Teaching & Suggestions

Was Abraham Save by Faith Alone?

by Steve Ray on March 28, 2017

Today I am flying to Franciscan University of Steubenville to be the guest for Franciscan University Presents, the one-hour TV show produced by the University for EWTN. Mike Hernon hosts the program which is a round-table discussion with a guest and panelists from their Theology Department, Dr. Scott Hahn and Dr. Regis Martin. 

Our topic will be Abraham, Father of Faith & Works. I am looking forward to recording this show. In honor of this event today I am posting this article on Abraham, a critique I made of a book falsely claiming Abraham was saved by “faith alone.”

Was Abraham saved by Faith Alone? By Steve Ray

imgres-1You say, “Of course Abraham was saved by faith alone! Doesn’t the Bible make that perfectly clear, especially in Paul’s letters? And didn’t Luther’s German translation inform the masses that the words “faith” and “alone” belonged together like bread and butter? Abraham was saved by faith alone!”

Well, maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t, but the Bible certainly throws some question on this well-known Protestant cliché. Let’s find out how and when Abraham was really “saved.” Fundamentalist Protestants like to tell us that we are saved at “one-point-in-time when we “simply believe.” In other words mental assent to the simple gospel gives us a free passage to heaven.

imagesSince Abraham is used in the New Testament as the quintessential example of justification by faith, let’s see if we can pin-point the moment when Abraham believed? Can we locate the exact moment he was “saved”? Since this was such a momentous occasion in the history of mankind, and in the drama of salvation history, it should be clearly shown when Abraham actually believed and was reckoned as righteous. From unbelief to belief, from no faith to saving faith.

Protestants (e.g., John Ankerberg in Protestants and Catholics, Do They Now Agree? [Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publ., 1995) like to say the word “justify” as used by James really means “vindicate,” and that “vindicate” has nothing to do with salvation, but has to do with the proving of the believer’s faith—Abraham’s faith. You really should have addressed the major weakness of this perspective: it is not the faith that is being justified by works—it is the man.

images-1How can we justify this? If our theory holds true shouldn’t we read, “Was not Abraham our father’s faith justified (vindicated) by works?” making it clear that it is his faith, and not his person. Instead we read, unfortunately, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works?” This observation does not set well with our interpretation.

In your book you say that it is always the faith that is proven by works, whereas the Apostle James seems to say it is the person. We should try to figure out how James could have worded this passage more carefully so Catholics don’t get the wrong idea and misunderstand the gospel. You also say in your book (p. 37) that “Paul is writing about a person being justified before God, while James is writing about a man being justified before men. Men cannot see another person’s heart as God can.”

imgresSomehow we have to more careful in this theory, or else we end up scratching a few verses out of the story of Abraham in Genesis. Was it men who were testing Abraham’s faith? The book of Genesis says, no. It was God who was testing Abraham in Genesis 22, not men. You write that James is referring to justification before men (p. 37), because God can already see the heart. I noticed in reading James & Peter, by Harry Ironside, that he agrees with you on this point.

But the problem seems to be that it was God who was testing Abraham in Genesis, because Moses wrote, “Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham . . . ” (Gen. 22:1) Notice it was not men who were finding out what was in Abraham’s heart— whether he had true faith—it was God.

For the whole article, click here.  To learn purchase our documentary on Abraham filmed in Iraq, Turkey and Israel, click here

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 11.43.07 AM

{ 0 comments }

Are saints who have physically died “dead saints” or are they alive with God?

A friend named Leonard Alt got tired of being hammered by anti-Catholic Fundamentalists on this issue so he decided to write this article. I thought you might enjoy it too, so here it goes…

Leonard writes: I wrote this note after several days of frustration with people, on Facebook, saying that saints can’t do  anything, because they are dead.  They seem to be leaving out the fact that the souls live on.  ENJOY! 

An antagonist named Warren Ritz asked, “Who are the “dead in Christ”, if not those who walked with our Lord, but who are now no   longer among the living?” He is correct; the “dead in Christ” are those saints  who have physically died.    “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess 4:16). 

THE CONCEPT OF LIVING SAINTS CAN DO HARM TO THE “JESUS ALONE” DOCTRINE.  From some people’s point of view, people who have died are classified as “dead saints,” who can do nothing.  They are no longer a force to reckon with; they can no longer appear; they cannot talk nor do other things.  These same people don’t want the saints who have died doing anything because this would be another reason why the Protestant doctrine, “JESUS ALONE” fails.  If the so-called “dead saints” do anything then it is not “JESUS ALONE,” but Jesus and the saints cooperating.    And it would also mean that the so-called “dead saints” are in fact not dead, but alive with God.    

