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J.D. wrote:

Dear Mike and All:

I am 57-year-old man. I live in the USA and have an evangelical background.

My question fundamentally regards the nature and validity of the sacraments. A generation or two ago, Pierre Telihard de Chardin got into trouble with the Church.  From what I understand he may have been declared a heretic.

  • Was this due to his view that the created earth was, in some sense, sacramental or
    at least could be seen as such?

From what I understand, he performed a Communion rite in Mongolia using matter other than the, scripturally and ecclesiastically, sanctioned bread and wine.

  • Were the views of a French theologian Pere Chenu similar to those of de Chardin?
    I think Chen was Dominican.

Second, I understand that Roman Catholics believe that sacraments operate independently of the cleric or of the faith of the recipient.

  • How does this differ from simple, pagan magic?

I would think faith would have to be involved, at least on the recipient's part, and also on the part of the cleric or the person performing the rite.



  { How did their sacramental views conflict and how do the sacraments differ from pagan magic?

Mary Ann replied:

Dear J.D.,

You said:
Second, I understand that Roman Catholics believe that sacraments operate independently of the cleric or of the faith of the recipient.

  • How does this differ from simple, pagan magic?

I would think faith would have to be involved, at least on the recipient's part, and also on the part of the cleric or the person performing the rite.

Yes, the sacraments operate regardless of the faith of the cleric or of the recipient, however, the cleric must intend what the Church intends, and the recipient, in order to receive grace from the sacrament, must be properly disposed, i.e., not in a state of serious sin, otherwise, as St. Paul says, he eats and drinks condemnation.

This ex opere operatu [meaning by the work worked] aspect of the sacraments is not magic. Magic is the manipulation of occult forces through word or deed performed by the will of man.
The sacraments are acts of God in Christ, in response to our obedience as Church in administering them.

You said:
A generation or two ago, Pierre Telihard de Chardin got into trouble with the Church.  From what I understand he may have been declared a heretic.

  • Was this due to his view that the created earth was, in some sense, sacramental or at least could be seen as such?

His problem was not the sacramentality of the universe, loosely understood, but his
near-pantheistic identification of Christ with the evolving cosmos.

You said:
From what I understand, he performed a Communion rite in Mongolia using matter other than the, scripturally and ecclesiastically, sanctioned bread and wine.

  • Were the views of a French theologian Pere Chenu similar to those of de Chardin? I think Chen was Dominican.

As for using non-sacramental elements, that was a common abuse at one time and it renders the sacrament invalid. Jesus used bread and wine. Since the sacrament is an extension in time and space of the acts of Christ, we act as Christ did.

Of course, Baptism doesn't require a state of grace in the recipient, but it does require faith, on the recipient's part or on the behalf of others, in the case of an infant being baptized.

Sorry, I don't know about Chenu.

Hope this helps,

Mary Ann

John replied:

Hi J.D.,

Just to add to what Mary Ann has said. The sacraments are a work of Christ and not celebrant or recipient as Mary Ann has pointed out.

That said, a sacrament is not totally independent of the cleric. If the priest is in sin, or if his faith is lacking, the sacrament is still valid so long as he intends to allow Christ to work through him. Whatever is lacking in him personally, is covered by the faith of the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ.

  • Hence, if a priest is struggling in his faith but still intends do what Christ and His Church intends to do through the sacrament, then the sacrament is valid.
  • If however, the priest does not share the intention of Christ and His Church, then the sacrament is not valid.


J.D. replied:

Thank-you John, for your prompt response.

  • May I take this a step further?

Generally speaking, sacraments are still not needed as I understand Roman Catholic doctrine.

Please correct me if I am wrong. For example, if someone is in RCIA waiting for the Easter Vigil, and dies suddenly, then the concept of Baptism of desire becomes operative, so in the end, water baptism was not really necessary.

Likewise, if someone who has committed a mortal sin is driving to the church for absolution and has a fatal auto accident, I would assume that the Church does not teach that the penitent person is consigned to Hell.

  • Would not the same principle: Baptism of desire come into play in this case?

Here again, the sacrament was not really necessary. God instead has viewed the heart of the individual and not the outward forms of the visible sacraments.

It gets a little more sticky when we talk about Final Unction or the Anointing of the Sick.

  • If a guy has lived like the devil, then has a stroke, rendering him unconscious, would not the family still call for the priest to perform Final Unction?

In this situation, there has been no personal act or thought of contrition on the part of dying man.

This is why I asked that third question about the distinction between magic and some sacramental acts.

  • Can a mere formula spoken by a cleric do what a repentant sinner is scripturally required to do?

John, I am not trying to argue.

I've done enough of that in my life. I just want to try to understand the sacramental system.



John replied:


Thanks for your questions.

I don't see you as arguing, rather you are genuine in your pursuit.

Before I reply to your last response, I would ask that you hit the Reply All feature in the future.
That way my fellow apologists can follow the question and answer thread and add their insight.

First, I understand where you are coming from. I had very similar questions as I was returning to the Church.

The exception does not make the rule. Obviously we have examples in the Bible that are exceptions. The thief on the cross was not baptized. Nevertheless, with Baptism, Confession, or any sacraments, comes an outpouring of grace. As we've discussed, it is Christ who acts through the ministry of the Church (His Body). With Baptism and Confession, not only is there remittance of sin, but an empowering infusion of grace to assist us to overcome our tendency to sin.

Protestants tend to look at salvation and justification as forensic and static. Whereas, before the Luther, the entire Church always understood, (as the Catholic and Orthodox still understand to this day), that both salvation and justification are intrinsic and dynamic. When we are born again in Baptism, we are not simply declared righteous — having Christ's righteousness imputed to us — on the contrary, we are infused with the righteousness of Christ who, not simply declares us righteous, but makes us righteous. From the moment of our Baptism until we see Him in glory, we begin a journey in which we partake and participate in the Divine nature of Christ.

Sacraments, are an external, physical sign of what is spiritually happening. We are both flesh and spirit, hence Christ gave us a sacramental system because we have senses. The bottom line is, God can save whomever He wants, however He wants and He established Baptism as the normative way to be born again.

Re-read Romans 6 carefully.

  • Does Paul say anywhere to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior?

<No.> He talks about being baptized into Christ. Accepting the Lord is wonderful. We should do it every day of our lives. We are called to constantly yield to Holy Spirit. We are called to an ongoing conversion and the sacraments are the normative way in which Christians receive empowering grace. That doesn't mean they are the only source of grace. Sacraments received in faith open us up more to those other means of grace.

I'll leave the issue of Extreme Unction, or as you referred to it as Final Unction, for a later time.
I want to continue this dialogue, but before we can deal with too many specifics, you have be able to understand the Catholic paradigm.

In the mean time let me recommend you visit:

Nineveh's Crossing

If you have couple of extra bucks you should order this DVD. It will be helpful.

Please continue asking questions.

Under His Mercy,

John DiMascio

Mary Ann replied:

Hi J.D.,

In the Catholic faith, the desire is oriented to the sacrament, even if implicitly. For instance, since the Light enlightens every man who comes into the world, (John 1), any man who follows the light that he is given, which is a participation in Christ, even if he does not know Christ, can be saved.

Because he is following the Way, the Logos, the Word: Christ, toward the fullness of Christ, which is His Body, the Church, and entering the Body comes through Baptism, all can be saved if they are following their conscience, even if they are not a Christian.

As for someone driving to confess a mortal sin, the person has repented and has chosen to confess. Even if he were not driving to the Church, he would be saved, because grace comes with repentance. Confession:

  • reconciles one with the Church
  • gives the assurance of forgiveness, and
  • further medicinal grace.

A Catholic who doesn't intend to confess is not repentant or is not Catholic.

As for a person who is unconscious, Final Unction or the Anointing of the Sick is administered
in the knowledge that often the person can still hear and respond or make a choice to repent,
if necessary, or that he had an instant to make a good choice at the time of the stroke.

The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is not necessary for salvation, but it does take away sin and strengthen us physically and spiritually.

Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Hi J.D.,

Beyond John and Mary Ann's replies and John recommendation, I would ask you to prayerful think about studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Our previous Pope has told Catholics,

It is a sure norm for the faith.

If you want to understand Our Lord's sacramental system in total, consider buying a cheap copy of the Catechism.

If you feel uncomfortable doing so at the present time, I've appended some of my favorite set of definitions and question/answer combos from a previous Catechism: the Baltimore Catechism.

In my opinion, they will give you a good foundation for understanding the sacraments of the Church.



This lesson does not speak of any Sacrament in particular, but upon all the Sacraments taken together. It explains what we find in all the Sacraments.

