November 19, 2023

Chapter 6 (pp. 51-58) of my book, Reflections on Radical Catholic Reactionaries (December 2002; revised second edition: 17 August 2013; slightly revised again in November 2023 for the purpose of the free online version). Anyone who reads this book should first read the following three introductory articles, in order to fully understand the definitions and sociological categories I am employing:

Introduction (on the book page)

Definitions: Radical Catholic Reactionaries, Mainstream “Traditionalists,” and Supposed “Neo-Catholics” [revised 8-6-13]

Radical Catholic Reactionaries: What They Are Not [9-28-21]

If you’re still confused and unclear as to my meanings and intent after that, read one or more of these articles:

Rationales for My Self-Coined Term, “Radical Catholic Reactionaries” [8-6-13]

My Coined Term, “Radical Catholic Reactionary”: Clarifications [10-5-17]

Clarifying My Coined Term, “Radical Catholic Reactionary” [4-3-20]

This book is modeled after the method and structure of the French mathematician and Catholic apologist Blaise Pascal’s classic, Pensées (“thoughts”). Catholic apologist and philosopher Peter Kreeft described this masterpiece as “raw pearls” and “more like ‘sayings’ than a book . . . ‘Sayings’ reflect and approximate the higher, the mode of Christ and Socrates and Buddha. That’s why Socrates is the greatest philosopher, according to St. Thomas (S.T. III, 42, 4).”

I am not intending to compare myself or my own “thoughts” or their cogency or import in any way, shape, or form, to those of Pascal, let alone to Socrates or our Lord Jesus! I am merely utilizing the unconventional structure of the Pensées, which  harmonizes well, I believe, with the approach that I have taken with regard to the present subject. I have sought to analyze (minus proper names, a la Trent) the premises, presuppositions, logical and ecclesiological “bottom lines” and (in a word), the spirit of a false and divisive radical Catholic reactionary strain of thought held by a distinctive sociological sub-group of Catholics.


  1. It’s a sad reality that many baptized Catholics cannot bring themselves to submit to the spiritual wisdom of Holy Mother Church. I grew out of this resistance, in my own spiritual odyssey, as I converted from evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism. I didn’t expect to see it again within the Church. I did, I suppose, expect it from liberals (as I was well acquainted with Protestant liberalism), but not from radical Catholic reactionaries, who claim to be the exemplary legatees of historic Catholic orthodoxy. Once again, truth is stranger than fiction . . .
  1. A person who rejects even one dogma of the faith loses the supernatural virtue of faith (as the late Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J. often stated, following St. Thomas Aquinas). Since reactionaries pick and choose what they like, just as their modernist “cafeteria Catholic” friends do (and like Protestants do), I must conclude that they, too, have departed from the Catholic formal principle of authority at that point. The reactionary dilemma is the espousal of the notion that a legitimate ecumenical council can so radically depart from the faith. They are betwixt and between . . .
  1. Reactionaries disagree with what the Church has solemnly decreed in ecumenical council to be legitimate tradition. This is assuredly private judgment, and no different from the individualistic private judgment worldview of Protestantism (in that respect). A big change in principle takes place when one becomes a Catholic. St. Vincent of Lerins, in the very same context of his famous dictum concerning “that which was believed always and everywhere,” also dealt explicitly with development of doctrine, a fact seemingly known by few who cite him for reactionary purposes.
  1. Reactionaries argue that conscience has supreme authority over the magisterium of the Church and the infallible papacy. This is more Protestantism or early Lutheranism. The Catholic, Newmanian view of a properly informed conscience, on the other hand, is that it must be formulated and grounded within the mind and guidance of the Church, and can be opposed to it only in the most extreme circumstances. Reactionary dissent and disobedience violates this orthodox understanding right and left, having adopted the Protestant principle of authority (private judgment) and also the modernist principle (arbitrary selectivity). Reactionaries wrongly disobey the Church (falsely believing that it is in error, when it is not), and accept the faith-destroying notion of defectibility (or something close to it). This is an utter perversion of the orthodox Catholic notion of conscience.
  1. I deny the premise that the layman can sit and judge ecumenical councils. The orthodox Catholic is bound by authority; we are not at liberty to judge a council. This was dealt with in the scenario of Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521. Yet some Catholics have adopted his outlook with regard to the fallibility of ecumenical councils (as ratified by popes). This is why we have Church authority and popes in the first place. We submit to them, not some self-anointed reactionary or renegade canon lawyer, or whomever else is brought forth as some sort of “magisterial expert.” That ultimately reduces to the Protestant principle of private judgment.
  1. Reactionaries selectively choose which papal words they will heed and which they will reject; this is nonsensical (literally). The pick-and-choose mentality is a major problem. The heretics pick and choose (as Cardinal Newman would assert, generalizing and making the analogy). Catholics accept what their lawfully ordained authorities proclaim.
  1. Luther had to have it his own way, as did Calvin and Zwingli and Henry VIII. The Catholic, on the other hand, humbly bows to the will of Holy Mother Church, and trusts that God is in control, despite all.
  1. We (the traditional, orthodox Church) didn’t choose the current onslaught with which we have to deal. But God knew all about it, and He has a plan to defeat it, and He will communicate that plan to the people who need to know it in order to guide the Church to do His will in overcoming it (as He promised). We believe this in faith. If I didn’t believe this, I would be in some small, strict, “traditional” Protestant sect that had no “liberals” in it at all (but, in fact, as many “popes” as members, each determining his own theology). The Bible, however, tells me that the wheat and the tares grow up together in the Church, so this doesn’t surprise or shock or scandalize me. The Protestant sectarian (or literally schismatic reactionaries who have joined some split-off “Catholic” group) response of leaving those folks and forming a new church of “perfect little Christians” is no solution because it is escapist and exclusivist (and unbiblical). The true Church reaches out to humanity at large. It’s a city on a hill, not a bunker under a hill; the “salt of the earth” – not the salt of a few elitist initiates.
  1. The faithful are not expected to know all the ins and outs of complicated canon law.. They are expected to accept the teachings of the Church at the highest level and give assent to them: internally as well as externally. It seems to me that acknowledging the binding character of the council would end many of the severe criticisms of the decrees on ecumenism and other religions, religious freedom, etc. “Authoritative” ought to be sufficient to shut the mouths of dissenting Catholics. But it’s not. It’s another instance of the inherent equivocations of the reactionary position.
  1. The late Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J., one of the leading and most widely respected catechists in the world; advisor to Popes St. Paul VI and Pope St. John Paul II, and catechist of St. Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity (I knew him personally), used to frequently say: “to doubt even one received dogma of the Catholic Church is to lose the supernatural virtue of faith.” He was referring primarily to Catholics, who are bound to accept all the Church’s teachings, as a matter of routine obedience and intellectual honesty. With non-Catholics, there is always the matter of how much they know, or don’t know, about Church teaching, and this reduces culpability significantly. Obviously there are many people who couldn’t care less what the Catholic Church teaches. But a Catholic who professes to be obedient (verbally, or indirectly, by membership) to that authority is in a different category. Many Catholics, unfortunately, adopt a mentality of “pick-and-choose,” with regards to what Catholic teachings they will accept or reject. Catholics are obliged (by definition) to accept all dogmatic pronouncements of the Church and the entire ordinary magisterium, with not only external but also internal assent. This itself is dogmatic teaching. Whoever denies this, becomes, ipso facto, a “liberal Catholic.” That is the inexorable consequence of taking such a position within the Catholic dogmatic framework. Granted, we all learn more and more as we go along, but in any event, this is the Catholic position.
  1. The First Vatican Council (1870) defined the gift of faith:

Faith is a supernatural virtue whereby, under the inspiration and assistance of grace, we believe those things revealed by God to be true, not because the intrinsic evidence of those things has been perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself revealing who can neither deceive nor be deceived.

All those things are to be believed, on divine and catholic faith, which are contained in the written and unwritten word of God, and which are proposed by the Church as divinely revealed, whether this is accomplished through her solemn pronouncements (ex cathedra definitions), or through her ordinary and universal teaching power.

Note that no distinction is made between “solemn pronouncements” and  “ordinary universal teaching power” of the Church, nor is one categorized as infallible and the other non-infallible.

  1. Pope Leo XIII expressed a similar idea in his encyclical Satis Cognitum (“The Unity of the Church,” June 20, 1896):

If it be certain that something be revealed by God, and this is not believed, then nothing whatever is believed by divine faith . . . He who dissents even in one point from divinely revealed truths absolutely rejects all faith, since he thereby refuses to honor God as the supreme truth.

  1. St.  John Henry Cardinal Newman also taught this:

This is what faith was in the time of the Apostles, as no one can deny; and what it was then, it must be now, else it ceases to be the same thing . . . Men were told to submit their reason to a living authority. Moreover, whatever an Apostle said, his converts were bound to believe; when they entered the Church, they entered it in order to learn. The Church was their teacher; they did not come to argue, to examine, to pick and choose, but to accept whatever was put before them. No one doubts, no one can doubt this, of those primitive times. A Christian was bound to take without doubting all that the Apostles declared to be revealed; if the Apostles spoke, he had to yield an internal assent of his mind; it would not be enough to keep silence, it would not be enough not to oppose: it was not allowable to credit in a measure; it was not allowable to doubt. No; if a convert had his own private thoughts of what was said, and only kept them to himself; if he made some secret opposition to the teaching, if he waited for further proof before he believed it, this would be a proof that he did not think the Apostles were sent from God to reveal His will; it would be a proof that he did not in any true sense believe at all. Immediate, implicit submission of the mind was, in the lifetime of the Apostles, the only, the necessary token of faith; then there was no room whatever for what is now called private judgment.

No one could say: “I will choose my religion for myself; I will believe this, I will not believe that; I will pledge myself to nothing; I will believe just as long as I please, and no longer; what I believe today I will reject tomorrow, if I choose. I will believe what the Apostles have as yet said, but I will not believe what they shall say in time to come.” No; either the Apostles were from God, or they were not; if they were, everything that they preached was to be believed by their hearers; if they were not, there was nothing for their hearers to believe. To believe a little, to believe more or less, was impossible; it contradicted the very notion of believing: if one part was to be believed, every part was to be believed; it was an absurdity to believe one thing and not another; for the word of the Apostles, which made the one true, made the other true too; they were nothing in themselves, they were all things, they were an infallible authority, as coming from God. The world had either to become Christian, or to let it alone; there was no room for private tastes and fancies, no room for private judgment. (“Faith and Private Judgment,” from Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 1849)

  1. St. Thomas Aquinas concurs:

If, of those things taught by the Church (as divinely revealed), one holds what he chooses to hold, and rejects what he chooses to reject, he no longer adheres to the teaching of the Church as an infallible guide, but to his own will. Such a one may accept other teachings of the Church, but he does so not out of divine faith, but only by a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will. (Summa Theologica, II II, 5, 3)

  1. Reactionaries – like Luther — have substituted what they falsely think is a “blind obedience” for a blind faith in the erroneous reactionary assumption that one can pick and choose what they like from an ecumenical council.
  1. If ecumenical councils were to err, the Church would not have certainty and truth, as brought about by the working of the Holy Spirit — expressly promised by our Lord Himself. And, furthermore, Martin Luther would have been right at the Diet of Worms in 1521. Reactionaries, then, have no argument to bring against his central thesis, and basis for his rebellion: that “popes and Councils can and do err.” Reactionaries (if they applied their principles consistently) would have been in his cheerleading section. This seed of defectibility made it thinkable for the so-called “Reformers” to set up rival churches and versions of Christianity over against the so-called “Babylonian Captivity.”
  1. I had the “freedom” to accept all sorts of errors in various denominations as a Protestant. I could essentially construct my own worldview, with myself as “pope” and arbiter – sole determinant of all “doctrinal” decisions. I decided what was true and good and proper, and then sought to consistently live by it. Then by the grace of God I entered the Catholic Church, only to discover that there are many people in it who want to selectively accept this and that, according to their own whims and fancies. Catholics do this, yet they don’t seem to realize the Protestant pedigree and intrinsically self-defeating nature involved.
  1. One of the many problems I have with reactionaries is the scenario of every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a picture of Pope St. Pius X in one hand, and a dog-eared copy of Denzinger in the other, going around judging (nay, trashing) the pope or an ecumenical council, as if they were some sort of expert . . . This is self-importance elevated to the level of the profoundly ridiculous; almost grotesque or surreal. And they are blind to this obvious reality, which makes it all the more frightening. One can do that in Protestantism, as everyone is their own pope, when it comes down to it. But to attempt it in Catholicism is patently and manifestly absurd.



Photo credit: reverent (3-10-15) [Pixabay / Pixabay Content License]


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Summary: Ch. 6 of my book, Reflections on Radical Catholic Reactionaries (December 2002; slightly revised in November 2023 for the purpose of the free online version).

