Drinking Deeply

Saturday, April 30, 2005 at 2:09 AM

Letter writing.

A long letter I just sent off to a friend. Just what I've been working through, read it if you like. I talked with my roommate as well. An update on that will come soon Lord willing. Thank you for your prayers for that and I request your continual prayers over the roommate relationship in the future weeks. (especially with a seeker, whom Dennis is attempting to preach to as a Roman Catholic)


Hey xxxx,

Thanks for the email on the Catholic stance on justification. It is quite lengthly, but very informative. However, it is fundamentally at odds with what I believe (and what I believe the Bible teaches). Below I am going to lay out exactly what I see is wrong with it (and is at ends with Scripture's foundational truths)

Judging from what I've read from other sources,I'm going to work off of an assumption that this is a fairly accurate depiction of the Catholic position on justification. The original article is in black, my responses (tabbed) will be in blue. There are some fundamental differences between Catholics and Protestants and these include the definitions of the different words like justification and grace. I will try to illustrate this throughout the email.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me or call, though I admit I prefer email because an argument and support can most clearly be laid out through printed words, and there's much less of a risk of wrong words being said in the heat of discussion.

In the pursuit of Truth,
Mickey On 4/24/05, XXXXXX wrote:
Faith, Works, or Grace?

There are four foundational areas where Roman Catholics and Protestants disagree. I can give support for each of these if you would like (in a following email) but here they are in sum:

1) We differ on the meaning and extent of the term "justification"
2) We differ on the meaning of the term "impute" or "imputation"
3) We differ on the means by which justification takes place. (faith alone, or faith+ works)
4) We differ on the grounds or basis upon which sinful people can be justified.

Please keep this in mind throughout the email. I will try to define my terms as best I can and give support. One issue I have with the email is that all the verses are at the bottom without explaining them. Since interpretations of these verses vary by the person it seems rather useless.

All translations I quote are from the ESV, which is an essentially literal translation. If you prefer, we can go to the NASB which is the accepted literal translation, but it does make for harder reading.

beginning: For a Protestant, justification is a legal term, it is synonymous (same Greek term) with "declared righteous". It is the act of God as judge declaring us, who are sinners, to be clean and pure in His sight. God has imputed, credited us with, Christ's righteousness. Justification is by grace, through faith. Faith is the instrument. This faith is a true, saving faith, and is more than a bare intellectual statement. Faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9) Faith is not the basis upon which we are justified, but Christ's work alone are that basis. This kind of faith is never alone, but bears the fruit of works by love. Faith alone saves, but saving faith is never alone.

Justification is a one time thing. We look back on justification. We can say with Paul in Romans 5:1)

1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[ a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The process by which we do these works of love is known as sanctification. Since those works of love are the fruit of faith, justification will be accompanied by sanctification, but the good works are never the grounds (in part or in whole) upon which we are saved.

Roman Catholics view that one time act of justification as the same as the life long process of sanctification. This leads them to state that justification, which to them is a life long process must be accompanied by works by which we earn and maintain our justification. We strain our justification by venial sins and sever it completely with a mortal sin. As I will demonstrate below, this is at odds with what Scripture teaches.

With that said, let us move on.

The Catholic position on salvation can be summed up thus:

We are saved by Christ's grace alone, through faith and works done in charity inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Sola gratia! Grace alone -- but a grace we have to co-operate with. Thinking that all one has to do is pray the "Sinner's Prayer" once to be saved is wrong. Thinking that all one has to do is be a "good person" to be saved is wrong.

I would state that a correct view of the Bible would agree that it's not just a prayer, nor is it just being a "good person" I do disagree with the "grace we have to co-operate with." Titus 3:4-5 states:

4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

note v. 5) "[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy" - Paul isn't denying that we will do works in righteousness, but that the grounds for God's salvation of us isn't on those grounds, but simply on the grounds of "his own mercy." This is the definition of grace. It's undeserved and unwarranted. This is how we are justified, not by (or in part by) works.
"We are saved by 'Faith alone'": No!

It takes more than simply knowing Jesus is the Messiah to be saved; even the Evil One knows Who Christ is.

James 2:14-26
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Amen, faith without works is dead. But the works are not included in the equation of how God justifies us. We are justified by faith alone, but true saving faith is never alone. If you want, I can give an exegesis of what this passage means.

Some key things to note which I can flesh out if you would like:
James quotes the same passage about Abraham as Paul does in Romans 4:3.
James is addressing those that claim to have faith but show no works.
Abraham's offering of Issac is a test (the relevant passage is Genesis 22, specifically verse 1). Here the word justified can also mean "proven right" or "proven true" like in Luke 7:35
And most important of all: All of Scripture of God's Word, so we cannot discard one part without discarding the all. Any interpretation of James 2 has to be in harmony of all the rest of the Bible.

The Bible and the Catholic Church don't separate the "works of faith," preceded and caused by grace, from salvation (see relevant Scripture below).

What the Roman Catholic Church does do is it makes the "works of faith' along with "faith" the grounds upon which a sinner is saved. As I stated above and showed from Titus 3:4-5, the grounds upon which a sinner is saved is solely upon God's mercy.

"We can work our way into Heaven": No!

The Catholic Church and Her Bible condemn the idea that one can work his way to Heaven on his own merit or that God "owes" a person for doing the right things.


