Friday, February 14, 2020

Are all of our works really just filthy rags before God? (Isaiah 64:6)

In this Quickie Apologetics post, I will take a look at one of the most abused passages of Scripture which I routinely see Protestants quote in "support" of Faith Alone theology. That passage, or better yet thought fragment, is from Isaiah 64:6, which says:
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
The first thing to notice here is that there has to be some context to this. The idea that you can just lift a phrase like "all our righteous deeds are filthy rags" and turn this into some universal principle is just outrageous. It is anti-Biblical when a person can just take a snippet of the Bible and build theology around it. This embarrassing approach to God's Word is found in Protestantism at all levels, but especially the moderately-educated folks who think they actually are being true to God's Word. Such an approach makes the very idea of "righteous acts" completely meaningless when used elsewhere in Scriptur if there's really nothing righteous about them. But can we honestly say that nobody in the Bible has ever done a righteous act? I'm sure some Protestants would love to make such a claim, but that just shows their agenda has no actual intention of taking God's Word seriously. 

Now for the dagger. Let's be true Christians (i.e. Catholics) who actually love the Bible and just take a look at the context, just one verse prior:
5 You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
Here, Isaiah says God is pleased when people do righteous deeds and remember God's commandments. This is impossible if their good deeds are always filthy before God. Surely no Protestant is desperate enough to nullify this text in favor of the next verse. If that's the case, then you really cannot dialog with someone who isn't interested in real exegesis. The truth is, the plain teaching of this chapter is that it is speaking specifically of the Israelites who had turned to continual sinful living, hence "in our sins we have been a long time". In other words, they've made it a habit of sinful living, so much so that their good deeds don't amount to anything. If you're only doing good deeds externally while internally full of corruption, those good deeds don't amount to anything. Of if you decide to be on bad behavior all year but decide to start doing good when you know punishment is coming, then those good deeds are a mockery. If a husband is living in an adulterous relationship, then any good deeds he does for his actual wife are worthless and an insult to her. It's like when a child repeatedly misbehaves and only turns to good behavior when the parent gets upset and comes over.

So the next time a Protestant tries to quote "all our righteous deeds are filthy rags" at you, know that (1) their Biblical credibility is gone, and (2) just quote the prior verse.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Did the claims of Jesus shock anyone? If Yes, then so should the claims of His Church!

This is a "Quickie Apologetics" post.

Someone recently showed me a fascinating comment from the Catholic Encyclopedia's entry on "Antichrist," where Saint John Henry Newman made the argument: 
If the Church must suffer like Christ, and if Christ was called Beelzebub, the true Church must expect a similar reproach; thus, the Papal-Antichrist theory becomes an argument in favor of the Roman Church.
Isn't it interesting how only the Catholic Church ever seems to be the target of such insults and charges by both the secular world and Protestantism and even Eastern Orthodox? It's not surprising though, given that the size, history, and influence of Catholicism means some major superpower is behind it all. The only options on the table are either God or Satan. There's no middle ground. And yet given the many saints (e.g. St Therese of Lisieux, Francis of Assisi) and firm commitment to morals (e.g. the only institution which teaches contraception is sinful), it is highly unlikely that Satan is behind it all. In fact, what we see among Protestants is far more the marks of Satan, if we are being honest (e.g. divisions, no unity on doctrine, no infant baptism, Eucharist is optional/symbolic, there are no saints that stand out, caved in on various moral issues, once saved always saved).

A friend noted that Peter Kreeft makes a similar point about the claims of Christ. If the claims of Christ were shocking to his audience, then the claims of his church also must be: One True Church, Papal Primacy, Papal Infallibility, ability to forgive or retain sins, indulgences, canonization, anathemas, etc. Such "arrogance" by Jesus should also be no surprise coming from Jesus' true Church. And yet, which of the many Protestants are 'brave enough' to make such claims about themselves? Few, if any.

I wrote an apologetics article (HERE) about the Antichrist charge by the Calvinist/Reformed camp, but I've also recently found that the Confessional Lutherans make the same claims, so the arguments work also against them.