Teaching & Suggestions

Today (Monday) I will be on the radio with Gary Michuta at 1 PM at https://virginmostpowerfulradio.org/. Hope you can listen in.

Our topic will be Abraham, Father of Faith & Works. I am looking forward to this live 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 more or purchase our documentary on Abraham filmed in Iraq, Turkey and Israel, click here

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

by Steve Ray on August 24, 2019

One has to take time to care for their land and awhile ago I was cutting wild vines out of the trees and thought of the words of Jesus in John 15:5–6, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.

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Bias in Bible Translations

by Steve Ray on August 22, 2019

Translating Holy Scripture is a necessary process by which the sacred text is provided in various languages, usually rendered from the original languages. Not all translations are created equal. Some result from one scholar’s work, others the work of a committee of scholars. Some are literal while others tend toward paraphrase.

Translation resembles a sliding scale with each translation placed somewhere between the two opposite ends. On one side of the scale are the literal translations, on the other the dynamic. The literal strives to achieve the exact rendering of the original language with minimal concern for readability or modern idioms. The dynamic end of the scale attempts to provide a readable and easily understood text even if it moves away from the literal rendering of the original language. It attempts to relay the meaning more than the literal terminology.

Theological bias becomes increasingly possible the further a translation moves toward the dynamic end of the scale. It is inevitable that some interpretation is involved in translation. Some translators, to accommodate their theological persuasion, may emphasize denominational and theological points of view. Martin Luther provided a well-known example when he added the word “alone” to the word “faith” in his German translation of Romans. An extreme example is the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses which subverts the nature of Christ through translation. The RSV renders John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Teaching that Jesus Christ was a creature, and not the eternal Son of God, the Jehovah’s Witnesses translate the passage to conform to their heresy. Their New World Translation renders John 1:1 as, “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god” although the article “a” is absent from the original Greek text.

Many Protestant translations display a considerable doctrinal persuasion, even a bias against Catholicism. Though nicely written and easily readable, the very popular New International Version is a good example. Though the NIV claims to be “international” and “trans-denominational”, in reality, the scholars were limited to five English speaking countries and the committee 1 was Protestant. The “denominations” excluded Catholic and Orthodox contributors though the Preface announces a desire to “avoid sectarian bias”. In contrast, the NAB included both Catholic and Protestant scholars.

What appears to be doctrinal bias is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:15. The word “traditions” is used to translate the word paradosis by all major English translations. However, the NIV reads, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter (italics mine).” Instead of using St. Paul’s choice of paradosis, the translators used the word “teaching” (Didache). This tends to obscure the Catholic implications of the text. (See also 2 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thes 3:6.)

In Acts 1:20, the word translated as “bishoprick” in the KJV and “office” by most other translations, is the Greek word episkope from which we get our English word “episcopal”. Peter declares that a man must succeed to the office vacated by Judas. Seemingly, to avoid the implications of apostolic succession, the NIV renders episkope as “place of leadership”. On the sliding scale of translations, this choice of words is really an Evangelical interpretation very close to the dynamic end of the scale, diminishing a foundational basis for the successive office of bishop.

A final example is James 2:24 where we read in almost every English translation, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone (RSV).” The NIV renders this verse as “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone (italics mine).” Although the Greek word is clearly “works” (ergon), the translators of the NIV replaced it with “what he does”, obscuring the implications that seem contradictory to the Protestant doctrine of justification by “faith alone”.

Even with these examples, it must be mentioned that the NIV translation also has its surprises. According to So Many Versions?, the text and note on Matthew 16:18, stating that “Peter means rock”, is “rather surprising for a conservative [Protestant] version. The traditional conservative position is that “Peter” means a “rolling stone”.

All translations contain some influence of theological persuasion. However, some are more blatant than others. Readers should be aware of the theological standpoint held by the translators. The Second Vatican Council proclaims “Since the Word of God should be accessible at all times, the Church by her authority and with maternal concern sees to it that suitable 2 and correct translations are made into different languages, especially from the original texts of the sacred books. And should the opportunity arise and the Church authorities approve, if these translations are produced in cooperation with the separated brethren as well, all Christians will be able to use them (Dei Verbum, 22).