136 Q. What is a Sacrament?

A. A Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.

Three things are necessary to make a Sacrament. There must be:

    • "An outward," that is, a visible, "sign";
    • this sign must have been instituted or given by Our Lord;
    • it must give grace.

Now, a sign is that which tells us that something else exists. Smoke indicates the presence of fire.

A red light on a railroad tells that there is danger at the spot. Therefore, the outward signs in the Sacraments tell us that there is in the Sacraments something we do not see and which they signify and impart. For example, the outward sign in Baptism is the pouring of the water on the head of the person to be baptized, and the saying of the words. Water is generally used for cleaning purposes. Water, therefore, is used in Baptism as an outward sign to show that as the water cleans the body, so the grace given in Baptism cleans the soul. It is not a mere sign, for at the very moment that the priest pours the water and says the words of Baptism, by the pouring of the water and saying of the words with the proper intention the soul is cleansed from Original Sin; that is, the inward grace is given by the application of the outward sign.

Again, in Confirmation the outward sign is the anointing with oil, the Bishop's prayer, and the placing of his hands upon us. Now what inward grace is given in Confirmation? A grace which strengthens us in our faith. Oil, therefore, is used for the outward sign in this Sacrament, because oil gives strength and light.

In olden times the gladiators-men who fought with swords as prize-fighters do now with their hands-used oil upon their bodies to make them strong. Oil was used also to heal wounds. Thus in Confirmation the application of this outward sign of strength gives the inward grace of light and strength. Moreover, oil easily spreads itself over anything and remains on it. A drop of water falling on paper dries up quickly; but a drop of oil soaks in and spreads over it. So oil is used to show also that the grace of Confirmation spreads out over our whole lives, and strengthens us in our faith at all times.

Again, in Penance we have the outward sign when the priest raises his hand and pronounces over us the words of absolution.

If we did not have these outward signs how could anyone know just at what time the graces are given? We can know now, for at the very moment the outward sign is applied the grace is given; because it is the application of the sign that by divine institution gives the grace, and thus the two must take place together.

"Institution by Christ" is absolutely necessary because He gives all grace, and He alone can determine the manner in which He wishes it distributed. The Church can distribute His grace, but only in the way He wishes. Hence it cannot make new Sacraments or abolish old ones.

137. Q. How many Sacraments are there?

A. There are seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.

The life of our soul is in many ways similar to the life of our body. Our bodies must first be born, then strengthened, then fed. When sick, we must be cured: and when about to die, we must be taken care of. Then there must be someone to rule others, and there must be persons to be governed. In like manner, we are spiritually born into a new life by Baptism, we are strengthened by Confirmation, fed with the Holy Eucharist, and cured of the maladies of our souls by Penance. By Extreme Unction we are helped at the hour of death; by Holy Orders our spiritual rulers are appointed by God; and by Matrimony families, with a father at the head and children to be ruled, are established. Thus we have our spiritual life similar in many things to our physical or bodily life.

138. Q. From what source do the Sacraments have the power of giving grace?

A. The Sacraments have the power of giving grace from the merits of Jesus Christ.

Our Lord died to merit grace for us, and appointed the Sacraments as the chief means by which it was to be given.

139. Q. What grace do the Sacraments give?

A. Some of the Sacraments give sanctifying grace, and others increase it in our souls.

Baptism and Penance give this sanctifying grace when there is not any of it in the soul. But the other Sacraments are received while we are in a state of grace, and they therefore increase the quantity of it in our souls.

140. Q. Which are the Sacraments that give sanctifying grace?

A. The Sacraments that give sanctifying grace are Baptism and Penance; and they are called Sacraments of the dead.

"Of the dead," Not of a dead person; for when a person is dead he cannot receive any of the Sacraments. It is only while we live upon earth that we are on trial, and can do good or evil, and merit grace. At death we receive simply our reward or punishment for what we have done while living. Therefore, Sacraments of the dead mean Sacraments given to a dead soul, that is, to a soul in mortal sin. When grace — its life — is all out of the soul it can do nothing to merit Heaven; and we say it is dead, because the dead can do nothing for themselves. If a person receives — as many do — the Sacrament of Penance while his soul is not in a state of mortal sin, what then? Then the soul — already living — receives an increase of sanctifying grace, that is, greater spiritual life and strength.

141. Q. Why are Baptism and Penance called Sacraments of the dead?

A. Baptism and Penance are called Sacraments of the dead because they take away sin, which is the death of the soul, and give grace, which is its life.

142. Q. Which are the Sacraments that increase sanctifying grace in the soul?

A. The Sacraments that increase sanctifying grace in the soul are: Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony; and they are called Sacraments of the living.

143. Q. Why are Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony called Sacraments of the living?

A. Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony are called the Sacraments of the living because those who receive them worthily are already living the life of grace.

144. Q. What sin does he commit who receives the Sacraments of the living in mortal sin?

A. He who receives the Sacraments of the living in mortal sin commits a sacrilege, which is a great sin, because it is an abuse of a sacred thing.

"Sacrilege," There are other ways besides the unworthy reception of the Sacraments in which a person may commit sacrilege. You could commit it by treating any sacred thing with great disrespect. For example, by making common use of the sacred vessels used at the altar; by stealing from the church; by turning the church into a market, etc. You could commit it also by willfully killing or wounding persons consecrated to God, such as nuns, priests, bishops, etc. Therefore sacrilege can be committed by willfully abusing or treating with great irreverence any sacred person, sacred place, or sacred thing.

145. Q. Besides sanctifying grace, do the Sacraments give any other grace?

A. Besides sanctifying grace, the Sacraments give another grace, called sacramental.

146. Q. What is sacramental grace?

A. Sacramental grace is a special help which God gives to attain the end for which He instituted each Sacrament.

For example, what was the end for which Penance was instituted? To forgive sins and keep us out of sin. Therefore -the sacramental grace given in Penance is a grace that will enable us to overcome temptation and avoid the sins we have been in the habit of committing. When a person is ill the doctor's medicine generally produces two effects: one is to cure the disease and the other to strengthen the person so that he may not fall back into the old condition. Well, it is just the same in the Sacraments; the grace given produces two effects: one is to sanctify us and the other to prevent us from falling into the same sins.

Again, Confirmation was instituted that we might become more perfect Christians, stronger in our faith. Therefore the sacramental grace of Confirmation will strengthen us to profess our faith when circumstances require it; or when we are tempted to doubt any revealed truth, it will help us to overcome the temptation. So in all the Sacraments we receive the sacramental grace or special help given to attain the end for which the Sacraments were separately instituted.

147. Q. Do the Sacraments always give grace?

A. The Sacraments always give grace, if we receive them with the right dispositions.

"Right dispositions"; that is, if we do all that God and the Church require us to do when we receive them. For instance, in Penance the right disposition is to confess all our mortal sins as we know them, to be sorry for them, and have the determination never to commit them again. The right disposition for the Holy Eucharist is to be in a state of grace, and-except in special cases of sickness-fasting for one hour.

148. Q. Can we receive the Sacraments more than once?

A. We can receive the Sacraments more than once, except Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders.

Baptism is so important that if we do not receive it we cannot receive any other of the Sacraments. Now, to administer Baptism validly, that is, properly, everything must be done exactly as Our Lord intended and the Church teaches. The proper kind of water and all the exact words must be used. Also, the water must touch the body, that is, the head if possible. Now persons not knowing well how to baptize might neglect some of these things, and thus the person would not e baptized. The Church wishes to be certain that all its children are baptized; so when there is any doubt about the first Baptism, it baptizes again conditionally, that is, the priest says in giving the Baptism over again: If you are not baptized already, I baptize you now. Therefore if the person was rightly baptized the first time, the second ceremony has no effect, because the priest does not intend to give Baptism a second time. But if the first Baptism was not rightly given, then the second takes effect. In either case Baptism is given only once; for if the first was valid, the second is not given; and if the first was invalid, the second is given.

Converts to the Church are generally baptized conditionally, because there is doubt about the validity of the Baptism they received.

The Sacraments may be given conditionally when we doubt if they were or can be validly given.

149. Q. Why can we not receive Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders more than once?

A. We cannot receive Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders more than once, because they imprint a character in the soul.

"A character," It is a spiritual character, and remains forever, so that whether the person is in Heaven or Hell this mark will be seen. It will show that those having it were Christians, who received Baptism, Confirmation, or Holy Orders. If they are in Heaven, these characters will shine out to their honor, and will show how well they used the grace God gave them. If they are in Hell, these characters will be to their disgrace, and show how many gifts and graces God bestowed upon them, and how shamefully they abused all.

