Apologetics for the Masses #372 - Dialogue With A Protestant "Seeker" (Part 3)

Bible Christian Society

Social Media - Please Share This Newsletter On...

Please share this newsletter with folks on the various social media platforms you frequent...thanks!


Dialogue With A Protestant "Seeker" (Part 3)



http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter/unsubscribe - to unsubscribe from this newsletter

http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter - to subscribe to this newsletter


General Comments

Hey folks,

     I want to let you know about my podcast - Balaam's RideBalaam's Ride is now part of the lineup for WCAT Radio (https://wcatradio.com/), which is an apostolate of Holy Apostles College and Seminary (HACS).  I haven't kicked it off just yet - hopefully in July - but I do have a platform and I do have some episodes posted there. 

     "How can you have episodes posted if you haven't started the podcast?" you might ask.  Well, the "episodes" that have been posted so far, are my talks - 8 of them.  The rest will be posted over the next few weeks as a lead up to the new podcast.  So, in addition to being able to listen and download my talks from our website - Bible Christian Society - you can now do so from all of the platforms mentioned below. 

     And, here are the aforementioned platforms for listening to my talks (again, the same ones that are on the website), and to the Balaam's Ride  podcast once it gets up and running.  The main link is:  https://www.spreaker.com/show/balaams-ride.  

     But, if you regularly listen to podcasts via other platforms, and would prefer to do the same with this one, here are the links to the various platforms that Balaam's Ride can currently be found on:

     1) Spotify - spotify:show:0psCzmwomoLEAdXp1d18jW

     2) Apple Podcasts - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/balaams-ride/id1517336602?uo=4

     3) Podchaser - https://www.podchaser.com/podcasts/balaams-ride-1254001

     4) Podcast Addict - https://podplayer.net/podcast/3013438

     5) Deezer - https://www.deezer.com/show/1347422

     6) JioSaavn - https://www.jiosaavn.com/shows/Balaams-Ride\/1\/m2t9f6Ha2LQ_

     7) Google Podcasts - 


      8) Castbox - https://castbox.fm/channel/id3005742




     Continuing my conversation with "Martin," a Protestant who says he wants to be challenged in his faith and claims to be interested and open to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and wants to learn more about them.  I will start off with the last response of Martin that I had published in the previous week's newsletter - http://biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter/502-apologetics-for-the-masses-371-dialogue-with-a-protestant-seeker-part-2 - give my response to that, and then go on from there. 

     At the end of the last newsletter, Martin was responding to my question: "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?" 

     (FYI: This one is a little longer than the last two, but I hope you think it is worth the investment of time and, I'll balance it out with a shorter one next week...)




     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

     Well, no...I'm not assuming that Protestants don't have external authorities.  I know they have pastors and deacons and theologians and such.  And some of the older Protestant denominations have creeds and catechisms that they follow.  However, I have met hundreds of Protestants who, if they have a disagreement with what their church teaches in regard to the interpretation of a particular passage, or passages, of Scripture, then they do not believe they are under the authority of the church in such a way that they have to accept what the church teaches as opposed to what they believe based upon their private interpretation.  And, most of those hundreds have left one or more churches because they disagreed with what their pastor/church was teaching.  In other words, their private interpretation of Scripture trumped their church's interpretations of Scripture.  And there was no one to decide who was being consistent in their reading of Scripture and who wasn't.

     Which brings me to the next point I would like to make - your statement that "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."  I hope you won't take offense at this, but that is nothing more than your opinion.  And that is an opinion that is not backed up by Scripture nor by experience.  Why are there thousands of Protestant denominations if "consistent Church leaders" will all come to the same conclusion in regard to scriptural interpretation?  And, if there are doctrinal disagreements based on different interpretations of Scripture, who gets to decide which Church leaders are being consistent and which are not?

     Let me give you some examples to illustrate what I mean.  Infant baptism.  There are denominations that say absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, infants should not be baptized.  Then there are those who say, yes, infants should be baptized, but it is just a symbolic gesture.  Then there are those who say infants should be baptized and that they are regenerated in the Spirit through Baptism.  And they all say their teaching is based on the Scriptures.  Who is right?  Who is wrong?  Who gets to decide? 

     Also, I have dialogued with Protestants who believe in Sola Fide and those who don't.  I have dialogued with Protestants who believe in once saved always saved and those who don't.  Those who believe in the Rapture and those who don't.  Those who believe in a pre-Tribulation Rapture, those who believe in a mid-Tribulation Rapture, those who believe in a post-Tribulation Rapture and those who believe in more than one Rapture.  And I could go on and on about the many doctrinal and dogmatic differences in the various Protestant faith traditions.  Can you tell me which ones are being consistent in their reading of Scripture and which ones are not?  Which ones are "observing all that [Jesus] commanded [the Apostles]?"  How do you know?  Who decides?  What authority is there within Protestantism that can authoritatively decide a doctrinal dispute between Christians?    

