Catholic apologist: “Do NOT believe in forensic justification.”

Catholic apologist, David Anders, featured in the photo above, repeatedly condemns forensic justification on his radio show. Forensic justification? What’s that? People are generally turned off by theological jargon like “forensic justification.” Hang in there. I’m going to break it all down for you.

These days, many church-going folks are eager to gloss over any and all doctrinal differences and embrace each other as fellow “Jesus lovers.” But many doctrinal differences are vitally important, like the answer to the question, “How does a person get to Heaven?”

The Roman Catholic church teaches that for a person to get to Heaven, they must participate in the church’s sacraments in order for graces to be “infused” into their soul, to be able to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules, in order to remain in a hypothetical mortal-sinless “state of grace,” so as to be able to merit heaven at the moment of their death. Phew! That was a long sentence! Another way of expressing it is, the RCC teaches a person must actually (subjectively, intrinsically) become holy enough to merit entry into Heaven.

In direct contrast, Bible Christianity teaches from Scripture that we are all sinners and no one can possibly merit Heaven. Even our so-called “good works” are sin-stained rags before a Holy God. But God loves us so much, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins by His death on the cross of Calvary. But Jesus defeated sin and death when He rose from the grave and offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who repent of sin and ask Him to save them. When a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior, His perfect righteousness is “imputed” (ascribed) to them. They are declared righteous before a Just and Holy God only because of the imputed, perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Evangelical theologians call this “forensic” (legal) justification. God the Father declares a sinner who has accepted Christ as righteous because of the perfect righteousness that was imputed to them by God the Son. Bible Christians believe those who have genuinely accepted Christ will follow Him in obedience, although imperfectly. But the desire to obey God and the resulting spiritual fruit are the evidence of salvation, not the cause of it.

The Catholic doctrine and the Bible Christian doctrine on salvation are incompatible and irreconcilable. One is right, one is wrong. They cannot both be right.

To be honest, I don’t cherish the work of Catholic apologists, but I do appreciate the way they strongly distinguish between the Catholic gospel of sacramental grace and merit and the Biblical Good News! Here’s an example from Anders’ show that I came across recently, although the Biblical doctrine of salvation is not clearly presented:

Called to Communion – EWTN Radio
Episode: 3/4/2109
Host: David Anders (photo above), Moderator: Thom Price
Beginning at 24:33 mark

Thom Price: Let’s go to Claire now in Baton Rouge, Louisiana listening on the great Catholic Community Radio. Hey, Claire. What’s on your mind today?

Claire: Hi. Thank you for taking my call. I have a question about, well, it’s a two-part question about forensic acquittal (theologians use the term “forensic justification” – Tom). We have a local pastor here in town who preaches forensic acquittal and I’m very confused by what he says. I encounter this in RCIA.* So my questions are these: My understanding of forensic acquittal is that when you are saved, God covers your sins, but you are still in your sins and you remain depraved. So then my question is, if that’s correct then doesn’t that belief, in terms of justification, kind of say that, well, Jesus’ saving work wasn’t quite good enough? And my second question, and this is really the question that I’m most concerned about, is if that is an accurate understanding of forensic acquittal, then what exactly does sanctification do? Does it have any effect on the soul or is it just proof of election?

David Anders: Thank you very much, Claire. I really appreciate the question. The doctrine that you have heard from your preacher acquaintance, that doctrine, the way you put it, is an accurate description of what Lutherans believe. It is an accurate description of what Calvinists believe, and of Protestants in general. It is not, however, what Scripture teaches and it is not what the Catholic church teaches. So the doctrine of forensic justification through the imputed righteousness of Jesus, what you articulated, is actually a doctrine that was condemned by the Catholic church at the Council of Trent and no Catholic should believe that doctrine.

For the next four minutes, Anders presents a summarized version of the Catholic doctrine of salvation, which I described above.

I regretfully applaud Anders for his candid honesty in distinguishing between his church’s gospel and the genuine Gospel. Ecumenical evangelical pastors and para-church leaders do a disservice to evangelicals and lost Catholics by embracing the Catholic church with its false gospel as a Christian entitiy.

