Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #50

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

Two things: 1) You’re getting this newsletter a little earlier in the day than I usually send it because I am leaving this morning to head over to Atlanta to man a booth at the Eucharistic Congress they have over there this weekend. If any of you are in the Atlanta area and are planning on attending the Congress, please stop by the Bible Christian Society booth and say hello.

2) The following link is to an article I received from one of our readers in Malaysia about the hardships and persecutions Christians face in that country. I hope you will read it and pray for the young lady mentioned, as well as for all the Christians in Malaysia. And I hope you will give thanks to God for the freedoms that we have in this country…at least, for now.



Well, Dr. Joe Mizzi, who will not correspond with me directly, issued a response to Issue #47 of this newsletter. So, I thought I would respond to what he had to say since some of you asked. His response is in italics and my response is in bold and interspersed amongst his comments. You may want to review Issue #47 to get the full background on this.


Dr. Joe Mizzi:

John has extraordinary insights into my motives – if I chose to concentrate on selected issues (for practical reasons and clarity), it is obvious that I ‘can’t answer’ the rest (‘In other words, he can’t answer some of the issues I address, so he ignores them’). The day does not grow old on this side of the world and I’m never late for dinner.

John Martignoni:

Well, actually, I don’t think it takes anything “extraordinary” to know Dr. Mizzi’s motives. He has proved himself time and again as not interested in accurately presenting what Catholics actually teach and believe…he is more than happy to present his biased Protestant version of Catholic teaching as authentic Catholic teaching…and then to make his arguments against this biased Protestant version of Catholic teaching. Hmmm. What could his motive for doing that be?

Regarding not answering my questions. He still hasn’t answered them. He talks all around a couple of the questions, but he doesn’t really answer them. Nor does he mount any specific counters to my arguments. He basically ignores what I say, repeats what he has already said, and says, “See, I have given you Joe’s gospel truth – believe me.” Some very important questions that he completely ignores:

1) By what authority do you claim to have the “truth of the Gospel?”

2) Can you infallibly interpret the Bible? Yes or no?

3) Why is your interpretation of the Gospel more valid than my interpretation, or any one else’s interpretation, for that matter?

Come on, Joe…answer the questions! Please?!

Furthermore, if you read Issue #47, Joe refers to my charge that the belief in “eternal security” or “once saved, always saved,” leads to there being no consequence for sin, as being “utterly slanderous.” Yet, he fails to mention any consequence for sin. Joe, what are the consequences of sin in your theological system?

Comments/Strategy: Folks, this is simply an excellent example of what I always say. If you ask questions, you will not get answers. You will get excuses for why they can’t answer. You will get called names. You will be told your questions are ridiculous. You will be ignored. You will have someone talk all around your question without answering it….but you won’t get a direct answer to your question. Why? Because they don’t have one!

Dr. Joe Mizzi

1. Mortal Sin

Let’s start with the ‘proof text’ for the doctrine of venial/mortal sins. Does First John 5 really teach the distinction between ‘mortal’ and ‘venial’ sins?

John begins with a Catholic dogma – then turns to the Bible for support. His prolonged argument leads to this conclusion: ‘We should always pray that the sinner repent from his sin, no matter what the sin is, but we cannot have the same confidence that our petition for the forgiveness of someone’s sins will be answered in situations of sin unto death, as we can have in other situations where the sin is not unto death’ (Emphasis mine). According to John Martignoni, we should always pray no matter what the sin is, even if it is sin unto death.

I invite the reader to go back to the Bible; ask yourself if the Apostle John tells us to pray for those who commit sin unto death.

‘If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death’ (1 John 5:16, 17).

You need to make a crucial decision whether to follow John Martignoni and the Catechism of the Catholic Church or John the Apostle and the Holy Bible.

John Martignoni:

What is the distinction between venial and mortal sin in Catholic teaching? Is it the distinction between serious sin and non-serious sin, as Joe Mizzi claims it to be on his website (Joe, that’s one of those distortions of Catholic teaching that we’ve been talking about), or is it the distinction between sin that is “unto death” and sin that is “not unto death”? In Catholic teaching, the difference between mortal sin and venial sin is simply that mortal sin “destroys charity in the heart of man,” in other words, it kills the life of God within a person’s soul, and venial sin, while it “allows charity to subsist,” nevertheless “offends and wounds it.” (Catechism, paragraph 1855.)

