Home Page Faithful to the Magisterium Ubi Petrus, Ibi Ecclesia Write to Marty Why Catholic? Because True.
Evangelizing Jews Catholics Protestants Atheists Freemasons Liberals Muslims New Age Jewish Antimissionaries Using Second Exodus to Evangelize Jews Why Catholics Evangelize Jews Proselytize vs Evangelize
Far too often, in evangelizing conversations, the Protestant stays on the offensive and the Catholic stays on the defensive. Typically, the Protestant fires a barrage of accusations at the Catholic, and the Catholic scurries off to his Catechism of the Catholic Church and Church documents to answer each one. Hours later, when the Catholic returns, the Protestant fires off another barrage of accusations, and the process continues. The Catholic looks as if he is patching holes on a sinking ship. The problem is not with the Catholic Church, but with the structure of the conversation. Before allowing a Protestant to distort the conversation by assuming the validity of sola Scriptura, we need to ask him to show it to us. Here’s what I ask.
I like to approach Protestants, including Messianic Jews, with questions. “May I ask you some questions about Jesus Christ and the Bible?” Every Bible-believing Protestant has to say yes. Recognizing that eternal salvation is a large subject requiring a block of uninterrupted time and a suitable environment, I try to arrange a visit to the Protestant’s home or invite him or her to mine. When we get together, I like to set the ground rules. Assuming that I’m dealing with a conservative Protestant, I like to say, “Now, I understand you believe that only doctrines found in Scripture are true, is that correct? Any doctrine not found in Scripture is false, are we agreed?” Most Protestants will agree to that. Then I say, “And, I understand you believe that the Bible is literally true. Is that correct?” Most conservative Protestants will agree with that statement. I try to repeat it once or twice so that the Protestant fully commits the correctness of his position to these two doctrines.
We can ask, “First of all, would you show me in your Bible where the Bible says that only doctrines found in Scripture are correct.” Most Protestants will cite 2 Tim 3:16 “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” We agree that the Bible is a source of truth, but note that St. Paul said all scripture, not only scripture. Protestants who quote this passage always carefully start at 2 Tim 3:16 Let’s start two verses earlier and look at it in context.
2 Tim 3:14 “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
1. The phrase “from whom you learned it” tells us clearly that St. Paul was referring to early Sacred Tradition!
2. St. Paul’s original Greek for “sacred writings” was hiera grammata. The New Testament uses grammata to mean Lk 16:6 a document, Acts 26:24 learning, Acts 28:21 epistles, 2 Cor 3:7, Gal 6:11 characters of the alphabet, or Jas 5:47 the collective writings of an author. But never “Holy Scripture.” Some of these sacred writings were later accepted by the Church into the Catholic Canon of Sacred Scripture. Others were not.
3. St. Paul’s phrase for “all Scripture,” pasa graphe, means all of the Old Testament books accepted by the Jews at the time he wrote his Epistles. The New Testament at that time consisted only of individual books and letters; no one then was thinking of them as a single collection, and certainly not an addition to Sacred Scripture. Pasa graphe literally means “each Scripture,” or “each passage.”
4. St. Paul says all scripture is “profitable.” His original Greek word was ophelimos. He did not use hikanos, which means enough or sufficient.
Then we can ask our Protestant friends to read aloud, Mt 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Ask whether Jesus intended us to teach all, or only part, of what He has commanded us. Now ask them to read Jn 21:25 “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” Ask whether Jesus did other things not mentioned in Scripture. Was it only a few things, or a large body of teaching?
If Jesus gave us a large body of teaching not included in the Gospels, and intended that we teach it to the whole world, we may ask our Protestant friend where he thinks those teachings are. If he does not know, we can ask him to read aloud, 2 Thes 3:6 “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” Now, St. Paul is talking about a sacred tradition. He uses the Greek word paradosis, tradition. It is obviously sacred because St. Paul commands in Christ’s name.
Then we can ask our Protestant friend to read aloud these passages: 2 Tim 2:2 “What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Thes 2:15 “Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter,” and 1 Cor 11:2 “Maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.” They certainly look to me as if they support the idea of a sacred tradition apart from Scripture. We ask our Protestant friend to explain, if the Bible is literally true, how he can understand this apart from the idea of a sacred tradition.
Protestants have begun to respond to these clear statements with subterfuge. The Protestant New International Version (NIV) Bible deliberately mistranslates the Greek paradosis, “tradition” in these passages as “teaching.” However, where paradosis is used in other contexts, such as St. Paul’s denunciation of false tradition, Col 2:8 “See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition and not according to Christ,” the NIV correctly translates paradosis as “tradition.” If our Protestant friend tries to use the NIV, we can try to insist that he at least use the Protestant gold standard, the original King James Version.