*The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) – is the year-long course aspiring adults must attend before they can be baptized into the Catholic church.

For more information on the difference between the Catholic and Bible Christian views on justification, see the article below:

Justification: Infused or Imputed Righteousness?

Lent is no match for Super Rodent!

This is the third week of Lent for Roman Catholics. Two weeks ago, I reposted my yearly observation on the inane perplexities of Lenten dietary restrictions; “Is it OK to eat Chicken in a Biskit crackers on Fridays during Lent?” Today, I’m reposting what’s already become another Lenten classic, last year’s “Lent is no match for Super Rodent!”



Most of the topics I write about on this blog are serious matters involving spiritual life and death, but there are occasions when I come across something that can only be categorized as sadly comical. Case in point:

This year, the Catholic church’s Lenten season runs from Wednesday, March 6th to Thursday, April 18th (dates revised for this re-post) and Catholics are strictly forbidden from eating meat on all six of the Fridays during that span under the threat of mortal sin and eternal damnation. But getting down to the nuts and bolts of what actually constitutes “meat” can get a little tricky as I alluded to in the infamous Chicken in a Biskit post (see here).

Well, now we have another very strange twist to this rule regarding obligatory abstention from meat during Lent.

A few days ago, I was listening to the 2/21/18 podcast of the “Called to Communion” Catholic talk radio show. Moderator, Thom Price, and host, David Anders, were discussing Lenten abstinence restrictions and Anders unflinchingly mentioned that Venezuelan Catholics are allowed to eat the meat of a Capybara on Fridays. Capybara? What’s that? Well, it turns out that Capybara (photo above) are the largest living rodent in the world, ranging anywhere from 80 to 150 pounds full grown and they like to hang out near or in water. They are a dietary staple of Central America and some say they taste like pork with a slightly fishy accent. As the tale goes, Padre Sojo, Venezuela’s most influential Catholic cleric at the time, traveled to Rome in 1794 and petitioned pope Leo XII to allow his countrymen to eat the meat of the Capybara during Lent because, he argued, the animal spent so much time in the water that it was more like a fish than a warm-blooded mammal. Remember, fish are okay to eat on Fridays during Lent, but not the meat from mammals or birds. Sojo’s absurd argument evidently made an impression on the credulous pope because he granted his request and actually issued a Papal Bull decreeing that Venezuelans were free to eat Capybara during Lent without incurring a mortal sin.

So Venezuelan Catholics can gorge themselves on Capybara burgers on Lenten Fridays with an absolutely clear conscience, but if an American Catholic takes even one bite of a Big Mac, they are doomed to hell forever!

But this sinner who was freed from the chains of Catholicism and is saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone has a hypothetical question for my Catholic friends. Let’s set aside the current political chaos in Venezuela for a moment and suppose an American Catholic travels down to that country on business during Lent. He’s walking the streets of Caracas on a Friday at noon and smells the wonderful aroma of barbecue in the air. In a few minutes, he discovers the source of the olfactory bliss; a sidewalk food vendor who beckons him over to try some of his smokey barbecued Capybara (known as “Chigüiro” by the natives). The American, mouth watering, declines with noticeable regret, saying in his broken Spanish that he is prohibited from eating meat on Friday during Lent. But the vendor reassures him that the pope himself declared it was okay to eat Capybara in Venezuela during Lent and another native walking by confirms the information. The American then hungrily orders a double-plateful of barbecued Capybara and eats his fill. The next day, the American begins his journey back to the U.S., but his plane crashes and all aboard perish. Which now brings us to our question: Did the American Catholic go to hell for eating Capybara on a Lenten Friday because he was still under the jurisdiction of his American bishop or did Leo XII’s papal bull cover all the bases?

Catholic friend, if you ever get tired of spinning in Catholicism’s legalistic hamster (another rodent) wheel, turn to Jesus Christ. Repent of your sin and ask Jesus Christ to save you by faith in Him alone.

