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.


guy fawkes said...
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Takmid said...

Aways loves when someone tries to argue using only a few verses and you just need to read the entire chapter or book to refute him. In these cases, you know the guy literally never tried to really read anything.

When this happen with unbelievers is kinda funny, when it happens with believers, is also sad.