Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"Apostate" Churches, Deceptive Catholics, and Desperate Judgment Day Pleas (vs. Matt Slick)

Matt Slick oversees a website called CARM. He does much excellent work, and provides information and forums at CARM dealing with such diverse subjects as Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses and other cults, the New Age Movement, Islam, relativism, atheism, and universalism, in addition to many handy theological and Bible study aids. All of this is excellent and the Catholic can highly commend him for such work and wish him well (I have many of the same goals on my own site and in my writings).

But when it comes to Catholicism (as is so often the case with otherwise respectable, dedicated apologists), he sadly succumbs to the same old falsehoods which are particularly rampant in Calvinist circles (his own affiliation). The following material records my brief encounter with him on the CARM Catholic discussion board. I think it is illustrative of many of the problems which hamper Catholic-Protestant discourse (or should I say, lack thereof?), and so I have decided to post it on my website. His words will be in blue; words of other Protestants in red, purple, and green; another Catholic's words will be in brown.

Matt Slick: 5-20-03 on the CARM Catholic Discussion Board:

I consider official roman catholic doctrine to be apostate and Roman Catholics to be the objects of evangelism.

Now, I realize that some RC's may be saved, that they believe they are Christian, etc. Maybe you are. Maybe I am wrong about Catholicism. Maybe you are right and I'm lost. But, I don't see the infusion of grace into a believer that enables him to do good works by which he can then be saved. I don't see penance to achieve forgiveness of sins. I don't see praying to Mary. I don't see purgatory. I don't see bowing to the pope. I don't see maintaining your salvation by what you do....

I am only able to be subject to what I believe the word of God says.

Now, if any of you would care to discuss any of this with me tonight, I'll try and be on paltalk ( tonight and open the room.

if you want to dialogue with me, insult me, challenge me, or whatever, just let me know here... and I'll try and make it tonight.

--just like mormons... they say they believe in Jesus, too... and add works to their salvation. They also attack and ask where "I" get the authority, etc. Look at the Bible and see if praying to mary is there, penance, indulgences, purgatory, keeping salvation by works, etc... Not there.

. . . the mormons talk about keeping salvation by their works...

. . . --oh, so there are TWO mediators?

. . . [purgatory] is an apostate doctrine of the RC.

I am pro Jesus, pro Bible. Anti mans-doctrines.

Matt Slick: 5-21-03 on the CARM Catholic Discussion Board:

I can have a civil conversation with a catholic, no problem.

Also, I do NOT consider RC doctrine to be Christian. I consider the catholic church to be apostate.

Now, i mean no offense by that, as hard as it may be not to be offended by what I said, but that is how I feel about it.

I see the RCC to be no different than cults that teach unbiblical doctrines, and works righteousness.

I've studied cults and the Bible far far too much to ever become an RC. It just won't happen. No way I will bow to a pope, pray to mary, do penance, believe in purgatory, indulgences, etc... no way.

I'd be glad to debate RC's on this on paltalk sometime.

If you are pro Bible, then why do you pray to mary, believe in penance, indulgences, purgatory, etc.?

Matt himself started a new thread on the Catholic board of his own website, CARM, entitled "To Armstrong" (obviously a challenge to me in some sense, or an inquiry, at the least). It consisted of but a few lines, and I responded with the following post, on 5-21-03 (the date of all the following material, unless specified otherwise):

Hi Matt,

Please call me Dave. Thanks.

If you were to die tonight and face judgment and God were to ask you why He should let you into heaven, what would you tell Him? Just curious.

First of all, I don't see anywhere in the Bible that God ever acts like this (if I have overlooked it, you can educate me; the Bible's a big book -- the book of Job would seem to present a quite different perspective), so this is simply one of many Protestant catch-phrases or slogans or evangelistic techniques which cannot be found in the Bible (as far as that goes). I'm not saying it's UNbiblical; just not the sort of thing that one can find there, by example.

Going to heaven and being saved or damned is not a trite affair like a TV quiz show or something. One will either be saved or not, and they will know that instantly when they stand before God. There will be no arguing with God (Job 40:1-2; cf. 42:3). They will know truth and know why they missed the mark. People who are damned may try to foolishly plead their case, I suppose, as in Matthew 25. But Jesus simply declares and sends them away to their fate. He doesn't stand there like Bob Barker and ask them questions -- not in the sense of this Protestant catch-phrase, anyway.

That said, Catholics believe in sola gratia as much as Protestants do. You ought to know this, but it appears that you do not.

Would you mention your prayers to Mary, your indulgences, your works, your sincerity, or what?

This is covered in my above answer. Each of those matters must be discussed individually, given the abominable ignorance that many Protestants have concerning them. Suffice it to say that we do not accept the unbiblical, damnable notion of "works-salvation." Catholics are neither Pelagians nor semi-Pelagians. And you ought to know that, too. But (by the looks of it) you do not. Join the crowd.

As for possible interaction [it had been suggested to me by a friend of Matt's that he desired to "talk" to me], I would love to do a dialogue on the definition of what a Christian Church is, how one determines that, why one should accept the criteria offered, and how and why Protestantism can be considered Christian, while Catholicism cannot. As I stated in a recent post here, I consider your position intellectual suicide; impossible to sustain upon close scrutiny, and completely self-defeating. I believed this as a Protestant also. It is not something which changes upon conversion to Catholicism because it has to do with the definition of something (Christian[ity] ) which I was before and still am (just a different "brand," so to speak).

If we were to do such a dialogue, you would have to be willing to answer all my questions, or concede if you cannot answer, and I would do my best to answer yours, if we stay strictly on the subject (I won't be sidetracked: this is a common technique of Protestant apologists when they are backed into a corner): what is a Christian church or Christian communion, and how is this determined? I'm not interested in debating 1001 different issues at once (purgatory, Mary, saints, the Pope, penance, the Eucharist, etc.). I've done all that on my website and books, and they must be done one at a time, at great length (so profound are the misunderstandings and ignorance).

I'm interested (in this context) in discussing the fundamental assumptions that lead you to the ludicrous position on this that you have taken; in getting you to the place where you can view me and other Catholics (and our Orthodox brothers and sisters) as fellow Christians, rather than objects of evangelization and the equivalent of cults like the JW's and Mormons (I am an expert on the former and have a huge paper on my site, written in 1987, and have debated a Mormon apologist with a Ph.D. on my website -- he never replied).

My preference is a written dialogue (I don't do oral debates with anyone, let alone -- or I should say, especially -- anti-Catholics, for various reasons, some discussed on my website), and I would require that it can be posted on my website after it is over. I think written exchanges are far more helpful and constructive and that live debates between certain groups (though not devoid of value, by any means) suffer from serious shortcomings.