Is Catholicism a false religion? Are Catholics saved?

Postscript: Some may object to my interjection of humor in this discussion, but seriously folks, I couldn’t have come up with this “Capybara dispensation” in my wildest dreams.

In the video below, a food critic tries some barbecued Capybara/Chigüiro:

Dog meets Capybara

Answering the alleged “95 Catholic Verses” – #s 93 & 94: Purgatory and Prayers for the Dead? – Part 3

Today, we will continue with our response to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.

The previous two weeks, we examined the first two passages presented by Armstrong in chapter twelve of his book, in which the Catholic apologist attempts to prove the existence of purgatory and the need to pray for the dead. This week we will examine his final two proof-texts:

#93) 2 Timothy 1:16-18: “16 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiph′orus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, 17 but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me— 18 may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.” (RSVCE)

Beneath the passage, Armstrong writes,“Catholics believe in prayers for the dead, in order to aid them on their journey through purgatory to heaven. In fact, praying for the dead makes sense only if some sort of purgatory or intermediate state is presupposed, because it would be futile to pray for those in hell (prayer cannot help them; it is too late) and unnecessary to pray for those in heaven (they have everything they need). This verse [sic] offers one probable biblical support for this belief.”

Catholics would like to make the case from this passage that Paul is stating Onesiphorus is dead and that he is praying for him, but such an interpretation is self-serving eisegesis. I specifically addressed Catholicism’s misinterpretation of 2 Timothy 1:16-18 in a post last May, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll direct you to that post here.

#94) Acts 9:36-37, 40-41: “Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas or Gazelle…In those days she fell sick and died…But Peter…knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive.” (RSVCE)

Beneath the passage, Armstrong writes, “I readily grant that the example is unusual, because of the uniqueness of praying to raise someone from the dead (as distinguished from a prayer that aids someone in purgatory), and I agree that the Apostles had extraordinary powers of healing, so that this is not exactly a normative state of affairs…Nevertheless, it seems indisputable that here St. Peter literally prayed for a dead person, as far as that goes – which Protestants say is not permitted by, and supposedly not recorded in, the Bible.” – pp. 174-175.

Armstrong is shamelessly engaging here in some theological slight-of-hand. From the outset, he readily admits that the passage does not support the notion of praying for the dead in purgatory. But he says the passage is valuable because it refutes the alleged Protestant belief that prayers for a dead person are nowhere permitted in the Bible. I’ve read or listened to many Catholic apologists over the years, but the above may be the most blatant example of irresponsible apologetic chicanery I’ve ever seen. Armstrong is presenting a straw man fallacy and claiming victory where there is no victory.  Bible Christians are certainly familiar with the above passage in which Peter prays to God on behalf of Tabitha and raises her from the dead. We are also familiar with other passages in the Bible in which the dead are raised. We believe God gave prophets and apostles the ability to raise people from the dead and we fully believe and accept all of those passages, none of which give ANY support to the Catholic doctrine of praying for dead souls in purgatory!!!

After examining the four passages Armstrong presents as proof-texts for purgatory and praying for the dead, we can very safely say that we are not “confounded.” For more information on the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, see the article below:

What does the Bible say about Purgatory?

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 3/16/19

Well, we could see this one coming. In a Gallup poll released this past week, thirty-seven percent of American Catholics say they are uncertain whether they should remain in the Roman church. With the pedophile priests and cover-up scandal turning into a tsunami over the last ten months and reaching up to the highest echelons of the hierarchy, the average Catholic layperson is wondering to some degree why they should remain in the church. Pray for these souls, that in this time of despair and confusion, many will be led to Jesus Christ and the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone and come out of the Roman church with its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.

Above are two articles written by Roman Catholics who are deeply despairing over the “sorry state” of their institutional religion. There is a Rock who never disappoints. His name is Jesus Christ. Accept Him as Savior by faith alone and leave Catholicism.

