Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Critical Reply To De Maria On Justification

  • Introduction:
          -Recently, lay Roman Catholic apologist De Maria responded to an objector who argued against the Roman Catholic view of how man gets saved by God from eternal condemnation (i.e. justification). Following are his remarks in quotation form, with all of my replies being in pink. Alright, shall we begin this critique of Catholic apologetics?:

"But who is the judge of true faith, you or God?"

          >>No doubt, God is the ultimate judge of the validity of our faith (2 Corinthians 5:10). However, there is a tremendous difference between merely recognizing genuine faith in God and arrogating ourselves to a position of judging ourselves as being worthy of inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus Christ specifically said that we shall know people by people by their fruits (Matthew 7:20). We can certainly apply that principle of discernment to ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). And yes, we can have great assurance of our eternal salvation (John 5:24; 1 John 5:11-13).

"They claim faith ALONE saves. Whereas Scripture says differently."

          >>We Protestants proclaim the gospel of salvation by faith apart from the merit of all works because that is EXACTLY what Scripture affirms. What part of "not by works of righteousness" do Roman Catholics not understand (Romans 4:2-8; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:8-9; Titus 3:5-7)? Furthermore, it is vital to recognize that the Apostle Paul repeatedly mentioned the concept of meritorious works in the context of boasting throughout his epistles to the New Testament churches. He rightly did so because the works-salvation mindset provokes man's prideful nature. 

"Salvation is granted to them who OBEY Christ (Hebrews 5:9)"

          >>Obedience to the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ comes as a RESULT of salvation.

"Much less is one saved by faith ALONE (James 2:24)."

          >>The context of James 2:24 is not about justification, but rather is about how we demonstrate the reality of our faith by our good deeds. Good works are simply the EVIDENCE of a saving faith in God (James 2:18), NOT the cause of salvation. The word "justified" in this particular context best means VINDICATED or PROVEN, and is used in the same manner elsewhere in Scripture.

"But, for the most part, they (Protestants) deny the Catholic Teaching and call it blasphemous."
           >>Well, anybody who knows what the Apostle Paul said concerning preaching a false gospel would do the same (Galatians 1:6-12).

"First, faith, if it is accompanied by the fruits it produces, is not alone..."

           >>Remember, works are the product of salvation by faith, not the cause. The moment that the repentant man gets saved by faith is the moment that Jesus Christ begins to transform him into a holier person. Converted individuals are "a new creation in Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are created in Him for the purpose of good works (Ephesians 2:10). In short, works come as a result of faith, which is the moment of salvation. THAT is how good works accompany faith.

"Second, true faith produces good works and salvation follows (James 2:14)."

           >>Never does Scripture teach, "Works follow faith AND THEN salvation follows." The Bible teaches that the performance of good works occurs as a RESULT of salvation, not the cause. It almost seems as if De Maria has his "theological underwear" placed on backwards! Furthermore, the New American Bible, an official translation approved by the Church of Rome, emphatically translates the question posed in James 2:14 as, "Can THAT faith save him?" This is rather supportive of the "faith alone" position, for the addition of the implied "that" lends support to the interpretation that the inspired writer James was combating the error of using Paul's teaching on justification as an excuse for participation in sin or being negligent of Christian duties. Again, it is clear that James does not argue against salvation by faith alone, but rather argues against a salvation that is devoid of good works.

"Scripture tells you what else is needed. Baptism (Mark 16:16). And after, Confession (Heb 13:17) and throughout your life, good works (Matt 25:31-46). Do you take one verse and discard the rest of the Gospel?"

           >>Is De Maria actually serious in interpreting the Scripture passages that he just cited above in the manner that he just did? 

           >>In Mark 16:16, Jesus only condemned the unbelieving. In fact, He did not even say that baptism was necessary for salvation in the Mark verse. 
           >>Hebrews 13:17 simply talks about submission to godly, biblically appointed leaders of the church, not confession to a priest! This verse is not even talking about the confession of sin.               
           >>Concerning Matthew 25:31-46, the context is all about faithfulness to the will of God, not justification. The works mentioned in the text from the Gospel According to Matthew offer descriptions for various states of the human heart, not prescribed as criteria for salvation. As with all biblical scenarios of the final judgment, God looks at people's works because they are the evidence of what is in their hearts by faith.
           >>Salvation as presented by the biblical gospel is NOT works-based (John 20:30-31). 
           >>While De Maria claims that salvation is determined on the basis of faith AND works, Scripture teaches that mankind can only be saved on the basis of faith OR by works (Romans 11:6). But Scripture teaches that we are saved by FAITH, apart from the merit of all works. Sorry De Maria, but you can't have it both ways!


  1. Excellent responses.

    My favorite "parable" I developed to argue against the requirement of baptism for salvation, was for responding to our Lutheran pastor back in 1994:

    An unbeliever has had some really troubling times, things going wrong in his life, and is at his wit's end. While traveling one day he checks in to a motel for the night. There he finds a Gideon's Bible and decides to read the New Testament. He spends hours reading and realizes his sinful condition and the need for a savior. He prays to God, repents of his sin, and places his faith in the saving work of Christ -- i.e., he is born again. He realizes it is very early morning and he is hungry, so he walks across the street to the donut store. On his way back to the motel he gets hit by a car and is killed. Doe he go to heaven or hell?

    My pastor said he would go to heaven because he was saved; I responded, "Then I guess he didn't need to be baptized to be saved."

    1. I saw your article previously,

      My wife was raised in the Lutheran Church (LCMS) but later said she probably wasn't a believer until she met me; I was a new believer when we met (6 months) and was always talking about my faith, to where that was a huge part of our dating relationship. When I left the Army in early 1975 I ended up getting jobs which had me working on Sundays. Jill was in college and went to church with her family infrequently when she was home for breaks. When we married that was the end of our church attendance because of my work. After we were married for almost 12 years (1988) I got a promotion to where I had a different schedule which gave me Sunday mornings off, so I decided to investigate what all the mainline denominations taught as compared to Scripture (I hadn't yet heard of non-denominational churches!) My research showed me that the LCMS was the closest to N.T. teachings, although I disagreed with consubstantiation and baptismal regeneration. So that year we began attending a local LCMS assembly where we also ended up teaching Sunday School. After 4 years there the pastor began preaching Big Bang from the pulpit and the local newspaper, so we abandoned ship to another LCMS assembly ten miles away. There I ended up teaching confirmation classes MY way -- less Luther and more Scripture. Four years there and we moved to Iowa. By then I was fed up with too much Luther and not enough Bible, and we had been homeschooling and discovered Bible churches, etc. So for eight years we were "Lutherans".

    2. Great job, Jessie!

      Excellent responses to the Catholic side! It doesn't get much clearer than that.

      God Bless,