Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #30

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

I hope everyone has a happy and holy Thanksgiving holiday. We should give thanks to God every day for all of our blessings, but it is entirely appropriate to have at least one day of the year where that fact is recognized by our entire nation.

Although, I wonder if atheists take the day off…after all, they don’t have anyone to give thanks to. Wouldn’t it be hypocritical of them to take Thanksgiving off? Christmas, too?

And, I wonder why Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, etc. call Christmas, Christmas? After all, isn’t Christmas merely a truncation of “Christ’s Mass?” But, many of the ones who use the term Christmas, don’t believe in the Mass. So, what does the fact that most non-Catholic Christians use a Catholic Christian term for our Lord’s birth, say about who was here first?

Just a few meanderings…


Apparently some folks have gotten a little confused about the debate because of the way that I have published things in this newsletter. Please note that this debate has two separate threads: 1) I justify my accusation that Joe is misrepresenting Catholic teaching on his website (My Round 1, his Round 2, and my Round 3); and 2) Joe answers a question I asked him in one of my initial emails to him (his Round 1, my Round 2, and his Round 3).

For a clearer overall picture of the debate, go to the “Debates” page on my website (www.biblechristiansociety.com). I think that will help clear up any misunderstandings.

In this issue, I give my Round 3 rebuttal, in response to Joe’s Round 2 comments. This particular exchange has to do with his misrepresentation of Catholic beliefs on his website. Again, we are both limited to 600 words, so I am not able to say all that I want to say, but I hope I’ve said enough to get the point across.

And, all of this will be on his website for at least another month. (Anyone want to give me odds on how quickly it gets taken down after the month is up?) So, hopefully the folks who go to his website will read this debate and get at least a little bit more balanced view of Catholicism than they would have otherwise.

Next week I will have Dr. Mizzi’s Round 3 comments, which will also be posted on my site, and a reply to those comments (which will not be posted on the “Debates” page, per our agreement). Then we will move on to exchanges with some other folks which are currently in-process.


Round 2 Mizzi – Rebuttal

John you have demonstrated that the Council of Trent “clearly teaches that we can do nothing pleasing to God in and of ourselves.” I fully agree. Catholicism opposes the Pelagian heresy that we can merit eternal life by our natural ability.

Now if I wrote that the Catholic Church teaches that we are saved by our works “in and of themselves”, or if I taught that “Trent teaches we are saved by our good works… period!”, then I would have indeed misrepresented the Catholic position. But I wrote nothing of the sort! Not even did I give the impression that Catholicism teaches salvation by works “in and of themselves”, as I will presently show by asking you to read my words in context.

I quote at length from my article to which you referred (emphasis added):

“In other words, Rome teaches that God helps man to do good works and hence to fully satisfy the Law. Only then is a person qualified to enter heaven. The Council of Trent elaborates this idea in chapter 16:

‘For, whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified, – as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches, – and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God, – we must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained also in its (due) time, if so be, however, that they depart in grace…’

To be fair, we should acknowledge that a great emphasis is placed on Jesus Christ and the grace of God. Good works do not originate in man’s natural ability but can only be performed through Jesus Christ. Yet, it is also true that these works do not cease to be the good works of the Christian; personal works give him the right to heaven.

So then, what is required for a person to be justified at the end, that is, to be accounted to have fully satisfied divine law, and therefore to merit eternal life? Trent answers: THEIR GOOD WORKS! Their good works fully satisfy the divine law. Their works merit eternal life.”

John, did I really state or imply that Catholicism teaches salvation by works “in and of themselves”? Did I not clarify that good works are done by God’s help; that Catholicism emphasizes God’s grace; that the works are performed through Jesus Christ? Did I not specifically refuse the false idea that Catholicism teaches that our works originate in our natural ability?

John, your allegation is false. You have falsely accused me of the very thing that I took pains to refute!

