What is the saving Gospel?

Some time ago our USC apologist Wes Hunt offered a point by point rebuttal to Protestant pastor Matt Slick's "Questions for Catholics." In Part 2 of this series, Wes Hunt will tackle the heart of Slick's objections to the Catholic faith, centering on the question, what is the Gospel? The process of asking a list of "questions" is a common Protestant method for leading Catholics to doubt their faith and give credence to the claims of Protestantism. As Wes Hunt will show, not only are the questions themselves founded on misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the Scriptures, but even the mode of questioning itself is tilted unfairly against the Catholic by giving the false impression of a preponderance of evidence. This method of questioning is not meant to facilitate a sincere search for truth, but rather its purpose is to lead the Catholic along to a predetermined answer.

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Slicks's Not-So Slick Questions for Catholics

In this post (Part 1) we will be tackling a myriad of questions for Catholics from Reformed Protestant Apologist, Matt Slick. Slick, writing for CARM (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry) has created a list of "Questions for Roman Catholics". Apparently, Slick thinks himself to have hit a home run with his supposedly daunting questions for Catholics, so daunting, in fact, that, according to his own perception, Catholics are forced to resort to “ignoring them,” or just “hoping” that they “go away.” As Slick says in his opening paragraph: “The responses vary from defensive tradition to ignoring them and hoping to go away. Some of the questions are easier for Roman Catholics to respond to, and others are not. I hope that these might be helpful in your dialogs with the Roman Catholics as you try to present to them the true and saving gospel of Jesus Christ.”

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Geisler and Mackenzie: Refutation of Sola Scriptura (part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, we covered mainly Geisler and Mackenzie’s arguments from scripture. While in this rebuttal you will find they appeal to scripture very often, they appeal to it for the purpose of arguing that every oral tradition taught by either Christ or the apostles, was eventually "inscripturated", that is, recorded in the New Testament. We admire Geisler and Mackenzie for their zeal in supporting what they believe, yet, still, even so, we are reminded of the words of St. Paul: “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge” (Rm 10:2). With that said, pull up a chair and get comfortable, as we embark on a journey to find out whether all oral traditions had eventually been confined to scripture. As last time, Geisler and Mackenzie's statements will be denoted by GM, Unam Sanctam Catholicam's Wes Hunt will be denoted by W. Hunt.

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Geisler and Mackenzie: Refutation of Sola Scriptura (part 1)

By Wesley Hunt. Protestant apologists Ralph Mackenzie and Norman Geisler have put out an apologetic dissertation in defense of one of the hallmark doctrines of the Reformation, namely, sola scriptura. The article is titled, “A Defense of Sola Scriptura,” and seeks, among other things, to provide a thorough yet succinct justification for sola scriptura. Throughout the article, the apologists approach the issue from a number of angles, and it is the goal of this essay to address simply those claims Geisler and Mackenzie make from scripture. The other two posts, which will hopefully be soon to follow, will cover their arguments from both tradition, as well as other miscellaneous arguments presented in their paper. With that in mind, pull up a chair and enjoy the show.

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Vincentian Canon and Unanimous Consent of the Fathers

In the mid 17th century English Protestant divine William Chillingworth derided the concept of an unbroken apostolic tradition. In his book Religion of the Protestants, Chillingworth asserted that "There have been popes against popes: councils against councils: councils confirmed by popes against councils confirmed by popes: lastly the church of some ages against the church other ages" [1]. This assertion attempts to negate the force of the Catholic argument that Protestantism is not a fitting expression of Christian unity, since Protestant sects contradict each other. Chillingworth argued that the Catholic "unanimous consent of the fathers" is a mere illusion, a dream of Catholic apologists. It was Chillingworth's argument in part that prompted Cardinal Newman to write his famous Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. Newman, like many Catholic apologists, responded to this attack referring the principles of the Vincentian Canon.

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The Visible Church

Though Protestants and Catholics have many points of disagreement, it seems the most fundamental area of conflict has to do with the nature of the Church. Is the Church a visible, physically identifiable reality with an institutional government that keeps guard over doctrine and discipline, or is it a kind of invisible, loose union of various communities of Christians with different opinions on doctrinal questions and no institutional reality beyond the local level? Both Protestants and Catholics acknowledge the Church has an invisible, supernatural element; Catholics, however, assert that in addition the Church has a physical, visible side - that it is physically identifiable on this earth. Protestants, following Luther, tend to view the Church as a fundamentally invisible reality. In this essay, we will examine the biblical passages that point to the Church as a physical, institutional reality in conformity with Catholic Tradition.