150. Q. What is the character which these Sacraments imprint in the soul?

A. The character which these Sacraments imprint in the soul is a spiritual mark which remains forever.

151. Q. Does this character remain in the soul even after death?

A. This character remains in the soul even after death: for the honor and glory of those who are saved; for the shame and punishment of those who are lost.

If you have any other questions about the Church and what Catholics believe, just come back to our site.

Your brother,


J.D. replied:

Thanks Mike,

I appreciate you allowing me to start this dialogue. I found about your web site while I was waiting for my wife to have a procedure at hospital. I had a bit of time to kill so I wandered to the Chapel.  There were free copies of Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) on the table, and one particular issue had your web site listed. These questions had been pent up for some time.

John gave me the address of a place to order some other material, and I appreciate that.
The Baltimore Catechism was very instructive but still raises as many questions as it answers.

I already bought a (CCC) Catechism of the Catholic Church a couple of years ago. I noted that the one you offer has a green cover, while mine has a white cover.

  • Can I assume they still have the same content?

I have read it from time to time but it really never answered the pointed questions I have been able to ask you and your colleagues in the last two days. While I like the CCC, as a general resource, it often lacks the specificity and the underlying rationales I am seeking.

My past studies have been helped by several Roman Catholic authors and I watch a good bit of EWTN. My favorites are Father Groeschel and some of the call-in shows like Open Line on Catholic Radio. I have read two or three of the Pope's books and have some more in the queue. I really like him as a man, a Godly witness, and a deep thinker but I don't see him as infallible. I tend to think that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was formulated as an answer to the Protestant doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy which came to the fore in the 19th Century. All of that is a matter for another discussion.

Hope we can continue with the sacraments and then get into:

Sincerely in Christ,


Mike replied:

Hi J.D.,

You said:
I noted that the one you offer has a green cover, while mine has a white cover.

  • Can I assume they still have the same content?

Yes, you may.

  • The white, pocket-sized one, is known as the Mass Market version.
  • The tan is the first edition of the Catechism. The publishers sent out a mini-pamphlet of editorial corrections for this one.
  • The green one you saw on my web page combines the two and is the Vatican approved version.

On the issue of papal infallibility, these web postings may help:

Also my web page on Biblical verses that defend Catholic doctrine may help as well.


J.D. replied:

Thanks Mike,

I will examine those links you cited on Papal Infallibility.


Mike replied:

Hi J.D.,

In a separate reply to Mary Ann, you said:
The CCC is a great resource, but it is often so general and appears to take a "one size fits all" approach that I end up becoming frustrated when I tried to determine some of the secondary and tertiary doctrinal implications of the work.

What you may need to ultimately satisfy the hunger of your queries is an entry level theology book for Catholics. The two that come to mind are:

  1. Theology for beginners, and
  2. Theology and Sanity both by Frank Sheed.

I think John understands where you are coming from more then any of us, so I'd take his advice on whether my suggestion makes sense or not. I've read Theology for beginners and thought it was great! By What Authority by Mark Shea is another good book.

The Catechism was intended to be one size fits all in the sense that it will give the non-Christian a basic understanding of what it means to be a Catholic and what Catholics believe . . . or should believe : )


J.D. replied:

Dear Mary Ann,

I value you taking the time for such a long answer.

  • Are you then saying that if a person is not baptized by water that they will not have the ability to overcome the disorder wrought by original sin?

I can't find that in the Scriptures and I have known some very Godly Christians who have not been baptized and some ungodly ones who have.

Romans 6 seems to be pointing toward faith in the finished work of Christ as opposed to the operation of water and the baptismal formula.

As far as Confirmation, I have nothing against it but I just cannot see where it was ever instituted by Christ. There are some Roman Catholic doctrines which are implicitly defensible based on hints in the Scriptures but I can't even find a scintilla about Confirmation.

On the issue of Anointing the Sick, that was indeed done by Christ and his disciples during his earthly ministry, but to relegate it to those who are dying has no Scriptural warrant.

On Marriage, Christ's presence at the wedding at Cana is an historical fact, but I can't see that He spoke doctrinally about marriage though He did attend numerous events, dinners, festivals, meetings, etc.

Mary Ann, please don't think I am being disputatious.

I just have to be honest about the way my mind works. I have a lot of respect for the (RCC) Roman Catholic Church and especially the current Pope, but I still cannot just accept certain doctrines and dogmas without understanding the logic or the basis behind them.


Mary Ann replied:

Hi J.D.,

You said:

  • Are you then saying that if a person is not baptized by water that they will not have the ability to overcome the disorder wrought by original sin?

No, I am not saying that. I suggest you look up the Catechism of the Catholic Church, available online in a number of places, especially, on the Vatican web site. The same thing is on the
St. Charles Borromeo Church web site.

I also wanted to comment on your reply to Mike. First, the Baltimore Catechism is not the Catechism. It is a Q. and A. for kids developed by the bishops of the United States in council a very long time ago.

Christ instituted Confirmation when he gave the Holy Spirit to the Apostles after the Resurrection, and this practice was continued by them from the beginning.

He instituted the Anointing of the Sick by doing it himself and telling the Apostles to heal the sick, and they continued doing this as is attested in the New Testament record.

Matrimony, an institution of divine origin, was raised to the level of a sacrament at the time of the wedding feast of Cana and by His teaching. Remember, a sacrament by definition is an act of Christ through the Church, whereby His Life is communicated — so before Christ there were no sacraments. Circumcision and marriage were sort of proto-sacraments, in that they prefigured the realities to come.

It is Christ's will that ordained the sacraments shown by what the Apostles immediately did and taught and passed on to the next generation, not all, of which, is in the Scriptures.

Baptism does not remove concupiscence, the inclination to sin; but the divine life communicated helps us to overcome our sins. Baptism inserts us into the New Humanity of Christ. It takes away the state of original sin — the state being, the state of affairs between a person and God, in this case, the state of alienation. We become adopted in the Son.

A baby relies on the faith of the Church and of [his/her] parents. An unconscious or dying man is [baptized/anointed] conditionally upon the faith he may have had in his life.

Faith is not a static, one-time act, whereby I stand up and say something. It is an act of the soul, and the person unconscious or dying may have faith — we just may not know it. If the person has never been Christian nor wanted to be, of course he is not baptized or anointed, but if someone has expressed a desire in the past, and that is attested to, then he can be. A disposition of soul is not a passing mood. It is a basic attitude.

The mark one receives at Baptism means that your soul was configured to Christ, as a child of God in Him. You received a share of the life of God Himself. You were claimed with an eternal claim by God. You received the power to believe and hope and love, the effects in you of the Holy Spirit indwelling. The potential for receiving grace and growing in it, was there, and powerful in you. God abided:

  • protecting you
  • shepherding you, and
  • waiting until you found the way to actualize what was planted in you.

Mary Ann

J.D. replied:

Hello again John,

At the risk of sounding like a broken CD, thank you again for your thoughtful and detailed response.

I appreciate you going into the difference between a forensic declaration of righteousness and an actual infused righteousness. This concept was new to me but was rather clearly discussed in two books I read on the Reformation, one by Karl Adam and one by Louis Boyer. I just read them earlier this year, but as I recall, neither of these two Catholic authors went into the resulting water Baptism discussion. We can leave Final Unction until later, but:

  • As far as sacraments, in general, are you saying that sacraments are God's covenanted means of Grace but that He does not necessarily limit Himself to these covenanted methods?

In other words, God may look solely upon the personal faith of an individual.

On the issue of Romans 6, there are two ways to look at that. One is that Romans 6 is not talking about water Baptism but rather Baptism in the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13) which occurs at the time of salvation and places a believer within the Body of Christ. It is an invisible action of the Holy Ghost independent of water. By the way, I am not coming from a Pentecostal perspective here and cannot accept their experiential definitions in this area.

Second, one could argue that Romans 6 was written to the early, first-generation Church in which Paul's recipients in Rome had all been converted as adults and, as such, had been subject to adult believer's Baptism which immediately followed their acceptance of Christ — based on examples in Acts.

John, your offer to continue answering questions is very kind. There is an old Bob Dylan song from the middle 1960's called, Maggie's Farm in which the singer has a line, I've got a head full of ideas/They are driving me insane. Perhaps the insane part is a bit of hyperbole in my case, but if you substitute the words questions for ideas, it give a pretty good description of my mind on some of these issues.


John replied:

John replied:

J.D. wrote:
We can leave Final Unction until later, but:

  • As far as sacraments, in general, are you saying that sacraments are God's covenanted means of Grace but that He does not necessarily limit Himself to these covenanted methods?

In other words, God may look solely upon the personal faith of an individual.

To use official Ecclesial Language: Bingo! :>)

You hit the nail on the head!