October 27, 2021

The late Steve Hays was a Protestant Reformed, anti-Catholic apologist, very active online, who ran the site, Triablogue. In this series of articles, I will be critiquing many portions of a collection of his entitled “Annotated prooftexts [for Calvinism]” (7-7-14). Hays writes in his introductory section:

I’m going to quote a number of Reformed prooftexts, in canonical order, then quote interpretive comments by various scholars. . . . Taken by themselves, Reformed prooftexts might seem to beg the question by presupposing a Reformed interpretation thereof. . . . I’ve gone beyond bare prooftexting to provide exegetical arguments for the Reformed interpretation. . . .

Although both Calvinists and Arminians have their one-verse prooftexts, Reformed theological method is based less on snappy one-liners than tracing out the flow of argument or narrative arc in larger blocks of Scripture (e.g. Gen 37-50; Exod 4-14; Isa 40-48; Jn 6, 10-12, 17; Rom 9-11; Eph 1-2, 4).

Hays utilizes the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible, which was produced by over one hundred evangelical Protestant scholars, and follows the literary tradition of the KJV and especially the RSV. When I cite additional Scripture in my replies, it will be the RSV version.


Isa 14:24-27

24 The Lord of hosts has sworn:
“As I have planned,
so shall it be,
and as I have purposed,
so shall it stand,
25 that I will break the Assyrian in my land,
and on my mountains trample him underfoot;
and his yoke shall depart from them,
and his burden from their shoulder.”
26 This is the purpose that is purposed
concerning the whole earth,
and this is the hand that is stretched out
over all the nations.
27 For the Lord of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back?

When God swears to do something, the listener can be fully assured that it will happen. God’s holiness guarantees the execution of his plans, for he stakes his holy reputation on his promises (cf. similar holy oaths in Amos 4:26:88:7).

The claim is made that there is a direct connection between God’s plans and purposes and what actually will happen…This contrasts with man’s inability to carry out his plans (8:10; cf. 46:10; Ps 33:9-11Prov 19:21).

The final two verses extrapolate the principles in 14:24-25 and apply them to God’s plans for the whole world…the comparison suggests that God makes sovereign plans not only for specific events related to the future of Assyria, but also for every nation on earth…There is no other way for things to happen in this world, no second choices, no alternative plans but God’s plans. No one can resist the hand of God, and no one can turn God’s hand away from doing his will. G. Smith, Isaiah 1-39 (B&H 2007), 320-22.

Sometimes in Isaiah a divine statement is underlined in some particularly emphatic way (cf. 5:9; 9:7; 37:32), and so it is here. The name of God is used here (cf. comment on 1:9) combines with the statement of his settled purpose (c f. 5:19) to assure us that the Assyrians cannot survive. If such a mighty God has designed to crush them, they are doomed indeed. As though to reinforce this certainty still more, God speaks of “my land” and “my mountains.”

The prophetic word here enunciates an important general principle that has been demonstrated so strikingly in the downfall of Assyria: God is sovereign over human history (v26). All nations will have to submit to his judgment. This important theological principle will be seen in relation to other nations-both small and great-in the oracles that follow. God is not like a man who makes plans and finds he has no power to put them into effect. Perfect wisdom and absolute power find their unity in god. REBC 6:568-69.

Remarkably, what is missing in all this analysis is why God judged Assyria. And this is missing because Calvinists always seem to want to ignore the reasons why God judges: always because of man’s rebellion against Him. Instead, we get boilerplate Calvinist rhetoric: “There is no other way for things to happen in this world, no second choices, no alternative plans but God’s plans. No one can resist the hand of God, and no one can turn God’s hand away from doing his will.” This is nonsense. Jesus is God, and He expressly said that He wanted Jerusalem to come to Him, but that they “would not”:

Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (cf. Lk 13:34)

God honors our free will choices, even if they go against His will and what is best for us. God doesn’t want / desire / will any human being to be damned and lost for eternity:

1 Timothy 2:3-4 . . . God our Savior, [4] who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

So how is it, then, if in fact “No one can resist the hand of God” and no one can thwart God’s will, that many people indeed are damned and end up in hell?:

Matthew 25:32, 46 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, . . . [46] And they [the “goats”] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. [and the context reveals that the damned are damned because they didn’t do a long list of things that they should have done]

Matthew 7:13-14, 18-19  “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. [14] For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. . . . [18] A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, [10] and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. [11] Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, [12] so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Note the order of causation here. Satan comes to deceive those who “refused to love the truth and so be saved” and God sends them a delusion precisely because they “did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” God didn’t predestine damnation, as if man’s free will is nonexistent. He responded with judgment towards the free will choices of men to rebel against Him and His grace and salvation.

Revelation 20:13-15 And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done. [14] Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; [15] and if any one’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

It’s the same with the Assyrians. They were judged by God based on what they did. They chose to be wicked and to not come to God (though God reached out to them through, for example, the prophet Jonah). In the end, Assyria was judged, not because God had that planned for all eternity, so that nothing it did could change it, but because of rebellion and wickedness: especially against God’s chosen people.

The article, “Why did God judge Nineveh so harshly in the book of Nahum?” (Got Questions), observed:

God was obviously angry with the Ninevites, and Nahum reveals why. Nineveh had long been an enemy of Judah and Israel, the people of God. In 722 B.C., the Assyrians defeated the northern kingdom of Israel, destroying its capital, Samaria. In 701 B.C., the Assyrians nearly conquered Jerusalem, the capital of Judah.

The text of Nahum provides additional clues regarding God’s anger with the Ninevites. Nahum 3:1 says, “Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims!” Nineveh was a city of violence, known for its brutal treatment of those it conquered. The Assyrians were notorious for amputating hands and feet, gouging eyes, and skinning and impaling their captives. The final verse of Nahum’s book emphasizes the violence of the Assyrians in the form of a rhetorical question: “Who has not felt your endless cruelty?” (Nahum 3:19).

Holy Scripture makes all this clear:

Isaiah 10:1-2, 5-7, 12-14 Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, [2] to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! . . . [5] Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger, the staff of my fury! [6] Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. [7] But he does not so intend, and his mind does not so think; but it is in his mind to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few; . . . [12] When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride. [13] For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I have removed the boundaries of peoples, and have plundered their treasures; like a bull I have brought down those who sat on thrones. [14] My hand has found like a nest the wealth of the peoples; and as men gather eggs that have been forsaken so I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing, or opened the mouth, or chirped.”

Isaiah 10:24-25 Therefore thus says the Lord, the LORD of hosts: “O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they smite with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. [25] For in a very little while my indignation will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction.”

Jeremiah 50:17-18 Israel is a hunted sheep driven away by lions. First the king of Assyria devoured him, and now at last Nebuchadrez’zar king of Babylon has gnawed his bones. [18] Therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing punishment on the king of Babylon and his land, as I punished the king of Assyria.

God explains through the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah exactly why Assyria was judged. Israel was repeatedly judged by God but then restored again, whereas the Assyrian empire, after conquering the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, disappeared from history in 612 BC when its capitol Nineveh fell to a coalition of enemies including the Babylonians, Medes, Persians, and Scythians.

Likewise, in 539 BC, Babylon fell to Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia. It was judged by God because it had destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. In both cases, these empires were judged based on what they did by their own free will: not because God had decreed that they should be wicked from all eternity, as a bunch of robots with no free will to follow God or reject Him. The Bible makes this clear as regards Babylon, too:

Jeremiah 51:1-5 Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer against Babylon, against the inhabitants of Chalde’a; [2] and I will send to Babylon winnowers, and they shall winnow her, and they shall empty her land, when they come against her from every side on the day of trouble. [3] Let not the archer bend his bow, and let him not stand up in his coat of mail. Spare not her young men; utterly destroy all her host. [4] They shall fall down slain in the land of the Chalde’ans, and wounded in her streets. [5] For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD of hosts; but the land of the Chalde’ans is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel.

Jeremiah 51:11 The LORD has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance for his temple.

Jeremiah 51:24 “I will requite Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chalde’a before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done in Zion, says the LORD.”

Jeremiah 51:49 Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel, . . .


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Photo credit: Carole Raddato (2-20-15). Sculpted reliefs depicting Ashurbanipal, the last great Assyrian king, hunting lions, c. 645-635 BC, now in the British Museum [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license]


Summary: Calvinists claim that the judgment of Assyria was predetermined from all eternity by God, as if the Assyrians had no free will in how to act. False nonsense!

October 27, 2021

The late Steve Hays was a Protestant Reformed, anti-Catholic apologist, very active online, who ran the site, Triablogue. In this series of articles, I will be critiquing many portions of a collection of his entitled “Annotated prooftexts [for Calvinism]” (7-7-14). Hays writes in his introductory section:

I’m going to quote a number of Reformed prooftexts, in canonical order, then quote interpretive comments by various scholars. . . . Taken by themselves, Reformed prooftexts might seem to beg the question by presupposing a Reformed interpretation thereof. . . . I’ve gone beyond bare prooftexting to provide exegetical arguments for the Reformed interpretation. . . .

Although both Calvinists and Arminians have their one-verse prooftexts, Reformed theological method is based less on snappy one-liners than tracing out the flow of argument or narrative arc in larger blocks of Scripture (e.g. Gen 37-50; Exod 4-14; Isa 40-48; Jn 6, 10-12, 17; Rom 9-11; Eph 1-2, 4).

Hays utilizes the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible, which was produced by over one hundred evangelical Protestant scholars, and follows the literary tradition of the KJV and especially the RSV. When I cite additional Scripture in my replies, it will be the RSV version.


2 Sam 17:14

And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring harm upon Absalom.

The Lord answered David’s prayer (cf. 2 Sam 15:31). The narrator’s description of Ahithophel’s advice as “good,” in contradistinction to Hushai’s characterization of it as “not good” (17:7), reminds the reader that Absalom is a victim of divine deception (see the comment above on 16:18).

There is more to the story than meets the eye. Indeed, as we read the advice of the two counselors, it is quite apparent that Ahithophel’s plan is superior; even the narrator admits this (17:14). But in the end the Lord is manipulating the minds of Absalom and his men, causing them to prefer the desperate, inferior plan offered by Hushai, because he has already determined to bring disaster upon Absalom (17:14). This is reminiscent of the account of Eli’s sons, who rejected their father’s warning because the Lord had by that time decided to kill them (1 Sam 2:25; see as well 1 Kings 12:15). R. Chisholm, 1 & 2 Samuel (Baker 2013), 268,270.

I dealt with the question of Eli’s sons and what caused their rebellion (God or themselves) last time. The full scriptural data regarding them does not support Calvinism and double predestination. Now we have a similar consideration. All agree that Absalom was judged by God. The question under dispute is whether he was 1) judged due to his own freely chosen sin and rebellion, or 2) foreordained from all eternity to be judged and condemned to hell for doing (without free will) what he could not possibly refuse to do: it having been predetermined beforehand by God’s eternal decree.

Now, as always, I will be looking to see what the Bible has to say about this question, rather than accepting a preconceived theology (five-point Calvinism) and trying to fit the scriptural “round peg” into the “square hole” of the late, novel, false doctrine (in many but not all respects) of Calvinism. Calvinists are quick to accuse others of “reading into” the Bible their false doctrines (eisegesis); but I submit that they do plenty of this themselves. I have no problem demonstrating these sad tendencies again and again, in my many critiques of unbiblical doctrines required by Calvinism.

Commentator Chisholm states that “the Lord . . . has already determined to bring disaster upon Absalom.” All parties agree on that. The question is when did He determine that and why. The Calvinist answers, “from all eternity” and “out of the inscrutability of His just eternal decrees that we can never fully comprehend.” The Arminian Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox answers, “God determined to judge him after he freely chose of his own free will to reject Him and righteousness. God knew from all eternity what Absalom was going to do, but He didn’t foreordain or cause it.” Which of these two diametrically opposed views does the Bible actually verify and support? Well, that’s what we will examine.

In order to do this, we have to examine what the Bible states about Absalom. He basically was guilty of jealousy of his father David’s power. He had to have it himself:

2 Samuel 15:4-6, 10, 12-13  Ab’salom said moreover, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a suit or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.” [5] And whenever a man came near to do obeisance to him, he would put out his hand, and take hold of him, and kiss him. [6] Thus Ab’salom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Ab’salom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. . . . [10] . . . Ab’salom sent secret messengers throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then say, `Ab’salom is king at Hebron!'” . . . [12] . . . And the conspiracy grew strong, and the people with Ab’salom kept increasing. [13] And a messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the men of Israel have gone after Ab’salom.”

2 Samuel 15:31 And it was told David, “Ahith’ophel is among the conspirators with Ab’salom.” And David said, “O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahith’ophel into foolishness.”

God can certainly influence people’s minds for the sake of His will. Proverbs 16:9 states: “A man’s mind plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” But we have no undeniable, compelling biblical reason to believe that God both caused Absalom’s defection and judged what He Himself had foreordained. Absalom chose to rebel. It was a result of that, that God turned against and judged Him. Romans 1 enlightens us as to the proper chronological order of these sorts of things:

Romans 1:18, 21-26, 28 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. . . . [21] for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. [22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools, [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. [24] Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, [25] because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. [26] For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, . . . [28] And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.

