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5 Problems with Lutheran Ecclesiology

The Lutheran Small Catechism with Explanation (ESV) provides a classic Protestant look at ecclesiology (how one views the Church), but I find it very unconvincing and full of problems. My conclusion is that the Lutheran alternative does not seem plausible, and it most certainly can not disprove the claims of the Church.

1. Under the question, “What is the holy Christian church?”, it answers:

“The holy Christian church is the communion of saints, the total number of those who believe in Christ. All believers in Christ, but only believers, are members of the church (invisible church).”

This is sort of true, but what if someone has faith and still intentionally separates themself from the Church by heresy? For example, are Arians members of the Church? They believe in Christ. Are Mormons also members of the Church? What about Jehovah’s Witnesses? This kind of vague, “invisible” membership leads to all sorts of problems, and it leads to the loss of absolute truth. (See the very varied views of Protestants.)

A single institutional Church is necessary, because some doctrines are “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16) and they need to be consistently preserved and articulated.

2. Under the question, “Why do you say ‘I believe’ in the church?”, it answers:

“A. Because faith, which makes people members of the church, is invisible, the church is invisible to human eyes.

B. The Scriptures assure us that the Holy Spirit continues to gather and preserve the church.”

On the second part of this answer, I have no complaints. The Holy Spirit certainly does guide the Church. However, on the first point, it cites Luke 17:20-21 and 2 Timothy 2:19 for support, taking both passages out of context. The first passage actually refers to the “end times” and people wondering about when they will be and what they will entail, and this is made clear by the rest of the chapter. The second passage simply points out that, despite heresy being almost everywhere, “the firm foundation of God stands” and “the Lord knows those who are His”.

The Church is not invisible.

3. This Lutheran Catechism also makes the points that the Church’s “one and only head is Christ” and the Church “belongs to Christ and is built on Him alone”, but this is misleading and an intentional jab at the Church.

Christ is the now-invisible head of the Church, in that He fills Her with grace and protects Her from grave error, but the Church must have a visible head to represent Him: the Vicar (representative) of Christ, the Successor of St. Peter — the Pope.

It is true that only Christ could lay the foundation for His Church (1 Corinthians 3:11) and that He is the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20), and the Church absolutely recognizes this. He laid the foundation when He appointed Peter as the visible head of the Church (Matthew 16:18-19) and He is still the cornerstone — without Christ, the Church would crumble.

Because only Christ can lay the foundation of a Church, Martin Luther had no authority to start his own sect — unless, of course, there is some sort of evidence that definitively shows that Christ transferred His authority to him. Naturally, this evidence does not exist.

Also, remember that not everyone is “called” to Church leadership (Hebrews 5:1-4).

4. Additionally, this Catechism teaches that “the holy Christian church is to be found where ‘the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered’ (Augsburg Confession VII 1)”.

I absolutely agree with this point, because only an organization that distributes the sacraments is a “Church” in the proper sense, though it may not be in communion with the Church. “Christ’s Spirit uses [them] as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #819)

However, even after taking this into account, I also realize that the Lutheran understanding of both the Gospel and the sacraments is distorted.

Lutherans typically believe that there are only two sacraments (Baptism and Communion). Catholics, meanwhile, recognize a total of seven: Baptism, Communion (the Eucharist), Confession (Penance), Confirmation (or Chrismation), Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Orders. Lutherans usually think of these other five as rites that do not necessarily contain God’s grace, but are still historically practiced.

Just one example of the Lutheran sacramental problem is that they hold to sacramental union (Christ is “in, with, and under” the bread and wine), while the Church holds to transubstantiation (the bread and wine become the literal Body and Blood of Christ), which is the traditional view. The Lutheran departure from the historical view seems to reveal “a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words” (1 Timothy 6:3-5). Is their emphasis here more important than unity?

Meanwhile, Lutherans also debate over whether or not Confession is a sacrament. Martin Luther said one thing, but the official Defense of the Augsburg Confession says another.

