Friday, April 08, 2005

The passing of the Pope: thirty-three questions

Such universal adoration and admiration is being expressed for the late John Paul II (see below), that one is reluctant to seem as not following the pack. How can one raise even a mildly critical note, without seeming to be picking on this kindly, benevolent old man who suffered so much and did so much good?

I have heard much lately of the Pope's opposition to Communism, to liberation theology, to post-modernism, and to the culture of death. He was a commendably one-note champion of the value of human life, leaving no ambiguity to his position, nor that of the religion he represented. Committed Roman Catholics clearly loved this man dearly, and he brought many young people to Roman Catholicism.

A Biblical Christian can be glad for the man's opposition of Communism and his championing of the value of the lives of the unborn and the handicapped. But can a Biblical Christian be glad for the Pope's championing of Roman Catholicism? Does charity require him to wave aside "theological differences," and embrace the Pope and his mourners as brothers and sisters in Christ?

Take for example Fred Barnes. I've liked Fred and enjoyed his observations for years, and often heard him referred to as an "evangelical." Imagine my surprise when I read his outpouring of unqualified praise for the late Pope as A Great Christian. Barnes does not stick to his usual political/cultural commentary, but specifically praises the Pope in the most extravagant religious terms. My jaw dropped when I read, at the start of the essay, the Pope described as "world's greatest defender of orthodox, Bible-based Christianity." Not of Roman Catholicism, which might arguably be a truthful statement; but specifically of "orthodox, Bible-based Christianity." This is followed by the claim that "John Paul was bold and unswerving in proclaiming salvation through belief in Jesus Christ" (at least Barnes does not add "alone"). No wonder, by Barnes' lights, that he concludes with the assertion that evangelicals "have lost a great and wonderful leader."

Then, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Christianity Today subjects us to the mind-boggling He Was My Pope, Too, written by Uwe Siemon-Netto who, we are told, is a Lutheran theologian and religion editor. (As if Luther has not suffered enough at the hands of his nominal spiritual descendants!)

I'm late on this post because I've been thinking about how to approach this event myself. Out of countless dialogues with Roman Catholics, I know how it goes. Object to Roman Catholic dogma on Biblical grounds, and you're immediately a "Roman Catholic basher," or an "anti-Roman Catholic bigot," or of course a "hater." Even when one directly quotes Roman Catholic authorities, if one is compelled Biblically to disagree, one is invariably told he just does not understand Rome's position.

In other words, it exactly parallels the response of homosexuals to Christians who affirm the Bible's stance on that issue -- just with different specifics.

Over the years I have searched fruitlessly for a way to open closed minds, and have concluded that the Bible is right: it can't be done, except by God. And God does do it (Acts 16:14; Ephesians 2:1-3). But that is far from a counsel of despar, for our word of testimony may well be the means God uses to do His supernatural work (2 Timothy 2:24-26). After all, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ passed along by a human herald (Romans 10:14-17).

It is in that spirit that I pose these questions, provoked not solely by the Pope's death, but by the response of so many professedly evangelical Christians to that death:


