Problems with Protestantism, #1: Decapitating Jesus

This week, Martignoni begins his “Protestant Problems” with the provocatively-titled chapter heading, “Decapitating Jesus.”

Martignoni’s Argument

Martignoni accuses Protestants of “decapitating Jesus!” That’s quite a charge! By that Martignoni means that Protestants separate Jesus from the church, that they claim the church and its sacraments aren’t necessary for salvation, only “the amorphous concept of accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, regardless of what church they belong to.” Martignoni claims that church membership/participation is absolutely necessary for salvation. His argument follows below with his accompanying proof-texts:

  1. Grace, including salvific grace, comes to people from the fullness of Jesus Christ (John 1:16).
  2. The church is the body and fullness of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23).
  3. Jesus is Head of all rule and authority (Col. 2:9-10).
  4. Therefore all rule and authority, including the authority (keys) in regards to salvation, resides in the church.

And not just any church. Martignoni argues that ONLY the Roman Catholic church has demonstrated the following for 2000 years:

  • Dispensed God’s grace
  • Was the channel for fullness of life including salvation
  • Wielded the authority of Jesus Christ
  • Bound and loosed on earth what was bound and loosed in Heaven
  • Possessed the gift of infallibility to guide the faithful

None of the Protestant churches can claim these attributes/abilities over the course of 2000 years, states Martignoni, therefore the RCC is the Body of Christ and the only legitimate and authoritative channel/means to salvation. Membership and participation in the RCC is essential to salvation, claims Martignoni.

My Comments
Well, a few initial points here: 1) This is a rather poor summary of the chapter.  Chapter 1 was not an argument for the Catholic Church, per se, as much as it was an argument against the Protestant church.  But, even before getting into Catholic vs. Protestant, it was primarily an argument simply for the necessity of the Church, founded by Jesus - whichever church that might be - to the process of salvation. And, it was an argument about how, within Protestantism, they separate Jesus from the Church.  He starts off by mentioning that, but then ignores that point in the rest of his summary until the very end.

2) In this summary he has me saying a number of things that I never said.  For instance: a) I did not once, in the entire chapter, mention the word "sacraments".  b) Nor did I ever "claim" that "church membership/participation is absolutely necessary for salvation."  c) Nor did I ever use the term "salvific grace".  d) Nor did I ever argue "
that ONLY the Roman Catholic church has demonstrated the following for 2000 years..."  e) Nor did I ever say, "Membership and participation in the RCC is essential to salvation." 

What Tom is doing here, is twisting my arguments into arguments that I did not make.  He starts off mentioning my main argument, but then quickly veers away from it.  That is going to allow him, as we will see, to make a rebuttal against arguments I never made. 

My Rebuttal

The early church gradually became institutionalized according to the Roman imperial model. The New Testament Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone was replaced with sacramentalism by the increasingly powerful clergy class. While Scripture was initially recognized as authoritative, the ascendant hierarchy began claiming equal status. Untethered from the boundaries of Scripture, the hierarchy introduced a myriad of “oral traditions” as equally authoritative. By the 16th century, the Roman Catholic church was a totally corrupt institution with a spiritually deadly false gospel of salvation by sacramentalism and merit.

My Comments
What do we see here?  A rather skewed, and completely unsupported by anything other than Tom's opinion, anti-Catholic rendition of early church history.  But, at least, albeit inadvertently, he admits that the Catholic Church was indeed the "early church" and was the church for the first 1500 years of Christianity.  So, on that, we can agree. 

Also, he apparently believes Jesus was a liar.  In Matt 16, Jesus Himself promises that the "gates of hell" will not prevail against His church.  But, if the church Jesus founded went off the rails, as Tom ExCatholic4Christ says it did, then the gates of hell did indeed prevail against His church.  So, what do you want to believe...the Word of God...or the Word of Tom? 

