Trouble with uncle who left church


Heres what he wrote, how do I respond?

(uncle wrote:) Thanks for the verses. I have a few thoughts I would like to share, but first I would like to say that I think it’s kind of dangerous to be pulling out single verses without looking at the broader message of both the book they are from as well as the bible as a whole and even more dangerous to take someone else’s word for it that the verses really mean what they claim them to mean. It’s pretty easy to form a premise and then go rummaging through the bible to find verses that support that premise be it good or bad. Let’s look at an example.

Compare James 2:24 with Romans 3:28. James says: You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. Romans says: For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law. It seems that these two verses are in opposition to each other. If we believe the bible is the inerrant word of God, then the problem is not with the verses, but rather with how we are reading them. The James verse is addressing the folks who would take Christianity as a license to sin. This idea that “Hey I’m a Christian, I’m under grace, I’m forgiven. I’m not under the old law anymore, I’ll live anyway I want to.” James is saying if you are a Christian then there should be evidence to support that claim. If my stated interpretation of the James verse were not so, then how could the thief on the cross have gone to heaven that day as Christ said he would? He had no ‘works’ to be justified by and no chance of doing any ‘works’ either. Further, just before Christ died he said “it is finished”. What is finished? The payment for our sin debt. He didn’t say It will be finished as soon as people start doing good works. Here’s a little analogy. If I say I’m a guitar player, you might say, “Well, let’s hear you play something.” As I begin to play you might say, “Hey, I’m hearing music, yes, this proves you are a guitar player.” However, the fact that I’m playing for you isn’t what makes me a player, it’s just the proof that I am. The reason I am a player is because of the work I have done in the form of practice. Going back to our Christian model, if I claim that I’m a Christian and do ‘good works’ the works would confirm that claim. However, my salvation isn’t because of my works it’s because of Christ’s work. Do you see the difference? :confused:
Here’s something else. Christ said: “I am the resurrection and the life he who believes in me will never die.” If we read this verse at face value it says that anyone who believes in Jesus will never die. Just what does ‘believe’ mean? Does it mean just believe he existed or does it mean believe that he is God in the flesh? What does ‘never die’ mean? It couldn’t mean ‘never’ die because I’ve known Christians who have died. When we get to the book of Revelation we find there is a second death, could it be that this is what Christ was referring to? Just another example of how we really need to dig deep into scripture and really do our own thinking. :frowning:




You know, one of the hallmarks of a cult is that it’s members don’t do their own thinking. No, I’m not saying the Catholic Church is a cult, but a lot of it’s members haven’t done their homework; their own thinking and that’s kind of sad. I truly hope my thoughts about these truths will be useful to you. I really take no pleasure whatsoever in the kind of negative ‘vibe’ that exists between Catholics and Protestants. My primary wish is that you become informed to the point where can make really sound decisions regarding your faith. I know you love your parents and I love mine. The truth be told, it’s a nice feeling to have our parents approve of us and be proud of us. However, what they think of us or don’t think of us has nothing to do with our salvation in Christ. I pray that seeking approval from your parents doesn’t become a distraction in your pursuit of God’s truths. :mad:

In Christ,

These are the verses I sent him that he is talking about in the first paragraph.

Faith plus works:
Jam 2:24, a man is justified by works and not by fiath alone
Jam 2:26, aith without works is dead
Gal 5:6, only thing that counts is faith working in love
1Cor 13:2, faith without love is nothing
Jn 14:15, if you love me , keep my commandments
Mt 19:16-17, if wish to enter into life, keep commandments

Good Works:
Mt 7:21, not lord lord, but he who does the will of Father
Jn 14:21, he who keeps my commandments loves me
Rom 2:2-8, eternal life by perseverance in good works
Eph 2:8-10, we are created in Christ Jesus for good works
Phil 2:12-24, a man is justified by works and not faith alone

Judged according to dees:
Rom 2:5-8, God will repay each man according to his works
2Cor 5:10, recompense accord to what did in body
2Cr 11:15, their end will correspond to their deeds
1 Pet 1:17, God judges impartially according to one’s works
Reve 20:12-13, dead judged according to their deeds
Col 3:24-25, will receive due payment for whatever you do


I’d point out the scene of the Final Judgment as presented in Matthew 25 and Revelation 20, where Jesus divides humanity into goats and sheep and judges them on what they have done, not what they have believed.

