Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Catholic Apologist's Take on John MacArthur and Zane Hodges

I love Robert Sungenis' (Catholic Apologist with Westminster training) comments about both John MacArthur and Zane Hodges:

“MacArthur spent almost all of his 300-page work [The Gospel According to Jesus] exegeting passages from the Gospels, systematically going through many of the teachings of Jesus which specified that works indeed play a large part in our standing and relationship with God. This is not surprising. Catholic theology has always maintained that the Gospels deny faith alone theology most emphatically” (Robert Sungenis, Not by Faith Alone, pg. 597).

He thus links MacArthur’s position very closely to that of the Roman Catholic Church. This isn’t surprising, as others in Reformed tradition have linked his theology with Rome as well (Michel Horton, John W. Robbins); which is a back-handed indictment of it.

Robert Sungenis also makes a fascinating observation about Zane Hodges suggesting that he is rare in that he is “at least being true to the implications of a faith-alone theology.” He writes:

“Dispensationalist Zane Hodges, the major spokesman for an opposing tangent of Evangelical thought [opposed to the traditionalist theology of MacArthur], has declared that the faith which appropriates the righteousness of Christ cannot be qualified [by works] in any manner without falling into a salvation by works. Hodges is at least being true to the implications of a faith alone theology, in that if one makes faith to be the sole instrument of justification then it must truly be alone, without works to qualify it.” (Ibid., 356).

He recognizes that the Free Grace position is unique and uniquely consistent. From his Westminster Seminary background, he sees in the Reformed position a “faith-alone” position that isn’t truly Sola Fide.


Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

That is interesting.

There is an excellent Reformed blogger who has admitted that there is common ground between Reformed theology and Roman Catholicism. He admitted that greate dialogue might be possible if it were not for the Council of Trent.

God Bless


November 20, 2006 3:27 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

"he sees in the Reformed position a “faith-alone” position that isn’t truly Sola Fide."

I'm not at all certain that the so-called "Reformed" position sees itself as expanding the requirements for salvation beyond faith alone. I think they see it as "required evidence."

In any event, "Sola Fide" is the place to be, in my humble, but correct, opinion.

November 20, 2006 3:29 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Matt, it is interesting, there has been great dialogue already in the, is it, the ECT? I can't remember the dialogue and the attendent constitution made.


I love you brother, and you are always right.

I am sure you would agree with this logic:

Necessary results for which we are responsible are the same as conditions. If works are a necessary result of saving faith and if a man cannot be saved without them, then the works are, in fact, a condition for salvation.

Faith that has been qualified by works adds works to faith for the intended results: the works becoming indispensible to the result.

Let us say that a man was getting married to a woman. They love each other and have mutually decided to get married. In their state it is a requirement for marriage to get a blood test. The necessary results of their love and decision to get married is a trip to the doctor for a blood test. The blood test, viewed in this way, is a necessary result. But viewed in another perspective, it has become a CONDITION for marriage, for they cannot get married without the blood test.

The same goes for works that are the supposed necessary result of faith. Looked on from the Reformed perspective they are the necessary results. But looked on from another persective, the angle of heaven and eternity, which they overlook, they become a condition for heaven, for without the works their is no heaven.

The qualification of faith by works is a huge danger, and poisions the gospel! It is de facto works-righteousness!

"required evidence" is a conundrum, no? Required for what? You have totally proved my point. It is evidence required for heaven!


November 20, 2006 3:52 PM  
Blogger Gojira said...

:-) :-) :-)

No words necessary. Just :-) :-)

I'm actually gonna have to read his book on that sometime before Christmas.

But you were right what you told me.

November 20, 2006 5:29 PM  
Blogger Jim said...


Is this Robert Sungenis a bonafided RCC adherent and apologist?

Are you sure he is not just attempting to drive a wedge between two factions of evangelicalism? I know the RCC is more concerned about removing the competition that having any notion of correct doctrine.

Of course they also want to ensure that in the minds of people there is a subtle doubting over their salvation, thus securing the need for works and constant acts of contrition.

November 20, 2006 7:55 PM  
Blogger Gojira said...

Hi Jim,

Let me answer.

Sungensis is indeed a bonafide RCC apologist. When he wrote the book in question, he was top of the game. His Trad leanings though soon brought criticism. He was critical of much of the JP II ecumenical stance, especially as it regarded the events of Assisi. Sungensis also drew fire from the Trad groups themselves as he greatly disagreed with them breaking union with the Papal See. One might rightly ask how he could be so critical of, say, a group like the SSPX, yet he himself agree with their concerns for a largely liberalized Vatican II establishment.

Those are a few early morning thoughts. You can view his website here:


For one of his more memorable articles, see here:


November 21, 2006 4:47 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Gojira, what do you precisely mean by Trad leanings? Are you referring to non-Catholic?

Also, what is the SSPX?

November 21, 2006 9:52 AM  
Blogger Gojira said...

Hi Jim,

How are you doing today? It's cold and rainy where I am.

"Gojira, what do you precisely mean by Trad leanings? Are you referring to non-Catholic?

Also, what is the SSPX?"

Let's see, you ask three questions here. Let me go ahead and answer your second one. By Trad, I am not referring to "non Catholic."

Third question -- SSPX stands for the Society of Saint Pius the 10th. That is a Catholic group that broke union with the papacy during JP II. They are now seeking union again since Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) is Pope.

The answer for why they are seeking leads right into your first question.