I would put it this way, God may look at how each individual responds to whatever grace is given.

Remember the judgment described at the end of Matthew's Gospel. The angels will gather the nations; not the Church mind you — the nations and Christ will say:

When I was hungry, you gave me to eat . . . etc., etc. and the sheep respond,
When did we give you to eat? (Matthew 25:35-37)

Now think about it.

  • Is any Christian going ask Christ: When did we feed you Lord?

Of course not, we all should know that whatsoever we do to others, we do unto Christ, hence, here we see the final judgment of the non-Christians, perhaps even total unbelievers. Those responded to whatever grace given to them, in positive way, are therefore saved by grace. Now, obviously, this is not to be taken as Universalism, but it speaks to the issue of what happens to those who never heard or understood the Gospel.

Now with respect to you exegesis of Romans 6, you are operating under mistaken suppositions.

While it is true that adults professed Christ first, they still were baptized. The problem is you are not thinking like a first-century Jew, which is imperative if you are going to make heads or tails out most Pauline literature. Jews circumcised boys eight days old. This brought them into the Covenant.

Paul strongly implies Baptism is the New Testament replacement for circumcision. The difference being that circumcision was a work of man, by which man swore an oath in blood. Baptism, on the other hand, is a work of God (and thus pure grace) which accomplishes that which circumcision could not.

Having all these questions, I understand your frustration but it's a good frustration. God is doing a work in you J.D. You ask good questions. More Catholics should ask these questions themselves. This is how we learn.

In your last reply to Mary Ann, you said:
As far as Confirmation, I have nothing against it but I just cannot see where it was ever instituted by Christ. There are some Roman Catholic doctrines which are implicitly defensible based on hints in the Scriptures but I can't even find a scintilla about Confirmation.

You are making this way to easy on us!

This may be difficult for you to accept, but you are blinded by your tradition when you read the Scriptures so sit back because I'm about to blow you out of the water in Christian charity.

True, the word confirmation does not appear in the Scriptures. Of course, neither does the word Trinity, nor do we see a Christological definition, which states that Christ was one Person with two distinct natures — one human and one Divine and finally (a point which we will eventually have to discuss at length) the Bible itself does not give us a list of books that are inspired.

For now, let's get back to Confirmation. Let's start with what the sacrament is. Baptism is the New Birth. Confirmation is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We read about it in Acts. Chapter 2. We then read about it again in Acts, Chapter 8. In Chapter 8, we see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as a distinct and separate Sacrament:

12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. 14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:12-17

Phillip was a deacon. As such, he was authorized to serve and preach the Gospel authoritatively, and baptize. We see in Acts Chapter 8 that he does just that, but notice that he falls short of laying hands on the new believers so that they might receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

It was only after Peter and John arrived that this second Sacrament of Initiation was administered. It's crystal clear in the text: these are two distinct sacraments. The problem is you are reading the text through Protestant spectacles. Also notice that they received the Holy Spirit after hands were imposed. That is a clear reference to normative sacramental rubrics. Moreover, we see a tradition which is still practiced today in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.
Under normal circumstances, bishops and not priests administer the sacrament of Confirmation. It's not that priests can't, it's that we follow the example provided in Acts Chapter 8. Bishops are successors of the Apostles, so in most parishes, whenever possible, a bishop comes to administer this sacrament.

  • So J.D., Is this a little bit more than a scintilla? : )

Granted, in Acts Chapter 10, we see the Holy Spirit falling on the Cornelius and his household as Peter preached, even before they were baptized, but that is a clear exception.

  • Why this exception to the norm?

Well, think about it, up until then only Jews had been welcomed into the Church. The exception was a sign of those of the circumcision who had accompanied Peter; so that they might understand salvation was for the gentiles as well as the Jews.

As I've shown you, Confirmation as we call it, is biblical. Moreover, Christ, in the Gospels, promised the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Yes, it's true: Nowhere in the Gospel do we read instructions to the Apostles to lay hands on new believers after their Baptism but we do see, in the book of Acts, that the early Church understood the normative way by which new believers were to receive this outpouring.

J.D., at some point you are going to have to come to terms with the fact that everything Christ taught the Apostles was not written in the Gospels. You will come to realize that, nowhere in the Gospel, does Christ instruct His Apostles and Disciples to write a single sentence. He does tell them to preach, teach, heal, baptize, bind and loose etc., etc. He gives His Apostles and successors His Church authority. As you re-read the New Testament, take your Protestant spectacles off, and you'll begin to see:

  • the development of doctrine
  • the role of Church Councils, and
  • their authority to impose temporary pastoral disciplines as they made dogmatic pronouncements in the area of faith and morals.

You will eventually come across some verses that should jolt your Evangelical mind.

20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.

2 Peter 1:20

15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.

2 Thessalonians 2:15

15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

1 Timothy 3:15

Study these verses and you'll eventually realize that although all Scripture is inspired (2 Timothy 3:15-16), Scripture does not tell you what the canon of Scripture is, hence, were it not for the Roman Catholic Church, you would not know what Scripture is. Soon after, you'll conclude that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is nothing more than a heretical tradition of man upon which all Protestantism stands or falls.

My dear brother, let me break the news to you now. Whether you are ready to admit it yet or not, your questions are not rooted in your intellect.

You are being lead by the Holy Spirit to seek the fullness of truth. That journey can only lead you one place. I've been where you are and I've seen others in the same place.

You are at the tipping point J.D. Now the question remains:

  • Are you willing continue to ask these questions?

because the answers will eventually demolish any Protestant preconceptions you have.

Under His Mercy,


J.D. replied:

Hello John!

I enjoy your manner and the spirit in which you dialogue. It could probably keep us occupied for an entire week at a retreat center or some other place without interruptions.

You are correct in stating that, we all come to the Scriptures with some type of traditions and doctrinal presuppositions. While the Holy Spirit does guide us, we are still fallen creatures and cannot grasp all of God's truth or filter out the conditioning life has brought to us.

In this note I may be a bit pressed for time to specifically discuss all of the passages you cited in Acts regarding the laying on of hands. If you want me to do so in a second e-mail, please advise me.  I am not trying to dodge your interpretations of the passages you cited.

For the time being, just let me say this about reading Acts. It is a history of the early Church and contains an accurate account of events in the early Church. There were many things which did occur in Acts which are not to be viewed as normative for Christians today.

For example, the Bible does not teach communism as normative.

See Acts 2:44, 45:

44 And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need."

The Bible does not teach that it is normative for Christians to survive snake bites without medical attention. (Acts 28:3-6). It does not teach that today males in ministry need to be circumcised.

3 Him [Timothy] would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters . . .

Acts 16:3

Christian belief does not teach that we need to speak in tongues as evidence of receiving of the Holy Spirit. (Read Acts 10:45-46) There are scores of other examples, John. Each of us has to have a consistent hermeneutic, yet this science has probably been more developed by Protestants because they do not have Tradition to act hermeneutically in the same way that Catholics do.

The Book of Acts has caused many Protestant groups to go off in some strange directions because they did not view it as a history with doctrinal import. Instead, they viewed many of the passages as normative for doctrine.

This brings us back to Confirmation and the Bible. You cited the concept of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ. I can clearly make a case for each of them from:

  • the Gospels
  • Acts, and
  • the Epistles.

I cannot do the same for Confirmation.

Again, John, please do not take me wrong. I have nothing against a Church performing a Confirmation rite. I just cannot see that it was established by Christ.

  • Is this not one of the criteria for establishing the sacramentality of a rite?

More to come. I value your patience with my queries.

Sincerely in Christ,


John replied:

Ah, J.D. my brother in Christ,

You have made fatal mistake for Protestant. You have admitted that we all have a tradition when we look at Scripture. In fact, for 400 years, Protestants have been reading Paul through the eyes of Luther.

  • Now that you've owned up to having a tradition, you have to ask yourself what makes your tradition more accurate than the tradition of the Early Church?

Every single Church which has maintained Apostolic Succession, has the same seven sacraments. Even those early communities that went into schism over Christological definitions, the Nestorians and Monophysites, share the same sacraments with the Catholic and Orthodox Church.

Now this is important, because these Churches went into schism in the early fifth century, shortly after the canon of Scripture was set in stone. Hence, we see that all the Ancient Churches which predate the canon, all understood that there were seven sacraments through which Christ dispenses particular graces.

But let's go further back and read first, second and third century sources. Let's start with:

  • Clement of Rome, fourth in line from Peter, or
  • Polycarp, a direct disciple of the Apostle John, or
  • Polycarp's spiritual son, Irenæus.

These are the guys who, despite persecution, maintained the tradition against which the various New Testament Scriptures were measured and later canonized.