Calvinism is wildly inconsistent with this entire passage. For example, by Calvinist reasoning, Romans 1:28 should actually read: “God gave them up [from all eternity] to a base mind and to improper conduct, so that they would not see fit to acknowledge God.” The ultimate cause would lie with God, rather than Absalom. But St. Paul stresses no less than four times in this passage that God “gave them up” because of their free choice of rebellious, sinful behavior: “Therefore God gave them up” (1:24), “because they . . .” (1:25), “For this reason God gave them up . . .” (1:26), “since they did not see fit . . .” (1:28). Paul explains very clearly why God does this. It’s in response to the sin of man.

Calvinism, on the other hand, would place all this squarely on God, Who planned these sins from all eternity and judged what He Himself had planned. They would say we can’t understand why He would make such inexplicable decrees, whereas Paul assumes it is completely understandable and able to be explained (which he proceeds to do). The Calvinist take is equal parts radically unbiblical, blasphemous, and ridiculous. It’s utterly contrary to what St. Paul teaches. If the choice is the Apostle Paul vs. Calvin and Calvinists, obviously we must choose the former.


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Photo credit: Death of Absalom (1762), by Corrado Giaquinto (1703-1766) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]


Summary: Calvinists futilely use 2 Samuel 7:14: “the Lord had ordained to . . . bring harm upon Absalom” to argue that he didn’t freely rebel and cause this divine determination.


October 25, 2021

The confusion in the verses I shall be examining lies in the multiple meanings of the Hebrew word ra’ (Strong’s word 7451). It’s usually translated as “evil” in English Bible translations (444 times in the KJV), but it has a range of meanings (beyond what we usually understand as wickedness, immoral, sinful, malevolent, hateful, etc.), according to the lexicons, including “disagreeable, unpleasant, giving pain, unhappiness, misery, sad, unhappy, trouble, grievous, affliction, calamity, distress, injury.”

This wide range accounts for the many times in the Bible that it is attributed to God. I contend that in these instances, the meaning is “righteous indignation” or “divine judgment”: which is perfectly just and warranted in cases of extreme rebellion and sin against God; failing to follow His commandments. Judgment is a quite unpleasant thing, and has the consequences of all the words listed above. But it’s not “moral evil” or wickedness.

Here are some of the many usages of “evil” in relation to God:

2 Samuel 17:14 (RSV) . . . so that the LORD might bring evil upon Ab’salom.

2 Kings 21:12 . . . Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such evil that the ears of every one who hears of it will tingle. (cf. Jer 19:3)

2 Kings 22:16 Thus says the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place and upon its inhabitants, . . . (cf. 2 Chr 34:24)

Job 42:11 . . . all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him . . . 

Jeremiah 11:11 Therefore, thus says the LORD, Behold, I am bringing evil upon them which they cannot escape; though they cry to me, I will not listen to them.

Jeremiah 18:11 . . . Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. . . .

Jeremiah 21:10 For I have set my face against this city for evil and not for good, says the LORD . . .

Jeremiah 32:42 . . . I have brought all this great evil upon this people . . .

Jeremiah 44:2 . . . You have seen all the evil that I brought upon Jerusalem and upon all the cities of Judah.  . . .

Jeremiah 45:5 . . . I am bringing evil upon all flesh . . .

Jeremiah 49:37 . . .  I will bring evil upon them . . .

Ezekiel 6:10 . . . I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them.

Amos 3:6 . . . Does evil befall a city, unless the LORD has done it?

Micah 1:12 . . . evil has come down from the LORD to the gate of Jerusalem.

Micah 2:3 . . . Behold, against this family I am devising evil, . . .

Zechariah 8:14 . . . I purposed to do evil to you . . .

Apart from multiple meanings of the Hebrew ra’, it’s also a fundamental principle of biblical hermeneutics, that we interpret more difficult to understand Bible passages in light of those on the same general topic that are easier to understand. Here, then, are many passages which show clearly that the sense of “evil” when attributed to God means “righteous judgment” (which includes unpleasant things that are “evil” in this secondary sense):

Deuteronomy 7:15 And the LORD will take away from you all sickness; and none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you knew, will he inflict upon you, but he will lay them upon all who hate you.

Deuteronomy 31:29 For I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and in the days to come evil will befall you, because you will do what is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger through the work of your hands.

Joshua 23:15-16 But just as all the good things which the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you, [16] if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land which he has given to you.

Judges 2:11, 15 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Ba’als; . . . [15] Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them; . . .

1 Samuel 25:39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the LORD who has avenged the insult I received at the hand of Nabal, and has kept back his servant from evil; the LORD has returned the evil-doing of Nabal upon his own head.”

2 Samuel 12:9-12 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You [King David] have smitten Uri’ah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the Ammonites. [10] Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uri’ah the Hittite to be your wife.’ [11] Thus says the LORD, `Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. [12] For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.'”

1 Kings 2:44 The king also said to Shim’e-i, “You know in your own heart all the evil that you did to David my father; so the LORD will bring back your evil upon your own head.”

1 Kings 9:9 Then they will say, “Because they forsook the LORD their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore the LORD has brought all this evil upon them.”

2 Kings 21:6 And he burned his son as an offering, and practiced soothsaying and augury, and dealt with mediums and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. (cf. 2 Chr 33:6)

Jeremiah 11:17 The LORD of hosts, who planted you, has pronounced evil against you, because of the evil which the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by burning incense to Ba’al.

Jeremiah 16:10-13 “And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, `Why has the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?’ [11] then you shall say to them: `Because your fathers have forsaken me, says the LORD, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, [12] and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn evil will, refusing to listen to me; [13] therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.’

Jeremiah 23:10-12 For the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land mourns, and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up. Their course is evil, and their might is not right. [11] “Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their wickedness, says the LORD. [12] Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall; for I will bring evil upon them in the year of their punishment, says the LORD.

Jeremiah 40:2-3 The captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him, “The LORD your God pronounced this evil against this place; [3] the LORD has brought it about, and has done as he said. Because you sinned against the LORD, and did not obey his voice, this thing has come upon you.”

Jeremiah 44:11, 22-23Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will set my face against you for evil, to cut off all Judah.” . . . [22] “The LORD could no longer bear your evil doings and the abominations which you committed; therefore your land has become a desolation and a waste and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is this day. [23] It is because you burned incense, and because you sinned against the LORD and did not obey the voice of the LORD or walk in his law and in his statutes and in his testimonies, that this evil has befallen you, as at this day.”

Moreover, God cannot sin:

1 John 3:3-9 And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. [4] Every one who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. [5] You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. [6] No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. [7] Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous. [8] He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. [9] No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. (cf. 5:18)

James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one;

3 John 1:11 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. He who does good is of God; he who does evil has not seen God.

God says of Himself “I am holy” six times in Holy Scripture, and the phrase, “The LORD is righteous” (or very similar) appears nine times.


Photo credit: Nathan advises King David (1672), by Matthias Scheits (1630-1700) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]


Summary: Confusion results from passages that seem to attribute evil to God. In fact, the Hebrew ra’ has multiple meanings, & these instances mean “righteous judgment.”


May 19, 2021

Reformed Belgic Confession (1561) and Second Helvetic Confession (1566)

[Taken from Chapter Ten of the above volume (see book and purchase information), completed in June 2002]

Belgic Confession (1561)
[Words from the Belgic Confession will be in blue]

Article 29: The Marks of the True Church

We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully, by the Word of God,

Who is to discern? The individual? Seems like it to me.

What is the true church– for all sects in the world today claim for themselves the name of “the church.” We are not speaking here of the company of hypocrites who are mixed among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it, even though they are physically there. But we are speaking of distinguishing the body and fellowship of the true church from all sects that call themselves “the church.” The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel;

What is the gospel? What is “pure preaching” of it? How many errors are allowed? For example, Luther’s baptismal regeneration is anathema to the Reformed, so is his gospel not a pure one; thus Lutherans — and many Anglicans and Methodists, etc. — are not in the “true church”; therefore not Christians? What about the Reformed Baptists who don’t baptize infants — some or many of whom would even deny that baptism is a sacrament at all?

If the gospel is defined as the Calvinist TULIP or suchlike, then this is circular reasoning (the gospel is merely what these folks say it is, on the basis of their own unproven and unsupported axioms). The Bible, which is supposedly the criteria of truthfulness here, does
no such thing. It defines the gospel as the birth (incarnation), life (with all its miracles and teaching), death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, not as some technical theory of soteriology and justification. One can certainly deduce some theory of soteriology from it, but my point is that this is not what the Bible describes as “the gospel.”

it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them;

How did Christ institute them? We have seen the differences concerning baptism above. So are Lutherans and Reformed Baptists and other sorts of Baptists out of the fold? As to the Eucharist, similarly serious differences arise. Lutherans believe in consubstantiation; so their belief here is not “pure.” And of course, if we look to the early Church Fathers, they unanimously accepted the Real Presence, so that one must believe that the
apostasy of the early Church on this score was well-nigh universal, and that only in the 16th-century was true eucharistic belief restored, and even then not by Luther (or for that matter, Zwingli), but by Calvin.

Now, what authority does he have? Certainly not apostolic authority, nor the prestige of passed-down apostolic Tradition, as his view is a novelty and an innovation. So there are a host of difficulties in almost every sentence here. The words may sound great, but they conceal myriad historical and biblical problems and contradictions, as clearly seen in this merely brief, cursory treatment.

it practices church discipline for correcting faults.

Sure, then when someone disagrees, he simply goes to another sect, on the basis of his own judgment as to what the pure church is, based on the Word of God (first sentence above). He applies the same criteria stated here to go somewhere else, because the final authority must reside in the individual, due to unresolvable difficulties and contradictions among the various sects. These appeared at the beginning of the Protestant Revolt
(inevitably) and will always remain, because of this flawed principle of how one determines theological truth. If in fact there had always been one Protestant Church and one only, then these axioms might hold at least some water, but as this has never been the case, the system is burdened by self-contradiction and an inability to consistently apply these standards to the real world.

In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head.

This sounds noble and glorious, but it is not nearly this simple, because there were and are foundational differences on almost every issue where Protestantism is to be distinguished from Catholicism in the first place. Until these can be resolved, then such talk within the Protestant paradigm is a pipe dream of the most illusory sort.

By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church — and no one ought to be separated from it.

The only self-consistent, historically demonstrable way to establish this is by apostolic succession and an examination of history (as the Fathers taught). No Protestant sect can pass this test. But even using their own stated criteria of authenticity above, no one can figure out which sect is the true one, because the doctrinal disagreements run too deep and are too serious.

As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith,

What is faith? Protestants disagree on this, too. How does regeneration and election relate to personal faith? How is one assured of saving faith? Can one lose that and fall away?, etc.

and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ. They love the true God and their neighbors, without turning to the right or left, and they crucify the flesh and its works.

This sounds great, too, but it has never occurred in an entire group. Since sin is present in all professed Christian groups, the absence of it can hardly be the “proof” of the authenticity of one sect over another.

Though great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their lives, appealing constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of the Lord Jesus, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins, through faith in him.

Virtually all Christian groups would adhere to this notion, so it is of no help for our task, either.

As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself to the yoke of Christ;

What does this mean?

it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases;

The problems in this statement were already discussed. One can either appeal to the constant Tradition throughout the ages and apostolic succession, or else choose one of a host of Protestant options, all themselves ultimately arbitrary and man-centered and unable to be supported by Church history.

it bases itself on men, more than on Jesus Christ;

No Christian system is more man-centered than Protestantism, where a single man’s word (Calvin, Luther, Fox et al) has the greatest authority, far greater than any pope ever dreamt of. Any local pastor has far more influence or effect on the lives of his congregation than the pope has on a Catholic, in a practical, everyday sense. That’s why Protestant congregations often split in two merely because a popular pastor might feel called to move on to another assembly.

it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.

The sin argument resolves nothing. Protestants were at least as intolerant in the 16th century as Catholics — arguably far more, especially in light of their supposed principles of tolerance and supremacy of the individual conscience.

These two churches are easy to recognize and thus to distinguish from each other.

Not quite. Until Protestants can answer the difficulties I raised above, and many more brought about by their utter inability to resolve their own internal squabbles, any claim to a true Church in their ranks, of whatever character, visible or invisible, institutional, creedal, confessional, or metaphysical, over against the Catholic Church, is self-defeating, upon close scrutiny.

The Second Helvetic Confession (1566)
[Words in green]

Chapter 2 – Of Interpreting the Holy Scriptures; and of
Fathers, Councils, and Traditions [complete]

The True Interpretation of Scripture. The apostle Peter has said that the Holy Scriptures are not of private interpretation (II Peter 1:20), and thus we do not allow all possible interpretations.

How many are allowed then? Which ones, and why?

Nor consequently do we acknowledge as the true or genuine interpretation of the Scriptures what is called the conception of the Roman Church, that is, what the defenders of the Roman Church plainly maintain should be thrust upon all for acceptance.

Obviously not, having enthroned private judgment of individuals and traditions of men in its place . . .

