Apologetics for the Masses #371 - Dialogue With A Protestant "Seeker" (Part 2)

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Dialogue With A Protestant "Seeker" (Part 2)



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General Comments

Hey folks,

    I had another response to my use of the term "Wuhan flu" in last week's newsletter.  The other guy got a bit hot under the collar to say the least.  But, in my exchange with him, it occurred to me that so much of what is going on in politics in this country parallels what is going on in the church.  So, when this current exchange with Martin has run its course in the next week or two, I am going to use that exchange over the Wuhan flu to discuss those parallels and to show why I believe one cannot water down the truth one iota, and cannot give one inch in spiritual warfare, and cannot yield any advantage to the culture of death whatsoever - whether in the realm of theology or the realm of politics.  Hopefully I can do it in a manner that is informative and entertaining...



     Okay, this week we're continuing our dialogue with "Martin," who is a Protestant who said he wants to learn more about the Catholic Faith.  I left off last week with a response from Martin and gave you the chance to think about how you would respond to what he said.  So, I'll start off this week by repeating the last thing Martin said, give my response, and then continue on with the conversation, putting my thoughts and "strategies" in - so you can see the what I'm thinking and why - after each of my responses.  

     I hope you enjoy...




     Okay, that makes sense.

     Now I don't think i was initially clear on this, so to be clear, I'm not here to challenge your beliefs head on, I'm here to challenge my beliefs. I'm not really here to tell you you're wrong and I'm right. What I want to do is firstly to learn and to Understand your position. So I'm gonna ask alot of questions like "Do you believe this?" And "So when you say you believe X, you're saying Y then?" Etc. They're not me trying to call you out on anything, or an interrogation session, they're me eagerly trying to learn.

     Anyways, to jump the discussion ahead a bit, I wanna see if I understand you correctly. I've heard alot of the Catholic position, but in bits and pieces over time. So now that I am able to check if I got it wrong, I wanna describe what I've gathered over the past 2 years of unintentional learning. If I'm wrong on a point, go right ahead and correct me. I just wanna make sure I understand you. :)

     So, basically, what happens is, God, in His Prevenient Grace, Draws an individual, calling Him/Her to Repentance and Faith, and if the person Responds, they get Baptised into the Church. In Baptism, God's Sanctifying Grace is Infused into the Person's Soul as the Holy Spirit Begins to Indwell the Person. At this point, having been Infused with Sanctifying Grace, based on this Grace, which Brings about Righteous Qualities into the Person, God Deems them Righteous, that is, they are Justified before God. And assuming they go to mass regularly being in Grace, when they Eat the Body, Blood, Soul, & Divinity of Jesus Christ, More Sanctifying Grace is Bestowed upon the Person, now having Jesus Christ in their body. And With Prayers and Alms in this state of Grace, God works through them, and continuing to grow Righteous Qualities into them.

     If this state is lost in Mortal Sin, Confession is needed, and at having Confessed the Sin to God Through the Priest, and being Given a Penance by God through the Priest, if they sincerely Confessed and Do the Penance given, they're restored to the state of Grace.

     So, to boil it down to literal key points, let me see if I got it:

1. God, In Prevenient Grace Draws all, This is never dependent on any Human Action. It's God's Initiative.

2. If responded to, at Baptism, All Sin are Washed away and As the Holy Spirit descends upon the Person, Righteous Qualities are Infused into the Person's Soul. And he is Deemed Just by God/ he is Justified.

3. If this State of Grace is kept, the Person will continually, through Mass, personal Prayers and Alms, be Growing in the Sanctifying Grace of God, becoming more and more Holy and Good.

4. If Mortal Sin Breaks this State, Confesssion is needed to be forgiven and Restored to this State and Road of Sanctifying Grace.

     I hope I got it right. I don't want to assume I know stuff without asking. Especially as the stuff I listed I gathered over time in bits and pieces. :)


My Response

     1) Doesn't matter to me if you are here to simply ask questions, to challenge, to attack, to tell me I'm wrong, or that I'm an idiot, or all of the above.  You cannot offend me no matter what approach you might take.  I'm happy to answer whatever you want to ask.

     2) I do indeed appreciate the fact, though, that you are curious enough to be open to learning...that is a rarity in this day and time...but, again, I would answer your questions regardless of the spirit in which they are asked.  In the process, though, I may ask some questions of my own, and I want you to understand that I do so simply to focus the conversation and to make you think about things you may not have previously considered.

