Thursday, February 10, 2011

Matt Slick Part 1

This is going to be the first of Matt Slick’s articles that I comment on and refute.  The article itself is written in 2 parts, so I’ll start with part 1 and in the coming days move on to part 2.  I’m going to write my comments under the paragraph I am speaking about in a different font.  Hopefully it makes sense as I write it, and if it doesn’t, please let me know so I can try a different way. 

The Gospel for Roman Catholics
This paper is written in two parts.  The first explains and documents the Roman Catholic Church's position on justification.  The second part presents the true gospel in contrast to the Catholic Church's position.  If you want to go straight to the gospel presentation for Catholics, simply scroll down the page.
Because of the great emphasis on Sacred Tradition within the Catholic Church and because so many Roman Catholics appeal to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, the Word of God is often placed after the Catholic Church itself in relation to authority.

Right here Matt starts off with something that is contrary to Catholic teaching.  The Catholic Church holds in highest esteem Sacred Scripture, but it is not by Scripture alone.  Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Scripture alone is what is needed so that means there has to be someone or something to appeal to when Scripture isn’t clear.  But let’s look at what Scripture does say to do when there are disagreements:
Matt 18:15 "If your brother 12 sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. 16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.'
17 If he refuses to listen to them, TELL THE CHURCH. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

 That’s Jesus’ own words.  He’s saying the Church has final authority in matters of disagreement, not Scripture.  I’m not downplaying Scripture, either, I’m just not assigning it authority that it does not have.
 Because of this, many Catholics appeal to their works, in combination with the sacrifice of Christ as a means of being justified before God.  The Council of Trent expresses this plainly:
"If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema." (Canon 14).

Let’s look at what else the Council of Trent says:

“We are, therefore, said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things which precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace itself of justification; for, ‘if it is a grace, it is not now by reason of works”

That plainly says there is something that precedes faith and works and that is GRACE.  He states here that Catholics appeal to their works along with the sacrifice of Christ as a means of justification and that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Here’s what the catechism says regarding justification:

1987 The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ" and through Baptism

I don’t see anything in that statement about works.  Now, Catholics to believe that works play a great part in our salvation.  James 2:24 states plain as day “See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone?”  One does need the faith along with the works.  Matt tends to overlook all the verses in the Bible where one is told to do things to achieve everlasting life, and that’s OK, it’s an easy tactic to make something look like something it’s not.  That’s why I’m here.

Justification is the legal declaration by God upon the sinner where God declares the sinner righteous in His sight.  This justification is based completely and solely on the work of Christ on the cross.  We cannot earn justification or merit justification in any way. 

And no half knowledgeable Catholic would argue with this.  He states this below, and I’ll get a little more into it with context but scripture says “by Grace are you saved through faith.”  Nothing could be more right, but when that verse is looked at along with the others it goes with, one sees that works play a large part in the salvation equation.

If we could, then Christ died needlessly.  "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly," (Gal. 2:21).  Because righteousness cannot come through the Law (through our efforts of merit), the Bible declares that we are justified before God by faith:
  • "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," (Rom. 3:28).
What Matt misses about this particular verse is that Paul is referring to Mosaic law that Jews used to adhere to.  Jesus was the fulfillment of the law, so it was unnecessary for all the ritual washings and dietary law and circumcision.  Actually at the end of that chapter, Paul says:

31 Are we then annulling the law by this faith? Of course not! On the contrary, we are supporting the law.”
  • "For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness," (Rom. 4:3).
  • "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness," (Rom. 4:5).
  • "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," (Rom. 5:1).
For these three I’ll answer with Romans 2:5-10:

5 By your stubbornness and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God, 6 who will repay everyone according to his works: 7 eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works, 8 but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness. 9 Yes, affliction and distress will come upon every human being who does evil, Jew first and then Greek. 10 But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, Jew first and then Greek.

Does that mean the bible contradicts itself?  Absolutely not.  It means Matt is cherry picking verses to help his cause. 
  • "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God," (Eph. 2:8).
Here’s one of my favorite verses in the whole Bible.  I love what it says, because it emcompasses all that God has done for us.  Through God’s grace we are saved through faith.  It’s His gift to us.  One would think this is Matt’s slam dunk and if taken alone, it kinda is.  But here’s the next two verses conveniently left out Ephesians 2:9-10:

9 it is not from works, so no one may boast. 10 For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

It says we are created for good works!  If God created us for something and we flat out refuse to do it, what do you think that’s going to get us?  A first class ticket to an eternity with the enemy.
However, in Roman Catholicism, justification by faith is denied.

I’ll rewrite the above statement to make it more accurate:

However, in Roman Catholicism, justification by faith alone is denied

"If any one shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy pardoning sins for Christ's sake, or that it is that confidence alone by which we are justified ... let him be accursed," (Canon 12, Council of Trent).

Which are we to believe?  The Roman Catholic Church or God's word?  Furthermore, the RCC states that justification is received not by faith, but by baptism.   The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in paragraph, 1992, that "...justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith."   This means that faith is not the instrument of obtaining justification; instead, it is an ordinance performed by a priest in the Roman Catholic Church.

I like Matt’s use of the ellipsis at the beginning of that quote from the Catechism.  Let’s look at what paragraph 1992 says in its entirety:

1992 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:40

Justification is conferred in baptism, yes, but it was MERITED for us by the Passion of Christ.  And look at what baptism does.  “It conforms us to the righteousness of God who makes us inwardly just by the power of His mercy.  Its purpose is the glory of God and Christ, and the gift of eternal life.”  Again Matt uses one little piece of information to make his case when the information around it completely contradicts what he’s trying to say.

Furthermore, baptism is only the initial grace along the road of justification.  The Roman Catholic is to then maintain his position before God by his efforts.
"No one can MERIT the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can MERIT for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods," (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), par. 2027).
The problem here is that the RCC is teaching us to "merit for ourselves and for others all the graces need to attain eternal life."  You cannot merit grace.  Grace is unmerited favor.  Merit is, according to the CCC, par. 2006, "...the recompense owed by a community or a society for the action of one of its members, experienced either as beneficial or harmful, deserving reward or punishment..." CCC 2006.  This means that merit is something owed.  By contrast, grace is something not owed.  Therefore, the RCC is teaching contrary to God's word regarding grace and justification.

Let’s again read a little bit ahead of Matt to show where he makes his error. 

2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

 The first sentence of paragraph 2007 destroys Matt’s premise his last paragraph.  It says there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man.  We don’t get it just because we’re man.  The clincher, though is in paragraph 2008 where it says “the merit of good works is to be attributed to the grace of God.”  Let me repeat that because it makes me smile.  “...the merit of good works is to be attributed to the grace of God.”  Sorry, Matt, it seems the Catholic Church’s teaching is right in line with God’s grace, you just didn’t read far enough ahead to catch it.

The sad result is that in Roman Catholicism, justification before God is a process that is maintained by the effort and works of the Roman Catholic.  This is a very unfortunate teaching since it puts the unbearable burden of works righteousness upon the shoulders of the sinner.  By contrast, the Bible teaches that justification/salvation is by faith.
  • "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness," (Rom. 4:5).
  • "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," (Rom. 5:1).
  • "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God," (Eph. 2:8).
What the bible doesn’t teach is that justification/salvation is by faith alone, and I challenge anyone to show me that it is.  I promise you won’t find it there.  I’ll be back with part 2 soon.  Thanks!

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