One other thing, he doesn't seem to be familiar with the Scripture passage where Paul tells the Thessalonians, "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter," (2 Thess 2:15), which shows us that Paul believed certain oral traditions were "equally authoritative" to the written traditions (Scripture), even if Tom does not believe it.  Nor, apparently, is Tom familiar with 1 Thess 2:13, which says this: " And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers," which tells us that the oral traditions the Thessalonians "heard" from Paul, were indeed the Word of God. I.e., they were "authoritative".

The early Reformers sought to return the church to the Scriptures as the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice. Scripture states of itself:

  • “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  • “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” – Proverbs 30:5-6
  • “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” – John 5:39
  • But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” – Matthew 4:4
  • “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.” – 2 Peter 1:20
  • “And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” – Mark 7:6-8

Scripture attests of itself that is the sole authority for Christian faith and practice. Martignoni argues that the RCC’s antiquity is proof of its legitimacy, but Hinduism, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism claim older pedigrees. What then is the key? God is eternal and His Word is eternal (Matthew 24:35). Martignoni and I can dicker all day, but where is truth? In the Catholic church? No, God’s Word is truth (John 17:17).

My Comments
Do you see what he did here?  The ol' Protestant bait and switch.  Chapter 1 of my book talks about the necessity of the Church, the Body of Christ, as Scripture itself attests, to one's salvation, and so what does he do in his "rebuttal"?  He starts talking about Sola Scriptura!  His "rebuttal" does not pertain to the arguments I made in the chapter.  The ironic thing is, though, that not only is he engaging in an argument on a topic that I did not address in Chapter 1, but he is actually doing the very thing that Chapter 1 of the book says Protestants do - he is separating Jesus from the Church.  He is pitting the Word of God against the Body of Christ - the Church.  Essentially what he is saying is: "Martignoni is saying the Church is necessary for salvation, but I'm saying only the Word of God is necessary for salvation."  He is separating the head from the body.  He is decapitating Jesus!

Not to mention the fact that his proof texts for Sola Scriptura are pretty...well...pathetic.  I guess he doesn't realize that the first passage he cites - 2 Tim 3:16-17 - is talking about the Old Testament.  You just have to go back to verse 15 to see that that's the case.  Is he arguing for Sola Old Testament Scriptura?  Secondly, there isn't a single Sola Scriptura argument, or anything even close, in any of the other verses he cites.

He also completely distorts my argument about the "antiquity" of the Catholic Church.  To throw in the antiquity of Hinduism, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism to counter my claim that the Catholic Church is the oldest Christian church, is patently absurd.  Yes, all 3 of those religions are older than Christianity.  But none of them are Christian!  None of them were founded by Christ!  None of them are a "church"!  My argument was very clear and unambiguous - the Church founded by Jesus Christ has to be 2000-years old.  Period!  What the age of Hinduism, Judaism, and Zoroastianism has to do with which church is the oldest Christian church is beyond me. 

Two last points here: 1) He mentions the "early [so-called] Reformers" returning "
the church to the Scriptures as the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice."  Yet, how much do you want to bet that he disagrees with the "early Reformers" on major doctrinal issues?  In other words, the early "Reformers" were bringing the church back to their private fallible interpretations of Scripture as the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice, while Tom ExCatholic4Christ is attempting to bring the church back to his private fallible interpretations of Scripure as the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice - the Word of Tom.

2) I would ask Tom ExCatholic4Christ to please give me the verse of the Bible - book, chapter, and verse - where the Bible "attests of itself that [it] is the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice"?  And I don't want a verse that the Word of Tom interprets to mean that, I want a verse that actually says that.  After all, as he cited above, "Do
not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” – Proverbs 30:5-6."  Guess what?  He won't be able to do it because no such verse exists. 

