by Matt Slick
On a Roman Catholic run Facebook page (Catholic Church/Bible Only Debates), a Roman Catholic apologist decided to tackle me. That's fine. Unfortunately, he was as rude as many Roman Catholics are when their church is challenged. That facebook page was no different. Nevertheless, after we had a little back and forth about his rudeness where I insisted that he tackle the issues and not me personally, he reposted the following modified question. I am highlighting his comments in brown and mine in green.
Now I must warn you this gets lengthy. This is one of the disadvantages of dialoguing with people in written form. Unless there's a limit to the number of words their proposed, these things get longer and longer and longer. It's unfortunate, but that's What often happens. I would prefer to have a verbal discussion with people because it can be easier to deal with their errors and comments as they occur.
"If a person deliberately refuses to forgive someone who has sinned against them - not forgets to forgive them, or the offender dies before forgiveness is offered...deliberate refusal to forgive - can that person be saved? Yes or no?" John S. Martignoni
He was quoting from Jesus in Matthew 6:15. I will provide the context because it will become important in this article. I underlined verse 15.
“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’ 14 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions,” (Matthew 6:9–15).
Here is my response
First of all, when someone demands a yes or no answer to a question, I have to examine whether the question necessitates a yes or no response. After all, sometimes answering either yes or no might be misleading. It's like me asking, "Do you still beat your wife? Yes or no?"
Second, I have to ask if Jesus himself is requiring us to think in yes or no options in this verse. I don't believe so because of the context. In v. 14. "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." But what if it is a Mormon who forgives? Mormonism teaches that God came from another planet and has sex with his goddess wife. Or, what if it's a Jehovah's Witness who forgiveness? A Jehovah's Witness denies the Trinity and the deity of Christ. Will they both be forgiven? Remember, Jesus said, "if you forgive others their transgressions your heavenly Father will also forgive you." So, I could as you an equivalent question in the same style as you, Mr. Martignoni, are requiring of me in verse 15, "If a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness forgives others for their transgressions against them, would they be forgiven by God the Father? Yes or no." I hope you can see the problem with the question. If you say yes they are forgiven, then they are forgiven without the true God and the true Christ. If you say no, then you would appear to go directly against Christ's own words. My question would be a false trap that does not properly represent the whole issue. It is too narrow and therefore, misleading to demand "yes or no."
Third, we can conclude from the context that Jesus is not requiring a yes or no, question/answer response. Instead, He is giving the general principle of forgiveness that we as true believers in God ought to adopt and carry out. True believers forgive others because that forgiveness comes from a changed heart. Therefore, those who forgive do so because they are Christians. Those who don't, don't because they're not Christians and so they will not experience the forgiveness of God on the day of judgment. As we know from Scripture that God later revealed, we are to forgive just as we have been forgiven by God in Christ (Ephesians 4:32).
Fourth, if you still require a yes or no answer, then I require you to respond in kind and answer my question about the Mormon and Jehovah's Witness with an equivalent "Yes or no" response. Here it is again based on Matt. 6:14 the verse immediately prior to the verse you are referencing. "If a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness forgives others for their transgressions against them, would they be forgiven by God the Father? Yes or no."
Fifth, if you're not able to answer with a yes or no then why do you require it of me? Sixth, if, however, we are to take the principle that "yes or no" is required in both statements of Christ, per our interrogatives, then according to your approach, God the Father would forgive the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses (and atheists) who also forgive. But, that doesn't work.
So, it should be clear that your demand for a yes or no answer to your initial question is an improper one.
He responded with something most interesting. I found it to be hard to take seriously. Here it is.
John S. Martignoni "Before I can respond appropriately, I need to know the answer to this question: Do you believe Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons have God as their Father; i.e., that they are children of God?"
So, this Catholic apologist has to ask me if I believe that the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses have God as their Father, even though in my response to him I demonstrated their false doctrines about God. Really? Wow. Anyway, here's my response.
I do not see how your question is relevant to the issue at hand. I responded to you in the same vein as your question was to me and demonstrated the problem with your approach. Furthermore, I included in that response, in the second paragraph, statements about how both Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses teach false doctrines about God. So, in the sense of them having God as their Father and saying that they are true Christians, then no they do not have God as their Father. If, on the other hand, perhaps you might be referencing Acts 17:28, "for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.'" That is where Paul quotes both Epimenides and Aratus. Then, in that sense, yes they are his children, and by logical inference, He would be their Father. But, let me make it clear that Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are not Christians and they deny the true and living God. They do not have God as their Father not in the true, spiritual, and biblical sense regarding salvation and proper worship. After all, only those who are adopted can truly call him Father (Rom. 8:15).
