Apologetics for the Masses #348 - An Evangelical Pastor and Mary (Summary)

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The Sinlessness of Mary - A Debate With an Evangelical Pastor (Summary)



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General Comments

Hey folks,

     I need your help with something.  This coming Monday, April 29th, I will be pre-recording an Open Line program for EWTN Radio, which will air on Monday, May 5th (I'll be out of town that day).  So, I need folks to call in with questions/comments even though we won't be on the air live.  And/or, I need you guys to send me some questions via email - anytime between now and Monday morning - that I can answer during the recording of the program. 

     The program will be recorded from 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM (Central time) this Monday.  So, 4-5 PM Eastern, 2-3 PM Mountain, and 1-2 PM Pacific.  The number to call anytime during that hour is: 833-288-3986 (833-288-EWTN). And you can send an email to: admin@biblechristiansociety.com.

     Your help with this is greatly appreciated!



     Okay, wrapping up the summary I've been doing of my dialogue with Evangelical Pastor Greg Smith.  The purpose of this summary is to pull certain principles out of the dialogue - principles that can be used by anyone in pretty much any conversation you have with pretty much any Protestant.  What I'm going to do here is briefly review the principles for dialoguing/debating/arguing/discussing the faith with a non-Catholic Christian that I've brought up the last two weeks, and then add a few moremore.  Again, these principles are, in my experience, pretty much universally applicable across the vast spectrum of Protestantism.  



     Principle #1: Sola Scriptura = Sola [My Fallible Interpretation of] Scriptura. 

     In other words, when someone says they go by the Bible alone, they don't really go by the Bible alone.  What they actually go by is what they "interpret" the Bible to say or what they "believe" the Bible says.  We see that here in Pastor Greg Smith's own words:

     “You complain that I present the word of Greg as the Word of God.  I do not.  I present the Word of God and explain it to you multiple times using the Scriptures as proof.”

     Did you catch that?  He presents the Word of God - in other words, he quotes/cites a Scripture passage - and then he "explain[s]" it to me...multiple times...in his own words, based on how he interprets the Scripture in accord with his predetermined beliefs.

     “So, when I respond back to your misinterpretations, I give you the Scripture and try to explain it to you.”  Again, he "give[s]" me the Scripture, and then he "explain[s]" it to me.

     Never, ever, never!!! do you see someone simply give a Catholic a verse, or verses, from Scripture, and then say nothing else after that.  They always have to "explain" it to you.  They always add their own private, fallible, understanding/interpretation of that verse, or verses.  They quote the Word of God and then they give you the word of Greg, or Jim, or Tom, or Linda, or Jennifer, or...whoever.  There is no way around doing so.  They quote Scripture, they give you their interpretation of what it says, and then they tell you that is what Scripture says.  But it's not - that is what they say Scripture says.  Always - ALWAYS - point out to whoever you are talking to, that you agree with the inerrant Word of God (100%!), but that you do not necessarily agree with the fallible Word of Greg or the fallible Word of [insert name].


     Principle #2: Compare what they say a verse or passage of the Bible says, to what is actually written in the Bible.  Most of the time, the two don't match.  This is a corollary to Principle #1.  Here is an example of this principal from Pastor Greg:

    “In addition, all of the apostolic teachings and traditions necessary for faith and practice that God wanted communicated to His people are found within the New Testament (II Timothy 3:15 – 17).”

     Okay, he declares something to be true, and he cites a passage of the Bible as supporting his claim.  So, let's look at that passage and see if it says what he claims it says:

     Word of Greg: "...all of the apostolic teachings and traditions necessary for faith and practice that God wanted communicated to His people are found within the New Testament (II Timothy 3:15-17)."

     Word of God (2 Tim 3:15-17): "...and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation though faith in Christ Jesus.  All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." 

     Does the Word of God, in 2 Tim 3:15-17, say anything like what the Word of Greg says it says?  No! It does not!  In fact, verse 15 makes it clear, that the Word of God is talking about the Old Testament here, not the New Testament.  Pastor Greg is a whole testament off.  Nowhere do these verses say that "all of the necessary apostolic teachings and traditions" are found in the New Testament, or even anything close to that!

     Remember, compare what they say, to what God actually says.  And when they don't match -  which is most of the time - call them on it.  And call them on it often and everywhere.


