Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #29

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

Getting this out to you early this week because I will be traveling to Ohio and back tomorrow and Thursday to give a talk, and then on Friday I will be traveling to Huntsville to visit family and to watch my daughter compete in the state gymnastics meet. So, if I didn’t get this done today, it would have been next week before you saw it.

If any of you are in the Randolph, Ohio area, please come out tomorrow night (Wednesday) to St. Joseph’s parish. I believe the talk starts at 7:00 PM. And, again, for those of you in the Temecula, CA area, I will be speaking at a Catholic school there, St. Jeanne de Lestonnac, on Thursday, December 7th.

One more thing, if you change email addresses, just a reminder to not email me asking me to change it for you in our database. I don’t maintain the database inhouse, so it’s actually easier for you to do than for me. Plus, I get so many emails in, that I can’t always respond to them in a timely manner. So, if you’re counting on me to do it, you might miss several issues before it gets done.

All you have to do is go back to the “Newsletter” page of the website and sign up using your new email address…it will take you about 10 seconds. Thanks!


Here is part of Round 2 of my debate with Dr. Joe Mizzi of Malta. His Round 1 comments will appear first (in italics), then my Round 2 response will follow.

After I receive his Round 2 comments, I will send them off to be posted on the new “Debates” page at my website (www.biblechristiansociety.com). The full debate is also posted on his website (www.justforcatholics.org)

Next week should finish the debate up. I can’t say all that I want to say below, as I’m sure he can’t either, because we agreed to just 600 words (give or take a few)for each response. But, I will have some comments in a future newsletter.


Round 1 – Mizzi

Is whether or not we have faith, God’s sole criteria for judging us worthy of salvation?

John, your question is designed to re-word my belief in ‘salvation by faith alone’, and you expect me to answer ‘yes’. I cannot! Your question reflects a serious misunderstanding of the Protestant doctrine of ‘faith alone’. You confuse the biblical doctrine of justification by faith with the eternal foe of the gospel – antinomianism. There are heretics (not least in evangelical circles) who say: ‘I believe in Jesus for salvation; I will go to heaven whether or not I do good works.’ Sadly they are deceived with a false gospel. It does not take some gross sin to keep someone out of heaven — it is enough to do nothing. Christ calls such a person ‘wicked and lazy’. The last words he will ever hear from the mouth of Christ are horrible: ‘Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 25:14-30).

What then do we mean by ‘faith alone’? Simply this: ‘to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness’ (Romans 4:5). God justifies him who ‘believes’ and ‘does not work’! That is what ‘alone’ implies. The sinner relies by faith in Christ for justification and not on account of his works. I turn to God and say, ‘Lord God, I am not worthy of salvation. I am a guilty; I deserve wrath and hell. Please do not judge me according to my sins. Have mercy on me. I have no confidence in myself; I do not present my merits. By faith I rely on Jesus Christ your Son. Cover me with his righteousness, cleanse me with his blood.’ ‘Faith alone’ is a complete and exclusive dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ for justification.

What is the place for good works in the Christian experience? Christians are eager to do good works because God has already declared us just. He freed us from sin; we now have the liberty to live for God who loved us so much!

In Ephesians 2:8-10, the Bible teaches that we are not saved because of our good deeds (‘not of works, lest anyone should boast’). But that is only half the story. The same passage also teaches that we are saved for a very specific purpose, namely, to do good works (‘created in Christ Jesus to do good works’). Works are not the cause, but rather the result (the purpose, the fruit) of salvation. Thus good works must always accompany true faith; if they are absent there is neither living faith nor salvation.

Believers will not stand before God to be decided whether he will be ‘justified’ (declared just) or ‘condemned’ (declared guilty). ‘Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1). ‘Having been justified’ – God has already declared every believer ‘justified’. We ‘shall not come into judgment’ (John 5:24).

So why should we stand before the judgment seat of Christ at all? Principally to be rewarded for our deeds. On that Day we will not be charged before a criminal court; rather it is our graduation day! ‘Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work’ (Revelation 22:12).

I am motivated by God’s love to do the works that please him that I may become more and more like his Son. I do not perform works to merit justification – for justification is God’s gratuitous gift, purchased for us with the infinite price of the blood of Jesus, and received by faith alone.

Round 2 – Martignoni

Well, I would never want to be so impertinent as to tell a man he doesn’t believe what he says he believes. So, if my question to Dr. Mizzi about the criteria for salvation is based on a misunderstanding of what Dr. Mizzi believes in regards to the doctrine of Sola Fide…salvation by faith alone…then I apologize. I give him his belief as he defines it. I challenge him to do the same towards Catholics.

The problem is, though, that while Dr. Mizzi claims his interpretation of “salvation by faith alone” is THE accurate understanding of the doctrine, I deal with many Protestants who would disagree 100% with his assertion regarding the definition of “salvation by faith alone.” These people say that works have no role in salvation whatsoever. And, all of these folks point to the Bible as the sole source of their beliefs and claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

So, I hope Dr. Mizzi will understand the nature of my confusion regarding his belief on the doctrine of Sola Fide. Now, he will undoubtedly claim that all Protestants (or anyone else for that matter) who disagree with him are, of course, wrong. Just as these other Protestants would tell me he is wrong. So, my question is, who do I, as a Catholic, turn to for a definitive ruling on the Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide, when different Protestants tell me different things, and they all point to the Bible as the source for their beliefs?

Dr. Mizzi will not only use the Bible, though, he will also use history – which is a legitimate and logical thing to do. I believe Dr. Mizzi will claim that his understanding of this doctrine of Sola Fide represents the “historical Protestant doctrine on Justification.” But, exactly where does one go to find out the “historical Protestant doctrine on Justification?” And, who exactly is it that decided the “historical Protestant doctrine on Justification?” There aren’t any Protestant councils one can point to for authentic Protestant teaching. No Protestant catechism.

Could we say that the beliefs of Martin Luther and John Calvin represent the “historical Protestant doctrine on Justification?” That would make sense, wouldn’t it? The beliefs on Justification of the two main founders of Protestantism would indeed represent the “historical Protestant doctrine on Justification,” right?

But, that would present a problem to Dr. Mizzi. If the beliefs of Martin Luther and John Calvin can be said to represent the “historical Protestant doctrine on Justification,” then why does he believe in some historical Protestant doctrines, but not others? For example, both Martin Luther and John Calvin believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary, yet Dr. Mizzi does not.

So, if the beliefs of Martin Luther and John Calvin can be said to represent historical Protestant doctrine, then Dr. Mizzi is, in a sense, talking out of both sides of his mouth. He believes historical Protestant doctrine in one area (because it fits with his beliefs), but he doesn’t believe historical Protestant doctrine in another area (because it doesn’t fit with his beliefs).

So, Dr. Mizzi, please tell us how you know what historical Protestant doctrine is? Is it the teaching of Luther and Calvin? If it is, then why don’t you believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, like they did? If it’s not, then what is it?

Now, to close, at the end of Dr. Mizzi’s comments he stated: “I do not perform works to merit justification – for justification is God’s gratuitous gift…” As I pointed out in my first round comments, the Council of Trent states that very thing. Dr. Mizzi is perilously close to Catholic teaching.

In Conclusion

Next week I will have his Round 2 comments and my Round 3 response. Again, all of this will be posted on both websites.

Have a great week!

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Apologetics for the Masses