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A Conversation : A Fourth Response - Mr. John Martignoni
Mr. Martignoni responds to Mr. Walker's comments. It is a direct response, rather that injecting his comments into Mr. Walker's e-mail. He does quote from the previous e-mail, however, Mr. Martignoni goes into greater detail and expounds his views in contrast with Mr. Walker's stated beliefs.

Dear Pastor Walker,

I would have to say that, overall, you simply are not understanding the thrust of my arguments. I will assume responsibility for most, but not all, of the misunderstanding and seek to do a better job of clarifying my position. I say that I will accept “most” of the responsibility because I believe some of the misunderstanding comes from preconceived biases against the Catholic Faith on your part.

You speak of starting from scratch without preconceived notions when it comes to building one’s theology and doctrines, so I would simply ask the same of you when it comes to Catholics and what it is we believe and practice. You look at our Faith through what are, essentially, Protestant lenses and with an essentially Protestant understanding, rather than attempting to view our Faith through the eyes of a Catholic and with Catholic understanding.

It’s as if you went to a “football” game in Italy, expecting to see and hear things in a certain way, only to find them playing a game (soccer) that didn’t fit with your definition of football. So, you set about telling them that they’re not playing football in the right way and how they’ve gotten all the rules wrong and so on. Instead of realizing that they use the term “football” to mean one thing, and you use it to mean another, you try to force your definitions and your rules and your understanding onto their practice and their language and their understanding. Now, this is not a perfect analogy, but basically what you’re doing is taking your rules and applying them to our game. And when we don’t play by your rules, you condemn us to Hell.

And please don’t respond with, “It’s not my rules, it’s the rules of Jesus Christ as found in the Scriptures. I’m just going by what it says in the Scriptures.” No, you are not going by what it says in Scripture. You are actually going by your interpretation of the words of Scripture, but yours is an interpretation that is not grounded in anything other than your own understanding of the Bible, as you freely admit in your response to me; and your understanding of Scripture, and thereby your interpretation of Scripture, is fallible – as you also readily admit.

And relying on your own interpretation can lead you into a great deal of trouble. In my last email, I asked you if you were “seeking God.” I asked because you were interpreting Rom 3:23 (“since ALL have sinned…”) as an absolute statement and were thereby using it to “prove,” from Scripture, that Mary was a sinner. So, I asked you if you seek God, because in Rom 3:11 it says that, “NO ONE seeks for God.” I wanted to see if you thought Rom 3:11 should be interpreted as an absolute as well. I thought that there was no way you, as a Christian pastor, would claim not to be seeking God and I could then show that you were being inconsistent – interpreting Rom 3:23 as an absolute but not interpreting Rom 3:11 as an absolute.

But, you surprised me. When I asked if you were seeking God, you responded as follows: “I am not. I would say this is impossible, while living in this body of sin. We are in a constant battle with the flesh, and our hearts are always set on evil. (Romans 7) I would not presume to say that I am living this out, nor can I accept that you are. Especially when scripture tells us that no one does…So we can not say that we are really seeking God, especially when God say that no one does.”

Pastor, your preconceived bias about Catholic teaching on Mary has led you astray here because in order to be consistent in your interpretation of Scripture, and not to concede my point, you have to interpret not only Rom 3:23 in an absolute manner, you have to also interpret Rom 3:11 in an absolute manner. You are at least consistent, but you are consistent in error. By the way, you must not fear God either, because Rom 3:18 says, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Do you not fear God, Pastor Walker?

Imagine, a Christian pastor who says he does not seek God! Is your interpretation of Rom 3:11, which states that ABSOLUTELY no one seeks God, consistent with the rest of the Scriptures, though? Let’s see.

Deut 4:29 – “But from there [the land of Israel] you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him, if you search after Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

1 Chron 16:10-11 – “Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His presence continually!”

2 Chron 11:16 – “And those who had set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel…”

Ezra 8:22 – “The hand of our God is for good upon all that seek Him…”

Psalm 9:10 – “For Thou, O Lord, hast not forsaken those who seek Thee.”