But we hold that interpretation of the Scripture to be orthodox and genuine which is gleaned from the Scriptures themselves (from the nature of the language in which they were written, likewise according to the circumstances in which they were set down, and expounded in the light of like and unlike passages and of many and clearer passages) and which agree with the rule of faith and love, and contributes much to the glory of
God and man’s salvation.

More high-sounding, pious, noble language with little concrete or particular content. This assumes (quite absurdly) that Protestants are in sole possession of these hermeneutical tools, and that one “true” teaching on any topic will appear and be evident to all true followers of Christ. These are pipe dreams.

Interpretations of the Holy Fathers. Wherefore we do not despise the interpretations of the holy Greek and Latin fathers, nor reject their disputations and treatises concerning sacred matters as far as they agree with the Scriptures;

Who decides where they agree or disagree, and by what criteria? There are a host of doctrines where the Fathers contradict Reformed Christianity en masse.

but we modestly dissent from them when they are found to set down things differing from, or altogether contrary to, the Scriptures.

Who decides what the Scriptures teach? A panel of venerable, grey-bearded Reformed worthies, assembled in 1566?

Neither do we think that we do them any wrong in this matter; seeing that they all, with one consent, will not have their writings equated with the canonical Scriptures, but command us to prove how far they agree or disagree with them, and to accept what is in agreement and to reject what is in disagreement.

Yes, as judged by the apostolic Church and its authoritative Councils, and its popes, not by individuals eight, nine, or ten centuries later who count the noses of their comrades in some given sect and conclude that the majority opinion is therefore the “biblical” one.

Councils. And in the same order also we place the decrees and canons of councils. Wherefore we do not permit ourselves, in controversies about religion or matters of faith, to urge our case with only the opinions of the fathers or decrees of councils; much less by received customs, or by the large number who share the same opinion, or by the prescription of a long time. Who is the judge? Therefore, we do not admit any other judge than God himself, who proclaims by the Holy Scriptures what is true, what is false, what is to be followed, or what to be avoided.

But of course! God will settle all the issues! Who could argue with that? But as we are not God, but mere men — and prophets are a relatively rare occurrence –, there must be some human Christian authority as well — binding in some sense; to some degree. One can, then, either believe that God promised to guide His Church and preserve it free from error, under a properly unified authority, with councils and bishops and a gift of
infallibility (as Catholics believe) or that individuals ultimately decide what is or what is not true, dissenting from councils, Tradition, the Fathers, and apostolic succession alike if needs be. These are given lip service above and elsewhere in similar Protestant statements, but it is obvious that the individual retains the right to dissent from all of this ecclesiastical authority, since his conscience is supreme. It all began with Luther at Worms.

So we do assent to the judgments of spiritual men which are drawn from the Word of God. Certainly Jeremiah and other prophets vehemently condemned the assemblies of priests which were set up against the law of God; and diligently admonished us that we should not listen to the
fathers, or tread in their path who, walking in their own inventions, swerved from the law of God.

This is a large reason why I became a Catholic: because Protestant innovations were merely the inventions of men. They had no pedigree in Church history, and thus, no reason to be accepted. The Catholic believes that just as the Holy Spirit can teach people today, that He could do so in the past — that Christian history of thought means something. G.K. Chesterton insightfully described Tradition as “the democracy of the dead.”

Traditions of Men. Likewise we reject human traditions, even if they be adorned with high-sounding titles, as though they were divine and apostolical, delivered to the Church by the living voice of the apostles, and, as it were, through the hands of apostolical men to succeeding
bishops which, when compared with the Scriptures, disagree with them; and by their disagreement show that they are not apostolic at all. For as the apostles did not contradict themselves in doctrine, so the apostolic men did not set forth things contrary to the apostles. On the contrary, it would be wicked to assert that the apostles by a living voice delivered anything contrary to their writings. Paul affirms expressly that he taught the same things in all churches (1 Cor. 4:17). And, again, “For we write you nothing but what you can read and understand.” (2 Cor. 1:13). Also, in another place, he testifies that he and his disciples–that is, apostolic men–walked in the same way, and jointly by the same Spirit did all things (2 Cor. 12:18). Moreover, the Jews in former times had the traditions of their elders; but these traditions were severely rejected by the Lord, indicating that the keeping of them hinders God’s law, and that God is worshipped in vain by such traditions (Matt. 15:1ff.; Mark 7:1 ff.).

Who determines which teachings are “traditions of men” and how? And why should we value their opinions or heed their authority more so than the venerable Fathers of the Church?


Summary: I interact with two 16th century Protestant confessions: particularly their treatment of ecclesiology and private judgment. I ask the hard questions that these confessions ignore.


March 15, 2021

This exchange took place on atheist Jonathan MS Pearce’s forum. Words of Deepak Shetty (presumed atheist) will be in blue.


Jesus is commonly known to (not necessarily in the Bible, but the popular impression):

a. Love everyone
b. Be for the poor and the under privileged
c. Not pass judgement on anyone
d. Be for peace  not war, a turn the other cheek type of guy.

or in other words a very hippie liberal. For the sake of this conversation Ill concede all the above about Jesus.

Does that sound like any American Christian conservative ?

As for you, I don’t know enough about you to say whether you follow these values or not, But I’d say a true follower of Jesus would have given up his belongings and would have been helping all the poor and underprivileged – rather than spending his time on Internet arguments with random non-believers, no?

This is a joke, right?

Which one? The one where Jesus expects his followers to follow a high standard in their lives? Or the one where you thump your chest on how Christian you are while not actually doing any of the hard things Jesus expects you to?

Or maybe I missed the parable where the sinner approaches Peter who then blocks him on Twitter or something.

Here’s what you missed (the first three from Paul, the fourth from Jesus):

2 Timothy 2:23 (RSV) Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

Titus 3:9 But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile.

Romans 12:8 If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.

[in other words, sometimes it’s not possible, having done all we could do]

Matthew 10:13-14 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. [14] And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

a. Love everyone
b. Be for the poor and the under privileged

Absolutely. You are correct. And I do that (imperfectly, but I try).

c. Not pass judgement on anyone

This has to be properly understood. It’s a very widely misunderstood thing. We are not to judge falsely or uncharitably or unjustly (Mt 7:1-2) or hypocritically (Rom 2:1, 3). We are to be open-minded and believe the best of people (a Corinthians 13). But the Bible doesn’t prohibit all judging whatever. So, for example:

Matthew 12:27 And if I cast out demons by Be-el’zebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges.

John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.

1 Corinthians 6:2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?

There are other similar terms like discern, rebuke, correct that express essentially the same thing.

Be for peace , not war , a turn the other cheek type of guy.

We are to seek peace and non-confrontation as much as possible. But these aren’t absolutes, either. The Bible doesn’t teach pacifism, nor the necessity of turning the other cheek in every circumstance, as I have written about:

Pacifism vs. “Just War”: Biblical & Social Factors

Jesus Didn’t Always Turn the Other Cheek (Proverbs)

or in other words a very hippie liberal.

In other words, this is the widespread misconception based on ignorance of what the Bible and Christianity actually teach.

As for you, I don’t know enough about you to say whether you follow these values or not

I commend you for your unassuming charity (very rare on this forum towards Christians, as I well know). Thanks!

But I’d say a true follower of Jesus would have given up his belongings and would have been helping all the poor and underprivileged

We are required to do the latter, and there are many ways to do so. The former is not at all required (unless one wants to heroically renounce possessions, like some monks and nuns do). See:

Who Must Renounce All Possessions to Follow Jesus? [National Catholic Register, 1-21-21]

– rather than spending his time on Internet arguments with random non-believers, no?

It’s not both/and. We are required to care for the poor and share our faith. See (out of dozens of such passages):

Jude 3 . . . contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

1 Timothy 4:5 . . . do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.

[I am an evangelist and apologist, and have been full-time for over 19 years]

See also eight references to “preach the gospel”.

St. Paul regularly argued with the townspeople, wherever he went. See, for example his exchanges with Greeks in Athens on Mars Hill: a famous debating spot, including “Some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers” (Acts 17:18).

Technically, I almost never come here to simply “preach the gospel.” My main purpose is to respond to criticisms of the Bible and Christianity and show where they don’t carry any weight or are factually wrong. That’s apologetics, which is massively encouraged in the Bible. See:

The Biblical Basis of Apologetics (Defense of Christianity)


Photo credit: St Paul Preaching in Athens (1515), by Raphael (1483-1520) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]


Summary: This is a sadly typical exchange where an atheist presumes to know so much more of the Bible than any given Christian does, and so proceeds to — accordingly –, sanctimoniously lecture.


May 13, 2020

This came about in a related discussion concerning the Judaizers — in the combox of a post about whether Francis Beckwith, prominent Catholic convert, is saved. Anti-Catholic Protestant apologist Jason Engwer’s words will be in blue.

* * * * *

We believe in sola gratia as you do, but reject sola fide as an unbiblical innovation. The fact remains that works are profoundly involved in the salvation (ultimately by grace) in some sense:

St. Paul on Grace, Faith, & Works (50 Passages) [8-6-08]

Catholic Bible Verses on Sanctification and Merit [12-20-07]

They are even central to the criteria of how God will decide who is saved and who isn’t, as I have proven from no less than 50 Bible passages:

Final Judgment in Final Judgment & Works (Not Faith): 50 Passages [2-10-08]

We interpret all this in a non-Pelagian fashion. We incorporate all of Scripture, not just our favorite pet verses. You guys simply ignore this data or act as if it is only in the realm of sanctification and has nothing whatever to do with salvation, which is absurdly simplistic and unrealistic in the face of the overwhelming data showing otherwise.

Paul’s focus in Galatians is on the means by which justification is attained (Galatians 3:2), not whether justification is attributed to grace. The idea that one can seek justification through a combination between faith and works, as long as the process is attributed to grace, is a contradiction of what Paul taught. If works are absent from Genesis 15:6, Acts 10:44-46, Galatians 3:2, and other relevant passages, then saying that the works are preceded by and accompanied by grace doesn’t make sense. There are no works for grace to accompany in such passages. To make this a matter of whether the works are attributed to grace is to get the gospel fundamentally wrong. There’s no need to discuss whether non-existent works are works of grace or graceless works. The gospel shuts us up to faith, not to a combination between faith and gracious works (Galatians 3:21-25).

Then why are works always central in every discussion of the final judgment that I could find in Scripture (50 passages: linked to above)?

The final judgment involves more than the means by which the justified attained that justification. It also involves the means by which the unregenerate are condemned, the vindication of the justified, and the non-justificatory rewarding of those individuals. I wouldn’t expect the final judgment to not involve works. In the post you’re responding to, I cited some examples of passages that are about how we attain justification. They don’t just exclude graceless works. They exclude works of any type. Many other such passages could be cited, as I discuss here and here.

Why is this the case if God is supposedly wanting to completely separate any notion of works or acts from salvation itself?

We wouldn’t have to know why works are excluded in order to know that they’re excluded. But it’s a good question, and I addressed it in a post last year.

I agree with what C. S. Lewis said: asking one to choose between faith and works is as senseless as saying which blade of a pair of scissors is more important.

It’s an organic relationship. Actually, Catholics and Protestants, rightly understood, are not far apart on this in the final analysis. It’s mostly mutual misunderstandings and unfortunate semantic confusion.

I wouldn’t expect the final judgment to not involve works.

Good. That’s part of the common ground I alluded to.

But then my question would be: why is the aspect of faith (let alone faith alone so glaringly absent in these 50 accounts of judgment (I think only one mentioned it at all, in my list), if in fact it is the central, fundamental consideration, according to Protestantism?

It’s just not plausible. The Bible doesn’t at all read as it should, were Protestant soteriology true, and Catholic soteriology false. I contend that it would read much differently indeed. As it is, it appears to overwhelmingly favor the Catholic positions.

Central to what? All that the judgment involves? No. The unjustified are condemned for their sins, so works are relevant to their judgment. And the justified are reconciled to God through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) for good works (Ephesians 2:10). The works evidence the faith (vindication), and the works determine non-justificatory rewards. Mentioning works is an effective way of summarizing the judgment, since it brings together so many of the relevant themes. Even when a passage only mentions works with regard to the judgment, we have to keep the nearby context in mind. The original authors (or speakers) didn’t expect their audience to take their comments in isolation, ignoring the context. Those who hear Jesus speak of works in Matthew 25:31-46 know that He was carrying out a ministry in which He forgave, pronounced peace, and healed people upon their coming to faith (see here). Those who heard Jesus speak of works in John 5:29 would also have known that He spoke of reconciliation through faith and avoidance of condemnation as a result of that faith in John 5:24. Those who believe are assured of the future resurrection of life (John 11:25-26). When Paul says that men will be judged by his gospel (Romans 2:16), he doesn’t expect his audience to ignore everything he said about justification through faith and think only of works. Works are relevant, for reasons explained in my last paragraph, but nobody reading Paul in context would think that summarizing statements that only mention works are meant to exclude what Paul said about faith. To ignore the role of faith in his gospel would cause a major distortion of his message. Paul speaks of deliverance from future wrath through Jesus’ blood (Romans 5:9) after having said that the deliverance through that blood was received through faith (Romans 5:1). Etc. And I point out, again, that citing passages on the final judgment doesn’t explain the line of evidence I mentioned earlier. As we see over and over again in Jesus’ ministry and Paul’s, people are justified through faith alone, as illustrated in the paradigm case of Abraham in Genesis 15:6. There is no issue of whether the works involved are works of grace or graceless works, since works of both types are absent.