     All of that is background for an explanation about the source and structure of authority within the Catholic Church.  It is not about your interpretation of the Bible or my interpretation.  It is not about which pastor or bishop or church leader supposedly has a "consistent" reading of Scripture.  It's about a Church that was founded by Jesus Christ, was given the authority of Jesus Christ Himself, which is guided by the Holy Spirit, and can then use that authority to decide doctrinal disputes and to accurately steer the faithful in their search for truth...the truth that will make them free (John 8:32).

     All of that points to the absolute necessity of a teaching Church.  The Church that Jesus founded, and that He sent the Holy Spirit to guide, and that acts with His authority.

     Now, I haven't been very hospitable by dominating the last couple of emails and haven't given you much of a chance to ask any questions.  So, I pointed out a few places in the New Testament that referred directly or indirectly to confession of sin.  Did you have any follow up questions on that or questions on another topic or topics?



     Okay, a few different points in what he said that one could respond to.  The first is this thing about the "external authorities" in Protestantism  and submitting to your elders.  I could have asked about what exactly does it mean, in his mind, to "submit" to your elders and if he, in fact, has ever submitted to the elders when it comes to a disagreement over interpretation of Scripture with the elders.  I didn't do that, but I did touch on the fact that Protestants, in general, will not "submit" to their elders if their elders have an interpretation of this or that passage of the Bible that is different than their private interpretation of that passage.  That is why we have so many denominations. 

     The "authority" of the elders is only authoritative as long as those over whom they have this supposed "authority," allow it to be.  "You have authority over me as long as I allow you to."  "I'll believe your interpretation of Scripture as long as it agrees with my interpretation of Scripture."  That's not true authority.  The individual's private interpretation of Scripture almost always, in my experience, takes precedence over a denomination's, or a pastor's, or a theologian's interpretation of Scripture.  In other words, Protestants don't really have any "external authorities" when it comes to the interpretation of the Bible.

     Secondly, he implies that there are no "unclear" texts in the Bible, even though the Bible says there are things in the Bible that are difficult to understand.  You could have focused on that point and given some Scripture verses, especially 2 Peter 3:16.

     But, I thought the most profitable line of discussion would be to talk about this concept of one reading Scripture in a "consistent" manner.  This is, essentially, a question of authority.  Deeply imbedded in that concept of reading Scripture in a "consistent" manner - which he apparently does not realize at all - is the necessity of having a hard and fast standard, some objective benchmark, some infallible authority that can inform you as to who is, or is not, in fact being "consistent" in their reading of Scripture.  If you don't have some authority to decide, then it is your opinion vs. my opinion in any disagreement as to the authentic interpretation of the Bible and we can go round and round and round three ways until Sunday until we simply, "agree to disagree".  Which means, no one has any way of actually knowing the truth with certainty. 

     And this claim of his that any "Church leader" who reads Scripture in a consistent manner "will on their own come to the same conclusion," is completely blown apart by the reality of tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of denominations.  So, I wanted to point out that reality does not jive with his words. 

     Several things points I try to always hammer home with a Protestant when it comes to authority:

1) Your interpretation of Scripture is just that...YOUR interpretation of Scripture.  It is your "opinion" as to what this or that Bible passage means.

2) You know, what you just said there, that's not what the Bible actually says.  That's what you "think" the Bible says, in your opinion.

3) Who has the authority, in Protestantism, to decide disputes over different interpretations of the Bible?

4) All the different and contradictory doctrines and dogmas in Protestantism.

5) That Jesus founded a church and He gave the Holy Spirit to guide that church.  In other words, there is an authoritative church out there...somewhere.  Which one is it?

     I also try to mention that my opinion is, essentially, worth just as much as his opinion, and vice versa, when it comes to deciding authentic Christian doctrine and practice, so that I can say that I am giving equal weight to both.  I.e., neither one of us gets to authoritatively decide such things based on our private opinions/interpretations.



     So basically, because we don't have certainty that the Bible gives us all we need, and people are faulty in their interpretation of what it does say, there must be someone to provide what the Bible might lack, and tell us which interpretation is correct concerning what it does contain, and protestations don't have a particular person to do so, but the Catholic church does, the Pope, we need the Pope as found only in the Roman Catholic Church, Okay. :)

     Now, I need to call you out. You're sidetracking the issue. I want to stay topic, and the topic I'm asking about is concerning confession. Yes, Scripture is important and it's correct interpretation is important to discuss and how it's found, but we're losing sight of what I started out asking about.