“Nevertheless, it has seemed best to restrict the name of sacrament to such promises as have signs attached to them. The remainder, not being bound to signs, are bare promises. Hence there are, strictly speaking, but two sacraments in the Church of God – baptism and bread; for only in these two do we find both the divinely instituted sign and the promise of forgiveness of sins.” – Martin Luther [link]

“If we call Sacraments rites which have the command of God, and to which the promise of grace has been added, it is easy to decide what are properly Sacraments. For rites instituted by men will not in this way be Sacraments properly so called. For it does not belong to human authority to promise grace. Therefore signs instituted without God’s command are not sure signs of grace, even though they perhaps instruct the rude [children or the uncultivated], or admonish as to something [as a painted cross]. Therefore Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Absolution, which is the Sacrament of Repentance, are truly Sacraments. For these rites have God’s command and the promise of grace, which is peculiar to the New Testament.” – Article XIII of the Defense of the Augsburg Confession [link]

With disagreements over the fundamental natures of the sacraments and their generally invalid claims to apostolic succession (which is necessary for the validity of the sacraments), Lutherans do not have a “Church” in the proper sense.

5. Protestant ecclesiology has wrecked the doctrinal and visible unity that God demands.

In Galatians 5:16-21, St. Paul condemns “dissensions” and “factions” as “deeds of the flesh” that will result in the causers “not inherit[ing] the kingdom of God,” and in Romans 16:17, he teaches that Christians should “turn away from” them. Protestants have, unfortunately, disobeyed this command.

Unity is Christ’s prayer for us (John 17:11), so let us become unified again, visibly and invisibly.

“Since Christ suffered for the Church and since the Church is the body of Christ, without doubt the person who divides the Church is convicted of lacerating the body of Christ.” – Council of Florence, Session 9 (23 March 1440) [link]

(All verses are from the NASB translation.)

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TULIP and Protestants

(This is the second part of my series on TULIP. The first part, based on the writings of the Church Fathers, is available here.)

Many of the great historical Protestant leaders have opposed some or all of  “T.U.L.I.P.” — an acronym that summarizes the core beliefs of Calvinists. Here are some quotes about their conclusions. This list is not comprehensive.

Total Depravity – “..as a consequence of the Fall of man, every person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.”

(NOTE: Catholics believe in this, to an extent — after all, our faith and our works only have meaning because of God’s grace — but the concept of Total Depravity is often taken to an extreme.)

“That which makes him [Man] a human being is not his body but his spirit, in which the image of God originally lay. … From man’s standpoint the most tragic loss suffered in the Fall was the vacating of this inner sanctum by the Spirit of God. Man by his sin forfeited this indescribable wonderful privilege. Christ will enter only by the invitation of faith.” – A.W. Tozer [1]

“Human beings are endowed by nature with both selfish and unselfish impulses. … Man is the only creature which is fully self-conscious. His reason endows him with a capacity for self-transcendence.” – Reinhold Niebuhr [2]

Unconditional Election – “God chose some individuals from the mass of fallen humanity unto salvation without regard to any merit or foreseen faith in them, but solely based on His sovereign intentions.”

“Whether therefore we can account for it or not (which indeed we cannot in a thousand cases), we must absolutely maintain that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. But He cannot reward the sun shining because the sun is not a free agent. Neither could He reward us for letting our light shine before men if we acted from necessity as the sun does. All reward, as well as all punishment, presupposes free-agency; and whatever creature is incapable of choice is incapable of either one or the other. Whenever, therefore, God acts as a Governor, as a rewarder or punisher, He no longer acts as mere Sovereign by His own sole will and pleasure, but as [sic] a impartial Judge guided in all things by invariable justice.” – John Wesley [3]

Limited Atonement – “..God’s design and intent in sending Christ to die on the cross was to pay for the sins and secure the redemption of those whom God has predetermined to save, namely the elect. Therefore, the primary benefits of his death were designed for and accrue only to believers.”