Thanks very much for your reply, and especially for sticking directly to the issues. I think you have answered well from within your own paradigm, and it is interesting to learn how you answer the question I asked. I truly do appreciate it.

I disagree, of course, but as I said, I didn’t come here to debate. Let me conclude, if I may, by briefly clarifying that the Catholic position is not saying to ignore faith or grace (the content of your entire long second paragraph). Our position is that salvation is by grace alone, through faith, which is not alone, and includes works by its very nature.

So all your warnings about “ignoring” faith are non sequiturs, as far as Catholicism is concerned, and a rather large straw man, if you are intending to target Catholic soteriology there.

The point of my paper and question about it is not to stake out some “works alone” position (which would, of course, be a Pelagianism that Catholics totally reject as heresy), but to note that it is rather striking that only works are mentioned in the judgment passages, and never faith alone (and faith at all only once out of 50).

I realize that the Catholic view involves grace and faith as well, which is why I previously referred to faith rather than “a combination between faith and gracious works” in reference to Galatians 3:21-25, for example. The second paragraph in the post you’re responding to was meant to be an explanation of the intention of the Biblical authors, not a response to Catholicism.

In another paper I mentioned here I cite 50 passages from Paul that exhibit the threefold scenario of grace-faith-works.

We also get accused of believing in “sola ecclesia” when in fact our position on authority is the “three-legged stool” of Scripture-Tradition-Church. It’s simply Protestant either/or thinking applied to us.

Thanks again, and I will record your complete reply in a post I’ll make on the topic. You or anyone else is always welcome to comment on my site about anything.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

* * *

I don’t see how some of the passages I mentioned in my last post, such as John 11:25-26 and Romans 5:1-9, can be exempted from an examination of judgment passages. When people are assured of a future in Heaven, the resurrection of life, the avoidance of God’s wrath in the future, etc. on the basis of faith, why wouldn’t such passages be relevant to the subject you’re addressing?

They are thematically related insofar as they are also soteriological, but my 50 passages had specifically to do with final judgment, God’s wrath, and eschatological salvation.

That came about because I was asked in debate with Matt Slick (the big cheese at CARM) what I would say if I got to heaven and God asked me why I should be let in. I replied that we had biblical data as to what God would actually say at such a time, and it was all about works, not faith alone at all. And I found that quite striking (after studying it in greater depth), though it never surprises me to find profound biblical support for Catholicism. I always do whenever I study the Bible.

Romans 5:9 does mention God’s wrath, but it is a generalized, proverbial-like statement (such as often found in, e.g., 1 John), rather than particularistic and eschatological, which is what I was talking about in my paper.

John 11:25-26 is of the same nature, and moreover, if we look at it closely, we see that the Greek for “believe” is pistuo, which is considered the counterpart of “does not obey” (apitheo) in John 3:36. 1 Peter 2:7 also opposes the two same Greek words. In other words, “believe” in the biblical sense already includes within it the concept of obedience (i.e., works). Hence, “little Kittel” observes:

pisteuo as “to obey.” Heb. 11 stresses that to believe is to obey, as in the OT. Paul in Rom. 1:8; 1 Th. 1:8 (cf. Rom. 15:18; 16:19) shows, too, that believing means obeying. He speaks about the obedience of faith in Rom. 1:5, and cf. 10:3; 2 Cor. 9:13. (p. 854)

Jesus joins faith (“belief” / pistuo) and works together, too, when He states:

John 14:12 (RSV) Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.

So even if one grants that these passages have to do directly with judgment and eschatological salvation (as I do not), it is still the case that the “belief” mentioned in them is (through cross-referencing) seen to include obeying and works, and we’re back to the Catholic organic relationship between the two, rather than the Protestant ultra-abstraction of the two into the justification and sanctification categories.

“Faith alone” is tough to verify from Scripture once everything is taken into account and not just the garden-variety Protestant passages that are always utilized.

* * *

In other words, ‘believe’ in the biblical sense already includes within it the concept of obedience (i.e., works).

I agree that faith is obedience, but it can be obedience without being work in any relevant sense. That’s why we’re told that people can believe without working (Romans 4:5-6), that justifying belief occurs in the heart (Acts 15:7-11, Romans 10:10), that works demonstrate faith (James 2:14-26), etc. Different terms are used to refer to faith and works, because they’re different concepts. They can have obedience in common without having some other things in common.

A reference to faith can’t be assumed to include outward action, much less a specific outward action like baptism. That’s why we often see baptism and faith distinguished, for example (Acts 8:12-13, 18:8, etc.). The fact that faith is obedience wouldn’t lead us to the conclusion that other forms of obedience can be included in references to faith.

The term “faith” and its synonyms aren’t all that are relevant here. When we read of a paralytic being lowered into a house, a man visiting a Jewish temple, a crucified man, or a man listening to the gospel being preached, we don’t define what that person is doing solely by a term like “faith”. Rather, we also take into account the evidence provided by the surrounding context. It would make no sense to conclude that a paralyzed man being lowered into a house or a man visiting a Jewish temple was being baptized simultaneously or that a man nailed to a cross or a man listening to Peter preach the gospel was giving money to the poor at the same time. We judge how these individuals were justified partially through the surrounding context, not just a reference to faith or some related term. Part of the problem with the Catholic gospel is that not only do so many of the relevant passages mention faith without mentioning works, but the surrounding context gives us further reason to believe that the relevant works aren’t involved.

So even if one grants that these passages have to do directly with judgment and eschatological salvation (as I do not)

How can a passage about resurrection life and never dying (John 11:25-26) not be directly relevant? Passages of a similar nature use other phrases that are likewise relevant to future judgment and salvation, such as “on the last day” in John 6:40. Your article includes John 5:26-29, so I don’t see a problem with including verse 24 as well. Themes of resurrection and judgment are already being discussed in verses 21-22. Yet, your article only cites verses 26-29.

Similarly, Romans 5:1-9 repeatedly brings up themes of hope for the future and deliverance from future wrath.

And I want to remind the readers of something I said earlier. The coming judgment is primarily a judgment of works even from the perspective of justification through faith alone. The unregenerate are condemned by their works, and the regenerate are justified in order to do (Ephesians 2:10), vindicated by, and rewarded for their works. The emphasis on works in judgment passages doesn’t tell us, though, whether works are a means of justification. The dispute isn’t about whether works are relevant to the judgment, but rather the type of relevance they have.

Thanks for the continuing excellent discussion. Just one point:

the regenerate are justified in order to do (Ephesians 2:10), [be] vindicated by, and rewarded for their works. The emphasis on works in judgment passages doesn’t tell us, though, whether works are a means of justification.

This is classic Protestantism, of course: works are relegated to post-justification status, as part of a separate sanctification and the realm of differential rewards of those already saved. I used to believe the exact same thing, so I’m very familiar with it.

The problem is that Scripture doesn’t teach such a view. The disproofs are already in my paper, in many passages that directly connect or associate salvation with the works that one does: therefore, works are not unrelated to either justification or eschatological salvation, as you claim they are:

Matthew 25:34-36 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

The “for” shows the causal relationship: “you are saved because you did all these works.” That’s what the text actually asserts, before false Protestant presuppositions and eisegesis are applied to it in the effort to make sure works never have to do directly with salvation (no matter how much faith and grace is there with them, so that we’re not talking about Pelagianism).

If Protestantism were true, the Bible should have had a passage something like this (RPV):

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.

But alas, it doesn’t read like that, does it?

John 5:28-29 . . . the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

A direct correlation: the ones who do good works are saved; the ones who do evil are damned.

Romans 2:6-8, 13 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. . . . For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

Again, works are directly tied to eternal life and justification; they are not portrayed as merely acts of gratefulness that will lead to differential rewards for the saved; no, the differential reward is either salvation or damnation. Paul totally agrees with Jesus.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 . . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

Note that simply believing the gospel and knowing God is not enough for salvation. One has to also “obey the gospel” (and that involves works).

Revelation 2:5 Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

If we don’t do the works, we can lose our salvation; therefore works have to do with salvation; they are not separated from that by abstracting them into a separate category of sanctification, that is always distinguished from justification. That ain’t biblical teaching. That is the eisegesis and false premises of Melanchthon and Calvin and Zwingli.

Revelation 20:11-13 Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.

Same thing again. Obviously, St. John, St. Paul, and our Lord Jesus need to attend a good Calvinist or evangelical seminary and get up to speed on their soteriology. They don’t get it. The passage should have been written something like the following:

. . . 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.

Perhaps we should get together a council and rewrite the Bible so that it doesn’t have so many “Romish” errors throughout its pages . . . :-) The King James White version or sumpin’ . . . :-)

* * *

Part of the problem with the Catholic gospel is that not only do so many of the relevant passages mention faith without mentioning works, but the surrounding context gives us further reason to believe that the relevant works aren’t involved.

I can easily flip that around, based on the biblical data I have been highlighting:

“Part of the problem with the Protestant gospel is that not only do so many of the relevant passages mention works without mentioning faith (and especially not faith alone), but also the surrounding context gives us further reason to believe that faith alone isn’t involved.”

Since the Catholic believes in the triumvirate of GRACE—>faith—>works as the criteria for salvation, passages dealing with faith pose no problem. The more the merrier. We are saying that faith alone is the unbiblical doctrine, not faith. We’re not against faith at all, but rather, a false definition of faith, that restricts and confines it in a way that the Bible doesn’t do.

But since your position is faith alone (in terms of salvation itself), you have to explain away or rationalize all passages suggesting an important place of works in the equation, in a way that we’re not required to do (given our position) with all the passages about faith that you produce.

So you claimed, for example, that “The emphasis on works in judgment passages doesn’t tell us, though, whether works are a means of justification.” I have now produced six, plain, clear passages that do do just that. And that has to be explained from your paradigm.

I’m sure you will attempt some sort of explanation for your own sake (if even just in your own mind), because if you fail to do so, you would be forced to give up Protestant soteriology. The stakes are high.

But in any event, bringing out ten, twenty, fifty passages that mention faith does nothing against our position, because we don’t reject faith as part of the whole thing.

The problem for your side remains: how to interpret the centrality of works in the judgment / salvation passages like the six I dealt with in my last two postings, in a way that preserves the “faith alone” doctrine.

I contend that it is impossible. To do so does violence to the Bible and what it teaches. We must base our teaching squarely on biblical theology and not the arbitrary, self-contradictory traditions of men (folks like Calvin), who eisegete Holy Scripture and substitute for biblical thought, their own traditions.

Sometimes it’s easy to confuse those traditions with biblical teaching itself. But by examining Holy Scripture more deeply and over time, I think anyone can eventually see that it supports the Catholic positions every time.

That’s why we continue to see folks who study the issues deeply moving from Protestantism to Catholicism (such as Francis Beckwith: the original subject of this post).

our article includes John 5:26-29, so I don’t see a problem with including verse 24 as well. Themes of resurrection and judgment are already being discussed in verses 21-22. Yet, your article only cites verses 26-29.

Fair point. I love discussions of context. Protestants too often ignore context, but you don’t, and I respect that and commend you for it. I have explained my criterion for inclusion in my article on final judgment and works: it depends on how exactly one decides to categorize; how one determines which is a directly eschatological passage or one having to do with judgment. Reasonable folks can differ on that, as there is a subjective element. Not every systematic theologian cuts off the passages they employ at the same exact point.

But as I have been saying, a consideration also of the larger context of John 5 does nothing to harm the Catholic case. You wrote:

many of the relevant passages mention faith without mentioning works, . . . the surrounding context gives us further reason to believe that the relevant works aren’t involved.

Using John 5 as an example (since you brought it up), we see that this doesn’t apply. You say 5:21-22 mentions resurrection and judgment. Fine; indeed it does But what it doesn’t do is give the criteria for these judgments and who is resurrected. That has to come by reading on (further context). You want to highlight 5:24:

. . . he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

I have explained that this is a generalized statement: one could perhaps paraphrase it as “Christian believers have eternal life” or (to bring it down to a Sunday School nursery level): “all good Christians go to heaven.”

It doesn’t follow from a general statement like this that no Christian can ever fall away (though Calvinism requires this, over against many biblical passages to the contrary), or that works have nothing to do with it. We need to look at the deeper meaning of “believe” (as I have already done).

As we read on (the same discourse from Jesus) we get to 5:29:

. . . those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”

Now, you want to highlight 5:24 and de-emphasize 5:29. I can gladly consider both of them in the entire equation. It’s once again the Catholic (Hebraic) “both/and” vs. the Protestant (and more Greek) “either/or”. Scripture is asserting two truths:

5:24 “he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life”

5:29 “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life,”

Faith and works. For us, the two passages are entirely compatible and in harmony with our Catholic theology: one is saved by grace through faith, in believing in Jesus, and this belief entails and inherently includes good works.