     Principle #3: Protestant theology is internally inconsistent.  It might be consistent in one or more of its parts, but it is inconsistent between parts.  Again, from Pastor Greg Smith:
     “I have told you that Scripture is our only true source of knowing the truth from God.”  This he says from the Sola Scriptura part of his theology.  But, then, when I questioned his authority to preach and teach by saying that I didn't see his name in the Bible telling me he had such authority, what did he say about where his, or any person's calling comes from?

     “You ask if you can start your own church?  Has the Lord laid on your heart the call to preach, to be a priest?”  And he also said this: “While finishing my masters degree, I felt the call of God in my heart to begin seminary.”

     "Scripture is our only true source of knowing the truth from God."  So, do I turn to Scripture to see about whether or not I should be a preacher?  No, I need to FEEL the call of God in my heart.  So, do we listen to only Scripture for the truth from God...or do we listen to both Scripture and what God has "laid on our heart"?  If the answer is the former, then Pastor Greg has contradicted himself because he said he listened to his heart for his calling instead of to Scripture.  If it is the latter, then, again, Pastor Greg has contradicted himself because Scripture is not the "only" source of knowing truth from God, our heart is also a source of that truth. 

     And all of his contradictions result from an internally inconsistent theology.  You will find these inconsistencies in the theology of pretty much every Protestant and every Protestant denomination.  Look for them.  Use them to make folks think long and hard about what it is they believe and why they believe it.  Use them to plant seeds.


     Principle #4: Protestants are fallible in theory; infallible in practice.  Again, we have Pastor Greg's perfect example of this in these words:

“Only the Scripture is authoritative.  You should accept this statement based upon what I have written above."  Only the Scripture is authoritative; i.e., only the Scripture is infallible.  I.e., I am not infallible.  You should, however, accept this statement based upon what I have written.  I.e. I am kinda infallible after all.  But I'm really not.  But, you have to accept MY statement.  Only Scripture is authoritative but you should accept my authority.

     Do you see how confused this thinking is?  But, unless you point it out to them, they will never ever see it.  And, even if you do point it out to them, they will quite often still refuse to see it.  At least, in the short run.  But that's where the Holy Spirit comes in.  Don't ever forget to pray, pray, and pray some more for whoever it is who are talking with...that the Holy Spirit will help the seeds you are throwing out to land on good soil. But, you have to stay on point.  You have to insist that they respond to your arguments and questions.  And if they don't, well, you don't respond to theirs.


     Principle #5: When pressed for answers to questions about authority - What authority do they have?  Where did they get their authority?  By what authority do they tell you that the Catholic Church is wrong?  By what authority do they tell you that your interpretation of Scripture is wrong?  Where does Scripture say THAT?  Where is their name mentioned in the Bible? and so on - they will always contradict themselves. 

     Again, Pastor Greg: "...all spiritual commands that we must obey come from God through the Scriptures alone."

     So, what did I do after he said that?  I asked him, that since he goes by the Bible alone, "Where does the Bible say, 'all spiritual commands that we must obey come from God through the Scriptures alone?'"

     This was his response: "It says this in a lot of places."  But, after I continued to question him on this particular claim, as to exactly where Scripture says that, what did he say?

     "Again, I say to you, and this is my conclusion, not from Scripture, that all spiritual commands that we must obey come from God through the Scriptures alone.”

     So, he first claims that Scripture says "all spiritual commands that we must obey come from God through the Scriptures alone," in "many places."  But then he states, "And this is MY conclusion, not from Scripture, that all spiritual commands that we must obey come from God through the Scriptures alone."  So, it is indeed in Scripture, in "a lot of places," but then it is "not from Scripture."  Uhm, Pastor, which is it?  It's in Scripture in "many places," or it's not in Scripture?

     That would not have happened if I had not kept after him.  If I had not kept coming back to the unanswered question: "Where is that in Scripture?"  And, it would not have happened if I didn't keep going back and reading what he had already said and comparing it to all the new things he was saying.  Which is what you have to remember to do.


     Principle #6: Sola Scriptura Protestants believe in a lot of things that are not in Scripture.  Again, examples from Pastor Greg:

     "The rapture can take place at any time (I Thessalonians 4:16 – 17).  I believe Scripture teaches that it occurs before the Tribulation and before the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians 1:10, Revelation 3:10).”  But, Scripture doesn't actually say that, does it?

     “God superintended on the human authors so that, using their own individual personalities and writing styles, composed and recorded God’s word without error.”  Catholics believe this, too.  But, don't let the fact that you agree with him throw you off.  Yes, this is a true statement, but where does the Bible say this?  It doesn't. 