HIS PHYSICAL BODY DIED BUT HIS SOUL LIVED ON.  But, are the Saints who have gone before us alive with God or are they truly “dead saints” who can do nothing as some would suggest?    Yes, their bodies are dead, but their souls live on.  For example Jesus said to one of the criminals on the cross next to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43).   Yes, that day, this man became the dead in Christ because his physical body died on his cross; however, Jesus said that today, this man would be with Him in paradise.   He was no “dead saint” because his soul was alive in Christ in Paradise.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob alive and concerned for their descendants

HE IS THE GOD OF THE LIVING.  One person alluded to Mark 12:26-27 saying “Jesus is the God of the living, not of the dead” in an attempt to show that Jesus cannot be the god of those who have died; after all he says “Jesus is the god of the living.”  However, he left out three people who were no longer alive in verse 26; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God said that He was their God.   And so does that mean that God is the God of the dead?  No; “He is not God of the dead but of the living.”  

  • “God told him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, (the) God of Isaac, and (the) God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled” (Mk 12: 26-27). 

Abraham Isaac and Jacob are physically dead and yet their souls are alive because their God is not God of the dead but of the living and thus do not qualify as “dead saints.” 

WHEN MOSES AND ELIJAH APPEARED WERE THEY DEAD OR ALIVE?  There are those who insist that saints who have died are nothing more than “dead saints” who can do nothing.   I usually ask them this question.   When Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, were they dead or alive?   “And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah” (Lk 9:30).  Not bad for a couple of so-called “dead saints;” not only did they appear, but they were talking as well.  The question that I asked usually goes unanswered.   

SORRY LEONARD…YOU HAVE A BAD ARGUMENT.  Bill says, “As Ecclesiastes says the dead have nothing more to do under the sun…sorry Leonard…you have a bad argument.”  He is using this as definitive Biblical proof that people on the other side cannot do anything once they have died.  After all, Ecclesiastes does say, “For them, love and hatred and rivalry have long since perished. They [the dead] will never again have part in anything that is done under the sun” (Eccles 9:6).    

When a person dies their body is in the grave; it is dead. They can no longer work under the sun, in this world.  However, Ecclesiastes 9:6 is not a prohibition against the activity of the person’s soul, which lives on.   This of course begs the question; is there any indication of personal activity of a soul after death, in Scripture?   

Yes, there are a number of examples and here is one of them.  Elisha after dying performed marvelous deeds.  In life he [Elisha] performed wonders, and after death, marvelous deeds (Sir 48:14).  “Elisha died and was buried. At the time, bands of Moabites used to raid the land each year. Once some people were burying a man, when suddenly they spied such a raiding band. So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off.  But when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet” (Kings 13:20-21).  

Using, Ecclesiastes 9:6 as a prohibition against all soul activity after death is to use the verse out of context and at odds with other parts of the Bible.  Ecclesiastes 9:6 is referring to the physical body that has died, not the soul that lives on.  Elisha, after death performed marvelous deeds.   It can’t be much clearer than that!   

JESUS NEVER CLAIMED THAT THOSE WHO HAVE DIED ARE “DEAD SAINTS.”  Jesus understood well that when someone dies, they will live and in fact those who live and believe in him WILL NEVER DIE. 

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this” (Jn 11:23-26)?  

This union, with the saints on this side and the saints on the other side is referred to as the communion of saints in the Apostles Creed.  Those who insist that “dead saints” can’t do anything because their bodies have physically died seem not to understand that their souls live on and are very involved. 

So, where does the Bible say we should pray to dead saints? I would ask, Where does the Bible say saints are dead?

{ 19 comments }

Is God Like a GPS System?

by Steve Ray on February 24, 2017

There are a million reasons why God is NOT like a GPS system but I am in Australia and I made a wrong turn and my GPS started reprimanding me and saying “Recalculating!”

GPS.jpgFor those who don’t know, GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a nifty little device that links up with positional satellites above the earth. The satellites pinpoint exactly where you are and the micro computer inside the GPS calculates the shortest or fastest route to get to your destination.

The GPS sits on the dashboard of your car and verbally and visually directs you to your location. Mine is a Garmin and it covers the whole of the USA, Canada and Mexico. I will soon be buying one that covers the Middle East and Europe.

I thought of three ways, at least, that the GPS is like God–relatively and figuratively speaking. First, it knows everything: every address, street, city and business in the USA. It knows every gas station, hotel, church, post office, restaurant, airport, school, grocery store, intersection, hospital, freeway, etc. God knows everything.

Second, you can turn it on or shut it off. Now of course you can’t shut God off, but you can practically say NO to him and shut him out of your life. If I shut off my GPS I am the loser since it knows “everything” and knows exactly where I am at any time and how to get to where I want to go. God knows exactly where I am eternally and how to get me to my location. I can turn him on if I want to get his advice and enjoy his knowledge.

