A response to biblechristiansociety.com, the Catholc John Martignoni, regarding Matt Slick

by Matt Slick
2/11/2020
 

Occasionally I will respond to critics if I find enough inaccuracies and false teachings warrants it. Such is the case with the so-called biblechristiansociety.com's article "Apologetics for the Masses #319 - Matt Slick's False Teachings." It is written by a Mr. John Martignoni1  He responded to my article Dear Catholic, do you know for sure if you are going to heaven?. Unfortunately, his response was not very well thought out and it misrepresented me.  Therefore, I will quote his article in brown and respond to it.  Finally, I will not reply to every single comment he made because this article would become far too lengthy. I will, instead, focus on the main points.  Also, you can go to http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm in order to verify the citations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).

In my original article I asked "If you're a Catholic, do you know for sure if you're going to heaven when you die?  Here is his response.

"Since you go by the Bible alone (Sola Scriptura), I have to ask: Is this little salvation quiz of yours in the Bible? If not, why are you asking it? Also, do I have to answer your question in a certain way as a requirement for getting into Heaven?"

Aside from the diminutive "little salvation quiz," Perhaps Mr. Martgnoni would consider the following scripture.

  • 2 Corinthians 13:5, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?"
  • 1 John 5:13, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life."

To test yourself to see if you're in the faith is definitely related to knowing whether or not you're going to heaven or not.  And, there is nothing wrong with asking someone where they're going to go when they die. I certainly hope Mr. Martgnoni does not object to asking the question or would he rather it not be asked. And, of course, no one has to answer the question on certain way in order to get to heaven. That is a demonstration of the lack of understanding of the seriousness of the salvation issue regarding someone who would believe the gospel.  

Also, what does sola scriptura have to do with asking where you're going when you die?  I don't see the relevance.

And finally, notice that he did not answer the question.  I do not know why, but perhaps it is related to the many requirements that the Roman Catholic church has for salvation and his innability to keep them perfectly per the requirements of the Law (Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10; James 2:10). Nevertheless, in Roman Catholicism that which is necessary for salvation includes.

  1. “The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation,” (CCC 1257).
  2. “Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation,” (CCC 846).
  3. “This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn,” (CCC 980).
  4. “The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation, (CCC 1129).
  5. Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation,” (CCC 1816).
  6. “The authority of the Magisterium extends also to the specific precepts of the natural law [i.e., 10 Commandments, CCC 2070], because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary for salvation,” (CCC 2036).
  7. Detachment from riches is necessary for entering the Kingdom of heaven,” (CCC 2556).  

I will be referring to this list later in the article in this summary form.

According to Roman Catholicism, that which is necessary for salvation includes the church (CCC 846), baptism (CCC 1257), penance (CCC 980), sacraments (CCC 1129), service and witness to the faith (CCC 1816), keeping the ten commandments (CCC 2036 and 2070), and detachment from riches (CCC 2556). Perhaps he might want to answer the question as to whether or not he knows that he has eternal life (1 John 5:13).

And to be clear, the requirement for going to heaven his faith and trust in Christ (Acts 16:30-31).  Our salvation is not dependent upon our ability to be baptized, belong to a church, perform penance, take sacraments, be a witness to the faith, keep commandments, or be detached from riches.  Nor is anything we do sufficient in any way to merit any forgiveness from God. After all, all of our  good works are filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). This is why the Bible says we are justified by faith without the works of the law (Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16).  In fact, Romans 4:5 says, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness."

Notice it says, "does not work, but believes."  That is justification by faith alone.

 

Take heed lest you fall

"Matt Slick says, “I know I am going to Heaven.” God says, “Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed, lest he fall,” (1 Cor 10:12). You might want to read that over a few times, Slick. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says, “I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes...” (1 Cor 4:3-5). Matt Slick says, “I do indeed judge myself before the time, before the Lord comes, and even though I am aware of all sorts of things against myself, I am thereby acquitted.” Sorry, Slick, but your words do indeed seem to indicate just a wee bit of arrogance on your part.Oh, and one other thing: If Jesus has cleansed you from your sin “totally,” then how come you still sin?"

