Saturday, October 20, 2007

Does AnGel Ministries Distort Catholic Teaching? (part 1)

The other day, a lovely woman came into our parish office and placed some fliers for AnGel Ministries' "Just Give Me Jesus", a "life-changing revival for women."

After she left, I decided to look up their website and find out what they are all about. It is often the case that such evangelical ministries, never content with the Nicene Creed or the Apostles' Creed, have their own statements of faith. Unfortunately, as is the case with many Protestant groups, their invented creeds usually make semi-veiled attacks on Catholicism in order to demonstrate how these well-meaning Evangelicals, are true "Christians". In other words, so much of Protestant self-identity depends on the fact that THEY ARE NOT CATHOLIC! Sadly, they often present a simplified and false straw-man of Catholic beliefs that they easily knock down.

Previously, I wrote to an evangelical website called Dare2Share when I found some serious errors in their profile of a Catholic believer. This is becoming a little hobby of mine.

What follows is the AnGel Ministries Statement of Faith and then a link to their longer article on the pivotal Evangelical doctrine of eternal security entitled "You can be sure you will go to heaven when you die."

Finally, in the next couple links I will post my (rather lengthy, of course) emails to AnGel Ministries.

AnGel Ministries' Statement of Faith:

  • Statement Of Faith

    We believe in God the Father, Creator of everything, Who loved the world He created and sent His only Son to be our Savior.
  • We believe that God the Son is Jesus of Nazareth, the Savior sent by God, Israel’s Messiah, born of a virgin, fully man and fully God.
  • We believe that God the Holy Spirit quickens us from death to life, indwells all those who receive Jesus Christ by faith as Lord and Savior and continuously conforms believers to the image of Jesus Christ.
  • We believe the death of Jesus Christ on the cross is sufficient in itself to make atonement for the sin of the world--an atonement available to all who repent of their sin and believe in Him alone for forgiveness and salvation.
  • We believe Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried, and the third day He bodily arose from the dead guaranteeing the bodily resurrection of all those who have received eternal life through faith in Him.
  • We believe salvation from judgment, forgiveness of sin and eternal life are free gifts of God’s grace and cannot be earned, deserved, inherited or bought.
  • We believe only those who believe in Jesus Christ and receive Him into their inner being will escape eternal judgment and be accepted into heaven.
  • We believe in the imminent, visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ to this earth to reign in righteousness and justice.
  • We believe the true church is not an organization, but the Body of Christ made up of those who have personally trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and publicly confessed Him as Lord.
  • We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, inspired by the Spirit of God, without error and thus the supreme and final authority for faith and practice.
  • We believe that daily Bible reading and prayer are as necessary for the sustenance of spiritual life as food and water are necessary for physical life.
  • We believe that all believers are commanded to be witnesses for Christ, sharing the Gospel to the whole world.
"You can be sure you will go to heaven when you die":

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Does Angel Ministries Distort Catholic Teaching? (part 2: The Rosary)

TO: AVA ZETTEL, AnGel Ministries – I am sending you (via email) 3 letters regarding theological questions that stem from reading your website. Someone came to our parish requesting to leave fliers for the “Just Give Me Jesus” women’s rally on April 18 and 19 at Wells Fargo in Des Moines, Iowa. After reading information on your website I would like to comment on how a knowledgable, practicing Catholic would likely respond to your ministry. God bless-Chris
my original email:

Hello. I was reading your statement of faith and the section about being certain of going to heaven and I had a question. What did you mean when you said 'you don't have to count beads'?Thank you.


Dear Chris,

Thank you for your email and for your question regarding this section repeated below in the Know You Will Go To Heaven portion of our Statement of Faith. As Christians we believe that our advocate is Christ Himself and that we need no other go-between, method or practice to speak to our Heavenly Father.
Chris, I pray this answers your question satisfactorily. Please let us know if you require further information.
Trusting Jesus for every provision for you,

Ava Zettel AnGeL Ministries 5115 Hollyridge Drive Raleigh, NC 27612-3111
Tel: 919.787-6606 Fax: 919.782-3669

My second email:

Thank you for your reply. However, you did not quite answer my question about what "counting beads" refers to.
You did write that "as Christians we believe that our advocate is Christ Himself and that we need no other go-between, method or practice to speak to our Heavenly Father."

1. What is the rosary?
By "method" in relation to "counting beads" I might guess that you are referring to praying the rosary, perhaps? Or am I off-base here? If this is the case, I would respectfully suggest that you learn a little more about this particular Catholic devotion.

For one thing, the rosary does not involve "counting beads." There are 5 "decades" of 10 beads on a rosary, to correspond to the 10 Hail Mary prayers and 1 bead for the Our Father. There are a total of 20 mysteries that trace the life of Christ. The one who prays does not "count" the beads. Originally, the 150 hail mary beads (the original 15 mysteries x 10 hail mary beads per mystery) was a number taken from the original monastic tradition of praying the 150 psalms in the desert.

However, the number of beads is more or less arbitrary. The objective is not to pray the Hail Mary 10 times as if the number really mattered… or as if it was some rigid formula or rite that was necessary to communicate with the Father (like a secret password). There are 10 beads simply to allow the one praying to enter into a rhythm of prayer and maintain focus, without the mind falling into distraction (like saying, "I am going to set the timer and pray for 30 minutes, and then once the timer goes off, I can finish my conversation with the Lord if I need to).