So, is that agreeable to you? Isn't there a room here just for such dialogues or "debates"? I'm not big on rules (numbers of words, etc.); I just like to dialogue spontaneously and cover everything relevant to the issue (and nothing off the issue), to respond and counter-respond, and find a partner willing to do the same: one who will not ignore questions when he can't answer them, and who has the guts and honesty to concede points when his position is overthrown or shown to be in error; one who is willing to learn as well as teach, as the case may be . . . I hope that is my own attitude. It is certainly my goal and desire to be teachable and humble when shown to be in error on something. I have removed several papers from my website when persuaded otherwise concerning some position (one even after reading a piece by Dr. Eric Svendsen [a leading anti-Catholic polemicist on the Internet] ).

Your brother in Christ (which remains true whether you believe it or not),


Matt had written about me before he read my statement above:

I do not know if he is a Christian or not and if he told me he had to do good works in order to be justified before God, I'd say he was NOT a Christian. I won't budge on this.

But, since I don't know what his position is, I can't say.

If he doesn't want to deal with the issues, that is his peragotive.

The truth will stand and I'll only continue to expose the errors of various religious system.

For clarification, I am not an anti catholic. I am against official roman catholic dogma on justification -- and praying to mary, and penance, and purgatory, etc.

I responded:

Hi Matt,

You wrote:

For clarification, I am not an anti catholic.

You certainly are, according to my definition, recently posted here and also a year ago, which is simply one who thinks the Catholic Church is a non-Christian institution. You fit the definition to a tee. You couldn't have stated things any more clearly than you did.

And this is standard usage, derived from the standard evangelical cult-researcher criteria; a purely doctrinal criterion (not behavioral or sociological): the "cult" is the group which claims to be Christian but in fact is not (based on traditional or historical notions of orthodoxy such as the Nicene Creed or trinitarianism). Thus, I would gladly accept the label of "anti-Mormon" or "anti-Jehovah's Witness" in this sense, because that's what I think about them.

This use was developed particularly by Christian sociologist Ronald Enroth in his IVP booklet, What is a Cult? (later published in A Guide to Cults and New Religions, edited by Enroth, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983, 9-24), and the late Dr. Walter Martin (whom I had the pleasure to meet), the leading evangelical cult researcher and founder of the Christian Research Institute, who did not place Catholicism in the category of a "cult." Enroth writes:

A theological definition of cult must be based on a standard of Christian orthodoxy. Using the Bible's teaching as a focal point, James W. Sire defines a cult as "any religious movement that is organizationally distinct and has doctrines and/or practices that contradict those of the Scriptures as interpreted by traditional Christianity as represented by the major Catholic and Protestant denominations, and as expressed in such statements as the Apostles' Creed."

(Enroth, ibid., 15; quote from Sire, Scripture Twisting, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press: 1980, 20)

It's interesting that Sire assumes that Catholicism is Christian right in his definition, whereas you don't. The question is "why?" And in trying to answer that, you will inevitably run into insuperable difficulties and absurdities, as I will be glad to point out in our debate. :-)

To cite one prominent evangelical sociologist of religion, from my paper where I collected 51 separate non-Catholic uses of the term "anti-Catholicism":

James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America, New York: HarperCollins, 1991. Index: "Anti-Catholicism": 35-39, 69, 71, 87, 102.

Understanding the American experience evan as late as the nineteenth century requires an understanding of the critical role played by Anti-Catholicism in shaping the character of politics, public education, the media, and social reform . . . Catholics were regarded by Protestants as heretics who had perverted the true faith. (p. 35)

. . . although much of the anti-Catholic hostility was born out of economic rivalry and ethnic distrust, it took expression primarily as religious hostility -- as a quarrel over religious doctrine, practice, and authority. (p. 71)

Here's a second example:

David Montgomery (studied theology at Regent College, Vancouver, and is now the Assistant minister in Stormont Presbyterian Church), article for the publication Lion and Lamb, "Sorting Out the Family: Is Evangelicalism a Purely Protestant Phenomenon?":

I have been made aware of two things. Firstly, the right of those Catholics who are born-again and committed to the primary authority of Scripture to be called 'Evangelicals' and to be accepted as thus without qualification; and secondly, the incompatibility of polemical anti-catholicism with a true evangelical faith and spirit.

. . . there was a willingness to accept regenerate Roman Catholics as brothers or sisters in Christ, regardless of whether or not they leave their church. This was the case with Zinzendorf, Whitefield, Wesley, Wilberforce, Irving, Spurgeon and reformed leaders such as Machen and Warfield. Wesley's "Letter to A Roman Catholic" is often quoted, . . .

So your position in refusing to agree that Catholics are brothers in Christ contradicts that of Calvinists Whitefield, Spurgeon, Machen and Warfield. Interesting. Even Calvin and Hodge thought Catholic baptisms were valid. Do you?

Finally, one last example:

Christian Research Institute, founded by Protestant anti-cult researcher Dr. Walter Martin; review of Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism, in the Christian Research Journal, by Kenneth R. Samples (current President of CRI is Hank Hanegraaff, the "Bible Answer Man"):

How should evangelicals view Roman Catholicism? This is an extremely controversial question, and often emotionally charged. The spectrum of opinion among conservative Protestants generally ranges from those who see the Catholic church as foundationally Christian (but with many doctrinal deviations), to those who dismiss Catholicism outright as an inherently evil institution. It would seem, however, that those of the latter persuasion ("anti-Catholics") are in the ascendancy. Chick Publications, Alberto Rivera's Antichrist Information Center, and the Alamo Christian Foundation are three rabidly anti-Catholic organizations which accuse the Roman church not only of promoting false doctrine but of causing many of the social and political ills of our time.

Thus, my use of anti-Catholic is entirely proper, based on standard definitions used by Protestant sociologists and cult-watchers, and fits your opinion exactly. If you disagree with the way scholars use the term, then make an argument as to why, and why I should accept some other definition besides the standard one, which I have taken the trouble to document.

See my paper: Use of the Term "Anti-Catholic" in Protestant and Secular Scholarly Works of History and Sociology.

Your brother in Christ,


You didn't answer my question. Instead, you blurred the issue with prose. I am waiting.

I answered in four different ways:

1. I said Catholics believed in sola gratia.

2. I said that we are not Pelagians.

3. I said we don't believe in works-salvation

4. Furthermore, I denied that the hypothetical situation would even take place (thus questioning why you put it in those terms), judging by the biblical teachings. I will be silent when I am before God, on Judgment Day, and I'll already know in an instant if I am damned or saved, and there is no arguing with God and no nonsense or prideful self-delusions any longer at that frightful, awesome hour.

So I answered thoroughly, and in answering I was also making the point that in your very asking of the question, you show that you only dimly understand Catholic soteriology, if at all, which is a prior, presuppositional issue that has to be dealt with before you start asking cliched questions of Catholic (and former evangelical Protestant) apologists such as myself (who know better than some nominal, under-catechized "cultural Catholic" in a pub at 1:30 on Saturday night).