     3) First of all, whenever possible, I'm going to stay away from theological terms.  I'm just a simple man with a simple understanding of the faith...not a theologian.  So, yes, God draws an individual...all individuals...to Him.  God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4) and He will draw all men to Himself (John 12:32).  So He offers all men His grace and it is this actual grace that allows men to respond to Him in faith.  We cannot respond to God if He does not first pour His grace out upon us.  If a person, as an adult, responds, they will be baptized into the Church ("Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit...and there were added that day [to the Church] about 3000 souls," Acts 2:38-41).  In Baptism, one receives sanctifying grace in and through the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins - "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name." (Acts 22:16); one becomes a member of the Body of Christ (the Church) - "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body..." (1 Cor 12:13); and we are saved - "Baptism, which corresponds to this [being saved through water] now saves you." 1 Peter 3:20-21.

     At the moment of a person's Baptism, they have been sanctified, they have been washed clean, they have been made holy, they have been saved - "He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by His grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7).  Through the Sacraments, primarily, but also by other means, one is able to increase in grace so that they "With unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another..." (2 Cor 3:18).

     4) However, because God gave man free will, he is able to reject God and the grace of God at any point in his faith journey, through sin.  Some sins are not serious enough to separate one from the Body of Christ, but there are those that are.  We call them mortal sins: "There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that.  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal." (1 John 5:16-17).  These "mortal" sins do not kill the body so much as they kill the soul.  When one is in a state of mortal sin, one needs to take part in the Sacrament of Confession so as to restore the soul's covenant with God...to bring the soul back into communion with the Body of Christ.  "If any one among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20).

     Your "literal key points," #1-4, I would, essentially, agree with.



     Whenever someone says, "I'm not trying to tell you you're wrong...," my first thought is: "They're going to try to tell me I'm wrong."  But, we'll see.  Plus, it doesn't seem to me that he could have acquired the kind of knowledge about the faith that he displays here through "unintentional" learning.  So, I am staying wary, and cautious, in my approach to say the least.

     Okay, 2 parts to my strategy in this response.  Under #1 and #2, I just wanted to let him know that it makes absolutely no difference to me whether he wants to ask questions, challenge or attack my faith, tell me I'm wrong or not.  Regardless of his motivation, as long as I determine that he is actually open to hearing what I have to say - whether he is being friendly or ornery - and that we are having an actual conversation, as opposed to him just preaching at me, then I will be happy to answer his questions.  But, I also wanted to let him know that I would be asking him questions as well.  I always teach people that if you answer a question, you need to ask a question.  Don't always play defense.  Jesus was always on the offensive, even when He was on the defensive. Be offensive (aw-fensive) without being offensive (uh-fensive) - ask questions!

     The second part of my strategy, under #3 and #4, is this: Instead of trying to nitpick a word or a phrase here or there in what he says to make it perfectly acceptable to Catholic ears, I just take what he says as a whole and put it into my words and repeat it back to him.  So, essentially agreeing with what he says, but with wording that is more familiar to me.  If he is trying to lay a trap with a particular word or phrase, then I've taken that away from him by putting things into my own words and then throwing in some Scripture verses to generally back up what I am saying.

    His "literal key points," which are just a summary of what he had just said, I let him know that I "essentially" agree with.  By using the word "essentially," which I use a lot in discussions like this, I give myself some room to maneuver around any traps he might be trying to lay down, should I need to. 



     Okay, Well I'm glad you're here to talk to me no matter my attitude. I stressed my willingness to listen and not to attack, because I've recently just broke off with some Mormons I thought were my friends. I had spent about 5 months with them, learning about their beliefs, and when I finally, after hearing them out on Mormonism, started asking about a few things concerning Salvation, that i was confused about, they promptly called me Hard-Hearted and Close-Minded, and then stopped talking to me.

     So I'm just naturally hesitant to ask anything in the slightest of an off tone, especially by text, as it's tone could be misunderstood.  Okay, well those verses I am familiar with, but I never connected them to water baptism. I'll take a look at them later, and then get back to you on them. :)

     Now, concerning confession, in Matthew and John, Jesus gives the Disciples the Power to Loose and to Bind, and in John specifically, It's phrased as "Who's Sins you forgive are forgiven and Who's Sins you don't Forgive are not", I can't argue Agaist that. It's plain to me, I'll accept it as is.