I’d also tell your uncle that by following the teachings of the Catholic church in regards to “faith working through love,” that you are simply adhering to the advice that Paul offers in Phil 2:12:

So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

Peace and God bless! :slight_smile:



Would it help us if we knew why you sent this list to your uncle? Lists of proof-texts are more of a Fundamentalist tactic than a Catholic one.

In response, to his letter, however, you might begin by pointing out the places where Catholic and Protestant doctrine agree, starting with the speculation that the relationship between faith and works has been overplayed as a divider between us. Catholics believe in salvation by grace through faith . . . There is also the point that the “faith alone” position is virtually required in a theological system which begins with the “total depravity of man.”

Where does your uncle get the idea that James 2:24 has anything to do with antinomianism? James is speaking about the faith of Abraham. ??? Nothing in the preceding chapters has anything to do with antinomianism. James does not say that works are the fruit of faith, although you might query your uncle in a mild sort of way:

“Uncle, are you saying that James means that works are the fruit of faith rather than of grace working through faith? I do not see quite how this is implied. It seems to me that James is urging people to put their money where their mouth is and the assumption appears to be that they are able to do that by an act of their own free will.”

You might also do a little research about the thief on the cross and get your uncle to do some. I have never dialogued with a Protestant on this one – they might actually have a credible answer! Ask a civil question:

“Uncle, about the thief on the cross – Is paradise heaven? How can paradise be heaven if Jesus does not “ascend to the Father” until 40 days after Easter?”

But don’t get carried away by single points. Your uncle is right that context is important. He is right that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I wonder if he knows that the very idea of scriptural inerrancy originated in the Catholic Church?


You might also gently point out to him that there is a different interpretation of the comparison between James and Romans than the one he gives.
Whenever St. Paul mentions “works,” he is referring to “works of the law.” meaning the Mosaic Law, which Christ superceded. He even writes the words, “works of the law” in Romans 3.
James is talking of good works.
If you can do this without ruffling his feathers, you might also ask the old standby, "If we are all supposed to interpret Scripture for ourselves, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and we can then do so infallibly, why are there so many Protestant denominations, each with at least one doctrine differing between them, and why has the Catholic Church been here, unchanged, for 2000 years?


Mercygate: I had sent him those versus because of something that has been going on for a few weeks now. It is a long story, so I will try to make it short:

My Aunt has been signing her latest emails to us after my brother’s baptism with versus about works and how one is justified. I just recently caught on, and subtley added my own versus to the emails I sends to my Aunt. Well, evidentaly, she signs ALL her emails with those versus, so the rest of my family (Grandparents, Mom, and her other 3 sisters) have been sending her the same verse,without realizing it. My Uncle then sent full length emails to everyone (much like the one I have posted here). No one is happy that he has stepped in to the “silent verse exchange” because they thought they were speaking with my aunt. Since then, He has been sending these emails to everyone, and me, My mom and the rest of my mom’s side of the family want to know how to respond to it, but we are worried if we respond in the wrong way, it will start a fight in the family.
We could use all the pointers we can get, and we want an educated response for them. Thanks sooo much for your help! God bless y’all!


[quote=kramerbaby]Mercygate: I had sent him those versus because of something that has been going on for a few weeks now. It is a long story, so I will try to make it short: . . .


Yoiks. What a story. My advice (not that you asked): stay a way from the whole thing. Do not respond. Or just say, “Thanks, Uncle. I’ll keep it in mind.”



Ex-folks like that usually are not much into hearing the Catholic response & will usually go back to their pastor or close non-Catholic friends for Biblical support before talking w/ you again. it’s usually a no-winnner. I can recall that when I left the church I made some crack to my Mom & Grandmother (both saints!) about praying for the dead. I can still hear my garndmother’s Biblical response from 2 Maccabees 12:46 (which she calmly quoted for me) saying “It’s a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins.” I’ll never forget that verse as long as I live. Anyway, just be kind & let it ride…bathe it all in prayer, especially The Divine Mercy Chaplet, which I’ve had great answers to. The rest is up to the Holy Spirit.

The tracts on this site are great if you need to have good answers. This other site also has some great stuff that is very reasonably priced & easy to read & understand.


[font=Arial]However, my salvation isn’t because of my works it’s because of Christ’s work.


Your Uncle is right. And the Catholic Church does not teach that my works earn my salvation. Does he think (or have you somehow said?) that works will earn you heaven?

God Bless,


I’m a former Evangelical Protestant seeking full communion. On the issue of justification, I found Dave Armstrong’s book A Biblical Defence of Catholicism extremely helpful…he demonstrates that the Catholic understanding of justification is the only one that properly fits with Scripture. His site is

Does your uncle actually understand the Catholic position? Perhaps he believes that we must earn our salvation…which is, of course, heresy. The following is an explanation and defence of the Catholic position I typed up for another message board originally.