But you guys can’t do that, because you wrongly conclude that any presence of good works in the equation of both justification and salvation itself is somehow “anti-faith” or antithetical to grace alone; and is Pelagianism. This doesn’t follow.

But because you believe this (the false, unbiblical premise), you have to explain 5:29 as merely differential rewards for the saved (who are saved by faith alone); whereas the actual text does not teach that. It teaches a direct correlation between good works and eternal life. It explains 5:24 in greater depth; just as I noted earlier that Jesus Himself places works and faith in direct relationship:

John 14:12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do . . .

That’s why we often see baptism and faith distinguished, for example (Acts 8:12-13, 18:8, etc.).

Ah, but baptism (odd that you should bring up that example) is also equated with regeneration and entrance into the kingdom, so this is hardly an example amenable overall to your position:

Acts 2:38, 41 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” . . . So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

The order is not:

1) faith
2) forgiveness
3) indwelling Holy Spirit
4) baptism

but rather,

1) faith
2) baptism
3) forgiveness (directly because of baptism)
4) indwelling Holy Spirit (directly because of baptism)

Because of the baptism, souls were added to the kingdom. They weren’t already in the kingdom, and then decided to be baptized out of obedience. Therefore, the work of baptism directly ties into both justification and final salvation.

Galatians 3:26-27 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Colossians 2:12 and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Faith and baptism are virtually equivalent in their importance. One is “in” Jesus both through faith and through baptism. Both/and.

Baptism is not a separate, optional work. It is part and parcel of the process. Insofar as it, too, is regarded as a “work” then here we have again the Catholic grace-faith-works (and efficacious sacraments) paradigm.

* * *

Jason gave further answers in a three-part reply (one / two / three). I then wrote in conclusion:

Hi Jason,

We could go round and round on this forever, and keep trying to poke holes in each other’s arguments. Again, I think you have answered very well from within your paradigm. You can have the last word.

Thanks for sticking entirely to theology and avoiding any hint of personal attack. How refreshing, and a model to be emulated.

Merry Christmas to you and yours and all here.


(originally posted on 12-6-09)

Photo credit: Christ and the Rich Young Ruler (1889), by Heinrich Hofmann (1824-1911) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]


April 10, 2020

Fr. Carlos Martins wrote a blasphemous piece on a public Facebook post, right before Good Friday, on 4-9-20. It’s doubly disgraceful and scandalous, having been written by a Catholic priest. I can’t bring myself to link to it, because then I might be a cause for someone being led astray. I’m sure anyone can find it, anyway, if they insist on doing so. In only two days’ time, it garnered over 1100 Facebook “likes” and 701 comments (mostly rapturous in praise) and over 1200 shares. God help us!

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could spend my time as an apologist, defending Holy Mother Church and the Holy Father (and God Himself in this case) against enemies outside the Church rather than Catholics within it? But alas, these are the times we live in. Words of Fr. Martins will be in blue.


This is a difficult reflection to write.

I imagine it would be very difficult for a Catholic priest to write such an article.

I apologize in advance for the length. But I think that every word is necessary.

What is necessary is to tell the truth and to exercise charity and apply wisdom and knowledge. Sadly, I submit that none of those things are emphasized here.

My hope is to give the people of God, and especially the clergy, some understanding as to why I believe the COVID-19 pandemic is happening.

And we will examine his “case” to see if it stands up to Holy Scripture, facts, and reason.

In a word, we are experiencing a divine chastisement for idolatries. I fear more is to come.

He does not substantiate or prove this in the least, as I will show as we go along. Note, for example, that Fr. Martins does not provide one single Bible passage in order to bolster his contentions. It’s simply his own bald, unsubstantiated opinion, based on false premises. Sorry, that’s not good enough.

Consider the following:


It’s not a “fact” at all, as I will demonstrate. One can’t build a supposedly good “argument” by starting with a false premise. That’s like the house built on a foundation of sand.

We all know that during the Amazon Synod last fall, the Pope permitted pagan ceremonies in the Vatican Gardens with a Pachamama statue. Pachamama is an idol within the pagan Amazonian mythology … specifically, a fertility goddess who (allegedly) sustains all life on earth (I’m not kidding … just Google it).

This is four lies (and “lie” can mean simply a “falsehood”: not necessarily deliberate; look it up) in rapid succession, packed into two sentences, with the claim that we “all know what is erroneously asserted:

1) It was not a “pagan ceremony.”

2) The figures in question were not “Pachamama” statues.

3) These figures were not idols (neither in essence nor in the intentions and hearts of those in the ceremony).

4) Nor is Pachamama (which was not present here, but falsely assumed to be) even part of “pagan Amazonian mythology”. Pachamama [just “Wikipedia it”] comes, rather, from Inca mythology, and the Andes Mountains in South America, near the Pacific Ocean. In fact, in the Wikipedia article, the word “Amazon” never even appears.

The basic error here is “going by appearances” alone. But even the premises of the appearances that critics of this ceremony assume are themselves quite questionable. A bunch of radical Catholic reactionaries and non-extremist legitimate traditionalist Catholics saw some small statues (portraying some sort of woman: all agree), and they immediately concluded that they were “idols.” But this is almost identical to iconoclastic Calvinist reasoning in the 16th century.

Are they unfamiliar with Catholic images, like statues and icons and paintings? We fully allow those things. They are (rightly understood) entirely biblical, as I have proven from Scripture time and again. And they are usually for the purpose of veneration, not worship and adoration (a statue of Christ could include the latter).

The early Calvinists (like many of them still today) were iconoclasts, and went around smashing statues in Catholic Churches (including statues of Christ and crucifixes; even bare crosses!). They didn’t like stained glass windows, either, and even took an ax to church organs. It was all “idolatry” to them, you see. Why? Well, because they were images, and the Bible (dontcha know) is against all “graven images”.

Really? Funny, then, that the temple itself (whose design was expressly revealed by God) was filled with images, as was the ark of the covenant, which had figures of cherubim (angels) on its lid. There was also Moses’ bronze serpent, etc. Even God the Father was sometimes worshiped directly via an image (pillar of fire and of cloud).

Moreover, Calvinists and other anti-Catholic Protestants were convinced that the Mass itself was idolatrous blasphemy, including the climax of supposed idolatrous worship of a piece of bread. They just don’t get it. So how is it that today we have Catholics who see some image and go nuts: immediately concluding that idols are in play, because some folks from the Amazon dress a little differently and have some (Catholic) ceremonies that look exotic and “foreign” to us in more developed countries? It simply doesn’t follow. Idolatry has to be determined by what is in a person’s heart and intentions. That’s what the Bible repeatedly teaches.

How — you may ask — do I back up my contentions? Well, it can’t be briefly done. Unfortunately, falsehoods and propagandistic slogans may be very short, but it takes a lot more ink to refute them (I know from long apologetics experience). I have written no less than eleven blog papers this issue and false assertion, covering just about every angle and interacting with the proponents of this Huge Myth, that thousands of Catholics have accepted uncritically:

“Pachamama” [?] Statues: Marian Veneration or Blasphemous Idolatry? [11-5-19]

“Pachamama” Fiasco: Hysterical Reactionaryism, as Usual [11-8-19]

“Pachamama” Confusion: Fault of Vatican or Catholic Media? [11-12-19]

Anti-“Pachamama” Doc: “Usual Suspect” Reactionaries Sign [11-14-19]

Vatican II –> Alleged “Pachamama” Idolatry, Sez Fanatics [11-15-19]

Bishops Viganò & Schneider Reject Authority of Vatican II [11-22-19]

Viganò, Schneider, Pachamama, & VCII (vs. Janet E. Smith) [11-25-19]

Pope St. John Paul II Respectfully Referred to Pachamama (+ Orthodox Catholic References to “Mother Earth” and Similar Biblical Motifs) [12-13-19]

“Pachamama” Redux (vs. Peter Kwasniewski & Janet Smith) [12-17-19]

Dialogue: “Pachamama” (?) Statues & Marian Iconography [12-24-19]

Dr. Fastiggi Defends Pope Francis Re “Pachamama Idolatry” [3-3-20]

However, at the Mass to close the Amazon Synod (Oct. 27, 2019) the Pope received a bowl with soil and plants during the offertory from an indigenous woman. In the Amazon, such bowls are synonymous with the Pachamama deity, symbolizing her status as Mother Earth (again, just Google “Pachamama” and “bowl”).

All of this must be interpreted and proven to be idolatrous in intent, which is never done. It’s merely assumed (starting with the false premises briefly described above). But assumptions are not arguments, and hence, carry no persuasive force.

The Pope instructed his Master of Ceremonies (Monsignor Guido Marini) to place the bowl on the high altar within the Basilica of St. Peter. Neither plants, nor any other object, save what is needed to celebrate Mass, is EVER PERMITTED TO BE PLACED ON AN ALTAR. This has been the constant practice of the Church for 2,000 years, and is the Vatican’s own directive.

Well, I’m no expert on either liturgical rubrics or canon law, so I’ll do what I always do when hindered by such limitations: I go to someone who is an expert on those things: in this instance, canon lawyer Cathy Caridi, who runs the Canon Law Made Easy site. She draws the distinction between ecclesiastical laws, which are man-made and can as a result be changed or occasionally dispensed, and divine laws, which come from God and therefore can’t change.

Hence, she states: “He is perfectly free to dispense himself from following the [ecclesiastical] law when he wishes — just as he may change the law entirely, if he wishes.” What is permitted on an altar has to do with ecclesiastical law. Of course, if the said objects were in fact idols, then it would go against divine law, but since they aren’t in the first place, they don’t.


That venerable altar—the most recognizable in the world—had no congregation around it tonight for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. As well, for the first time in its storied history, it will have no congregation present for the Easter Vigil Mass (the Mass the Church calls “the Mother of all Liturgies”), nor for the Easter Sunday Masses.

This is a rare actual undisputed fact in the piece (though there have been times in the past when some churches were closed due to epidemics). A breath of fresh air . . .

The Pachamama idol was placed on the altars of various churches throughout Rome during the Synod.

Catholic Churches world-wide are now closed to the Faithful. No altar throughout the world had the People of God present for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper this evening, nor will they for any of the Easter liturgies this weekend. The priest(s) will celebrate alone. In fact, certain dioceses, such as that of Hamilton (Canada), have forbidden the Celebration of the Sacred Triduum in ANY parish even by the priests alone. (Who in God’s name would get sick by a priest offering Mass alone in his parish church? No one. Thus, preventing the spread of sickness cannot be the motive of such bishops.)

I don’t know, but I imagine that would be because the virus is known to be able to stick to surfaces for a period of time; therefore, places where a lot of people were, could transmit it for some period of time, even with no people present.

It is as if the Italian altars acted as proxies for every other altar, transferring their “sin” onto them. Neither the Roman Emperors, nor Attila the Hun, nor the Ottomans, nor the French Revolution, nor the World Wars, nor Hitler and Stalin were ever successful at emptying parishes of their congregations. And now every Catholic parish worldwide is empty during the holiest days of the year.

This, of course, is the famous post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (“after this, therefore because of this” or, “Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.”). It’s no proof at all, almost needless to say. But this is how conspiratorialists think. It’s not logical thought, and creates mythical connections where there are demonstrably none, or none that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. And, as we have shown, in this instance, it was based upon an entirely false starting premise, too. The Wikipedia article on the fallacy further explains:

Post hoc is a particularly tempting error because correlation appears to suggest causality. The fallacy lies in a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors potentially responsible for the result that might rule out the connection.

A simple example is “the rooster crows immediately before sunrise; therefore the rooster causes the sun to rise.”

I used to have fun with my kids when they were real little, by  twisting my ear, which “made” my tongue come out. In their little minds, perhaps they thought it actually was a causal connection. That’s about how silly the present “argumentation” is.

It’s an epidemic: all you conspiratorialists out there. It’s known to be wildly contagious. Therefore, when it is already out of hand, it can only be (relatively) stopped by people getting away from each other. It jumps from people to people based on what we do, and there are ways we can at least greatly slow its spread. This saves lives: mostly of elderly people already sick: who are the overwhelming victims of the pandemic. And it includes churches, because thousands of people congregate in them.

To argue that it is okay to have a Mass: knowing full well that many could contract the virus as a result, and a certain number of them die (and a horrible death at that), is downright immoral and unconscionable. The Mass (like the Sabbath) was made for man, not man for the Mass. We can survive a temporary suspension of public Masses. But many will not survive the virus, if empty conspiratorialism rules the day.

The Italian Bishops Conference published an official prayer to Pachamama. I am not kidding. An official prayer to a pagan idol [link]. The note in brackets at end of the prayer even reads “Prayer to Mother Earth from the Incas”!

1) This was, as I understand it, from a 1988 publication, and so had nothing to do with the disputed / lied-about ceremony.