It took several days for him to respond and when he finally did, he began his response with an insult. my time on the Facebook page has been full of insults from the Roman Catholics. I have found them to be condescending, full of mockery, and accusation. But this is what I expect from them. Nevertheless here is his response. I have inserted numbers into his paragraph so that I can refer to them.
1. Well, this will fit perfectly with what I was going to answer regarding your question about whether or not Mormons/JWs have their sins forgiven when they forgive others their sins (vis-a-vis Matthew 6:14-15). Unlike you, I will actually answer your question, even though it is one of those apparently dreaded "yes-no" questions. The answer is: Yes, provided they do all else that is necessary for the forgiveness of sins. No, if they do not.
2. Here’s the thing, Matt...your question about whether or not the Mormons/JWs would have their sins forgiven if they forgive the sins of others results from an obvious misunderstanding/misinterpretation of the Bible. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus says that if you do not forgive the sins of others, then your sins will not be forgiven. He does not say that if you forgive the sins of others, then your sins will automatically be forgiven. That’s where you are making your mistake with the premise of your question. You are, essentially, trying to add to the Bible to make it say more than it actually does.
3. So, what else goes into the forgiveness of sins, then? Baptism (Acts 2:38) (CCC #403). Repentance (Acts 17:30, Rom 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9) (CCC #981). Confession of sin (Acts 19:18, James 5:16, 1 John 1:19) (CCC #1424). Belief in the Gospel (Mark 1:15) (CCC #977). Forgiveness of others (Matthew 6:14-15, 18:23-35) (CCC #2840). For a thorough treatment of Catholic belief on the topic, you might want to check out the CCC #'s 1420-1470.
4. So, again, Yes, Mormons/JWs will have their sins forgiven if they forgive the sins of others, and do all else that Scripture requires for the forgiveness of sin. No, Mormons/JWs will not have their sins forgiven if they forgive the sins of others if they do not do all else that Scripture requires for the forgiveness of sin.
5. Now, I have answered your yes-no question, will you do me the courtesy of finally answering mine? If a person - let’s narrow it down to a Christian for our purposes here - deliberately and willfully, does not forgive the sins of others, will their sins be forgiven? Yes or no?
The context of his response is twofold. First, it is a continuation of our old discussion but it also was a response to a post I made requesting the Catholics to inform me of what a person must do to have the sins forgiven. This is why he opens the way he does. So, I wrote a response and posted it. Here it is.
Sorry, but this is going to be lengthy. It is something I try and avoid because dialogue like this always get longer and longer. I prefer live discussion so this doesn’t happen. My response is a total of 1511 words. I suggest that your focus on ONE point at a time and not raise so many issues so we can be succinct.
Regarding your first paragraph. When you say "unlike you, I will actually answer your question," I find that to be condescending, insulting, and misleading. As a Catholic apologist, you ought to do better than that. Stick with the issues. Nevertheless, I have answered you repeatedly on various topics including Matt. 6:15. For you to say I don't, is not true. The problem is that I don't answer them the way you want me to (with your yes or no demand). Furthermore, you said the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses will be forgiven of their sins if they "do all else that is necessary for the forgiveness of sins." Interesting. But, if they did everything that was necessary for the forgiveness of their sins, they wouldn't be Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses now would they since they would have to give up their beliefs in their false gods? But I did not state the question in the same way as you answered it. I specifically asked, "But what if it is a Mormon who forgives? Mormonism teaches that God came from another planet and has sex with his goddess wife. Or, what if it's a Jehovah's Witness who forgiveness? A Jehovah's Witness denies the Trinity and the deity of Christ. Will they both be forgiven?" My question was about a Mormon and JW who stay that way (that is why they are called Mormons and JWs). So, you admit that they would NOT be forgiven if they stay Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. By admitting it, you concede my argument and true and refute yours because you are admitting that simply forgiving others other transgressions doesn't mean I'll be forgiven. Otherwise, you would not have added the "do all else that is necessary" clause. Again, you refuted yourself.
Regarding your second paragraph. It is not a misunderstanding of Scripture to apply your yes or no requirement to the previous verse (Matt. 6:14) which is similar in structure and issue. Here both are again. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.,” (Matthew 6:14–15). Both are if statements followed by a conclusion regarding forgiveness. I originally did this to point out the problem in your yes OR no requirement regarding Matthew 6:15. I never said nor did I imply that "if you forgive the sins of others, then your sins will automatically be forgiven." That something you implied, not me, and it is not something I would say is a formula for the reasons I already provided. I am the one avoiding the formula salvation methodology that you are promoting found in your "if this then that" requirement for salvation. You've already admitted in your first paragraph that I am correct in saying that a yes OR no requirement is inappropriate since you provide yes AND no responses. Logically, yes OR no negates ONE answer. Yes AND no is two answers. Your initial question was to elicit a SINGLE response, not a DOUBLE response. So by you answering with double response (yes AND no) then you are admitting your position is invalid since it required a yes OR no. And, as far as You accusing me of adding to the Bible to make it say more than it actually says, really? You can't be serious, especially after considering the multitudinous amount of doctrines the Roman Catholic Church is added to the Bible that are clearly not found in Scripture.