You just didn't hear me, and so come back with a one-line semi-insulting repetition. If you want to learn about the Catholic position on faith and works, grace, salvation, merit, etc., go read my papers or find some other similar ones to read, or get the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It's time you learned, as you are in an influential position. But in any event I answered. Catholics also believe in the predestination of the elect. Did you know that?

Now will you be willing to do the debate I suggested, is the question? No answer as of yet . . . If not you, any Protestant with any credentials? I've been waiting seven years . . . otherwise I don't have time to spend here, wrangling with people who usually have only the slightest comprehension of what they are talking about, when it comes to Catholicism, and who insult me (and all the Catholics here) by asserting that I am not a Christian, while I devote my life (at considerable personal sacrifice, like yourself) to battling the cultists, theological error, and philosophical and moral error alike (much of which work any Protestant ought to be able to fully agree with -- I wrote two entire books along those lines). There is plenty of ignorance to go around, on both sides, to be sure.

Your brother in Christ,


Protestantism did not "descend" from the CC [Catholic Church]. God called his elect out of the CC as He calls them out of the world and into the TRUE church, the Body of Christ.

No you didn't [answer my original question]. By the way, you don't know what I know. I often ask questions simply to see where an individual is.

It is correct that I don't know what you know. But I know what you don't know (or at least get a good indication of same), if you say things that illustrate that you don't know something (in this case, Catholic theology).

Don't assume too much or too little.

With your cliches and short answers, it is difficult not to, because there is so little content. That can all come out in the debate, if you are willing to do one. Presumably you can give more than one-sentence replies there.

So far, you've shown yourself to be evasive, a bit pedantic in your writing, and you can't seem to answer a simple question.

Do I need to define sola gratia, Pelagianism (which we do not believe), and works-salvation (which we do not believe) for you? What is it about "grace" that you don't understand? Catholics agree with Grace Alone. Now, it is a simple matter of logical deduction to figure out from that how I would answer God if He were to ask the question you pose.

Now, we protestants have an answer to the question, a simple question.

Of course: "I'm saved by Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior, by His blood, shed on the cross for me, when He atoned for the sins of the whole world* and redeemed sinners -- totally by His grace and no conceivable work of my own" (and perhaps proceed to quote John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8-9 --never 2:10). Now, if you could figure out that Catholics agree with you wholeheartedly on this, we would get somewhere.

[*NOTE: Matt, as a Calvinist, believes in limited atonement, so he would say that Jesus died and atoned only for the elect, not the whole world. I noticed this "mistake" later. Many Protestants, however -- called Arminians -- , would agree with the Catholic position of universal atonement]

Since you won't answer it,

I just did. Since I used the Protestant lingo maybe you'll understand it this time. My previous three answers asserted exactly the same thing:

1. We oppose Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism (therefore man can do nothing whatsoever to save himself).

2. We oppose works-salvation (ditto).

3. We adhere to sola gratia (grace alone and not works save one).

What is to not understand in all that? I assumed that I was talking to an apologist who didn't have to have all these things spelled out, lest I get accused of refusing to answer.

rather, you bury it in prose and argumentation, I'll consider our conversations ended since you will, I am sure, continue in the same vain if I were to pose other questions to you and I do not want to become entangled in the mire of hairsplitting.

I predicted this very response from you to my wife at dinner tonight, that you wouldn't want to engage in dialogue and would find some way to blame me for your reluctance and unwillingness, so my prophecy proved to be true. I've seen it a million times from Protestant apologists. You can always prove me wrong, of course. I'd be delighted to take you up on it. And the reason is not anything particularly noteworthy in me, but because Catholicism is true, or at the very least, Christian (the very issue at hand). It's much easier to defend truth than non-truth. The latter takes far more work, and I don't blame you for wishing to avoid such work, because it is a lost cause and fruitless. I just get tired of the subterfuge and rationalizations people use for the purpose of avoiding a debate that they know they can't win.

Your brother in Christ,


Matt says I don't know what he knows. No doubt this is correct. But I am well-familiar with Calvinist theology, and I know that he (mistakenly) thinks that Catholics believe in works-salvation, from his recent posts:

"I don't see the infusion of grace into a believer that enables him to do good works by which he can then be saved."

"just like mormons... they say they believe in Jesus, too... and add works to their salvation."

". . . the mormons talk about keeping salvation by their works..."

"I see the RCC to be no different than cults that teach unbiblical doctrines, and works righteousness."

And, knowing that, my answer to his initial question was precisely designed to deal with the fact that he is already mistaken as to the nature of Catholic soteriology. Then I proceeded to deny that we believe what he thinks we believe, by asserting that we are not Pelagians, and don't believe in works-salvation, and believe in Grace Alone. And that, in turn would cause a Catholic to answer pretty much how the Protestant would. But all that is out the window. Matt has already decided that I am not worth his time to debate, which I find fascinating, seeing that he made these remarks just yesterday:

"Now, if any of you would care to discuss any of this with me tonight, I'll try and be on paltalk ( tonight and open the room."

"if you want to dialogue with me, insult me, challenge me, or whatever, just let me know here... and I'll try and make it tonight."

"I can have a civil conversation with a catholic, no problem."

"I'd be glad to debate RC's on this on paltalk sometime."

Or will Matt say that he only does oral debates and not written? It's certainly a sad showing if anti-Catholic Protestants can't muster up a single person to have a simple discussion with a Catholic apologist about what a Christian church is, and why Catholicism is not one and Protestantism is. You guys spout this nonsense constantly, yet when challenged, no one is willing to give us some reasons why you believe this garbage, or subject themselves to cross-examination. What are you so scared of? You can't even defend your most basic assumptions. All that shows me is that they are either irrational or untrue altogether.

I think they are both, and this behavior from Matt merely confirms my opinion yet again. It's the thousandth time I have been through this and I make no bones about publicly pointing out the silliness and evasiveness of it. You people want to sit here and bash the Catholic Church and deny its fundamental identity, but no one has the courage to defend their premises and tell us why they are held, or listen to a Catholic who challenges same. It's pathetic . . .

I was saying to my wife earlier that a person who thinks Catholics aren't Christians should rejoice if he is shown that indeed they are. It seems to me that this would be a joyful conclusion and most welcome: there would then be potentially many many more Christians in the world than previously supposed! Less people would be going to hell, and less are idolaters and Pelagians, etc.

But if one insists on believing the worst about brothers in Christ then they don't want this to be true, and they avoid discussions where this might be demonstrated like the plague. This divides the Body of Christ and severely weakens our witness to the lost world. and is only Satan's victory.

In Him,


It was suggested by someone else that Matt and I simply differed on terms of the debate and venues, and that this accounted for his reluctance and refusal to engage me. I replied:

"Propose other terms then!"