The context of 1 Cor. 10:12 is dealing with Paul's admonition to avoid the mistakes of Israel who were idolaters (v. 7-8) and were destroyed by serpents (v. 9-10). These happen as an example (v. 11), therefore take heed that you do not fall (v. 12). Okay? So what is this got to do with knowing I'm going to heaven? You see, the reason I know I'll be with the Lord is because I know I have eternal life as the Scripture says is possible (1 John 5:13). It is not because of penance, sacraments, service, and my keeping commandments that enable me to be saved as the Roman Catholic Church teaches in its false gospel. As the context shows, I'm not an idolater, unlike those in the Roman Catholic Church who pray to Mary, bow before her statues, and believe she can answer millions of prayers simultaneously all over the world, both thought and spoken.

And yes it is the Lord who judges me.  All my hope and trust is in him, not in my ability to keep commandments to be saved (CCC 2068, 2036, 2070).

Mr. Martgnoni accuses me of arrogance. It is unfortunate that he attacks my character and motivation. But, since he brought up the issue of arrogance, perhaps he and other Roman Catholics might consider where arrogance might lie. Is it with someone who trusts completely and totally in Christ and his work on the cross for his salvation? Or, does arrogance lie with those who believe that through their efforts in penance (CCC 980), sacraments (CCC 1129), service and witness to the faith (CCC 1816), keeping the ten commandments (CCC 2036 and 2070), and detachment from riches (CCC 2556), that they can, therefore, be saved? To which position can arrogance best be attributed? Is it to the one who does not rely on anything he can do except trusts in Christ (Rom. 4:5), or the one who put his faith in God in addition to his own ability to do good works, i.e., penance, keeping commandments, etc.?

Finally, Mr. Martgnoni demonstrated a profound lack of understanding in the issues of sanctification and justification. I'm justified by faith (Romans 3:28; 4:5; 5:1), which is a legal declaration of righteousness. This legal declaration does not mean I don't still war against my flesh even as Paul the apostle did (Rom. 7:18-25). It means I'm declared righteous by imputation even as I struggle to be more Christlike. Mr. Martgnoni needs to study theology before he ventures into deep theological waters.

 

Not saved by one's own goodness

"You seem to be implying, Slick, that Catholics believe it is their own “goodness and abilities” that cause them to be saved. First of all, I challenge you to find anywhere in official Catholic teaching where such a thing is taught. It’s not. For you to put forth such a thing is for you to knowingly and willingly participate in a lie. But since Jesus cleansed you from your sin “totally,” then I guess that’s okay, right?"

Mr. Martgnoni misrepresented me.  I have never stated that Catholics believe that their own goodness and abilities caused him to be saved.  Therefore, his challenge is unwarranted. What I have stated many times over my radio show, and in discourse with Catholics, is that Roman Catholicism teaches that their faith in Christ and participation in various requirements of the Roman Catholic Church is what, they hope, will bring them salvation. Mr. John Martgnoni failed to get my position right.  He should change his article.

Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that many things are necessary for salvation: penance (CCC 980), sacraments (CCC 1129), service and witness to the faith (CCC 1816), keeping the ten commandments (CCC 2036 and 2070), and detachment from riches (CCC 2556). So, it is obvious from Roman Catholic teaching that human effort in various ceremonies and law keeping is required in order to be saved. 

It appears that John Martgnoni also mocks the idea of being cleansed from our sin by Christ. My heart grieves for him in his casual condemnation of the teaching that Jesus cleanses us totally from our sins.  Please consider God's word.

  • Colossians 2:13-14, "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."
  • 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

So, did Jesus forgive us of all our transgressions and cleanse us from all unrighteousness at the cross, or did he not?

 

Mr. Martgnoni misapplies infant baptism and faith

"Secondly, I can prove to you that Catholics put more confidence in Christ for their salvation than even you claim to do. I can prove that with two words: Infant Baptism. Catholics believe that when an infant is baptized, that infant is saved. The infant cannot do any works. The infant cannot even have faith. In other words, there is absolutely nothing the infant can do to effect its own salvation, yet Catholics believe that infant is indeed saved through Baptism. How? All, completely, totally, and gratuitously by the grace of God and absolutely nothing else."

I do not know how he can measure my confidence in Christ versus the confidence of anybody else. I do not understand the method by which he reads my heart and weighs my sincerity. Nevertheless, infant baptism does not help his case. I wrote the article to those who can, obviously, read it. Therefore it does not apply to infants. But I'm curious. Mr. Martgnoni affirms that such infants are saved completely by the grace of God. Believing in God's grace is a good start. But what about himself? How does he stand right now before God? Is he doing enough of what is necessary for salvation per Catholicism's requirements? Mr. Martgnoni are you doing enough penance (CCC 980), sacraments (CCC 1129), service and witness to the faith (CCC 1816), keeping the ten commandments (CCC 2036 and 2070), and detachment from riches (CCC 2556)? Are you doing it all sufficiently to be saved?

