To me, this exchange has highlighted the horrific error of the protestant heresy: Its de facto belief in the supremacy of each individual will. Make sure you read that sentence carefully. I typed "will", not "conscience". My heretic brothers and sisters pay lip service to conscience [as they have at least since Luther] when they really believe in the primacy of their own defective wills. This is why every Tom, Dick, and Darrell who enjoys a particular sin simply finds a "minister" who will let him do it "in good conscience" [masturbation, contraception, abortion, divorce, and adultery, for example] or, failing that, starts his own "church".
"Christian" heresy: 33,000 denominations and counting!
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Well, it's hard to believe, but this is Issue #300 of Apologetics for the Masses. I think when I started the newsletter - about 12-13 years ago or so - we might have had around 1000 subscribers by the end of the first year. Now we're up to almost 35,000. We reach people in every state and about 80 countries that I know of, at last count. I want to thank all of you for your very kind support over the years.
I've always thought of this newsletter as a means to encourage you to go out and evangelize by helping you to be better prepared for the questions you were, and are, getting from non-Catholic Christians, atheists, nominal Catholics, and so on. In that regard, I would like to ask you a question: If I were to do a newsletter every so often that was aimed specifically at non-Catholics, that addressed their concerns about a particular doctrine of the Church - the pope, Mary, praying to the saints, Purgatory, etc. - in a way that didn't include debating someone on the topic but was just a straightforward, "This is how Catholics look at [pick a doctrine] and why we believe the way we do...," would that be something that you would be comfortable forwarding to your non-Catholic friends? I'm looking for ways to not only prepare folks to evangelize, but to give them an opportunity to actually evangelize.
I guess what I'm saying is, if I take the time to do it, will you actually make use of it by sending it out to people that maybe you wouldn't normally send this newsletter to? Let me know what you think. And be honest...
Okay, wrapping up my dialogue with anti-Catholic Tony Thorne (see previous newsletters:
This week I will be commenting on the responses he made to the last 5 of the 10 points that I made to him regarding chapter 3 of Romans (you can see the first 5 in last week's newsletter). They are not in the form of a response to him because he withdrew from the field of battle before I ever responded to him on these particular points. So, I'm going to post each of my initial points, then his response to those points, and then my comments on his responses. And then I'll give a little summary of the conversation and the points I was trying to make with it.
#6: If you want the context of this entire passage from Romans 3, you need to look to the Old Testament so that you don’t “topicalize.” In Romans 3:10-12, Paul is quoting from Psalm 14 and/or Psalm 53. In those Psalms, Paul states there is none that do good, no not one; that “all” have gone astray; all have fallen away. So, does that mean every single person? No, because the context of Psalms 14 and 53 is that there are the evildoers, the sons of men - those who deny God - and there are the people of God, the generation of the righteous. And it is about those who deny God that the psalmist says “all” have gone astray. In other words, the Old Testament, biblical-wide context for this passage of Romans, is that the word “all” simply does not mean every single person ever. If you miss the Old Testament context of the passage, then you miss the New Testament context of the passage, which you have done.
I gave you the context in the answer to your first rabbit trail. Remember, you are not in control here. I don't adhere to daddy johns methodology, and quite frankly I think your a terrible bible expositor.
Ad hominem über alles.
Sometimes, no comment is needed. I will simply let his "argument" speak for itself.
#7: In Luke, chapter 1, verse 6, it states, “And [Elizabeth and Zechariah - John the Baptist’s parents] were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” So, if Elizabeth and Zechariah were blameless in “ALL” of the Lord’s commandments and ordinances, do you contend that they had sinned?
They were both righteous before God Not as the Pharisees, only righteous before men, but in the sight of God, who sees the heart, and whose judgment is according to truth; and therefore were not justified by the deeds of the law; for by them no man can be justified in the sight of God; but were made righteous through the righteousness of Christ, by which the saints were made righteous before the coming of Christ, as those after it: see ( Acts 15:11 ) ( Revelation 13:8 ) . God beheld them in his Son, as clothed with that righteousness he engaged to bring in, and as cleansed from all sin in that blood of his which was to be shed: and they appeared to him, and in the eye of his justice, and according to his law, righteous persons: though this character may also regard the internal holiness of their hearts, and the truth and sincerity of grace in them: which God, who trieth the hearts and reins of the children of men, knew, took notice of, and bore testimony to: as likewise their holy, upright walk and conversation before men, and which was observed by God, and acceptable to him, though imperfect, as arising from a principle of grace, being performed in the faith and fear of him, and with a view to his glory, and for the sake, and through the righteousness of his Son.
My first question back to Tony, if he were still responding to me, would be: Since you admit to not being infallible, will you agree that what you just said could be wrong? And, of course, we all know that he would never admit to that. Fallible in theory, infallible in practice. My second question to Tony would be: Where does the Bible say all of that stuff that you just said about Elizabeth and Zechariah? Answer: Nowhere does it say what he said. He just made all of that up.