You don't shut off talks (in this case, talks about possible talks) as soon as they begin. This is why human beings discuss things, to work out solutions and achieve some compromise. Matt wants to shut it down before there is any chance whatsoever to dialogue, because of my supposed tedious style and "hairsplitting"? LOL Yeah, right. I eventually answered his cliched question in evangelical terms, so that there is no doubt (under protest, but I did it). So what is the remaining objection?

Are you telling me that Matt Slick is afraid to engage in a written debate in his own forum? Has he not done this with anyone else? The atheists or whatever? I don't buy it. It's just a cop-out. . . . [Anti-Catholics] just don't want to deal with it. They know that an oral situation will not get into one-tenth of the detail and complexity that a written debate would involve. And they don't want it on my website if they don't do well. That's a fate worse than death.

Therefore, I conclude that fear is the factor here: the Protestant apologist is scared to death of being shown to be in error by a Catholic, because, let's face it: this just ain't supposed to happen, and is more than any good Protestant anti-Catholic can bear. It's impossible, therefore it never happens, and every technique of evasion imaginable is utilized to make sure that the "impossible" never occurs. It's the ultimate horror of a Protestant apologist, to have a Catholic get the better of them in a debate situation, with lots at stake. So I don't buy this "limitations of the medium" business.

If it is merely a question of terms and venues and not fear and/or unwillingness, then let him suggest an alternative. One-line answers every day for a year? I would go into a live chat room if he likes.

Then someone gave the opinion that the dispute was at least partially due to different styles of communication.

That's not sufficient to explain his reluctance, in my opinion. This is a basic issue. If Matt can write a book about cults, wouldn't you think he can have a simple dialogue in writing about how one determines whether an organization is Christian or not, and the definition of Christian? What's the big deal? He can cry "lack of time" too, if he wishes. That's one of the oldest tricks in the book, too. I know he's busy, but so is everyone else. So what? Here's his chance to prove that the Catholic Church isn't Christian, with a bunch of folks watching . . .

I'm sure some people will think I am being harsh (the bane of the apologist's existence). I don't think so. Matt is the one who came out and attacked the very essence of my Church: the Catholic Church. If we Catholics are a little angry about that, this ought to be quite understandable. But to make this outrageous claim and then be unwilling to back it up in an exchange where one also has to answer and not merely assert, is quite objectionable, and that accounts for my indignation over this. It's another instance, in my mind, of what G.K. Chesterton described as anti-Catholics' strong tendency "to heckle but not to hear."

In Him,


Another Protestant on the board (5-22-03) chimed in:


His answer is typical of everything catholic. Tiptoeing around the issues and trying to drown out the issues with a bunch of words. I have yet to see anything catholic that is not done in this way. No wonder they need someone to interpret. hehe

And then (5-22-03) a Catholic (who goes by the nickname "Panoply"):


I know how you feel. Consider his words:

So far, you've shown yourself to be evasive, a bit pedantic in your writing, and you can't seem to answer a simple question.

Actually, I feel he is being bumptious, not mature, and is not trying to offer an honest question. Indeed, I think the opposite but equivalent version of his suggested answer would look like this:

If you were to die tonight...what would you tell Him? Would you mention your fanatical devotion to the Bible, your evangelization efforts, your anti-Catholic literature, your sincerity, or what?

I imagine he would be insulted by the posturing of that question/answer - yet he has no compunction about doing that to us. On the other hand, I was VERY pleased with your answer to him. It was an answer worthy of the charity and stature of a saint.

Anyway Dave, I've recently had the same problem you are having - but with Eric Svendsen. Eric said I was welcome to go debate on his board, but then he excoriated me at length on both boards (here and on his own) and bore false witness against me and otherwise has done everything in his power to keep me from wanting to debate him. I think I know why.

And another Protestant, who responded in quite a "hairsplitting" fashion himself (5-22-03):

Matt's question was:

If you were to die tonight and face judgment and God were to ask you why He should let you into heaven, what would you tell Him?

Your four answers are not what you would do: three are what you wouldn't do; the first is "what all Catholics believe". That doesn't answer the question for you -- unless you're willing to go on-record here and assert that all Catholics believe the exact same thing.

Matt's a big boy. He can care for himself in this matter. Just wanted to keep the record clear that you didn't answer the question -- you just posted a message.

Let's suppose you are unquestionably right. Let's just stipulate, for the sake of allowing you to make some cogent point, that Matt is "anti-catholic".

How does that justify failing to encounter his question in a meaningful, forthright way? You use this, ahem, argument frequently in encountering those who oppose you in internet debate, but you don't substantiate its logical or rational force in any way.

I assert that "X" poster at CARM is anti-Christian. If it cannot be questioned that "X" is anti-Christian, does that mean I can use that as an opportunity not to discuss Christianity with him? Or does that argument somehow contradict a tenet of the faith?

I suggest to you that in your urgency to find a way to describe Matt (and others -- me for example), you throw out the baby with the bath water. If your best case is only pleading to the choir, that is not much of an apology.

[this particular person is not an anti-Catholic, in my definition, and I have told him that was what I believed, on several occasions, but obviously to no avail; he keeps repeating the same thing. On the other hand, whether he is an anti-Catholic himself or not, one can see that his general approach is similar in some respects to the polemical, disrespectful tone usually characteristic of anti-Catholics] After I stated that I had left the forum, Matt (on 5-22-03) stepped up his personal attacks and rationalizations, now strongly implying that I am dishonest and deliberately deceptive:

I prefer oral debates because it is easier, that's all.

If I get stuck in a written debate, I have to take a LOT of time away from working on CARM... now, when it is with someone who is pedantic (Characterized by a narrow, often ostentatious concern for book learning and formal rules), then it is like stepping into quicksand. The other person will simply write anything and everything in detail to confuse the issue, make illogical points, etc. It then takes 10 times more work to correct the error than to make it.

Oral debates are quick, to the point, and it is far easier to nail a person's error because that person doesn't have the opportunity to try and bury his opponent in convoluted prose. This is what Mr. Armstrong does - as is evident in his response to me on the facing God question.

Mr. Armstrong probably realizes this issue and so refuses to debate orally. To me, this is an admission that his position must be developed and maintained by word games/twists in order to sound legit.

been there, done that.

"there is always more...."

Mormons will give me an answer, but I know there is always more, something they are holding back

Are catholics saved by their works is THE question!

From what I understand of Catholic soteriology, justification is by grace AND their works. In other words, official roman catholic doctrine DENIES justification by grace thru faith ALONE!

Mr. Armstrong, I assume, knows this and chose his words carefully to appear within the scope of orthodoxy while still maintaining the heresy of works-salvation.

We are justified by faith, not by faith AND something we do. That is it.

We do good works BECAUSE we are saved, not to get saved or stay saved... the distinction between justification and sanctification in Catholicism is not only blurred, it is castrated.

