Thursday, November 14, 2019

Refuting Roman Catholic Apologist De Maria's Rebuttal To My Open Letter On Justification By Faith Alone

  • Discussion:
          -Quite simply, the purpose of this article is to answer Roman Catholic apologist De Maria's rebuttal to my open letter that I made in response to him criticizing me for citing a commentary from Martin Luther on Galatians 4:30. Following are the Catholic apologist's remarks alongside with a critique:

          " his rebuttal, Jesse neglects to answer the question I asked. Will they be saved who do not do good works?"

          Notice the fallacious either/or nature of De Maria's question. If one answers in the affirmative, then this person will most likely concede that his respective position is the correct one. If one answers in the negative, then this person will simply accuse his opponent of upholding a license to sin. The conclusions drawn in both scenarios, however, are misguided.

          While we agree that faith cannot be separated from good works, the area of disagreement is on the relationship between the two. Advocates of Sola Fide would argue that works have a consequential relationship to faith. This question has already been addressed, just not according to De Maria's standards. Moreover, I posed a reflection question for him, to which he answered thus:

          "I don't know. Since the Catholic Church Teaches that we have assurance of salvation, we live a life of joy and peace when we give ourselves to Christ."

          That is not really a satisfactory analysis, since question-begging is involved and the logical implications of my inquiry are totally overlooked.

          "We don't claim, as the Pharisee did, that we know that we are saved. We, like the Apostle, say...[1 Cor 4:13]."

          First of all, the scribes and Pharisees of the Law boasted of a righteous standing before God on the basis of their good works. In contrast, believers approach God by faith because they are convicted of their sinfulness and need His mercy.

          Secondly, the Apostle Paul did not say that we could not have assurance of eternal life. Rather, it is God who evaluates our degree of faithfulness and rewards us accordingly. Paul did not dare to make such a judgement regarding himself even though he had a clear conscience (1 Corinthians 4:5).

          "On the contrary, the biblical gospel condemns those who judge themselves saved...if you judge yourself saved, you judge yourself righteous."

          It is God, not ourselves, who declares us to be righteous by faith. We cannot possibly take credit for our own salvation if He is its author and finisher.

          "Luke 18: The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. 9 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else...if you say, "I am saved because of the righteousness of Christ which He has credited to me." Scripture doesn't say any such thing. If you are not truly righteous, God will condemn you. God does not acquit the wicked.

          God has chosen to exercise His mercy rather than judge us for what we deserve. Man in his present condition is dead to sin. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. No one deserves His salvation. If we wish to be changed by the grace of God, then we must place our trust in the atonement of His Son Jesus Christ. It seems as though De Maria has turned the text of Luke 18:9-14 right on its head.

          "That's another error passed on by Luther. God forgives sins."

          God is perfect and holy. He is true to Himself. Yet, we have all sinned against Him. That is why His Law condemns us. This is not about Martin Luther or the other Protestant Reformers. In order for God to forgive us, we must accept the atonement that Christ provided on our behalf.

          "Hebrews 5:9 and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him...Those who continue to live wicked lives will not be saved no matter how many times they claim to believe in God..."

          Hebrews 5:9 describes God's purpose and intent in saving us. In addition, equating Sola Fide with the type of faith that demons have is a strawman off the bat.

          "[It is strictly by God's grace that we are saved [De Maria quoting me]. No doubt [De Maria's reply]. not by our own efforts [De Maria quoting me]. Also true. But God will not pour out His grace on those who do not obey His will [De Maria's reply]."

          The Roman Catholic Church has a different understanding of "grace alone" and "not by our own efforts" than what is defined in Scripture. Them two phrases have been loaded with underlying philosophical presuppositions that we ought to reject.

           "Again, that [John 6:28-29] doesn't mean what you think it means. That doesn't say, "If you claim to believe in Jesus Christ, you will be saved. Scripture is clear that those who do not do the righteous works of God, will be condemned to eternal punishment."

           The text being disputed does indeed mean that it is God's will for us to place our trust in His Son Jesus Christ and His work alone for justification. Those who fail to do so will be condemned to eternal punishment.

            "And where do you get this Blood? We get it in the Holy Eucharist when we attend the Mass. You reject this Sacrament."

