Saints and Fathers

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

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Since March 19 is the Solemnity of St. Joseph, I thought I would share a few things on this great saint!  First, a discussion of whether it is correct to call St. Joseph the father of Jesus. Second, I recently ran from Nazareth to the worksite of these two guys and I invite you by video to run along with me.

Was Joseph the “father” of Jesus?  We hear many opinions…

“Joseph was possibly the biological father of Jesus, but the Gospels deny the fact, claiming he was the product of a virgin birth, making Jesus more than just a man.”

“Jesus is really the product of rape and Joseph mercifully stepped up to the plate to help Mary and the unfortunate baby.”

“Joseph was not the father of Jesus because Jesus had no biological father; he was born to the Virgin Mary by the miraculously overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.”

There is more than one opinion today on Joseph’s relationship to Jesus—but what is the truth? Is it theologically and historically correct to refer to Joseph as the father of Jesus?

In front of the tomb of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem I state in my video/ DVD Jesus, the Word Became Flesh, “The earth provided a borrowed cave in Bethlehem to receive him at his birth and now another borrowed cave in Jerusalem protects his body in death. Born from a virgin womb he was now buried in a virgin tomb.

His father Joseph found the cave for this birth, a disciple Joseph found a cave for his burial” (the words in question are italicized).

But is it proper to refer to Joseph as “the father of Jesus”? The answer is both yes and no.

For the rest of the article click here.

 

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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?

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St. Polycarp’s name does not mean “many fish”

February 23, 2017

Today is the Feast Day of the Great Bishop and Saint Polycarp on February 23. When we converted to the Catholic Church my son Jesse chose St. Polycarp as his patron saint because of his great heroism. We filmed the whole life of St. Polycarp on location. I feel like I know him. The name Polycarp […]

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Discovering the Place of Paul’s Shipwreck on Island of Malta

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I am doing a show with Teresa Tomeo today because February 10 is the Feast Day of the Shipwreck of St. Paul on Malta. So I am reposting this blog from our recent trip to Malta. One of my favorite things is to discover the events and places of the Bible and to share them […]

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Free St. Paul Timeline in Honor of Feast of Paul’s Conversion Today

January 25, 2017

Here is a copy of a Timeline I made of St. Paul’s life and writings. Enjoy! Please print and share. Also get a copy of my DVD Paul, Contending for the Faith below filmed in 6 countries. Full study guide included.

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Ignatius Press prepares for 100th anniversary of Fatima with a historic pilgrimage and new release

January 23, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Rose Trabbic, Publicist, Ignatius Press, (239) 867-4180 or rose@ignatius.com Ignatius Press prepares for 100th anniversary of Fatima with a historic pilgrimage and new release San Francisco, November 21, 2016 – The long-awaited 100th anniversary of the appearances of Our Lady at Fatima in 1917 is around the corner, and Ignatius Press has exciting plans to […]

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We Need Saints without Cassocks

January 3, 2017

By an unknown author (falsely attributed to Pope Francis) We need saints without veil or cassock. We need saints who wear jeans and sneakers. We need saints who go to the movies, listen to music and hang out with friends. We need saints who put God in first place, but who let go of their […]

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The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church: Article by Steve Ray

January 2, 2017

The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church, by Steve Ray The word “Eucharist” was used early in the Church to describe the Body and Blood of Christ under the forms of bread and wine. Eucharist comes from the Greek word for “thanks” (eucharistia), describing Christ’s actions: “And when he had given thanks, he broke […]

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Why Do We Call Them APOSTOLIC FATHERS?

December 30, 2016

There are Apostolic Fathers and Fathers of the Church. What is the difference? Fathers of the Church are those bishops, priests and theologians of the first eight centuries who taught and wrote and who helped define the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Apostolic Fathers fit into that catagory but they have a subcategory of their […]

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My Free St. Paul Timeline

November 6, 2016

Janet and I are currently leading a St. Paul Mediterranean Cruise and “Seminar at Sea” with Ave Maria Radio CEO Al Kresta and Fr. Steve Mattson. We are visiting eight biblical sites related to St. Paul, Mary, St. John and more. Today we are leaving Ephesus where St. Paul lived for two years and arriving […]

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Questions I Answered on Catholic Answers Live “St. Ignatius of Antioch and the 1st Martyrs”

October 19, 2016

To listen on-line, click HERE. For other listening options, like podcasts, click HERE. 1)  How can I use the Early Church Fathers and martyrs to help my Fundamentalist sister understand the truth of the Catholic Faith? 2)  I understood that St. Ignatius was a disciple of St. John the Apostle but you just said he […]

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Luke’s Gospel: Greek Physician, Historian & Friend of Mary

October 18, 2016

Her face shone as she related the stories—the words were vibrant, and though older now, her memory was excellent. He sat enraptured as she brought the past into living color. He had traveled a long way to see her and he sat motionless, with furled brow, taking careful notes on his parchment. He spent hours […]

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Kissing Statues

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We are in Jerusalem today ready to pick up our group of 50 people at the airport in a few hours. When I woke up this morning to the Muslim “call to prayer”, church bells ringing and horns honking I read this email that came from the United Kingdom… It read, “Hi Steve! I know […]

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Understanding St. Matthew and his Gospel

September 21, 2016

Since it is the Feast Day of St. Matthew, let’s learn a lot about him. Matthew: Understanding the Tax Collector and his Gospel By Steve Ray If looks could kill, he’d be dead. The Jews glared at Levi as he counted his coins. Tax collectors in Israel had great wealth and were considered renegades and […]

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Mass at St. Peter’s; Steve’s Story of St. Paul & Martyrdom; What is Typology?

September 5, 2016

Since we are in Rome today I want to share with you my talk on the typology in St. John Lateran which houses the “Chair of Peter” and is the Mother Church of the World. Also I gave a short overview of St. Paul’s life at the place where he was beheaded.   Steve’s Talk […]

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