Prov 28:5 – “...but those who seek the Lord understand it [justice] completely.”

Amos 5:4 – “For thus says the Lord…’Seek me and live.’”

Zeph 2:3 – “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land who do His commands.”

Matt 6:33 – “But seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness…”

Matt 7:7-8 – “Seek and you shall find…for he who seeks finds.”

Heb 11:6 – “For whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”

There are many more passages that I could have cited, but these will suffice to show that your interpretation, Pastor Walker, of Rom 3:11 is inconsistent with the rest of the Scriptures. There are plenty of folks throughout the Scriptures who are seeking God. Scripture commands us to seek God! Yet, you say “I am not” seeking God. Your answer that you do not seek God is rather damning. 2 Chron 14:13, “And that whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death.”

In other words, Pastor, your interpretation of Rom 3:11, and thereby the rest of Romans 3, is not in line with the Word of God. And, if you have so badly interpreted these passages, whose to say you haven’t done the same with many others? Your answer, “I am not,” to my question as to whether or not you are seeking God, speaks to the terrible bind you put yourself in when you rely on your own fallible understanding of Scripture. As Proverbs 3:5 says, “Lean not unto your own understanding.” Yet, that is exactly what you are doing. And your understanding has led you to believe and teach things that are contrary to the Scriptures, as I’ve just shown. For a Christian pastor to admit that he is NOT seeking God, is absolutely bizarre!

You said, “My beliefs are directly taken from scripture, from my own study and from the Holy Spirit.” In other words, you rely on no one other than yourself for your interpretations of Scripture. Yet, in an earlier email, you stated that the writings of the early Christians were important, as they give one insight into the mind of the Church in those early centuries. But, in reality you don’t give a hoot about what the early Christians said and what the mind of the Church was in the early centuries, or in any century, of Christianity, do you? You rely on your interpretation, and yours alone, to arrive at what you believe to be the truth.

You say that you take your beliefs from the Holy Spirit as well as from your own study of Scripture, but how is that so? Is the Holy Spirit guiding you in all of your interpretations of Scripture? If He is, then why do you admit to being fallible when it comes to interpreting Scripture and why do you admit that you could be wrong in some of your interpretations and that I could be right? Being fallible in your interpretation of Scripture, and admitting to the possibility of being wrong in your interpretation of Scripture, are incompatible with being guided by the Holy Spirit, are they not? Is the Holy Spirit fallible? Can He get His interpretations of Scripture wrong? Plus, can you show me, in the Bible, where it says that we are to rely solely upon our own study of Scripture in order to decide for ourselves on matters of faith and morals? Where, and please give chapter and verse, is your doctrine of self-interpretation of the Scriptures…without relying on any outside authority…where is that taught in the Bible?

And, if the Holy Spirit is not guiding you in all of your interpretations of Scripture, then we can rightly say that your interpretations are man-made, can we not? Or, if you claim that the Holy Spirit is guiding you some of the time but not all of the time, why is He not guiding you all of the time? And, how do you know when He is guiding you and when He’s not?

So, to sum up this portion of my arguments, you admit that you rely on your own understanding, and no one else’s, when it comes to interpreting the Bible. Yet, you also admit that you are not seeking God. You further admit that you are fallible in your interpretations of Scripture, and that you could be wrong and I could be right when it comes to interpreting certain passages of the Bible. So, my question to you is, given all that you have here freely admitted, by what authority do you declare my interpretations wrong and yours right? If you could be wrong, as you have admitted, then that means the Catholic Church could be right on some of the doctrinal matters that you currently disagree with, couldn’t it? How then can you, as a Pastor, teach people regarding what the Word of God says when you admit that you could be teaching them error…that you could be leading them astray? Do you think, “Well, there’s a 99% chance that I’m righ t,” or some such thing? You are, in essence, gambling the souls of those in your flock on your fallible, and possibly wrong, interpretations of the Bible.