            First of all, the term "Eucharist" literally means thanksgiving. Whether or not the concept of transubstantiation is biblical would be a point of dispute and is not the subject matter being discussed at hand. In short, this is simply a red herring.


  1. Here's some of my thoughts on this discourse:
    Salvation is God’s work, not man’s work. This idea is what guides the St. Augustine’s Confessions. But in order for us not to be predestined we must, in the end, surrender one part of salvation to our own will. If it is solely God, with no reference to our will, we are simply fortunate recipients, those lucky persons who get to obtain eternal life. The others, whether they would like it or not, are sent to hell. So what part of salvation does man take into his own hands?
    God is the sole source of goodness and grace, and being so man man can not derive any goodness by himself. He must cooperate and allow God to work in him. After the fall, man received a wounded will, a will bent toward sin. So now his will is not neutral to virtue (as Aristotle would say), it is actually inclined to what is bad. And so all men, even children (Psalm 51) are condemned to death under the law. It was only the action of God, his dying on the cross, that offered us the forgiveness, mercy, and grace to become just again. The eternal source of Grace, now offers us salvation again.
    This is where that action takes place. Every good thing we do, we must credit to God. We by ourselves are slaves of sin. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Even if we say that it is because of our actions that we are saved, this must be then accredited to God. But it is choosing to accept God’s grace (the faith in it), and daily returning to it, where the choice lies. Once we accept this grace, we are enabled to do righteous actions and live a life of Christ. It is not a one time choice, obviously, because we continue to fall despite the acceptance of Christ. God does not make us robots after we say yes. We must always and every day say yes, and then we will be slowly transformed by God into our true selves, and will be united to God by love.
    Unless we are to name ourselves Calvinists, there has to be an action that we perform to gain salvation. So is it Sola Fide or is it Faith plus works, or is it works? I think the disagreement between protestants and Catholics may be more of a matter of semantics. We obviously can not live a life of vice and be saved, but it is not we who save ourselves, or even our actions that merit it. It seems to be a continual acceptance, or faith in the grace of God, which leads to God transforming us into our true selves, (I take this idea from Plato) manifesting itself in good works.

    1. Sean,

      Augustine's ideology was one of the worst things that happened to the Christian Church in general, let alone papism. Calvin took up Augustine's teachings and spread them like a disease among non-Catholics ever since the Reformation. I refute Augustine/Calvin teachings here:

  2. Hello Sean,

    Thank you for your comments.

    "If it is solely God, with no reference to our will, we are simply fortunate recipients, those lucky persons who get to obtain eternal life."

    Well, I am not a Calvinist...and I do not believe that we are just "lucky recipients" of salvation. The atonement of Christ is applied to everyone who believes.

    "So what part of salvation does man take into his own hands?"

    We must accept the terms of forgiveness as prescribed in the gospel. This is analogous to a physician informing a patient of the need for a procedure such as a heart surgery. The latter performs the work on the former. In the same vein, it is God who diagnoses our problem of sin and totally removes it from our being. He does all the saving Himself.

    Our decision to approach God in humble repentance merits us nothing. Admitting that we are under the curse of sin does not save us. God is not under any obligation whatsoever to save us. He is compassionate. He is merciful. Our decision to repent is not the same as His decision to save us.

    "Even if we say that it is because of our actions that we are saved, this must be then accredited to God."

    If it is because of our works that we are saved (even partially), then we have grounds to boast before God. But that system of justification is condemned in Scripture (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5).

    "Unless we are to name ourselves Calvinists, there has to be an action that we perform to gain salvation."

    We have the ability to recognize that we have a spiritual problem in light of divine revelation. The choice to accept the free gift of salvation is not a work, anymore than is grabbing a lifesaver while drowning or accepting a birthday gift from a loved one. To say that we take credit for accepting a free, and even undeserved, gift would be irrational in the highest degree. I am not saying that you made such a suggestion, but simply illustrating a few points.

    "So is it Sola Fide or is it Faith plus works, or is it works?"

    We are justified by faith, apart from the merit of any and all good works. We are to place our trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Good works are the product or result of a regenerate heart. One does not have to be a Calvinist in order to believe in Sola Fide:

    "I think the disagreement between protestants and Catholics may be more of a matter of semantics.'

    False. The disagreement between Protestants and Roman Catholics is doctrinal. The Roman Catholic Church does not accept grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, etc.