Regarding your third paragraph. Acts 2:38 does not say that if you're baptized, you will be forgiven of your sins. It says that if you are baptized you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. But, perhaps you are unaware of Acts 10:44-48 where the Holy Spirit is received by people before their baptism. In Acts 17:30 God commands everyone everywhere to repent. He does that because that's what is morally right (1 Pet. 1:16). Repentance is not what saves us because repentance is abiding by the law. Faith in Christ is what saves us, not compliance with the law (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:28; 5:1). Of course we should repent of our sins. But it is not repentance that gets us saved. This is basic Bible doctrine which the Roman Catholic Church fails to properly represent. 2 Peter 3:9 is simply God's declaration that he wants all people to repent. But, you should note that God also grants repentance (2 Tim. 2:25). He grants what he requires just like he requires faith and grants it as well (Phil. 1:29). He demands righteousness and gives it to us (Phil. 3:9). Acts 19:18 doesn't say what is necessary for salvation. You are reading into the text. James 5:16 is about confessing of sins one to another. It doesn't say what is necessary for salvation. 1 John 1:19 doesn't exist in the Bible. Mark 1:15 says we are to believe the gospel. Of course, we are. Belief is necessary for salvation. You beg the question with citation of Matthew 6:14-15 since that is the issue under discussion now. Matthew 18:23-35 is dealing with the nation of Israel and covenant community. Nevertheless, I find it interesting that you go to parables to make your doctrine when the very clear teaching of Scripture about justification apart from works is before you (Romans 3:28; 4:5; 5:1; Galatians 2:16, 21; Titus 3:5). You have presented weak, insufficient arguments. You have not presented biblical truths regarding salvation and what is NECESSARY for salvation. You Have only quoted Scriptures without examining them in context. Now, thanks to you, where off topic... but, the Roman Catholic Church states what is NECESSARY for salvation: In 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). It claims that which is NECESSARY It even uses the word 'necessary.' You fail to represent God's word properly.
Regarding your fourth paragraph. You continue in misrepresenting my initial question. Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses deny the true and living God and deny the true and living Christ. By definition, they cannot be forgiven of their sins - even if they forgive others - because they deny the true God! But that is why you modify your response, avoiding a yes OR no response and go with a yes AND no response. How do you do this? Again, you Accomplish this by adding "if they do all that's required for forgiveness." But again if they did that they wouldn't be Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses now would they? So, you misrepresented my question to you and in so doing you failed to answer it properly. And, you gave me both yes AND no answer, not a yes OR no answer - which is what YOU initially demanded and which I quote exactly here: "If a person deliberately refuses to forgive someone who has sinned against them - not forgets to forgive them, or the offender dies before forgiveness is offered...deliberate refusal to forgive - can that person be saved? Yes or no?" Notice you said "yes or no". Or... Or... It is either one or the other, according to you, not both. But, since I initially demonstrated to you an analysis similar to what you have provided (in your misrepresentation of my original question regarding the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses), you have forfeited your argument. You refuted yourself.
Regarding your fifth paragraph. I notice that you said "I have answered your yes-no question. The subtle difference between "yes-no" and "yes OR no" is important, and is, in my opinion, your admission of defeat. It is not a yes OR no issue, is it? If it were, you would not a provided a yes AND no response. In addition, Christians are not made Christians or Retain their Christianity based upon their works or their ability to conform to the law (Romans 3:28; 4:5; 5:1; Galatians 2:16, 21; Titus 3:5). Anyone who claims to be a Christian yet is not forgiving of others is not really a Christian because true Christians truly forgive. So, if someone who professes to be a Christian does not offer forgiveness for anyone else, then he's not really a Christian to begin with. He does not maintain his salvation with God based upon his ability and/or propensity to forgive or not forgive others. Because true Christians are born again and made new creatures (second Corinthians 5:17), they offer forgiveness. That is due to the change in them. So, yes AND no....
I think I'm going to terminate because, it is getting too long. I've had these kinds of written discussions with people before and they get longer and longer. It's unfortunate. Nevertheless, at this point he has conceded his yes or not requirement is not legitimate. Therefore, we're done.
But, I hope it's informative to see how Roman Catholics think. They are most definitely stuck in works righteousness. It is unfortunate that they affirm a false gospel. May the Lord grant them repentance.