“For by his [Christ’s] own oblation he satisfied his Father for all men’s sins, and reconciled mankind unto his grace and favour.” – Thomas Cranmer [4]

“‘I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who suffered, was crucified, and died for us.’ This is the most joyous of all doctrines and the one that contains the most comfort. It teaches that we have the indescribable and inestimable mercy and love of God. ..He sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him: ‘Be Peter the denier; Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who ate the apple in Paradise; the thief on the cross. In short, be the person of all men. And see to it that You pay and make satisfaction for them.’ … And so it [the Law] attacks Him and kills Him. By this deed the whole world is purged and expiated from all sins, and thus it is set free from death and from every evil.” – Martin Luther [5]

Irresistible Grace – “..the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save, whereby in God’s timing, he overcomes their resistance to the call of the gospel and irresistibly brings them to a saving faith in Christ.”

“It may be allowed that God acts as Sovereign in convincing some souls of sin, arresting them in their mid career, by His resistless power. It seems also that, at the moment of our conversion, He acts irresistibly. There may likewise be many irresistible touches during the course of Christian warfare, with regard to which every believer may say, ‘In the time of my distress, Thou hast my succor been, In my utter helplessness, Restraining me from sin.’ But still, as St. Paul might have been either obedient or disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19), so every individual may, after all that God has done, either improve His grace or make it of none effect (Gal. 2:21).” – John Wesley [3]

“God has made it a rule for Himself that He won’t alter people’s character by force. He can and will alter them — but only if the people will let Him. In that way He has really and truly limited His power. Sometimes we wonder why He has done so, or even wish that He hadn’t. But apparently He thinks it worth doing. He would rather have a world of free beings, with all its risks, than a world of people who did right like machines because they couldn’t do anything else. The more we succeed in imagining what a world of perfect automatic beings would be like, the more, I think, we shall see His wisdom.” – C.S. Lewis [6]

Perseverance of the saints – “..those who are truly saved [those who truly believe] will persevere to the end and cannot lose their salvation.”

“For God both within and without does impress very aweful fears upon our souls; in the history of the Bible and in those around us, and on our own consciences, in His sudden visitations or enduring chastisements of sin; in the aweful change in the soul following upon a single sin, the sudden falls of those who once seemed faithful, the strange mystery that some who began to live in that ‘faith which worketh by love,’ and lived for a while faithfully and righteously, were not removed before they fell into the sin in which they died.” – E.B. Pusey [7]

“When men weary of a good course which long they have holden, for a little ease or wealth, or I wot not what other secular respect, fall away in the end; so losing the praise and fruit of their former perseverance, and relapsing into the danger and destruction, from which they had so near escaped.” – Lancelot Andrewes [8]

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calvinism

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References:

1. from Man: The Dwelling Place of God [link]

2. from Moral Man and Immoral Society [link]

3. John Wesley, Thoughts Upon God’s Sovereignty (taken from The Essential Works of John Wesley, p. 1167-1169)

4. Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) on Death of Christ: Unlimited Expiation, Redemption and Universal Reconciliation [link]

5. Concordia Theological Quarterly, Volume 61:Number 4, October 1997, p. 251 (taken from Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, 1535) [link]

6. from “The Trouble with ‘X’,” God in the Dock [link 1] [link 2]

7. The Blasphemy Against the Holy Ghost. A sermon preached at Margaret Chapel, on the Feast of S. Peter, 1845. [link]

8. A sermon preached before Queen Elizabeth, at Hampton Court. 6 March 1594. [link]

TULIP and the Church Fathers

(This is the first part of my series on TULIP. The second part, based on the writings of historical Protestant leaders, is available here.)

Calvinists occasionally claim that their beliefs — commonly expressed with the acronym “T.U.L.I.P.” — are totally in line with historical Christianity, but below are some quotes from the Church Fathers that disprove the claim. This list is certainly not comprehensive, but I think it best summarizes the Church’s points.

Total Depravity – “..as a consequence of the Fall of man, every person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.”

(NOTE: Catholics believe in this, to an extent — after all, our faith and our works only have meaning because of God’s grace — but the concept of Total Depravity is often taken to an extreme.)