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Grandchildren for God? A Primer on Infant Baptism

A few years ago, I was having lunch with the Sarasota chapter of the Full Gospel Businessman's Fellowship, a group of Protestant businessmen who gather regularly to talk about business, politics, religion or whatever - it is largely a Protestant social networking organization. The conversation was light; I was the only Catholic among the group, and while I was willing to scatter seed where I could, it was not the ideal moment for an intense debate. All of the sudden, one of the older gentleman at the luncheon gazed at me and said, "Do you know what God has against the Catholic Church?" "Please tell me," I responded. "God said, 'Give me children', but the Catholic Church gave Him grandchildren." It took me a while to catch his meaning, but finally it dawned on me; he was referring to the practice of infant baptism. His quip about "grandchildren" referred to Catholic believers initiating their children into the faith when they are too young to make the commitment themselves.

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Fundamentals of Mariology

On this website we frequently deal with very intricate apologetical issues relating to Protestantism; the proper understanding of the Greek in the phrase "works of the law" used by St. Paul; specific rebuttals to accusations that Catholics believe the Virgin Mary died for our sins; a defense of the concept of Apostolic Succession against attacks that the teaching is contrary to St. Paul's complaints about disciples boasting that they are from Paul or Apollos. Sometimes the focus of our articles presuppose that our readership already possesses advanced knowledge of the points of dispute between Catholics and Protestants. Today, let us go back to basics and examine a very fundamental obstacle to Protestant reunion with the Church: the issue of Marian devotion in Catholic spirituality. For many Protestants, every other Catholic teaching can be accepted with the proper education and the working of grace. But aversion to the Catholic veneration of Mary is so strongly ingrained in Protestant tradition as to be extremely difficult to overcome for some Protestants, even when they positively will to join the Catholic Church.

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Is Halloween Pagan?

If you are Catholic, you know that the title of this is a loaded question. If we mean "is the liturgical commemoration of All Saints' Day upon which Halloween is based pagan?", the answer is an obvious and resounding no. But if we mean "is the modern popular celebration of Halloween, with its twofold focus on consuming immoderate amounts of  sugared sweets and glorifying everything bizarre and dark, a reflection of pagan sentiment?", then I think we could answer in the affirmative. Even if there is no historical connection between Halloween celebrations and pre-Christian paganism, the mass-marketed "Halloween" is certainly a manifestation of neo-pagan modernism.

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Protestant Implications for Doctrine and Unity

In this article, I'd like to break from my normal genre and speak directly to our Protestant friends for a moment. Not about any particular point of dogma, but about the concept of dogma itself, and how this relates to the question of Christian unity. What, for a Protestant, is dogma? How do you Protestants define it? For a Catholic, a dogma is a teaching that has been revealed by God and must be believed with the assent of faith that is due to God, who cannot lie and whose teaching is sure - and what falls into this category is defined by the Church's Magisterium. But for a Protestant, what is dogma? And how does it relate to the concept of Christian unity?

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Virgin Mary Crucified?

In their attempts to discredit Catholic veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary and demonstrate that Mary takes the place of Jesus in Catholic piety, Protestants have sometimes made the assertion that different Catholic shrines around the world depict Mary as crucified for the sins of mankind, essentially sending the message that Mary, not Jesus, is the Savior of the world. This accusation appears in the popular evangelical book Fast Facts on False Teachings by Ron Carlson and Ed Decker (2003), where the authors speak of an altar in the Cathedral of Quito, Ecuador, that features an altar with a crucified statue of Mary above it. The same accusation is made in the video Catholicism: Crisis of Faith by Lumen Productions, an anti-Catholic video produced by disgruntled ex-Catholics. The implication is that Catholics believe they owe their salvation to Mary, not Jesus.

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I am of Paul, I am of Apollos

 In the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, we see Paul in two distinct places giving warnings to the Corinthian Church about boasting about their ministers. The Church in Corinth had been built up by St. Paul with the help of Apollos, an Alexandrian Jewish convert who was known for his erudition and powerful preaching. Shortly after the founding of the Church of Corinth, around 55 AD, dissension and schism broke out among the Christians there over sectarian disputes. It is regarding these disputes that Paul addresses the following passage:

"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no schisms among you: but that you be perfect in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been signified unto me, my brethren, of you, by them that are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith: I indeed am of Paul; and I am of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul then crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?...For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made void" (1 Cor. 1:10-13, 17).