My examination of the cults has led me to learn that they ALL require some works to be saved. The CC is apostate since it also requires our obedience to works in order to be saved.

To me, this is flat out heresy, from the pit.

I consider catholicism to be one of the major sources for the damning of souls.

Now, what I said is very serious and I definitely believe it. If I am wrong about catholic soteriology, I'd love to see the documentation from official roman catholic sources to the contrary.

From what I read of CC theology, I am damned to hell for believing in justification by faith.... all the cults, also deny justification by faith.

Yet, the scriptures declare we are justified by faith.

Which should I believe? easy. The Lord I will serve, not the teachings of man, or a "true church".

Another moderator on the board (seemingly an amiable fellow), asked me a question (5-22-03):

I decided to do one last reply because you seem nice and civil: qualities that are exceedingly rare here and elsewhere on the Internet (especially amongst Christians). Then I'm outta here for good.

Mr. Armstrong was asked a straight, evangelistic question that's commonly used in many Protestant, particularly Baptist, witnessing methodologies, the "If you died tonight..." scenario. In his overly-voluminous response(s), Mr. Armstrong made a statement along these lines, that he would know in a moment, in heaven, whether or not he was saved or damned. Am I to understand that response to mean that Mr. Armstrong, and those Catholics who believe similarly, don't feel they can say with certainty today that they're saved? That their "status" is in doubt until the moment they are face-to-face with Almighty God?

[Matt offered one of his theologically-sophisticated and nuanced comments: "With a works based system, you can never be sure. Unlike the bible which teaches you CAN be sure." Another Protestant offered the perfect non sequitur, which no one disputes at all: "Christ said all whom the Father call, come; and that HE will lose none." That she casually assumed a Catholic would disagree with this self-evident truism is indicative of the profound task before Catholics, in properly explaining their viewpoints to Protestants]

Logically, there is no relationship between the two propositions. I've already explained at length why I answered as I did. In context, what I was trying to get across was that the very situation was implausible to me, and couldn't be backed up by biblical example (I don't recall God acting like this anywhere in the Bible, and nothing Matt offered in reply disabused me of the notion at all), and so I wondered aloud why Matt asked the question in the first place?

Again, in strictly logical terms, the conclusions now being drawn about Catholics' assurance of salvation or lack thereof, from my comments, do not follow. The two propositions are:

1. One knows with absolute certainty in heaven on Judgment Day whether they are saved or damned, and God will not question them like a TV quiz show host or certain Protestant evangelists who too often resemble carnival barkers or used car salesmen in the subtlety of their approach.

I affirmed this in my responses.

2. One knows with absolute certainty on earth whether they are saved or damned.

I said nothing whatsoever about this. Other Catholics can answer, or go to my website (or the relevant papers linked below) and you'll assuredly get an explanation of our view. No doubt this will be regarded by some here as more of my jesuitical casuistry, evasion, and "hairsplitting." [grin] I don't care. Enjoy yourself and have fun. The Catholics can get a big laugh too by observing the endless digressions from the subject at hand, so that nothing is ever accomplished in terms of people better understanding doctrines they disagree with (one must laugh to keep from crying). To illustrate and drive home my point, let me give a few analogous examples:

1. I have absolute assurance of my marriage after my wedding ceremony and the pronouncement by the clergyman.

2. I have absolute assurance of my marriage when I propose to my future wife and she accepts.

You tell me if you see any difference between the two scenarios and if one is more certain than the other, and whether #1 logically suggests that #2 is a case of the equivalent amount of certainty or assurance.

1. I have absolute assurance of my pardon by the Governor from my jail sentence when I walk out of the door of the jail free to go wherever I want and do as I please.

2. I have absolute assurance of my pardon by the Governor from my jail sentence when I hear news of his pardon, which was announced a month before it was to actually occur.

Is #2 as "certain" as #1? Can someone absolutely know the future (barring a direct private revelation from God or an angel appearing and suchlike)? The person might die before the pardon date arrives -- therefore he wouldn't have been absolutely sure of the pardon-in-actuality because in fact it never occurred, and never would or could occur. He died before it could. Further evidence of guilt in the crime for which he was convicted, or another crime might come to light. Or the Governor could change his mind for some reason. All of this proves (I think, clearly) that the "assurance" of #2 is considerably less "certain" than that of #1.

I know the Calvinist perseverance and Baptist assurance replies up and down. I'm not dealing with them here per se; I'm dealing with the logic of "absolute assurance" (and also the illogical assumptions drawn from my earlier remarks). To me it is obvious, but anyone can draw their own conclusions from the above examples of analogy.

May God bless you and all here abundantly with His grace and gifts, especially those who have disagreed strongly with me in less-than-praiseworthy fashion (whom Mother Teresa might have described as "Christ in rather distressing disguise"*),


* "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." (Matthew 25:40)

The familiar response to this argument came from familiar quarters (5-22-03) -- one of my longtime critics in this forum. It is also amusing to observe the continual obsessively-formal use of my last name, and rarely my first name:

At the risk of being "uncivil" (you kill me, Armstrong: deep disagreement with you gets categorized as "anti-", and your action is to ignore all "anti-" advocates, but you call others uncivil),

Of course this is a wholesale distortion of my position, even as shown in this paper alone. Whether one is an anti-Catholic or not has nothing to do with whether they disagree with me, as if I ridiculously make myself some sort of standard. As shown above, it has a particular meaning, and is used in this fashion by both Protestant and secular scholars. I am not using it at all in the sense of a club or to avoid a person merely because they disagree.

As for ignoring the anti-Catholics; generally, yes, this is my policy because I believe that the Bible commands us to avoid those who cause divisions, and vain conversations and stupid controversies as much as possible; however, on the forum I clearly stated that I would reply even to an anti-Catholic who wanted to try to refute any of my papers point-by-point, and secondly, if they were willing to discuss the fundamental issue of what determines a Christian communion, and whether the Catholic Church is a Christian institution, etc. (as explained above in my initial response to Matt). Thus I offered two exceptions to my general rule. Yet in another post, the same lie about me was repeated:

DGA [me] thinks all Catholics are Christians, MS [Matt Slick] thinks that catholicism does not save. That's called "diametric opposition". DGA will not speak with anyone with whom he is in diametric opposition.

Matt was the one who flatly refused to have a debate or dialogue, unless it was a perfunctory oral "debate" where substance and effort can be kept to a minimum. So I haven't at all refused to engage in any interaction whatsoever. Matt spurned an amiable, reasonable offer to discuss things rationally and calmly (either in writing or in a live chat room -- as opposed to PalTalk --, as I later offered), and did so with evasive insults and non sequiturs and distortions of both my views and the Catholic view.