Moreover my assertion on the Catholic teaching on justification (that personal good works satisfy divine law and merit eternal life) is correct; it is deduced from Trent chapter 16 quoted above. For notwithstanding the grace of God and the merits of Jesus Christ, ultimately, your personal works are in a very real sense your own. Canon 32 places a curse on your head if you deny that your good works are not your own good merits.

Lord willing, next week we’ll compare the Catholic doctrine with the evangelical message of justification by faith apart from our merits.

Round 3 Martignoni – Rebuttal

I disagree strongly when Joe says that his website does not even give the “impression” that Catholicism teaches salvation by works “in and of themselves.” I got that impression, as have others.

One gets that impression because he states that we believe our “personal works” give us the “right” to Heaven. That is not even a wrong impression, that is a flat out MISREPRESENTATION. Where does the Council of Trent teach that? It doesn’t. So, Joe, please remove that FALSE STATEMENT from your site.

One also gets that impression when he states: “So then, what is required for a person to be justified at the end…Trent answers: THEIR GOOD WORKS.” Why don’t you instead say: “Trent answers: JESUS’ DEATH ON THE CROSS (Decree on Justification – chapter 7), FAITH (chapter 8), BEING BORN AGAIN (chapter 3), AND GOOD WORKS (chapter 10)?” Why do you just say “GOOD WORKS” ALONE and LEAVE OUT all the rest? You say you’re not trying to create an impression of Catholic teaching as a “works alone” salvation? Then include the full answer from Trent.

We believe almost the same thing about faith and works with the following exception: Catholics believe good works do indeed merit an INCREASE in justification, AFTER we are justified; whereas, you do not. Why not focus on that? Why state it the way you have if your intent is not to mislead?

We can merit an increase in justification, because after we are justified gratuitously by God, we are then members of the Body of Christ. Before justification, we cannot merit anything. But, after justification, we can merit an increase. Does Christ merit? Of course He does. If the Head merits, does not the body also merit? Of course it does. It would be foolish to say that the Head merits but the hand or the foot does not.

2 Cor 3:18, “And we all…are being changed from one degree of glory to another…” So, we can increase in justification…in glory. But, do we merit anything in this increase in glory?

Heb 13:16, “Do not neglect to do good…for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” How can our sacrifices be “pleasing to God,” if we don’t merit anything? Shouldn’t it say that Jesus’ sacrifice is the only sacrifice pleasing to God?

Heb 13:20-21, “Now may the God of peace…equip you with everything good that YOU may do His will, working in YOU that which is pleasing in His sight…” We can merit because it is Christ working through us. Christ is crowning His own merits manifested in us.

Heb 10:35, “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.”
Matt 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when men revile you…Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven.”
1 Cor 3:14, “If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.”

There are many other passages that speak of a reward for what we do. How can we receive a reward for our works, if our works do not merit anything? A reward is something given in return for something we do.

Matt 25:14-30…the two good servants increase what their Master has given them, and they merit a reward for it. The bad servant does not, and he is cast into the outer darkness.

As members of the Body of Christ, we can merit and do merit increases in grace, after our justification…just as the Church and the Bible teach. By producing good fruit (John 15:1-6) we, the branches, abide in Christ and merit, by Christ the vine working through us, increases in grace. Very biblical. Very Catholic.

In Conclusion

Again, Dr. Mizzi is, I believe, only kidding himself when he says his website doesn’t even give the “impression” that Catholics teach a “works alone” salvation. Why put “GOOD WORKS” in all caps as Trent’s answer to the question he asks regarding justification? And why leave out the fact that it’s good works and faith and baptism and grace and all because of Christ’s death on the cross?

Will any of this have any impact on him? Well, we can only hope and pray that it does, but it may have an impact on someone who comes to his website looking for truth regarding the Catholic Faith. Maybe this debate can plant a seed or two. Plus, again, I hope it has shown the Catholics on this list, that it is only misrepresentations of your Catholic Faith that can be assailed successfully, not the real thing.

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Apologetics for the Masses