By the way, did you notice that he never answered my question? This is a common thing that folks do when they can't answer a straightforward question in a straightforward manner because, if they did, then it would put the lie to their particular belief system. All I asked Tony was, essentially, "Did Elizabeth and Zechariah sin?" All he had to do was say, "Yes," or "No." Well, he can't say, "No," because that would upset his theological apple cart that ALL have sinned. But, he can't really say, "Yes," either, because how does he explain that the Bible says they walked in "all the commandments AND ordinances of the Lord BLAMELESS?" Doesn't blameless mean without sin? Either way, he has a problem.
So, what does he do? He answers a question that was never asked. He starts talking about salvation not coming through the law but by grace. Great. But, if Elizabeth and Zechariah were blameless in ALL of the Lord's commandments and ordinances (and we know ALL means every single one of them that has ever existed, right?), then the question is: Did they ever sin? He can't answer directly because he can't explain away the words "ALL"and "BLAMELESS".
#8: John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit his entire life, even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). Do you contend that he sinned?
All have sinned
1. (Romans 3:9-10)--"What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10as it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one."
2. (Romans 3:23)--"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
3. (Psalm 14:3)--"They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one."
All have not sinned
1. (Job 1:1)--"There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job, and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil."
2. (Genesis 7:1)--"Then the Lord said to Noah, "Enter the ark, you and all your household; for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time."
3. (Luke 1:5-6)--"In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6And they were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord."
The Bible clearly teaches that all people have sinned--except Jesus (1 Peter 2:22). Romans 3:23 clearly condemns all under sin. But when it mentions people like Job, Noah, Zacharias, and Elizabeth as people who were "blameless" and "righteous," it is not saying that they are not sinners. It is saying that they were godly people, who kept the commandments of God; and in that sense, they were righteous. But of course, we realize that no one can keep the commandments of God perfectly which is why all people are deserving of damnation (Eph. 2:3), and why we need a savior. If righteousness can come through the Law, then Christ died needlessly (Gal. 2:21).
I love how he gives verses supporting both the "All have sinned" and the "All have not sinned" sides and then states - clearly, unequivocally, and apparently infallibly - that the Bible "clearly" teaches all have sinned. He then goes on with more of the Law vs. grace argument...which is not at all pertinent to the question I asked, which is, essentially: Can a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit sin? The word is "filled." The Holy Spirit is all in him, with him, and through him. Filled! If he is filled with God, where is the room for sin?
And, here is the other thing Tony needs to consider: If a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit can sin - as Tony apparently believes - then how easy must it be for a person who is not filled with the Holy Spirit, but simply "guided" by the Holy Spirit, to wrongly interpret the Bible when they read it? I mean, if a person can act against the Holy Spirit - even when He "fills" their entire being - and sin; then how easy it must be to simply make a mistake when you are being guided - from the outside - by the Holy Spirit. In other words, being guided by the Holy Spirit when you are reading the Bible would guarantee nothing at all in terms of correct interpretation.
Did you notice how tangled up Tony gets in his own words? Because he's making this stuff up as he goes, he tends to contradict himself. Noah, Zechariah, Elizabeth, and so on are blameless and righteous and godly, but, of course, they are still sinners. So, we now have various categories of sinners, thanks to Tony. We have righteous sinners, and blameless sinners, and godly sinners. Ever heard of a blameless sinner? Do you see how people, when they rely on their own fallible opinions to form their own personal belief system, can really get twisted around in a hurry and say things that don't make a whole lot of sense?
One last thought on this, do you see where Tony states that "no one can keep the commandments of God perfectly?" I guess he has never read that verse of Scripture that states, "For all things are possible with God." Tony limits what God can do and he makes God conform to what Tony believes, rather than conforming what Tony believes to God. Plus, how does that statement fit with Elizabeth and Zechariah being blamelessin keeping ALL of God's commandments and ordinances?
#9: Have babies sinned?
We cannot simply assume that children are “innocent” and are therefore exempt from the penalties of sin. The Bible teaches clearly that infants are in a state of sin and need to be regenerated. They, like all humanity, can be saved only through Christ. Ps. 51:5 — “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” John 3:6 — “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”
Technically, Tony is correct. Every human being is brought into this world in a state of original sin and, therefore, needs to be regenerated, or born again, in Christ. Which is exactly what happens in Baptism, and which is why Catholics baptize babies. Tony would, apparently, believe that any child who dies before they are capable of even speaking, much less of understanding who Jesus is and accepting Him into their hearts as their "personal Lord and Savior," is bound for Hell. That there is no way for them to be saved until the reach the age of reason. How very sad. But, at least he is being consistent.