Joe Mizzi claims that all sin is the same…that there isn’t such a thing as sin that is unto death and sin that is not unto death as Catholics teach. I merely pointed out that the Bible, in 1 John 5:16-17 states precisely that there are sins unto death (Catholics use the term “mortal” for these sins) and that there are sins not unto death (Catholics use the term “venial” for these sins). Plus, if you read his arguments on this point in Issue #47, and his arguments above, well – is it just me – or does he seem to have changed up his arguments a bit? He seems less than consistent here. Plus, also note, that he never bothers to admit that the Scripture states quite plainly that there are two different kinds of sin. He makes his interpretation of Scripture (which he claims to be the infallible “truth of the gospel”), and then proceeds to dismiss my statements because they disagree with his interpretation of the Bible…not because they disagree with the Bible itself. Very important point to remember: Joe dismisses my arguments because they disagree with his interpretation of the Bible. By what authority does he do that? By his own authority.

If you wish to interpret this verse in a literalist manner, without looking at the context, as Joe is doing, you need to realize that John never prohibits a person for praying for someone in sin. He simply does not tell one that he has to do so in the case of “sin unto death.” Nowhere is there a prohibition against praying for anyone, is there, Joe?

Now, I would ask: What exactly is a “sin unto death”, Joe? And, who is it that you will not pray for? You honestly believe John is telling people to categorically not pray for certain sinners, even though Scripture says to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you? Do you believe God really doesn’t want us to pray for certain people when Scripture tells us that God wants all men to be saved? Please, Joe, do give us your infallible interpretation of these two verses.

Furthermore, I do not do as Joe says. I do not begin with a Catholic dogma and then turn to the Bible for support, at least, not for my sake or to try and “prove” this teaching. I am not a believer in sola scriptura. I begin with Church teaching, and then, for Joe’s sake, and for the sake of others like him who believe in the false dogma of Sola Scriptura, I show where the Bible very clearly says what the Church teaches…that there are two types of sin – mortal and non-mortal. Joe, does the Bible say there is mortal sin and non-mortal sin or not? Yes or no? If you just give me a one word answer on this, you won’t be late for dinner.

And, I am not asking anyone to take my word over the word of the Bible. I’m simply asking Joe to answer my questions and I’m asking by what authority Joe declares his interpretation of the Bible to be superior to my interpretation of the Bible?

One last question on this issue of Purgatory: Joe, what does the Church, the Church of Matthew 16 and Matthew 18 and 1 Tim 3:15 teach on the subject of Purgatory? I know what you teach. What does the Church teach?

Dr. Joe Mizzi

2. How many Works?

Let me try to answer one of the questions that I ‘can’t answer’. John asks: ‘how many works a Sola Fide believer has to do to ‘know’ that he truly has a ‘saving’ faith and not a mere ‘intellectual’ faith?’

We are convinced that the Bible insists that we are saved by grace through faith, not of works. That’s what we mean by Sola Fide. But that is not all. To say that we are saved ‘not of works’ does not imply that there is no place whatsoever for works in the life of the saved. The Bible also insists that we are saved ‘unto good works’. In other words God saves sinners that they may do good works. If they don’t, it shows that they are not saved in the first place.

But ‘how many works?’ John insists. ‘How many works does one have to do in order to know that they indeed have a saving faith? 1? 10? 100?’

What a legalistic way of looking at the love relationship between God and his children! It is like asking me, ‘You claim that your good deeds to your wife shows your marriage commitment. But how many gifts, kisses, good deeds and sacrifices do you need to do to know that your marriage is for real? How many, 1? 10? 100?’

I’d say, there is no limit to the acts of love I ought to do to my wife; notwithstanding, they do really testify that our marriage is real!

The Bible describes the life of true believers: ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law’ (Galatians 5:22, 23). Considering the infinite love of Christ manifest on the cross for us, there’s no limit to the good deeds we ought to do. Yet the godly deeds testify that our faith is genuine. As the apostle James say, ‘Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works’ (James 2:18).

John Martignoni:

Again, Joe doesn’t answer the question. What does he say in response? He says I am using a “legalistic way” of looking at things. Yet, what does he do when talking about the Catholic Faith and the belief that works are a necessary part of salvation? He looks at it in a legalistic way. Here is a quote from him:

“Since a Catholic has to earn salvation by his works, and since he has to make up for his sins by prayers and religion, it is understandable that he never feels secure of heaven. Have I done enough? Would there be enough ‘good’ on one side of the scale to overcome the ‘bad’ on the other side?”

