“How to be Christian” Called Me Out!

There is a very popular Roman Catholic apologist who runs a Youtube channel called “How to be Christian” (HTBC) which I so affectionately refer to as “How to be Papist.” HTBC made a video on justification in Romans 4 which I found contained very poor argumentation, so I made a response video. To my great surprise, HTBC saw it and commented with some questions. I thought they, along with my answers are informative, so I have included them below for this post.

1) You say that Vatican II is ‘infallible authoritative Roman Catholic theology’.  Please cite your source that calls Vatican II “infallible authoritative Roman Catholic theology.”

I) This comment is going to be very long, perhaps it would be better to delegate this answer to a high level apologist who did a wonderful job demonstrating that Vatican II is absolutely authoritative, and he even goes so far to prove sufficiently that it is inerrant and in its doctrine (All while claiming it doesn’t contain infallible “dogma”). In his video, he demonstrates the Pope who commissioned the council calls Catholics to retain the council’s teaching with “full authority and without doubt.” Also, the council identifies itself as a solemn teaching council. Does that not accurately reflect the substance of my claim, even if the language is different (admittedly, I try to use language more helpful to my mostly Protestant audience)? At least as it pertains to the authority of the council, I think this answer should suffice.

II) I anticipate you won’t be happy with me outsourcing my answer to another, so let me provide an additional summary of why I used that language, specifically focusing on “Infallible.” I was merely using the language that many Roman Catholic apologists are comfortable using publicly. For example, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus puts it very clearly,

Whenever the Pope alone or the bishops in union with the Pope exercise their divinely appointed office to teach on a matter of faith and morals to the whole Church, the teaching is infallible. The most solemn expression of this teaching authority would be an ecumenical council (which by definition would include and be in union with the Pope). Therefore, all the solemn teachings on faith and morals promulgated by the ecumenical councils are infallible

(https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/how-can-the-church-be-infallible-if-one-church-council-contradicts-another-989?fbclid=IwAR3rHHUgp0QQWJIf4BDA7KHKd52mPxb-a68XmudqFge_vmwAr5wNJtgAGWI)

 The well-respected Roman Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin said as much the same with minor qualifications,

“However, sometimes [the Magisterium will] teach in an especially solemn way that is referred to as an act of the extraordinary magisterium. In the case of popes, this term is reserved only for instances when a pope infallibly defines a truth. All other instances of papal teaching are termed ‘ordinary.’ The term ‘extraordinary magisterium’ is also used for ecumenical councils. However, authors differ in the way they employ it. Some authors use extraordinary magisterium to refer to any teaching of an ecumenical council, while others use it only for instances where an ecumenical council infallibly defines something. Individual bishops are not capable of exercising the Church’s extraordinary magisterium. All of their teachings, by necessity, belong to its ordinary magisterium. Recently, magisterial documents have begun to refer to the “ordinary and universal magisterium” of the Church. This is a reference to the bishops of the world teaching in union with the pope outside of an ecumenical council. (The qualifier “universal” is added to indicate that the worldwide episcopate is involved, not just the teaching of individual bishops.) While individual bishops are not capable of exercising the Church’s infallibility, the ordinary and universal magisterium can do so” [Emphasis mine].

(https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/magisterium?fbclid=IwAR2aytfitnSLvevD4X5efiyzkXLjjEFQJdqkAhPVYQ2mL4PSDnr9CIdgS_8

I think if you have a problem with my using the term infallible, your problem is with your fellow apologists. I would encourage you to refute them in one of your next videos. I am willing, however, to be more nuanced when using the term “infallible” in the future since I do recognize not all Roman Catholics are comfortable using that term as it pertains even to valid, ecumenical councils. 

III) The last thing I will say to your first question is that by asking it you have exposed a flaw in the Roman Catholic authority claims. While Romanist apologists love to throw around the unity the indefectible church provides, the assurance the infallible church provides, the claim is hollow. For Roman Catholics cannot even agree on when the church is speaking infallibly or not. You have Roman Catholics who consider Vatican II infallible, others who consider only some of it fallible, some who accept its authority but say it’s not ever infallible, and then you have more conservative denominations who reject it wholesale (SSPX, Sedevecantists, Traditional Catholics, etc.). What good is an infallible Pope and an infallible Magisterium if we cannot even know for sure when they are speaking infallibly? Perhaps you should make a concise video on how a Roman Catholic can know what data is infallible, authoritative, and binding, and see if you get any pushback from within your own ranks.