We can also ask our more liberal Protestant friends this question: Before 1930, did your denomination teach, based on Scripture alone, that contraception was against God’s law? Our friend must answer “yes” because before then every Protestant denomination did. Then we ask him: Today, does your denomination teach, based on Scripture alone, that contraception is consistent with God’s law? Most liberal Protestant denominations these days say contraception is morally acceptable. If our friend answers, “yes,” contraception is morally acceptable today, ask him what changed. We also ask our Protestant friend what Scripture passages his denomination used to condemn it before 1930, and what passages condone it today. The same questions can also be asked regarding abortion and sodomy.
Some Protestants, embarrassed at this point, try to recover sola Scriptura by citing, Rev 22:18 “I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” Of course, the key words are “this book.”
Protestants often assume that St. John means by “this book” the whole Bible. But “this book” is the Book of Revelation. St. John the Apostle died about 95 AD, and so he completed the Revelation before then. The New Testament as a collection of books didn't exist until the Catholic Church, about 400 AD, selected the books for Catholic Canon of Sacred Scripture.
During the first four centuries of Christianity, from the beginning all Christians agreed on the four Gospels of Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Beyond that, there was great disagreement as to which books should be read in the churches. St. Athanasius, a bishop, produced the first list of the present books of the Bible in 367 AD. Pope St. Damasus I, in his Decree of Damasus in 382 AD, repeated the same list of books. Then the Council of Hippo in 393 AD approved the same list. So did the third Council of Carthage in 397 AD. The Council of Carthage sent its list to Rome for ratification by Pope St. Boniface I. At that point, the Catholic Canon of Sacred Scripture was accepted worldwide, and remained unchanged by any Christian body for a thousand years.
Even Martin Luther admitted, in his Commentary on St. John, chapter 16, “We are compelled to concede to the Papists that they have the Word of God, that we received it from them, and that without them, we should have no knowledge of it at all.” So, on what basis can they say that St. John referred to a collection of books that would not be seen as such for three more centuries?
Protestants know this. I often hear them argue against the Deuterocanonicals on the ground that St. Jerome didn't consider them canonical. It’s true that he disagreed with St. Augustine on the canonicity of the Deuterocanonical books. But when the Church included them in her lists, St. Jerome bowed to her authority, acknowledged them as canonical, and included them in his great Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. The Deuterocanonicals, by the way, were also in the Scripture book that King James authorized. They were removed in subsequent editions long after King James had died.
Moreover, it’s obvious that Martin Luther didn't understand Revelation 22:18 as applying to the whole Bible. He removed the Deuterocanonicals from his Bible. He tried to remove as well some books of the New Testament, especially St. James, but was stopped by the other Reformers.
Most Protestants really do not know what Sacred Tradition means. Jesus, who was called Rabbi Yeshua in His native Hebrew and Aramaic, was a rabbi who taught as all rabbis taught, by oral tradition. He traveled around the region giving talks. Every prominent rabbi of that day had talmidim, memorizers of his oral teaching. Rabbi Yeshua had twelve talmidim, whom we call the Apostles. They were with Him 24 hours every day. They heard all His talks, they walked the dusty roads with Him, ate with Him, camped for the night with Him. After He ascended to heaven they in turn taught others, who in turn taught others. This is what St. Paul meant: 2 Tim 2:2 “What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Many of the eminent scholars of the day wrote down this large body of teachings. They became known as the Church Fathers.
When a particular teaching was taught the same way by all the Fathers who addressed the subject, we know that it must have come that way from the Apostles, who got it from Jesus Himself. But what if all the Fathers except one taught the same way? The Church looks to see whether the Father who had a different understanding was making merely a passing reference, in which case we know that he had not really focused on the subject and disregard him, or had written voluminously on the subject and therefore had to be taken more seriously. Also, where one or two of the more than 60 Fathers disagreed, the Church looked in particular to see what the earliest Fathers said, the Apostolic Fathers who had been personally instructed by an Apostle, or the Sub-Apostolic Fathers who had been personally instructed by someone who had been personally instructed by an Apostle. If the consensus was overwhelming but not absolute the Church would often propose it as “the common teaching of the Church,” a lower level of theological certainty than a doctrine or a dogma, but still widely accepted among the faithful. Of course, if the Fathers differed significantly among themselves on a particular subject, the Church assumed that it was not divinely revealed.
Christ required that His Church do this, as we saw above. Mt 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you …” Note the words: “ALL that I have commanded you.” Now look at Jn 21:25 “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” Note the words: “MANY other things which Jesus did.” We are to teach all that He has commanded us, and much of it had not, at the end of the last Gospel, been written down. We have to go Sacred Tradition.