You have to ask yourself:

What makes Evangelical tradition more authoritative than that of Ignatius of Antioch (circa 90 A.D.) and Justin Martyr (circa 150 A.D.), just to two of many other apostolic sources?

All these guys I've mentioned, (and there are many others) all taught, in essence, the same thing the Catholic Church teaches today about the nature of:

  • the Church
  • the Sacraments
  • the Communion of Saints, and
  • purification after death.

These are the guys who protected Scripture and handed it down to their successors who canonized it.

  • Would they have handed down and protected Scripture if it taught something, other than, they themselves believed?

I think not.

So I'll challenge you my brother. If you readily admit to having a tradition, then start studying the tradition of the Early Church. [choice 2] [choice 3]


J.D. replied:


I hope it was not a fatal mistake to say that we all have a tradition through which we read the Bible; rather I hope you see it as an honest statement of fact in any area. For example, judges all have the same Constitution but they interpret it according to various presuppositions.

I would not say that my basic model was Martin Luther. He was a dynamic figure but my hermeneutic sense would go back more to someone like J.N. Darby and some of those who followed in his wake. I realize that any school of thinking on these matters has its detractors, but in the end, we have to take our conscience and stand before God on what we think He is saying on some of the finer points of belief.

I realize that you probably feel that chaos is the result of that, but perhaps that is the price we have to pay. That is what I am attempting to discover.

As far as the Early Church goes, I have read a few of the secondary materials by Catholic authors and I really cannot find seven sacraments detailed in the early years. Perhaps you can suggest a book.

What I have read mainly argues for a high view of the Eucharist but as far as:

  • Marriage
  • Confirmation, and
  • Final Unction

being sacraments, I have never seen that material clearly enough to know what the position of the early believers were.


John replied:


Let me first qualify my fatal mistake remark.

It was, first and foremost, tongue in cheek. My point is that when an Evangelical finally comes to the understanding that [he/she] is looking at the Scriptures through the prism of his or her tradition then they are well on their way to the inevitable conclusion that Sola Scriptura is nothing more than an unbiblical tradition.

  • At best, Sola Scriptura is intellectually and philosophically bankrupt.
  • At worst, it is an obstinate heresy devised to justify rebellion against the Church Christ establish.

Since you are far from being intellectually and philosophically bankrupt, and you are not obstinately avoiding the pursuit of truth, you are closer to becoming a Catholic than you might be comfortable admitting, but don't worry, we'll keep it our secret for now : )

As you read more of the Church Fathers you will also begin to see the authority of Church, especially as it relates to the Bishop of Rome.

Since you brought up Matrimony, let's discuss it. If anything is a sacrament, Christian marriage is a Sacrament. Maybe once you understand this, you'll understand what a Sacrament is.

Sacrament comes from the Latin word Sacramentum. It is the Latin word for oath!

When a couple gets married, they exchange vows or swear an oath. In fact, the priest isn't the minister of the Sacrament. He's the witness. The Bride and Groom are ministers of the Sacrament of Matrimony. Oath is just another way of saying covenant. Marriage is a covenant relationship not just a contract.

  • In a contract, promises and goods are exchanged.
  • In a covenant, people give themselves to one another.

    With their vows, they call upon God to assist them in fulfilling the covenant so Christian marriage is covenant involving a man, a woman, and God!

  • If that is not a covenant, what is?

If it is a covenant then, by definition, it is a Sacrament. Sacrament is simply the Latin word for Covenant.

All the Sacraments are based on God's Oath to work through His Church, the Body of Christ. Jesus said:

  • whenever you do this, I will do that.
  • Whose sins you forgive; I forgive. (John 20:23)
  • Whatsoever you bind on earth, shall be bound in Heaven. (Matthew 16:13-19)
  • Whatever you ask in my name, or in my stead,
    according to my will, in my authority will be done. (John 14:13)

That is why we can say the normative means for the Church to distribute grace is through the sacraments of the Church. At the same time, this Oath to act through the ministry of the Church in no way limits God from dispensing grace according to His good pleasure.

We know for sure that when a sacrament is administered according to proper form and with the proper intention, a grace is transmitted. How efficacious the grace is to recipient, is up the individual receiving. All you have to do is read Paul's warning in 1 Corinthians 11:23-30 regarding the sacrilegious reception of the Eucharist to realize that.

That's why the Church denies Baptism to the children of parents who show no intention of raising the children in the faith.

Now let's go back to Confirmation. Forget the sacramental nature, for the time being, and let's talk about the apparent experience of the Apostles. I think we would both agree that Apostles had saving faith prior to Pentecost.

  • So, what happened at Pentecost?

They received a second outpouring, which empowered them supernaturally to preach the Gospel. These were two distinct and separate experiences and events.

Clearly, the Gospel of John shows Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit into the Apostles in the Upper Room. I would hope you see that as a separate event from Pentecost. (I ask, because certain Historical Critics would hold, they are not.)

  • If he breathes the Holy Spirit into the Apostles in the upper room on Easter, what the heck was Pentecost about?

The idea of two experiences is not only found in sacramental Churches. Go up the street to your local Pentecostal or Charismatic church. They distinguish between:

  • coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and
  • being Baptized in the Holy Spirit as they would put it.

Now, because you've asked a couple of times, let's briefly talk about Extreme Unction or Final Unction.

First of all, it's actually called the Anointing of the Sick. The first reference I'll point to is James 5:14-16. I'll let you play with that verse for a while and we can do some exegesis later.

On the Sacraments, in general, I would recommend a tape series by Scott Hahn called:

Growth by Oath. You can get it on audio tape or CD.

Since my fellow apologists and I have in Christian charity taken much time to answer your questions I would ask you to address the following for us:

The Doctrine of Sola Scriptura holds that if Scripture doesn't explicitly teach a doctrine, then the doctrine cannot be a binding article of faith, hence that doctrine is relegated to a non-essential theological opinion. That said, using Scripture alone, please:

  • definitively prove the doctrine of monogamy.
  • When you've done that prove commonly accepted Christological definition, including the hypostatic union.
  • When you are done with that please prove the Trinitarian formula which defines the Trinity as three consubstantial Persons and one God; all being distinct fully God, and yet distinct and separate persons, co-equal in the Godhead.
  • After you accomplish that, please definitively prove Sola Scriptura, using only the Scripture.
  • And finally, using the Bible alone (minus the table of contents), establish the canon of Scripture.
  • Once you fail at that, we'll help you demolish that other heresy Luther started called, Sola Fide. Anyone of us can do that using Scripture Alone.

The next step will be pretty simple. Since you will clearly see that both the pillars on which the Reformation stands or falls, are blatant heresy, the only thing left for you do will be invite us to Virginia to attend your reception into the Church at next years Easter Vigil. I hear Virginia is nice in the spring ;>)

J.D., you are too intellectually honest to buy into a system that is build on two lies.

I'm not condemning the Reformers. They were probably all very well intentioned and devout.
The Church hierarchy, at the time, was also corrupt and implemented practices that abused perfectly orthodox doctrines for profit. I don't stand in judgment of my fellow Christians that sincerely follow the Gospel according to their understanding. But J.D., my brother, those wars are over. The Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. It's time you get off the front porch and join us in the family room.

Under His Mercy,


It appears John may have followed up in a private reply to J.D. with additional comments for him to consider as J.D. replied to comment on Mark 2 and the paralytic John never mentioned.

The best you can do is deduce additional comments John added to his original reply.


J.D. replied:

Good Morning, John!

You and I have bitten off quite a bit of material here, so if I do not address all of your points adequately or fairly, please let me know.

[Both And versus Either Or] — I see that whole matter as being concurrently one of the strengths and one of the weaknesses of the entire Roman Catholic position. As Protestants we do sometimes try to reduce things to a mathematical formula reflecting a post-Enlightenment bias. As far as it being Socratic, there may be a bit of that, but I would not paint Roman Catholicism as an enemy of simple logic.

[Mark 2] The reason I went off into the whole thing about the paralytic being under the Mosaic Law and his sins being addresses in a different way, was to show that passages from the Gospels contain much more ambiguity then we can handle if we simply isolate them. The Levitical system required sacrifice either in the Temple or the Tabernacle if sins were to be forgiven. See Leviticus 4:20 for an example. That was what the ancient Jewish believer understood. Now, the Book of Hebrews tells us that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin (Hebrews 10:4), so we have to understand that the animal sacrifices were some sort of down payment, but I am not sure that the ancient Jew fully understood that. He felt that he had to go through the whole Levitical system. (Philippians 3:5-6) Furthermore Hebrews tells us that for a testament to be in effect, there must be the death of a testator. (Hebrews 9:16) So technically, speaking the paralytic was under the Mosaic economy in Mark 2, yet Christ pronounced his sins forgiven.