I must also point out that the Church does not anywhere teach that the rosary is a "method to speak to our Heavenly Father" that is necessary for salvation. Indeed, the Church teaches that the Rosary is one of the many ways of praying to God, in addition to Prayers such as the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner"), and lectio divina ("sacred reading")--the use of imagination and contemplation in order to encounter our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Scriptures. In fact, although the Church recommends the rosary as a time-honored and fruitful devoion, technically, one could be a faithful Catholic “in good standing” even if they do not pray the rosary or if they do not even value it as a devotion. The rosary is simply a devotional prayer and not some go-between for talking to God.

Through repeating the prayers of the Hail Mary (which, for the most part, is taken right out of Luke Ch. 1), the Hail Mary prayers become a background rhythm that allows the prayer to meditate upon the individual mysteries of Jesus Christ:

  • The Joyful Mysteries [traditionally prayed on Monday, and Saturday]: the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple
  • The Luminous Mysteries [traditionally prayed on Thursday]: the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, the Wedding Feast at Cana, the proclamation of the kingdom and call to conversion, the transfiguration, and the Institution of the Eucharist (Last Supper)
  • The Sorrowful Mysteries [traditionally prayed on Tuesday and Friday]: The agony in the garden, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross, the crucifixion and death of our Lord
  • The Glorious Mysteries [traditionally prayed on Wednesday and Sunday]: The resurrection, the ascension, the descent of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), the Assumption of Mary, and the Coronation of Mary

Many people also pray “scriptural rosaries” that include short sentences from Scripture read between each Hail Mary to more deeply enter into contemplation. [see my article:

The Bible talks of how Mary witnessed the actions of Jesus and heard his words and “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19; 51). The rosary is a prayer form whereby we meditate and reflect upon the actions of deeds of Christ in our heart.

When I pray the rosary, I try to meditate on the mysteries from Mary’s perspective, I use my imagination and visualize the mystery from what her vantage point would have been. As Mary reflects upon the mysteries of Christ eternally in heaven (as do all of the other saints), when we meditate on the life of Jesus we do this in the company of all the other saints. There is only one body of Christ—not two—the holy ones who have passed away are not “dead”, in deed, they are more fully alive than we are here on earth because they are in communion with God (though not complete yet, as they await the return of their glorified bodies at the final judgment).

The following is an article on the rosary that I wrote for my personal website. It might help you understand why many Christians pray the rosary, in addition to reading Holy Scripture, etc., as a way to keep the mysteries of Christ in their mind and heart and continually reflect upon them:

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Does AnGel Ministries Distort Catholic Teaching? (part 3: Communion of the Saints vs. Jesus 'the One Mediator'?

2. Are the saints mediators independent of Christ, the one true mediator between God and man?

It might help if I also explain some points about the communion of the saints.

In the Nicene Creed dating back to the 4th century we pray “I believe in the communion of the saints”. How would you define the communion of saints? Is it simply those living in this world that believe in Christ? Where are all those holy souls who have died? Are they somehow cut off from the Body of Christ that they once inhabited?

The Catholic understanding of the communion of saints is that the Church is the family of God. The saints are our “older brothers and sisters” who have gone before us. They are living examples of the Gospel and the “New Law” of Christ, they were so animated by the Holy Spirit and supernatural grace, they allowed Christ to live in them to such an extent that they become shining examples of Christian discipleship.

From the earliest times of the Church has honored (venerated—NOT worshipped!) the holy martyrs that lived out the grace of God to the extreme—dying for their faith. We see in graffiti on the ancient catacomb tombs through which Christians ask for these martyrs to pray for their brothers and sisters fighting the good fight here in this world. If you knew that your brother in Christ had died defending the Faith, and you know that Jesus has destroyed death and that your brother is somehow far more immediately in the presence of God then yourself, what would your attitude be? Would you forget about him? Would you think he was sleeping? Or, would you ask him to pray for the communion of saints that are still in this world.

Of course, asking for the saints' intercession does not mean that you are by-passing Jesus (“the one mediator between God and man”—1 Tim 2:5), or using another mediator. This is clear by the very fact that practically all Christians ask fellow Christians to pray for them (Rom 15:30; Col 4:3; 1 Thess 5:25; Eph 6:18-19; 2 Thess 3:1). Why do we do this if we could go “straight to Jesus”?

Why do we have this impulse to ask other Christians to pray for us when, at the same time, we have a very personal relationship with Christ and intercede to him directly all the time.

I think that the reason might be that God made us a communal people. We are meant to live in the Church as a communion of those who have one identity in Jesus Christ and preserve this bond in charity. In other words, being a Christian is not exclusively about “me and Jesus”. Being a Christian means being part of the Body of Christ—a communion, a family. Just as we do here in this life, it is natural to call upon our brothers and sisters. We are meant to be a tight family as Christians, so, of course we call upon the Lord directly,… but we also ask the saints to join us in our prayer (not because Jesus would not heed our prayer, otherwise, but simply because love impels us to call upon our brothers and sister).

It is true, however, that “the fervent prayer of a righteous man is very powerful.” James letter cites the power of Elijah’s prayer, and one could also give the unique power of Moses’ intercession, as well. Certainly, I will ask for the prayers of my brother and sister Christians in this world, but I will not neglect to ask for the prayers of my brothers and sisters who are fully perfected in charity (completely righteous and transformed by the grace of God), free from all sin, fully employed in the constant worship of God, with an immediate vision of the Lord (the beatific vision) and immediately in the presence of His heavenly throne. In other words, they are “expert prayers” at this point because they are oriented completely toward interceding and adoring the Lord (see Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4; etc.). Flooded with God’s love, they care more about us now than they did while on earth (they are concerned with events in this world—see Rev. 6:9-11). St. Paul asked his fellow Christians to pray for his ministry… do you think that he would disapprove of us asking him to now pray for us while we remain in the race? We only ask him to pray FOR US and WITH US to the Holy Trinity.