  1. Shouldn't a self-identified "evangelical" be concerned about the "evangel" (i.e. good news, Gospel), if he is concerned about anything at all (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2)?
  2. Is it not still true that one is still saved if, and only if, he holds fast to the apostolic evangel (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)?
  3. Is it not still true that one is damned to Hell if he fundamentally alters that evangel, so that he indeed preaches a "different" Gospel (Galatians 1:6-9)?
  4. Is it not still true that this condemnation applies to absolutely everyone without distinction, whether he be an apostle, "an angel from heaven," or "anyone" (Galatians 1:6-9)?
  5. Given the previous four propositions, is the Gospel a peripheral consideration, or a central, watershed issue?
  6. If the Gospel is not a central, watershed issue, then what is?
  7. Is it not still true that Satan himself preaches "gospel" and "Jesus" (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 14-15)?
  8. Is it not still true that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, and his workers disguise themselves as workers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)?
  9. Is it not still true that anyone can confess Jesus as "Lord," utter prophecies and work miracles, and still be damned by Jesus at the Last Day with the words "I never knew you" (Matthew 7:21-23)?
  10. Is it still true that would-be teachers are properly subjected to greater judgment (James 3:1)?
  11. Given the truth of the previous propositions, are we not obligated to judge ourselves and all purported teachers -- which would certainly include the Pope -- by conformity of both life and doctrine to the Word of God?
  12. Does a person become exempt from the previous consideration if he does other good deeds, is popular, or dies?
  13. Is there any rational possibility that a Biblical Gospel of salvation by the grace of God alone, in Jesus Christ alone, on the imputed righteousness of Christ alone, received by faith alone and causally unrelated to human works (Romans 4:2-9; Ephesians 2:8-9), can be reconciled with the official Roman Catholic "gospel" of salvation partly by what God does and partly by what man does?
  14. Is it rationally possible that these two gospels can both be true?
  15. Is it not certain that the one that is not the Biblical gospel -- along with those who preach it -- falls under the condemnation of Galatians 1:6-9?
  16. Does it not necessarily follow that the Roman Catholic Church, which explicitly rejects that Biblical Gospel, and those who affirm the position of the Roman Catholic Church, fall under that condemnation?
  17. Can anyone who is fuzzy on the nature of the Gospel rationally call himself an "evangelical"?
  18. Did Pope John Paul II ever openly and unambiguously disown the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church on the Gospel?
  19. Is an institution exempt from these questions because it is old?
  20. If so, why would not Buddhism, Hinduism, polytheism, and animism be so exempt?
  21. Also, how long was it before the first false teaching entered the apostolic church (hint: see 1 Corinthians 15, 2 Peter, the epistles of John, and Jude)?
  22. Is an institution exempt from these questions because it is large?
  23. If so, how large was Baalism as contrasted with Yahwism in the 15th century BC?
  24. Was Baalism unassailably true at that time, due to the size of the cult?
  25. Is an informal, de facto contradiction of the Gospel less damnable than a formal, de jure perversion of it?
  26. Does not the Gospel mean affirming Jesus' word from the cross, Tetelestai -- "It has been finished" (John 19:30)?
  27. Does not the Gospel mean affirming Paul's word that we are filled full in Christ (Colossians 2:10), and that we stand abidingly saved by grace through faith as a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9)?
  28. Does not the Gospel mean affirming the writer to the Hebrews' repeated and emphatic teaching that Christ's sacrifice is perfect and will never be repeated, because its one act accomplished all that is necessary for our salvation (Hebrews 10)?
  29. Whatever it may say formally, when an institution which re-sacrifices Christ on a regular basis, claiming to offer up (again and again, hundreds of millions of times across the world) the very flesh and blood of Jesus as a spiritually effective act, does it not pervert and contradict those Biblical statements of the Gospel?
  30. Can any man or woman who affirms such a contradiction of the Gospel be accurately described as a great Christian, an orthodox Christian, a Biblically-based Christian -- or a Christian at all?
  31. Is it still true that "no one can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24)?
  32. If one formally claims to belong to Christ (as does every Christian: Romans 6, etc.), yet at the same time embraces as his distinctive motto the worshipful vow to Mary Totus tuus ("Totally yours"), and refer to her as "Coredemptrix" (as did the Pope), does not one loyalty necessarily cancel out the other?
  33. If a Biblically literate Christian is not permitted to ask these questions, then who is?
These questions just scratch the surface, of course. But it seems to me that they must be asked; and they must be answered. If one's ultimate loyalty is to this particular sect, he will feel obliged either to ignore or "explain away" the questions. If however truth is a concern, the Biblical answers will prove revolutionary. They did nearly 500 years ago.

They can again, today.