Third, every time I screw up he can get me back on track. For example, the other day I made a wrong turn and the GPS politely said, “Recalculating! Make a u-turn.” After I failed to make a u-turn, making a left turn instead, the GPS said, “Recalculating, turn right at Main Street.”

USA.bmpIn other words, even though I ignore or disobey the GPS it does not condemn me. It just says, “OK, I had this planned the very best way for you get to your final destination, but you didn’t listen, so I will start over. From where you are now I can STILL get you there — but I have to recalculate first.”

God does the same. He forgives. We screw up and go on the wrong path (sin, disobedience, pride, etc.) and once we repent and confess our sins and decide to listen to God again, he starts over in our life and says “Recalculating! Now that you’ve made a wrong turn and are willing to correct it — don’t worry, I can still get you to heaven from here.” And then he gives us the new directions from our wrong location.

Oh, one other thing, the GPS is ready for me to listen any time day or night. It can get me places in daylight or in pitch darkness, when I know where I’m going and when I don’t — and can’t God do all of that too?

{ 7 comments }

Was Jesus Nice?

February 20, 2017

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me. “That was not very Christ-like.” This response usually comes after being honest to the point of making someone upset.  The implication is that Jesus was a cuddly little nice guy who was always smiling, always accepting with kind words – in […]

Read the full article →

Salvation by Faith Alone?

February 15, 2017

Since the days of Martin Luther it has been popular to reduce salvation to a sound bite. Salvation is not by works but by “faith alone.” However, the Bible seems to have another idea. In my book CROSSING THE TIBER I mention a few passages from Scripture to give a more biblical perspective. Here is […]

Read the full article →

Evangelism Antennas: A Fun Story of One Woman’s Day and the New Evangelism :-)

December 26, 2016

A while ago I gave a talk in Ann Arbor Michigan. It was about the New Evangelization. As part of my talk I explained how Janet and I have our “evangelism antennas” up first thing in the morning – alertly watching for open doors and ways to share our Catholic Faith throughout the day. And […]

Read the full article →

Seven Dangers to Human Virtue and Civilization

December 2, 2016

Wealth without work Pleasure without conscience Knowledge without character Business without ethics Science without humanity Religion without sacrifice Politics without principle

Read the full article →

Vine, Branches & Fire: Where Will You End up?

November 23, 2016

I was out cutting vines out of the trees and thought of the words of Jesus.

Read the full article →

Mass with 2 Protestants and 1 Crucifix

November 10, 2016

A while ago we went to Mass with two Protestants.  As we walked in the door — there it was, as big as life — a CRUCIFIX with the Body of Our Lord hanging over the altar. I knew what the Protestants were thinking — I used to think the same — “CATHOLICS ARE WRONG, JESUS IS […]

Read the full article →

Jesus Was A Jew and Why You Can’t Understand the Bible without Knowing That

November 5, 2016

Jesus was a Jew. This fact may escape the casual reader of the New Testament, but it is crucial to understanding Jesus and the book written about him—the Bible. Unhappily, in 21st century America we are far removed from the land of Israel and the ancient culture of Jesus and his Jewish ancestors. Let me […]

Read the full article →

Quiz: Did Jesus Found a Church and If So, Where Is It?

November 4, 2016

I am sharing this from John Martignoni’s e-mail and website at www.BibleChristianSociety.com. Thanks for your good work John! 1) Did Jesus found a church?  A) Yes; Matt 16:18  2) How many churches did Jesus found?  A) One; the church is the Body of Christ and there is only one body of Christ – Rom 12:5, […]

Read the full article →

Crap, Castration & Two Creations – Colorful New Testament Wording

November 2, 2016

Since we are in Philippi Greece today, I thought I would post this colorful blog :-) We miss a lot when reading the English Bible. We’re at a great disadvantage. The early Christians read the writings of the apostles in the original language – they understood the words and expressions must better than we do. […]

Read the full article →

Why Did God Allow Man to Sin? “O Happy Fault of Adam”

October 31, 2016

This is a question that has puzzled people from the beginning. If God is good and all powerful why didn’t he stop Adam and Eve from sinning? Fair question. Of course we all know that he took the risk of giving us free will so that we could choose to love him. I don’t want […]

Read the full article →

You Laity are Pretty Important and Should be Involved Reminding Priests and Bishops

October 29, 2016

We Catholics often think we should sit back and let the bishops and priests do everything. We should look to them to save our Church. But Archbishop Fulton Sheen has a word of exhortation for us: “Who is going to save our Church? Do not look to the priests. Do not look to the bishops. […]

Read the full article →

Stop being intimidated, say what you’re thinking! Are example at the airport…

October 25, 2016

We stepped into the Delta lounge to await our flight to Greece where we will meet our group of 95 excited pilgrims for a St. Paul cruise. A guy sat down next to me and said, “How you doing?” I said, “Great, we just voted for Trump and we are on our way to lead […]

Read the full article →