2) The Incas are not the Amazonians, nor “Pachamama” one of the latter’s religious figures, as already explained.

3) The bishops were not endorsing it. It was presented merely as a specimen of indigenous South American religion. My friend James Scott explained in a comment on my blog on 3-3-20:

All they are doing here is citing this prayer as “testimony” from the Indigenous peoples as to the damage the west is supposedly doing to their environment, or as to their suffering or plight. But nowhere does this say Catholics should pray this prayer or incorporate it into their liturgy or let pagan converts to the Faith continue to pray it. To hear these reactionaries you would think the Italian bishops have issued prayer books or missals instructing us to pray to Pachamama. But that is not what we see here. This is just a missionary magazine like Catholic Near East or whatever showcasing some local culture: nothing more. At this point I must question the moral integrity of the people posting this drivel. It is slander and a mortal sin!

AFTERWARDS: Italy became the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic hotspot, and its hospitals were completely overwhelmed with the sick. Medical staff had to choose who to put on a ventilator, and who to simply let die. In other words, they had to play God. As of this evening (April 9, 2020), the virus has killed over 100 Italian priests, far more than in another other country.

More post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, minus any shred of argumentation that might lead a reasonable, open-minded person to accept all of these fanciful conspiracies. The prevalence of the virus in Italy is due to many established, quite reasonable causes, which I laid out in an extensive paper on the topic.

The argument is profoundly incoherent, because if Italy was truly being judged for alleged [in fact, imaginary] sins, certainly, one of the prime targets would be the allegedly wicked, evil, heretical Pope Francis and his close circle of cardinals, bishops, and other aides (who are always in on every conspiracy-of-the-week bandied about by these folks). As I wrote in my first article about coronavirus supposedly being God’s judgment, over three weeks ago:

[T]he arch-enemy “bad guy” and antichrist, Pope Francis, [is] walking the streets of Rome virus-free thus far.

After all, God struck down kings; He (the same God Who did all that stuff as revealed in the inspired revelation of the Old Testament) can dispose of a supposedly wicked, evil pope just as easily. If Pope Francis were one-tenth as bad as the mountain of lies and calumnies and scurrilous slander about him would have it, arguably he should have [biblically] been devastated by God and eaten by worms (or some similar such horrible fate) no later than five years ago.

Instead, we’re told that God is going after Italians, as particularly wicked. The fact, of course, is that this is a worldwide pandemic, that knows no boundaries of any kind. Now, who are the people suffering from this supposed “judgment” or “wrath” from God in Italy (as of 3-18-20)?:

More than 99% of Italy’s coronavirus fatalities were people who suffered from previous medical conditions, according to a study by the country’s national health authority. . . .

The Rome-based institute has examined medical records of about 18% of the country’s coronavirus fatalities, finding that just three victims, or 0.8% of the total, had no previous pathology. Almost half of the victims suffered from at least three prior illnesses and about a fourth had either one or two previous conditions.

More than 75% had high blood pressure, about 35% had diabetes and a third suffered from heart disease.

The median age of the infected is 63 but most of those who die are older . . . The average age of those who’ve died from the virus in Italy is 79.5. As of March 17, 17 people under 50 had died from the disease. All of Italy’s victims under 40 have been males with serious existing medical conditions.

Please note very carefully what this entails: we’re told that God is judging via the coronavirus. The biggest sin and alleged precipitating cause for this occurred in Italy. But did God go after the very ones who allegedly committed it (the pope, cardinals, bishops, and those who agreed with their acts?).

No, not at all. Instead, we’re to believe an absurd, amoral scenario whereby God looked around for elderly people (average age of the dead: 79.5 years), and particularly those who already had two or three other diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease), and killed themThese are the people God in His omnipotence and providence decided to judge and kill by His wrath. That is supposedly just and loving.

My friend, Margie Prox Sindelar rendered her opinion of this kind of “reasoning” on my Facebook page today:

But if He did [judge the world, what about], abortion? fornication? homosexuality? sex trafficking, child abuse scandals, all of that is okay? No chastisements . . .  But our Holy Father allows others to come and express the faith ways foreign to most and He chastises the world for that?

My friend, Fr. Angel Sotelo added:

Exactly. “God is mad at us because of the synod, so He’s going to kill some people who had nothing to do with the Amazon Synod.”

Today Our Lord suffered His bitter agony for love of sinners, and this is how we preach the message of redemption?

How pathetic that COVID-19 has to be enlisted in the anti-Francis campaign of Church politics. Next thing, they’ll be blaming heart disease and autism on Pope Francis!

Some folks here are holding a nasty grudge against the people they think that God hates, and need God to be their hit man. . . .

Whipping up the “groupies” to think that God is punishing the world because of Pope Francis–that is just thrusting the spear into the side of Christ.

I can’t believe how many people jumped on the bandwagon to say that COVID-19 is God’s way of getting even for the Amazon Synod. Reading that post made me livid, and then very sad.

I think there are over 12,000 dead from the virus [it’s now 18,122 in the US and 101,732 worldwide]. What must their loved ones think when Catholics call this a punishment from God? If Catholics think that God would kill innocent people for the problems in the Church, I wonder which God they are praying to?

So God specifically targets for judgment elderly people (we’re talking usually 80 or above), almost always with serious underlying conditions. These are the poor souls dying like flies from the virus. All the research verifies it. That is God’s judgment, so we’re told, and it has to be because of this fiction about supposed “Pachamama” idolatry. That’s not the God I have served and loved for 43 years now. It’s blasphemy to think so.

It’s two outrageous lies in one: one goes after God Himself and logically entails (i.e., actually thought through, which probably never happened) that He is a moral monster; the second asserts that the pope is a rank heretic and idolater (because truly sanctioning and worshiping an idol would entail both).

Whatever theology of judgment the people saying these outrages have, has to be laid out and explained, but they don’t do that. They simply assert that it’s because of Pachamama. I’ve already written twice at length about it [one / two], providing lots of Scripture regarding judgment, and I’ve written much about God’s judgments elsewhere, again including copious citation of Scripture, as is my usual custom.

When God judged in Scripture, almost always He targeted a specific group of sinners or judged an entire country (or the whole world, in the case of Noah), with roughly equal suffering for all involved. Neither scenario is the case with this. It is simply acting like a virus acts: and the weakest are taken out. It’s nature; not God’s nature . . .

Two years ago, in a deal brokered by disgraced (and now former) Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Vatican agreed to allow the evil and murderous Chinese Communist government to select the bishops for China. This, in effect, threw the always faithful “underground and unofficial” Catholic Church under the bus; it entailed that the Vatican would no longer partner with it, but with the murderous State instead. In fact, the faithful were told by the Vatican to abandon their bishops and parishes and join the Official State Church.

Where did COVID-19 come from? China.

First of all, regarding Pope Francis and China, there is more than merely one reactionary, anti-Francis opinion about that. See:

On the Church in China (Mike Lewis, Where Peter Is, 2-13-18)
Perspective on the China/Vatican deal (Mike Lewis, Where Peter Is, 9-30-18)
China’s “other” cardinal (Mike Lewis, Where Peter Is, 3-18-19)

Secondly, this is yet another blasphemous lie: that God is also judging because (so the theory goes) the pope and McCarrick abandoned Chinese Christians. So who does God go after in retribution for that? Not Pope Francis, the alleged perpetrator, or Sex Pervert McCarrick (who rests safely in isolation) but . . . the Chinese (!): most of whom, no doubt (i.e., among the victims), are not even Christians: 3,340 deaths there. That’s God’s judgment and wrath, you see!

Does that make any sense? No! It’s certainly not consistent with the God revealed in the inspired revelation of the Bible and is literally blasphemous (how ironic, in the midst of a false charge that the pope and bishops were supposedly committing sacrilegious idolatry). If this is the nature of the God Whom Christians serve, count me out. I’m gone yesterday.

Thankfully, it is not the God I know and the true God revealed in the Bible. He is fair and just in His judgments: terrible though they may sometimes seem from our perspective. If He judges a nation, it’s because most of the entire nation has gone astray, and are ripe for judgment, as part of the collective.

God judges wicked nations (including His own chosen people, several times). When virtually the whole world became wicked in the time of Noah, He judged it, too. What He doesn’t do, on the other hand, is judge people who had nothing to do with one alleged sin, for that sin. He judges individuals or relatively smaller groups for their own sins.

But what we see from the statistics of coronavirus fatalities, is that, according to this tin foil hat myth, the wickedest people who are being judged far disproportionately compared to others, are elderly people over 80 with existing serious medical conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure or kidney problems or heart disease.

These are the folks God is looking to kill for the sins of the world. He wants them to die in despair, even apart from loved ones, gasping for air and in a delirious state of mind. They must be wiped out for others’ sins, so we can get back to normal and our own idols of money and worship of our own foolish pride and divisiveness and endless rumormongering. Yeah, makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? This is flat-out blasphemy, to believe such a thing about the God of the Bible.

There are plenty of very widespread sins that God might conceivably judge (and on a very wide scale): abortion, homosexual acts, economic exploitation, making riches or power into an idol, pornography, sexual trafficking, drug dealing, sexual abuse, terrorism, racial and ethnic prejudice, sexism, on and on and on.

He could incinerate the United States to ashes in the next hour and we could say nothing in our defense: due to abortion alone; not even getting into many other serious sins we commit and even sanction by unjust, immoral laws. It would be perfectly just for Him to do so.

But none of that is mentioned when today’s would-be / wannabe prophets talk about God’s wrath; rather, only one ceremony which they never understood in the first place; which was a Catholic ceremony, without any idolatry at all.

In January of 2019, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, signed a law that made abortion legal until the day of birth in the 9th month. In other words, he legalized infanticide.

The United States became the world-wide epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, and New York is ground zero.

It’s the same fallacies repeated again and applied to New York. If the Governor and the legion of pro-abort liberals in New York are to blame for the supposed judgment, then why aren’t they being specifically taken out by God? As I explained, when God judges, according to the Bible, not my arbitrary speculations, it is either an entire nation (or state, in this case), indiscriminately, or it is a specifically targeted group of people.

The Governor isn’t on his sick bed, dying. Why? He signed these abominable, heartless bills. So why isn’t he judged (according to the theory that Fr. Martins posits)? Instead, over 7,600 New Yorkers have been “judged” by God. And who is it that God particularly focused on? Well, it’s the same as everywhere else, as regards the elderly and those already very ill. But it’s also true that Latinos and African-Americans are dying at a greatly disproportionate rate (that fits in great with the KKK view: God takes out “inferior” minorities more than others):

The death rate from Covid-19 for black and Latino New Yorkers is roughly twice that of white New Yorkers, according to the latest city data. The death rate among Latino New Yorkers is 22.8 for every 100,000 people. Among African Americans, it is 19.8. In contrast, 10.2 of every 100,000 white New Yorkers has died from the new coronavirus.

The numbers, which were released on Wednesday, are based on 63 percent of confirmed Covid-19 deaths in New York City. They are consistent with reporting from Louisiana, IllinoisMilwaukee, and Michigan, as well as preliminary national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which show that black people are dying in greater numbers from the virus.

To both the people of God and my brother priests: we need to make reparation for the sins of the Church. . . . Blasphemy in the Bible was a crime whose punishment was always death.

Fr. Martins ought to start with himself (with all due respect). He neither teaches nor edifies anyone with this conspiratorial nonsense. He blasphemes God with groundless speculation about His alleged judgment and wrath, that has no biblical basis whatsoever (hence he didn’t seek to prove it with a single Bible verse), and he blasphemes the pope as well (the word blasphemy includes wrong attitudes towards holy things and holy people as well as God).

Bearing false witness is in the Ten Commandments and is mortal sin. There is plenty in this regrettable Facebook post that Fr. Martins ought to repent for in dust and ashes. I pray that God will open his eyes and correct his multitude of errors soon, because we see how many people he is leading astray.


For follow-up discussion, see: Dialogue: Is Coronavirus the Way that God Judges? [4-13-20].


Photo credit: Kildare Cathedral, Ireland, before its reconstruction in the late 1800s [Wikimedia Commons / no known copyright restrictions]



August 7, 2019

This is an installment of my series of replies to an article by Dr. David Madison: a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, who has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. It’s called, “Things We Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said” (Debunking Christianity, 7-21-19). His words will be in blue below. Dr. Madison makes several “generic” digs at Jesus and Christianity, in the written portion (it details a series of 12 podcasts):

A challenge for Christians: If you’re so sure Jesus existed, then you have some explaining to do. A major frustration is that, while believers are indignant at all the talk about Jesus not existing, they don’t know the issues that fuel the skepticism—and are unwilling to inform themselves.

Yes, I’m up to the “challenge.” No problem at all. I’m not threatened or “scared” by this in the slightest. It’s what I do, as an apologist. The question is whether Dr. Madison is up to interacting with counter-critiques? Or will he act like the voluminous anti-theist atheist polemicist Bob Seidensticker?: who directly challenged me in one of his own comboxes to respond to his innumerable attack-pieces against Christianity and the Bible, and then courageously proceeded to utterly ignore my 35 specific critiques of his claims as of this writing. We shall soon see which course Dr. Madison will decide to take. Anyway, he also states in his post and combox:

[S]o many of the words of Jesus are genuinely shocking. These words aren’t proclaimed much from the pulpit, . . . Hence the folks in the pews have absorbed and adored an idealized Jesus. Christian apologists make their livings refiguring so many of the things Jesus supposedly said.