We are certainly saved by grace alone…but not by faith alone. I assume you agree that we must accept Christ through repentance and faith to be saved. If so, then you agree that humans must do something to be saved. Obviously we are not saved because of what we did (faith, repentance, acceptance) but because of Christ’s grace; however, we must co-operate with God and be willing to receive this grace. So far I assume you agree with me. Thus, you already believe that humans must do something to be saved, and as accepting and believing in Chris take effort (of will, mind, even if it is for a moment), it is, in a certain sense, a work. However, we can not take credit for our salvation, even though we must do something to receive it, as the Spirit gives us the grace to accept it in the first place.
Likewise, in Catholic theology, the grace given to us, which leads to true faith, inevitably, if we are co-operating with God’s plan of salvation, leads to good works, as the natural produce (fruit) of our grace-empowered faith. You see, if you are to say that human work (even works that are only made possible because of Christ’s grace) can not be part of our justification, then you must believe that all men will automatically be saved…because even in your view we must exert a certain degree of effort to be saved (accepting Christ and repenting). The works that we do have nothing to do with earning salvation, but they are part of our justification process, when they flow from grace. Because we are brought into God’s grace, the works that are produced by this grace become pleasing to God, and are our way of co-operating with God as He brings us to perfection. Dave explains this in much more detail in the book. In the next couple posts, I’ll be posting some Scriptures that support the importance of works in the salvation plan. Remember, we agree 100% that we are saved by grace alone, but rather than grace through faith, it is grace produces faith which produces works. Because of freewill, we must co-operate with God throughout the plan of salvation…in your view, freewill ceases to exist, in a sense, once you perform a single initial ‘work’ (the initial assent of faith).

21"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
(Matthew 7:21-23, NIV®)

If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments.
(John 14:15, ASV).
Good works flow naturally from faith. They two are inseparable.


If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
(John 15:10, ASV).

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister be naked and in lack of daily food,
16 and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself.
18 Yea, a man will say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith apart from thy works, and I by my works will show thee my faith.
19 Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well: the demons also believe, and shudder.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren? NOTE: see belief is not enough by itself)
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; note: works perfect our initial faith…it is all part of the salvation process, God grants us the grace, from the work of Christ, to help us co-operate with His salvation plan)
23 and the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God.
24 Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith. Note: We are saved through faith and works, not just faith alone, even though it is all because of grace alone)
25 And in like manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way?
26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.
(James 2:14-26, emphasis added).
This was is pretty clear to me. Protestants will often say that it just means that works are the natural outcome of true faith, so that if you do not have works, then you never had faith in the first place…but just read the passage, it seems pretty clear that James is saying that works are essential, yes they do flow from faith, but they are necessary as well, so that means they are part of the salvation process. Protestants also say that when James says you are not justified by faith alone, he means before men, not God (implying that faith alone justifies you before God), but why make that assumption? Paul never said we are saved only by faith, he said only by grace through faith…and true faith includes works. Is there any real reason to believe that when James says “justification“ he means something different than Paul?
Note: Works outside of grace do nothing for our salvation…these works are those that flow from the grace God has given us, they have nothing to do with earning salvation, but are steps in our road to perfection…they are the continuation of our decision to co-operate with God and receive His free gift of salvation/grace.


“…for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10). This famous verse, often used to refute the Catholic teaching, does not teach that we are saved by faith alone, it is only through faith that we are saved, that is the initial step, but that faith naturally leads to other works (faith without works is dead, remember). The Church teaches that sola gracia (by grace alone) is true, but not sola fide (faith alone). We can take no credit even for the works of charity we do…for they would be useless (in salvation) if not for God’s grace and if they do not flow from our grace-given faith.

Often when Paul talks about justification, he tells us that it is not by works…but we must remember that 1) We are not saved because of works, they are only the natural progression after faith and grace 2) Paul is often talking about the works of the Law that we no longer must complete…they can do nothing for our salvation. This is often the context, as a number of early Christians subscribed (or were influenced) to a heresy that taught that we should still abide by the Law of Moses. For instance, in Romans 3:20 Paul clearly says “works of the law”, not works of charity which flow from grace:* …because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for through the law cometh the knowledge of sin.*


1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit.
3 Already ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing.
6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; and so shall ye be my disciples.
(John 15:1-8).
Keep in mind that fruit=good works that flow from grace-empowered faith.