  • Did Christ tell the man after being healed to go to the Temple and offer of the prescribed sacrifice? <The text is silent on that.>

My only point is that when the text says that Christ saw the faith of the paralytic's friends.
It leaves a bit of uncertainty as to what was going on in the heart of the paralytic. It is difficult to draw full dogmatic implications from simply one passage when many others lead one to see other factors at work.


John replied:

HI J.D.,

Maybe we are talking past each other here a bit.

Every man is indeed individually accountable to God. We don't dispute that; but salvation is both individual and corporate. It's not an either or proposition. It's a both and proposition. To be honest, it's a Mystery which no one can fully explain or comprehend.

  • I mean really, when you think about it, how do we reconcile the fact that God in His Sovereignty predestines us, but at the same time, He does not override our God-given free will?

It's paradox. Calvin went to one extreme; Arminius and Pelagius went to the other extreme.

But let's get back to Baptism for the moment.

  • Salvation is a work of grace, is it not?

Grace therefore must precede both faith and repentance, otherwise, my friend, your preaching salvation by works!


The message to adults is:

  • repent
  • believe the Gospel, and
  • be baptized.

  • That said, leaving aside infants, tell me, how does a mentally-retarded person repent?

St. Paul instructed the Thessalonians that those that would not work should not eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

  • Now does that mean if a baby or a 90-year-old man refuse to put in a 40-hour week, the Thessalonians should let them both starve? <No, of course not.>

Implicit in Paul's admonition is that it applies to those that can work. Likewise, implicit in the command to repent is that notion that one can repent.

Salvation and justification are dynamic. They are not a static event. In Baptism, we are objectively saved.

  • Amen!!!
  • Hallelujah!!!
  • Bless God!!!
  • Thank You Jesus!!!

Great, but that's only the beginning. He who began a work in us, is faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6)

  • Does God need the sacraments to perfect us?

No, but He chose to institute them for our benefit. We are both body and spirit. We can't separate the two. We live in a physical world as sensual beings, hence, God uses our senses in His plan of Redemption, just as He uses each member of His Body in the work of Redemption.

Now all that said, you've raised some other interesting points which I'll try to address.


In Mark 2, Jesus responded to their faith. Whether or not the paralytics had faith or whether or not the paralytic's faith was included in the their is irrelevant to my point. My point is that we see Christ responding to a particular individual's need on the basis of more than just the individual faith.

As for paralytic being under the Mosaic Law, that's also not relevant. All those forgiven under the requisites of the Law were saved by grace through faith on the basis of Christ's sacrifice. Paul
and the author of Hebrews make it clear that the Law was powerless to save (Hebrews 7:18-19);
it was simply a teacher.

Again, J.D., you are going around in circles with these questions. Sooner or later you can only come to one conclusion. Scripture Alone or Sola Scriptura is untenable, not to mention a heresy. This 400-year-old little experiment has done nothing but produce 30,000 denominations and an innumerable number of cults. You said it before: You get a couple guys together reading the book of Acts and the next thing you know, you've got Christians who still won't eat the meat of strangled animals.

At some point, you are going to have to realize that soteriology is corollary Christian doctrine, secondary to Christology. Christians are called first and foremost to worship and enter into the Mysteries of faith: the Trinity, the Incarnation, and become partakers in the Divine nature.

The problem, especially in Western Church, is that we've all become Socratic rationalists. We want an equation that answers the Philippian Jailor's question:

  • What must I do to be saved?

To steal a phrase from the beautiful Catholic convert Laura Ingram, maybe we ought to just Shut Up and Sing. Put more reverently, we need embrace the message of Divine Mercy as promulgated by Saint Faustina: Jesus I trust in You.

Don't get me wrong, soteriology is an important doctrine, but we can't treat it or any other Mystery of Faith like Algebra.

The Catholic experience is to receive Christ in manner in which He comes to us.

In the Sacraments, we trust His promise or, better, oath that He will act. When receiving a Sacraments, we know objectively, in spite of our feelings, that Christ has:

  • regenerated us
  • forgiven us
  • filled us with the Holy Spirit, and
  • made Himself present under what now appears to be bread and wine.

This does not exclude any other subjective experience, nor does it limit God to act only in the Sacraments.


J.D. replied:

Hi John,

Back to this matter about God's grace and people's understanding.

Here is my problem.

Like you, I do believe that God is gracious and saves individual men on that basis. I don't know if your theology would use the term prevalent Grace, but that is something John Wesley stressed. While I am not a Methodist, formally, I think that Wesley was getting at a truth you also seem to be expressing.

My only point is that the concept of pouring water on a person seems to be superfluous since God is going to act in Grace anyway. The fact that a cleric may or may not have an opportunity to baptize an infant is not going to have any effect upon God's gracious dealing if His purpose is to exhibit Grace to that baby anyway. By the same token, pouring water on the head of a baby is not going to necessarily do any good. The two poster boys for this are Hitler and Stalin but there are millions of other people for whom a simple application of water did nothing more than please the doting parents and grandparents. Sadly, this may also have given the child a false sense of security as he grew up and was told that his Baptism gave him some sort of right standing with God.

I think you also may have run together two aspects of Grace: justifying Grace and growing Grace. The first one places a person in Christ. The second one causes him to grow in Christ-likeness.

I can see the fact that the sacrament of the Eucharist increases growing Grace, but my difficulty is accepting the fact that any of the sacraments are needed for justifying Grace. The reason for that is that they are not mixed with faith. (Hebrews 4:2). Man who has light, still has a responsibility to act upon that light.

I will leave the mentally incapacitated and the heathen in the darkest jungles to God's mercy.
I can develop this sculpturally, but for now, my only point is that a simple rite performed upon a baby who has no faith does not make a lot of difference in that child's life. As I have discussed with Mary Ann, the fact that Baptism of desire or Baptism of blood will also bring a person to God, points more to faith alone.

The Scriptures, in both Testaments, clearly teach that God will judge based on the Light a person has received.

Mary Ann and I have been discussing this concept a bit.


John replied:


You just said something which brings us to Justification, so allow me to address this key issue.

Justifying grace, as you put it, is not received simply once, because Justification is not a
one-time declaration of not guilty. It is dynamic and increases.

Paul tells us in Romans that Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. In Romans 4 Paul is quoting Genesis 15, so if Paul understands Justification according to Protestant theology, Abraham was not did not have believing faith and was not saved until Genesis 15. That would mean that everything recorded about Abraham in Genesis 12 through 14 all occurred before he was justified.

You can't properly understand Paul without understanding the context of the Old Testament quotes he uses. When Paul quotes the Old Testament, he is recalling the entire context by quoting the poignant part of the text. It would be the same thing as you or I saying we both recall the horrible events of 9/11 just by mentioning the date.

In Romans, Paul was arguing with Jewish Christians against their belief that circumcision and other works of the Law were requisite to becoming a Christian. Paul's point in quoting Genesis 15 is that Abraham was justified aside from circumcision, let alone the other rituals prescribes in the Mosaic Law.

James points to Abraham as well.

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

James 2:21-24

Leaving the issue of faith alone aside for now, let's look at what James says about when Abraham was justified.

If we are going to read James the way Protestants have traditionally read Romans, must conclude the following.

According to James, Abraham was justified by his obedience in Genesis 22 when he offered up Isaac and not back in Genesis 15 as Paul claimed. Hello?

According to the author, Abraham was justified (or exercised faith, which according to you all
is the only thing necessary for salvation) back in Genesis 12 when he left his homeland, but when we read on in Hebrews 11, we see that his justification grows and matures and is dynamic and that Abraham was justified more than once, because he obeyed God, as he believed God.

So, now let's go back to Baptism. You brought up Hitler and Stalin as men who, when baptized, just got their heads wet and nothing else happened. Wrong!!

  • Go to directly to Jail —
  • do not pass go —
  • do not collect $200.00!!!

When we are baptized we are objectively the recipients of justifying grace. That fact in no way is a guarantee that we will live our lives in obedient saving faith. Being born again does not mean that we will persevere in faith, despite the fact we've received the grace of initial justification.

That is the model that holds true for each and every sacrament, just as it does respecting the atonement of Christ.

The sufficiency of grace is objectively there for all who receive the sacrament, just as the atonement of Christ is sufficient for all men, however, the efficiency of grace in the sacraments, like the efficiency of the Christ's atonement, is up to the response of the individual.

To be continued . . . : )

God Bless,


J.D. replied:

Brother John,

I do appreciate the time all of you have taken and find all of you to be much more responsive than others whom I have honestly questioned.