I’m not a fan of Pete Davidson or SNL, but the young comedian spoke truth. The Catholic church doesn’t have the credibility to “demand” apologies from ANYONE who references its abuse and cover-up scandal.

Here’s a likely pair. Two peas from the same anti-Scriptural pod.

As I’ve noted over the years, the Catholic archdiocese of New York City and the diocese of Peoria, Illinois have been fighting over the cadaver of archbishop, Fulton J. Sheen, since he died in 1979. Sheen was a pioneering media apologist for Catholicism and will certainly be canonized as a “saint” once the tug-of-war ends. Sheen was “ordained” a priest in Peoria, but is famous for his radio and television shows out of NYC. The bishops of both dioceses want the future shrine to this “saint” to be located in their respective back yards. Peoria has won the latest round, but New York says the battle isn’t over. So silly and anti-Biblical.

Blasphemous comic book series, “Second Coming,” was cancelled by DC Comics, but the creators have found a new publisher. Yes, Satan is the ruler of this world.

Today, here in Rochester, they’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day (which is officially* tomorrow, Sunday, March 17th) with another parade. While the day was historically an opportunity for Irish-Americans to show their ethnic and Catholic pride, it’s been largely transformed into an annual secular celebration, mainly of hooping it up at a parade and chasing down corned beef and cabbage with several green beers or Guinness. St. Patty’s Day is about as serious as religion gets for a very large percentage of Catholics these days. *Many would be surprised to learn that Patrick has never been officially canonized as a “saint” by the Roman church.

Last Sunday, I posted that the Rochester Catholic diocese had notified the “independent” arbitrator it had appointed to review sexual abuse claims, that it desired to participate in the review of future claims and the awarding of settlements. Realizing that it had forfeited any modicum of credibility, the diocese has now scuttled the program entirely. The only option now open to abuse survivors is to sue the diocese in civil court. Is this a “church” or an asbestos manufacturer?

Funny stuff! Whether or not to lend your “like” to an iffy post can be serious business.

Feminism fractures the Legion

Yes, blogging friends, it’s time once again to climb into our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“The Mutiny of the Super-Heroines!”
Adventure Comics #368, May, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan
Cover art: Neal Adams

In some of the previous Legion story-lines that we’ve reviewed, writer Jim Shooter indirectly alluded to some of the hot-button issues of the late-Sixties, including civil rights, the Vietnam War, and the environment. With this story, Shooter takes a look at the rising feminism of that era.


Karate Kid and Superboy are engaged in some manly, physical sparring when they’re summoned to the Legion control room along with Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Invisible Kid, Light Lass, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Supergirl, and Ultra Boy. The team is dispatched to the Metropolis Spaceport where a spaceship carrying an alien ambassador has crashed. The heroes are able to rescue the diplomat who turns out to be…huh…a woman!?!?!? Unbelievable! Thora, an emissary from the planet Taltor, is likewise surprised the Legion and United Planets government have male leaders since her world is an absolute matriarchy. The heroes return to their headquarters and in the girl’s dorm, Dream Girl, Princess Projectra, and Shadow Lass join the other heroines in discussing the novelty of a matriarchal society.

In the meantime, Thora deviously creates statuettes of the female Legionnaires and, by exposing the icons to radiation from her power bracelet, she is somehow able to correspondingly increase the girl’s super powers. In a couple of subsequent crime-fighting events, the girls seriously outperform the boys. Brainiac 5 quarantines the females to study the phenomenon, while Thora amps ups the volume on the changes to the girls, including mind control and the impartation of an increasingly resentful attitude.

When the boys run into trouble responding to a prison breakout, the girls leave their confinement and come to their aid. But rather than being grateful for their help, the Legion’s leader, Invisible Kid, orders the gals back to quarantine. Fed up with the boys’ chauvinistic and patronizing attitudes, the girls give them a thorough thrashing and expel them from the Legion. Thora satisfyingly contemplates the success of the initial phase of her plan to use the powerful heroines to transform Earth into a matriarchy. However, while the other girls have been thoroughly brainwashed by the ambassador, Supergirl seems to have some misgivings about turning against her boyfriend, Brainiac 5.