Mr. Martgnoni hinted at complete dependence on God's grace in infant baptism.  Okay, then how does that apply to himself as an adult?  How is his complete dependence on God's grace harmonize with his own penance, participation in the sacraments, and keeping the 10 Commandments in order to be saved? That contradicts Romans 4:5, "but to the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness."


Faith is not a work of the Law

"So, what was different about the day you were saved in the 20th century as opposed to the day before you were saved? Was the difference something you did, or something Jesus did? The difference was something you did, wasn’t it? You acted. You believed. You accepted. You confessed. You repented (all are action verbs, by the way). You did something that, in your opinion, resulted in your salvation. So, in Slick theology, you had to DO something in order to be saved. That little Catholic baby didn’t. Who, then, has more confidence in Christ - Slick, or Catholics?"

In a technical sense, yes I did something. Yes, I believed. It was my belief that justified me (Rom. 3:28; 4:5), not anything I did in addition to the belief - nothing in the Law.  Nothing in keeping commandments.

John Martgnoni does not understand my position nor the Bible's position. Faith is not the same thing as penance, sacraments, or keeping the 10 Commandments. The Bible says we are justified by faith apart from the works of the law (Romans 3:28).  Also, please consider the following scriptures.

  • John 1:12–13, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."
  • John 6:29, "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'"
  • Philippians 1:29, "For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,"
  • 2 Timothy 2:25, "with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,"

As you can see from Scripture, we are born again not of our own will (John 1:12-13). Our believing is the work of God (John 6:29). We have been granted belief (Phil. 1:29).  And, God grants repentance (2 Tim. 2:25). So, what I did was receive Christ and believe in him. Therefore I'm justified. I don't keep commandments to be saved.  (See also Acts 13:48; 1 Pet. 1:3; John 6:65)

  • “…so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments,” (CCC 2068).

 

Trusting the Body of Christ?

"I am also surprised to hear Matt Slick say that we should not trust in the Body of Christ. “He [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church...” (Col 1:18). Jesus’ body is the church. Jesus is the Head of the church. Matt Slick says we should not trust the church. I find that absolutely fascinating...and revealing."

Unfortunately, Mr. Martgnoni misrepresented me again.  He quotes me thus: "This is why we should trust Jesus alone and not Jesus and our goodness or Jesus and our church or Jesus and our ability to love God and our neighbor."  What he's fails to recognize is the word "and" which I purposely included in the original text in the original article. Our salvation is not dependent upon Jesus AND something we do, or Jesus AND the church, or Jesus AND our ability to love God, etc.  The point is that we don't add to anything to the work of Christ. He missed the point completely and misrpresented me in how he quoted me.  Shameful.

 

Baptism

Mr. Martgnoni then goes on in rapidfire succession to refer to my citations of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  He then juxtaposes Scripture next to the citations as if to say that said Scriptures demonstrate the accuracy of the quotes from the catechism.  Unfortunately, they don't. Let me tackle a few.

In reference to the comment that the CCC requires baptism for salvation (par. 1257), Mr. Martgnoni quotes John 3:5 in Acts 2:38. Neither one says that baptism is necessary for salvation.  I will refer my articles already presented on those verses here where I have addressed these scriptures - in context.

If Mr. Martgnoni had done his homework, he would have already known my positions on those verses and could have addressed them instead of simply citing a verse and saying that settles it. I suggest he read the articles.

Further down in his article he says, "Baptism...now saves you.” (1 Peter 3:21)."  Unfortunately he did not quote the entire verse and thus misquoted it. Please go to http://carm.org/baptism-and-1-pet-321 for an analysis of that verse - in context!  Something, he failed to do. 

 

The Church

He then quotes me saying the following, "Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation,” (CCC 846)."  His response is thus:

"And He has put all things under His feet and has made Him the head over all things for the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him Who fills all in all.” (Eph 1:22-23) Is the Body of Christ - the fulness of Christ Who fills all in all - not necessary for salvation?"

Where does Ephesians 1:22-23 say that the church is necessary for salvation?  It doesn't.  He has misapplied the text.  Then he asks, "Is the Body of Christ - the fulness of Christ Who fills all in all - not necessary for salvation?"  I'm not sure what he's asking here. Is he inquiring as to whether or not other believers are necessary for salvation?  After all, the body of Christ is comprised of those who are true Christians.  So, I don't think he understand what the Scripture is saying.  Also, his question in relation to it shows a lack of logical relevance.