All our works get their merit only from Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. We can do "works" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for the rest of our lives, but without Christ's grace, they are nothing. Works have no merit in themselves -- and faith without works is not enough. We are saved by grace alone -- a grace that we accept neither "by faith alone" nor "by works alone," but "by faith that works in charity" (Galatians 5:6).

Something I came across on the Internet demonstrates the obvious importance of works. Below is a (albeit rather smart-alecky) joke letter to a pastor who preaches "faith alone":

I am a former Catholic who was recently saved through the Grace of Jesus Christ. All my life I knew I was a homosexual. The Catholic Church told me that I had to refrain from what I was in order to be saved! I never knew that my good works meant nothing! To think, I would have spent my entire life struggling not to engage in homosexual activity, just to wind up in Hell! I now realize that Salvation is through the finished work of Christ ALONE, and not from good works. I am now living as an active homosexual in the freedom of Jesus Christ!

The pastor, almost completely misunderstanding Catholicism but who has an entire ministry devoted to "saving Catholics", responded in part by saying:

It is true that a person is not saved by his works and that salvation is completely of grace. However that does not mean that works have nothing to do with salvation.

Well, "pastor," that's what Catholics have been saying all along!

Not exactly. Catholics have been saying all along that faith, and the works wrought out of faith are the grounds by which we are saved. What the pastor says, and what I fully agree upon, is that one is justified (saved) by faith alone on the basis of Christ's works, not only his death on the cross, but his sinless life as well. Good works are a fruit of this faith, but not the grounds upon which we are saved. Having good works demonstrates the existence of saving faith (and saving faith will always produce these works), but it not the grounds upon which we are saved (as I have shown above)

The bottom line: all salvation comes from the grace of Christ's Sacrifice and only from the grace of His Sacrifice. Salvation is a free gift -- a gift that is not "owed" to us, that God didn't have to offer us, and that we could never "earn" on our own -- that we accept by faith and works. Christ doesn't have to give us this gift of salvation; we don't "deserve" this gift, we can't "earn" it; but He, in His endless Love for us, offers it nonetheless. We have to believe this gift exists (have faith) and then open our hands to receive it (do works inspired by the grace given to us).

My comments above still stand. There is a lot that is true in this section: Salvation is from the grace of God alone. It is a free gift, unowed.

But then he states, "
a gift that is not "owed" to us, that God didn't have to offer us, and that we could never "earn" on our own -- that we accept by faith and works"

If we can only "accept this gift" by faith and works, it's no longer a gift. We have to do something in order to accept it. The author replaces "earn" with "accept by" and makes them different, but there is no difference in the way he uses them.

Born Again?

Many non-Catholics, in their confused zeal for Jesus, are constantly asking Catholics if we are "born again," admonishing us that unless we are "born again" we cannot be saved. But you see, Catholics, like St. John the Evangelist in the third chapter of his Gospel, relate the phrase "born again" to the results of Baptism. Baptism is how we enter into the New Covenant, in the same way the Hebrews and Israelites entered the Old Covenant through circumcision (which, you'll note, was done to infants).

This is the RC view but I would like to see his support for this claim. If one of you could pull out John 3 and walk through and draw the logical conclusions from what he lays out I think I would understand his words better, but as such he is just making claims.

I agree completely that Baptism is how we enter into the New Covenant, though I will say that many Protestants would disagree with that. (This is the debate on infant baptism)

When many Protestants use the phrase "born again," they seem to be referring to an "emotional experience." They often expect instant transformation (which can certainly happen), speaking in tongues, miracles, etc. as some sort of "proof" of having been "born again."

Well, maybe "many Protestants" may believe it's an "emotional experience" but I do not, nor do I believe that Bible-believing Protestants would believe it was an "emotional experience". These paragraphs do not apply to me. Born again is addressed in the Q&A section, but I can flesh it out if you like.

Traditional Catholics most certainly agree that repentance (what we call "metanoia") is necessary and that inner transformation (what we call "theosis") is the goal, but we are very conscious of not confusing "feelings" with "faith." These are two different things, and mere "feelings" can lie: ask anyone who's ever been "love-bombed" in a cult, experienced cocaine or Ecstasy, been to a Woodstock-like music festival, or is just having a really excellent day. Oceanic "feelings of oneness" and "happiness" can be had in pagan religions (read about Greek and Roman "bachanalias" sometime), through natural or artificial chemicals, through the feeling of "falling in love," through hypnosis, through highly sensual experiences, and other things that have nothing to do, inherently, with Christ. The ancient Greeks babbled in tongues, and glossolalia can is still practiced today among Voudun ("Voodoo") cults, during Japanese seances, and by other false religions and in other cultures all over the world. These sorts of experiences must be discerned, and the spirits must be tested! Remember what Christ said would happen even back in the first century:

Matthew 24:24
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

It is important to test the spirits and not devalue reason and doctrine! Know that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance according to Galatians 5:22-23. The fruits of the Spirit are not out of control shaking, screaming, running around, falling down, "holy laughter," vocalizations that don't edify the Church, a "feeling" that doctrine and religion are now unimportant, etc. One should be more in control of one's self after an encounter with the Holy Spirit, not less.
As to "personal relationship with Jesus, " think of the great Saints -- everyone from Th�r�se de Lisieux to St. Francis -- are these people not "born again" in the Protestant sense of "having a deep relationship with Christ" while still remaining 100% believers in traditional Catholic doctrine? Read about the life of St. Patrick and then talk to me about a "personal relationship" with Jesus that some Protestants think Catholics just don't understand.