The ousted male members must resort to using a Legion spacecruiser as their headquarters. When they’re summoned to several emergencies, the girls must once again bail the boys out with their superior powers. Supergirl then gratefully presents Thora with a bracelet charm as a token of appreciation for her guidance. Suddenly, the male members storm the Legion headquarters, saying they’re wise to Thora’s scheme. The ambassador orders the female heroes to kill the boys, but her power bracelet suddenly explodes, freeing the girls from the grip of Thora’s mind control. Supergirl’s gift was actually a tiny bomb. Jolted back to full-cognizance by the thought of harming Brainiac 5, Supergirl had uncovered Thora’s plot and worked with the boys to bring her down. Defeated and humiliated, the dignitary bites down on an empty tooth filled with poison, ending her life (Note from Tom – biting down on a poison-filled tooth seems so 007-ish and so out of place in the 30th-century).


This story is undoubtedly Shooter’s reaction to the rise of radical feminism in the 1960s. As we’ve seen in the previous twenty-two stories that we’ve reviewed, the male Legionnaire characters are decisively more powerful than the females (except for Supergirl who is rarely featured) and much more apt to be portrayed as the decision-makers. The characterizations reflected the prevailing culture of that time.

The roles of men and women in society have changed dramatically in the fifty years since “The Mutiny of the Super-Heroines!” was published. Some of that change was positive and absolutely necessary, while some changes have wreaked havoc, including the genocide of thirty million female babies (and thirty million male babies) in the U.S.A. alone via legalized abortion. In our foundationless culture, even gender can no longer be taken for granted these days. The “battle of the sexes” has become an anachronism with the advance of gender theory.

UPDATE: “Jesus Saves” billboard changed to advertisement for fish fry in time for Lent

Back on February 21st, I posted about the mammoth “Jesus Saves” billboard (photo left) that sat along Route 490, the busiest interstate highway in Greater Rochester, New York. See the post here.

While I was driving to work two weeks ago, I noticed that the billboard had been changed. What new advertisement had gone up in place of “Jesus Saves”? I’ll give you a clue: Rochester has a large Catholic population and Lent began last week. That’s right, a new billboard went up advertising local fast-food restaurant chain, Bill Grays, and its self-proclaimed “Rochester’s Best Fish Fry” (photo right).

Fish fries on Fridays are hugely popular here in Rochester because of the large Catholic population. Prior to 1966, Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays throughout the entire year under threat of soul-damning mortal sin. But after 1966, the obligatory abstention was lifted by the U.S. Catholic bishops EXCEPT for Fridays during Lent. For more historical background, see my post on the subject here.

Isn’t it quite ironic that a billboard proclaiming that “Jesus Saves” with a reference to John 3:16 is followed by an advertisement seeking to profit off of Catholic legalism? It reminds me of how the simple Gospel of the early church was gradually institutionalized into sacramental ritualism and legalism.

Postscript: I had taken the photo of the “Jesus Saves” billboard one-handed with my iPhone through the windshield as I was driving my car at 60 mph. Very dumb. For the photo of the Bill Gray’s fish fry billboard, I exited the expressway, drove through the city neighborhood to as close to the billboard as possible, parked the car and took the photo. Much safer that way and much better quality.

A photo of Bill Gray’s fish fry plate, which includes a piece of fried haddock, french fries, a roll, and cole slaw for $13.69. Haddock ain’t cheap, folks.

Catholic apologist says you can and must achieve spiritual perfection in order to merit Heaven

There’s all kinds of questions out there in the world, but I would argue that the most important question is, “How does a person get to Heaven?” Bible Christians would quickly and confidently answer, according to Scripture, that we are all hopeless sinners and the only way to Heaven is by repenting of sin and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. Evangelical Christians may disagree on various secondary beliefs, but we can agree that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. We have no righteousness of our own, but it is the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ that is imputed to us when we accept Him as Savior that alone justifies us before a Holy God.

