Apologetics for the Masses #450 - A Facebook Conversation w/a Former Catholic (Part 2)

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Another Facebook conversation with a Protestant - this one an ex-Catholic - who, of course, knows everything there is to know about Catholic teaching and is out there to save us poor, ignorant, Hell-bound Catholics from the horrible eternal fate that awaits us.

General Comments

Hey folks,

A couple of things:

1) I'll be in the Philadelphia area this weekend, at the Malvern Retreat House, for the Catholic Men's Leadership Conference.  If any of you are also planning on being there, please look me up.

2) My book, 
Problems with Protestantism/Questions Protestants Can’t Answer (Applying Simple Logic and Common Sense to Protestant Teaching), is set to be released in September.  I assume they will allow for pre-orders sometime in July or August, so I will keep you up-to-date on that. 


This week's newsletter continues the series we started in the last newsletter, that details some Facebook conversations I've had recently with an ex-Catholic named Jim Anderson.  In the first newsletter of the series, I gave you a brief introduction to his theology and to how he thinks and left you with a "homework" assignment, which was: How would you respond to what Mr. Anderson had to say about salvation and the church?  What line, or lines, of argumentation would you use to attack his arguments?

This week I will re-cap what he had said and how I responded to him, and why I responded as I did, and then get a bit deeper into the conversation.  Down to the line below is from last week, the new material starts immediately below that line.


Jim Anderson
Repent and believe (in Christ alone). That's the gospel. You cannot turn away from sin without the grace and regeneration of God, which you cannot obtain from any human ritual or membership in any particular church.

John Martignoni
Jim Anderson: Isn't repentance a work?

John Martignoni
And, do we not need the church in order to be saved?

Jim Anderson
John Martignoni: "Isn't repentance a work?" No, it is a state actually. Repentance is a change in behavior, in this case from one of a pattern of sinning to one of increasing holiness (which is what sanctification is). No one can truly repent unless it is given by the grace of God. Repentance unto salvation isn't a "get your life in order" effort. It's a "admit you are sinful and deserving of hell, and turn to God alone, to Jesus Christ, for your entire life" thing. I'm phrasing it poorly, no doubt, but no, it is not a "work". Man cannot will himself into repenting absent the saving grace of God.

Jim Anderson
John Martignoni: You also asked "Do we need the church in order to be saved?"  You didn't define "church", but even if you define [it] as the Roman Catholic religious organization, the answer is no. And if you define it correctly, which is the assembly of all saved believers in Christ, the question is moot.


John Martignoni
Oh, so repentance isn't something I "DO"? It's not an ACT of the intellect to recognize that I need to repent and it's not an ACT of the will to actually then repent? It's rather a "state actually"? Well, how does one get into this "state actually"? Is one placed there by God with absolutely no effort on one's part, whatsoever? Tell me, Jim, how does one get into the "state actually" of repentance - is it by something that person does, or by something that God does, or maybe...just maybe...is it by something that both that person and God do? Which would make it a work done by the person by the grace of God.

Regarding your apparent definition of a "work", you seem to think that a work is something that man does without the grace of God. By that definition then nothing is a "work", because there is nothing man cannot do without the grace of God. Man cannot eat without the grace of God. Man cannot sleep without the grace of God. Man cannot walk or talk without the grace of God. Man cannot breathe without the grace of God. So, again, by your definition, nothing is a "work" if a work is an action done without the grace of God.

Which means, your definition of a work, as with pretty much anything you write, is flawed - severely flawed. A work is something that man does that involves a freely willed action on his part. It is always and everywhere done by the grace of God; however, it is not something that is forced upon him by God, nor is it something that is done for him by God.  So, yes, repentance is indeed a "work", because it is something I do. It is an act of my intellect and of my will. It is something I do by the grace of God, but it is indeed something I do, Jesus does not do it for me.

Which means, since you have stated that repentance is necessary for salvation, that you do not actually believe in salvation by faith alone.