UPDATE: a Christian pastor was fired from his job as a radio talk show host simply for entertaining the question as to whether the Pope went to Heaven or not -- which, as James White points out, is a question which itself could be debated wthin the circle of Roman Catholic dogma.

12 comments:

Kevin McGrath said...

Though all of these topics deserve attention, I will only address the topic of the Eucharist for now. It is a complicated matter, and so I ask that all read carefully and finish before commenting on half of what I have written.

The reasons Catholics celebrate the Eucharist are many: Christ asked us to do so (Lk 22:17-20),fulfilling the prophecy of Melchizedek (Gen 14:17-19); Christ told us it was the way to salvation (Jn 6:47-59); Christ is the new Passover Lamb (Gen 22:8, Ex 12:5-46, Jn 19:32-37).

First, Christ instituded the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He says very clearly to "do this in memory of [Him]." Now, Christ is a priest in the line of Melchizedek (Ps 110:1-4), which means that Melchizedek (a prefigurement of Christ) was offering up bread and wine as Christ did in the New Testament. So, Catholics offer up bread and wine as commanded by Jesus.

Christ also told us that by eating His flesh and drinking His blood, we would have eternal life with Him (Jn 6:47-59). Many of His followers left Him after this teaching. Nevertheless, He stuck to it, because that practice reminds us of the greatest sacrifice of all. Not only do Catholics do it to be reminded, but it also helps with salvation. You see, Catholics believe that the bread and wine are transformed into the actual Body and Blood of Christ, sacrificed on the alter at every Mass. In that way, Christ is sacrificed again and again, which is necessary for salvation. But the sacrifice is also imperfect, because it is performed by humans and not God. In other words, the sacrifce of the God-Man has two sides: the God side, which is infinitely perfect, and the man side, which is finite and imperfect. So from the perspective of man, the Eucharist celebrated at Mass is not as effective for salvation as the perfect sacrifice that Christ made on Golgatha. But from the perspective of God, He takes that imperfect sacrifice and makes it perfect.

I hope your question is answered by the above. The last few quotes I had should be familiar to most Christians, so please let me know if I ought to elaborate on them.

DJP said...

No need to elaborate. It isn't a position acceptable to Christians, because of the Bible's teaching.

1. Not one verse states that the elements should be "offered." That's made up on the basis of unwarranted leaps.

2. John 6 is not and cannot be about the Eucharist. It is about coming to Christ and believing in Him alone for salvation (v. 35), which none can do apart from the sovereign work of God (vv. 37, 44). His blood still flowed in His veins, His flesh was unscarred, the Supper was well in the future. It's about what Roman Catholics don't do (trust in Christ alone for life and salvation), not what they do.

3. The only offering of Christ spoken of in Scripture is the once-for-all-time, perfect offering on the Cross (cf. Hebrews 10:10, 14, etc.). That is what makes the RC ritual such an appalling blasphemy.

Kevin McGrath said...

It is not an unwarrented leap that Christ told us to offer up the bread and wine in remebrence of Him when he was breaking bread at the Last Supper in the same way that they sacrificed a lamb at the Passover.

Yes, in Jn 6 there is mentioned some things about coming to Christ for salvation, but there is also mentioned what I had quoted about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. You must come to Christ and eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to spend eternity with God. Just because Christ was still alive doesn't mean that He did not want them to do that once He had died.

There are many problems with taking the Bible too literally, one of which is the very human aspect of the Bible. This means that, while God guided the writings of the Bible, humans wrote it, and so there are levels of humanity throughout it, such as traditions, common beliefs at the time, different social structures, and differnt languages that are not always interpreted with the proper meaning.

Sola Scriptura and salvation by faith alone are both fallacies. Where in the Bible does it talk about Sola Scriptura? And salvation by faith alone is clearly false, because Jesus tells His disciples to obey His commandments and do good works. Why should we if all we have to do is believe He died for us?

For such confusions, Christ gave the Catholic Church the Holy Spirit to guide the leaders of the Church in interpreting Holy Scripture and upholding the traditions laid forth by Christ Himself. Since the Holy Spirit guided the authors of the Bible, it is only proper that the Holy Spirit also help the Church interpret it.