 

Penance

In regards to penance he quotes 1 John 1:9 which says that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  But what hs that got to do with penance which is a series of things to do assigned to a person by a priest and which then obtains forgiveness of sins committed after baptism? That certainly is not what 1 John 1:9 is saying. Mr. Martgnoni completely failed to understand the text he cited and misapplied it.

 

Keeping Commandments

John Martgnoni quotes me thus, "The authority of the Magisterium extends also to the specific precepts of the natural law [i.e., 10 Commandments, CCC 2070], because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary for salvation,” (CCC 2036)."

He then quotes several verses about how those who love God will keep his commandments. I have no objection to keeping God's commandments.  We are supposed to keep God's commandments (1 John 2:4). But keeping God's commandments is not what saves us and certainly does not add or contribute to our salvation as the word of God clearly tells us.

  • Rom. 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”
  • Rom. 4:5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,"
  • Rom. 5:1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,"
  • Gal. 2:16, "nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus..."
  • Titus 3:5, "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,"

Mr. Martgnoni selectively applied Scripture regarding keeping commandments (which do not say achieve or maintain salvation) while ignoring the Scriptures that directly contradict his position (Rom. 3:28; 4:5; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; Tit. 3:5). Again, I'm not saying ignore God's commandments. I'm saying that keeping God's commandments is not what contributes to our salvation in any way.

He goes on to quote me: "Are you as a Catholic able to keep all the requirements that the Roman Catholic Church says are necessary for salvation? We both know you can't." 

He then lists scriptures that say we demonstrate the love of God if we keep his commandments which are not burdensome (1 John 5:3) and one about the endurance of the saints are those who keep the commandments (Rev. 14:12).

Again let me state again.  We should keep the commandments. I am not saying we should avoid keeping the commandments. We're supposed to love God (Matt. 22:37), our neighbor (Matt. 22:39), and one another (John 13:34).  I am saying that keeping commandments is not what saves us, keeps us saved, maintains our salvation, or contributes to our salvation in any way. At the risk of being repititious, let me quote God's word again.

  • Rom. 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”
  • Rom. 4:5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,"
  • Rom. 5:1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,"
  • Gal. 2:16, "nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus..."
  • Titus 3:5, "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,"

The problem is that Mr. Martgnoni does not understand Scripture properly.  As the word of God above says, we are justified by faith without keeping the law, without the commandments, etc. Justification is by faith alone in Christ alone! Yes, we keep the commandments because we love God (John 14:15). But keeping those commandments does not contribute to our salvation in any way. This is something that he repeatedly fails to address relative to my position. Therefore, he is misrepresenting me yet again. Furthermore, if he wants to maintain that keeping the commandments is necessary for salvation as the Roman Catholic Church teaches (CCC 2036, 2070, 2068), then please consider the following scriptures.

  • Galatians 3:10, "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.”"
  • James 2:10, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all."
  • Rom. 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”
  • Rom. 4:5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,"

 

Questions for Mr. John Martgnoni

  1. Are you presently in a state of grace that should you die right now, you would enter into God's presence?
  2. If yes, what is it you have done to merit God's grace?
  3. If not, then what good thing(s) must you do to get God's grace?
  4. Have you performed enough of the requirements that the Roman Catholic Church says is necessary for salvation including penance (CCC 980), sacraments (CCC 1129), service and witness to the faith (CCC 1816), keeping the ten commandments (CCC 2036 and 2070), and detachment from riches (CCC 2556).
  5. If yes, are you then relying, in part, on your effort to maintain your salvation with God?
  6. If not, then how can you be saved according to your own theology?
  7. Are you or are you not keeping enough commandments of God to maintain your salvation before God?
  8. How can you know you have eternal life according to 1 John 5:13 if your eternal life depends, in part, on your participation in the many requirents for salvation required by the Roman Catholic Church?

 

Conclusion

Mr. Martgnoni did not represent me properly, failed to take scripture in its full context, took verses and misapplied them, selectively quoted Scripture, and ignored verses of God's word that did not support his position. He is not a good apologist for the Roman Catholic faith. He has failed to support his position biblically and logically, just as he failed to actually answer the question raised by my original article.

 

 

 

  • 1. biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter/409-apologetics-for-the-masses-319-matt-slick-s-false-teachings
 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.