“If any one is truly religious, he is a man of God; but if he is irreligious, he is a man of the devil, made such, not by nature, but by his own choice.” – St. Ignatius of Antioch [1]

“‘But unto them that are contentious,’ he [St. Paul] says [in Romans 2:8]. Again, he deprives of excuse those that live in wickedness, and shows that it is from a kind of disputatiousness and carelessness that they fall into unrighteousness. ‘And do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness.’ See, here is another accusation again. For what defense can he set up, who flees from the light and chooses the dark? And he does not say, who are ‘compelled by,’ ‘lorded over by,’ but who ‘obey unrighteousness,’ that one may learn that the fall is one of free choice, the crime not of necessity.” – St. John Chrysostom [2]

Unconditional Election – “God chose some individuals from the mass of fallen humanity unto salvation without regard to any merit or foreseen faith in them, but solely based on His sovereign intentions.”

“There is not a class of souls sinning by nature and a class of souls [practicing] righteousness by nature; but both act from choice, the substance of their souls being of one kind only and alike in all.” – St. Cyril of Jerusalem [3]

“For God made man free, and with power over himself. That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him. For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting.” – St. Theophilus of Antioch [4]

Limited Atonement – “..God’s design and intent in sending Christ to die on the cross was to pay for the sins and secure the redemption of those whom God has predetermined to save, namely the elect. Therefore, the primary benefits of his death were designed for and accrue only to believers.”

“Now if all have sinned, how come some to be saved, and some to perish? It is because all were not minded to come to Him, since for His part all were saved, for all were called. … Whence then are some vessels of wrath, and some of mercy? Of their own free choice. God, however, being very good, shows the same kindness to both. For it was not those in a state of salvation only to whom He showed mercy, but also Pharaoh, as far as His part went. For of the same long-suffering, both they and he had the advantage. And if he was not saved, it was quite owing to his own will: since, as for what concerns God, he had as much done for him as they who were saved.” – St. John Chrysostom [5]

Irresistible Grace – “..the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save, whereby in God’s timing, he overcomes their resistance to the call of the gospel and irresistibly brings them to a saving faith in Christ.”

“This expression [of our Lord], ‘How often would I have gathered your children together, and you would not,’ [Matthew 23:37] set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free [agent] from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests (ad utendum sententia) of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will [towards us] is present with Him continually.” – St. Irenaeus [6]

Perseverance of the saints – “..those who are truly saved [those who truly believe] will persevere to the end and cannot lose their salvation.”

“And I hold, further, that such as have confessed and known this man to be Christ, yet who have gone back from some cause to the legal dispensation, and have denied that this man is Christ, and have repented not before death, shall by no means be saved.” – St. Justin Martyr [7]

“Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come. But come together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you are not made perfect in the last time.” – The Didache [8]

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John Calvin

John Calvin

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References:

1. The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians (Chapter 5) [link 1] [link 2]

2. Homily 5 on Romans

3. Catechetical Lecture 4

4. Theophilus to Autolycus (Book 2, Chapter 27) [link 1] [link 2] [link 3]

5. Homily 16 on Romans

6. Against Heresies (Book 4, Chapter 37)

7. Dialogue with Trypho (Chapter 47)

8. The Didache (Chapter 16)

Polygamy and Mormonism

In defiance of Deuteronomy 17:17, Matthew 19:4-6, and other Biblical passages, the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, endorsed the practice of polygamy. However, the largest Mormon church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), later outlawed the practice. This presents a problem for LDS theology.

In verses 61-63 of Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith reveals a “revelation” about polygamy supposedly given to him by God. The verses teach that a man “cannot commit adultery” — even if “he have ten virgins given unto him by this law” of polygamy — as long as his women are “vowed to no other man”.

So, polygamy was allowed in the first 46 years after Joseph Smith’s death. But in 1890, due to Official Declaration 1 — which is “authoritative and binding” — polygamy was banned by the LDS church.

While the Declaration says that the church never “inculcate[d] or encourage[d]” the practice, it at least never claims that it did not allow or officiate it.

In the “Excerpts” section at the bottom of the online Declaration, it quotes LDS President Wilford Woodruff as saying that it would have been unwise “to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage,” because “adherence to this principle” of polygamy resulted in “suffering” for the church’s members, due to strong U.S. federal laws against it. Woodruff bluntly said that it was time to “cease the practice and submit to the law”.