The gospels are riddled with contradictions and bad theology, and Jesus is so frequently depicted as a cult fanatic—because cult fanatics wrote the gospels. We see Jesus only through their theological filters. I just want to grab hold of Christian heads (standing behind them, with a hand on each ear) and force them to look straight ahead, unflinchingly, at the gospels, and then ask “Tell me what you see!” uncoached by apologist specialists, i.e., priests and pastors, who’ve had a lot of practice making bad texts look good. . . . I DO say, “Deal with the really bad stuff in the gospels.” Are you SURE you’ve not make a big mistake endorsing this particular Lord and Savior? That’s the whole point of this series of Flash Podcasts, because a helluva lot of Christians would agree, right away, that these quotes are bad news—if no one told then that they’ve been attributed to Jesus.

Of course, Dr. Madison — good anti-theist atheist that he is — takes the view that we are not at all sure whether Jesus in fact said anything recorded in the Gospels in the first place. I don’t play that game, because there is no end to it. It’s like trying to pin jello to the wall. The atheist always has their convenient out (when refuted in argument about some biblical text) that Jesus never said it anyway [wink wink and sly patronizing grin], and/or that the biblical text in question was simply added later by dishonest ultra-biased Christian partisans and propagandists. It’s a silly and ultimately intellectually dishonest game, and so I always refuse to play it with atheists or anyone else, because there is no way to “win” with such an absurdly stacked, purely subjective deck.

In my defense of biblical texts, I start with the assumption that the manuscripts we have are quite sufficient for us to know what is in the Bible (believe it or not). Going on from there, I simply defend particular [supposedly “difficult”] texts, and note with appropriate argumentation, that “here, the Bible teaches so-and-so,” etc. I deal with the texts as they exist. I don’t get into the endlessly arbitrary, subjective games that atheists and theologically liberal biblical skeptics play with the texts, in their self-serving textual criticism.

Dr. Madison himself (fortunately) grants my outlook in terms of practical “x vs. y” debate purposes: “For the sake of argument, I’m willing to say, okay, Jesus was real and, yes, we have gospels that tell the story.” And in the combox: “So, we can go along with their insistence that he did exist. We’ll play on their field, i.e., the gospels.”

Good! So we shall examine his cherry-picked texts and see whether his interpretations of them can stand up to scrutiny. He is issuing challenges, and I as an apologist will be dishing a bunch of my own right back to him. Two can play this game. I will be dealing honestly with his challenges. Will he return the favor, and engage in serious and substantive dialogue? Again, we’ll soon know what his reaction will be. A true dialogue is of a confident, inquisitive, “nothing to fear and everything to gain” back-and-forth and interactive nature, not merely “ships passing in the night” or what I call “mutual monologue.”


Dr. Madison’s ninth podcast of twelve is entitled: “On Matthew 10:14-15, towns that reject the message of the Kingdom of God will be destroyed.” Here is the “offending” passage:

Matthew 10:14-15 (RSV) And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. [15] Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomor’rah than for that town. 

. . . two brutal verses . . . if you turned them away, would you deserve destruction on the day of judgment? . . . sounds vindictive and petty, no? . . . Doesn’t this sound like typical cult fanaticism, [that] we’ve heard from religious cranks forever? “If you don’t believe me, you’ll be sorry’ you’ll be damned.” And Jesus is supposed to be all about love and compassion, right? . . . Don’t be so confident that Jesus was a good guy, and that he was a great moral teacher. These verses undercut that.

Dr. Madison apparently doesn’t grasp or comprehend (agree or disagree) the notion of ultimate justice and God as Judge at all. It’s not that complicated. I tackled this general area in a reply to another atheist, entitled, “God’s Judgment of Sin: Analogies for an Atheist Inquirer” (9-6-18). Here are some excerpts (slightly abridged):

God as the Creator has the “prerogative” to judge His creation when they have gone astray.

We have earthly judges (by analogy) who do the same thing. A criminal commits a crime. He is given a fair trial, found guilty, and is then judged, if deemed guilty. 

But it’s inconceivable that God is the Cosmic Judge?

Imagine if everyone on earth were like an SS agent (think, Heinrich Himmler). We took out people like that in World War II and everyone thought it was quite moral. But if God does it, suddenly it’s immoral.

Well, with the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah, that’s what the Bible says took place: the level of immorality was virtually universal and beyond repair. So God judged. I don’t have the slightest problem with it. I think it’s exactly what we would expect in a God Who is both perfectly loving and a just judge.

In a blanket judgment by God there will be children who are killed as well. But they are not necessarily condemned to hell. God judges each soul individually. So yes, they may have to die young as a result of being in a hyper-corrupt culture (below the age of reason and guilt, as we Catholic say), but they have an eternal life in front of them and God will judge them justly in that respect.

In the atheist view, on the other hand, there is no ultimate justice at all. Since we are doing Nazi analogies, it would be as if the Nazis had won World War II and were ruling the world right now, doing all the evil they did while they were in power. In a world without God, there would be no ultimate justice. These Nazis would die and cease to exist. They would pay no penalty for their great evils (not even in this life if they aren’t defeated). Their victims would die and cease to exist as well, and never receive any good things. All they had was an earthy life which was a living hell under Nazi rule.

There is no justice or meaning or “happy ending” in that scenario. Many people in the world have a terrible life: and very often because of despotic rulers or bad social or religious systems. In the Christian worldview the unrepentant bad guys are judged for their evil (and will end up in hell). People who accept God’s grace spend eternity with God in heaven, in great bliss and joy, with no more suffering.

That is meaningful and just.

 I also wrote in a similar article, “Is God an Unjust Judge? Dialogue with an Atheist” (10-30-17):

The Bible says that God is Love and the life of Jesus illustrates that rather dramatically. The Bible also teaches that He is the judge of the world. The two are not mutually exclusive. We don’t say that human judges are wicked and evil because they pass sentence (following jury verdicts) for someone to go to jail. We recognize that as due punishment for crimes.

God judges, as the Creator. He desires that none perish, but He does judge folks for the sins that they willingly commit. He doesn’t cause anyone to sin, but He judges them for their sins.

And in another paper of mine, “Dialogue w Atheists on Hell & Whether God is Just” (12-5-06; originally posted at Debunking Christianity), I argued by analogy:

When a criminal rebels against the laws of a society and is caught, convicted, and imprisoned for life, we don’t say that the “cause” of his imprisonment was the laws of the state that he violated, and rail against the very notion of law as the horrible, unjust cause of this guy’s suffering! He brought about his own demise by going astray. Likewise, with human beings, God, and hell.

The penalty for very serious crime in a civil sense is life imprisonment. That’s just how it is. Law itself is not to be blamed.

The penalty for very serious sin and rebellion against God in spiritual reality is eternal torment in hell. That’s just how it is. God (the ground of moral law) is not to be blamed for that. . . . 

Because God is Creator He also has the prerogative to judge. This is analogous to our experience. Society takes it upon itself to judge the criminal and punish him if he supersedes the “just” laws that govern the society, in order to prevent chaos and suffering. If that is true of human society (one man to another), it is all the more of God, because He is ontologically above us (Creator and created).

So it is perfectly sensible and moral to posit (apart from the data of revelation) a notion of God judging both individuals and nations. God’s omniscience is such that He can determine if an entire nation has gone bad (“beyond repair,” so to speak) and should be punished. And He did so. Now, even in a wicked nation there may be individuals who are exceptions to the rule. So some innocent people will be killed. But this is like our human experience as well. In wartime, we go to war against an entire nation. In so doing, even if it is unintentional, some innocent non-combatants will be killed. . . . 

Again, the societal analogy is perfectly apt. If someone rebels at every turn against every societal norm and law and appropriate behavior and so forth, is society to be blamed? Say someone grows up thinking that serial rape is fine and dandy and shouldn’t be prevented at all. So he goes and does this. Eventually, the legal system catches up with him and he gets his punishment. He rebelled against what most people think is wrong, and more than deserved his punishment.

We don’t say that there should be no punishment. We don’t blame society for his suffering in prison. We don’t deny that society has a right to judge such persons. So if mere human beings can judge each other, why cannot God judge His creation, and (particularly) those of His creation that have rebelled against Him at every turn? What is so incomprehensible about that? One may not believe it, but there is no radical incoherence or inconsistency or monstrous injustice or immorality in this Christian (and Jewish) viewpoint (which is what is always claimed by the critics).

An analogy I’ve used many times is to compare God to a Governor of a state. He or she have the power to pardon criminals. But the criminal has to accept the pardon. They can refuse it. People who choose to go to hell, do so of their own accord. It never had to happen. God, like the Governor, offers them free grace and salvation if they will but repent and accept it.  But many choose to reject this free offer of salvation, which is universal (unlike Governors’ pardons).

It’s as absurd to judge God because people rebel against Him and end up in hell, as it would be to blame a Governor because a prisoner ludicrously refuses to be pardoned.


Photo credit: Jesus casting out the money changers at the temple, by Carl Bloch (1834-1890) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]


October 8, 2018

The argument (critical of either God or the Bible) runs as follows:

1) God can’t command the killing of children because that is an absolute evil.

2) Yet Old Testament passages refer to this kind of thing.

3) From that we conclude that either A) God is evil, or B) the Bible is in error and is being inaccurate about what God has done and His good and benevolent and all-loving nature.

I’ve written about this general issue many times, and will provide the links at the end, for more in-depth reading on the topic. But here was my spontaneous reply to the same sort of charges recently brought up:

God, as Creator, is also a Judge, and so can decide to judge a nation or a people if they become wicked enough. It doesn’t follow that every individual goes to hell, but the culture is judged: at times completely.

Normally, or normatively, the killing of innocent children is forbidden by man-made laws and the moral law. This holds in all situations except for the extremities of a situation where a culture has become so evil and corrupt that God Himself gives up on it, and judges it: which He, as Sovereign Creator, has the perfect prerogative to do. If God gives life, He can also take it away. Human beings (apart from just war or self-defense) don’t have that right. And so we think abortion is absolutely wrong.

But if a Christian holds that God’s commands about judging the Canaanites or Amalekites (if they actually occurred, as the Bible says they did) — particularly the children — would be evil, how do they deal with the Last Judgment and the Second Coming? Lots of children will die, then, too, by God’s express desire. In fact, (as far as I know) everyone will die; or at least their earthly sojourn will come to an end.

So if God can’t judge a culture 3000 years ago (if we say He wouldn’t and morally couldn’t do such a thing), how can He judge the whole world in the future, without sin?:

Revelation 19:11-21 (RSV) Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. [12] His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. [13] He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. [14] And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. [15] From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. [16] On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords. [17] Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in midheaven, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, [18] to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” [19] And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse and against his army. [20] And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur. [21] And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

That’s “meek and mild” Jesus: massively judging. Certainly this apocalyptic judgment will include many children (which, again, is not the same as consigning all of them to hell). How does a person who believes that a good God would never have commanded the utter annihilation of the Amalekites, deal with that? Christians believe in the Second Coming.

Those who think like this have to explain how the Second Coming and Final Judgment are not also “evil acts” of God, as described in the Bible. Yet if they throw those out, it seems like they are well on their way out of Christianity. They’re right in the Nicene Creed.

Moreover, it’s not evil for God to command a person to kill someone as a part of His judgment, either, because the judgment isn’t evil; therefore, the secondary cause isn’t doing an evil act. He or she is following a command of God to do a thing that is just and good.

Hence, for example, God even used the heathen Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar to judge His own chosen people, Israel, when they had gone astray (Jer 27:6). He used St. Peter to judge Ananias and Sapphira with death, and that was in the New Testament. Peter didn’t kill them, but he made clear it was divine judgment (Acts 5:1-10).

If God can cause death, as Creator and Judge, and this is moral, then He can, by the same token, cause it by the hand of a human being, as His instrument:

Numbers 31:1-8 (RSV) [1] The LORD said to Moses, [2] “Avenge the people of Israel on the Mid’ianites; afterward you shall be gathered to your people.” [3] And Moses said to the people, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Mid’ian, to execute the LORD’s vengeance on Mid’ian. [4] You shall send a thousand from each of the tribes of Israel to the war.” [5] So there were provided, out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. [6] And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand from each tribe, together with Phin’ehas the son of Elea’zar the priest, with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand. [7] They warred against Mid’ian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and slew every male. [8] They slew the kings of Mid’ian with the rest of their slain, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Mid’ian; and they also slew Balaam the son of Be’or with the sword.

God used Moses and his army to execute His judgment. It was not a complete judgment in this case (women and children were spared). There are many examples of such things in the Bible.

Related reading:



Photo credit: Four Horsemen of Apocalypse (1887), by Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]



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