He’s saying we can never be “secure of heaven” because we never know if we’ve done enough works. We never know if the good “side of the scale” outweighs the bad “side of the scale.” Can any Catholic tell me where the Church ever teaches such a thing? Joe, can you tell me where the Church teaches such a thing? No, you can’t, yet you present that as Catholic belief. Has anyone ever heard a priest say that we get to Heaven as long as we do 1001 good acts vs. 1000 bad acts? In other words, it’s okay for Joe Mizzi to look at Catholic teaching in a legalistic way, but it’s not okay for Catholics to look at his teaching in a legalistic way? Gee, that’s fair.

But, the problem is, the Protestant teaching on these matters of salvation by faith alone and once saved always saved, are as legalistic as it gets. What do they say, “They are ‘forensically’ declared innocent by God of their sins.” What does that word “forensically” mean? It means as in a LEGAL proceeding. Protestants believe they are LEGALLY declared innocent, even though they aren’t really innocent. Jesus took the rap for them, they believe that, so God bangs His gavel and declares them innocent…in a LEGAL sense. And, everytime they sin after that, God, again, LEGALLY declares them innocent. So, who is being legalistic here?

What’s more, he completely avoids the point I was making. And, in fact, he actually, albeit unwittingly, makes my point for me. What does he say above, “God saves sinners that they may do good works. If they don’t, it shows that they are not saved in the first place.” And, in Issue #47, he said this: ”To be sure there are self-deceived ‘Christians’ who use the blessed biblical truth to wallow in sin.”

Well, what is he saying with those two comments? You have to do works in order to know you’re saved. So, isn’t the question of “how many works” a logical one? What if a person does works for two years, and then they stop doing works? Are they still saved? Were they ever saved? What if a person does works for 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, and then stops? Are they still saved? Were they ever saved? Answer the questions, Joe!

In other words, the question of how many works is most relevant indeed to Joe’s theology. And, it is quite obvious that one cannot know for sure that one is saved up until the moment of death in this theology. How can one be sure that one is really saved…how can one be sure that he has a saving faith, instead of just a dead, non-saving intellectual faith…before they die? I mean, how can one know that they will continue doing good works next year and the year after? Joe himself said that there are “self-deceived ‘Christians.’” What a revealing comment! Joe admits that there are folks out there who are deceiving themselves into thinking they are Christians, but they aren’t really Christians. And the reason they are deceiving themselves is because of Joe’s dogmas of Sola Fide and Once Saved Always Saved. Joe actually does say some meaningful things now and then. (By the way, don’t expect to see Joe taking these dogmas to task because of folks incorrectly interpreting them – as he sees it; yet, he is more than happy to take Catholic teachings to task when folks incorrectly interpret them.) Well, Joe, the obvious question is: How do you know you’re not one of those self-deceived “Christians”? You can’t be absolutely sure you’re not, can you? I mean, how many “self-deceived Christians” believe they are indeed self-deceived? None, right? So, how do you know you aren’t one of the self-deceived which you readily admit are out there?

Now, to use Joe’s marriage analogy against him. Joe, when you walked down the aisle with your bride, and you committed yourselves to each other before God and man, were you married or not? By Joe’s analogy, the only way you can know you truly were married is if you do “good works” for your spouse. If you don’t do good works for your spouse, then you weren’t really married, according to Joe’s analogy. Where does the Bible say or even imply such a thing, Joe? If you never do any good works for your spouse, were you not really married? What if you do good works for your spouse for two years and then end up hating her? Are you still married? Were you ever married? Do you not see the inherent problems with your theology, Joe? You cannot be secure that you are going to Heaven under your theological system. You can deceive yourself into thinking you are secure, but you really aren’t secure. And, how does divorce fit into this analogy, Joe? If someone divorces, was he ever married? Is he still married but he just thinks he isn’t?

One last thing. Joe quotes from James 2:18. Do you think he would ever quote from James 2:24 or James 2:26? Don’t hold your breath on that one.

Dr. Joe Mizzi

3. Willful Blindness

John’s reply is quite predictable. As he often does, his argument goes off on a tangent. He makes a big deal about things I have left out, or things I never said or should have said. He does so, of course, to consider the ‘context’, or so he says, but he uses this tactic to confuse the issue.

John Martignoni:

You know, in a strange sort of way, you kind of have to admire a man who admits that he views an attempt to put things in context as going “off on a tangent.” Of course context is tangential for Dr. Mizzi – he has demonstrated time and again that it is basically irrelevant to him. At least, when speaking about what Catholics write and say. And, once again, as we will see, he does not address my arguments. He merely repeats what he said before, and simply dismisses my arguments with a wave of his hand.

