Apologetics for the Masses

This post is taken from a subscription email from Catholic apologist John Martignoni of the Bible Christian Society and host of EWTN Monday Edition of Open Line.  In it, he takes on Mark Gendron of Pro-Gospel.org

Check it out and make sure to go to John’s website to sign up for his Apologetics for the Masses newsletter.

Introduction

Okay, this week is the final installment of this Catholic’s commentary on an article by anti-Catholic Mike Gendron. The article is from his website (www.pro-gospel.org) and is entitled, “Three Common Errors of False Teachers.” This week I’ll look at the third of those errors, “False Teachers Pervert the Gospel of Christ.”

As usual, I’ll first give his comments in their entirety, and then I’ll repeat them with my commentary interspersed. His comments will be in italics.

In the next issue I’ll probably start on another one of his articles…maybe the one on Purgatory.

Challenge/Response/Strategy

Mike Gendron:

False Teachers Pervert the Gospel of Christ
The Gospel is the joyous proclamation of God’s redeeming work through Jesus Christ which saves His people from the punishment, power and ultimately, the presence of sin. It is the one and only message of redemption and the same message for every generation (Eph. 4:4–6, Rev. 14:6). Since the Gospel is about one Savior, it is exclusive and thus declares that all other faiths and religions are false  (John 14:6; Mat. 7:13–14). This glorious Gospel declares that salvation is entirely of grace  and those who add anything to it stand condemned (Gal. 1:6–9). It comes as no surprise that the most popular perversion of the Gospel is the fatal lie that good works or inherent righteousness are necessary to appease a holy God. Every religion in the world perpetrates this lie of the devil. However, Satan’s oldest and most deadly lie is “You surely shall not die” (Gen. 3:4). This lie is still spread in Catholicism (CCC, 1863).
John Martignoni:

Essentially, I don’t have a problem with the first part of what he says here.  The problem starts with the sentence, “This glorious Gospel…”  Catholics agree that salvation is entirely of grace, but I would add to the 2nd half of the sentence in this way: “those who add anything to it [or take anything away from it] stand condemned (Gal 1:6–9).“  And, while I basically agree with the words he has written in this sentence, I have to disagree with what he means by those words, whi ch we find in the rest of the paragraph.  The sentence that speaks of the “fatal lie” regarding good works, and the last sentence in this paragraph, “This lie is still spread in Catholicism (CCC,1863),” are just a bit offbase.  I will endeavor to correct his misunderstanding of both Scripture and Catholic teaching in what he says here, but I want to first note that with his words he is actually condemning himself along with Catholics, but he is, of course, utterly oblivious to that fact.  So, I’ll just have to show him the error of his ways.

When he states the following: “This glorious Gospel declares that salvation is entirely of grace and those who add anything to it stand condemned (Gal. 1:6–9),” what he is saying is that we are saved by God’s grace – merited for us by Jesus Christ on the Cross – and there is nothing beyond Christ’s death on the Cr oss that needs to be done in regards to salvation.  When Christ said, on the Cross, “It is finished,” then what He meant – according to Gendron and many others – is that He has done all that needs to be done and we don’t need to “do” anything in order to be saved.  That’s it.  Nothing else to do in order for folks to be saved.  So, when Gendron says that anyone who wants to “add anything to it” stands condemned, what he is really saying is that any Catholic who thinks works play a role in salvation is condemned, because Gendron believes those works somehow “add to” the Gospel.

The trouble is, though, that he himself did something that “adds to” Jesus’ finished work on the Cross, whether he admits it or not.  You see, Mike Gendron claims that he was a Catholic for some 20 years or so.  And, according to him, he was not “saved” until he left the Catholic Church.  So, let’s examine the facts and see where it leads us. 

Fact #1 – Jesus Christ died on the Cross some 2000 years ago.  As he was dying He said, “It is finished.”  According to Mike Gendron, the work of salvation was done.  There is nothing – no work – that anyone needs to do in order to be saved. 

Fact #2 – Mike Gendron was, by his own admission, “saved” after he came out of the Catholic Church.  I don’t know the exact timing of this, but let’s assume it was sometime in the 1980’s.  So, Mike Gendron was “saved” some one thousand nine hundred and fifty years after Jesus said, “It is finished.” 