Some points to keep in mind:

  1. All Christians are members of Christ’s body and one another (Rom 12:5 and many others).
  2. Jesus has only one body (Eph 4:4; Col 3;15)
  3. Death cannot separate Christians from Christ or from one another (Rom 8:35-39). Death cannot cut us off from one another. In fact, the saints are not “dead” but, rather, are more fully alive than we are! God is the God of the living not the dead (see Mk 12:26-27).
  4. Christians are bound in mutual love (Rom 12:10; 1 Thess 5:11; Gal 6:2).
    We are members of Christ’s body, united in His divine life even beyond the grave, and concerned with each other’s salvation and growth in God’s family. There are no 2 bodies of Christ—those “alive” and those who are “dead”.

Does “praying to the saints” mean that we are treating the saints as if they were gods? No, the term “praying to the saints” stems from the old meaning of the English word “to pray”—which used to also mean, “to ask”, i.e. “pray thee bring the letters here”… eventually shortened to “prithy”). We ask the saints to pray for us. We ask the Virgin Mary to pray for us because she is the highest of saints. Of course she is a creature (so it is false when non-Catholics charge Catholics with “worshipping” Mary), and as the most beautiful masterpiece of God’s grace (the one closest to Jesus—his own Mother) she is given the highest honor (veneration) among all the saints. However, we can ask for the prayers of Mary just as we do for any other saint.

Does asking for the prayers of the saints violate 1 Tim 2:5—the fact that there is one mediator between God and man? The answer is no. Jesus is our one mediator with regards to our salvation. However, Jesus employed the apostles and disciples to be his authorized mediators by preaching the Gospel and baptizing (Mt 28), working miracles (see Acts), forgiving sins (Jn 20:23), binding and loosing with the power of the keys (Mt 16:19), celebrating the Eucharist (1 Cor 11:23-24), being “ambassadors of Christ” exercising the “ministry of reconciliation”, laborers and co-workers in the vineyard, working in the “ministry of the Spirit “and the “ministry of righteousness” (2 Cor 3:8-9).

Jesus shared his many unique roles with the members of his Church: creator—parents are co-creators; Shepherd—Peter is chief shepherd (Jn 10:11-16 +Jn 21:15-16; and Eph 4:11); his one priesthood and mediation (see below).

All of these examples of ministry were commanded and commissioned by Jesus to the authority of his Church. They are all ways that he graciously allows his sinful human disciples to mediate his grace to the world. This does not mean that Jesus or the Holy Spirit does not, at the same time, work directly in the hearts of people. Of course He does. But Jesus also intended that the large body of Christ together mediate His truth and grace both before and especially after His ascension to the right hand of the Father.

Lastly, all of the saints are baptized into the very person of Christ. Jesus Christ is the only high priest (Heb 3:1; 7:24; 9:12; 10:12), the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5). However, with baptism, we are baptized into the one priesthood of Christ. We can offer sacrifices, sufferings, prayers of intercession, praises, etc. to God the Father by exercising our common baptismal priesthood of all believers. We exercise our priesthood in and through the one priesthood of Jesus. This is why we are not seeking out other mediators when we ask for the prayers of Mary and the other saints. We are simply exercising the priesthood of Christ together as His unified body bound in charity.

You must read 1 Tim 2:5 in the context of 1 Pet 2:5:

“let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’

To share in Christ’s priesthood is to share in his one unique mediatorship, both in heaven and on earth. This is a wonderful grace of God and speaks the amazing dignity that he gives us through baptism.

In fact, if you read the wider context of 1 Tim 2:1-7, you see that Paul is asking Christians to offer prayers and intercession for all men—in other words, to participate in Christ’s unique mediation.

Jesus said, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches’, and it is true that, apart from Jesus, the saints would never be able to exercise any of these roles to any effect. It is only in virtue of Jesus that we can ask the saints for prayers and that they can intercede to the Triune God.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church: an explanation

I am trying to catch up on some posts, so this is rather an old issue by now, but it is still worth a post. I found this article in "The Link" newsletter of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women (Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa) [vol. 50 no. 3, Summer issue 2007]. I find this explanation by Fr. Jerry Kopacek of St. Edward parish in Waterloo, IA. to be a good one.
"The new document goes on to explain how the Catholic Church uses the word 'church' in a rather technical or theological sense to refer to a Christian community that has preserved apostolic succession and all seven sacraments (in particular, the Eucharist and the ordained priesthood)."

In July of this year, the Vatican (specifically, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) issued a statement having to do with the Catholic Church's understanding of herself as Church and her relationship with other Christian churches and communities. The document's lengthy title is "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church" [

and it was released with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI. From the reports of the secular media and from the reaction of some of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters, you might get the impression that the Church is saying that all non-Catholisc are unimportant or cannot be saved.

The truth, of course, is something entirely different. This new statement simply restates and clarifies a document from the same Congregation in the year 2000 on the same subject-[ Dominus Iesus,
] that document in turn was based largely on the documents of the Second Vatican Council. The issue at hand is the Catholic Church's doctrine and understanding of herself as Church. This new document reminds us that Jesus established only one church when He lived on this earth, the one Church of which He is head. And to that one Church Jesus entrusted the various elements, teachings and practices that were to be taught to and lived by His followers. These elements include all the seven sacraments Jesus instituted and which are transmitted and carried on through the Church's life and history by means of apostolic succession--through the apostles and their successors (the bishops) in a constant and unbroken line up to our own time. Because of that apostolic succession, the Catholic Church has been able to preserve the faith and the sacramental life in their fullness.