Dr. Joe Mizzi:

I wrote that Catholics ‘make up’ for sins by prayer and religion. John cannot categorically deny that statement because the Catechism teaches the same thing in almost identical words (the sinner must ‘make amends for the sin; he must ‘make satisfaction for’ or ‘expiate’ his sins’).

John Martignoni:

This is where Joe really has a problem…where his predispositions really do not serve him well. Joe is predisposed to interpret the Catechism as he wants to believe it is, rather than trying to understand it as a Catholic understands it. He reads it with a literalist mindset…in other words, he doesn’t care about the intent of the author, he just looks at the words and interprets them as he wants to, and then presents his interpretations as authentic Catholic teaching. Joe, please understand this: I do not categorically deny anything that the Catechism says. I categorically deny Joe Mizzi’s biased Protestant interpretation of what the Catechism says.

Dr. Joe Mizzi:

So what does John do? He quotes the Catechism (1460) which states that Christ ‘alone expiated our sins once for all.’ The emphasis is on the ‘alone’!

That means that Joe Mizzi is misrepresenting Catholic teaching. Joe Mizzi says that Catholics must do penance to expiate their sins. But the Catholic Church teaches that Christ alone expiated our sins… right?

No, unfortunately there is a slight problem. It is not Joe Mizzi who says that Catholics must expiate their sins. The same Catechism that states that Christ alone expiated our sins also says that the sinner must expiate his sins (1459). That’s talking out of both sides of your mouth! What the Catholic Church gives with one hand, it quickly takes away with the other.

John Martignoni:

This is a perfect example of what I was just saying. Joe takes the words from the Catechism that says Catholics must do penance and expiate their sins and he interprets that as meaning that we basically take away our own sins by our penance and expiation. Furthermore, he acknowledges what we say, about how an individual Catholic must expiate his sins, but that it is Jesus Christ “alone” who expiated our sins, but then says, “See, they’re talking out of both sides of their mouths.” As if Catholics world-wide are just a bunch of blind dumb jackasses who just can’t think, because if we could think we would see the obvious duplicity right here in the Catechism! We just need someone like Dr. Joe Mizzi to open our eyes for us.

Joe interprets the Catechism as he sees it from his biased, and, may I add, bigoted, Protestant point of view. He cares not a whit about how a Catholic understands these things. As justified members of the Body of Christ, we become partakers of the divine nature (2 Ptr 1:4). We are not just legally declared innocent (as Joe believes), we are actually made innocent by the grace of God. As such, we are one with Christ when we act in accord with His will. We have a share in His being. We act by, with, and through His grace. We are one with Him as a husband and wife are one. The two have become one.

So, is it talking out of both sides of our mouth when we say that we must expiate our sins, but that Christ alone expiates sins? No, because we are members of Christ. Just so in the Bible, we are told that we have no other foundation than Christ (1 Cor 3:11). Yet, we are otherwise told that the apostles and prophets are the foundation (Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14). So, is Scripture speaking out of both sides of its mouth? It is if you use Joe Mizzi’s logic. Also, we are told we have only one Father (Mt 23:9), yet my dad was my father, too. I am the father of four. Is Dr. Mizzi a father? I’ll guess that he is. But, how is that so, since there is only one Father? And, Scripture itself mentions other fathers (in both the physical and spiritual sense). How can this be? Is Scripture talking out of both sides of its mouth? It is if you use Joe Mizzi’s logic.

But, we know better, don’t we? As members of Christ’s Body, the apostles and prophets share in Jesus’ role as foundation in a special way. So, Jesus is the only foundation, but it is also proper to say the apostles and prophets serve as foundation. I, as do all fathers, share in God’s fatherhood in a special way. So, it is proper to say that there is one Father, but it is also proper to call me a father. Just so, we can expiate our sins, but it is Christ alone Who expiates our sins. How so? Because we expiate our sins only as members of His Body. Only through Him, with Him, and in Him can we do so. So, the Catechism does not show the Church to be talking out of both sides of its mouth, unless, of course, Joe wants to admit that God, through the Bible, is talking out of both sides of His mouth.

Dr. Joe Mizzi

But Joe, I can almost hear John cry: You are missing the point! As Catholics we believe that we can’t do anything apart from Christ. Why do you always leave that out?