23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, who would make a reckoning with his servants.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, that owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But forasmuch as he had not wherewith to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27 And the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
28 But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him a hundred shillings: and he laid hold on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay what thou owest.
29 So his fellow-servant fell down and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee.
30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay that which was due.
31 So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were exceeding sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32 Then his lord called him unto him, and saith to him, Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou besoughtest me:
33 shouldest not thou also have had mercy on thy fellow-servant, even as I had mercy on thee?
34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due.
35 So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.
(Matthew 18:23-35). This man was clearly ‘saved’ or justified initially (a Christian) but he didn’t forgive his brother…which is another work in a sense (though again, made possible by God’s grace). This is necessary, not just recommend.

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
(Matthew 6:14-15). Our Lord affirms here as well that it is necessary to forgive your brother.


14 For it is as when a man, going into another country, called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his several ability; and he went on his journey.
16 Straightway he that received the five talents went and traded with them, and made other five talents.
17 In like manner he also that received the two gained other two.
18 But he that received the one went away and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
19 Now after a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and maketh a reckoning with them.
20 And he that received the five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: lo, I have gained other five talents.
21 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22 And he also that received the two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: lo, I have gained other two talents.
23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24 And he also that had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou didst not sow, and gathering where thou didst not scatter;
25 and I was afraid, and went away and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, thou hast thine own.
26 But his lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I did not scatter;
27 thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back mine own with interest.
28 Take ye away therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him that hath the ten talents.
29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away.
30 And cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.
31 But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory:
32 and before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats;
33 and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 for I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in;
36 naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or athirst, and gave thee drink?
38 And when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?


39 And when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 for I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink;
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me.
46 And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.
(Matthew 25:14-46)
This clearly emphasizes the importance of works. The servant who received one talent was a Christian because he received the talent and is called a servant…yet it is unfruitful and he is damned at judgement. (Faith without works is dead). Then Jesus goes on, and see how those so-called Christians that had barren faith (led to no works…so dead faith) were damned.

6 And he spake this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit thereon, and found none.
7 And he said unto the vinedresser, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why doth it also cumber the ground?
8 And he answering saith unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
9 and if it bear fruit thenceforth, well; but if not, thou shalt cut it down.
(Luke 13:6-9). Again we see the monumental importance of works…the tree (Christian) that bears no fruit (grace-empowered good works) is eventually ‘cut down’.

(Note: There is more Biblical data to consider of course, but these are some ‘highlights’. Ask your uncle to read all of Matthew 25…our Lord couldn’t have made it more clear that justification requires good works).



One of the parts of your uncle’s letter struck me as interesting. I have heard of the question about the thief on the cross posed before. I have given it some thought, and I thought I would share my conclusion with you. My conclusion is that the thief on the cross did at least one good work. You see, the thief could have just hung there and thought, “Wow, I really believe in this guy. I really believe that he is the savior.” Did he just hang around and wait to die? No. When the other thief was ridiculing Jesus, he defended Jesus. He could see that Jesus had done nothing wrong, yet he was being punished. When he stuck up for Jesus, he did a good work for Jesus and he acted as an example of how to speak up in favor of what you believe. Others were around to see this, and God may have used it to draw them closer to him. So, the thief did do good works. He just couldn’t feed the hungry or clothe the naked because he was about to die. However, I would compare this to the part in the bible(not sure where) where the older lady gives every last bit of money that she had to the collection. Others were giving more because they were wealthier, but she was said to have given the most because of how much she gave compared to how much she had originally. The thief only had a small time left to live, and he spent it defending Jesus. I hope this helps.



(uncle wrote:) Thanks for the verses. I have a few thoughts I would like to share, but first I would like to say that I think it’s kind of dangerous to be pulling out single verses without looking at the broader message of both the book they are from as well as the bible as a whole and even more dangerous to take someone else’s word for it that the verses really mean what they claim them to mean. It’s pretty easy to form a premise and then go rummaging through the bible to find verses that support that premise be it good or bad. Let’s look at an example.

I noticed that he is using familiar protestant arguments to make his points. Does that mean that he is doing what he accuses you of doing - taking someone else’s word for it that the verses really mean what they claim to mean?

If everyone gets to interpret scripture for him/herself then say that your interpretation is just as relavant. It just so happens to be the same as the Catholic Church’s which has been around since the time of Jesus.

On the other hand, I agree with the person who said it might be best not to get into a knock-down-drag-out fight about this and pray. Don’t be argumentative but find common ground. Good luck.


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