What exactly is a trad? While there are many different Trad groups all of them have one thing in common: They felt that the reforms brought about by Vatican II was a step away from the traditional teaching and traditional values of the Catholic church. Part of that is because of the actions taken by the popes from the mid 1800's early 1900's. It was that time that liberal theology was creeping into the Catholic church, and you had some popes fight against it tooth and nail. Anyway, Vatican II was really the child of Pope John XXIII, a pope many loved, but also a pope many thought to be eaten up with liberalism. That pope died though, leaving Pope Paul VI to bring Vatican II to a completed reality.

Those Catholics who held to the traditional ways were just a lot ticked off. For example, the Latin Mass was changed (Oh by the way, gotta put this in, the ones who took the hit the hardest by the reforms of Vatican II were the Exorcists, but that is a whole different story.). One of the biggies on that was that the Latin Mass nolonger had to be in Latin anymore. But there were some other things. Another thing the Trads didn't like was the ecumenical embrace that came about (and there are some funny stories on that one.) And of course, the Trads didn't like at all the liberalism that came in. Many of them broke unity and identified themselves with the tradition teaching. You might recall Mel Gibson. His dad is a member of a particularly nasty Trad group.

You'll have to forgive me if all of this seemd rushed and unclear. I am writing it just before leaving work. If you would like for me to clear things up, just give a holler.

November 21, 2006 12:11 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Gojira, thanks for the history. I do remember some friends who are ex-Catholics tell how the mass changed from Latin to English or French.

What I find really interesting right now is the current pope's conversations with Islam. Be really interesting to see what occurs there.

November 21, 2006 1:39 PM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

If I was a Roman Catholic I would hate hearing the mass in English. I would want it in Latin.

November 21, 2006 1:52 PM  
Blogger Gojira said...

Hi Jim,

Yes, I agree with you. It will be interesting to see what develops.

Going back to Sungensis, I do need to point out that he has never broke union with Rome. He is, though, very critical of the liberalism that goes on there. Some of his convictions have landed him to the extreme right. For example, he holds to Geocentrism.

November 21, 2006 1:55 PM  
Blogger Gojira said...

Hi Matthew,

Think how the cheif exorcist for the Vatican felt when he was initially told he had to abandon the Latin rite. He threw a huge fit. You can read an interview of him here:


November 21, 2006 2:02 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

Why do I have a feeling that these quotes are taken out of context?

November 25, 2006 6:27 AM  
Blogger Gojira said...

Hello Jonathan,

Those quotes aren't out of context. MacArthur's over done, unguarded statements are a favorite of a few Catholic epologists. He uses MacArthur to establish so called Protestant inconsistancy. Sungenesis knows how FG theology looks to the greater evangelical world, and he used that in his book. He is a slippery devil. Sungensis is also part of the idiot pack that defected to Catholicism at the same time and together: you had sungensis, Hahn, Gerry Matatics.

November 25, 2006 3:08 PM  
Blogger R. Scott Clark said...


There are several misapprehensions in your post.

1. You assume that John MacArthur is "Reformed." So far as I know, the main thing John MacArthur has in common with Reformed theology is a belief in predestination.

2. MacArthur does not pastor a Reformed congregation nor does he confess the Reformed confessions (e.g., the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort or the Westminster Standards). If the Reformed churches get to define what "Reformed" means, then those public, ecclesiastical statements are the objective standard of what is to be Reformed.

3. MacArthur's account of justification in some of his books anyway has been criticized by those who are actually Reformed in Michael S Horton, ed. Christ the Lord.

4. It is recognized by anyone who actually knows what the Reformed confess on justification that the Reformed doctrine of justification sola gratia, sola fide is utterly incompatible with the Roman doctrine of justification. If anyone doubts this he need only consult the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent Session 6, 1547, where the Reformed doctrine of justification was condemned.

5. The Reformed doctrine of justification is absolutely explicit that works are nothing but the logical and necessary fruit of justification and that justification is nothing but the forensic declaration of God about sinners. The ground of justification is the righteousness of Christ imputed and the instrument is faith resting and recieving Christ.

6. The Roman doctrine of justification is that only those who are instrinsically righteous can be justified and only those who are infused with grace and who cooperate with grace shall be justified.

7. The Reformed Confessions explicitly reject the Roman doctrine of justification by sanctification (i.e., by grace and cooperation with grace).

8. Many ill-informed but enthusiastic predestinarian evangelicals who, in reaction to antinominianism, have re-stated the doctrine of justification in ways that are incompatible with the confessional Reformed faith. Among these are Daniel Fuller, Norm Shepherd, and the Federal Vision folks. Doubtless there are others.

9. Among the leader proponents and defenders of the historic Protestant doctrine of justification have been and continue to be confessional Reformed theologians such as R C Sproul, Mike Horton, and Bob Godfrey.

10. The fact that Scott Hahn or some other RC apologist attended WTS is immaterial. WTS is a school. It is the duty of Reformed churches to make decisions about whether a person is Reformed. Reformed seminaries routine admit students and sometimes graduate them who do not understand or agree with Reformed doctrine. WTS does not have a doctrinal test for its graduates. Therefore the actions and words of its graduates do not necessarily reflect the doctrinal convictions fo the school or its faculty.


R. Scott Clark
Assoc. Prof. of Historical and Systematic Theology
Westminster Seminary California

November 30, 2006 9:49 PM  

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