However, Roman Catholics unabashedly DO NOT believe the above. They claim without equivocation that salvation is through the administration of their church’s sacraments followed by obedience to the Ten Commandments and church rules aka merit. The Roman church teaches its members that they must become subjectively and intrinsically holy enough, via its sacraments and good works, to merit heaven.

These two views are irreconcilable. One is Jesus-based and one is self-based. One is right and one is wrong. They cannot both be right.

Two weeks ago, I was listening to Catholic talk radio, and a segment vividly illustrated the Catholic view on salvation:

Called to Communion – EWTN Radio
Moderator: Thom Price, Director of EWTN radio programming
Host: David Anders, Catholic apologist (photo above)
Episode 2/20/19 beginning at the 44:00 mark:

Thom Price: “Here’s (an email) from Mark: ‘Recently I’ve been thinking about the purpose of striving for holiness. By nature, we’re all sinners and the only way any of us are going to get to heaven is by the mercy and grace of God. But that being said, what is the point of striving for holiness when we’re always going to fall short?’”

How would you answer Mark’s question, evangelical Christian? Let’s see how Catholic apologist, David Anders answered.

David Anders: “Okay. Well, actually, the Catholic faith teaches that we’re not always going to fall short. We’re not always necessarily going to fall short. And the aim of Christian life is perfection. Jesus Christ says, ‘Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.’ And we have a doctrine of Christian perfection. And some attain it and they are called saints. The canonized saints achieved Christian perfection before they died. That’s why they’re saints. They exhibited heroic charity and the form of Christian perfection is charity. So it’s possible. It’s not easy.”

Catholicism shares many terms and phrases with Bible Christianity, but its basically a religion of works. When a Catholic mentions “grace,” “faith,” and “Jesus the Savior,” they mean something entirely different than from what a Bible Christian understands. Poor Catholic souls, like Mark, are on a religious treadmill of constantly, constantly, constantly trying to merit their salvation, but there is no assurance in that as he admits. Their hope is in their own efforts, NOT in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” – Romans 10:1-4

For more information on the false gospel of striving to be good enough to merit heaven, see the article below:

What does the Bible say about perfectionism?

Postscript 1: Catholicism invented purgatory as a safety-net for those who allegedly have no major/mortal unconfessed sin on their soul at the moment of death, but are still not quite perfect.

Postscript 2: Ecumenical evangelicals should spend a little time studying what Catholicism actually teaches before embracing it as a Christian entity.

Answering the alleged “95 Catholic Verses” – #92: Purgatory and Prayers for the Dead? – Part 2

Today, we will continue with our response to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.

Last week, we examined the first passage presented by Armstrong in chapter twelve of his book, in which the Catholic apologist attempts to prove the existence of purgatory and the need to pray for the dead. This week we will continue by examining his next alleged proof-text:

#92) 1 Corinthians 15:29: “Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?” (RSVCE)

Armstrong begins his analysis by stating that “many Protestant commentators think this is one of the most obscure passages in the New Testament, even the single most mysterious passage.” He then turns to the interpretation of the verse by Francis de Sales (1567-1622), Catholic bishop of Geneva, Switzerland and canonized saint. De Sales wrote, “This passage properly understood evidently shows that it was the custom of the primitive church to watch, pray, fast, for the souls of the departed. For, firstly, in the Scriptures to be baptized is often taken for afflictions and penances; as in St. Luke chapter 12 [12:50]…and in St. Mark chapter 10 [10:38-39]…in which places our Lord calls pains and afflictions baptism…This, then is the sense of that Scripture; if the dead rise not again, what is the use of mortifying and afflicting one-self, of praying and fasting for the dead? And indeed this sentence of St. Paul resembles that of 2 Maccabees 12:44: ‘It is superfluous and vain to pray for the dead if the dead rise not again.'” – pp. 163-164

1 Corinthians 15:29 is certainly one of the most difficult verses in the New Testament to interpret. As Armstrong states, there are several interpretations from Protestant commentators, but he is also fully aware that there is not a consensus on the meaning of this verse among Catholic commentators, either.*

Regarding this verse, evangelical pastor, John MacArthur, writes, “A reasonable view seems to be that ‘they…who are baptized’ refers to living believers who give outward testimony to their faith in baptism by water because they were first drawn to Christ by the exemplary lives, faithful influence, and witness of believers who had subsequently died. Paul’s point is that if there is no resurrection and no life after death, then why are people coming to Christ to follow the hope of those who have died?” – pp.1607-1608, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, 2005.