Now, as to what you stated about building the Church from Scripture. Again, my question, which came first, the Church or the Bible? The Church came first. So, we have historical precedence for building the Scripture from the Church, but not for building the Church from Scripture. But, as I will show, you do not really even build your church from Scripture.

Did not the members of the early church hold all things in common (Acts 2:44)? Does your church do that? Did not the early church call councils to resolve doctrinal disputes instead of consulting the Bible (Acts 15)? Does your church do that? Did not the early church have leaders who said that we could know the spirit of truth from the spirit of error by listening to what they said…not by reading the Bible on our own (John 4:6)? Does your church have such leaders? Did not the early church believe in the Word of God in both written and oral form (1 Thes 2:13; 2 Thes 2:15)? Does your church do that? Did the early church not build its doctrine and theology on both written and oral tradition? Does your church do that? Did not the early church have leaders – Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons – who were ordained by the Apostles or whose line of ordination could be traced back to the Apostles. Does your church have such leaders?

In other words, Pastor Walker, your church is not really built on the Bible as you claim it is. It is built on a hollowed out version of the church we find in the Scriptures. In your church, as you have admitted, the members of the church choose and ordain their pastor. Where in the Bible does it relate such a thing happening? By whose authority were you ordained a pastor? Where did that authority come from? How far back can you trace your line of ordination? 25 years? 50 years? 150 years? You freely admit that there is no such thing as apostolic succession in your church…how then can you claim your church is the church founded by Jesus Christ? Wouldn’t the church of Jesus Christ be able to trace its line of authority all the way back to Jesus and His Apostles?

Now regarding my questions about who wrote Mark. I do not have a misconception about what you believe. I never said you think that truth can only be found in the Bible. My argument is that you do not really build your theology and doctrines on the Bible alone, but on the Bible and some other authority outside of the Bible. You claim not to have preconceived notions, yet your assumption that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God is a preconceived notion. You came to the Bible with that belief already in place. You came to the Bible with the preconceived notion that we should only rely on the Bible for building our theology and doctrines. You came to the Bible with the preconceived notion that every one of the individual books of the Bible is rightfully in the Bible and is to be considered the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Even though the Bible nowhere tells us we should build our doctrines and theology based on the Bible alone and nowhere tells us which books should and should not be considered Scripture. Do you deny these things?

Let’s look again at my questions and then at your answers. I asked the following 3 questions: 1) Who wrote Mark? 2) Was the writer of Mark inspired by the Holy Spirit? 3) Where, in the Bible, does it give us the list of which books should be in the Bible?

You answered as follows: 1) The Holy Spirit, through a man. 2 Peter 1:21; 2) Yes, 2 Timothy 3:16; 3) It doesn’t.

With all due respect but you didn’t really answer my first two questions. The Holy Spirit did indeed write the Gospel of Mark through a man, but how do you know, and which man did He write it through? Who told you? Does the Bible tell you these things? No, it does not. So, how do you know? What authority do you rely upon to tell you that Mark is inspired Scripture? Plus, when you say that 2 Tim 3:16 tells you that the writer of Mark was inspired by the Holy Spirit because it says all Scripture is inspired by God, this is a beautiful piece of circular reasoning. You say not to bring preconceived notions to the table when building one’s doctrines and theology, yet that is exactly what you do. You assume Mark is Scripture, and then you say that 2 Tim 3:16 says all of Scripture is inspired of God; therefore, Mark is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

How do you know 2 Timothy is inspired by the Holy Spirit? Who testifies to this fact? The Bible cannot be its own witness. If you allow the Bible to be its own witness, then you must allow the Koran to be its own witness, unless of course you’re starting with preconceived notions as to the inspiration of the Bible.