     My confusion however, is how the Apostles used it, or rather, their lack of usage of it. I've read Acts, and I thought maybe I'd see the Apostles use this power, but I can't find a single reference to this power. That's odd, and I'm genuinely baffled and confused. Like, it's never even alluded to. I mean, they preach Jesus, Repentace and Baptism for the forgiveness of sins, but no one ever comes to them, or the people they Appoint, and ask to confess their Sins.

     Like, whatever happened to it? It's in the Gospels, but nowhere else. Where do the Apostles Hear confessions and declare the forgiveness of those sins just Confessed, or their Successors? I'm really confused here. What's going on? Where did it go?


My Response

     Well, a few things to take note of here:

     1) The Bible was not written as a complete "how to" guide for Christianity.  The Bible was written as an organic outgrowth of the oral teaching that the Apostles were doing.  Jesus gave us a Church and gave His authority and His Holy Spirit to that Church to guide us and teach us.  In Matt 28, Jesus tells the Apostles to make disciples of all nations by teaching them, not by writing a book to give to everyone and let them decide for themselves.  In fact, in that chapter, Jesus tells the Apostles to teach others "to observe all that I have commanded you."  Do you know of a list in the New Testament that tells us ALL that Jesus commanded them?  There isn't one, so one might ask: Why doesn't the Bible give us a list of all the things Jesus commanded the Apostles to teach?

     2) There are a number of mentions of confession of sin in early Christian writings, some of which date to the New Testament era.  These show that the practice was widespread from early on.  Here is a link you might want to check out: https://www.catholic.com/tract/confession

     3) Also, in the New Testament, there are indeed a few direct and indirect references to confession and reconciliation.  Look, for example, at Acts 19:18, 2 Cor 5:18-19, James 5:16, and 1 John 1:9.

    Regarding your experience with the Mormons, I have found in my experiences of dialoguing with a few thousand folks in the last 20 years or so, that there are any number of people out there who like to preach, but only a small percentage who are open to questions - at least, not hard, penetrating questions.  So, I am not surprised by your experience.  But, as I said, you are free to ask me anything, you are free to say whatever you want about the Catholic Church, or even about me personally, but as long as you have a rational question/objection, I will be happy to answer it.

     Now, if you don't mind me asking you a question along the lines of what you asked me: If the correct modus operandi for individual Christians in regard to determining belief and practice is to read the Bible and then decide for themselves, based on their own authority, what is and is not correct Christian doctrine, and what is or is not correct Christian practice, why do we see absolutely no examples of that behavior in the Bible?



     Giving him a big picture view of Catholics and the Bible.  We don't take our beliefs from the New Testament, we put our beliefs into the New Testament back when it was written.  Protestants, by necessity, have to take their beliefs from the Bible because every single Protestant denomination in existence, came into existence, at a minimum, some 1500 years or so after the death of Jesus and the writing of the New Testament.  So we view the Bible vis-a-vis our faith, differently than Protestants do and I want Martin to have some idea of that.

     Also, starting to turn the conversation to where it needs to be - the question of authority.  And, I mention the early Christian writings, not as "authoritative" sources, but just to introduce them into the conversation to see if something useful might come of it.  Then I talk about some Scripture verses that might be alluding to the Sacrament of Confession, but I do not offer them as "proof" of such.

     Finally, I ask a question.  A question about Sola Scriptura, which is, essentially, a question about authority.  If he is confused by there being no references, in his opinion, to anything in the New Testament about confession of sin to a priest - and that affects his belief in that practice - then why isn't he even more confused about there being absolutely no references to individuals sitting down with a copy of the Scriptures to determine for themselves what is or is not correct Christian doctrine and practice in the Bible - New Testament or Old?



Regarding your question, you're kinda assuming Protestants don't have external authorities. First of all, the Bible says to submit to Elders, that's clear, and from the bible, we know that Elders are appointed to teach the word primarily. So It's not just your individual believer under a tree reading their bible, and as for private studies, if one is consistent in their reading of Scripture, they will on their own come to the same conclusion as any other consistent Church leader.

And any disagreements on any particular passage wouldn't be from the text being unclear, but from either or both parties not being consistent in how they read whatever text they are discussing. :)

Hope that clears up your question. Thanks for asking.


My Response

     Okay, I'm going to stop here and let you ponder what your response would be.  There are three or four issues in that short response that you could respond to, but what do you think is the biggest problem with what he says here in terms of the logic imbedded in his response?  Think about it.  I'll be back with Part 3 next week...


Closing Comments

     I hope all of you have a great week!  Remember, God is still on His throne, so don't get caught up in all the misery and hopelessness and despair the media is sending our way...



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Apologetics for the Masses