Protestants also teach that man is saved by faith alone, unrelated to action, that no works are sufficient to merit salvation. The Catholic Church teaches that we are saved by faith in action.
We may ask our Protestant friend to read Jesus’ words, Jn 6:53 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” It certainly appears that if we do this particular thing we will have eternal life, and if we don’t do it we will not. Now, we ask our Protestant friend, please, answer directly yes or no: Did Jesus tell us to do a certain thing as best we are able, and say that if we don’t do it we won’t get to heaven?
We may ask our Protestant friend to read for us, Mt 7:21 “Not every one who says to me, ’Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” We ask our Protestant friend, is Jesus saying that we have to do something to get into heaven?
We may ask our Protestant friend to read, Mt 25:34 “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.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ’Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ’Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ’Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ’Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ’Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” We ask our Protestant friend, does Jesus say here that we have to act charitably to have eternal life?
Then we remind him that Jesus told us, Mt 7:24 “Every one then who hears these words and does them will be like a wise man who builds his house upon the rock.” And then, Mt 7:26 “Every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand.” We ask, what must we do to build our house on solid rock?
If the Protestant is still up to continuing, we can ask him to read aloud Jn 6:53 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of man and drink His Blood, you have no life within you; he who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My Flesh is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in Me, and I in him.”
Most Protestants are accustomed to being questioned on this particular passage, and they explain, more or less, that it is symbolic. But the Jews certainly understood that He was speaking literally. Jn 6:52 “How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?” On other occasions when our Lord spoke of Himself as a Jn 10:9 “door” or a Jn 15:1 “vine,” nobody said, “How can this man be made of wood?” or “How can this man be a plant?” They recognized these as metaphors. But when Jesus insisted, Jn 6:53 “Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life,” the Jews demurred, Jn 6:60 “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
Jewish life is rich in symbolism. The Seder table is filled with symbolic foods. Jesus said, Mt 26:23 “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with Me, will betray Me.” He referred to the urhatz, the first washing; slaves eat quickly without stopping to wash their hands, but now Jews wash their hands in a bowl of warm water as a symbol of their freedom. The moror, bitter herbs which remind Jews that the Egyptians made their ancestors’ lives bitter with hard labor, are dipped in charoset, a sweet mixture of chopped apples, nuts, and wine, to recall that even hard lives have their sweet moments. The matzo is the bread of haste that the Hebrews ate as they fled from Egypt. The karpas, green vegetables, represent the coming of Spring with its renewal of life, symbolizing the journey from slavery to the promised land; Jews dip them in salt water before eating to recall the tears shed along the way. If Jesus had said the Holy Eucharist was a symbol the Jews at Capernaum would instantly have accepted it. Their protest, Jn 6:60 “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it,” proves that Jesus’ congregation understood that He was speaking literally.
If our Protestant friend agrees that the Bible is literally true, but insists that in John 6 Jesus was speaking metaphorically, we can ask him to read aloud the three Gospel narratives of the Last Supper. Matthew: 26:26 “This is My Body.” 26:27 “This is My Blood ” Mark: 14:22 “This is My Body.” 14:24 “This is My Blood ” Luke: 22:19 “This is My Body.” 22:20 “This is the New Covenant in My Blood.” Jesus said: THIS IS. No Bible-believing Christian can say, “This is not.”
We can ask our Protestant friend to read aloud St. Peter’s instruction, 2 Pet 1:20 “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” Most Protestants respond that this means the Holy Spirit will guide each individual Protestant. But then we look at 2 Pet 3:16 “There are some things in [Paul’s letters] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” Why would St. Peter say that the ignorant and unstable twist St. Paul’s letters if the Holy Spirit were guiding them? The need for Church authority was so widely accepted among the early Christians that even the Ethiopian eunuch answered Philip, Acts 8:31 “How can I [understand Isaiah] unless someone guides me?”
Many Protestants, nonetheless, formed a doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers” which says that every believer’s direct relationship with God gives him an interpretation of Scripture. Each Protestant denomination believes that it finds in Scripture the Holy Spirit’s revealed truth, but each denomination’s beliefs are different. If one believes what another denies, one of them is wrong. Private interpretation often leads Protestants far astray. For example, Jesus told us, Mt 23:9 “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” Conservative Protestants often cite this to challenge the Catholic priest’s title, “Father.” But when we read the whole Bible it becomes obvious that Jesus had used figurative language to say that God is the source of all truth and authority. God had commanded, Ex 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother.” St. Paul wrote, 1 Cor 4:15 “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel,” and, Thes 2:11 “ like a father with his children ” St. Paul also began his defense against the crowd, Acts 22:1 “Brethren and fathers ” If our Protestant is a man with children, we can ask whether his name appears as father on his children’s birth certificates.