You said:
That said, using Scripture alone, please:

  • definitively prove the doctrine of monogamy.
  • When you are done with that please prove the Trinitarian formula which defines the Trinity as three consubstantial Persons and one God; all being distinct fully God, and yet distinct and separate persons, co-equal in the Godhead.
Matthew 19:8 in concert with Genesis 3:20-25 and other verses.
This would take longer to show but is clearly evident using 10 or 12 verses in both the
Old and New Testament in concert with monotheistic logic. I can do it later this week
when I have more time.

I don't see Sola Scriptura as failing on the basics of orthodox Christian theology but rather on the secondary and tertiary issues. The question on my mind is:
  • Are these latter issues important enough that they must be entrusted to a magisterial body, and furthermore, what drawbacks accrue from having such a body?

Right now, I could write a dictionary-sized book on each of the two above-mentioned questions.

Sincerely in Christ,


John replied:


I asked you prove monogamy using Scripture Alone. Matthew 19 refers to divorce. It could just as easily mean that a man is able to have many wives but can't divorce any of them.

In fact, the selected Bible verses could be just as easily used to support the freedom to have more than one wife.

7 Then Nathan said to David, You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel:
"I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.
8 I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! . . ."

2 Samuel 12:7-8

Say what! God gave David more than one wife? Hello!!!

Now read in 1 Timothy 3:2 carefully.

2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate,
sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;

1 Timothy 3:2

Here Paul is forbidding the ordination of polygamist Christian men, but using Scripture alone, without the Tradition, one can surmise the implication that if a Christian man doesn't want to be a bishop, he is free to have multiple wives.

The only reason Christians universally accept monogamy is because of Tradition. The Bible,
at best, is ambiguous on the subject.

Because you don't see Sola Scriptura as unorthodox, doesn't make it orthodox. If Sola Scriptura demands that all doctrines be proved by the Scriptures, than Sola Scriptura must be proved by Scripture Alone!

Logic dictates that.

Logic further dictates that the canon of Scripture itself be proved by Scripture alone, otherwise you are already breaking the doctrine of Sola Scriptura from the get go.

Period, end of story, exclamation point!!!


J.D. replied:


As far as Final Unction goes, the passage in James 5 speaks of healing the sick and the fact that the RCC sees it as a final rite as opposed to a way for the Church to pray for the healing of a sick person seems to fly clearly in the face of an honest interpretation of the passage.

From what I understand, Final Unction is generally limited to the dying, whereas the James 5 passage does not say that at all.

On marriage being a sacrament: I still cannot see where Christ instituted it, as such, as a sacrament during his earthly ministry. It existed in Eden and most pagan cultures have also seen the value of having marriage as an institution.

The problem you get into with making it a sacrament is that the dissolution of it then becomes artificial and contrived. I once read a book by the former wife of a prominent Roman Catholic politician. He wanted to leave her and marry another lady, but he could not do it unless he had his sacramental marriage dissolved by the Church. These people had been married for several years and, as I recall, had more than one child.

The word on the street from their home town was this:

Whoever gets the best canon lawyer is the one who wins the contest.

Henry VIII notwithstanding, the ecclesiastical dissolution of marriage is just like any other court case and it helps to have enough money to hire the right lawyer. I simply think that involving the Church in this process makes a mockery of the institution of marriage. This is sad, in view of all of the other noble things the RCC does to support and defend marriage.


John replied:

Hi J.D.,

You said:
From what I understand, Final Unction is generally limited to the dying, whereas the James 5 passage does not say that at all.

In the words of Mark Twain,

"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated!"

Brother, I received the Anointing of the Sick (or Final Unction) six weeks ago when the priest offered it to any and all in the congregation after Mass.

While in the past, the Latin Rite of the Church usually administered the sacrament to those near death, (as a matter of practice), it has never limited it to dying. In fact, in the Eastern Catholic Rites the Anointing of the Sick has always been a fairly frequently-offered sacrament.

You've fallen into the typical trap of confusing (practice or discipline) with doctrine. To understand the difference read Acts Chapter 15. The Jerusalem Council made a dogmatic pronouncement that Gentiles don't need to be circumcised and observe the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law in order to become Christians. They added a pastoral discipline for the sake of the Jews. That being, the admonishment to new Gentile believers to refrain from eating certain meat. This was to avoid causing Jewish believers to stumble. Then they added a teaching about sexual morality.

The first dogmatic statement still holds today, as does the moral teaching, but the ban on eating the meat of strangled animals has long been dispensed with.

  • dogmas,
  • doctrines, and
  • moral teaching are part of the Deposit of Faith.

Hence they are irrevocable.

  • Disciplines and practices, such as abstaining from meat of Friday
  • only ordaining single men, and
  • what liturgical colors are used during a liturgical season

are provisions established for pastoral reasons. They are subject to change, if and when, the pastoral circumstances change.

Now let's go back to something else you said about the Sacraments.

You said:
On marriage being a sacrament: I still cannot see where Christ instituted it, as such, as a sacrament during his earthly ministry.

There in lies the problem.

  • Where exactly does the Bible define a sacrament?

A sacrament is not an ordinance, otherwise, it would be a work of the Law! Yes, we do certain things including administering sacraments out of obedience to Christ, but reducing a sacrament to an ordinance instituted by Christ in Scripture misses the point of what a Sacrament is.

As it relates to Marriage, it's not just the ceremony that's a sacrament; it's the entire relationship from the moment of Marriage to death. As St. Paul implies, in Ephesians 5, Marriage mirrors the covenantal relationship between Christ and the Church. We would go further and say that it mirrors the Life and Love of the Trinity.

Now, about this nonsense about a sacramental marriage being dissolved. That is impossible.

The annulment process determines whether or not a sacramental marriage was actually entered into.

  • In other words, were their impediments to the couple entering into a covenant of their own free will?

For instance:

  • Was their coercion?
  • Did the couple marry simply because the woman was pregnant?
  • Was either party already married?
  • Were they both of sound mind? etc., etc.

A covenant is irrevocable.

  • Unlike a contract, wherein, if the promises are broken, the contract is broken —
  • in a covenant, when the promises are broken, the covenant remains, but the people are broken.

Just look at Deuteronomy. Israel was brought into a Covenant relationship with God. So long as Israel followed the prescription of the Covenant, they would experience Covenant blessings, but if they abandoned Covenant prescriptions they would experience Covenant curses.

So the subsequent chastisement of Israel (the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities) were not because the Israelites broke the Covenant. It was because the prescriptions of the Covenant were broken. As a result, the negative part of Covenant was enforced! but the Covenant relationship remained nonetheless. In fact, it is only because of the Covenant relationship, that Israel is justly chastised.

The Covenant contains the Law and then, in addition to the Law itself, there are the works of the Law. The Law is only there because of a Covenant relationship between God and Israel.

In like manner, the natural law exists only because God made a Covenant with creation itself in Genesis.

  • Why do you think the Creation story in Genesis 1 recounts seven days?

Because the Hebrew word for covenant or oath is the same word for seven!

J.D., the problem appears to be that you are imposing your traditional, and I must say extremely limited, definition of sacrament on what the Church calls a sacrament.

Bro, the Church itself is a sacrament, the Body of Christ, through which all Sacraments and graces flow. You are defining the visible Church as an institution or organization. You seek to separate the visible Church from invisible Body of Christ. That's like trying to separate Christ's Human nature from his Divine nature. While the Elect are part of the Church, the Church is not just the Elect. In fact, my dear brother, all those who will be ultimately saved, be they fully Catholic, Protestant, or what not, are somehow mystically part of the Roman Catholic Church, hence, Outside the Church there is no salvation.

Whether you want to admit it or not, you are, in an imperfect manner, a Catholic because the Church by definition is one. (Ephesians 4:5)

More later.

God Bless,

John D.

J.D. replied:


You are a good man and if you ever are in Virginia, lunch or dinner is on me!

We essentially agree on Matthew 25 and I understand now the point you are making about Covenantal versus Extra-Covenantal means of Grace as relates to the sacraments. I am not sure
if I agree with it, but I now understand it.

On Romans 6, I was never one of those Protestants who equated Circumcision and Baptism. From my study of the Bible, those are apples and oranges and most of the Reformers, (especially those of Calvinistic bent), never were able to rightly divide the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15).

Circumcision was a covenantal rite to show God's mark upon national Israel and was only done to men. Baptism is a rite, ordinance, or sacrament of the Christian Church done to males and females alike to show identification with the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ. The former is corporate while the latter is individual. The former is ethnically-oriented and sexually-restricted while the latter is universal. The former showed visible membership in a nation while the latter speaks of a finished work done by Another but getting down to our more fundamental discussion, John:

Circumcision never conferred righteousness upon the recipient. The CCC seems to be saying that some type of righteousness is transmitted or conferred in the sacrament of Baptism.