What of our holy martyrs like Maximilian Kolbe or Nikolaus Gross, murdered by Nazis because of the virtue compelled by their Catholic faith? What about Joan of Arc, martyred for her refusal to deny the divine origins of the voices that led her to defeat the English? If you want "personal relationship with Jesus," read the writings of St. Teresa of Avila or St. John of the Cross!

Have you been saved?

Another question Catholics often hear is, "Have you been saved?" Catholics, though, don't see eternal salvation as a one-time event that one can pinpoint and relate to others by saying, for example, "I was saved at 5:30 pm on 23 October 1988 when I got on my knees and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior." We think of salvation, ultimately, as a process that is begun at Baptism and is then "worked out" (Phillipians 2:12) as we endeavor to "put on Christ." Additionally, we don't see salvation as something that can't be lost (2 Peter 2:20-21). Even St. Paul himself, the one who did more than anyone else to spread the Gospel, wasn't sure of his own salvation. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27

But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Who are we to be more "sure of our salvation" than the Apostle Paul?

This will take a lot of writing to answer the verses, which I will do if you like. But let me say it simply that Paul was very sure of his salvation.

Romans 8:38-39 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul states very clearly that nothing will be able to separate us from God's love. Reading the context he is talking specifically about salvation as can be seen by a few verses above.

33Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us

I'll put it in syllogism form so that we may see the argument that Paul presents.

1) Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God (v 39)
2) love of God is synonymous with being saved/justified. (v. 33-34)
3) we were created by God (Genesis)
4) Therefore, we cannot separate ourselves from the love of God, which is salvation.

If even Paul, the least of the apostles was sure of his salvation, even after murdering and persecuting Christians for a good chunk of his life, we can hold on to the same God that saved and justified Paul and trust Him that he has justified those that are in Him. This is completely consistent with the rest of the teachings about having to persist to the end in order to be saved as I will explain below (and will flesh out upon request)

Most Catholics, of course, are able to speak of specific events such as the first time they truly "got it" that Jesus is Lord or that the Church and its Scriptures are true; many are able to tell specific stories of experiences of the Holy Spirit. Many have wonderful stories of healings, consolation, and miracles. But to speak of "having been saved," in the past tense, is something we tend not to do unless we are speaking about our Baptism, at which time we were first justified. We speak, instead, of "being saved," in the present tense, as we obey Him after Baptism and endeavor to keep accepting the gift of salvation which we could never earn on our own.

"endeavor to keep accepting the gift of salvation which we could never earn on our own"
Once again he makes a distinction between having to do something in order to "accept" salvation, but we can't "earn" it. If we must do something to "accept" something, it's no longer freely given as a gift, but given with a requirement, "do this in order to accept"

Many Protestants tend to see salvation in legal terms: "I believe, therefore, I am saved because that is God's promise to me. As long as I believe, I can't lose my salvation because the terms of the contract are that I simply believe and I will be saved." Catholics see salvation more in terms of kinship bonds, our adoption into God's very family, our becoming, literally, true children of God and inheriting Christ's sonship through Jesus' sacrifice. We see "working out our salvation" as those things we, inspired by the Holy Spirit, are called to do as children of God, in the same way that a child honors an earthly parent -- and we see God's gift of eternal salvation to us as an inheritance from our Father rather than a "pay-off" for having fulfilled a "contract" by a simple assertion of faith. And as a father can "disinherit" a child if that child no longer treats him as father and freely walks away from his inheritance, so our Father in Heaven can "disinherit" those who don't treat Him as Father (Romans 11:22; Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 6:4-6; 2 Peter 3:17-18). For more in-depth information, read the transcript of this debate on "justification" between Scott Hahn, Catholic and former Presbyterian minister, and Dr. Robert Knudson of Westminster Seminary.

He is correct. Protestants view justification in legal terms. I already laid it out at the top of the email why that is true. Protestants will not deny that we must also "work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling," (Phil 2:12) but also put it in context, "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Phil 2:13). Because we know that it is God working in us according to his good pleasure, we have no fear that our salvation is being worked out because it is not on our own strength but on God's.

Once again he references a lot of verses but doesn't explain them. Since interpretations vary by the person, I would like to hear how you guys view those verses in such a way that they are consistent with the rest of the Bible.

To sum up

So, here's how a Catholic would answer the standard questions from Protestants:

and how I would respond:

Q. Have you been "born again"?
A. Yes, when we are baptized, we are "born again of water and Spirit" (John 3).

A. Yes, when God granted us birth from above by the Holy Spirit. Being born of water is merely representative of our physical birth. This is from John 3 and I can explain and prove it.

Q. Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?
A. Some Catholics are good Catholics and have a deep personal relationship with Jesus. Other Catholics are mere "cultural Catholics" who call themselves "Catholic" because they were baptized once, but don't believe what the Church teaches or don't practice what the Church commands.

A. I do, not because of anything I have done, but because Christ has called me and this call is irresistible. His answer about "cultural Catholics" can similarly be applied to "cultural Protestants" who claim the name, but don't live it. Both of us are probably in agreement that the circle of "true" believers by either definition (either RC or Protestant) is much smaller than polls show.