However, once again, he did not answer the question. The question is: Have babies sinned? Since to commit a sin requires knowledge of good and evil, and an act of the will, babies cannot sin. They are born into a state of original sin, but that is not a personal sin that they have committed. So, the only rational and reasonable answer to my question is, "No," babies have not sinned. But, he can't answer that way because it would blow up his interpretation of Romans 3:23.
Now, #10, to answer your question about Mary in a simple and direct manner, per your request - I believe Mary was sinless her entire life because the Church founded by Jesus Christ - and guided by the Holy Spirit - which is the pillar and ground of the truth, tells me so. And, the Word of God supports that teaching 100%. You believe she sinned based on your fallible, man-made, non-authoritative, private interpretation of the Bible. Who should I believe - the Church founded by Jesus, or you?
Again please, show me this teaching that doesn't exist!
Many sincere Catholic people believe in the sinless Mary image, of the mother of Jesus because that is taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What a shock it is to read something entirely different about her in the Bible. The Catholic sinless Mary is not the Mary of the Catholic Bible! Scripture reveals that everyone, except the Lord Jesus, has sinned. Jesus was sinless (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5) and he alone was sinless:
First things first. Matthew 22:29 But Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.
If we read "something entirely different" about Mary in the Bible, as Tony says we do, then I would expect to find passages that talked about Mary doing something sinful, right? So, exactly where in the Bible do we read that Mary commits a sin? Well, we don't. What do we read, though? We see in Genesis 3:15 that God puts "enmity" between "the woman" and Satan. What woman is that? The woman whose "seed" [Jesus] will crush the head of the serpent. Mary. If there is enmity between Mary and Satan - enmity put there by God Almighty Himself - then how can we say Mary ever sinned? Because if she sinned, that would mean Mary had taken Satan's side...no more enmity.
And, in Revelation 12:13-17, we see the dragon [Satan] pursuing "the woman" but he doesn't ever catch her because God, by a special grace, keeps her out of Satan's clutches. What woman is that? The woman who brought forth the male child that was to rule all the nations with a rod of iron (Rev 12:5). Well, what woman brought forth that child [Jesus]? Mary. So, if Satan nevers catches Mary, how can someone say she sinned? If she had sinned, wouldn't that be a good argument for saying he had caught her?
We also read that "all generations" will call Mary "blessed" and that she is "blessed" among women. Well, if Eve was created without sin, then in order for Mary to be more blessed than Eve, wouldn't she also have to be created without sin?
Finally, Tony's quote of Matthew 22:29 is most appropriate. Tony understands neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. After all, he doesn't believe God could grant someone the grace necessary to be conceived without sin and to live their entire lives without committing a sin. He believes it is not possible for someone to keep the commandments of God perfectly, yet, the Bible tells us all things are indeed possible with God.
Okay, what has been the purpose of all of this going round and round with Tony? I wanted to do two things: 1) Show you a way to plant a seed with someone in regards to the Catholic belief in the sinlessness of Mary; and 2) Show you to what lengths some Protestants will go to in order to keep from admitting they are wrong...or that there is even just a chance they could be wrong.
1) In order to "prove," from the Bible, that Mary did indeed commit a sin, the Protestant will almost always go, first and foremost, to Romans 3:23 - "For allhave sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The argument is that "all" means absolutely every human being who has ever lived, and Mary is a human being who lived, so Mary sinned. Period. End of story.
My questions to Tony were meant to show that "all" is not necessarily an absolute. The first question to him, is the first one I ask anyone who tries to use Rom 3:23 to "prove" that Mary sinned, was: "Are you seeking God?" Every Christian I have ever asked that question of has replied in the affirmative. "Yes, I am seeking God." I then take them to Rom 3:11 and show them that they are contradicting Scripture because Scripture states that "no one" is seeking God. The Bible says "no one." And, if "all" is an absolute, then "no one" is an absolute. So, going by how this person interprets the Bible - their methodology! - then either this person is wrong when they say they are seeking God, or the Bible is wrong to say no one is seeking God. It has to be one or the other.
Or, maybe there is a third possibility. Maybe their way of interpreting the Bible isn't quite right. Maybe "no one" is not an absolute. Which means maybe "all" is not an absolute. Which means maybe, just maybe, what Catholics teach could possibly be true...possibly. That's where the seed is planted. When you can get them to either realize that they have a consistency problem - unless they want to admit that they are not seeking God - which means that there is at least a possibility that "all" isn't necessarily an absolute.
This is why I also bring up the examples of Elizabeth and Zechariah and John the Baptist. I'm not saying that they were necessarily sinless, and neither does the Church say it as far as I know, but the Bible seems to give a strong indication in that direction. And these folks go by the Bible and the Bible alone, so make them explain how Elizabeth and Zechariah were blameless if "all" have sinned. And how John the Baptist, being filled with the Holy Spirit, could sin. Ask, ask, ask, and make them defend, defend, defend.