The new document goes on to explain how the Catholic Church uses the word "church" in a rather technical or theological sense to refer to a Christian community that has preserved apostolic succession and all seven sacraments (in particular, the Eucharist and the ordained priesthood). Thus, the various eastern Orthodox Churches (Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, etc.) are true 'churches' in this sense since they have that succession and thus have preserved all the sacraments. We are unable, however, to share full communion with the Orthodox churches since they do not accept the role and authority of the pope as the successor of St. Peter as we do. The various Protestant communities, on the other hand, do not have and do not claim apostolic succession and thus do not have the priesthood or the Eucharist as the Catholic Church understands and lives out those sacraments. Because of those circumstances, those communities are not 'churches'--again, using the techinical or theological definition of the term. They certainly are, however, our brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we share belief in Jesus as lord and Savior and with whom we rejoice in our common baptism and reverence for the Sacred Scriptures as a vitally important element of the word of God. As the document says: "...these separated churches and communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact, the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation".

We need to thank God daily for the gift of our Catholic faith and Church; we need to thank God daily for the fact that Jesus loved us enough to establish the one Church as the means by which His truth and His gospel could be preserved, known, taught and transmitted throughout the world and throughout history. How blessed and privileged we are to be members of the Body of Christ!
-Rev. Father Jerry Kopacek, St. Edward, Waterloo, IA

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Catholic Q&A: Does baptism bring justification?

One reader left an anonymous comment in an old post regarding the "Have You Been Saved" question?

Here is the original post:

He or she wrote:

"You are justified by the Blood of Jesus (Romans 5:9), not by baptism. In the Scriptures their are 7 different types of Baptisms. I assure you that their is 1 baptism that you dont want to recieve. FIRE (Matthew 3:11)."

This individual quotes from Romans 5:9 for the fact that we are justified by the Blood of Christ, but does not give a scriptural citation for the explicit belief that baptism does not justify. To say that we are justified by the blood of Christ is the same as saying that we are justified by the death of Christ (jn 3:16ff), and, to put it more fully, the entire paschal mystery (the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Christ). The question then is how do we appropriate the salvfic paschal mystery of Jesus? If one reads further into Romans Chapter 6, we discover that the answer is faith AND BAPTISM:

"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:3-4).

Of course we are saved by the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross! No Catholic denies that it is the Blood of Jesus that saves us. Indeed, the Precious Body and Blood is the very lifeblood of the Christian soul. Our Lord promised that if we eat his body and drink his blood we abide in him as he abides in us (Jn 6:56); we have eternal life and will be raised up on the last day (Jn 6:54). On the contrary, if we do not eat His body and drink His blood we have no life within us (Jn 6:53). This is why Catholics enter the body of Christ the Church and are incorporated into the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Christ through baptism (Rom 6:3-7) and confirmation [or, in the East, "chrismation"] (Acts 8:14-17), and then obey the Lord's command to 'do this in memory of me'--celebrating the Holy Eucharist (Lk 22:14-23; Mk 14:22-25; Mt 26:26-29; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Acts 2:46-47; Lk 24:13-35--the structure of the Eucharistic celebration). When approaching the mystical supper, of course, we must do so worthily, "for any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" (1 Cor 11:29).

Baptism is not a mere symbol. Jesus said that "no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is first born of "water and the Spirit" (Jn 3:5). This is an obvious reference to water baptism.
St. Paul says that we are washed in the bath of rebirth (Titus 3:5) and the First Letter of St. Peter states that "baptism now saves you" (1 Pet 3:21). In his grand preaching immediately after Penetcost, St. Peter roared, "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 Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Notice that the Holy Spirit was not given to disciples until the full rite of baptism was completed, with water, the laying on of hands, and anointing [the Church sees confirmation as a separate sacrament, though the completion of baptism]:

"Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit; for the Spirit had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:14-17).

One is justified by Christ because one receives gift of the Holy Spirit that Our Lord freely gives us. This passage makes it very clear that baptism is not simply an external symbolic act of a profession of faith (as baptists would have you believe). Rather, it actually matters how you administer baptism (in the Trinitarian formula [Mt 28:18-20] and not simply "in the name of Jesus"; complete with the laying on of hands; etc.). It says that "then they laid their hands on them" and what immediately follows is "they received the Holy Spirit." We are justified by faith and water baptism. The act of faith is intimately tied to the reception of the sacrament through Jesus' commissioned Church.

The teaching of the Holy Scriptures and Sacred Tradition (as seen in the ancient liturgy, church councils, and church fathers) are clear that we are justified through faith in Jesus Christ and Trinitarian baptism.

More detailed apologetics from the Scripture Catholic apologetics website:

But don't trust my interpretation of Scripture, trust the early Church fathers who were much closer to the time of Jesus, his apostles, and their successors the bishops of the ancient Church:

Incidentally, the individual who left the comment on the original post never refuted or challenged the argument made therein. They do not even address the scriptural evidence given, they simply take one verse of Scripture out of context and use it to assert something that the text does not teach. They use the one scriptural passage to try to back-up a false Protestant tradition.

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How to Answer the Anti-Catholic Question Barage

  • I found this Protestant-Catholic exchange interesting. The following is from "Apologetics for the Masses", Issue 64; the electronic newsletter of John Martignoni's Bible Christiam Society [ ] (As usual, I highlight some points in bold, this is my emphasis not the author's)
    In the last issue, I gave you an email that Russell D., a Catholic radio listener, had sent to Doug S. at one of the Catholic radio stations, and I asked you to think about how you would respond to that email. I received a number of emails from folks with their responses, which I cannot respond to individually, but about which I will say were, for the most part, spot on.