     And you can dismiss me all you want, calling my responses "Opinions" and dismissing my interpretations as mere "Personal Interpretation", and I can do the same to you. But I'm not going to do that, I'm not here for a cheap shot fire-fight. I'm here to discuss our positions and understand each other. Now if you're just gonna dismiss all i say as a lone protestants "Personal Interpretation and Opinion", please do further me to someone else.

     So if you'll bear with me, let's get back to the topic of Confession. And if you wanna challenge me on My mere "Opinions" and "Personal Interpretations" of Scripture, save it for later.

     Now I will go back to the thread where we were talking about Confession, please, let's stay on that.  My question was why the New Testament as a whole doesn't seem to show any examples of Confessionals being used. This is not a side doctrine, Confession, beside Baptism itself and Perfect Contrition, Is, The Way, to receive Forgiveness of Sins.

     As to church fathers, at least the early ones, AD. 60-250 that is, they are important, but many of them didn't have a full Canon of the New Testament or the Old, and if by chance they did, they were a bit busy being killed day and night. So that's an important thing to keep in mind. And as far as I'm concerned, the Church Fathers, are only relevant if they are in line with Scripture. That's the Standard I hold them, and anyone else, myself included, to.

     As for Acts 19:18, the context is Paul in Ephesus, he's been spending months Preaching Christ at the Synagogues, showing Jesus to be the Promised Christ. After a brief and hilarious account of some Jewish men trying to do Exorcisms in Paul's and Jesus's Name, and being chased away by the demon, it says

     "And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices, while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. So they calculated their value and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. In this way the word of the Lord spread and prevailed."   Acts 19:18 - 20 CSB

     What it looks like to me here, is that it's simply a general "Here's how I used to live, but now I follow Jesus." Type of Confession. I've done this to my elder when I first met him. It's more like a public confession of Faith.

     As for 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, I think it's clear on it's own.
"Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us."  2 Corinthians 5:18 - 19 CSB

     Paul tells us what the "Ministry of Reconciliation" is, he says "That is" to signify the definition, and says "In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them" and that that's the message Committed to them. In Acts, we see the Apostles preach exactly that message, through Christ's Life, Death and Resurrection, there is Salvation.

     "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect."  James 5:16 CSB

     He's just mentioned Elders anointing and praying for the sick, but here he seems to switch to all believers, praying for each other and confessing to each other. It's about asking for general prayers and talking to each other about one's problems. Again, Confession here is talked of in a general sense.

     "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  1 John 1:9 CSB

     This one is too vague, it doesn't talk of the mode of Confession. It could be applied to any view of Confession.

     All in all, none of these even imply that it's talking about going to a priest or anyone in authority, and telling them of your sins, and them declaring those Sins Forgiven.

     I'm very sorry, i don't mean to push you away or to be stubborn, I just genuinely don't see it.  


My Response

     Okay, first of all, just so you know there was nothing adversarial about it, my pointing out that several of your conclusions/arguments are nothing more than your opinions, is not the same as “dismissing” your opinion, nor are they “cheap shots”.  What I am doing is simply demonstrating that certain things you are saying are not actually what Scripture says, they are how you personally and privately interpret what Scripture says.  And, that distinction is very important for purposes of my answering your questions - whether on Confession or any other topic - and also important if you truly want to learn about the Catholic Church and its teachings.  Which is why I was pointing it out.  Your opinions are actually very important, as I will explain below.

     And that is also why I asked you the question I did about why do we see absolutely no examples in Scripture of private interpretation of Scripture being used, or even recommended, as the proper way to determine doctrine and practice.  I will also get into that more in my answer to your questions about Confession.

     Plus, I understand the sentiment behind what you are saying about “sidetracking the issue,” but that is not actually the case.  The question of authority is the foundational issue behind every other issue concerning Christian doctrine and practice.  Once again, though, I will explain that more as I answer your questions concerning Confession.

     Now, on to Confession.  First, the Church Fathers and early Christian writing.  Your initial comment is exceedingly important: “...many of them didn’t have a full Canon of the New Testament or the Old...”  Which begs the question: If they didn’t have a full canon, then how did they know the faith?  From whom did they learn the faith without having a full canon of Scripture?  They knew it because the Church that Jesus founded taught it to them.  So, when we see in the writings of the Didache, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Dionysius, Cyprian, Callistus, and others about confession of sin, exercise of penance, and phrases such as, “...before their conscience has been purged...at the hand of the priest,” and more along those lines, then we need to realize that this was a ubiquitous practice being taught by the Church throughout Christendom from early on.