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Petra vs. Petros: The Silence of Luther and the Greeks

If petros and petra are such astonishingly different words in the Greek that upon their meaning hinges the validity of the papacy, why did neither Martin Luther nor the Greek Orthodox take notice of this fact in their disputes with the popes? Most educated Catholics are probably familiar with the argument raised by non-Catholics about Peter being called the "Rock" in Matthew 16 that is based upon drawing a distinction between the two Greek words petra and petros.

If you are not familiar with this argument, Google it and you'll come up with a lot of material on it from Protestant and Catholic apologists. I think it is a rather weak argument; Patrick Madrid has dealt with it admirably here. Catholic Answers has a helpful tract about the topic as well, and Steve Ray's book Upon This Rock uses a plethora of sources, including Protestant scholarship, to dismantle this common Protestant objection.

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Assumption: Not a Question of History

The Church's doctrine on the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is usually treated with scorn by Protestants, who of course do not acknowledge the unique role of Mary in salvation history. There are many objections: the doctrine is "not biblical"; it was "invented" in 1950; in makes Mary into a rival of Christ for our affection, etc...Before I came back to the Church, I used to be skeptical of this doctrine; "Assumption? It sure is one giant assumption, since the Bible says nothing about it," I used to say to myself.

It is not the concept of an Assumption that is so problematic - Protestants of course acknowledge that both Enoch and Elijah were assumed alive into heaven, as the Scriptures state. The problem is not with the concept of an assumption, as much as whether or not one specific individual - Our Lady - was in fact assumed body and soul into heaven.
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The Pridefulness of Sola Scriptura

Besides the many arguments against the Protestant concept of Sola Scriptura from history, Scripture and logic, I think we could posit another fourth category of objections based on the subjective dispositions such a doctrine brings about in those who adhere to it. It is my contention that the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura leads to a prideful disposition in the soul, which is forced by logical necessity to invest its own opinions with the authority of divine revelation. The Catholic teaching of an authoritative Church that hands on doctrine, however, leads the soul to humility and docility, for the doctrine is received as a gift given gratuitously. Let us examine this further.

Catholics and Protestants come at the truth through two different avenues. In Catholic theology, we look at the content of Divine Revelation and interpret it through the lens of our own tradition, which we hold to be authoritative. Thus, while certain questions are open for discussion, there are many others which we hold as "settled."
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St. James and St. Paul on "Works of the Law"

In any discussion with Protestants about how we are saved, the Catholic who insists on the reality of merit and the efficacy of good works done in grace will inevitably be countered by biblical passages that seem to indicate that our salvation is not contingent upon anything we do. What are the relevant biblical passages in this debate, and what is their true meaning? In James 2:24, St. James clearly says, “Man is justified by works and not by faith alone" (the only time the phrase "faith alone" appears in the Bible). For a Catholic, this could not be more clear. Yet Protestants will typically counter by turning to St. Paul's discussion of justification in Romans, specifically Romans 3:28, where St. Paul says precisely the opposite of St. James: "We hold that man is justified by faith apart from works of law." What is the solution here?

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Rob Bell and the Fault Lines of Protestantism



(Collins English Dictionary)

1) (Earth Science/Geology Science) Also called fault plane Geology the surface of a fault fracture along which the rocks have been displaced

2) a potentially disruptive division or area of contention

This spring, Protestant pastor Rob Bell of Grand Rapids, MI. published a controversial book entitled Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person that caused controversy to erupt throughout the evangelical Protestant world.

The book basically presents a Protestant version of the heretical Balthasarian doctrine on hell - that in the end, we can expect or at least hope for a universal salvation of every human. He asserts that hell is simply what we created for ourselves by rejecting the will of God, but does not see it as an objective state of a damned soul in eternal separation from God. This book has prompted everything from blog responses by irritated evangelicals (here) to formal critiques in Christianity Today (see here) to television interviews (here and here).

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Did St. Augustine believe in Sola Scriptura?

Anyone who has read any scholarly works by Protestant apologists knows how readily they turn to the venerable St. Augustine of Hippo to find support for their doctrines. Many Protestants, from Martin Luther to Adolf Harnack, held Augustine in great esteem and saw in him a pre-Reformation reformer. The Protestant Confession of Augsburg (1530) in Article 20 cites Augustine as a supporter of the Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide: “Augustine, in many volumes, defends grace and the righteousness of faith, over against the merits of works.” Calvin quoted Augustine more than any other theologian. Indeed, Augustine is almost universally praised by the intellectual Protestant world as a type of proto-Protestant. No such Protestant love is showed for saints like Cyprian, Athanasius or Gregory the Great. From whence comes this Protestant affection for St. Augustine?

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