All of this, taken together, shows that the church did accept polygamy, and it only backed down on the issue so that it could continue to exist and thrive. Basically, it changed its religious teachings to suit the secular laws of the government, which would obviously go against Biblical teachings, because God’s laws are not subject to the State. In the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), one verse reads: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

What makes this all even more interesting is that even the Book of Mormon seems to oppose polygamy. Jacob 2:27 reads: “Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none..

This all leads to the big question: Do you think that an organization could be so wishy-washy with its teachings if it were really “The Church of Jesus Christ”? I do not think so, and I must therefore conclude that this Mormon magisterium (teaching authority) is invalid.

Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism.

Answers to 5 Lutheran Statements

Martin Luther said and wrote many heretical things, but here are a mere five quotes, along with Biblical passages that disprove them.

1. “For reason is directly opposed to faith. This is why you must let reason go. It must be killed and buried in believers.” [1]

(Answer: Proverbs 14:15, Colossians 1:9, Colossians 4:5-6, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)

2. “..[A Christian] could not lose his salvation, however much he sinned, unless he refused to believe. For no sin can condemn him save unbelief alone.” [2]

(Answer: Hebrews 10:26-27)

3. “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. …No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day.” [3]

(Answer: Psalm 4:4, Matthew 5:48, Hebrews 10:26-27)

4. “It is good that we have such a man [Jesus Christ], because God in himself is cruel and bad.” [4]

(Answer: Psalm 51:1, Jeremiah 9:24, Jeremiah 31:3)

5. “I miss more than one thing in this book [Revelation, aka Apocalypse], and this makes me hold it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic…and [I] can nohow detect that the Holy Spirit produced it. …My spirit cannot fit itself into this book.” [5]

(Answer: Revelation 22:19)

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References:

1. Luther’s Sermon on Matthew 19:13-15. “What Luther Says,” 1:485-486 (entry 1440). [link]

2. [link 1, link 2]

3. Let Your Sins Be Strong: A Letter From Luther to Melanchthon. Translated by Erika Bullmann Flores. [link]

4. [link 1, link 2]

5. M. Reu, Luther’s German Bible: An Historical Presentation Together with a collection of Sources (Ohio: The Lutheran Book Concern, 1934) 174-175 [link]

VIDEO: 2 Peter

A Catholic summary of 2 Peter.

(Alternate link, via Vimeo.)

TRANSCRIPT ———————-

Let’s take a look at 2 Peter.

Verses 1-4 start off chapter 1 with a nice salutation, in which the grace of God is emphasized.

Verses 5-11 inform us about the necessity of works, and they warn us against being “unfruitful,” in reference to John 15:5-8, and other verses. The passage also reminds us that we were “purified” from our “former sins,” most probably in reference to the regenerative effect of baptism.

Verses 12-15 point out that the purpose of this Book is mostly just to remind us of important things — we “already know them” — not really to add anything new.

Verses 16-19 remind us of the fact that Peter witnessed all of this first-hand, and he is not just retelling old mythical tales, so he knows what he’s talking about.

The final verses (verses 20-21) read:
“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

This passage does two things. First, it reminds us that the Bible does not contradict itself on and is infallible on matters of faith and morals, because its writers, “moved by the Holy Spirit”, “spoke from God.” Second, the passage undermines individual interpretation, the cornerstone of the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura, implicitly reminding us of the necessity of being united under one set of doctrines.

Chapter 2 heavily warns against sin.

Verses 1-3, especially, remind me of the times we currently live in. Particularly, “[m]any will follow their sensuality” reminds me of society and debates around same-sex “marriage.”

There is a lot of valuable material in this chapter. It informs us that we will be punished for sin that we do not repent of. Verse 13 tells us that we will “[suffer] wrong as the wages of doing wrong.”

This is all completely contrary to the “Jesus died for all of our sins, so we’re good!” view that many Protestants hold. Yes, it is through Christ that we can be cleansed from sin, but the cleansing is not automatic — we must seek it.

Another interesting thing in the chapter is verse 20, which reads:
“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”

This verse obliterates the Protestant idea — held only by a minority, fortunately — of “once saved, always saved.” The people being referenced already had “knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and “escaped the defilements of the world”, so they were supposedly “saved” at one point (at least, according to common Protestant doctrine), but then they lost their salvation after getting “entangled” in these “defilements of the world.”