Simply refusing to play the anti-Catholic game of being, in effect, willing objects of "evangelism" from those who make little effort to understand fellow Christians whom they pretend to be "evangelizing" has nothing to do with civility; rather, it is a choice of where to most profitably spend one's time and the refusal to be put into a "box" where one doesn't belong in the first place. Obviously, no one is ethically obligated to frequent one discussion board among hundreds on the Internet.

The incivility, of course (as one atheist private correspondent -- hardly "partisan" to either position -- could see quite clearly), resided in the unnecessary and most uncharitable personal insults lobbed by Matt Slick, to justify his unwillingness to debate the issues in the depth they deserve. And these insults are, of course, against the ostensible board rules, which prohibit personal insults, but that is another issue, and everyone knows that owners of boards are often not subject to the rules they presume to apply to others.

You make one point here that deserves some attention:

1. One knows with absolute certainty in heaven on Judgment Day
whether they are saved or damned, and God will not question
them like a TV quiz show host or certain Protestant
evangelists who too often resemble carnival barkers or used
car salesmen in the subtlety of their approach.

I affirmed this in my responses.

Mt 25:31 "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.
. . .
41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;
42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;
43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'
44 "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'
45 "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'
46 "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

I wouldn't call that a game show,

This betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what I argued, as if he hadn't even read it. In fact, I even mentioned a portion of this very passage in my initial reply. Here is an entire paragraph from that response, so that readers can refresh their memory as to exactly what I stated:

Going to heaven and being saved or damned is not a trite affair like a TV quiz show or something. One will either be saved or not, and they will know that instantly when they stand before God. There will be no arguing with God (Job 40:1-2; cf. 42:3). They will know truth and know why they missed the mark. People who are damned may try to foolishly plead their case, I suppose, as in Matthew 25. But Jesus simply declares and sends them away to their fate. He doesn't stand there like Bob Barker and ask them questions -- not in the sense of this Protestant catch-phrase, anyway.

Now, it is obvious that I am not calling Matthew 25 a "game show." That was how I described the trite Protestant sloganistic approach to evangelism, as exemplified in Matt's version of it:

If you were to die tonight and face judgment and God were to ask you why He should let you into heaven, what would you tell Him? Just curious.

I replied that I didn't find such a scenario in the Bible; that at the Final Judgment God doesn't wrangle with people (and people don't argue with God -- just as with any earthly judge); He simply declares judgment, which is precisely what happens in Matthew 25. He doesn't ask them questions about their eschatological fate in heaven or hell. This is true in Matthew 25 and also suggested at the end of Job (which I also cited).

What I called a "game show" was God asking them questions about something they already know (because there are no longer any self-delusional games when one stands before God, as I think most Christians would agree; see, e.g., Isaiah's response in Isaiah 6:1-6). Thus we see how my argument was completely twisted and distorted by this person. I wasn't discussing what was in the Bible, but precisely what isn't in it, as far as I could tell. I submit that further support for the notion that we have knowledge enough to know whether we are damned or saved when we get to heaven can be found in St. Paul:

For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away . . . now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.

(1 Corinthians 13:9-10,12)

Norman Hillyer, commentator for this book in the Eerdmans Bible Commentary (edited by D. Guthrie, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 3rd ed., 1970, 1068-1069), writes concerning this passage:

Prophecy and tongues will be unnecessary in the immediate presence of God. Knowledge, human and divinely revealed, will be superseded by fuller light and understanding. 10 When the perfect comes: not perfection in quality so much as totality; i.e., full knowledge about God . . . knowledge: partial now, perfect then . . .

but the judgment is not some special knowledge we receive, if this passage has any meaning: God will accuse and judge, and make the evidence plain.

This is, at least, not a distortion of what I argued, but it is a misunderstanding of it (there is a huge difference between the two), and a lapse in logic. The above passage does not inform us of prior knowledge of damnation apart from a declaration of it in heaven by our Lord Jesus, nor does it rule it out. That assumption of mine was drawn from other biblical indications (as a matter of systematic theology). It's not absolutely certain and is a bit speculative, but I think it is a reasonable deduction from what we know in Scripture. In any event, if one only goes by the fact that Jesus asserts judgment here, it doesn't necessarily follow that the person so declared did not already know his fate before it was formally declared.

My point was that God (as far as we know from revelation) doesn't inquire of the person on Judgment Day, "why should I let you into heaven?" Lastly, while one may know he is damned, all the particular reasons may not be known, as indicated in Matthew 25, and God could explain that, as indeed He did in this instance. But I wasn't dealing with that question in my reply; I only asserted that God didn't talk (based on biblical revelation) in the manner that Matt's familiar evangelical slogan and lingo would have Him talk. In a later response, our friend replied:

In what way does this passage prove what DGA says? He says that standing before God is enough, and men will know just by standing there. This passage is hardly proof of that description of the final judgement.

Again, this is logical tunnel vision, as if knowing one is saved or damned and God's proclamation of same are contradictory. He misses the forest for the trees.

Perhaps this is better:

Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

"judged according to their deeds", Armstrong: there's a record, and it is presented. Hardly a "game show", but no less like Matt's version of the traditional evangelical question.

I will avoid citing the catechism for the sake of civility.

Great! That would surely only exhibit yet more dim understanding of Catholic theology.

Again, I never described anything actually in the Bible as a "game show," but the sloganistic evangelistic caricatures of what happens at Judgment (which have not been shown to be in the Bible) as a "game show."

Secondly, who is denying there is a "record"? That has nothing to do with my argument.

Thirdly, I don't see how this scene from heaven in the Bible is at all like "Matt's version of the traditional evangelical question." Nowhere does God ask people to give Him a reason why He should let them into heaven. All we learn is that He declares and records earthly deeds and damnation or salvation: precisely as I argued: God declares, He doesn't act like a game show host! -- talking back and forth with the sinner, as if salvation were the equivalent of negotiations at a vegetable market.

Fourthly, I find it extremely interesting that in both passages our Protestant friend cites to us concerning judgment we hear not a single word about the "faith alone" which is all that Matt can talk about in the context of judgment. Why is this, if in fact, faith alone is the sole criteria of salvation or damnation? Wouldn't that seem to be, prima facie, a bit strange and unexpected from an evangelical viewpoint? If Jesus had attended a good evangelical seminary and gotten up to speed on His soteriology, the passage no doubt would have been considerably shorter:

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Then He will also say to those on His left, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for you did not believe in Me with Faith Alone." These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous who believed with Faith Alone into eternal life.


Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to whether they had Faith Alone. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to
whether they had Faith Alone.

Instead, we hear all this useless talk about works, as if they had anything to do with salvation! Doesn't Jesus know that works have no connection to faith whatsoever, and that sanctification and justification are entirely separated in good, orthodox evangelical or Calvinist theology? After all, Matt has informed us:

. . . the distinction between justification and sanctification in Catholicism is not only blurred, it is castrated.

