Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #32

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

Let me start off by making a correction to last week’s email. I incorrectly identified the 1646 Westminster Confession of Faith as being from the Methodist denomination. Well, the Methodists weren’t around in 1646. They didn’t split off from the Anglicans until the 18th century. The 1646 Confession of Faith was basically a Puritan Confession of Faith. The main Confession of Faith for the Methodists is called the Twenty-Five articles, which is a modified version of the Anglican’s Thirty-Nine Articles, which makes sense since, again, the Methodist Church split off from the Anglican Church.

Also, I want to let you know that this will be the last regular edition of Apologetics for the Masses for 2006. I’m going to take a couple of weeks off from the normal routine of things to try and catch up on a whole lot of administrative tasks that have been woefully neglected in the last few months.

But, I will be back the first week of January, and my goal is to get out 40-45 newsletters during 2007. I’ll probably take a month or two off during the summer.


In this newsletter we’ll be breaking away from the Joe Mizzi debate, although I intend to trouble him again in the future, and starting a fresh debate with Matt Johnson, who identifies himself as a minister in the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. In this newsletter, I’m going to simply give you the first few exchanges between us to give you some background. This exchange is ongoing (although I am way overdue for providing my next response to him – hopefully I’ll get to that next week).

Matt is a subscriber to this newsletter…don’t think I ever asked him how that came about. Anyway, Matt, as you will see, believed me eager to take on those who are not trained in theology, but challenged me as to whether or not I would be so eager to take on those who are…such as himself.

His emails are in italics. I don’t have any commentary with these, because there really isn’t much to comment on. I’ll start in with the commentary once we start getting to the meat of things in the next newsletter…which, again, will be out the first week of January.


John, I am a Christian minister who would enjoy a dialogue with you. My wife was raised in the Roman Catholic church and her family is still grounded there so I think I have a decent perspective on it. I have been reading your emails and am very disappointed with the non-catholic representation. You are a scholar and they are laymen. That comes across in the debate. They are unable to debate
you because some of them simply don’t understand how to make an argument. They often get frustrated and, frankly, illogical. I would like the opportunity to represent an educated, non-Roman Catholic
perspective. You are very good at beating up the laymen, but how would you do against a trained minister? Matt Johnson

Dear Matt,

No need to bait me :-) …I, too, have been very disappointed in the “non-Catholic representation,” and would be delighted to engage in a dialogue with you. I don’t know if I would call myself a scholar – I’ve had no formal training in Theology – but I do know that an argument that abandons logic and common sense, is not much of an argument. My intent is not to “beat up” anyone, but to have an honest and open dialogue. If someone makes claims about Catholics and the Catholic Church, and then is unable to back up those claims when challenged, then I suppose it might appear that they are being beaten up, but they took the first swing, so to
speak. But, again, my intent is never to beat someone up, but to search for the truth in any situation.

My frustration in dealing with many non-Catholics has been that they attack what they do not know. And then, when their attacks are challenged with a logical and coherent presentation of the facts about the Catholic Faith, they either deny the facts, ignore them altogether, or come up with some illogical and/or irrational response to them…and then they go about continuing their attacks on the Catholic Church, even after being informed that they are misrepresenting the teachings of the Church.

I’ve always said to folks that if you wish to disagree with what I believe…fine. But, disagree with what I really believe, and not some myth, half-truth, or outright lie about what I believe. Therefore, it would be a pleasure to dialogue with someone with a “decent perspective” on the Catholic Church. Where should we start?

God bless!

John Martignoni

P.S. Are you a minister in a particular denomination? If so, which?


I was ordained in a Christian church. My formal training was at Cincinnati Bible Seminary (at Cincinnati Christian University). The Christian Churches/Churches of Christ belong to a non-denominational movement sometimes called the “Restoration Movement”. If you are interested in the history and ideals of the movement, here is a link: http://www.christianchurchtoday.com/whoweare.asp
I would like to start with a question. What do you, as a Roman Catholic believer, consider to be the essentials of faith?

Also, if your training was not formal, how did you become this involved with the Bible Christian Society?

Fellow Servant,

Matt Johnson


I read the material on the link you provided…very interesting. It sparked some questions that I’ll get to in a future email. But, for now, to answer your question: As a Roman Catholic believer, the truths of the Apostles’ Creed (see below) are what I consider to be the “essentials of the faith.” And, let me clarify, I consider these to be core beliefs…the beliefs around which all the other beliefs of the Christian Faith revolve. I do not believe, as many Christians I come across do, that there is such a thing as an essential vs. a non-essential doctrine. In other words, I don’t believe that as long as I have the essentials down, it’s okay to be wrong on the “non-essentials.”

The Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

As I said, I have no formal training, I am basically self-taught. Reading books and listening to tapes. And, it was because of a virulent anti-Catholic program I heard aired on a local Christian radio station, that I became involved in the public defense of my faith…which led to the founding of the Bible Christian Society. (By the way, I’m hoping that since you are a scholar and I am but a layman, that you will go easy on me in this dialogue.)

God bless!



I agree that it is not ok to be on the wrong side of a so-called “non-essential.” Most people, if they really thought about it, would likely agree that it is not ok for them to be wrong about anything, especially God. If I know I am wrong (some still call that sin), why would I be ok
with it? Why wouldn’t I change (some still call that repentance) and be right?

But what happens when my God-fearing, Christ-loving, Bible believing neighbor is wrong about God? Now we have a different situation. I have a responsibility to seek the truth personally. But do I have a responsibility to demand that same level of understanding from all believers? Will I break fellowship with them over a theological or doctrinal disagreement? Will I discredit their faith? If so, over which doctrines will I break Christian fellowship or deny another’s faith? Where do I draw the line?

It seems to me that the Roman Catholic church has drawn some lines. The RC church does not seem to have doctrinal conformity from every country, parish, and Christian. All I have to do is call a RC friend and have a conversation about to birth control to verify this fact. But the RC church still accepts that “believer in error” as “one of theirs.” So, in a way, the RC church practices the concept I am talking about. It is not ok (according to the RC church) for these people to disagree about birth control. But it does not seem to be essential for fellowship and they are not excommunicated. I do not feel that the same understanding is extended
to other sincere followers of Christ.


Unity is a core value of the Restoration movement. Churches divide for many reasons. Some are significant, such as the issue of the deity of Christ. Some are less significant, such as the date that we celebrate Christmas or the Resurrection (which, by the way, is celebrated every week in both of our churches). It is possible that one of the reasons the Church (meaning all Christians) has become divided is because we have put restrictions where God has placed freedom or vice-versa.

Do you realize that if you come up with thirty two disputed doctrines/issues where there are at least two opposing positions, then theoretically speaking everyone on this planet could claim a unique combination of beliefs and we could each have our own, single person church? My point is that demanding conformity on every issue is a recipe for division. It is not ok for our Christian brothers to be in error. But it is not ok for me to demand conformity to the point of promoting division.


When the Roman Catholic church was going through devastating scandals in Boston (and also recently here near Philadelphia), the subject came up with my (Roman Catholic) in-laws. Though I disagree strongly with many teachings of the Roman Catholic church, and though I feel excluded from parts of the cooperate worship of the RC church, my attitude is that I truly believe in the holy catholic (universal) church. Therefore, concerning the scandals, I will grieve for those who were hurt while I pray for justice. I will not use this as an opportunity to attack Christian brothers. And I would hope for the same treatment if my congregation were in a similar situation.

You see when the Roman Catholics use the word “catholic” it seems to be for the purposes of exclusion (vis., “Roman Catholic” seems to be another denomination). But when I use the word “catholic” it is for the purposes of inclusion (vis., all “Christians” are part of the universal church). Or, as Edward Markham wrote:

“He drew a circle that shut me out. Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But Love and I had the wit to win. We drew a circle that took him in.”

Or if you prefer, as Jesus said:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” John 17:20-22

Finally, though I am flattered to be called a “scholar” I would not consider a seminary degree the prerequisite for labeling someone thus. I have sat at the feet of real scholars, whose knowledge far exceed mine, and I am thankful for their instruction.

I look forward to your reply.

Fellow Servant,

Matt Johnson

In Conclusion

Again, that’s just some background for the next few newsletters. It starts to get to the “good stuff” in his last email above, so I’ll start with that one in my next newsletter and then give you my response and commentary from there. So, until then, how about some homework? Think about what Matt said here and dissect it looking for things that aren’t quite right, and also think about how you would respond to him…

As always, your comments and feedback are appreciated and all will be read.

I wish all of you a blessed and holy Christmas and New Year, and I pray that you and your loved ones will be safe and prosperous in the coming year. And I thank you for allowing me to visit with you, as it were, once a week.

If you know of any folks who might benefit from reading these newsletters, or from the tapes and CDs available on the website, please don’t hesitate to let them know about our website: www.biblechristiansociety.com.

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Apologetics for the Masses