With all due respect, but you talk about not bringing preconceived notions, and when I take you up on this, and start the conversation with the question of how do you know the Bible is indeed inspired Scripture…you all of a sudden stick hard and fast to your preconceived notions. I know that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God because of the testimony of the Church. I know that the 73 books of the Bible are the ones that belong there – no more and no less – because of the testimony and the authority of the Church. In other words, I know these things because of the Traditions that have been passed down in the church.

But, you have stated that we must begin with the Bible to build our theology. We must begin with the Bible to develop our doctrine. So, is it part of your doctrine or not, that the Gospel of Mark is inspired Scripture? I believe you will say that it is. But, if you are building your doctrine from Scripture – starting from acratch as you say – where in Scripture does it say, “The Gospel of Mark is inspired Scripture?”

In your reply to me, you speak of “testing” the books of Scripture to know that they are indeed Scripture. You say that, if we know Genesis is the truth, then we can test Exodus against Genesis to see that it is the truth, and then we can test Leviticus against Exodus to see if it is the truth and so on. Really? The first problem with that is, where does it say this in Scripture? What tests does the Scripture give us for Exodus and the other books based on Genesis? The second problem is that you have a preconceived assumption that Genesis is the inspired Word of God. Well, again, who told you this? What authority do you rely upon to know that Genesis is the inspired Word of God? Next, please give me an example of how you can “test” Exodus by Genesis to prove that Exodus is inspired of God? With all due respect, but that’s just a bunch of jibberish.

The truth is, Pastor Walker, as you have readily admitted with your answer to my third question above, that you rely on some authority outside of the Bible, in order to have the Bible in the first place. On the one hand, you admit that the Bible doesn’t tell you which books should be in the Bible, yet on the other hand you say we should build our doctrines from the Bible alone. Yet, you are relying upon someone or something, other than the Bible, in order to even have a Bible! You say that nothing outside of the Bible can be trusted in regards to determining what is and is not truth, yet you rely on something outside the Bible to give you the Bible – which you claim is the basis of all your religious truth. So, the basis of all of your doctrines – the Bible – is dependent upon, built upon, some unnamed source that is not at all trustworthy, because it’s not the Bible.

But, as you’ve stated, you can’t even trust the writings of the early Christians for doctrinal matters, right? Oh, to be sure, there is truth outside of the Bible, but it’s not something that can necessarily be relied upon for building doctrines and theology. Only the Bible can be relied upon for that. But where did you get your Bible from?! You start with a preconceived notion, based on something other than the Bible, to believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Yet, you say your doctrines and theology come only from the Bible! I don’t think so.

Furthermore, you say over and over again that there is truth outside of the Bible, yet you do not allow for even the possibility that Mary could have been assumed into Heaven, do you!? The Bible does not say she was, but it does not say she wasn’t. In other words, from a purely scriptural point of view, it’s an open question. So, you admit to there being truth outside of the Bible, the Bible is silent on the Assumption of Mary, yet you do not admit to the possibility of Mary being assumed into Heaven. You also admit that you are fallible and could be wrong on these matters, but then you say it’s not possible that Mary could have been assumed into Heaven. With all due respect, but you seem to be talking out of both sides of your mouth on this particular matter.

In your response to me, you talked about a person being on a deserted island and that if they had a Bible to go by, they could build a replica of the early church. My question is, if someone was on a deserted island, and they found a Bible, and they had no preconceived beliefs about this book, what would make them believe that this is the inspired, inerrant Word of God? “Oh, look, a book washed up on shore…it must be the inspired Word of God!” Don’t think so. So, why do you believe it is what you believe it is?

Now, I asked you some questions about your authority: 1) Since you are not infallible, could your interpretations of the meaning of certain Scriptures be wrong? 2) By what authority do you hold your interpretations of certain Scripture verses, for example James 2:24 and 2:26 to be right and mine to be wrong? 3) If a man says he has faith, and has not works, can his faith alone save him? Yes or no? 4) Please give me the meaning of the analogy drawn by the Holy Spirit in James 2:26. Are both faith and works necessary for life, just as both the body and the spirit are necessary for life? Yes or no.