Q. Have you been "saved"?
A. Those Catholics who have faith and obey the will of the Father are being saved, by the grace of Christ alone. Catholics who don't have faith and don't obey the will of the Father will not be saved unless they repent and begin to have faith and keep the commandments.

A. I have been saved and I can say with Paul in
Romans 5:1) 1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[ a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

along with laying claim to the truths of
Ephesians 2:8-10) 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I "have been saved" am being saved (by Sanctification) and will be saved (when God judges the world and withholds me from the eternal fire because of what Christ has done)

Q. If you were to die tonight, do you know for an absolute certainty that you would go to Heaven?
A. No more than St. Paul did when he wrote to the people of Corinth. But we do have the assuredness of knowing that God keeps His promises, that He is good and merciful and just, and that He so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son so we might not perish but have everlasting life if we believe, repent, obey, and trust in Jesus.

A. If we have no assurance that the gospel which Paul presents will actually save us, how is it that it's a Gospel of peace? Can our RC author say the Romans 5:1 passage? Romans 5:1) 1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we [a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Does he have a peace that rests with a knowledge that eternity is bought and given by Christ alone and that he is part of that? Or does he have the uncertainty of Roman Catholic scholar Ludwig Ott, who said in his book Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:

"The reason for the uncertainty of the state of grace lies in this, that without a special revelation nobody can with certainty of faith know whether or not he has fulfilled all the conditions which are necessary for achieving justification"

Doesn't seem very peaceful! How does one have peace when one knows that they could commit a mortal sin today and die in his sleep tonight and wake up in Hell?

I know with absolute certainty that I will be raised up on the last day like Christ says in John 6:40)
40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

I look upon Christ now and believe in Him, so by the will of God the Father I will have eternal life for He will raise me up on the last day.

Q. By what means are we saved?
A. By the Blood of Christ that was poured out at Calvary. This Sacrifice is the only means of salvation; by Christ and Christ alone may a man be saved. There is no other way to the Father.
Q. Why was His Sacrifice necessary? Why did He have to die?
A. God is infinite Justice and Perfection. Because He is infinite, our sins offend Him infinitely. There is such a chasm between God in His vast perfection and us in our creaturely weakness that nothing we could do could possibly assuage Him for our offenses. But as much as we deserve death, He loves us still and wants us with Him for eternity. In order to restore His honor and maintain the perfection of His justice, there had to be an infinite Sacrifce of appeasement. So, God Himself took on flesh by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary and became man, not only to teach us with His words, but to save us with His Blood. Only God Himself could save us from the effects of our offending Him because we are so imperfect and weak.

A. Agreed. Romans 6:23 for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Q. What must we do to accept the fruits of this Sacrifice and be saved?
A. In three words, "Believe, repent, and obey." We must:

* believe and trust in Christ (John 3:16);
* repent and be baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost for the remission of sins (Matthew 28:19, John 3:3-5, Acts 2:38);
* obey the will of the Father and keep the commandments (Matthew 7:21, Matthew 19:16-19);
* eat the Body of Christ (John 6:51-69) -- but not unworthily, and only after discerning the Lord's Body lest we eat damnation onto ourselves (I Corinthians 11:23-30);
* judge ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:28-31) and, when we fall, confess our sins to those to whom Christ has given the authority to forgive sins in His Name, and to obey that authority when it comes to what is bound and loosed (Matthew 9:5-8, Matthew 18:18, John 20:21-23, 2 Corinthians 5:18);
* love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).

A. I see no reason how he can claim it to be a free gift if we must do things to accept it. God calls us. God gives us faith. God gives us repentance by that faith. God justifies us because of Christ through our faith. God saves us. God works good in us because of faith. The entire process is by God's grace alone. We have nothing to boast about in works, nothing to boast about in faith, nothing to boast about in love. There is so much I disagree with above (baptism = salvation, physical eating of body of Christ, confession to priests, do works) that it would take another email. Suffice to say that we cannot do anything to please God for (Romans 3:10) 10as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; 11no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."

We are saved by Christ alone, through faith alone, by His grace alone, so that all the glory may go to God alone. If you trust in Scripture alone as your infallible authority, you can see that these things are true.

Relevant Scripture

So he quotes a lot of passages, but fails to give an explanation of how they apply and what they mean. I could just as easy copy paste the entire Bible (since I believe it supports my position) as a refutation of his position. As such, I will not deal with these passages, but I will if you ask me specifically to.

Wrapup: I believe that the Gospel as proclaimed by Jesus and the Apostles, and as we should now proclaim is a Gospel of peace. Those who believe in Christ believe because God gives them that faith, and that faith is the the tool through which we are justified, not works. We will produce good works because the fruit of faith is good works, but those works are not of ours, but God's alone, and as such are not the grounds upon which we are saved. We are saved by Christ's works alone. We who are in Christ have a peace with God, because ultimately we will persevere because it is God who works in us to persevere us. Nothing will separate us from God because it is God Himself who holds us to Him. We have nothing to boast in, for all we have is from God. All our works, but dung compared to the incomparable richness of Christ's mercy.

I believe as well that the gospel proclaimed by Rome is no longer in line with that of Scripture, that there is no "peace", no security. Those who follow Rome's gospel are forced into believing that they must work in order to maintain their salvation, that one misstep will cast them out of Heaven forever. Even if they are somehow good enough to accept this gift, their punishments still exist in purgatory instead of being paid completely by Christ. Their salvation is conditional on how well they do in addition to their faith, and this is what strays from what Christ proclaimed and what Paul wrote about.

