter 4, I might have a little diversion into a back-and-forth with an Evangelical or two and maybe one with several atheists.  I'll have to see how things go...

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Apologetics for the Masses