These were your answers: 1) Of course; 2) By the authority of the whole of James and scripture. You can not just twist and distort a few passages and teach another gospel. Again we have to read it in context and be honest as to what it is saying and then interpret it with other scripture; 3) Faith alone does not save, but Grace alone does. God has made his grace available through faith, but even that is from God. Faith is not saying that you believe, or even knowing that God exists, it is being FULLY persuaded that God’s word is truth and living it out. 4) I think you may be confused, because you speak as if you can have faith and not live it. You can have works, but not have faith though. Matthew 7:22-23

I want to quickly mention just a few things here: 1) You admit your interpretations could be wrong. Yet, you persist in teaching others, and you persist in trying to persuade me that what you teach is right. You say you are fallible, yet you dispute with me as if you are infallible. How so? 2) I have read all of James, and I find my interpretation of James 2:24 and James 2:26 to be consistent with all of James 2 and all the rest of James and the rest of the New Testament and all of the Bible. By what authority do you say otherwise? The letter of James is a book, it cannot speak. If there is a dispute over what James really means, who decides the dispute? And, since you have already admitted that you could be wrong in your interpretations, how can you then assert that you’re right on this one and I am wrong? Again, you say things that I don’t believe you really mean. You say you’re fallible in your interpretations, but you certainly don’t act like you are.

3) Catholics believe we are saved by grace alone. You quote Ephesians 2:8 – 9, but we quote Eph 2:8-10. Grace alone saves us, but it is faith and works that keeps us there. In John 15:1-6, Jesus is the vine, Christians are the branches. How did the branch become a branch…by something it did? No. Solely by the action of the vine. How does the branch abide in the vine? By producing fruit. Does it produce fruit all by itself? Absolutely not! But, it cooperates in the process with the nourishment (grace) given to it by the vine. And, if it stops cooperating with the grace received from the vine, and doesn’t produce fruit (good works), then it is cut off from the vine (salvation is lost). Grace alone saves, but faith and works are both necessary to abide in that salvation. So says the Bible. Find me a passage on judgment that says we are saved by our faith, without works?

4) I am not confused, because the Bible states that you can have faith without works, but it states that such faith is dead. James 2:26, if you have the body (faith), but you do not have the spirit (works), does that mean you don’t have a body? No, it means you have a dead body. When you say that faith without works really means one doesn’t have faith, you are bringing another one of your preconceived notions to this discussion. You state in your response about the demons believing, but not being saved. Scripture doesn’t say that that means the demons don’t really believe, it says they believe, but they did not do…so they were not saved. The believing part is there, the works part isn’t. Faith and works…by the grace of God. James does not say that faith without works is not really faith, as you try to make him say, he says it is dead! Stop putting words in the mouths of the Scripture writers! Stop adding to the Bible not ions that are not found in the Bible!

James 2:26 – “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, faith without works is not really faith?” No! That’s not what it says, because that is a bad analogy. The body without the spirit is still a body…but it’s a dead one. There is no life in it. Faith without works is still faith…but it’s dead. Please give me your interpretation of this verse (James 2:26)!? You’ve avoided doing so the last two times I’ve asked. What is the analogy, in your opinion, that is being made here? Is the body without the spirit not really a body? If you died at this moment and your spirit left your body, does that mean your body wasn’t really there to begin with? What a ridiculous notion! Yet, that is exactly the meaning you are trying to foist upon James.

Eph 2:10 – God has prepared works for us beforehand that we should walk in them. My question to you is: If we don’t do these works, which are the will of God for us to do, can we be saved? Yes or no?