I entreat you, therefore, to free yourself from the bondage of Rome and trust in Christ alone by faith alone, as the grounds for your salvation. God promises eternal security, peace with Him, bought with a price we cannot pay. No number of times of confession, partaking in mass, good works, or whatever can ever earn, or "accept" that gift, but it is freely offered by God to all that are His.

God commands us all to repent. Repent from our idols, our masters, our legalism, our beliefs of works-righteousness, our own failings (of which I have many). I openly admit that I fall short of all of God's demands daily, and that if it were up to me there would be no chance of Heaven, but I do trust in Christ alone by faith alone that He has called me, saved me, and is now sanctifying me so that I will stand with Him in the end.

I ask you now to repent from your beliefs that we can somehow 'earn/accept' Christ's gifts through our works and to cast off the bonds of the law and trust completely in Christ's finished work on the Cross as the sole grounds for your salvation. You are at a crossroads, maybe one you've faced before, but one that is before you none the less. Follow Rome or follow Scripture. I challenge you to read the Holy Word, God-breathed and useful for every good work by prayer and petition and ask the Spirit to open your eyes and heart to His Words. Rome claims to be Christ's bride, who listens to His every word, but I believe a careful inspection of His Word will prove that claim wrong and lead one down the narrow road to peace and eternity.

Trust God's Word: the Holy Scriptures and not what the church, I, or anyone else tell you and you will find what I am saying is true (but not necessarily inerrant). I ask this as a friend and in hopes of being a brother

In Christ,

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Monday, April 25, 2005 at 10:48 PM

Well it's started

Yesterday was day one. An interesting discussion on the magnitudes and gravity of sins. Initially I proposed that all sins were of same gravity, with the wages of sin being death. His position was that different sins were of different magnitude, venial sins strain our relationship with God and mortal sins sever. After sleeping on it I did some Bible diving and realized that I was wrong about all sins being the same gravity. Some were "worse" than others dependant on a number of factors. I told Dennis that but reaffirmed that the wages of sin were death, but the gift of God was eternal life.

This prompted questions about how I came to that knowledge if I affirmed Scripture Alone. Where did I get authority? How did I know it was for sure even with thousands of Protestants who believed otherwise? Don't I need an infallible interpreter (ie the Pope).

I admitted that I didn't have a 100% interpretation of the Bible and would never, but my final arbiter was Scripture. People like my pastor, my brothers and sisters in Christ, KCPC, FiCS all have authority and I had much to learn from them, but when it boils down to what I check with it was Scripture. Dennis got really hung up on that because he asked me how I could possibly know I had the right idea? I kept repeating the same ideas, the Holy Spirit's guidence, fallible authorities and such. I then turned the question on him. Did he have an infallible interpreter? Did he infallibly understand the Pope and all his writings? Didn't he need an infallible interpreter between himself and the Pope? ::shrug:: I dunno, his answer was that the Pope could be the final arbiter and reclarify himself over and over without need of an interpreter, in fact, without a human interpreter who could clarify things for us since Scripture was divine in origin we couldn't understand it.

That was basically it repeated for a bit. Got off onto Peter's primacy a tiny bit but then he had to go study so we set another meeting Weds.

Today I got another chance to talk to him, mentioned my purpose in talking with him, basically that I couldn't in good conscience affirm him as a brother and hoped to discuss faith and works and soveignty and authority and the like. Please be praying for him and for me. The discussions have been really good so far, and we've both agreed that we don't want it to come to blows or anything, so be praying.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005 at 12:59 AM

Questions for thought

Two of these are philosophical in nature, one theological.

1) What is the definition of existence? Does the number 2 exist? How about pink elephants? Does God exist?

2) What is the difference between illogical and irrational? Are there true conclusions that are illogical? How about irrational? Is logic within rationality or vice versa? Or is there a realm outside of both?

3) We're called to follow the Word (all of it). What about when David prays in the psalms to quickly bring death to the wicked, that he will rejoice when they perish? Are we to pray for quick and swift justice? At the same time it also says that God does not delight in the death of the wicked, but would rather all be saved. We pray for salvation for non-believers too.

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Sunday, April 17, 2005 at 6:07 PM


The reflection letter sent out by me to the dorm (and inside it is the letter sent out to the supporters of the TJ trip)

For some of those who have heard (or are curious), over spring break me and a group of people from my fellowship (Fellowship in Christ at Stanford) and surrounding areas were able to go down to Tijuana to build a house for a low income family. What some of you may or may not know as well is that toyon graciously supported this through a generous donation from dorm funds. I just wanted to send out a thank you for the support and attach the thank you letter we sent out as well as some pictures we took of the family and the house.

Once again, thanks to the generousity of you guys at toyon a family of four down in Tijuana now have a house that is comparible to the size of the quad that I live in (really makes me rethink how crowded it feels!). Thanks once again!