    ...below is his email followed by my response to his email. I do not claim that my response is the absolute best response one could make, but I think it is an example of how you could respond to any email that has a number of arguments in it which go in all different directions…even if the writer of the email is more coherent than the example we have here. So, this is not so much an example of a response to someone who isn’t making much sense, as it is an example of a response to someone who comes at you from a number of different directions all at the same time.

    I will reproduce Russel’s email below and then follow it with my response and the thinking (strategies) behind my response.

    From: Russell D.
    To: Doug S.
    Subject: Re: [Fwd: spiritual warfare, 2006-09-16]

    Dear Doug:
    Sorry for the VERY late reply, almost a year later, and thank you for it, but as to not knowing what Catholics believe, having God’s Word that the Vatican has replaced with its own teaching like the Pharaisees did and for which Jesus condemned them, by the grace of God, I know far more about the TRUTH, that is Jesus, than Vaticanism and its adherants (since Rome is now officially secular one can no longer call it Romanism), also having John Paul II’s official Catechism and various other websites intelligently exposing the various errors of Vaticanism comparable and successor to the similarly erroneous Pharaisees and their sacerdotal system of Jesus’s day that the apostles abolished in the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, understanding what Jesus meant in John 19:30 when He said “It is finished!” meaning, as Hebrews makes clear the total fulfillment and termination of the Old Covenant i n Himself upon the tree, as the butterfly terminates the caterpillar, one of the earliest Christian symbols of the resurrection, including the Ten Commandments that no longer apply to the Christian as far too lacking compared to the infinitely higher standard demanded by the abiding resurrected Christ (e.g. Matthew 5, especially 21-44 and His replacing the Old Covenant with His own:
    1. enlarging/replacing commandment 6 (don’t murder) with love, 5:21-26,
    2. enlarging/replacing no committing adultery with no looking/thinking about it 5:27-30,
    3. enlarging/replacing unlimited divorce with its qualified abolition, 5:31-32,
    4. enlarging/replacing permitting oaths with their abolition, 5:33-37,
    5. enlarging/replacing revenge with grace, 5:38-42 and
    6. enlarging/replacing love of neighbor to love of enemy, 5:43-44).

Since Jesus wrote the Decalog and gave them to Moses as pre-Incarnate Christ, He has every right to rewrite them according to His perfect understanding of man’s further development in obeying Him more fully than previously. Those who still would hearken to the Ten Commandments are like the Judaizers Paul constantly fought who rejected His Lord Jesus and whom he finally anathemized in order to protect his converts from the Pharaisees’ evil ungodly religious sacerdotal system exalting man above God via cleverly disguised salvation by works, like the Reformers anathemized various doctrines of Rome to protect their converts to Christ from a similar evil ungodly religious sacerdotal system exalting man above God via cleverly disguised salvation by works.

As antidotes to this poison I recommend you visit and and especially to see the true Christian faith presented versus Vaticanism’s illiterate sacerdotal system that depends on ignorance to sustain it, sadly including even the ignorance of its clergy, as the above websites prove.

You prayed God would bless my journey to “Truth,” but His Word in John, both 8:32 and 14:6, says that that is Jesus Himself versus an abstraction of modern philosophy, and the book of Hebrews further rejects the toleration of any other mediator than Christ, like Mary or the saints who, knowing both Hebrews and its divine author would condemn Vaticanism for the corrupt antiChrist system, even though there are many godly Catholics justified by faith alone as God and His Word require, though in their ignorance they fail to understand, like Sam Brownback, that in the eyes of Vaticanism, bound by Trent, they are anathema. Everyone who asks a saint for help has turned his back on Jesus and turned his back on and violated Hebrews, the very Word of God they claim to worship. 1 Timothy 2:5 “For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” and Hebrews, chapters 8, 9 & 12.

That anyone would turn to a mere saint for help, according to popular error and Vatican false teaching, instead of Jesus, as God commands in the Scriptures above, even if the saints could hear and act (which Abraham declares by the chasm fixed in Luke16 they cannot (meaning Catholics use Church teaching to reject God’s Word and Abraham’s, making them no children of Abraham, like it was with the Pharisees). One can only wonder how satan has led the Vatican astray with his various Marian apparitions the gullible who reject Christ accept without discernment: 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore [it is] no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance but judge righteous judgment.

1 Corinthians 2:14-16 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is discerned by no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he shall instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
God bless you and may He move you to a blessed journey to Jesus Who is The Way, The Truth and The Life.
Russ D.


Response by John Martignoni:

"...If, however, you are capable of making an error when interpreting Scripture, then please give me a reason why I should believe your intepretation of Scripture vs. my interpretation of Scripture?
In other words, why should I believe what you say if you could indeed be wrong? ..."

Dear Russell,

Doug S. forwarded your email to me and asked me to respond. Forgive the delay in replying, but I’ve been doing a lot of traveling in the last several weeks and that always gets me behind.
Anyway, back to your email. You’ll have to forgive me, but I’m from Alabama and we’re not all that smart, so I had a bit of a time trying to follow what you were saying. So, what I would like to do, if you don’t mind, is just simplify the discussion a bit, assuming you’re open to discussing these matters.

Strategy/Comments: In other words, I’m going to “shift the paradigm,” so to speak. Instead of spending hours responding point-by-point to his rambling email, I’m going to basically ignore what he said and start off the argument where I choose to start it from. You can do this with pretty much anyone. You set the tone and let them follow.

