Reasoning with John (Pt-1)
By Ron Kempen, Gospel Light Ministries
This month I will present the views of an individual named John Martignon who firmly believes in Roman Catholicism. He, and others like him, believe that we (and most Protestants) have left “the one true church” of Jesus Christ. I will lay out his view and will follow it up next month with the questions that he thinks we Protestant Christians cannot answer. John mentioned my name in one of his articles (see “Apologetics for the Masses” - Issue #132) perhaps two years ago, and at that time I decided not to answer his charges because, as a believer in Jesus Christ and in His Word, I cannot argue anyone to salvation in Christ. Rather, we should turn our cheeks to those that are against us and brush off an unbeliever's dust from our feet.
John Martignon almost seems unreachable as Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” However, John’s statements that follow seem to beg for answers that will prove his points. Therefore, I will respond to his comments below and next month I will answer his direct questions, which he believes are unanswerable by Protestants. I don’t intend to go against Scripture in how I am to treat him, but simply hope to show that followers of Jesus Christ do have answers to his questions.
John’s Statement - “I am doing so not to talk about absolute assurance of salvation, but to simply give you an example of how you can deal with a particularly difficult anti-Catholic. Just let him know that I had him pegged...these guys are all the same and they are all very predictable. They are more than happy to tell you where you are wrong (as a Catholic), but they are not expecting you to reply to them, and when you do, they act all offended and put out, when in actuality, they can’t answer because they simply have no answer. When faced with legitimate arguments, backed by Scripture, for the truths of the Catholic faith, they withdraw from the field so as to avoid embarrassment.”
Ron’s Comment - My website shows the Biblical answers to the questions of the difficult, anti-Protestant, Catholic defender. John may feel that he has us “pegged” and “predictable,” but I am willing to show the readers: 1) precisely where most Catholics are wrong, and 2) how twisted Catholicism actually is by being absolutely truthful to him. I will give John the legitimate answers to the arguments that he thinks he has.
John’s Statement - “Did he ever attempt to show how the Catholic position is wrong? No. Did he ever attempt to show how I took verses out of context (as he claims)? No. Why not? Because he can’t, which is why, even though he said he would respond to my last email, I knew he wouldn’t, because I knew that he couldn’t. So, I did not approach my Bible reading from a Catholic perspective; I approached it with a decidedly Protestant perspective - I can read this book for myself and decide for myself what it means, thank you. The problem was, the more I read the more I had to concede that the Catholic Church was right in what it taught. I had to change my position on several occasions [as if I were a Protestant reading it] and believe what the Church was teaching because the Word of God made it abundantly clear that I was wrong [as a Protestant] and the [Catholic] Church was right. So, your assumptions about my approach to the Bible are entirely without merit and quite erroneous. If I interpret the Bible in a certain way, and that disagrees with your interpretation of the Bible, then would you not say that I was wrong? This, in essence, would be the same as saying that if someone interprets the Bible in such a way that does not agree with what Bud Weber says the Bible says, then you have interpreted it wrong. So, it’s okay for you to do this, but not for the Church to do it?”
Ron’s Comment - Neither did I attempt to explain where John is wrong, not because I (or we) couldn’t, but because, as Scripture tell us above, he just wouldn’t understand. He thinks of us as being so foolish, but frankly, I doubt that he found much of anything “Catholic” in Scripture. Much of what John references actually comes from the Catholic Catechism, not the Bible, as he claims. Oftentimes, that is what helps people like John come up with their conclusions. John’s last line above, which implies a sense of hypocrisy, is a loaded and misleading question, such as if I were to ask him if he ever stopped beating his wife. One cannot give simply a “yes” or “no” answer. In a similar way, John automatically reads any reference in Scripture to “the church” as automatically meaning the Catholic Church, which, unfortunately, because of the Catholic Church’s extensive ritualistic manners and traditions, easily proves that the Catholic Church isn’t Christ’s church.
Scripture tells us to test all things. As much as John wants to make the claim that we (Protestants) are making false claims, I think my answers will prove who has the truth and who doesn’t. John can only say that we are not in agreement with the Catholic Church, when the fact is that, in reality, we can back up our claims very much with Scripture. Simply put, our disagreements have eternal consequences and most importantly, opposite views cannot both be right. For example, look at how John views Galatians 3 below, but also notice that the Catholic view of this passage falls apart if you honestly read and understand Scripture.
John’s Statement - “Let’s look at your misinterpretation of the first few verses of Galatians 3. You interpret Paul here as saying that works have nothing to do with salvation. That is a gross misreading of the passage. You interpret his phrase, ‘works of the law’ in verse 2 to mean all works whatsoever. However, if you look down just a few verses to verse 17, you will see that the ‘law’ Paul is talking about is the Mosaic Law, which came into being ‘four hundred and thirty years’ after Abraham. So, Paul is specifically talking about the works of the Mosaic Law when he says, ‘works of the law.’ He is not talking about good works in general. So, Paul’s discussion here in Galatians is not a discussion between faith alone versus faith and works, which is what you are trying to make it out to be. Rather, it is a discussion of the New Testament covenant versus the Old Testament covenant. It is a discussion of having faith in Christ for salvation versus the keeping of circumcision, offering animal sacrifices, keeping dietary laws, etc. for salvation. It is a discussion of what was before Christ versus what is now after Christ. We know this because the whole letter to the Galatians is about the Galatians falling under the influence of the Judaizers who were telling them they needed to follow the old law in order to be saved. Look at Galatians 5 where Paul tells them that if they receive ritual circumcision, then they will be severed from Christ.”
Ron’s Comment - My question to you, the reader is, how did he come to the conclusion that Paul was thinking and meaning the Mosaic law or that we are misreading any of this? That’s the law that they were living under, true, but he is jumping to conclusions that cannot be made by saying that it is faith plus any kind of good works in general that saves. There are many examples of Scripture verses that eliminate this argument of his entirely, such as Ephesians 2:8-9 (“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”); Romans 3:28 (“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law”); Romans 4:4-6 (“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works”); and Romans 11:6 (“if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work”). Even in Galatians we find verses that mean just what they say, that salvation is definitely of faith alone, not of faith plus works. (See Galatians 2:16: “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”) The quoted portion of Scripture in Romans 4 is from Abraham’s time, which was long before the Mosaic laws were even introduced, which makes it perfectly clear that that Paul wasn’t referring to the Mosaic Laws at all, but rather to any works of any kind.
Concluding Statement - While I did not respond to John’s comments in his newsletter earlier, I am realizing that many people may have the same kinds of questions that need answers. So, in response to his claim that Protestants don’t have answers to seekers’ questions, next month I will address John’s questions as he posed them. This will hopefully settle the issue of whether Protestants have answers to questions that Catholics claim we do not have. Join us next month as we reason together for the answers that John thinks are beyond our insights.