Let me give you John’s exact words:

‘He always leaves Christ out of Catholic teaching on salvation. All over his website he leaves the very clear impression that Catholics, in and of themselves, by their own works and prayers, apart from Christ, have to save themselves. Nowhere, that I know of, does he even try to present the teachings of the Church as I gave them to him in our debate (see the ‘Debate’ page on my website), and as are clearly presented in the teachings of the Council of Trent and the Catechism.’

Do I really?! Do I really ‘always’ leave Christ out of the Catholic teaching on salvation? I will ask you the very same question that I had asked you in our debate: ‘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?’

[I beseech the reader to read at least this part of the debate: http://www.justforcatholics.org/martignoni-mizzi.htm#2a]

John you did not listen then; you are not listening now. You are lying about me, John, and one day you will have to give account before God.

You’re throwing out the same allegation over and over again even though I have categorically refuted it. That is not a reasonable discussion. It’s like playing ping pong, and I have no time to waste. Enough have been written for the reader to make a reasonable judgment.

John Martignoni:

Yes, I believe enough has be written for the reader to make a reasonable judgment. Problem is, most of the time the reader won’t see most of what has been written on Joe’s website. Did you notice that Joe points to the debate he and I had in order to “prove” that he doesn’t misrepresent Catholic teaching. In other words, Joe is not pointing you to anything on his website that existed before his debate with me to prove his point, is he? No, he is pointing to our debate. A debate which you kind of have to look for on his site if you want to read it. So, in our debate he said certain things, and that is all well and good, but the rest of his website is exactly as I claim it to be…one big misrepresentation of Catholic beliefs and teachings.

For example: Joe declares here that he teaches that Catholicism “emphasizes” God’s grace. Well, let’s take a quote from his website and you be the judge: “Superficially, Roman Catholicism also teaches that justification comes from the grace of God. Sadly, what Rome gives with one hand, it takes away with the other. For grace is conceived as God’s help to perform good works, which ultimately merit eternal life.” Tell me, Joe, is that what you call “emphasizing” the importance of God’s grace in Catholic teaching?

He also says that he clarified that good works are done by God’s help and that they are performed through Jesus Christ. Another quote from Joe’s website: “ Are you justified by the grace of God? If you’re relying on your good works, as Roman Catholicism teaches, then you are still a stranger to grace.” Where in this do you clarify that we teach good works by the grace of God performed by, through, and with Christ as members of His Body? Who is it that is talking out of both sides of his mouth?

Dr. Joe Mizzi:

John would not answer the question about heaven or hell. I will answer plainly. When my pilgrimage on earth is done, on that same day I will be with Christ my Savior. With all the redeemed, I will be saved from the wrath to come. I know that I have eternal life.

My desire and prayer for the Catholic readers of this letter is that you too may come to this conviction and joy. May God bless you.

John Martignoni:

Actually, I did answer the question. I answered the question as Jesus answered many questions put to Him…with a question. Actually, with two questions: 1) Who decides who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell? God. 2) Who knows the mind of God? No one. Joe Mizzi, however, believes “Joe Mizzi” is the answer to both of those questions. He declares something that even the Apostle Paul did not have the audacity to do. He declares himself saved. As Paul says in 1 Cor 4:4-5, “I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me [Are you reading this, Joe?]. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, Who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.” Joe has already judged himself, even though Paul says not to judge before “the time.” And, even though Paul says it is the Lord who judges, not us. So, I want ask the reader to consider that every thing Joe Mizzi writes is coming from someone who deliberately and conspicuously goes against these words of Scripture.

In Conclusion

One last thing. I said above that if you ask questions, you won’t get answers. Well, I could almost hear Raymond Woodward (Issues #41-42, 44, and 48) screaming at me that he had indeed answered my questions. To his credit, he did answer a few of them…although, I couldn’t make sense out of some of the answers. But, the ones that I could make sense out of, he, unfortunately for him, answered incorrectly, at least in light of Scripture. For example, I asked if you must eat the body and drink the blood of the Lord in order to have eternal life. He said no. The bible says yes (John 6:51-58). I asked if one could lose his salvation by not caring for his family. He said no. The bible says yes (1 Tim 5:8). I asked if we will be judged by what we do. He said no. The bible says yes (Rom 2:6-7 and elsewhere). So, I have to give him credit in the fact that he did answer some of them. Although, he never did touch my questions on James 2:24 and 2:26.

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Apologetics for the Masses