Maybe our Lord Jesus attended a liberal synagogue, influenced by heretical Romish ideas. Why does Jesus keep talking about feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, inviting in strangers, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners, and being judged "according to their deeds"? What in the world do all these "works" have to do with salvation? Why doesn't Jesus talk about Faith Alone??!! Something is seriously wrong here. Perhaps all those Pelagian, idolatrous Catholic monks who transcribed the Bible changed it in the Middle Ages.

Seriously, though, what is in the Bible is the following declaration against faith alone:

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? (James 2:14; RSV)

So faith itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2:17; cf. 2:20, 2:26)

You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

Why, then?, does Matt assert:

We are justified by faith, not by faith AND something we do. That is it.

From what I understand of Catholic soteriology, justification is by grace AND their works. In other words, official roman catholic doctrine DENIES justification by grace thru faith ALONE!

Indeed, just as James does above. Despite all this overwhelming biblical data, Matt insists on speaking only of faith at the Judgment, to the complete exclusion of works (most contrary to the biblical record of what actually happens, whenever judgment is described):

If you were to die tonight and face judgment and God were to ask you why He should let you into heaven, what would you tell Him? . . . Would you mention . . . your works, . . . ?

Now, I may not personally mention my works, but the striking point here is that God certainly does mention works, and works alone, as at least one reason (if not the sole one) for someone's salvation, in the same exact passages we have been presented for supposed confirmation of Matt's slogan, which expressly questions any role for works whatsoever. Catholics do not believe in "works-salvation." Works do not save anyone. This is Catholic teaching. But works are neither absolutely separated from faith nor from salvation. This is a different concept. And we clearly see that in the passages above.

Biblically speaking (at least from the above passages, if nothing else), the exact opposite of what Matt asserts is true: if God asked me Matt's question (assuming for the moment that God acts like this), and I replied by recounting repeated acts of charity and mercy that I had done: feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, inviting in strangers, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners, and various other "deeds" of mine, I would be doing nothing other than what Jesus Himself does when He describes why a person is saved (at the very least part of the reason why, but the only one given in these passages -- which is my immediate point).

Nor are these the only passages about judgment where only works and not faith are mentioned. There are at least five more:

Matthew 7:16-27 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So every sound tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. Not every one who says to me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?" And then will I declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers." Every one then who hears these words of mine, and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine, and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.

As I commented in my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, about this passage:

Salvation is put into very practical terms by Jesus. He reiterates the teaching of Matthew 5:20 by emphasizing acts of obedience, as opposed to verbal proclamations only or mere head knowledge. Even some miraculous works are not necessarily under His superintendence.

A similar dynamic is also present in Matthew 25:31-46, the great scene of the separation of sheep and goats, where Christ continually makes the works of faith the central criterion of judgment. And again in Luke 18:18-25, where the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asks if he has kept the Commandments. Upon finding out that he has, He commands him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor (18:22). Jesus was quite an incompetent missionary, according to the pragmatic evangelistic techniques and criteria for "success" which prevail among many of today's evangelicals.

Nothing whatsoever is spoken about faith alone in any of these passages, as would be rightfully expected if Luther were correct about the nature of saving faith. All Christians agree that a person living unrighteously is in great danger. Catholics say that such a one has lost the state of grace through mortal sin, whereas most evangelicals contend that they were likely never saved at all. In any event, the actual outcome is the same in both cases if the sinning persists: hellfire.

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.

Again, Jesus talks about what a man has done, not what he believes. True, the belief and doctrinal aspect is not ruled out, but on the other hand, good deeds are not, either, and they are positively mentioned, but faith is not.

Romans 2:5-13 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will render to every man according to his works: To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

What is mentioned by St. Paul? Faith alone? No: works, well-doing, being factious, not obeying, being wicked, doing evil, doing good, sinning, being doers of the law . . . this is all Paul talks about. Yet Matt tells us (contrary to Jesus, Paul, and James): "We are justified by faith, not by faith AND something we do. That is it." The theme of obeying the gospel, or the obedience of faith, is common in St. Paul's writings (e.g., Romans 1:5, 6:17, 10:16, 15:18-19, 16:25-26, 2 Thessalonians 1:8; cf. Acts 6:7, Hebrews 11:8).

Reformed theologian G.C. Berkouwer wrote about the passage above:

In Paul, as elsewhere, we are impressed by an unambiguous eschatological perspective of the judgment which shall be according to works . . .

The relation between final judgment and works is here unmistakably intimate. There is a final divorce between obedience and disobedience . . . The question is the more insistent in view of other utterances of Paul [cites Gal 6:7-9, 2 Cor 5:10, Col 3:23-25, 1 Cor 3:13, 4:5] . . .

We can hardly say that such ideas form a subordinate line, a secondary and rather unimportant element of Paul's message. Quite the contrary. The utmost earnestness of the judgment and the appeal to man to consider his daily responsibility before the Lord of life sound clarionlike through his whole witness. It is not to be denied that for Paul, too, the works and affairs of man play a role in the final drama of God's judgment.

(Faith and Justification: Studies in Dogmatics, translated by Lewis B. Smedes, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1954, 103-105)

James specifies a necessary marriage of works to faith and in that concurs with Paul's insistence on the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), on faith working through love (Gal 5:6), on the work of faith (1 Thess 2:13), and on the impossibility that those who have died to sin could live in it any longer (Rom 6:2).

(Berkouwer, ibid. 133)

Let's add St. Peter to the mix:

1 Peter 1:17 . . . who judges each one impartially according to his deeds . . .

And our Lord Jesus again:

Revelation 22:12 Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.

That makes no less than seven passages in the Bible about judgment or Judgment Day. All seven mention only good works and good deeds; not a single mention of even faith, (without even getting to faith alone) occurs -- not one. Why is that, if faith alone is the sole criteria of salvation and judgment and works have nothing whatever to do with it? Thus, many prominent Protestants have written about the place of good works in the Christian life in a way quite similar or identical to the Catholic view, rightly-understood:

1. C.S. Lewis:

Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ . . . It does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary . . . Good actions . . . done with the idea that Heaven can be bought, would not be good actions at all . . . If what you call your 'faith' in Christ does not involve taking the slightest notice of what He says, then it is not Faith at all -- not faith or trust in Him, but only intellectual acceptance of some theory about Him.

The Bible really seems to clinch the matter when it puts the two things together into one amazing sentence. The first half is, 'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling' - which looks as if everything depended on us and our good actions: but the second half goes on, 'For it is God who worketh in you' [Phil 2:12-13] - which looks as if God did everything and we nothing . . . You see, we are now trying to understand, and to separate into water-tight compartments, what exactly God does and what man does when God and man are working together. And, of course, we begin by thinking it is like two men working together, so that you could say, 'He did this bit and I did that.' But this way of thinking breaks down. God is not like that. He is inside you as well as outside: even if we could understand who did what, I do not think human language could properly express it. In the attempt to express it different Churches say different things. But you will find that even those who insist most strongly on the importance of good actions tell you you need Faith; and even those who insist most strongly on Faith tell you to do good actions. At any rate that is as far as I go.

(Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, 129-130)

2. A.W. Tozer:

Apart from obedience, there can be no salvation, for salvation without obedience is a self-contradictory impossibility.

(A Treasury of A.W. Tozer, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1980, 181)

3. H.A. Ironside:

We have myriads of glib-tongued professors today who give no evidence of regeneration whatever. Prating of salvation by grace, they manifest no grace in their lives. Loudly declaring they are justified by faith alone, they fail to remember that 'faith without works is dead'; and that justification by works before men is not to be ignored as though it were in contradiction to justification by faith before God.

(Except Ye Repent, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1937, 7, 11)

4. Charles Spurgeon:

Although we are sure that men are not saved for the sake of their works, yet we are equally sure that no man will be saved without them.

(The New Park Street Pulpit, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1963; orig. 1858, 4:265)

5. George Carey:

The priority of grace is often thought to be a Protestant emphasis . . . The Council of Trent was just as fierce as the Reformers in denouncing good deeds as the basis of salvation; without grace our actions have no value . . . The irony of the sixteenth century was that both the Reformers and the Tridentine fathers accused each other of Pelagianism, that is, teaching that human goodness has merit in God's sight for salvation. According to Catholics, Protestants appeared to make faith a giant work in which they trusted for salvation; furthermore, they seemed to deny the importance of good deeds as well as the role of the church. A subjective faith appeared to be the center of Protestantism. On the other hand, according to Protestants, Catholics appeared to be preaching that salvation depended on living a moral life and performing religious duties, instead of trusting in a Savior who had already purchased our redemption . . . [In fact] Catholics and Protestants agree that God's grace, which excludes all human boasting, is the basis of everything in the Christian life.

(A Tale of Two Churches, Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 1985, 41-42)

6. Hans Asmussen:

It was customary, before the appearance of Karl Barth, to say that Catholics believe they are sanctified through good works, but Lutherans know they are saved by grace alone through faith. Anyone who has some respect for truth must readily admit that this formula is so false in its simplicity that it should never be allowed to be taught anywhere . . .

It is also a catholic truth that we are saved by grace alone, just as it is an Evangelical truth that God does not save us without our cooperation. The apparent contradiction contained in this statement can be surmounted when we realize that God, in leading us to salvation, cannot be understood in terms of the categories of rational causality concepts. It is therefore necessary that we give scriptural evidence that God rewards every good deed of believers and unbelievers both in time and eternity. This truth, however, does not contradict the doctrine that salvation is a gift.

(Asmussen, et al, The Unfinished Reformation, translated by Robert J. Olsen, Notre Dame, IN: Fides Publishers Assoc., 1961, 10, 56)

7. Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

The whole purpose of our new creation in Christ is that in him we might attain unto good works.

But all our good works are the works of God himself, the works for which he has prepared us beforehand. Good works then are ordained for the sake of salvation, but they are in the end those which God himself works within us. They are his gift, but it is our task to walk in them at every moment of our lives.

(The Cost of Discipleship, New York: Macmillan, 1963, 334-335)

8. G.C. Berkouwer:

Now more than ever, it is clear that Rome never intended to devaluate the significance of faith and God's sovereign grace . . . Is it not, then, a grievous misconception to interpret Roman Catholic teaching as Pelagian? . . .

The Council of Trent confessed grace as the 'first factor' of the way of salvation, and this is no less than any reformer has done. The differences touch only the manner in which this grace relates itself to the sinner and to the means which grace uses to achieve her purpose . . .

The differences arise as soon as the next stop is approached. The conflict opens around the doctrine of infused grace and that of imputation . . .

Though it is difficult to characterize this relationship between faith and works precisely, we may speak of works as giving form to faith . . . The tree, according to Jesus, is known by its fruit (Matt 12:33), and faith is known by its works.

(Berkouwer, ibid., 13, 109)

9. John MacArthur:

While justification and sanctification are distinct theological concepts, both are essential elements of salvation. God will not declare a person righteous without also making him righteous . . . When God justifies an individual He also sanctifies him.

(The Gospel According to Jesus, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan / Academie Books, 1988, 60, 187-188)

10. John Wesley:

With regard to the condition of salvation, it may be remembered that I allow, not only faith, but likewise holiness or universal obedience, to be the ordinary condition of final salvation . . . At what time soever faith is given, holiness commences in the soul. For that instant 'the love of God' (which is the source of holiness) 'is shed abroad in the heart'.

(A Farther Appeal, 1745, Works, London: 1831, VIII, 68 ff.)

Suffer me to warn you of another silly, unmeaning word: Do not say, 'I can do nothing'. If so, you know nothing of Christ; then you have no faith: For if you have, if you believe, then you 'can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth you'. You can love him and keep his commandments.

(A Blow at the Root, 1762, Works, X, 369)

1. God works in us - therefore man can work. Prevenient grace is accorded to all. 2. God works in you - therefore you must work. You must work together with Him, or He will cease working.

(Working Out Our Own Salvation, 1788, Works, VI, pp. 511 ff.)

Wesley himself claimed to teach nothing but justification by faith. But he was not satisfied, like the pietists before him, with bringing sanctification and justification into the closest possible relation, after the Calvinist formula he was fond of recalling. More penetrating than any of his predecessors, he criticised Luther's opposition of faith to works as a sophistry. As early as the year 1739, when he started on his new course of action, he denounced what he called Luther's 'mania of solifideism'. Luther's commentary on the epistle to the Galatians, with its unbalanced depreciation of the divine Law, was in his view more likely to be pernicious than beneficial in its results. His reason was that the holiness of Christ should by no means be opposed to the holiness accessible to the Christian, but, rather, be represented as its unique source. Far from admitting, therefore, that the epistle of St. James deserved to be called an 'epistle of straw' [Luther's phrase], he called it 'the great antidote against the poison' of a justification which required no moral change in the Christian . . .

Wesley . . . taught more and more clearly that since the great effect of conversion was the regeneration by grace of the human will, the human will ought to work for its own salvation, and make daily progress, otherwise, even if the conversion was real in the beginning, it would become ineffective, through want of perseverance.

(Louis Bouyer, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, translated by A.V. Littledale, London: Harvill Press, 1956, 221-222)

Charles Dickens' observation in his classic and beloved work, A Christmas Carol, might provide us with an appropriate ending at this juncture:

This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom.

--- Ghost of Christmas Present

Uploaded by Dave Armstrong on 22 May 2003.


Mark Alan said...

This R-O-C-K-E-D!!

Great Job Mr. Armstrong.

Dave Armstrong said...

You're welcome, and thanks!