If you would like to see the rest of the pictures I'd love to send you a link (once the people in charge allow me to put them online and make them public =p )

The pictures I'm allowed to show for now: http://www.stanford.edu/~mcsheu/TJ/

(Here's the attached letter sent to prayer buddies)

Dear friends,

Thank you for all your support, your prayers, your thoughts, and for partnering with us on this trip. I apologize for not writing you sooner - I wanted to share with you some of our thoughts, reflections, and insights from the Tijuana trip, and those needed time to form and solidify. Thank you for being patient. One of the most amazing things I witnessed during that week was the fellowship, the oneness that we became with each other. (That is a huge prayer request that God answered!) Though we each were different people with different strengths and weaknesses, we came together as one body to pour the cement, raise the walls, put on the roof, and finish the house. Like a true and functioning body, we each had our individual parts and roles; whether it was preparing food, or digging trenches, or sifting sand for the cement and stucco, we each filled our niche, did our part, and came together like we have never done before.

Likewise, we come together after the trip is over with different insights: the same series of events has left unique marks on each and every one of us, and this is what I hope to share with you today. - Jessica Luo

"Thanks to each of you who helped support us. I was incredibly blessed to labor for God in this unique opportunity. We were brought out of numerous difficult moments during this trip when they were just too coincidental to be by chance; surely it was the hand of God that carried us through. Thank you for your prayers. " - Ryan Hsi

"For many this trip is the first time that they have spent an extended amount of time with people in close quarters while working very hard physically. It helps to remember that tempers fray and people may rub you raw, but it is a great time to really learn what somewhat is like under some sort of pressure. Serving the church with your hands is very rewarding and tangible, the results are immediate and the impact is significant for the family that you serve. This was a great time to just work and decompress from the hectic pace of life at Stanford and all the trappings of the 'modern' world we cannot live without. Spending time without email, phones, showers, flush toilets, etc. is refreshing in its own way." - John Kang

" Tijuana was that peace-amongst-craziness experience that I've come to expect on Christian service trips. God provided people and skills to fill every need, from transportation to food to car fixing to hair-washing service. While things were crazy, I was never afraid that we'd be stuck somewhere, or lost, or hungry. I knew that God would provide a way. Now that we're back, I hope to keep that same trusting faith in divine providence." - Ted Liao

" Having reflected on this trip a bit more, I believe that the most important thing I have gained through this trip is that deeper assurance of God's work in and through people and of life being more profound than the superficial worries that can overwhelm me at times. As one of my VBS kids told me, we are but all children of God, and this God just wants us to be "happy and sincere of heart." - Victoria Kim

"I'm still sorting out the reasons why I went to TJ, as they seem a little less clear now that I'm back. I originally said that I wanted to go there to think about things, but it didn't end up that way; there was a whole different set of concerns in TJ. The concentration was on getting a house built, serving the family. There wasn't much time to think about "me". As objectively as I can tell, I haven't changed, fundamentally, but the experience has added something valuable that I'm still trying to define. After coming back from TJ, the dominant feeling was one of peacefulness. I didn't especially want to talk, but not because I wanted to introspect either. I wouldn't say it was exactly spacing out, but it was just a chance to stop thinking, to appreciate
where I was and the people around me in a way that I never seem to have the time to do. In all the whirlwind of normal Stanford life dominated by things that might not matter in the long run, this quiet time gave me one of the very few chances I've had to feel genuinely lucky to be here, to be given the opportunity to experience and serve in TJ." -Jerry Yu

"Psalm 127: Unless the LORD builds the house,those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city,the watchman stays awake in vain.

Wow. I'll even say it again backwards. Wow.
Being able to be part of God's plan in putting up a house (which as a whole was about the size of my two-room quad in Toyon, still without water or electricity) was a great blessing. I got to watch as the walls went up, the roof was covered, and the cement was plastered upon the walls that sheltered us from the rain and the wind and just sit there and praise God for putting it all together. Wow. There were so many times when I was tempted to give up, when my chief desire was to just sit in the van and mope … but then be incredibly encouraged because everyone else around me was encouraging one another, cheering them on, and reminding me that it was ultimately God who was building the house and not us. Each time I would somehow be infused with hope, joy, something I could not credit to myself but only to God, that would give me the energy to continue to hammer away, to lift buckets, to sift sand. It was truly an incredible experience. "-Mickey Sheu

If you could continue to pray for the Guzman-Medina family that we built for (father: Jose, mother: Juana, sons: Eduardo and Hugo), that they will continue to be seeking God out in their daily lives, and for the people of Tijuana as a whole: may God comfort and provide for the poor and bring repentance to the wicked. Pray that God will be glorified in Tijuana.

Thank you again.

In Him,
The 2005 Tijuana Housebuilding and Outreach Team

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at 5:58 PM

Samson isn't stupid?

Dang, just stumbled upon something I had never noticed.

Remember the story of Samson and Delilah? Judges 13-16, commonly used by people who don't actually read the Bible (*cough* me *cough*) as just simply an example of how guys are stupid and girls are evil.

Now the whole girls are evil and guys are stupid I can leave for another time, it's just an idea for idle amusement. But I did stumble upon something that I had never noticed before:

Hebrews 11) the Hall of Faith

v. 32-38

32And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-- 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated-- 38of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

(emphasis mine)

Samson is in the hall of faith? What in the world? I thought he was just some dumb ox! Makes me want to go back and reread Judges 13-16!

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Friday, April 15, 2005 at 12:59 AM

Intelligent Design

Just got done with a movie about the ID concept and what it means. I think it sets forth a very convincing arguement against Darwinian Evolution (at least on a fundemental building blocks of life case) and challenges the scientific assumption that everything can be explained naturally. Pretty interesting.