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Referenced Works: So Many Translations?, Sakae Kubo and Walter F. Specht, Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. p. 247.

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Suggested Reading: Divino Afflante Spiritu (“Promotion of Biblical Studies”) by Pope Pius XII, St. Paul Books. Dei Verbum (“Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation”), Second Vatican Council. So Many Translations?, Sakae Kubo and Walter F. Specht, Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. p. 247. The Translation Debate, Eugene H. Glassman, InterVarsity Press, 1981. History of the English Bible, F. F. Bruce, Oxford University Press, 1978.

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

August 6, 2019

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 […]

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Sympathy for Cradle Catholics Who Can’t Explain or Defend the Faith

July 5, 2019

I thought of a helpful illustration to explain why “cradle Catholics” are often unable to explain and defend the Catholic faith. The example has its weaknesses, but it does help get the point across. As an American I asked myself this question: if some one trained to attack America intellectually approached me on the street […]

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Corpus Christi Sunday: Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

June 23, 2019

When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE. The priest said there was no miracle when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. All he did was teach selfish people to share and they pulled extra loaves and fish from […]

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Does one have to experience strong emotion to be a real Christian?

June 5, 2019

I received a few e-mails from a gentleman and his wife, obviously both good and excited Catholics who had recently had a real encounter with Jesus that had revived their faith and filled them with joy and emotion. Brian and his wife were disturbed that I talked so much about the Catholic Church when the […]

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How We REALLY Got the Bible – the Facts Simply Presented (print this out, hand it out)

May 16, 2019

This is just one page of Bob Sullivan’s excellent little tri-fold handout to explain how we got the Bible. It is from the Catholic and historical perspective without all the Protestant biases and twisting of history. I think you enjoy the whole thing which you can see here. You can print this out, fold it […]

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The Eucharist: the Flesh Profits Nothing

May 12, 2019

Since we are in Capernaum today, I decided to share a few words related to the site. I was recently asked a related questions questionic Answers Live. Capernaum is where Jesus said “Eat My Flesh; Drink My Blood.” I thought it would be appropriate to answer an e-mail I received a while ago from a man named […]

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How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb? Another Contradiction?

April 20, 2019

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:38-40) Skeptics claim to have discovered an error in the New Testament —claiming Jesus was not in the tomb […]

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Welcoming New People at Mass this Easter – They May Be an Answer to Someone’s Prayers

April 16, 2019

We get busy on during the Easter Season. We don’t have a lot of respect for people who go to church only on Christmas and Easter. We may be irritated that seats are taken and the church is noisy. But, you are praying for your family and friends to come back to church and MAYBE these […]

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A Recent Discussion with Steve Wood about all things Catholic

March 12, 2019

I spent a delightful half hour talking with my friend Steve Wood (www.Dads.org) about all things Catholic and apologetics.

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Did God Die on the Cross? How Can God Die?

March 1, 2019

Almost every day I get questions. I always try to answer, even if briefly. Today I received a question from Raymund in the Philippines. He is part of a apologetics group and they got very hung up on whether God died on the cross. Here is his e-mail: Greetings Mr. Stephen:  I am a great follower […]

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Baptist at the door, “Are you born again?” Prepare yourself to answer them!

February 21, 2019

Grilled salmon sizzled on his plate as Andy and his family sat down for dinner. No sooner had they crossed themselves to bless the food than the doorbell rang. Andrew dragged himself to answer the door while his family began eating. Two smiling faces peered in the door. “Good evening, we hope we’re not interrupting […]

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Mass with 2 Protestants and 1 Crucifix

January 5, 2019

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 […]

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

December 28, 2018

Since we are at the Western Wall today, where the Temple stood in Jesus’ day, it is appropriate to discuss this. Jesus loved the Jewish Temple and called it his Father’s house. ************************************************ Jesus was a Jew. This fact may escape the casual reader of the New Testament, but it is crucial to understanding Jesus […]

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