This gets back to my original point, as you have seen in my discussions with Mary Ann. It can be replaced by Baptism of desire or blood according to the CCC. These operate by faith.

  • Does this not make the point that ontologically we are saved by faith?

Perhaps we are exhausting this topic and I need to re-read the notes and the web site references.

  • After you answer me, would you mind if we move on the either:
    • Mary
    • the Communion of the Saints, or
    • Purgatory?



John replied:


You said:
Circumcision was a covenantal rite to show God's mark upon national Israel and was only done to men. Baptism is a rite, ordinance, or sacrament of the Christian Church done to males and females alike to show identification with the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ. The former is corporate while the latter is individual.

Say what?

Salvation is as much corporate as it is individual. That's were Evangelicals always blow it!!

  • Have you ever heard of a book called Ephesians?

Salvation is so much more than me, my Bible, and Jesus. By His Incarnation, the Eternal Word united Himself to mankind reconciling us the Father. In becoming a man, Jesus demonstrated humanity's own role in redemption. Yes, Salvation is a complete work of Christ, but Christians are In Christ and therefore participate in the redemptive work of Christ. You do that every time you pray for someone or preach the Gospel.

J.D., salvation is not just a Get of Jail Free card. It's adoption. It's divine sonship. It takes place in the family room as much as it does in the court room!

Let's take an example from the Gospels.

1 And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. 2 Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. 3 Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. 4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven you."

Mark 2:1-5

Notice, Jesus didn't respond to one repentant man. It says Jesus saw their faith. We don't even know if the paralytic had any faith and is included in the plural pronoun they. For all we know it could have been the faith of his friends that Jesus was responding to. Hello!!

Read the text again.

You see J.D., it boils down to this. Evangelicals start with the question:

This reduces Christianity to level of appealing a parking ticket before the Clerk Magistrate, whereas, prior to Luther, the Church historically always started with Christ's question to Peter:

Who do you say that I am? (Matthew 16:13)

When we ponder the that question, we begin to see the organic unity which exists in the Church because it is the Body of Christ. You can't separate the Head from the Body.

We can't just talk about faith in strictly an individual context. In other words:

If you believe, you can be healed, if you believe you can be saved.

If that premise is true, then explain Peter and Paul raising people from the dead! Hello!

  • How did the dead person have enough faith to receive the Resurrection?

No, it was Peter and Paul's faith, together with the faith of Church (which is nothing less than the Body of Christ) that brought about that miracle by the will of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

It's the same thing with Baptism or any other sacrament:

They are in one sense an act of God. In another sense, they rely on the faith of Mystical Body of Christ. In fact, the Church teaches that faith of the Church can make up for what is lacking in our personal faith when receiving a sacrament.

In Him,


J.D. replied:

Hello John,

I was just getting ready to log out when I noticed your reply.

You mentioned Ephesians but did not give any specific verses.

  • Can you give one or two which you believe support your claim than man is not fundamentally accountable as an individual before God?

I realize that Ephesians deals, in large part, with the existing Church, but how one enters the Church is pretty clearly discussed in Ephesians 1:12-13.

. . . that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.

Ephesians 1:12-13

That passage seems to be very individually oriented and speaks not of baptism or joining an institutional church but rather trusting and believing after hearing the Gospel.

The passage in Mark 2 is very inspirational and I think that Christ was honoring the faith that these men showed in Him. On the other hand, we are not told about the faith of the paralytic.

  • Did he have it or not? <Maybe yes; maybe no.>

Scripture is silent and that is one of the strengths of Roman Catholicism.

It seeks to fill in the blanks where there are Scriptural ambiguities but this passage also has other ambiguities which are beyond the scope of Roman Catholic or Protestant reasoning.

Specifically, in verse 5, Jesus says,

"Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." (Mark 2:5)

He made this statement prior to the Cross when the full payment was made. (Hebrews 9:16, 22) The paralytic was under the Mosaic Law at the time and there is no evidence that he had been to the Temple to offer up any of the prescribed animal sacrifices.

  • On what basis did Christ forgive him?

I am not sure any Roman Catholic, Protestant theologian, or Bible student could answer that one with certainty.

What I am saying John, is that we take the clear understandings and go to the ambiguous in Scripture. This passage is indeed ambiguous yet there is a wealth of Scriptural evidence stressing individual responsibility.

I don't have all of the answers.


Mike replied:

Hi, J.D. —

You said:
You mentioned Ephesians but did not give any specific verses.

  • Can you give one or two which you believe support your claim than man is not fundamentally accountable as an individual before God?

These passages all make reference to the Body of Christ:

That said, I think John was suggesting that you read the whole book of Ephesians so you understand the context in which Paul was writing and understand the point he was making:

Salvation is as much corporate as it is individual.

You said:
As far as Confirmation, I have nothing against it but I just cannot see where it was ever instituted by Christ. There are some Roman Catholic doctrines which are implicitly defensible based on hints in the Scriptures but I can't even find a scintilla about Confirmation.

On the issue of Anointing the Sick, that was indeed done by Christ and his disciples during his earthly ministry, but to relegate it to those who are dying has no Scriptural warrant.

On Marriage, Christ's presence at the wedding at Cana is an historical fact, but I can't see that He spoke doctrinally about marriage though He did attend numerous events, dinners, festivals, meetings, etc.

This is from my Scripture Passages web page. It contains Scripture passages that support all the Catholic sacraments and in some places explains their appropriate interpretation.


Acts 2:1-4
Coming of the Spirit - "There appeared to them tongues as of fire."
Acts 2:38
"And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Acts 8:14-17
Peter and John laid hands on those that had already been baptized and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 19:5-6
Paul imposed his hands on the baptized and they received the Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22
"It is God who gives us, with you, a sure place in Christ and has both anointed us and marked us with his seal, giving us as pledge the Spirit in our hearts."
Ephesians 1:13
You were sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 6:1-2
Let us leave behind us then all the elementary teaching about Christ and go on to its completion, without going over the fundamental doctrines again: the turning away from dead actions, faith in God, the teaching about baptisms and the laying-on of hands, about the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.
See also:
Wisdom 9:17

Interested in what the very first Christians thought, taught, and died for?
Check out what they said on this topic.

Anointing of the Sick
Mark 6:12-13
Apostles anoint the sick with oil. They anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.
James 5:14-15
"Any one of you who is ill should send for the elders of the church, and they must anoint the sick person with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him."

Interested in what the very first Christians thought, taught, and died for?
Check out what they said on this topic.

Brings challenge of unity, love and holiness.

Matthew 19:5
This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh. They are no longer two, therefore, but one flesh.
Ephesians 5:25
"Love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church."
1 Thessalonians 4:4
"Acquire a wife for himself in holiness and honor."
See also:
Mark 10:7, Ephesians 5:31ff, 1 Timothy 2:15
Dignity of Marital Love.
Genesis 2:23
"This one . . . bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh."
Mark 10:6-12
What God joined together, let no man separate.
1 Corinthians 7:3-5
Husbands and wives have authority over each other's bodies.
Ephesians 5:21
"Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ."
Colossians 3:18-19
"Be subordinate to your husbands . . . Husbands, love your wives."
1 Peter 3:7
"Live with your wives in understanding, showing honor."
See also:
Matthew 9:15, Matthew 19:4-6, Matthew 25:1-13, Ephesians 5:21-33

Interested in what the very first Christians thought, taught, and died for?
Check out what they said on this topic.
Image of Christ and His Church.
2 Corinthians 11:2
"Betrothed you to one husband to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ."
Ephesians 5:23
"Husband is head of his wife, just as Christ is head of the Church."
Ephesians 5:25
"Love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church."
Ephesians 5:22-32
Union of man and wife are an image of Christ and his Church.
Revelation 19:7
"Wedding day of the Lamb . . . bride has made herself ready."
See also:
Jeremiah 31:31-34, Matthew 25:1-10, John 3:29, Romans 8:31-39, Romans 12:1-13, 1 Corinthians 6:13-20
You said:
As far as the Early Church goes, I have read a few of the secondary materials by Catholic authors and I really cannot find seven sacraments detailed in the early years. Perhaps you can suggest a book.

What I have read mainly argues for a high view of the Eucharist but as far as:

  • Marriage
  • Confirmation, and
  • Final Unction

being sacraments, I have never seen that material clearly enough to know what the position of the early believers were.

Check out the Sacraments section of myBibleBeltCatholics.comweb site.

Just click on each individual sacrament along with using the time traveler slider at the top of each page:

Pre-Christian through the Second Century >>

Hope this helps,


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