One thing I didn't like about it though was that it made the claim that "the evidence speaks for itself." No, evidence needs to be interpreted in order to speak, and when one interprets evidence, one brings one's own presuppositions into play. Two people seeing the same picture can come up with two completely different reasons and explanations for it, it's all dependant on who they are and their own personal experiences.

Other than that, I think it was really interesting. Some websites of note:


They put it forth very well, with a wealth of good links at the bottom.


from a literal-creation Christian perspective.


The intelligent design blog. Some interesting posts, but of more interest is the links to the right.

Closely linked to this idea is the debate between 7-day and progressive. Websites on both I like


7-dayer. I think my views are more in line here.


day-age creationism. There's a wealth of knowledge here.

Me personally? I am a 7-dayer, though I would say that it seems like the progressive creation does have some support and there are Christians whom I would affirm as brothers and sisters on both sides of the debate.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005 at 5:57 PM

Continued prayer request

An email i sent off.

Something you can definitely praying for me is that after I went back to Toyon (2amish) I ended up talking to Dennis (the Catholic) about what he believed with regards to the Catholic faith. Just a simple Q&A session. Justification, Grace, Mercy, Christ, Salvation, the whole shi-bang. Though I disagreed with him on nearly every point, I didn't bother to argue because I just wanted to hear what he said. Basically he confirmed my worst fears... he believes in a very works-based righteousness, so much so that Christ's death and ressurection is downplayed to the point where he (and I quote) "enables the possibility of being forgiven (but not left unpunished) of sin" On the plus side, a mortal sin doesn't guarentee condemnation, but it does seperate you from God and you have to repent of or else you die going to hell.

There's no security, there's no Christ's death bringing freedom, there's no total depravity, there's no justification by faith (alone). Salvation is guarenteed by following the church's teachings 100% (which means sacraments, mass, baptism, prayer, confession, so on so forth). Just a scary thing.

I will say that he doesn't really understand it enough, and doesn't see the logical implications of what these beliefs lead to (nor does he seem to know scripture well enough to see why that will be a problem). Pray for opened eyes and softened heart. Pray as well that my life (as poor a witness as it is) may challenge him force him to come to grips with what God demands of him. Pray that the Gospel would not be a stumbling block, but most of all, pray that my words would drip salt and life, no matter what he says or does.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005 at 4:21 PM

On a more lighter note

Some interesting reads as of late.

I just finished Vincent Cheung's Systematic Theology. I must say it was a very quick read. It was really precise and biblical. At the same time though, the intellectual ammo he lays out feels very dangerous in my hands, and as someone else has already warned me, the gifts of the Spirit are non-negotiable (necessary) if I am to use it. I think a lot of people would accuse some of the claims of the book as being arrogant, but Vincent has placed them on a very sound biblical ground and defends them straight from Scripture while affirming that it is only by the grace of God alone that people are able to see this. To be completely honest I would be terrified of being in a debate with him with me on the wrong side. Well, you'll have to read it yourself.

A copy of the book is online (free) on his website: www.rmiweb.org

Another thing of interest I just read today was a highlighting of Robbins' critique of Piper's theology in Vincent Cheung's blog. I think Robbins is right here, though I will say in Robbins seems a bit overly harsh in his language (He likes the term "neolegalism"), sometimes attacking the person to incite an emotional response more than anything else. I hate to say it because I honestly believe I have a lot to learn from Piper, but Robbins is right in that Piper has some unbiblical views. And because they are unbiblical, we should oppose it. Of course, for those of you who aren't Calvinists, the debate has no meaning whatsoever becuase you don't agree that Calvinism is what the Bible teaches.

This brings me right up into something else I read today by Tim Challis, who's blog I have linked on the right. In this blog post (be sure to read the addenum), he writes about why he believes that Calvinism = Biblical Theology (though he later says the word "Gospel" would be a better word). I think Tim brings up a lot of really good points, of which I would not do justice if I tried to summarize, so read it for yourself. It is a long post though, but I do agree with him.


There is a fairly interesting followup post already. I haven't had the chance to read it through though. Feeling like the man rebuked in

Proverbs 18:17
The one who states his case first seems right,until the other comes and examines him.

**end edit**

Another book I just finished reading is Let the Nations Be Glad! by Piper. To be completely honest, I got really bogged down in his discussions of "people groups" and "nations" and "cultures" and all the Hebrew and Greek that he pulled in when defining those terms. On the plus side, it has really convicted me about a few of my unbiblical beliefs (and provided a possible answer to the question of infant salvation). It has also placed the grounds, desire, and goal for missions solely where it should be, on God. Something that I tend to forget... like everday.

Soli Deo Gloria


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Monday, April 11, 2005 at 11:18 AM

Conviction time

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

With a Catholic roommate this year, I've been challenged a bit as to what I believe actually saves. Jesus doesn't demand perfect theology, but he does demand repentance and faith. Could I affirm my roommate as a brother?

In recent weeks, I've been convicted more and more that the Roman gospel does not save. The reliance upon works in order to earn the grace of God, the denial of the sufficiency of Scripture (in fact, an affirmation of things contrary to Scripture), the worship of saints, the worship of Mary as co-mediator, universalism leanings, the Mass (a reoffering of Christ's physical blood/body as a sacrifice to reclean of sins), mortal sins, losing salvation... the list just goes on and on.