Evangelical pastor, J. Vernon McGee, writes of this verse, “We have already learned that the word ‘baptize’ means identification with someone or something. In this case Paul is speaking of identification as a dead person. He asks, ‘What shall they accomplish which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?’ Why are they then baptized for the dead? This does not imply that the Corinthians believers were being baptized for their dead relatives or friends, it means they were baptized or identified with Jesus Christ – who had died for them and He was now risen from the dead. They were dead to the world but were alive to Christ.” – p. 77, Thru the Bible with Vernon McGee, Vol. V.

So “being baptized on behalf of the dead” in this verse could be interpreted as following the example of the faithful believers who passed on or following the example of Christ Jesus, Himself. De Sale’s interpretation of identifying “baptism” in this case with “watch(ing), pray(ing), and fast(ing) for the souls of the departed” in purgatory is painfully tortuous eisegesis.

As for de Sales’s reference to 2 Maccabees, that book is part of the Apocrypha and those books were never considered to be part of the canon of Scripture by the Jews of Palestine. But Catholics do accept the Apocrypha as Scripture and consider 2 Maccabees 12:39-45 to be their primary Scriptural proof-text for their doctrine of purgatory. However, the dead soldiers who are referred to in the passage were gross idolaters because they wore amulets of pagan gods into battle. Catholics recognize that idolatry is a mortal sin and so those dead soldiers would not have qualified for purgatory according to Catholicism’s own teaching. It’s ironic that Armstrong used a painting of Jerome for the cover of this book. Jerome, the translator of the Septuagint, did not accept the Apocrypha as Scripture.

Next week, we’ll examine the final two passages Armstrong presents as his proof texts for purgatory and praying for the dead.

*The Roman Catholic church claims its pope is infallible when declaring dogmatic teaching. However, it’s very interesting that, to date, only seven passages of Scripture have been defined by the Catholic magisterium. Yup, that’s right. Only SEVEN passages in 1500 years! Why doesn’t pope Francis sit upon the “throne of Peter” and give us the precise, “infallible” meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:29?

Postscript: Mormons use 1 Corinthians 15:29 as their basis for baptizing by proxy non-Mormon dead into their religion. Your dead relatives of recent generations (and increasingly older generations as Mormon church employees continue to research birth and obituary records) were assuredly baptized by proxy into Mormonism at a Mormon temple.

Weekend Roundup Update – Bad faith: Rochester diocese reneges on victim compensation process

I don’t normally publish posts on Sundays, but this news update is important.

Back in June of 2018, the Catholic diocese of Rochester, N.Y. (I live in a suburb of Rochester) had retained retired judge, Robert Lunn, to review the claims of victims of childhood sexual abuse by priests and recommend cash settlements if warranted. It was stated that Lunn’s deliberations would be independent of diocesan interference. To date, Justice Lunn has reviewed and deemed as credible the claims of six victims, recommending the diocese pay out cash settlements ranging from $75,000 to $125,000.

According to the news story below, the Rochester diocese has now requested that the process be changed mid-stream. The diocese has asked to meet with Lunn to review each additional claim prior to an assessment and settlement recommendation.

I propose that, with the recent passing of state legislation that expands recourse for victims of childhood sexual abuse, the diocese anticipates a larger-than-expected number of claims and, with bankruptcy a real possibility, is seeking to limit its exposure.

This change certainly does not reflect well on the diocese, but as the article states, victims can reject the diocese’s process altogether and sue the church in civil court.

Discord in diocese’s settlement program for sex abuse survivors