If you are open to a discussion about Christ and truth and so forth, then I would like to start off by simply asking if you are infallible in what you teach? In other words, are you 100% certain that your interpretations of Scripture – from which you have derived everything you wrote below – are 100% accurate? Again, are you infallible in what you teach? Is it impossible for you to make an error in what you teach?

Strategy/Comments: I have never met a non-Catholic Christian who believes in the Catholic doctrine of infallibility. In other words, no man – the Pope or anyone else – is infallible in their view. If they believed the Pope was infallible, then the logical thing for them to do, would be to become Catholic. So, I think we can assume most, if not all, non-Catholic Christians do not believe in the doctrine of infallibility. Which means, when you ask someone if they are infallible, then you should get “No,” as an answer. Which means, that it is possible that they can make an error when it comes to matters of faith and morals. So, if there is the possibility that they can err in these areas, then it is possible that anything and everything they have said to you is in error. Make sure to point that out to them and do your best to get them to at least acknowledge the reasonability of that premise. Oh, one other thing – if you use a comm ent like, “If you’re really serious about finding truth,” or “If you’re really open to a discussion about Christ,” or something along those lines, then those who are serious about it, will more than likely respond. Those who aren’t, probably won’t.

I start there because you are asking us to believe what you have taught below. And, in what you have taught below in your email, there are a lot of words and thoughts that do not appear in Scripture. Which means you are interpreting Scripture, and asking us to believe in your interpretation for our salvation. I believe every single verse of Scripture that you quoted; however, I do not necessarily believe in your interpretation of those Scripture verses. So, it is very important to me to know if you are capable of making an error when interpreting Scripture or not.

Strategy/Comments: If you read Russel’s email, you will notice that the majority of it is composed of his words, not Scripture’s words. Which means that most of his email is either his interpretation of Scripture or his commentary on Scripture or on the Catholic Faith, but not Scripture itself. So, it is very important to let the other guy know that you agree 100% with every passage of Scripture that he quotes, but that you do not necessarily agree with his fallible, man-made, non-authoritative interpretation of Scripture…after all, he’s not infallible. He’s trying to set the rules for the discussion – what he claims is true and by golly you have to just accept it as being true – but you will have none of that.

And, if you are not capable of making an error when you interpret Scripture, if you are indeed infallible in your interpretation of Scripture, then please give me some evidence that I may believe such is the case. If, however, you are capable of making an error when interpreting Scripture, then please give me a reason why I should believe your intepretation of Scripture vs. my interpretation of Scripture? In other words, why should I believe what you say if you could indeed be wrong?

Strategy/Comments: In other words, show me where your name is in the Bible that I may believe that you are indeed infallible in your teaching. This paragraph contains one of the 4 main apologetics strategies that I teach: “But That’s My Interpretation!” Under Protestant theology, every person has not only the right, but the duty, to pick up the Bible and read it for themselves to decide what is true and what is false. What is true doctrine and what is false doctrine. So, under their theology, you have the right to read the Bible and decide for yourself what it means. When someone tells you that you, as a Catholic, are wrong in your interpretation of the Bible, all you have to do is point out that their theology gives you the right to interpret the Bible for yourself; therefore, they cannot tell you that you are wrong. They can, at best, tell you that they disagree with your interpretation. But, they have to admit, since they are not infallib le, that your interpretation could possibly be right, and that their interpretation could possibly be wrong. Which, if they think about it, will hopefully plant some seeds in their minds about the need for an infallible authority.

Basically, I’m asking if you believe your interpretation of Scripture to be more valid than my interpretation of Scripture, and, if so, why? By what authority do you teach?

Strategy/Comments: A good question to always ask someone is: Are you an authoritative interpreter of the Scriptures? If yes, how so? Who gave you such authority? If no, then why should I believe your interpretation?

If you could answer those few simple questions, I think we might be able to have a very good discussion here.

Strategy/Comments: I have not heard back from Russell, and I probably never will. Or, if I do hear back from him, I can almost guarantee that he will not respond to my questions and will simply give me another rambling email full of sentence run ons. In which case I can simply respond, “Russell, I asked you a simple question: Are you infallible or not. If you cannot answer that simple question, there’s no reason to continue this discussion.” But, for those who are a bit more rational than Russell appears to be, a response like the one I gave to Russell could lead to some very interesting dialogue – dialogue in which you are setting the pace and in which you are asking a lot of questions. At the very least, it will keep you from wasting your time with those who simply want to talk at you, rather than those who want to talk with you.

God bless!
John Martignoni
Bible Christian Society

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Prayer Request UPDATE: Holy Spirit at work in high school abortion debate

My friend sent me this update from Sr. Raffaella, thanks for the prayers all! (note: editorial packaging: I put the email into an article format and emphasized some points in bold print):
[above, from left to right: pictures of gestation at 8 weeks, 6 weeks, and 16 weeks]

A High School Abortion Debate:
A report by Sr. Raffaella of the Apostles of the Interior Life
[ ]

"I had ONE goal in mind upon entering the debate:
drilling in the students' mind
that we're talking about a child
and not a piece of tissue."
"Dear friends,
Thank you so much for your support this past week of preparation and for today's debate.
After I left the High School I drove to the 40 days for life vigil at PP, where I prayed and thanked the thousands of little babies that have been aborted there for their support from heaven!

"Both sessions of the debate went very well (for the pro-life!). I had ONE goal in mind upon entering the debate: drilling in the students' mind that we're talking about a child and not a piece of tissue. I felt that if the kids could leave the debate at least having that thing clear, I'd consider it a victory.

"Well, the Lord went FAR BEYOND that.