Also, the verse from Matthew 3 - verse 5 - which states that allJudea went out to see John the Baptist and allthe region around the Jordan River did as well. And verse 6 says they were all baptized by John. Ask folks if "all" is an absolute here. Ask them if "all" means absolutely everyone in Judea and the region around the Jordan. Common sense of course tells you that it's not. But, if they say, "No," then, once again, they have a consistency problem. They take "all" as an absolute in one verse, but not in another. However, if they say, "Yes," then they have an even bigger problem. You see, in Luke 7:29-30, the Bible tells us that the Pharisees and the lawyers were not baptized by John. So, Matthew 3:5-6 says "all," but Luke 7:29-30 says not all. Which means, "all," as used in Matthew 3:5, does not mean absolutely everyone. Very interesting. We didn't get to see how Tony would deal with that particular dilemma, but I guarantee it would be to switch the subject and use a lot of words to say something that had nothing to do with the question at hand. That is his modus operandi. As it is of many who attack Catholic teaching.
2) The other point I wanted to make, which is why I stayed with Tony for so long, was to show you to what lengths an anti-Catholic like Tony will go to keep from having to admit that they just might be wrong in what they believe - either about their own beliefs or about what they believe of Catholic teaching. Did he ever respond to a direct question with a direct answer? I don't think so. Did he have to invent a whole lot of stuff that is nowhere found in the Bible to try and prove his points? Yes indeed. Did he have to twist and distort Scripture to get it to say what he wants it to say and to avoid the obvious meanings of passages that do not fit his theology? Yes indeed.
The main point in my discussion with Tony - over and over again - was that if "all" is an absolute "all" in Romans 3:23, then "no one" has to be an absolute "no one" in Romans 3:11. You can't have it both ways. Yet, he wanted it both ways so badly that he went to what I would call extreme ends - twisting and contorting logic and Scripture and plain ol' common sense - to avoid admitting that he was being inconsistent in his interpretation of this passage and to avoid admitting that his interpretation could be wrong. He wouldn't even admit the possibility that he could be wrong!
Now, did Tony admit that he was not infallible? Yes he did. Good for him. But, as I've stated before, every single Protestant will admit that they are not infallible, but then they will rarely admit, when you ask them, that something they said about their interpretation of the Bible could actually be wrong. Fallible in theory, infallible in practice. To admit that you are not infallible means that you could make a mistake when it comes to something like interpreting the Bible all by yourself, without any reference to any authority outside of your own intellect and will. Yet, it absolutely amazes me how many people have admitted to me that they are not infallible when it comes to interpreting the Bible, and then in the very next breath they claim they are guided by the Holy Spirit in their interpretation of the Bible. And they do not see the inherent contradiction in those two statements.
So, the moral of the story is: You can, with just a little common sense and some simple logic, plant a seed or two with folks on this whole sinlessness of Mary issue. You don't need to be a theologian to do it.
The other moral of the story is: There are lots and lots of Tony's out there - not necessarily as ill-mannered and ill-tempered - and you will run across them time and time again when defending your faith. Do not waste an undue amount of time with them, unless, of course, you have an audience. My general rule of thumb is to have 3 exchanges, and in each exchange you should be asking a question or two - and in exchange #2 repeat any unanswered questions from exchange #1, and do likewise in exchange #3 - and if none of your questions have been answered directly and rationally after the third go-round, then simply say, "Thanks, but no thanks," and shake the dust from your shoes and move on.
If there is an audience, you can go another round or two so that they can see the Catholic answering questions, but having none of their questions answered. That quite often has an impact on those who are not directly involved in the exchange. But, even then, I wouldn't go more than another round or two.
Finally, one last observation. Over the last few weeks I've had folks write to me to say they think it's much better to bring up other Scripture verses and passages in regard to Mary to "prove" that Mary was without sin and that I should have said this or that to Tony instead of doing what I did. To those who did such, all I have to say is, "Folks, one size does not fit all." I am just showing you what I do when Romans 3:23 is brought up. If you want to, you can trade Bible verses all day long with someone...that's fine. My approach here is to simply try and show the illogic and/or inconsistency in how they use and interpet a particular Scripture verse or verses. Because, if you can, with just a little common sense, break down the logic behind someone else's argument, you can start planting seeds.
Okay, next newsletter, new topic...
I hope all of you have a great week. I would ask for prayers for my daughter as she will be taking her ACT test this week. Please pray that she can score high enough to be eligible for some scholarships. If she doesn't get a scholarship to go to college, then in another year or so when she goes off to college, my twice per year request for ten cents a day, will have to be ramped up to a request for a dollar a day!
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TheChurchMilitant: Sometimes anti-social, but always anti-fascist since 2005.