     And these early Christian writings that speak of confessional practices were followed up by the likes of Ambrose, Augustine, Pacian, Chrysostom, Athanasius, and others in the 3rd and 4th centuries who said the same things as the earlier writers.

     But, what may be the most telling evidence of all, that the confession of sin to a priest was a practice of the Church from its beginning, is that nowhere do we find any arguments from any early writers protesting the “introduction” of the practice of confession of sin to the priest.  If this practice was something new that the Church introduced in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, or later centuries, there would have been those protesting the introduction of this novel “sacrament” into the Church.  But, you don’t find any such writings.  We have writings of folks protesting all sorts of teachings of the Church in the early centuries, but none protesting the introduction of a new practice of confessing your sins to a priest.

     One last comment here on the Church Fathers, which goes back to my initial comments.  You stated: “...the Church Fathers, are only relevant if they are in line with Scripture. That's the Standard I hold them, and anyone else, myself included, to.”  Well, my question is, who gets to decide if and when the Church Fathers are “in line with Scripture” or not?  Are you the judge of whether or not something written by someone who learned the faith at the feet of the Apostle John, or maybe someone who learned the faith at the feet of a disciple of the Apostle of John, is “in line with Scripture” or not?  And, would you ever judge yourself to not be “in line with Scripture”?

     Now, regarding Scripture.  Acts 19:18.  You stated: “What it looks like to me here, is that it's simply a general, ‘Here's how I used to live, but now I follow Jesus.’  Type of Confession. I've done this to my elder when I first met him. It's more like a public confession of Faith.”

     I hope you won’t get upset when I say this, but that is not what the passage says.  That is what you are implying the passage says, right?  Notice your wording: “What it looks like to me...”  And what it “looks like” to you is influenced by a pre-existing bias against confession of sin to a priest.  Now, you might say, “Well, John, when reading this passage you have a pre-existing bias towards confession of sin to a priest.”  Indeed I do!  But here’s the critical difference.  When reading this passage, it makes absolutely no difference to my belief in the Sacrament of Confession whether these folks were confessing their sins to a priest -  ala the Sacrament of Confession - or just making a “public confession of Faith” as you contend.  It makes no difference at all to me.  Why?  Because I do not rely on my private, fallible interpretation of that passage of Scripture to help me determine my beliefs.  But, your private, fallible interpretation of that passage seems to be influencing your beliefs on this topic.  Yet, again, there are absolutely no examples in Scripture of private interpretation of Scripture being used, or even recommended, as the proper way to determine doctrine and practice.

     That is why I said above that your opinions are very important.  Because your belief system, and correct me if I’m wrong here, seems to be based heavily on your opinions regarding the correct interpretation of Scripture.  Mine are not.  I was, however, once where you are.  When I was out of the Church, I would have to determine “truth” for myself, based on my inherently limited and fallible knowledge and understanding of Scripture, of Greek, of Hebrew, of Church history, and so on, as to every single issue that came up.  Is abortion really wrong?  What about contraception?  Is the Eucharist real or merely a symbol?  Does something really happen in Baptism, or is it just symbolic?  Is sex outside of marriage a sin, even if you’re in love?  And, if it is a sin, does it really matter to my salvation?  And on and on and on.  I was, essentially, the Pope of my own private little church.  That is a heavy burden to bear.

     That’s why I said the issue of authority was not a “sidetrack.”  As you said in an earlier email, you can call things I say just “my opinion” as I have done with you.  And you would, under your theology, be absolutely right!  Which is why I said this issue is important for you to understand Catholic teaching - you and I can swap our private, fallible, non-authoritative opinions as to what this or that passage of Scripture is saying about Confession all day long.  And it will get us absolutely nowhere.  So I would ask: Is this how Jesus wants His followers to figure out what the truth is?  The truth they need to know to be set free?  Or, would He have left some sort of authority that could decide disputes/arguments/disagreements/differences of opinion between His followers?  

     Moving on to 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, and Paul’s “ministry of reconciliation.”  You said, “I think it's clear on it's own.”  I would agree with you, it is clear on its own.  Yet, my conclusion is the exact opposite of yours.  So, again, we are left with the question: Who is being “consistent” in their interpretation of Scripture? And, who gets to decide?