And the next verse — verse 21 — reads:
“For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.”

This verse and the previous verse tie in with the Catholic idea of salvation through “invincible ignorance.” Basically, anyone genuinely ignorant of Christian teaching can reach salvation. Like this verse says, for some people, “it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness.”

The chapter closes with a proverb.

Verses 1 and 2 of chapter 3 again remind us of the fact that this Book is in continuity with the rest of the Bible, simply a reminder of important details.

Verses 3-9 touch on people doubting the eventual return of Christ. The passage tells us that the reason that it seems to be taking so long to occur is that Christ is trying to lead as many souls to salvation as possible before then.

And verses 10-18, the final verses, urge us to always “be in holy conduct and godliness” and “be diligent to be found by Him [God] in peace, spotless and blameless.” The passage tells us that “the patience of our Lord” allows more people to attain salvation. It also tells us that there are “some things hard to understand” in Paul’s writings (like supposed “faith alone” verses, perhaps?), “which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

Feel free to check out my other videos and other past work. Like 2 Peter 3:18 tells us, we must “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” May God bless you.

(All verses are from the NASB translation.)

VIDEO: Titus

A Catholic summary of the Book of Titus.

(Alternate link, via Vimeo.)

TRANSCRIPT ———————-

Several theological issues are addressed in the canonical Epistle of Paul to Titus. Since the Book is relatively short, let’s review the whole thing — chapter by chapter.

In the first 4 verses of chapter 1, Paul gives a simple salutation. And in verses 5-9, he begins to describe desirable traits in Christian leaders.

He says in Titus 1:10-14:
“For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.”

Here, Paul is denouncing Christians that fell into the trap of following the rituals of the Mosaic, “old” Law, rather than following Christ and His “new,” universal Law. These people were confusing Christians, and Paul, as a very devout former Jew, strongly condemned their heretical beliefs.

He goes on to say in Titus 1:15-16:
“To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”

Now, some (not all, but some) Protestants try to wiggle out of this section by saying that, for Christians (“the pure”), “all things are pure,” and so they are incapable of doing any bad deed in the eyes of God because of Christ’s sacrifice. This position is, of course, highly ambiguous and against the spirit of the passage. As we know, in verse 16, Paul makes it clear that good deeds are important, because those that do bad deeds deny Christ by their actions.

In verses 1-10 of chapter 2, Paul continues to describe ideal Christian traits for people in all sorts of situations.

Verses 11-14 read:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”

This is very important. This passage starts with the fact that it is only by the grace of God that we can ever reach Heaven and be with Him, and that through Christ, He made salvation possible for everyone. It goes on to tell us how we should act in order to attain salvation. The passage ends with a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and that we must, with Christ’s help, “purify” ourselves and be “zealous for good deeds” for Him.

And verse 15 ends the chapter with a note that implies its importance.

Chapter 3 starts off by reminding us to “be obedient” and to “be ready for every good deed,” as well as other things.

But then it gets to verses 4-7, which might be a little confusing at first glance. The verses read:
“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Some Protestants jump at that passage (almost as if to say “Aha!”) in discussions about the necessity of works. But it doesn’t defend the “faith alone” position. Yes, everything is done “according to His mercy” — Protestants should know that, like they do, Catholics believe in “grace alone.” We can only attain salvation through God’s grace. The phrase “washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” refers to baptism and the regenerative effect that it has on our souls. Baptism cleanses us from all past sin, and it is also through baptism that we properly join the Church.

Good works are obviously necessary. In fact, the very next verse (verse 8) exhorts us to “be careful to engage in good deeds,” which are “good and profitable for men.”

In verses 9-11, Paul again warns against “factious” men that divide by the Mosaic Law.

Verses 12-15 end the chapter with a set of individual requests and a simple conclusion.

I hope that this helps you. If you have any questions, or if you would like to request a video about a certain topic, please feel free to contact me through any of the social networks listed. May God bless you!

(All verses are from the NASB translation.)