2) You talk about Vatican II ‘documents’ but never cite any of them, nor do you quote from any of them.

I do not know why you put the word documents in quotation marks. Are you suggesting that word is inappropriate? Did it confuse you? I am happy to use a separate word for describing the material produced from Rome’s councils, but documents seems to be a normal term to use. Almost every time I look up contents from these later councils the term “documents” is used, and even the Vatican’s own official website describes the material of Vatican II (the council I referenced) in terms of having “documents.”

3) Where has it “been decreed that Protestants are Christians”?

I am referring to Vatican II, DECREE ON ECUMENISM: UNITATIS REDINTEGRATIO. This decree regularly refers to Christians who are not Roman Catholics as “separated brethren” and less regularly “Christians.” We are brothers and sisters in Christ, (the language of saved Christians) but we have, according to the council, an incomplete unity with Christ’s church. For example, Chapter 3.1 states:

The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect.

Both of those descriptions fit me and the vast majority of protestants today. Thus, your Church does officially declare me (and others like me) a brother, and therefore, a Christian:

The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church – whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church – do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ’s body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church (1.3, Emphasis mine).

Though many more quotations could be brought forth, allow just one more to suffice,

It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.

Ibid

The council makes very clear that Protestants are saved Christians, even though our unity to Christ’s church is imperfect and not desirable.

4) I consider you a Christian as well as a Protestant, because they are two separate groups and people like yourself can belong to both groups.

According to your church, the groups are separate, but in most cases, they cannot be separated. As we have already seen, Vatican II considers Protestantism a subgroup of the larger term “Christian” by identifying us as “brothers” and calling us saved. This is why I find it inconsistent of you to consider Protestants Christians, while at the same time comparing Protestantism to Christianity as if they are at odds. That to me is like affirming that Corvettes are automobiles, but then making tons of videos that compare “Corvettes vs. Automobiles.” If the two are contradictory, one cannot be a subset of another. It would be more consistent, according to Vatican II, to compare Protestant theology to Roman Catholic theology, since both groups are brothers in Christ, a.k.a. Christians.

5) At 10:14 you claim to be giving our position, but you never quote us on any of this, so please supply the videos and timestamps where you think you heard what you are calling “our position”.

In my comment at that minute mark I identified HTBC’s position on the phrase “works of the Law” in Paul this way,

That phrase ‘works of the law’ is only regulated to, not just the Mosaic Law, but a specific subset of laws within the mosaic law, specifically what we call the Jewish identification markers. And basically that just ends up being circumcision and maybe the dietary laws.

I then refer to this by the Reformed title for these kinds of laws, the “ceremonial laws.” What’s my evidence for this? In HTBC’s video about the very subject titled, “Works and Works of the Law” (which is linked to in the very video I critique), this statement is made around the 9:00 minute mark:

“‘Works of the Law’ refer to specific types of work such as circumcision and separating yourself from the Gentiles while eating.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUOscYtlWcs&t=550s

Though vague, this above definition is entirely consistent with my characterization, consisting both of circumcision and of an element of the dietary laws. Additionally, in the above video only a moment prior to that definition being given, HTBC advises his listeners to do our own research on the meaning of the term. I have been doing that for years as I have interacted with Roman Catholic apologists, and many of them interpret “works of the Law” as being the ceremonial law, those laws specifically given to distinguish the Jewish people from the Gentiles (Jewish boundary markers is what the New Perspective camp will often refer to them as). Take Dr. Akin again on this point. Akin believes “works of the Law,” specifically in Romans, refers to Jewish boundary markers:

If Paul has in mind anything particular, it would presumably be the ceremonial components of Torah (circumcision, food laws, festival laws), which are distinctively characteristic of Jews. It would not be the moral components of Torah, since even Gentiles have these written on their hearts (2:15) and they consequently do them “by nature” (2:14). It is in chapter 4 that we have the first concrete example of what Paul means by “works of Torah,” and the example confirms the thesis just advanced (that if Paul has anything in mind it is the ceremonial rather than the moral components of Torah). The example is circumcision (4:9-12). Paul emphasizes with great force the non-necessity of circumcision for justification. In fact, the whole purpose of his discussion of Abraham as the father of the faithful (chapter 4) is to show the non-necessity of circumcision. This indicates that circumcision is the work of Torah par excellence which Paul has in mind—something confirmed by the fact that Paul had earlier conducted an extended discussion of the irrelevance of circumcision to salvation (2:25-3:1) and by the fact that right after his affirmation in 3:27 that works of Torah are not necessary he drew the implication that God “will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith” (3:30). Our hypothesis that Paul has in mind primarily the ceremonial elements of Torah by “works of Torah” is thus confirmed by the discussion of circumcision in Romans [emphasis mine]. It is further confirmed by the discussion of circumcision in Galatians.

https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/works-of-the-law-1181?fbclid=IwAR3vEWkP5-z5tOPPUQE32AmD3OH3jfCqvFFGCfGpMXzRg8mhg6FudSmm47U

Given HTBC’s own words in the video on Romans 4, his own words based on his video on “works of the Law,” and based on the popular opinion of other Papist apologists, I believe my characterization was entirely fair and accurate.

6) Do you think that ‘Papists’ 😉 think that their works create their salvation?”

No, I do not believe I have ever used that language, and I do not think I said that anywhere in the video. Where did you get this idea from in the video? Given this question, it’s ironic you told me that I “seem to only listen to small portions of what is being said, and then you fill in the blanks with whatever [I] want” and also that I “really need to learn how to pay attention to what is being said by others.” I cannot help but think you are guilty of these very things with my response video. You made these accusations against me with no evidence, no substance, yet you’re doing what you appear to have done and criticized me for not supporting my claims.

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:5

A better way to describe the Roman position, were I forced to do so in one sentence like yours, would be to simply quote the Council of Trent stating that while you do not create salvation, you do claim to merit your salvation:

If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.

Council of Trent, On Justification, CANON XXXII.

Lastly, in regards to my claim that your channel is low-level apologetics, in terms of content, I stand by that. However, you continually accused me of acting as if I believe my channel is high level apologetics. Can you show me where I ever said that about my channel? If you can’t, then I would only remind you of a wise admonition I once received: “You really need to learn how to pay attention to what is being said by others.”

Thank you again for the response. I know you are very busy. You have a huge channel with lots of comments to sift through. I mean it when I say I am blessed you took the time to interact with my content. Grace and peace to you. 

One thought on ““How to be Christian” Called Me Out!

  1. The dispute between Catholics and Protestants is on the meaning and nature of the Greek noun “justification” and Greek verb “to justify”.

    According to the Reformers justification is instantaneous and is by faith alone, through which the righteousness of Christ is imputed on us, covering our unrighteousness (or we are both righteous and sinner at the same time). Sanctification is separated from justification but these two must come together in a justified person. To justify means to declare or to count one as righteous on the basis of Christ’ righteousness, while in reality the person is not righteous.

    Catholics would reject Reformers’ position on three reason:
    1. Scripture denies that we can use other’s righteousness as our own in Ezekiel 18:20
    2. Scripture says in Ezekiel 33:12 that we cannot become righteous and sinner at the same time
    3. The Greek phrase “justified by faith” appears four times in New Testament (Rom. 3:28, 5:1; Gal 2:16, 3:24). The one in Rom. 3:28 is in passive present tense while the rest are in passive aorist tense. Both tenses do NOT indicate a completed justification and therefore justification is NOT by faith alone.

    In contrast to what Reformers taught, the Catholic Church teaches that (1) justification is on-going process that starts with faith and includes sanctification, (2) through justification the righteousness of God through Christ is infused in us or we are made righteous (Rom. 5:19). To justify means to make one become righteous. Scripture defines a righteous person as he who does what is right (1 John 3:7), which is possible only by grace through Christ as apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). When you read canon XXXII, do not ignore the phrase “through the grace of God and merit of Jesus Christ”. Scripture says that God rewards our good works, (they come and are possible only by grace), with eternal life (John 5:28-29, Rom. 2:6-7). The reward is a gift from God – it is NOT something we deserve or do NOT compare it with meriting your salary through your work.

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