The Protestant movement has become a theological bedlam with something like thirty thousand different denominations. Embarrassed Protestants sometimes try to claim that if the existence of a separate corporate identity constitutes a denomination then every Catholic diocese and religious order is a separate denomination. However, these orders are not autonomous but are in union with and juridically obedient to the Holy See. The Catholic Church has great diversity in spirituality, mission, and strategy, but alone maintains the authentic oneness that Christ said would characterize His Church. Protestants have division even where they claim unity; for instance, in the United States the Lutheran World Federation cannot claim the Missouri Synod or the Wisconsin Synod.
Protestants reply that they agree on the essential issues and disagree on the peripheral issues. But calling baptism, Holy Eucharist, ecclesiology, liturgy, matrimony, sin, salvation, and eschatology “peripheral issues” does not change anything. They are major doctrines, tenaciously held by their respective denominations.
Let us look at the first two: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Christ said, Jn 3:5 “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Jn 6:53 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” If Christ says a particular sacrament is essential to our salvation, how can anyone consider it non-essential?
In fact, Protestant denominations have no authoritative way to determine which beliefs are essential and which are not. We can discover what each denomination considers essential for unity by asking three questions: Who can pastor? Who can preach? Who can join? Most pastors from one Protestant tradition are not allowed to pastor churches from other traditions. Calvinists will not accept a Lutheran pastor because he believes in baptismal regeneration. Methodists will not accept a Calvinist pastor because he believes in predestination. Baptists will not accept a Methodist pastor because he believes in infant baptism. And so on.
During the first 1,500 years of Christendom there were no printing presses. Bibles were hand copied by monks. Each monastery had a large room called a scriptorium. Each monk would sit at a desk hand copying a page of Sacred Scripture. It took one monk three years to produce a single Bible. The monasteries produced Bibles so that priests could read them to their mostly illiterate congregations. For 1,500 years virtually all Scripture reading and teaching was done by Catholic priests. It is inconceivable that Jesus, who promised that, Mt 16:18 “... the powers of death shall not prevail against it,” and, Mt 28:20 “I am with you always,” allowed fifteen centuries, 60 generations, of His followers to pass into eternity without true teaching.
We need to be careful when breaking a person’s faith in his own Protestant denomination that we offer a true and unbreakable faith in the Catholic Church. Protestants are accustomed to validating every doctrine by whether or not it is “Scriptural.” The Second Exodus book is a concise summary of the Catholic faith. Originally written for Jews, it has also proven remarkably effective with Protestants. Its 388 pages quote over one thousand verses of Scripture. For example, on page 22 is the Scriptural basis for the Catholic faith. The Catholic Church is Scriptural. If possible, I recommend that Catholics engaging Protestants buy a copy and give it to their Protestant friends.
There is also much, much more in the Second Exodus book on evangelizing Protestants. For example, probably the hardest part of evangelizing most Protestants is the coming to know the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Second Exodus book, on pages 53 through 59 explains how to defend Catholic teaching on the Blessed Virgin. Pages 61 through 64 explain how we know Peter established his seat in Rome and how the history of the papacy proves its infallibility.
Dear Catholic friends, be charitable when discussing these with Protestants. They are only trying to serve Christ, even as we are, and most of them have not been taught these things. When they don’t know how to answer you, invite them to raise these questions with their pastor, and get some help. However, if their pastor also does not know how to defend sola Scriptura and sola fide, then in all charity we must ask them how they can remain Protestant, and invite them to learn more about the Catholic faith. Offer them a copy of Second Exodus, and help them understand.
Protestants often write to me, challenging me to prove this or that Catholic doctrine. Usually, they phrase the question, “Where is that found in Scripture?” Dear Protestant friends, before asking me that question, show me sola Scriptura in the Scriptures. If it is not there, then it is a doctrine invented by men, the very thing for which most Protestants falsely condemn the Catholic Church, and there is no basis for a Protestant to believe that only doctrines in Scripture are valid.
It is not enough to offer me a pre-packaged explanation of how you can force a reading of sola Scriptura on some passage. If you want to use 2 Tim 3:16 then you need to specifically refute my explanation of it, showing why all should be understood as only, and why each of my four crucial phrases does not mean what I say it means. If you want to use Rev 22:18 you need to specifically refute my explanation why this this book refers to only The Revelation to John and not to the whole New Testament.
If, after trying, you realize that sola Scriptura is a non-Scriptural doctrine invented by men, you embark on serious interest in the Catholic faith, may I encourage you to consider my book, Second Exodus, and order it. Read the book. Then, if you still have questions, please write to me.
Copyright © 1999-2009 Martin K Barrack. All rights reserved.