"All the questions that the students addressed always referred to the unborn as a child and never to anything different. Also, it made all the difference when in the final part of the debate I explained the surgical procedure of abortion, as well as showed the pictures of aborted babies. That brought it home for most of the kids. They had NO IDEA what abortion does to a child.

Even starting from a theoretical level many of them were moving towards agreeing with the pro-life position; some were still arguing the validity of abortion for rape or incest or danger for the mother's health and life; yet none were defending abortion for reasons other than those. (It was funny to see how some of the kids made "pro-life rebuttals" to their classmates in between questions!!) Yet, when I got concrete and explained the abominable procedure of abortion (and even before some of them chose to look at the images), the questions on abortion stopped. They then started asking about birth control and the last 5 minutes of the conversation pretty much shifted towards sex and hormones.

"So, upon entering the classroom I could tell that most students had confused ideas on the topic, and a couple were strong either on the pro-life or on the pro-choice side. By the time the debate was over, the "middle-grounder" had mostly shifted towards opposing abortion in all cases (except a couple who still saw it doable in extreme situations). As for the birth control aspect, there was really too little time to seriously tackle the issue, so I used all my bullets on abortion, thus leaving most of them clueless on why pro-lifers are against birth control (although they got the part that some forms of birth control are actually abortifacents).

"All in all I consider it a very positive experience. The teacher was very pleased with the debate (very fair on both sides), and she invited me back for her next class in the Spring. I thought that that was a positive thing, although I don't know how to read it necessarily.
I don't know if the students will stick in the future to what they felt the truth was during the debate. But with all the prayers that you along with thousands of people have been sending up for the past 4 days, I'm pretty confident that the Lord is not done with this job!
We planted the seeds, He'll take care of the growth.

"One regret that I have is that I did not have pro-life gadgets with me (I honestly didn't think I was allowed to bring any). The pro-choice person brought pins and pens and bumper stickers, which a good number of students picked up on their way out. I offered them the Project Rachel and Rachel Vineyards brochures, which some students picked up. So, for the future, we should make gadgets available. Honestly, I think that if today I had t-shirts and bumper stickers to offer, several students would have taken them.

"Once again, thank you so much for your support, for the suggestions and the material that you offered. I really feel that this is a team victory and it couldn't have been otherwise, regardless of who the person on the debate ended up being.

"God bless and keep you
Sister Raffaella"

Sr. Raffaella - St. Paul's University Catholic Center - University of Wisconsin - Madison, WI

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Planned Parenthood Opens in Aurora... People still lack logic on the abortion question

October IS Respect Life Month, so I will highlight pro-life issues a little more during this month. Here is the latest on what is going on with the huge Planned Parenthood facility that opened up in the western Chicago suburb of Aurora, IL:

From the Chicago Tribune:
10/3 Clinic Opens Among Cheers and Protests

cheers?--"yeah, the Grim Reaper has settled in our town!"

More from the Trib:

October 3, 2007

Offering choices

"You know the great thing about pro-choice? That's right, people, choice! When did that become such a dirty word? It is not synonymous with "pro-abortion."

"As a married 20-something with two kids, I can say that I don't believe that I could have an abortion. The only reason I can say that at all is because I have the luxury of never having been faced with such a heart-wrenching decision. Just like I have the choice to seek out such a health-care provider, those who choose differently can avoid one. No one viewpoint should dictate or limit the choices of all, regardless of a desire to police the morals of all. The Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora will provide so much more than abortions -- screenings, exams, treatment, prenatal care, counseling, adoption referral, even assistance for women and children living with domestic violence.Shame on those who wanted to mix church and state, and cut off much-needed services to those who badly need them and choose to use them!

-Mary Braddish, Sandwich, IL"


"Choice" is great!... unless, that is, it becomes a deadly weapon that you aim at the innocent!
Ms. Braddish, allow me to help you out with some of your questions. Is "choice" a great thing? When did "choice" become such a dirty word? Well, choice is great when you are talking about talking about your choice of side orders, or Pepsi vs. Coke, or a real choice between different political parties in a truly free democratic election. Choice is good in selecting between the best schools for your child, or the best health care providers (that is, those who heal not those who kill), etc. We, as Americans, love choice of course. But one man's freedom to choose--when not balanced with the common good and the inherent rights of others--can become a recipe for evil.

"Choice" becomes a bad word precisely when one person's "choice" impedes upon the basic human dignity and fundamental rights of another person. Historically, it was determined that neither states nor individuls had the "choice" whether to keep slaves or not... you see, that free choice by the slaveowner impeded upon the right of the slave to live a free and humane life. "But the slave is not human!... the slave is MY property," protested the slaveowner. Ooops, they were in the dark about that, weren't they. We realized that slaves were not animals, they were fellow human beings who possessed the same inherent human dignity as the slave owner. The trick is that our culture has blinded itself to what is obvious through basic science and philosophy: the pre-born child in the womb is a human person, regardless of his or her dependence on the mother.

"I have the luxury of never having been faced with such a heart-wrenching decision."
Well, thank the good Lord for your kids sake that you had that luxury. Ask yourself which of your 2 children deserved to die if you HAD BEEN in a difficult spot and had to make "such a heart-wrenching decision." What financial/psychological/health conditions would have made it the reasonable choice to destroy your child in the womb? Can you imagine taking their lives now that you have seen them continue to grow and develop outside of the womb? When did they receive their own rights and dignity?... the second they crossed through the birthcanal? That seems a rather arbitrary place to make the distinction. One second before birth and one second after birth the baby looks, weights, etc. the same. On one side of the birth canals, however, "it" is merely a blob of tissue and organs that are merely part of a woman's body (like an appendix or a tumor) and on the other side "he or she" is a human person with inalienable human dignity and rights. Even if you do not believe in abortion through all 9 months, you still have to draw a line of distinction between animal/body part and distinct, individual human person. No matter where you draw the line it would be arbitrary.