VIDEO: John 3:14-18

John 3:14-18 doesn’t support the “faith alone” position.

TRANSCRIPT ———————-

For Protestants, John 3:14-18 might seem like the ultimate “Gotcha!” passage to use against Catholics. But if you look a little deeper, you’ll recognize that the passage does not defend the “faith alone” position and is totally in line with Catholic teaching.

The passage reads as, “‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.'”

That might seem a little damning to the Catholic position that good works are necessary, right? Well, in truth, it’s not.

With God, to believe means to obey. God does not desire a lukewarm, vague belief in Him, but a devoted life in His service. This is evidenced later in the chapter. John 3:36 reads as, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

And if one looks at verses 19-21 of the chapter, they will see that Christ said that those who “love darkness” and do “evil deeds” will not reach “the Light” (Heaven).

Sin — which, at its heart, is anything offensive to God — is a heinous, damaging thing that we must cleanse ourselves of. This cleansing is done through Christ, of course, but meriting it requires a little more than a belief in Him. It requires a repentant heart (see Luke 13:3) and, in the case of mortal sin, sacramental confession (see my video about Confession).

On top of all of this, Christ told us in John 13:15 to follow the example that He set and He also told us — in John 15:10 — that we must keep His commandments to “abide in [His] love”.

We can’t just sit back and relax non-stop, counting on our vague “faith” to save us — we have to do things! Like St. Paul wrote in Colossians 1:24, we must help the Church in “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”

So, when reading the Bible, remember that true belief requires obedience and good works.

(All verses are from the NASB translation.)

VIDEO: Galatians 2:16 and 2:21

Do Galatians 2:16 and 2:21 support the “faith alone” position? NO.

TRANSCRIPT ———————-

I was reading a Protestant apologetics site and I found two verses in Galatians 2 that they used to defend their “faith alone” position. The verses are verse 16 and verse 21. Let’s look at those.

Galatians 2:16 reads as “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”

Galatians 2:21 reads as “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

These verses are clearly referring to works under the “old” Law, not under Christ’s “new” Law. This is even obvious by verse 16 alone, but for further proof, look at the verse before it. Verse 15 reads as “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles”.

Paul is saying that, though Christianity came out of Judaism, its Law is no longer binding on Christians. He didn’t want Christians to get swept up into the proud, Pharasaical mentality of “Oh, I’m so good for doing all of these great things all by myself.” Under that mentality, Christ’s importance seems lessened, so Paul was warning against that.

Paul is emphasizing, like he, especially, is known to emphasize: that everything must be done through Christ. In verse 20, he writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

He is pointing out that it is by our faith in Christ that our lives have meaning. Without faith, our works mean nothing.

If we can be saved by doing works under the Jewish Law, apart from faith in Christ, then yes, like Paul writes in verse 21, “Christ died needlessly.”

Basically, Paul is telling us to keep our minds on Christ, never doing anything apart from him. He is NOT, however, telling us that good works done through Christ mean nothing.

VIDEO: Philippians 3:9

A video that demonstrates that Philippians 3:9 does not defend the “faith alone” position. In fact, that verse and the rest of the chapter refute it.

TRANSCRIPT ———————-

Protestants sometimes point to Philippians 3:9 as a proof-text for their assertions about “faith alone.” But that verse does not support their position.

Context is key. Earlier in the chapter, Paul professes that he used to follow the old Law better than pretty much everyone, but then writes that he has counted it “as loss for the sake of Christ.”

He’s saying that, instead of getting caught up in rituals of the old Law, we should focus on Christ and His new Law.

So, in verse 9, when he says that righteousness “comes from God on the basis of faith,” he’s absolutely correct. I mean, it’s pretty difficult to do good works in honor of God when you don’t even believe in Him.

Nothing in the whole chapter discredits the Catholic Church’s stance on the importance of faith AND works.

In fact, in verse 12, Paul writes, “Not that I have already obtained it [“it” being the promise of eternal salvation and eternal life with God] or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”

See? He already has faith, but talks about “pressing on” in a way that clearly shows that he feels he is incomplete. He knows that there is still work to be done.

I hope that this information has helped you. May God bless you in your faithful journey!