     Why do I come to a different conclusion than you?  Because the passage says Jesus is the one Who was doing the reconciling.  So, if Jesus is the one doing the reconciling, then how can it be said that Paul has a “ministry of reconciliation”.  “Well,” you might say, “because he is preaching the ‘message’ of reconciliation.”  But, let’s look very closely here.  Reconciliation obviously involves the forgiveness of sin: “...not counting their trespasses against them...” (verse 19).  Good so far.  Who, though, is Paul currently writing to?  He is writing to the “church” at Corinth.  He is writing to, by Protestant theology, saved believers.  Those who have already been reconciled to God through Jesus.  And he says to them, “So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.  We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”  Why did he say that to people who had already been reconciled to God?  God, through the minister of reconciliation, is beseeching already “saved” believers, to be reconciled to Him.  That’s kind of strange.  Until we remember that reconciliation involves the forgiveness of sins. So, God, through the minister of reconciliation, is beseeching those who have already been baptized to be reconciled to him through the forgiveness of their sins - sins they must have committed since becoming Christian.  And He is using Paul as the “minister” of that reconciliation.  Just the way the Catholic Church teaches regarding the Sacrament of Confession.

     James 5:16.  You stated the following: “He's just mentioned Elders anointing and praying for the sick, but here he seems to switch to all believers, praying for each other and confessing to each other. It's about asking for general prayers and talking to each other about one's problems. Again, Confession here is talked of in a general sense.”

     “Here he seems to switch to all believers.”  I have to disagree with your interpretation.  Why would these people all be confessing their sins to one another?  Do you do that in your church?  I don't know of any church that does that.  Let’s look at verses 14-15: “Call for the elders...and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Then, beginning of verse 16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another...”  “Therefore” is immediately preceded by calling for the elders and having one’s sins forgiven and immediately followed by “confess your sins to one another.”  Why, if Jesus gave the authority to forgive sins to the Church, as we see in John 20 and Matthew 9, would people not confess their sins to those to whom that authority was given?  Why would they confess their sins to anyone and everyone in general?  Does everyone have the “authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matt 9:6-8)?  Your interpretation makes sense only if everyone has been given such authority or if no one has been given such authority.  And the Bible does not support either of those positions.

     “It’s about...talking to each other about one’s problems.”  Talk to one another about your problems so that you may be healed of sickness and have your sins forgiven?  There is nothing in that passage that states anything remotely along those lines.  And there is nothing that suggests a “switch” from a focus on the elders to a focus on “all believers”.  It “seems” that way to you because, again, of a pre-existing bias in that direction.  The context of the passage does not support such a reading.

     To close, there is no reason to apologize for disagreeing with me and I do not believe you are being “stubborn”.  Trust me, no offense is taken, and none is intended.

     Look, the way I see it is like this: You and I have been given a book and we would both like to better understand that book.  Your methodology is a course of self-study.  My methodology is to be tutored by the author of the book.

     Jesus founded a church (Matt 16:16-18).  It is a church that one can go to for an authoritative decision when disputes between its members arise (Matt 18:15-17).  It is a church that upholds the truth and acts as a foundation for the truth (1 Tim 3:15).  It is a church that has the authority to bind and loose things on earth that will then by bound and loosed in heaven (Matt 16:19; Matt 18:18).  It is a church that calls councils to decide theological issues and makes binding declarations to all its members (Acts 15:6-29).  It is a church that is guided by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).  The only question for me, and I think it is truly the fundamental question for all Christians, is...which church is that?  So, from a Catholic standpoint, the question of whether confession of sins to a priest is mentioned in the New Testament or not is absolutely immaterial to whether or not it is an authentic teaching of the church.



     (I am going to skip the Strategy section for now, because if I didn't, then this newsletter would be really long.  But, as you can see, it is all about authority!)



     Okay then, so the Church can tell us what Scripture means? And what The Faith overall is, yes?


My Response

     That was his entire response.  Didn't answer a single question I asked and didn't respond to a single argument I made.  I'm going to stop here and let you think about what you would say in reply to him.


Closing Comments

     Just a hint about next week's newsletter...somebody gets pretty hot under the collar...so stay tuned.  Hope all of you have a great week!



     The Bible Christian Society is a non-profit organization that relies solely on your support to bring the truths of the Catholic Faith to tens of thousands of people throughout the U.S. and all around the world each year.  If you would like to help us do what we do, you can donate online at:


or send a check to:

Bible Christian Society

PO Box 424

Pleasant Grove, AL  35127.


     Anything you can do is greatly appreciated!




http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter/unsubscribe - to unsubscribe from this newsletter

http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter - to subscribe to this newsletter


Social Media - Please Share This Newsletter On...

Apologetics for the Masses