How can we have laws that charge someone with double homicide when they murder a pregnant woman, and then legally allow a pregnant woman to "choose" herself to kill the very same child in the womb at a Planned Parenthood Clinic. Can you honestly say that the status of the fetus in the womb--whether it is just a part of a woman's body with no inherent rights to protection, and a pre-born human person with human dignity and rights--does that status depend on whether or not a woman wants the child to be born? Does loving a fetus in the womb and wanting him or her to come to term and be born actually bestow upon the fetus the status of human personhood? What a ludicrous idea!

Of course, I have sympathy for a woman who faces a crisis. However, we do not help her by assisting her in an action that murders a defenseless child and scars her with trauma for life.

"No one viewpoint should dictate or limit the choices of all, regardless of a desire to police the morals of all."
No one view except, I guess, your viewpoint, Ms. Braddish: the view point that a child in the womb is merely the property of a woman and is only accorded rights, dignity, and that status of human personhood IF THE WOMAN WANTS IT TO. Allowing for abortions DOES limit the choices of many... just ask yourself, if you were allowed the chance to choose--would you have wanted to be born, and given a chance to live your life? What choice is given to those babies... those babies who cannot speak for themselves, though, they are, in fact, human persons (even if their brain is still in development and cannot yet execise their own power to choose). Why do we have "living wills"?--precisely so that we can respect the rights and what would be the choices of a person who is, at the moment, unable to exercise or communicate their choices for themselves. This is not a case of policing morals. This is another application of the precept basic to any civilized society: Do not murder. This is a case of protecting a basic human right to life. This question, therefore, has nothing to do with "mixing church and state". That is a red herring. She writes that simply to pray on many secularists fear and hatred for people who live by deeply-held religious beliefs. Even an atheist should be able to know that it is simply wrong and dangerous to a society to allow the killing of an innocent human life in the womb. If we can make it illegal to destroy the eggs of some endangered bird, then we should be able to use our common sense to apply the same respect for valuable life to the human person in the womb.

Men, women, teens, families in Aurora have EVERY RIGHT to protest against Planned Parenthood. They do not want this multi-million dollar death mill coming into their city (a city with a large lowerclass population, by the way) and manipulating their daughters and sons with fear, presenting them with only one choice (the one that SEEMS easy at the time--murder and cover up)... and not presenting other choices--such as giving birth and/or adoption. If they really wanted to present a woman with all of her choices, why wouldn't they do free ultrasound to show the woman what/who she would be terminating? So, forgive me if I do not trust Planned Parenthood's "counseling" services as much as Ms. Braddish. Planned Parenthood, after all, is part of a big profit abortion industry. They are selling a product--death, and they use fear as their main selling point. I think of the undercover reports of Planned Parenthood skirting around their legal obligation to report statuatory rape. I think of how they press for a denial of parental rights to know when their underage daughters are undergoing serious medical operations (abortion) that can forever affect their physical, psychological, and spiritual health.


More from the Trib:

Perspective Readers Respond... Secularist bias against peaceful religious protesters and charges of anti-Catholicism to boot:

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Monday, October 01, 2007

bite-size wisdom: St. Therese, "the Little Flower"

Since Our Lord is in heaven
I can only follow him by the traces of light and fragrance
which he has left behind him.
But as soon as I open the Holy Gospels, I breathe the perfume
exhaled by the life of Jesus,
and I know which way to run.
It is not to the highest place
but to the lowest that I hasten.
-St. Therese of Lisieux, Manuscript B, Story of a Soul
quoted in Therese of Lisieux: In My Own Words (Liguori Press)
Feast Day: October 1st
"When you are invited by anyone to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give place to this man,' and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, go up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
(Luke 14:8-11)

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prayer request

This comes from a friend's email:

Please see Sr. Raffaella's prayer request below. Sr. Raffaella is one of the Apostles
of the Interior Life who is evangelizing the campus of UW-Madison. She has spoken
at the Martha & Mary Women's Conference in the past. Thanks for your prayers.

Keep your eyes on Christ

----- Original Message -----

Per gli amici Italiani: troverete la traduzione dell'e-mail piu' sotto!

Dear friends,
Hope all is well with you. I am sending out this general e-mail

because I'm looking for powerful prayers.

This Wednesday I will be part of a debate on abortion in a local
public High School in Madison, WI. They were looking for a pro-life speaker to debate on abortion, while there will be someone from
NARAL (National Abortion Right Alliance League)/PP arguing
on the opposite side. There will be 2 debates, each of which will
last 90 minutes, and it will be with juniors and seniors in High

Apparently there is much to know about public debates, many ins
and outs, many tricks and stuff. I honestly won't spend much time
looking into that. I will rather spend the next 2 days in prayer and
in preparation for the topic, for questions that will be posed or
thrown at me. The best thing though about this debate is that I
won't be alone, because there will be hundreds and hundreds of
people praying for me and for the spiritual success of the debate.
I invite you to ask the Lord to open the hearts and minds of the
students as they hear the debate; as I have come to realize
throughout the years, it is not a matter of winning an argument
but of winning hearts. So, let us pray that the success will be a
spiritual one, one of those that touches the depth of the lives of
the students.

Thank you very much for your help. May the Lord reward you all abundantly.
Peace and prayers,

Sister Raffaella
St. Paul's University Catholic Center
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI

Just because something is common doesn't make it normal!
Il fatto che qualcosa sia comune non lo rende normale!
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