Stan McCullars said...

Christ gave the Catholic Church the Holy Spirit to guide the leaders of the Church in interpreting Holy Scripture and upholding the traditions laid forth by Christ Himself.

Can't wait for you to show us that one in the Bible.

Paul speaks clearly about salvation being by faith and not of works:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)
See also Romans 4.

Regarding Scripture:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21 ESV)

By the way, why did you wait over four years to respond to Dan's post?

DJP said...

Clearly, Christ did not give the Roman Catholic Church as the interpreter of His Word, since it has twisted it to the damnation of countless thousands.

Odd for you to rail against literal interpretation, after insisting on the literally impossible literal interpretation of the words of institution.

So we've dismissed the possibility that John 6 is about Communion. Further, while an important institution (since the Lord gave it), Communion is mentioned only once in the epistles. So it isn't the magical food of the gods that Rome makes it.

Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is taught again and again in Scripture. It is the Gospel. The Gospel — not Rome — is the power of God resulting in salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16). It is a matter of faith alone (Romans 1:17). As Paul expressly says, "to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" (Romans 4:5).

I do appreciate the honesty of your up-front denial of the Gospel, though. Some RC's try to play word-games and pretend they affirm it. But in that you have the answer: Rome is an apostate institution, because it enslaves folks like you to denying your only hope for eternal life - a salvation that is from God alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.

Christ is not an assistant, and the Cross is not a supplement. He's your savior, and it is your salvation, or He is nothing to you.

You've told us which of those is your current stance.

Now I plead with you to repent of your tattered, filthy, damning good works (Isaiah 64:6), and throw yourself on the mercy of God in Jesus Christ alone, so that you might know His salvation and forgiveness.

Kevin McGrath said...

"Can't wait for you to show us that one in the Bible."

Here it is: Lk 24:45, and Jn 21:15-17, Jn 20:19-23, Jn 14:15-31, Mt 16:13-20.

Those quotes are all either about the descent of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles or about Christ giving the Apostles authority over the Church on earth, which is the Catholic Church.

When Paul speaks to the Jews about works, he is mainly addressing the works of the Jewish law (Rom 3:27-31), not doing good works. He is saying that those works of the law are not enough for salvation anymore. Rather, it is by the grace of God, through faith, demonstrated by good works, that we attain salvation. I never said that works alone will bring you to salvation. Faith and works are needed. Yes, faith is greater, because works without faith are fruitless. But faith without works is also fruitless. James 2:26 says that "faith apart from works is dead." And Christ said "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father" (Mt 7:21). Also see Mt 7:22-29).

"So we've dismissed the possibility that John 6 is about Communion. Further, while an important institution (since the Lord gave it), Communion is mentioned only once in the epistles. So it isn't the magical food of the gods that Rome makes it."

No, you dismissed it. I have not, because Christ is talking about the Eucharist. If Communion is mentioned even once in the epistles, then surely it shouldn't be thrown away like you seem to have done, right?

I do believe in the Gospel. You do too. The difference between us is how we interpret it, and there is no room for wrong answers.

Hopefully this debate can be free from name-calling ("Rome is an apostate institution") and damning people to Hell ("tattered, filthy, damning good works"), because we all know Christ tells us it is wrong to judge others (Mt 7:1-5).

A little more on the faith and works issue. If you told your wife you loved her, she'd believe you, right? Now, say you told her that and then never came home after work, never got her flowers, never cooked her dinner, bought her cheap things, didn't do anything for her birthday or anniversary, and hung out with friends instead of her on the weekends. Do you really love her? When you tell her that you do, will she believe you? Should she believe you? You see, faith is truly dead without works (James 2:26).

"By the way, why did you wait over four years to respond to Dan's post?"

I only within the past few months have been blogging.

And again I ask, where in the Bible does it mention anything about Sola Scriptura?