There are two glaring issues that conservative Catholic apologist Martignoni surely won’t address in this book-length attack on Protestantism:

  • The RCC officially recognizes all religions and even “moral” atheism as legitimate pathways to God (Nostra aetate, 1965), so why is Martignoni assailing Protestantism as if it’s 1517? He’s out of step with his post-conciliar church, which has devolved into semi-Universalism.
  • The RCC’s magisterium and sacred oral traditions have proven to be fraudulent and unreliable over the centuries. Conservative Catholics, especially from the EWTN camp like Martignoni, oppose the current pope, Jorge “Francis” Bergoglio, for his liberal reforms, including the lifting of the ban on sacraments for remarried divorcees (Amoris laetitia, 2016) and for authorizing priestly blessings of same-sex couples (Fiducia supplicans, 2023). In one of his recent newsletters (see here), Martignoni states that he won’t commit to whether pope Francis is a heretic or not, which is a cowardly way of saying he is.

My Comments
Why would I address things in my book that have no basis in fact.  For example, the Vatican II document, Nostra aetate, in no way, shape, or form "recognizes all religions and even “moral” atheism as legitimate pathways to God."  That is a complete fabrication.  Either he has never actually read the document, or he is not all that well versed in the English language.  Nostra aetate does indeed say there are aspects of truth in other religions, but it very clearly states that Jesus Christ alone is "the way, the truth, and the life".  And, as far as I can remember, it says nothing at all about "moral" atheism.  That is just a flat out lie on the part of Tom ExCatholic4Christ.

Secondly, no, nothing about the Catholic Church's Magisterium and Sacred Tradition have "proven fraudulent and unreliable over the centuries."  What "proof" does he offer?  None!  Again, assertions with no evidence.  Simply the flawed, biased, and uniformed opinions of Tom ExCatholic4Christ who apparently has quite the axe to grind with the Catholic Church. 

A few more lies from Tom - the Catholic Church has not lifted the ban on sacraments for remarried divorcees, nor has it formally recognized same-sex couples as being morally legitimate, which is what he is implying with his statement about the blessing of same-sex couples.  Please give me the exact passage from
Amoris laetitia where the ban is lifted.  And, if he had actually read the other document that he cites (Fiducia supplicans), he would know that it says the Church does not recognize the legitimacy of same-sex relationships.  That such relationships are, in fact, sinful.  However, it allows for the blessing of the individuals involved in such relationships so that them may receive the grace to follow God's will for their lives. 

Finally, he calls me a coward for not saying whether Pope Francis is a heretic or not.  I believe I was very clear in my newsletter, which he read but obviously did not understand, that the document, Fiducia supplicans, is not dealing with doctrine. The Pope himself says that. Also, I have never read anything from this Pope that I would consider heretical.  I hold out the possibility that he may indeed be a heretic, as some have claimed, but I will not judge him, nor anyone, of being guilty of heresy until I have heard it from their own mouth.  So, Tom ExCatholic4Christ's comments are way off base.  He should apologize to me, but I won't hold my breath on that one.  However, his comments do fit perfectly with a particular Scripture verse: "For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged." (Matt 7:2).

Scripture, God’s Holy Word, is the only infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice. Protestants haven’t decapitated Jesus, but the Roman Catholic church has undermined God’s Word with its fraudulent magisterium and “sacred” oral traditions. While this chapter mainly concerns itself with authority, Martignoni does touch upon the issue of salvation. We’ll be discussing that critical subject in depth next week.

My Comments
See what he did here?  He swings back around to the original topic - Protestants decapitating Jesus - even though he has actually been arguing Sola Scriptura throughout this supposed "rebuttal".  So, he starts off by mentioning the topic and main focus of Chapter 1, and he closes by mentioning the topic of Chapter 1, but switches to another topic - Sola Scriptura - throughout the main body of the rebuttal.  In other words, he didn't rebut anything.  But, by mentioning "decapitating Jesus" in his opening and closing sentences, he tries to make you think he did.  That's pretty pathetic. 

What he did do, though, is decapitate Jesus by pitting Scripture against the Church.  He proved exactly what I was saying in Chapter 1 of my book.  Thank you, Tom ExCatholic4Christ, for that validation.