Question: What was the difference between Mike Gendron unsaved vs. Mike Gendron saved…was it something that Jesus did or something that Mike Gendron did?  Well, by Mr. Gendron’s own admissi on, Jesus finished His work some 2000 years ago.  So, it could not have been something Jesus did.  The work of salvation is finished, right?  So, if it wasn’t something Jesus did, then it must have been something Mike Gendron did.  He “accepted” Jesus into his heart as his personal Lord and Savior.  He “confessed” with his lips and “believed” in his heart that Jesus is Lord.  In other words, Mike Gendron was not saved simply by what Jesus did 2000 years ago.  If that were true, then he would have been saved from the moment of his conception.  No, Mike Gendron had to “add to” what Jesus did in order to be saved.  It took an act of his intellect in order to know the claims of Christ and it took an act of his will in order to accept the claims of Christ and to follow Him.  Oh my goodness…Mike Gendron “added to” the finished work of Christ!  He is, there fore, condemned with all those Catholics who believe that faith and works – not faith alone nor works alone – are necessary responses to the free gift of God’s grace for salvation. 

Now, Mr. Gendron will of course argue that he did nothing except have faith in Jesus’ finished work.  Well, isn’t having faith an act of his intellect and will?  Isn’t it something he did?  And, isn’t it something that he had to do in order to be saved?  So, whether he admits to it or not, the facts clearly show that Mr. Gendron had to “do” something – he had to “add to” Jesus’ death on the Cross – in order to be saved.  He was unsaved one day, and saved the next.  Did Jesus die again for Mr. Gendron for him to be saved?  No.  Jesus died once.  So, if Mr. Gendron – one thousand n
ine hundred and fifty years after the fact – was unsaved one day and saved the next, then that means Mr. Gendron had to have done something himself in order to be saved.  He had to of done something in order to have the saving grace of Christ applied to his life.  So, he was indeed saved by Christ’s death on the Cross, but he had to “add to” that death in order to have it applied to his life.  Even if all he did was believe, that is still something he did to “add to” Christ’s death.  Believing, Mr. Gendron, is a work.

Scripture backs me up on this in John 6:27–29.  That passage reads: “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life…Then they said to Him, ‘What must we do to be doing the works of God?’  Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent.’”  Believing, Scripture very plainly tells us, is a work!  It is a work of God in tha t it is a good work and it is done only by the grace of God, but it most definitely, according to Jesus Christ, is a work.

We have to cooperate with God’s grace in our lives to be saved.  So, in that sense, we do “add to” the work of Christ as Mr. Gendron complains.  We add our cooperation – our openness to allowing Christ to work in us and through us – and all by the grace of God.  In Colossians 1:24 Paul states, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church.”  What is “lacking” in Christ’s afflictions?  Nothing, as far as the Head is concerned.  However, what is lacking when it comes to the Body is our participation in the life, sufferings, death, and resurrection of the Head.  If we wish to be glorified with Him, we must first suffer with Him (Rom 8:17).& #160; If we wish to follow Christ, we must deny ourselves and pick up our cross daily! (Luke 9:23).  Mike Gendron says, “No we don’t!  That would be ‘adding to’ the finished work of Christ.  Anyone who believes you have to do any of those things in order to be saved is condemned!”  The Bible very clearly is at odds with Mr. Mike Gendron’s beliefs and statements.

Now, regarding his last two sentences above, I really am not sure how he is leaping from Satan’s lie, “You surely shall not die,” to paragraph 1863 of the Catechism.  This paragraph is about venial sin and how venial sin “does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness.”  For one thing, this fits in perfectly with Mr. Gendron’s belief in once saved always saved.  For Mr. Gendron, no sin – venial or mortal – can separate you from eternal happiness if you’ve been saved, whether that sin is murder, fornication, adultery, theft, homosexuality, etc.  So, if Catholics are spreading Satan’s lie by saying venial sin doesn’t separate you from eternal happiness, then what is Mr. Gendron doing by saying no sin, no matter how great, separates you from eternal happiness?

If Mr. Gendron actually thinks that any and every sin separates you from God, is it possible, I wonder, if Mr. Gendron thinks that once one is saved he is incapable of sinning?  Does Mr. Gendron think himself to be a sinless human being?  I would be curious to see if anyone knows the answer to that question.

And, once again, Mr. Gendron shows himself to be rather uninformed regarding the Scriptures.  In 1 John 5:16–17, we find these words: “If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal (“unto death” KJV) sin, he will ask, and God wi ll give him life for those whose sin is not mortal.  There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that.  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.”  This is not speaking of physical death, but rather spiritual death.  Quite clearly, the Bible tells us, there are two types of sin – mortal (or “unto death”) and non–mortal.  Catholics call these sins that are not “unto death,” venial sins.  Mr. Gendron apparently disagress with the Bible in this regard.

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