This conviction does not bring me great joy, though I would say as I've been reading oftentimes I've felt arrogant that I was right and he was wrong, not remembering that Paul states clearly "what do you have that God has not given?" Hand in hand with that conviction has been a conviction that if I don't talk to him, share my concerns, and present the freedom of the true Gospel, Dennis' blood is on my head as well. Because of this, I've decided to try to find time to sit down with Dennis and talk with him soon.

Please pray for me, pray for the fruit of the spirit. Pray that God would remove veils and create new hearts. I truly don't know what is going to happen, because we're both very strong believers, and by strong I mean hard-headed. Pray that my poor witness (oftentimes getting downright angry) would not be a hindrance to the message of the cross.

I've also lost my voice, which is rather unfortunate.

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Monday, April 04, 2005 at 10:40 PM

Thoughts from TJ(2)

The person leading the team requested that we submit a "reflection" paragraph. This was mine.

Some thoughts in reflection:

1) Isaiah 55:8-9 states:

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

How true that was for me! There were so many times that I wondered if the TJ trip was actually going to happen. There were so many times that I thought it wasn’t being run properly, that it could have been done better my way. So many times when I doubted, distrusted, was annoyed, feared… and somehow through all of it, God declared Himself sovereign over all creation. In spite of all my fears, doubts, worries leading up to the trip and even during the trip, God brought about His plan. How cool.

2) Don’t go back to Newsong in future years.

I’ve already expressed my opinion on this many a time. If you would like to ask me why feel free to email me (or come to toyon and share some amazing food =D) This will be talked about in a future post.

3) The question “how have you changed” blows. =p

I really am unable to answer it to my satisfaction, because oftentimes I feel like I haven’t taken a π radian turn or anything and when asked “how have you changed?” I end up searching for something to fit in there, which usually ends up “sounding” good but “feeling” rather fake. I guess it’s just not an adequate question for me to express what goes on in my wacky brain =p.

4) People are so cool.

Even though I felt like I didn’t know many people going to TJ, the conversations, the struggles, and the experiences we shared on this trip has really just reaffirmed to me how great people are once you get to know them. I know for sure I’ve connected with people I never expected to, and I hope (and pray) that our ties to one another would continue to encourage and edify each other.

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Sunday, April 03, 2005 at 11:21 PM

The passing on of the Pope

Hmm, so I'm put in an interesting bind. Here I stand, while my roommate decrees that Pope John Paul II was one of the greatest popes ever, while the nations bow and offer their condolences, while people pray to a new "intercessor" in heaven.

How do I respond? With affirmation? I don't think I could do that. I cannot in good conscience affirm that the Pope did such great works that he would skip purgatory and go straight to heaven like my roommate claims (and as to how he claims to have assurance of salvation while denying Preserverance of Saints confounds me). I cannot affirm that a Pope who devoted his life totally to Mary (Roman concept of: Totus tuus, "totally yours," addressed not to Jesus, but to Mary) and depended upon her (as well as the rest of the "Saints") as intercessors (instead of the one intercessor in Heaven that we have in Christ) was a "great" Pope. I do not see someone who believed himself to be infallible (which, according to my roommate, he hammered) as possessing the saving faith God grants to the elect.

Do I go in the other direction, rejoicing that the day of the wicked has come upon him and exulting in God's glory in death and hell? Do I respond as in Psalm 107:

40he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41but he raises up the needy out of affliction
and makes their families like flocks.
42The upright see it and are glad,
and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

Do I respond in the same way some of the blogs I've been reading respond? I don't know. Where is my love?

Remembering Romans 12:

17Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."

Further reading:
James White responding to Peter Leithart about the wrongness of crediting the Pope with too much.

James White's other posts about the Pope here, here, here, here

The Potter's Clay has an interesting quote from Charles Spurgeon

The world responds


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Friday, April 01, 2005 at 2:18 AM

Blown and tossed by the waves

An edited email I just sent off:

So I was reading in bed before I went to sleep Piper's "Let the Nations be Glad" and I got to his chapter 4: The supremacy of Christ as the Conscious Focus of All Saving Faith. I guess interestingly enough it addressed specifically one question that I had been thinking about on and off: Can someone be saved (as in know Jesus and trust in Him as an atoning sacrifice for their sins) without the Gospel?

As of 1 hour ago: I think my answer was "yes, they may not know the name of whom they call, but it's still Jesus" after reading the chapter I now feel that the Bible affirms that the answer is "no"

Basically Piper went through all my thoughts and objections in passages that I was looking into and showed that the Scripture taught otherwise. A rather humbling and convicting time I must say. Especially when he pointed out that if one believes that people can come to Christ without the Gospel call, it weakens the need for missions and I saw that in my own heart. Well, what can you say, shaper than a double edged sword.

Well after coming to grips with that (and looking at the passages again), I thought I wanted to email you and let you know (in case you were wondering about my beliefs in that direction or something)

Additionally as I was typing this email, I found myself realized that all too often I feel like Proverbs 18:17

The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.

I find myself reading something or listening to someone and agreeing with it until someone else brings up something else (usually all of this would be from the Bible). I know the solution to this is to be like the Bereans and check everything, but all too often it's hard to discern truth from half-truth, especially if both points strongly reference the Bible. I guess pray for wisdom and guidence for me in a continual seeking for God's truth.

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