DJP said...

That was already answered.

You've given no Scriptures that authorize the Pope to override God's Word.

As to Communion: No, read again. John 6 cannot possibly be about Communion. It is about Jesus. As you were showed, that is what Jesus Himself says.

You only think it is about Communion because you sold your soul to Rome. It isn't in the text.

It is not name-calling to say a snowball is white. It's just having a brain and eyes that work. It is not judging to tell someone not to drink poison; it's love. Since I haven't sold my judgment the wrong way on the "Who do you believe, the Pope or your lying eyes?" proposition, I'll call it like the Bible calls it, and tell the truth, to the best of my ability.

The Bible damns Rome's gospel and anyone who brings it. That's you, as long as you stand with Rome. This isn't my pronouncement, it's Paul's (Galatians 1:6-9). Again, forced to choose between Rome and God's Word, the Christian will choose the latter every time.

Your distinction between this sort of law-works (which don't save) and that sort of law-works (which do save) is a silly Roman dodge that's been answered for at least 500 years. Scripture doesn't make your distinction. You already know that. Read the last comment more slowly: "to the one who DOES NOT WORK but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" (Romans 4:5). You believe Rome. The Christian believes God.

God asks the Christian, "What do you have that you did not receive?" (1 Corinthians 4:7). The Christian answers, "Nothing!" The Roman Catholic answers, "My works, that helped save me!" God says the Christian is in Christ through His doing, alone (1 Corinthians 1:30), and thus can boast in the Lord only (v. 31). The Roman Catholic answers "No! I helped! Salvation is a team-effort! I have to get some of the glory!"

The chasm is unbridgeable. Again, I implore you, leave the doomed raft. Flee to Christ.

Kevin McGrath said...

I have given you a valid answer to your quotes of the Bible, and you brush them aside. That is understandable, considering your beliefs. However, you have not answered my quotations at all. This leads me to believe that you do not have answers. Look over my references again and dispute them. If you do not, then you are wrong. If you can dispute them, then do so, please. I do not want to follow the wrong beliefs, believe me.

No, nobody has given an answer to my question as to whether or not the Bible says that the Bible is the only source of Truth. Answer me or else I will assume you do not know and are thus wrong.

We will just have to agree to disagree as far as Jn 6 goes.

You must not know very much about the Catholic Church, because you are incorrect on a very basic level. But for the grace of God, nothing is possible. We could not exist without Him, we could not have faith without Him, we could not do good works without Him. You seem to think that Catholics believe it is all about ding good things in order to get to Heaven. That is simply not true. An atheist can be the nicest person and do many good things, but if he dies without faith, he will go to Hell. Likewise, a Christian who cheats on his wife, murders, rapes, and steals without repentance will die and go to Hell. Why do you think Christ spent so much time teaching His disciples how to do good things? It is because He wants them to follow in His footsteps, which means to have faith and do good works. Again, Catholics do not take credit for the good works they do - or at least they shouldn't. Rather, Catholics give the credit to God, knowing that it is only by His grace that we are able to have faith and do good works.

Also, let me ask you this: If faith is all you need to get to Heaven, then why not just say you believe in Jesus, accept that He died for your salvation, then shoot yourself in the head? You wouldn't have to suffer here on earth, and you would go straight to Heaven with God. Pretty good deal, I think. So why bother here on earth?

Another misconception you have is that you think Catholics believe the Pope overrides God. Again, you could not be more wrong. Catholics believe that Christ instituted the Church through Peter and the Popes thereafter. This means that the Pope serves as the mediator between man and God's will. The Holy Spirit guides the Pope's decisions much like It guided the authors of the Bible.

Let's face it. Protestants don't like the Catholic Church because they don't want to be told what to do. They like sinning, but don't want to be held responsible for it, so they make up something as blatently stupid as salvation by faith alone. You guys don't like the Church because of Confession, Church Authority, and because you don't understand the Eucharist. You took out seven books of the Bible, because they went against what you wanted to believe.