     “Once the apostles committed their teachings to written form and then died, the written Scriptures alone became our final authority for matters of faith and practice.”  Where does the Bible say this?  It doesn't.  That is a Protestant tradition. 

     "I was called by a local church who recognized my God-given abilities and gifts to faithfully preach the word."  Where is it in the Bible that a person is called by a "local church," whose elders apparently have some sort of authority, that is not traced back to the Apostles, to install that person as a pastor?  It's not.

     “Apostolic succession ended with the apostles.”  Where exactly does the Bible say that?  It doesn't. 

     Do not let any claim they make, any position they stake out, that is opposed to Catholic theology, go unchallenged.  And use their own question - "Where is that in the Bible? - against them.  And use it as often as it needs to be used - which is very, very often.


     Principle #7: Protestants often use verses in support of their beliefs that actually contradict their beliefs.  For example:

     “We are spiritually worthless, like milk that has turned sour and rancid.  Apart from Christ we are spiritually dead, unable to produce any fruit, fit only to be thrown into the fire to be burned (John 15:6).” 

     If you read the context of John 15:6 (John 15:1-5), you realize that the branches that are thrown into the fire to be burned that are spoken of in verse 6, are actually branches that were once a part of the vine that is Christ.  In other words, they are Christians.  And they are being thrown into the fire not because of unbelief, but because they failed to produce any fruit while they were attached to the vine...Christ.  They were attached to the vine, they didn't produce fruit, so they were cut off from the vine.  It doesn't say, "Well, they weren't really branches of the vine," it says they were cut off.  You can't be cut off unless you were once a part of it.  Sola Fide?  Once saved, always saved?  Not happening here. 


     Principle #8: Protestants often trivialize things in Scripture that do not fit with their beliefs. 

     When I drew scriptural comparisons between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant - which contained God's presence and which was so holy that a man died just from touching it - what did Pastor Smith do?  He attempted to downplay what I said, in part, by saying, “What did this piece of furniture symbolize?"  He called the Ark of the Covenant, a "piece of furniture."  The same is usually done with Mary.  I once spoke with a Protestant who referred to Mary as, "just an incubator for Jesus." 


     Principle #9: Just as Sola Scriptura doesn't really mean Sola Scriptura, but actually means, "Sola [My Fallible Interpretation] of Scripture, just so Sola Fide doesn't really mean Sola Fide.  It means, "Sola [My Personal] Fide. 

     What I mean by that is this: Christ's death on the cross is not the direct means of salvation for a Sola Fide believer.  It is actually each person's individual profession of faith that saves them.  By believing in Jesus' death on the cross, they are not literally changed.  They are not made righteous.  They are not made holy.  They are "positionally" righteous or "positionally" holy, but not actually righteous or holy.  God sees them as righteous and He sees them as holy, but that's because He sees His Son's sacrifice for them instead of seeing them as the reprobates they really are.  

     As Catholics, we believe that when we are baptized, we are actually made holy - made righteous - through the grace and merits earned for us by Jesus' death on the cross.  But, when Sola Fide believers profess a belief in Christ, it is not the grace and merits of Christ's death on the cross that saves them, it is their belief that Christ died for them that saves them. 

     From Pastor Greg Smith: “I know I am forgiven and saved because I have by faith through God's grace confessed that Jesus is Lord and believe that God (Father, Son, and Spirit) has raised Him from the dead."  It is the confession and belief that saves him.  For the Catholic, it is not his faith that saves him, just as it is not his works that save him, it is the inpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God, through Baptism, that saves him. 

     So, the Sola Fide believer is saved by his personal belief, the Catholic is saved by a direct action of the Holy Spirit on his soul.  Sola [My Personal] Fide.


Closing Comments

     Alright, I hope those principles will help you in your conversations with non-Catholic Christians.  And, for those of you who think I am picking on Pastor Smith, or somehow being "mean" to him, or any such thing, please separate the person from the arguments.  I do.  I have no ill will towards Pastor Smith whatsoever.  I do, however, have a great deal of ill will towards the errors he promulgates and I have no problem in going after his false teachings and false beliefs with a vengeance.  Error has no rights.  Satan is the father of all lies.  By giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, one can depart from the faith, thus losing their salvation (1 Tim 4:1).  I don't want that for Pastor Smith.

     I hope all of you have a great week!



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Apologetics for the Masses