My Comments
Protestants have this way of defining terms so that they will fit with their predetermined beliefs, whether those definitions actually make sense or not, and whether or not those definitions are actually found in the Bible (which they never are).  So, always keep in mind that you do not simply allow the Protestant to define terms in any way they so desire. For him to say that repentance is not a work, is an absolutely ridiculous assertion, but one that is necessary in his attempt to preserve some logical consistency in the all-important dogma of salvation by faith alone.  It's the same thing they do with "believing".  "No!" they say, "believing is not a work, it's having faith...it's...it's...well...it's believing!" 

I always define a work as something that I do.  I do it by the grace of God - as everything and anything I do is by the grace of God - but it is something "I" do.  God doesn't make me do it.  God doesn't do it for me.  I do it.  It might just be an act of the intellect and/or an act of the will, but I do it.  I have never had a Protestant challenge me on that definition.  They may ignore my definition of a work, but they have never challenged it head on.  So use that definition in your discussions.  Get them to deny that a work is whatever a person does as opposed to something that God does. Believing is an act of the intellect and of the will, which makes it a work.  John 6:27-29 backs me up on this.  Just so, repentance is an act of the intellect - to know one has done wrong and needs to change - as well as an act of the will - to feel contrition and resolve to make a "change in behavior" and act on that resolve.  All by God's grace, but not forced by God or done for you by God. 

So, from the moment he said, "Repent and believe..." he had contradicted the sacred dogma of Sola Fide, because to repent is a work.  It is our job, as Catholics, to show the contradictions inherent in Protestant belief and to hopefully have the highlighting of those contradictions lead to some serious introspection on the Protestant's part and, hopefully, the planting of seeds.  Even if their 1st response is to deny, to ignore, to get angry, and/or to give you all kinds of grief for daring to suggest that they could be wrong in what they believe, we still gotta toss those seeds out there and pray for the best.

Finally, notice how he defines a "work" as something man does without the grace of God.  By that definition, absolutely nothing we do could be said to be a work, since everything we do is able to be done only by the grace of God.  So, by his definition, there is no such thing as a work, which means salvation is indeed by faith alone, since he has defined works out of existence. 

John Martignoni
Jim, I define "the church" as the Bible defines the church - the Body of Christ. Which means you have answered my question - "Do we need the church in order to be saved? - with either a, "No, you do not need the Body of Christ in order to be saved," or "Whether or not you need the Body of Christ to be saved is a moot question."  In a word, your answer is pathetic. It shows you really have little to no understanding of the Scriptures and their meaning.

My Comments
Again, he comes up with his own definition for "the Church".  His definition is that everyone who has accepted Jesus into their heart as their personaI Lord and Savior, and so is "saved", is a member of the Church.  Baptism has nothing to do with being a member of the Church in Jim Anderson's eyes...regardless of what the Bible says.  What I am trying to do is set it up so as to eventually lead him to a place to get him to realize, if not outright admit, that the Church, being the Body of Christ, is indeed necessary for salvation.  I want to get to a place where I can show him that you cannot cut the head - Jesus - off from the body (as the vast majority of Protestants indeed do) and hope for any good to come of it.  We'll see if I get there.  But, the point is, you don't have to say everything all at once.  Be patient in your dialogues with Protestants.  Let your questions lead them to where you want to take them. 

One thing I didn't do, which looking back now on this conversation I realize I should have done, is to ask him: "Where is that in the Bible?  Give me book, chapter, and verse."  I should have done that for his definition of "repentance" and for his definition of a "work".  I did do it for his definition of "church" (see below).  "Where is that in the Bible?" is a question that Protestants all too often use to hammer Catholics in regard to Catholic teaching.  We Catholics, however, should make that the #1 question we ask of Protestants, because Catholic teaching, in general, can be backed up by Scripture far more readily, and rationally, and coherently, than Protestant teaching ever can be. 

Jim Anderson
I appreciate that you feel the need to insult, but let's instead focus on the topic.  What is the church? Yes, it's the "body of Christ". That is the assembly (the greek word is "ekklesia", as you know) of all saved believers, all those whom God has saved by His grace alone, placing them "in Christ" (2 Cor 5:17).

So, since everyone who is truly in the "church" as defined in the New Testament is already saved, and already in the church. One is not in the church unless one is saved, unless you are talking about a human religious organization, which I believe you are.  Please be polite in your discussion, and confine your comments to scriptural truth. Thank you.