It must feel good to pretend that I'm going to Hell because I'm a Catholic, and you're trying to save me. I don't blame you for your beliefs, because you were probably raised that way and have a culture predisposition to believe in the wrong thing. I'm here to tell you otherwise, and I will NOT be judging you whatever you choose. I can only pray for you that you will choose the right thing.

Lastly, if you fail to answer me again about my previous questions, I will not repsond again. This is not because you have won the argument, but rather because you are too stubborn to argue with. Name-call and condemn me to Hell all you want. I only hope that those who read this will see the truth in what I write.

God Bless!

DJP said...

Ah; I see you've made a common mistake: you think that because you talked after having been refuted, you "answered." There's more to it than that. Actually, we're still stuck at the first interchange.

You clearly have no idea what you're talking about on a great many levels — most significantly the Bible, least significantly me. The story of how I came to know Christ isn't that hard to find, if that's of interest to you.

As to the rest, yes, Christians have heard it all, and we will stay with Christ instead of Rome. Nor will I let you get us off of that subject. The Bible is all about Christ; Rome is all about Rome. Christians want to win people to Jesus Christ; RCs want to win people to Rome, because to them Rome is god.

Once again, here is the difference:

Biblical Gospel
Jesus Christ + 0 = salvation

Roman Gospel
Jesus Christ + Rome's system of works = salvation

As Paul anticipated in Galatians 1:6-9, the two are irreconcilable.

You are not going to Hell because you are Roman Catholic. You are in danger of Hell because you deny and reject the only saving Gospel of Christ, by which alone you could be saved from our sins.

And you deny that Gospel because you are Roman Catholic.

Unless you repent and trust Christ as He is set forth in the Gospel, yours will be yet more blood on Rome's apron.

CR said...

Kevin,

I was really struck by your statement: " If faith is all you need to get to Heaven, then why not just say you believe in Jesus, accept that He died for your salvation, then shoot yourself in the head?"I was struck by it in several ways. First to call any gift from God, "if all you need" is quite a statement. Faith is a gift and it's not just a "if all you need."

I'm also wondering if you understand what faith is. What do you understand faith to be? What you have described is what James described as demonic belief. If we believe like the demons believe, James says then we do good {sarcasm by James) but so do the demons and they shudder.

I'd also like to ask you two other questions. Have you come to a place in your spiritual life where you know for certain if you were to die, you would go to Heaven, or is that something you would say you're still working on? The second question I would ask is if you were to stand before God and He were to say to you, "Kevin, why should I let you into my Heaven?" what would you say to Him?

Stan McCullars said...

Look over my references again and dispute them. If you do not, then you are wrong.

I must have missed my logic class the day they taught that one.

nobody has given an answer to my question as to whether or not the Bible says that the Bible is the only source of Truth.>

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men."

The Bible is the word of God. The pope speaks the word of man. Ironic that it was Peter that said that.

why not just say you believe in Jesus, accept that He died for your salvation, then shoot yourself in the head?>

Because it would be a sinful act.

On a side note, your asking such a question is a sign of desperation on your part nothwithstanding your high opinion of yourself.

The Holy Spirit guides the Pope's decisions much like It guided the authors of the Bible.

Perhaps you could enlighten us as to why the pope reverses his decisions from time to time.

Let's face it. Protestants don't like the Catholic Church because they don't want to be told what to do. They like sinning, but don't want to be held responsible for it, so they make up something as blatently stupid as salvation by faith alone.

Ignorant AND obnoxious.

You seem to think that Catholics believe it is all about doing good things in order to get to Heaven.

Dan never suggested such a thing. He said Catholics believe salvation is a result of works in addition to faith which is not a gospel at all.

The tone of your post seems to indicate that you're not interested in discussing but rather arguing. Bad form.

steve s said...

The Holy Spirit is a He. To suggest otherwise betrays ignorance of the very nature of God.