I could spend hours and many, many pages responding to your last email, but I wish to only mention a couple of other things since I’ve gone on so long already. I will be happy to visit, at a future time, some of the things that I am not responding directly to, but I wish to narrow the focus of our discussion a little bit further with this email. Because I think we are zeroing in on the heart of the matter with the above discussion.

First of all, you stated that the Old Testament Scriptures were “well established” or some such thing in the time of Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth. Are you not aware that the Sadduccees only accepted the first 5 books of the Old Testament as scripture? Plus, the Essenes had a different canon of Scripture than did the Pharisees. The Samaritans had a separate canon as well. And, are you not also aware that inside and outside of Israel, many Greek-speaking Jews accepted the Septuagint – with the 7 books of the deuterocanon – as Scripture? You really do need to do more study on these matters.

Another point: you again state that Catholic doctrine has changed, yet you nowhere give an example. The Immaculate Conception being declared a dogma is not a change in doctrine. The Pope’s declaration was simply a definitive statement that this belief is of God. It simply settled the matter in the case of any doubt anyone may have held. It’s a way to settle any argument once and for all. Again, you show your ignorance of Catholic teaching and practice with such a statement. And, regarding the Inquisition, again you show your ignorance of Catholic teaching and of history. May I suggest you acquire a little booklet off the internet entitled, “Why Apologize for the Spanish Inquisition.” I think it will enlighten you a good bit. It quotes mostly non-Catholic sources to give a more accurate historical picutre of the Inquisition then what you seem to have.

Regarding praying to the saints, there is nothing against this practice in the Bible. We are not “consulting” soothsayers and necromancers and mediums and wizards which the Bible does indeed proscribe. We are speaking to the living members of the Body of Christ. Tell me please, where does the Bible say, “Thou art not to ask for intercessory prayers from the members of Christ’s Body who live in Heaven?” You say that asking the saints in Heaven for prayer is the same as speaking to the dead. Yet, Jesus says that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are living. So, when I claim that Catholics are not talking to the dead when we ask the saints in Heaven to intercede for us, do you deny Jesus by saying that they are indeed dead rather than alive?

You talked about Abraham and the fact that his circumcision did not save him. My question for you is, could he have been saved if he had refused to be circumcised?

Regarding Mary. You stated: “Mary was a sinner who needed a savior. She says it and the whole of scripture affirms that all have sinned. Please tell me where Mary says she was a sinner? She says she needed a savior, but she did not say she had sinned. Again, you add words to Scripture to get it to fit your preconceived notions. I have never been an alcoholic or a drug addict. May I rightly claim that Jesus saved me from being an alcoholic or a drug addict? Just so, could God have saved Mary before she was ever stained with sin? Yes or no? And, if He had saved Mary from sin, before she was tainted with sin, could she not rightly claim that God was her savior?

What, in the Kingdom of David, was the mother of the king called? Was she called a queen?

You state that by believing Mary was assumed into Heaven, we are giving glory and worship to Mary that is rightfully given to God alone. Please specifically state how this is so? Are you not aware that we believe Mary was assumed into Heaven by God’s power and not her own? How does believing she was assumed into Heaven translate into giving her worship? We believe Elijah and Enoch were assumed into Heaven, does that mean we are worshipping them as well?

Again, there is much I’m not responding to – at this point in time – but would love to get back to in the future. One last thing I would like to say, however, which goes completely against the assumptions you are making about me, is this: I was out of the Church for many years. When I came back into the Church I was what we call a cafeteria Catholic. In other words, I didn’t buy into all of what the Church taught. I believed what I wanted to believe and rejected what I didn’t want to believe. It was reading the Bible, however, that brought me to believe all of what the Church teaches. So, I did not approach the Bible believing what the Church teaches and looking for a verse here or there to backup what the Church teaches. Far from it. I approached the Bible not believing much of what the Church taught. It was the Bible that made a believer out of me. I did not come to the Bible from the Catholic Church, I came to the Catholic Church from the Bible.

God bless!

John Martignoni

Posted on Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:14 am by accesservant

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