John Martignoni
Actually, I have been polite to you. I have not been polite to your arguments, nor do I feel any need to be, as error has no rights. Your arguments are, as I stated, pathetic and ridiculous. Your theology is unscriptural and contradictory.|

Now, regarding the church, you state that it is "defined" in the New Testament. Please give me book, chapter, and verse where the church is "defined".  Furthermore, regarding the church, if it is nothing more than this amorphous "assembly of all saved believers," then where does one go to "tell it to the church" as required by Jesus in Matthew 18?

And, one more about the church: Is it okay to have conflicting and contradictory doctrines in the church? Yes or no? 

Now, I notice you have this tendency to utterly avoid responding to questions/arguments where your arguments/theology have been shown to be utterly bereft of logic and as lacking any basis in Scripture. But, I will try again to see if you will respond: Is repentance something I DO - an ACT of my intellect and an ACT of my will - or is it something Jesus does for me without any participation on my part? Which is it?

Also, by your definition of a "work" - something a man does on his own without the grace of God - then can you please give me an example of a work?

My Comments
Classic Protestant style of argumentation...avoid direct answers...distract attention away from the questions...pretend to be insulted.  He claims I'm being insulting after he has said, in the very first thing he ever posted on my page on Facebook, that the Catholic Church teaches a false gospel, that Catholic worship is shallow and not a sign of a true repentant and regenerated heart, and that the Catholic Church teaches a false gospel of works, false worship, and an incomplete sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  He also has said that Catholics are, generally, bound for Hell.  It seems he is one of those who, as my mother used to say, "Can dish it out but can't take it."  Sorry, but I will attack your arguments with a vengeance and will give no mercy to false teaching.  As I said, error has no rights.  However, I will never judge a person's heart or condemn them to Hell, as is so often done to Catholics, and as he has basically done.

My strategy here is to repeat the questions that have already been asked, and to throw in one or two more based on his last response.  I also asked about where in the Bible is his definition of "the church".  Give me book, chapter, and verse.  He never will, because he can't - there is no passage in Scripture that defines the church as he has defined it.  If you've asked a question, or questions, that have gone unanswered, keep coming back to them.  Do not let the other person simply avoid those questions.  Ask them again and again. 

As I usually advise, if you ask a question three times and it has gone unanswered, then simply tell the person: "Obviously you are either unable or unwilling to answer these questions.  Since a productive dialogue involves asking questions and getting direct and rational answers to those questions, then this is obviously not a productive dialogue and, therefore, it serves no purpose to continue.  If in the future, however, you wish to continue the dialogue, then simply answer the questions that have been asked and we'll go from there.  Otherwise, I am shaking the dust from my sandals." 

Now, in these dialogues I have in my newsletters, I quite often go more than three rounds of asking the same questions.  I do that solely for the purpose of being able to use these dialogues as teaching tools.  I always say that the one exception to the "Ask a question three times and no more" rule, is if you have an audience.  Why?  Because if you have an audience, the audience will see that the person your dialoguing with is unable to answer your "Catholic" questions - even though they are reasonable questions - and that lack of an answer on the part of the Protestant could potentially result in a seed being planted with one or more persons in the audience. 

Jim Anderson
You said "Furthermore, regarding the church, if it is nothing more than this amorphous "assembly of all saved believers," then where does one go to "tell it to the church" as required by Jesus in Matthew 18?"

There are local assemblies of the universal church, which is as I described, a per scripture. Matthew 18:15-20, as you know, refers to
church discipline. Does your local assembly follow this procedure?

John Martignoni
Where does Matt 18:15-20 say that it "refers to church discipline"? It's about binding and loosing...it's about authority. So, let's say two people disagree as to whether or not homosexuality is okay, or abortion is okay, does it matter which church they "take it to"?

What if I consider that you have sinned against me by saying that Catholicism is false and will lead people to Hell, and I have told you, one on one, that you are wrong (which I have), but you didn't listen to me (which you didn't); then, other witnesses on Facebook told you that you're wrong (which they have), but you didn't listen to them either (which you didn't); so which church should we "tell it to", Jim?|

And, are you ever going to answer my other questions? Are you incapable of answering or simply unwilling? Here they are...again!...in case you've forgotten:

1) Please give me book, chapter, and verse where the church is "defined".
2) Is it okay to have conflicting and contradictory doctrines in the church? Yes or no?
3) Is repentance something I DO - an ACT of my intellect and an ACT of my will - or is it something Jesus does for me without any participation on my part? Which is it?
4) Given your definition of a "work" - something a man does on his own without the grace of God - then can you please give me an example of a work? Is feeding the hungry a work? Is clothing the naked a work?

You know, in previous post to me you said you would be more than happy to discuss scriptural matters - doesn't seem, though, that you're actually all that willing to discuss them, now does it?

My Comments
Notice how he takes what he apparently considers to be a soft question - one that he thinks he actually has an answer to - and responds to that, but continues to ignore the other questions that I've asked?  Why does he ignore those questions?  Because he knows that there is no answer for some of them and there is something inside of him that tells him - either consciously or subconsciously - that he dare not answer the other questions because if he attempts to do so, his theology will be shown to be not only contradictory, but contrary to Scripture.  And he does not want to go there. 

Jim Anderson
1. Matthew 18:15 "Now if your brother sins..."  When one reads the direct context, it is clear this is a process for church discipline. John, check any biblical scholar. This isn't a Catholic thing in any way. It's been the understanding forever.

2. I am happy to answer your questions, one at a time, if you agree, in advance, to discuss these things honestly according to scripture, which is the highest authority (it's from God, of course, so has to be). Will you?

John Martignoni
In other words, Jim, you agree that nowhere does Matt 18:15-20 actually say that it refers to "church discipline," does it? That is an interpretation, correct? Well, I actually agree that it refers to church discipline.  But, do you know that biblical scholars have also interpreted that passage to mean that the church has the power to forgive or retain sin, as well as the power to definitively decide on doctrinal disputes? Do you agree with those interpretations?

And, don't you mean you are happy to answer my questions as long as I agree with your twisted, non-authoritative, private, fallible interpretations of Scripture?

In every conversation I have with you, Jimmy, I keep asking you to give me Scripture to back up what you're saying or to counter what I'm saying, so far you have failed to do so. You want a discussion that is "according to Scripture", yet when I keep asking you for Scripture, you don't produce. 

Answer the questions, Jimmy...quit making excuses!  And, if you're unwilling to answer the questions, then leave. If all you want to do is preach, but you don't want to learn or you don't want to engage in an actual dialogue, then just leave. 

My Comments

He doesn't want a conversation that is "according to Scripture", he wants a conversation that is "according to [Jim Anderson's private fallible interpretation] of Scripture".  Big difference.  Finally got fed up with him and told him to take a hike.  For those who wish to preach alone, and who refuse to listen and to be open to learning and will not give direct answers to direct questions, especially those who are as disingenous as this guy, my patience only goes so far. 

Jim Anderson
Sorry, John. Matt 18:15-20 refers to church disciples, though the words "church discipline" don't appear together in that section of text. This is not controversial. This is not in question. Please don't simply disagree because that's what you feel like doing. But, I wish you well in any case, but will bid you goodbye. I don't see any rational, honest questions for which you desire answers. I only see personal attacks. If you agree to be polite, and you need to say that, I will answer theological questions if I can.

John Martignoni
Of course you don't see any "rational, honest questions," because your theology is not rational nor is your manner of dealing with disagreement honest. I have listed my questions above, #1 - #4, that are based on statements you have made. You won't answer them because you know that you cannot do so in a scripturally and/or logically consistent manner.

So, in order to try and save face and get out of the theological mess you’ve gotten yourself into, you manufacture some excuse about being upset because I'm not being "polite" to you. What a hypocrite you are! Were you being polite to me when you denigrated and lied about my religion? When you told me that "Catholicism teaches a false gospel"? That it involves "false worship"? Or when you straight up lied about what the Church teaches regarding works and salvation? Is that what you consider polite?!

My Comments
Sometimes, when talking to the scribes and Pharisees, they need a good verbal punch in the nose along the lines of what Jesus did in Matthew 23.  'Nuff said...

Closing Comments

I hope all of you have a great week  Please pray for us, we are constantly praying for you.


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Apologetics for the Masses